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Mendocino County Today: Friday, August 15, 2014

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AS OF AUGUST 14 at 7pm the Lodge Wilderness Fire had expanded by another 1,000 to acres but with 60% containment, another improvement, although still a huge fire blanketing the surrounding region with visible smoke, sometimes thick. Two more injuries were reported. The number of structures being threatened is still at 16. The firefighting effort is down again to 132 engines, 57 crews. 12 bulldozers, 10 helicopters, 23 water tenders, and 1922 personnel. On Wednesday evening CalFire reported “Aggressive mop up and strengthening of the control lines have allowed us to downgrade all affected areas to Evacuation Warning status. Interior portions of the fire will continue to burn and may be visible from Highway 101. Heavy smoke will continue to be present for an extended period of time in the Ukiah Valley.” An Evacuation Warning is still in place for Camp Seabow, Bowman Ranch, Hunt Ranch, Tan Oak Park, Elk Creek and Mad Creek, The Hermitage, Big Bend and Camp St. Michael. CalFire adds, “Please visit for information on how to prepare for an evacuation.”

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATES [7am, Aug 15]: 12,336 acres, 65% contained, 15 injuries -- "Crews will continue to monitor areas outside the control lines for any potential new spot fires. The high-pressure system building over the area today and continuing in to next week will cause warmer and drier conditions."

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ANOTHER RECONDITE READING RECOMMENDATION, this one “Escape From Quantopia, Collective Insanity in Science and Society” by Ted Dace. This here AVA being the kind of publication that ranges from faux high brow to knuckle-dragging low, a book that promises “an unforgettable trip from the foundation of physical and biological existence to the psycho-social maladies currently undermining human prospects,” I got the psycho-social maladies part but was otherwise mostly at a loss. Dace, an occasional AVA contributor, though, is such a good, clear writer that anyone with a good basic education in the sciences will profit from his instruction. I'm still reading, which means Dace still has my attention, which means if he has my attention he can get through to anybody.

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IT COULD HAPPEN HERE: A teenager who had been missing for several days was discovered hiding out in a 24-hour Walmart in Corsicana, Texas. The 14-year-old, who was running away from some relatives he was visiting in the area, made a makeshift campsite near the baby aisle and survived by eating food from inside the store and regularly changed his clothes to avoid being caught. Customers and employees didn't notice the kid's hideout but eventually a pile of trash leading to his campsite led to his discovery. He tried to run out of the store when he was discovered and soon released to the relatives he was running away from.

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JEFF HANSEN of Philo/Lula Cellars is not the Jeff Hansen who is buying Point Arena’s Seashell Inn out of Point Arena. Both Jeff Hansens called today to cordially inform us that the Jeff Hansen who is buying the Seashell Inn is a Salt Lake City contractor who is moving to the Coast to realize a dream he’s had for years. He’d been looking for commercial property in the Point Arena area for several years. He also said that he's taken a close look at the Seashell and is fully aware of its occasionally sordid history and physical condition. Hansen said he plans to rehab the old motel and restore it to full respectability. He said that he knows acquiring the property out of receivership has its own set of obstacles to overcome but he’s optimistic they will all be worked out. The local Jeff Hansen simply asked that we point out that he’s not the one who’s buying the Seashell. Done!

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GREAT DAY IN ELK is Saturday, August 23: Parade at noon, followed by afternoon carnival, food, activities and live entertainment. Barbecued tri-tip dinner 3-7pm. Benefit for the Greenwood Community Center in Elk. For more information go to or call 877-3245. No dogs please.

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by Jeremy B. White

Regulating California’s medical marijuana industry will likely have to wait another year.

A key committee Thursday blocked Senate Bill 1262, the latest legislative attempt to impose a regulatory framework on growers and dispensaries in the first state to allow medical cannabis. Earlier this year, another bill seeking to do so faltered on the Assembly floor.

Prospects seemed brighter for the measure by state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, because it enjoyed the support of various law enforcement groups and from the League of California Cities. Past efforts to regulate pot have foundered in part because they lacked support from law enforcement groups and spurred reservations about overriding the will of cities and counties.

But the Assembly Appropriations Committee held SB 1262 on Thursday. With the deadline to pass bills from fiscal committees a day away, the bill’s hopes of advancing this year are slim.

“What happened today was the folks that want to preserve the wild, wild west – meaning those that want it to be totally unregulated, want it to operate without any regulation or oversight – won the day,” Correa said. “Over 20 years, we’ve sat on our hands and we’ve done nothing to regulate this exploding medicine in the state of California.”

The bill would have created a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, housed in California’s Department of Consumer Affairs, that could craft a licensing system and set standards for cultivating, transporting and providing medical pot. Previous bills had envisioned a state-level cannabis regulatory entity within the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

In addition to allowing the licensing of dispensaries, the bill would have authorized local governments to tax medical marijuana and to preserve their own, separate marijuana regulations. It would have imposed tighter restrictions on physicians who prescribe pot.

While groups like the California Police Chiefs Association supported the bill, medical marijuana stalwarts like the California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Drug Policy Alliance raised a series of objections. They disagreed with provisions discouraging people with prior felonies from obtaining licenses and with having the Department of Consumer Affairs manage the program.

(Courtesy, the Sacramento Bee)

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ED DENSON COMMENTS: What happened was that patients won a victory, for this bill would have made it impossible for individual patients who could not grow their own medical marijuana due to land restrictions, or the limitations their illness impose on them, to get their medicine from anyone but high priced dispensaries. The bill was riddled with drafting errors, some of which would raise serious problems for patients (who might have to have a locked box bolted to their car, and travel with a second person, just to take a joint with them on a day trip.) But the most serious problem was that it would create an entirely corporatized commercial monopoly on almost all medical marijuana. Patients are better off without this bill becoming law.

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A TRUCK ran into a power pole on Empire Drive in north Ukiah yesterday (Aug 14), causing a small power outage and hazardous conditions in the area. The driver, Jerry Wilkin, 55, of Ukiah claimed to have had a "medical event." But the CHP arrested him while in the hospital with major injuries for driving under the influence of alcohol.

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ON JUNE 14th at about 8:45 PM Ukiah Police responded to the Home Depot parking lot, at 350 North Orchard Avenue, for a robbery. Officers learned the victim had just parked when 27 year old James Paul Miller, of Redwood Valley, suddenly entered the passenger side of the vehicle. Miller told the victim he was owed money, and threated to stab the victim if he was not paid. Miller continued to demand money, then grabbed the keys from the ignition and fled with the keys. Miller was not located but officers determined Miller was on probation for possessing a firearm, and had a warrant for his arrest. On August 11th at about 4:40 PM Ukiah Police stopped Miller riding a bicycle in the 600 block of South Orchard Avenue. Miller provided officers with a different first name and insisted he wasn’t James, but officers were familiar with Miller and arrested him for the outstanding warrant, for providing a false name and for violating probation. Ukiah Police Detectives responded and interviewed Miller, and additionally charged him with robbery and threats for the June incident. (Ukiah Police Department Press Release)

Remo & Deborah McOsker
Remo & Deborah McOsker

ON AUGUST 8th at about 9:15 PM a Ukiah Police Officer observed 36 year old Remo Lee Mcosker seated in the passenger side of a vehicle parked in the 100 block of Talmage Road. The officers saw Mcosker was smoking from a methamphetamine smoking pipe, and approached him. The officer saw Mcosker had discarded the pipe onto the floorboard of the vehicle, and the officer arrested Mcosker for possessing drug paraphernalia. The officer contacted the vehicle’s driver, 55 year old Deborah Kay Mcosker, and performed a search of the vehicle. The officer located methamphetamine inside the vehicle, and arrested Deborah for possessing methamphetamine and also added that charge to Remo Mcosker. (Ukiah Police Department Press Release)


ON AUGUST 9th at about 7:45 PM Ukiah Police contacted a subject on Cherry Street near the railroad tracks. The subject verbally identified himself with a name which the officer recognized as belonging to another person. Other officers eventually recognized the subject as 42 year old Edward Bert Steele, who had a warrant for his arrest from Del Norte County for a stolen vehicle. Steele was arrested, and was found to possess numerous baggies of methamphetamine. Steele was charged with personation of another, possessing methamphetamine for sale, and for the warrant. (Ukiah Police Department Press Release)

Gonzalez, Cranford
Gonzalez, Cranford

ON AUGUST 10th at about 4:15 AM Ukiah Police were in the area of 300 Jones Street searching for two suspicious subjects who were believed to be hiding in the area. Two subjects were spotted crouching and lying underneath a vehicle parked in a driveway. The subjects were identified as 20 year old Maria Kristine Gonzalez, of Ukiah, and 24 year old Shayla May Cranford, of Willits. Both subjects were wearing dark clothing and between them had a hammer, a flashlight, and numerous and various automotive keys. Gonzalez and Cranford were arrested for prowling, possessing burglary tools, and criminal conspiracy. (Ukiah Police Department Press Release)


ON AUGUST 12th at about 8:45 PM Ukiah Police contacted 24 year old Mark Leslie Walrath in the 1100 block of Mulberry Street because Walrath had a warrant for his arrest for driving with a suspended driver’s license. As officers were taking Walrath into custody, he reached into his pocket and quickly discarded his cellular telephone and a pouch. Officers found the pouch contained methamphetamine, heroin, and oxycodone pills. A further search of the vehicle Walrath was seen driving revealed a loaded pistol. Walrath is a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms. Walrath was arrested for the warrant, and for possessing narcotics, possessing methamphetamine, possessing a loaded firearm in a vehicle, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and being armed in the commission of felony. (Ukiah Police Department Press Release)


ON AUGUST 12th at about 12:25 PM Ukiah Police contacted 36 year Rafael Verdusco Paz in the 700 block of South State Street. Paz appeared very nervous and displayed symptoms of having used a controlled substance recently. Paz was evasive when asked if he possessed any weapons, and during a pat search officers discovered Paz had a loaded pistol in his pants pocket. Paz was immediately taken into custody and arrested for carrying a loaded firearm in public and carrying a concealed firearm. Paz was subsequently found to be under the influence of a controlled substance, and the pistol’s serial number was found to have been removed. Paz is a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms. Paz was also found to have less than a gram of methamphetamine hidden in his clothing. Paz was additionally charged with removing the serial number from a firearm, being under the influence of a controlled substance while armed, possessing ammunition and a firearm by a convicted felon, possessing methamphetamine, and being armed in the commission of a felony. (Ukiah Police Department Press Release)

PS. A quick check of the AVA’s booking archive shows that Mr. Paz has been arrested several times in the last few years going back to 2007 for assault, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, parole violation, possession of controlled substance, resisting arrest, driving without a license, drug transportation, possession of drug paraphernalia, sale of meth, vehicle theft, extortion, and domestic battery. But there he is out there on the street.

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You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?

and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?

and the rain repeatedly spattering

its words and drilling them full

of apertures and birds?

I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,

a suburb of Madrid, with bells,

and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out

over Castille's dry face:

a leather ocean.

My house was called

the house of flowers, because in every cranny

geraniums burst: it was

a good-looking house

with its dogs and children.

Remember, Raul?

Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember

from under the ground

my balconies on which

the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?

Brother, my brother!


loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,

pile-ups of palpitating bread,

the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue

like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:

oil flowed into spoons,

a deep baying

of feet and hands swelled in the streets,

metres, litres, the sharp

measure of life,

stacked-up fish,

the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which

the weather vane falters,

the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,

wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,

one morning the bonfires

leapt out of the earth

devouring human beings --

and from then on fire,

gunpowder from then on,

and from then on blood.

Bandits with planes and Moors,

bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,

bandits with black friars spattering blessings

came through the sky to kill children

and the blood of children ran through the streets

without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,

stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,

vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood

of Spain tower like a tide

to drown you in one wave

of pride and knives!



see my dead house,

look at broken Spain :

from every house burning metal flows

instead of flowers,

from every socket of Spain

Spain emerges

and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,

and from every crime bullets are born

which will one day find

the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry

speak of dreams and leaves

and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.

Come and see

The blood in the streets.

Come and see the blood

In the streets!

Pablo Neruda

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CATCH OF THE DAY, August 14, 2014

Amador, Burns, Butler, Commander, Gilman, Guevara
Amador, Burns, Butler, Commander, Gilman, Guevara

DAVID AMADOR, Ukiah. Possession of meth, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a device for smoking or injecting, under the influence of a controlled substance, probation revoked.

DAVID BURNS, Fort Bragg. Mandatory supervision sentence violation (methamphetamine related. Frequent flyer.)

GEOFFREY BUTLER, Willits. Marijuana cultivation, possession for sale of marijuana, armed with firearm.

NICHOLAS COMMANDER, Ukiah. Assault with a deadly weapon, possession of smoking/injecting device, possession of burglary tools.

MYCHAEL GILMAN, Arcata. Evading a police officer.

RICHARD GUEVARA, Willits. Felony vandalism.

Hoffman, Johnson, Knight, McCall, Moddrelle, Powell, Scott-Stout
Hoffman, Johnson, Knight, McCall, Moddrelle, Powell, Scott-Stout

JAMES HOFFMAN, Ukiah. Parole violation.

RICHARD JOHNSON, Hopland. Probation revoked.

JOHN KNIGHT, Ukiah. Ex-felon with a firearm, loaded firearm in public, carrying a concealed firearm, illegal alteration of a firearm, prohibited possession of ammunition, under the influence of a concealed substance, failure to appear, probation revoked.

TIMOTHY MCCALL, Ukiah. Dirk or dagger.

STACEY MODDRELLE, Willits, Public intoxication of alcohol (Frequent Flyer).

JESSE POWELL, Covelo. Resisting/Delaying a police officer.

MATTHEW SCOTT-STOUT, Ukiah. Driving under the influence of alcohol with prior DUI convictions.

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Local farmer and Cal NORML rep speak out

by Jane Futcher

The deputy director of the California Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws told a group in Laytonville Aug. 10 that Cal NORML opposes a proposed state bill to regulate medical cannabis.

Cal NORML’s Ellen Komp spoke at the Cannabis Renaissance forum at the Long Valley Garden Club. She said her organization objects to Senate Bill 1262, now making its way rapidly through the State Legislature, mainly for three reasons:

• The bill’s provisional licensing system requires licensees to prove they have been operating in compliance with local ordinances for six months prior to Jan. 1, 2015. Since there are virtually no such growers in the state, with the exception of about 100 in the Mendocino’s Sherriff’s zip-tie program, few of the state’s 200 to 300 dispensaries would be able to enroll enough growers to supply the market. The bill would only net about $3 million in licensing applications fees for the state, even at the highest fee level of $8,000.

• The bill has overly burdensome transportation regulations, in effect requiring an armored car driven by two individuals to transport marijuana no matter how small the amount.

• The bill bans ex-marijuana felons from the licensing program, which would eliminate many highly qualified growers from the cannabis industry. NORML argues that prior offenders should not be branded for life for offenses that are becoming “obsolescent.”

“The conversation has shifted from should we legalize to how should we legalize,” Komp told the audience of about 25 people at the garden club. “What’s happening in Colorado and Washington has been a game changer.”

Despite California’s Proposition 215 legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Komp said opponents, particularly the California League of Cities, want the right to “ban everything, indoors and out.”

“They’ve been chipping, chipping, chipping away,” Komp said. “Now we need a stronger law. We are looking to 2016 to have a good initiative on the state ballot.”

Komp urged the cannabis “cottage industry” to stand up for its rights and let Sacramento know that SB 1262 as written is unacceptable, despite the many changes made to it since State Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), with support from the state Police Chiefs Association and the California League of Cities, first introduced the bill in February.

Correa’s original bill placed responsibility for regulating the law with the State Department of Public Health. But the health department didn’t want the job, Komp said, so the bill now turns the task over to the State Department of Consumer Affairs.

Komp, who has a degree in biochemistry from Penn State, said she’s been a cannabis activist since 1991. In 2002 she moved to Humboldt County, where she worked for the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project in Garberville and served on the Medical Marijuana Task Force. Now a Berkeley resident, she has contributed articles and opinion pieces to High Times, In These Times, Alternet, O’Shaughnessy’s, California NORML Report, Eureka Times-Standard and Cannabis Culture.

Komp said that some of the language from State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s medical cannabis regulation bill, AB 1894, has recently been incorporated into the Correa bill, but the legislation is still not a good law for patients, growers and dispensaries.

Komp shared the podium with Casey O’Neill of Happy Day Farm, a CSA in Laytonville. O’Neill is a Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council member and has been nominated for a board position with the Emerald Growers Association. He spoke with pride and passion about his own farm and the benefits cannabis cultivation has brought to Mendocino County.

“Cannabis is a crucial farm support tool,” O’Neill said. “Cannabis can help pay for the infrastructure, for chicken coops, fences, things farmers need. A lot of good and noble ambitions here are supported by cannabis.”

O’Neill said the Emerald Growers Association is working to provide grassroots support to cannabis farmers and to educate people outside the area so they understand the qualities of the cannabis culture.

“The rock of prohibition is starting to move,” O’Neill said. “It’s going to move in the next 18 months and it’s our job to shove it where we want it to go. I’m tired of worrying about the police coming to get me because we don’t have a system that can differentiate between quality producers and criminal grows.”

O’Neill urged local farmers to speak out, get involved in the political process and spend some money to pay lobbyists to ensure that regulations are passed that are favorable to small and sustainable cannabis farmers.

One member of the audience said she thinks agribusiness is doing the same thing to cannabis farmers that it’s doing to farmers of other commodities — trying to close down CSAs and farmers’ markets and attempting to take over all food and drug production. She said people and laws should support small producers of any commodity.

O’Neill agreed.

“So long as we’re quiet and typecast,” he said, “they control the issue. We want to control the issue. If 1262 passes it will be devastating for small farmers.”

O’Neill said Healing Harvest Farms will hold a Cannabis Farmers Market Saturday, Aug. 30, at Area 101. To participate, shoppers must have medical documentation and join the Healing Harvest Farms collective at the door.

Sheriff Tom Allman will be the speaker at the next Cannabis Renaissance event at the Long Valley Garden Club, Sunday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. The topic is “Policing the Cannabis Community.”

(Jane Futcher is a local writer who lives south of Laytonville.)

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IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH to have a job in America today, the phrase “just over broke” probably describes you. Yes, there are a handful of jobs that certainly pay very well, but most Americans who work for somebody else are just barely making it from month to month. More than half of all working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and more than half of all working Americans make less than $30,000 a year. Something has gone horribly wrong, and yet our leaders just keep telling us how wonderful our economy is. — Tyler Durden

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To the Editor:

We too want to save the Point Arena Field Station and appreciate that it is a unique and valuable resource that should be permanently protected. That's why it should become part of the California Coastal National Monument, joining the Point Arena — Stornetta Unit as a federally recognized national treasure.

For over two years the sale of the former LORAN station that is now surrounded by the national monument has been discussed with those of us who are partners with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the California Coastal National Monument Point Arena Gateway Group. The buildings at the station are in serious need of repair and the rehabilitation costs are estimated at between one and two million dollars. Mendocino-Lake College District, finding even maintenance expenses in this exposed coastal environment to be a serious drain on its budget, actually initiated the proposed sale to BLM.

Everyone agrees that the state-owned tide pools of the station's cove must remain inaccessible to the public. BLM has offered to protect this area with fencing and signage identifying it as a Special Study Area and closed to the public (as some areas of the Point Arena Unit are currently protected). Furthermore, the college is considering "reserving" access to the tide pools, legally blocking public access under trespass statute.

The valuable research and long term studies will be allowed to continue as a condition of the sale.

Additionally, several options have been identified that would reserve some of the buildings such as the classroom/lab building and the houses. This would reduce the $1.5 million sale price to some extent, although considering the poor condition of the buildings, they may be more a liability than a value.

An appraisal is now underway to take into account these various options. The college has determined that $40,000 to $50,000 a year will be necessary to maintain the buildings once they are renovated. Even this expense is considerable for a facility that serves between 11 to 100 district college students a year. We hope that other academic institutions that use the facility will help defray these costs and allow the buildings to be preserved for education, research, field trips and for a full-time caretaker.

We would hate to see the college lose this opportunity to save and maintain this facility. The $1.5 million Land and Water Conservation Fund allocation will expire in December of this year. This funding will not come our way again. These funds were secured because of the national monument designation and all the outreach, advocacy and publicity that went into this effort. Furthermore a key decision-maker in the allocation of these funds, who helped make the acquisition of the Point Arena Lands possible, is retiring this year.

We urge the Friends of Point Arena Field Station and the College Board of Trustees to work quickly toward closing a sale agreement that would: Save the pristine tide pools; Retain the education and research; Provide funding to restore the necessary structures.

Let's go forward to make this happen — Save the Point Arena Field Station!

Leslie Dahlhoff, Merita Whatley, Lori Hubbart, Susan Moon, Point Arena

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Join Sanctuary Forest on Saturday, August 23rd for the Big Red: Ancient Redwood hike! The hike will be led by Sanctuary Forest Board member Stuart Moskowitz, and will be held in a section of virgin, Mattole headwaters forest, untouched by logging and rarely entered by humans. Hike leaders will take participants from the Mattole River to the ridge top and back to the Mattole along a rugged trail that winds through the forest. At the ridge top Stuart will share stories about the Mattole community's historic efforts to preserve different areas of this forest, including the 2,000 year old Big Red, which sparked the creation of Sanctuary Forest in 1987. Please meet at the Sanctuary Forest office in Whitethorn at 9 a.m. Bring a lunch and plenty of water and wear sturdy hiking shoes. Be prepared for a rigorous, mostly uphill, approximately 5-mile hike on uneven terrain—there is also a very steep, slippery downhill section towards the end. The hike will end between 4 and 5 p.m. This is a group excursion, and participants are asked to stay together at all times. The hike is free of charge, though donations are gladly accepted and help Sanctuary Forest offer this program year after year. For questions or clarifications, contact Marisa at, or call 986-1087 x 1#. Hope to see you there!

Support from volunteers and local businesses have made this program possible for Sanctuary Forest. Local businesses that have made generous contributions are Blue Star Gas, Caffe Dolce, Charlotte’s Perennial Gardens, Chautauqua Natural Foods, Dazey’s Supply, First Fig Gallery, Hohstadt’s Garden Center, Humboldt Bar & Grill, James Holland, MSW Counseling Services, J. Angus Publishing Group, Madrone Realty, Mattole Meadows, Mattole River Studios, Monica Coyne Artist Blacksmith, Ned Harwood Construction, Pierson Building Center, Redwood Properties, Roy Baker, O.D., Southern Humboldt Fitness, Sylvandale Gardens, The Security Store, Vella Wood Flooring, Whitethorn Construction, Whitethorn Winery, Wildberries Marketplace and Wyckoff’s Plumbing.

Sanctuary Forest is a land trust whose mission is to conserve the Mattole River watershed and surrounding areas for wildlife habitat and aesthetic, spiritual and intrinsic values, in cooperation with our diverse community.

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Response to Jane Futcher—

In response to Ms. Futcher's claim to the inaccuracy of my reporting on her conduct at the July 7 the KZYX Board of Director's meeting, I clearly stated that the details presented were from the viewpoint of Director John Sakowicz. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the recording of the meeting made by the station's GM, John Coate, was not made available to me or others who requested it, the best alternative was to give the reader both sides of situation. Since I have personally seen a failure in memory of several members of the Board on a consistent basis, only the recording, which Coate considered making available on the station website, holds the information on the nuances of the encounter.

Sheila Dawn Tracy, Mendocino

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Craig Stehr Is Arriving San Francisco Sunday August 17th at 3:30PM — Warmest spiritual greetings, Hello and Hare Krishna! Please know that I have secured a Grey Hound bus ticket (thanks to the cooperation of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Travelers Aid), leaving New Orleans tomorrow, arriving San Francisco on Sunday August 17th at 3:30PM, schedule GLI 6880. It would be really cool if anybody met me at the bus station, and secondly, it would be even cooler if I could be given a place to stay in the east bay that night, because then we could all attend the Sunday Love Feast at the Berkeley Krishna Temple. I will not be checking emails again until I'm back in California...however, you may leave a telephone message for me tonight at (504) 302-9951 in NOLA. Our collective future is what we make it; one-heart spiritually centered, and let us all value one another. Love & Peace, Craig Louis Stehr

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On Eve of Protest, a Betrayal Remembered

by Jeffrey Blankfort

Over the years there have been scores of demonstrations in front of Israel’s San Francisco consulate and dozens of marches and rallies in the city’s streets protesting Israel’s recurring, pre-planned, episodes of bloody suppression of Palestinian resistance and its devastating wars on Lebanon.

None, however, have been as memorable as the one that took place across the San Francisco Bay on June 24, 2010, when more than 1200 community and labor activists, supported by workers from ILWU Local 10, set up a picket line and shut down the Port of Oakland terminal where a container ship owned by the Israeli Zim line was scheduled to dock and be unloaded.

That action had been called to protest Israel’s deadly attack on the Turkish ship Marvi Marmara as it was attempting to break Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza and bring humanitarian supplies to the residents of the world’s largest outdoor prison. In that incident, which evoked world-wide protests, Israeli commandos murdered nine Turks and one Turkish-American, all of whom were unarmed.

On Saturday, August 16th, building on the hundreds of thousands of people across the globe who have been in the streets protesting Israel’s latest genocidal war on Gaza, a coalition of groups, including Palestinian and Arab American youth, anti-war organizations, and labor union activists are hoping to replicate the success of the 2010 action. They will be gathering at 5 AM, as they did last time, at the gate to the Port of Oakland’s terminal 57, where two Zim ships are scheduled to arrive and be unloaded.

There is an important back story to the appearance of Zim’s ships in Bay Area ports that includes one of the most shameful episodes in San Francisco’s history. It bears repeating now since most of those picketing on Saturday are unaware of it and it is not likely to be mentioned by any of the speakers. It illustrates the degree to which the pro-Israel Lobby controlled local politics and politicians then, as it does now and for the past half century on Capitol Hill, and will continue to do so until an enraged public puts an end to it.

Our story begins with what turned out to be a naïve decision on the part of the otherwise, politically astute mayor of San Francisco, (now Senator) Dianne Feinstein, to accept an invitation by the Soviet Union to visit Leningrad in 1985 which, in the period of Glasnost, was looking to sign a sister-city arrangement with an American city and it was San Francisco that Mikhail Gorbachev had his eyes on.

As the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 12, 1987) described it:

“Leningrad began courting San Francisco, home of the Russian Hill and the only Soviet Consulate in the United States outside Washington. It too seemed an ideal match, a union between cities that many consider the beauties of their nations.

“They even have bridges in common. Leningrad, called the Venice of the North, is a city of islands linked by bridges. And, of course, San Francisco has its Golden Gate.”

Feinstein heard the call and traveled to the Soviet Union, and, according to the Times, “was wined and dined in Leningrad. She and Leningrad’s mayor emerged from a private tete-a-tete and announced their civic engagement. But it was not to be.”

San Francisco, as Feinstein must have been aware, was home to a Jewish Community Relations Council whose raison d’etre appeared to be organizing rallies in front of the Soviet Consulate demanding “freedom” for Soviet Jewry and outside of New York City, there was probably no Jewish community in the country more active (or mis-informed) on that issue.

Consequently, when Feinstein returned to San Francisco and announcing the city’s new sister city relationship that she learned she’d kicked over a hornet’s nest.

Despite the fact that Feinstein had previously used her office to assist some 36 Jews in leaving the Soviet Union, she was blasted on all sides by Jewish leaders, joined by former mayor, Art Agnos who had previously been arrested at a protest in the Soviet Union on behalf of that country’s Jews.

What added strength to their accusations that Feinstein was insensitive to Jewish concerns was that she had never visited Israel (today, a sine quo non for every aspiring big city mayor), and, it was whispered, that not having a Jewish mother, she was technically not an MOT (Member of the Tribe).

‘So how come you visited the USSR and never been to Israel?’ she heard from so many sides that she quickly did the expedient thing. She canceled the sister-city contract with Leningrad and announced her plans to visit Israel and re-new San Francisco’s sister-city pact with Haifa which, at the time, had a sister-city arrangement with Cape Town in apartheid South Africa, a fact that the local media, if it was aware of it, did not see fit to publicize.

So away whisked Mayor DiFi to Haifa and upon her return, she proudly announced that she had not only established new cultural ties with Haifa, she had convinced the head of the Zim Line, Matty Morgenstern, to shift its Northern California business from the Port of Oakland to that of San Francisco.

For some years, before that, the use of the Port of Oakland by the Zim American-Israeli Shipping Co., had apparently drawn no attention from pro-Palestinian or anti-apartheid activists despite the fact that Zim was providing the crucial trade conduit between the two apartheid nations.

Suddenly, with Feinstein’s announcement, it was in the news and the reports that Zim did business with South Africa created a problem for San Francisco’s very liberal board of supervisors because, just three months earlier, on January 21, 1986, the supervisors had passed an ordinance that prohibited the city from signing contracts with any company that was doing business with South Africa which simply Zim clearly was.

One of the city’s two African-American supervisors, Willie Kennedy, who had been a co-sponsor of the anti-apartheid legislation, reported that her staff had learned of Zim’s South African ties and argued that approving the contract with the Israeli company and allowing it to unload its goods in San Francisco was in violation of the letter and spirit of the ordinance.

Feinstein’s response, backed by the City Attorney, was to deny that the supervisors had any jurisdiction over the port and that any effort to block the contract was “sabotaging” the port’s “rebirth.”

The response of the Zim Line came in a letter to E.L. Gartland, director of the Port of San Francisco, on April 23, from Dov Teitler, Zim’s number one West Coast official, based in Los Angeles. As could have been expected, he denied that any of the Zim’s ships did any business with South Africa:

“As Senior Vice-President of the Zim American Israeli Shipping Company, Inc.,” he wrote. “I am responsible for all operations of the West Coast Region. I also, of course, am familiar with our operation throughout the world, and I can categorically state that this company has no service to South Africa for carriage or cargo, either to or from that nation.

“At a prior time we did have such service, but it has been cancelled. Unfortunately, our advertising agency did not make the necessary correction, and for a period of time certain publications indicated we serve South Africa.

“If you have any further questions, please feel free to call me at any time. I authorize you to represent the above facts to your board of supervisors by giving them a copy of this letter.”

Teitler was clearly lying, but how to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt or, at least enough to convince the Board of Supervisors to reject the contract? The answer was, to use a term that had yet to be born, a “no brainer.”

I simply attached a cassette recorder to my phone and called Zim’s offices in Cape Town and Durban in South Africa and New York, Toronto, Houston, and New Orleans and asked them “when is the next Zim ship leaving for Israel from Durban?” Not surprisingly, they all told me and further informed me that there were two sailings every month to the Israeli ports of Ashdod and Eilat.

I then made transcripts of the conversations and delivered them to each of the supervisors’ offices at City Hall and awaited their action at the next meeting, naively believing that there was no way, in the face of this new evidence, could they possibly approve the contract.

At that meeting, then Supervisor Harry Britt, another one of the ordinance’s co-sponsors, courageously but unknowingly, put a cap on political career when he stood up, with the transcripts gripped tightly in one hand, and declared that Zim was in obvious violation of the ordinance and that its contract with the city’s port should be rejected.

But this was Israel, in the form of the Zim Line, that the SF Board of Supervisors was dealing with, and, as anyone familiar with American politics knows or should know by now, Israel and its institutions are not only held to different standards, it is fair to say, as we have seen in Gaza, that they are held to no standards at all.

Bulldozed by liberal attorney and later judge, Quentin Kopp, who a few years earlier had served as a volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces as it was engaged in its second war on Lebanon, the board rolled over and the contract was approved by an 8-2 vote with Britt and Kennedy dissenting. The most pathetic moment came when the other African-American woman on the board, Doris Ward, appeared to be so clearly distressed at voting for what she knew was wrong, that her “Yes” vote was almost inaudible, requiring the board chair to ask her to repeat it more loudly.

Ward’s vote for the Zim contract, for those wondering about it, simply reflected the political reality facing black politicians in America who, like Ward was at the time, up for re-election. They are largely dependent for campaign funds on liberal Jewish donors who will cut them off without a dime and back another candidate if they speak out against Israel’s actions or racist policies. The last two members of the Congressional Black Caucus to do so, Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard, took the risks, knowingly, and paid the price.

The following year, after the death of San Francisco Congresswoman, Sala Burton, Harry Britt threw his hat in the ring, challenging Democratic Party fundraiser, Nancy Pelosi and three others, including Ward, in the race to replace her. By then, Britt should have learned that his attempt to thwart the Zim contract had been an act of political suicide, that he had no future in the Democratic Party.

Casting principle aside in favor of deluded ambition, Britt flew to Washington where he apparently threw himself at the feet of some Israel Lobby bigwigs, no doubt begging their forgiveness for having challenged their sacred shipping line’s business dealings with South Africa, although that’s not quite how the San Francisco Chronicle reported it. (2/24/87). According to the paper, “He said he also will meet with labor leaders and with a number of ‘Jewish political action committees,” to assure them that he views Israel as “a beleaguered nation that must have unqualified support to defend itself.”

That was followed by an ad in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin which depicted a photo of Britt standing next to the Russian Jewish refusnik, Anatoly (now Natan) Sharansky, and committing him “to the issues we care about most.”

Topping a list of ten were: ‘Support full military and economic aid to guarantee the strength and security of Israel,” “Oppose any negotiations with the PLO,” and “Defend Israel against scapegoating in the international arena.”

Since the ad would fit on a letter sized page, I made a dozen copies of it and send it to some friends. One of them ended up in Britt’s hands which he proudly held up at a candidates’ forum at the city’s Raoul Wallenberg Democratic Club, declaring that “somebody mass produced that ad and sent it to every liberal and lefty activist in the city” and that now, he, too, (a former Methodist minister) had “experienced anti-Semitism.”

After an unnamed San Francisco Jewish leader told the SF Bay Guardian that the “community” would never forgive Britt for his efforts to reject the Zim contract, he lost by a few percentage points to Pelosi in the primaries in a surprisingly close vote, but didn’t challenge her again.

His turning his back on the anti-apartheid struggle and jumping in bed with the San Francisco’s pro-Israel establishment, however, did not appear to tarnish his reputation among the city’s left and liberal communities. The most emphatic proof of that would be his endorsement in the congressional race by the city’s Rainbow Coalition which voted to support him and “urged all members to take an active role” in his campaign.

“We commend your commitment to working directly with the people in our community to solve the problems of our time,” wrote Lyle “Butch” Wing, coalition co-chair, in a letter to Britt.

Except among the minority committed to Palestinian rights, his pro-Israel stance did not hurt him in the gay community in which he had portrayed himself as the late Harvey Milk’s successor which, in one sense, he was.

Following Milk’s assassination along with that of Mayor George Moscone by fellow supervisor Dan White in 1978, the new mayor, Feinstein, appointed Britt to the board as Milk’s replacement where he served until 1990, eventually becoming its president. Throughout the remainder of his tenure, following the Zim vote, he never lost an opportunity to voice his support for Israel.

In 1988, he would get another chance, taking the lead against Proposition W, a measure placed on the San Francisco ballot through the efforts of members of the city’s Arab-American community, that would have had the city go on record as endorsing a “two-state” resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Trampling on the reputation of his much admired predecessor, Britt sent out a city-wide mailing, telling San Franciscans that “a bullet may have struck Harvey down, but it couldn’t kill the vision that guides us today — or the voice that still echoes in our memory. It’s in the name of that incomparable vision — and that inimitable voice — that I ask you to defeat Prop. W.”

It was, with Harry’s help. But to be fair, he wasn’t alone. The campaign to defeat the ballot measure, which had an early lead in the polls, exposed the degree to which the American political process, on this issue at least, had already become the provenance of the Israel Lobby.

The same SF Jewish Community Relations Council that had almost brought Feinstein to her knees two years earlier, was able to secure the names of virtually every elected state official from San Diego to the Oregon border to place on the slick mailing pieces that went to the city’s voters, opposing Prop. W.

Four years later, in 1992, adding to the city’s shame and checkered history of activism, Britt would be appointed chair of the Harvey Milk program on “humanities and social activism” at San Francisco’s “alternative” New College which went broke and closed its doors in 2008.

At the end of its 10-year contract with the Port of San Francisco, Zim took advantage of Oakland’s superior container facilities and, like most of the other international shipping lines, arranged for it ships to unload and pick up new cargo there.

End Note: In 1989, three years after the Zim contract with San Francisco went into effect, I called Polaris Ltd., the agency that had taken over Zim’s South African operations and asked the same questions I had before: “When will the next ship be leaving Durban for Israel?” and “How many sailings are there from South Africa to Israel each month?” When I got the same answers as before, I sent them together with the earlier transcripts to the Investor Responsibility Research Center Inc. (IRRC) in Washington DC, which maintained a directory of companies doing business with apartheid South Africa. On September 27, 1989, I received a letter from the IRRC notifying me that, thanks to the record of those conversations, Zim had been added to its list.

I have often wondered what would have happened had the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the courage to reach the same conclusion in 1986.

(Jeffrey Blankfort is a journalist and radio host currently living in Northern California. He can be contacted at


  1. Harvey Reading August 15, 2014

    “Something has gone horribly wrong, and yet our leaders just keep telling us how wonderful our economy is.” — Tyler Durden

    It’s not “something” that just appeared out of the blue. It’s been happening since the late 60s, or, more realistically, since the passage of Taft-Hartley, in the late 40s, which neutered unions. In the 50s and 60s, Working Class people bought into the Chamber lie telling them they were middle class (and thus required to “understand” that their problems were the same as those of the wealthy scum and their real middle class servants), and that was the end of the Working Class as a significant force. After that, the rich had an easy go of it. I dislike having someone peddle Chamber lies that attempt to make it appear that all these bad things happened essentially overnight, as if by magic …

  2. Jim Armstrong August 15, 2014

    PA Field Station:
    “Everyone agrees that the state-owned tide pools of the station’s cove must remain inaccessible to the public.”

    Not me.

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