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Mendocino County Today: Thursday, Jan 1, 2015

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December 29, 2014

To: Superintendent Charles Bush, Fort Bragg Unified School District, 312 South Lincoln Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, e-mail

Re:: Fort Bragg Unified School District Ban on "I can't Breathe" T-shirts

Dear Superintendent Bush

We are writing on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Mendocino High School student basketball player Connor Woods, and his father Mark Woods. It has come to our attention that the Fort Bragg Unified School District ("District") has banned participants and spectators at the Vern Piver Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament now being held at Fort Bragg High School from wearing T-shirts that say "I Can't Breathe," a reference to the death of Eric Garner in police custody. We further understand that the district has also prohibited people from taking any action to protest the decision at the tournament.

Because these actions violate the fundamental protections for free speech of the First Amendment, California Constitution, and the California Education Code, we ask that the district immediately stop its unlawful policy and allow players and spectators to wear T-shirts and other expressive items at the tournament. (We understand that the district may already be in the process of revising its position but we have not seen any official statements from it about this.)

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Garner's death and the decision not to bring criminal charges against the officers involved have been widely reported. In response to the events many people — including a number of professional and scholastic basketball players — have worn t-shirts with Mr. Garner's reported last words — "I Can't Breathe” — written on them to protest the killing, the failure to bring criminal charges, and the more general issue of police use of excessive force.

As we understand it two members of the Mendocino High School girls and boys basketball team have joined this form of silent protest. On December 16, they wore these T-shirts at a warm-up at Fort Bragg High School without incident. (The students wish to wear the shirts only during warm-ups, not during the game.) Nevertheless on December 26, Fort Bragg High School principal Rebecca Walker issued a statement on behalf of the District stating that "it is necessary to ensure that all political statements and or protests are kept away from this tournament," referring to the Mendocino High School student basketball players who chose to wear T-shirts stating "I Can't Breathe" during warm-up, and that "if a team cannot or is unwilling to do that, we have no other choice but to exclude them from the event."

All but one member of the boys team (Connor Woods) submitted to this condition but the girls team did not and is not being allowed to play at the tournament. The District's statement appears to ban students and spectators from wearing T-shirts saying "I Can't Breathe" or from any political expression that otherwise protests Eric Garner’s death in police custody or the District’s ban on "political statements or protests" during the Vern Piver Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament. To justify this censorship, the District claims that the speech will cause disruption that the school will not be able to control.


The decision to ban these T-shirts and other political statements or protests from the tournament violates the constitutional and statutory protections for free speech and the attempt to suppress criticism of this decision is an even more gross violation. More than 40 years ago the US Supreme Court held that students have a right under the First Amendment to engage in nondestructive political protest and that this right applies "on the playing field" and even to expression of opinion on "controversial subjects" (in that case wearing black armbands protesting war in Vietnam). [Case law citation] Given that the Mendocino teams — like numerous professional and school teams throughout the nation — had previously worn "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts without causing disruption, it is almost certain that the District’s decision violates the First Amendment and/or State Constitution’s stronger protections for free speech. But even if this were not the case, the decision would violate the California statute that specifically protects the rights of students to wear expressive messages: "Pupils of the public schools shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press including but not limited to the distribution of printed materials or petitions, the wearing of buttons, badges and other insignia, except that expression shall be prohibited which is obscene, libelous or slanderous. Also granted shall be material that so incites pupils as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of the lawful school regulations or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. — California And Code Section 48907 (emphasis added).

As its text indicates, this provision "provides greater free-speech protection than does the United States Constitution." [Cites case law.] In particular it forbids school authorities from acting to "censor (that is exercise prior restraint over) student expression which is not prepared for an official school publication." And most relevant to the present situation: "The plain language of section 48907 mandates that a school may not prohibit student speech simply because it presents controversial ideas and opponents of the speech are likely to cause disruption. Schools may only prohibit speech that incites disruption either because it specifically calls for a disturbance or because the manner of expression (as opposed to the content of the ideas) is so inflammatory that the speech itself provokes the disturbance. [Cites case law.]

Thus section 48907 protects student speech here in three distinct ways: it gives the students the right to wear T-shirts bearing political messages; it forbids the district from banning any such expression before it occurs; and prohibits the district from using an expected reaction to censor speech. The district's actions violate all three of these protections.

Nor can the District ban spectators from wearing the T-shirts or engaging in peaceful criticism of its decision to ban political statements whether by students or by others. The right of students to express himself at the Vern Piver Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament is protected by Section 48907, as discussed above. Although a school need not allow outsiders onto its campus to speak or distribute during school hours, the basketball tournament is open to members of the public. Spectators who wear a T-shirt bearing a message or carry a reasonably sized sign do not interfere with the ability of others to see or hear the game; indeed, basketball games are noisy affairs and signs are common at them. Allowing students to wear the T-shirt but banning others from doing so would be unreasonable — one person's "I Can't Breathe" T-shirt is no more likely to create a disruptive reaction than is the same message on another t-shirt. Moreover, the school’s attempt to ban criticism of its ban on the shirts constitutes viewpoint discrimination which strikes at the heart of the constitutional protections for speech and is virtually always illegal. [Cites case law.]

Please ensure immediately that all participants in the Vern Piver Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament including students and spectators are allowed to exercise their freedom to display political statements is guaranteed by the Constitution to a statutory protections discussed above. Because the District has previously issued a public statement which was widely distributed by national and international news networks, we ask that the district immediately issue a corrective statement that it will not ban "political statements or protests" including T-shirts stating "I Can't Breathe," by students or spectators during the Vern Piver Holiday Classic Basketball Tournament. Furthermore please immediately reinstate the Mendocino High School girls basketball team into the tournament since the were wrongfully excluded from the tournament due to their collective refusal to acquiesce to the District’s demand that they waive their constitutional and statutory rights to free speech in order to participate in the tournament.

If you would like to discuss this matter please contact Michael Risher or me, Linnea L. Nelson at 415-621-2493.

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MENDO GIRLS BASKETBALLERS won’t accept a make up game.

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One way to promote highway safety is to ensure all California drivers are familiar with a couple of new laws for 2015 designed to keep the motoring public safe.

Driver License Eligibility: Undocumented Residents (AB 60, Alejo):

Beginning January 2, 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue an original driver license to an applicant who is unable to submit satisfactory proof of legal presence in the United States. The applicants are required to provide satisfactory proof of identity and California residency and must meet all other qualifications for licensure, which includes demonstration of the basic knowledge, skills and ability to have the privilege of driving. This law was adopted during the 2013 legislative year. It does not change the day-to-day operations of the CHP.

For complete information on chaptered bills enacted in 2014, please refer to the Legislative Counsel Web site at

Modified Limousine Safety Requirements: Regulations/Inspections (SB 611, Hill):

This law creates a modified limousine inspection program, which must be implemented no later than July 1, 2016. Through this program, modified limousine terminals will be inspected once every 13 months by the CHP. The new law also defines a modified limousine as a vehicle that seats not more than 10 passengers, including the driver, and has been modified, altered, or extended in a manner that increases the wheelbase of the vehicle, sufficient to accommodate additional passengers. SB 611 also requires modified limousines to be equipped with two readily accessible and fully charged fire extinguishers. The driver or operator of the modified limousine must notify the passengers of the safety features of the vehicle including instructions for lowering the partition between the driver and passengers, and the location of the fire extinguishers.

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You can dance, every dance with the guy

Who gives you the eye, let him hold you tight

You can smile, every smile for the man

Who held your hand beneath pale moon light

But don't forget who's takin' you home

And in whose arms you're gonna be

So darlin' save the last dance for me

Oh, I know that the music's fine

Like sparklin' wine, go and have your fun

Laugh and sing but while we're apart

Don't give your heart to anyone

But don't forget who's takin' you home

And in whose arms you're gonna be

So darlin' save the last dance for me

Baby, don't you know I love you so?

Can't you feel it when we touch?

I will never, never let you go

I love you, oh, so much

You can dance, go and carry on

Till the night is gone and it's time to go

If he asks if you're all alone

Can he…

— The Drifters

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I am waiting for a plane at Newark. Time was when anywhere in an airport was a good place to read, or just to go slack and empty, to be nobody in particular and, by that token, more specifically yourself. Now, there are TVs everywhere, placed so that, as I wander out of earshot of one, I come to the next, the news of the latest atrocity or government scandal following me from point to point with all the power and insistence that amplified trivia possess of our time. Even the bars and restaurants offer no escape, though here the chatter is usually about sports or the latest in a long line of ill-behaved boy bands. Today, however, things are slightly different because today we are being prurient about death. Or rather, about an afterlife that, for some time, has been a matter of common knowledge; a moment’s fear, then a white light from which some beneficent doorman out of central casting steps forward to welcome the newly departed. This anteroom of the world to come is taken for granted by millions, including possibly the same 86 per cent of Americans who told the Larry King Show that they believed in aliens and almost certainly the proportion of that number who say that those aliens have the same supernatural abilities as Lucifer and the fallen angels. Today’s testimony doesn’t stretch that far. In fact, it’s fairly routine stuff. What was interesting is the human dimension.

It seems that the interviewee — whose voice reveals that she is a youngish middle-aged woman from the Midwest — died two years ago in her local ER: according to her doctors, she says, she was ‘clinically dead’ for seven minutes. Now, in her mind’s eye, she sees the ER staff at work, nurses and doctors bustling about the body she has just left and calling for more of something, just like on TV, and she finds all the fuss and urgency surprising because she feels quite calm and not frightened at all. Then comes the light and she is moving into it, away from the mess of this world, with only the briefest pause to wonder why it is all so easy, why she is so free of regret when she has everything to live for: good husband, happy at work, lovely children, the usual formula. The hesitation does not last, however, and soon she is engulfed, the kindled light around her more like a cloud than a god, a cloud filled with all memory, all data. This wife and mother wants to go, she wants to leave everything behind, the old life dwindling pleasantly away, an overwhelming sense of peace flooding her spirit, until someone or something within that holy and merciful light informs her that she has to go back, that it’s not her time yet. She still has work to do.

So she returns to the ER, where a voice is still calling for something and the soul’s light has gone to grey. She returns and, as she tells it, her grief for what she has lost is palpable. I wonder what her children make of all this, or what her husband thinks, as he drives her to work. ‘Larger’ she says, ‘it was larger’ (or words to that effect) and then she stops — but now we’ve heard it in her voice, not just regret for another world but also that her story is over. As in some latter-day Magnificat, her unworthy soul had for a moment been singled out and privileged, but what matters just as much, or even more, is that she was singled out by television, her story underwritten, her one experience worth telling set down for the posterity of YouTube, and finally made good by an authority we know we cannot trust, but still choose to believe, because it tells us, simply, unarguably, those stories that, even when they are tragic or threatening, are consonant with the narrative we were expecting. By such means, television takes possession not only of our lives, but our afterlives: the Lazarus tales we recount, rapt in wonder and joy, are immaculate scripts, already rehearsed onscreen a thousand times before. Who knows if these stories would ever have occurred to us, had we not learned them from TV?

— John Burnside

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by Dan Bacher

Do you want to end the year on a positive note? Then make a contribution to Restore the Delta.

I get lots of emails and facebook posts this time of year asking for donations. Most of them I ignore or delete, especially when they come from big corporate "environmental" NGOs that receive millions from the Walton Family Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and other big, corporate-funded foundations.

Many of these groups support privatization of the public trust, the water bond, the peripheral tunnels, the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and other corrupt, environmentally-destructive processes.

In contrast, Restore the Delta has done outstanding work against the peripheral tunnels and in defense of salmon and the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

Here's their year-end appeal:

2014 has been the busiest year on record at Restore the Delta. In addition to facilitating 3 dozen press conferences for media outlets from throughout the state and the nation, Restore the Delta staff have: given over 1000 interviews to newspaper, radio and television reporters;
• participated extensively in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan comment process;
• trained dozens of advocates to respond to the BDCP;
• gave hundreds of talks to thousands of Californians regarding the Delta and water management in California;
• wrote and distributed 150 press releases;
• created a social media campaign that has reached hundreds of thousands of Californians;
• held nearly 100 visible rallies and public events;
and have created a successful advocacy campaign to slow down bad Federal legislation for the Delta.

More importantly, our work has been highly accurate. While proponents of the Delta tunnels and accelerated water exports will criticize us, they have never made a public statement indicating that our factual representations are wrong.

However, 2015 is shaping up to be an even busier year. We understand that the BDCP Environmental Impact Report will be recirculated for public comment over an accelerated time period. New committee hearings will begin in January so as to push for accelerated water exports from the Delta. And the labyrinth of Delta processes, programs and state agencies will continue to need constant watch dogging so that they cannot set the stage for the construction of the Delta tunnels or facilitate a water grab from the Bay-Delta estuary and Northern California rivers.

We are at a critical point in our campaign. We need to secure 2015 funding so that our talented staff and media team can continue the fight for the protection of our Delta farming and fishing communities, our coastal communities, our rivers, and the health of the estuary. We need to expand our media outreach capacity in order to influence processes and to win the battle in the court of public opinion and with decision makers at this crucial juncture.

You have responded to our call for help in the past by regularly making donations, renewing your membership, attending our rallies, signing our petition, and more. We are grateful for your support in helping us raise awareness and opposition against the tunnels in California.

This is why I am asking you to consider making a year-end gift to Restore the Delta. We know how to stretch our dollars for maximum impact; but we need increased and stable funding to keep up the fight during this crucial period.

I know you are well aware of the impacts if this plan is enacted. It will result in the destruction of the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, our coastal fisheries from Monterey to southern Washington, as well as our local agriculture and recreational economies – all because the tunnels will deprive the Delta of the freshwater that it needs to thrive. For you and me, it will be the end of the Delta as we know it. But, can you imagine what will happen to the future for our children and grandchildren whose economic and environmental well-being will be tied to a collapsed Bay-Delta estuary?

Please make a financial contribution to help us win the fight:

Let’s stop the Delta tunnels once and for all. And let’s make sure that water quality and quantity levels are protected for the estuary.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Dec 31, 2014

Aragon, Hinton, Kann
Aragon, Hinton, Kann

JOSE ARAGON, Ukiah. Domestic assault.

HEIDI HINTON, Willits. Domestic battery.

BRYAN KANN, Fort Bragg. Burglary, possession of meth for sale and smoking-injecting device.

Minor, Mora, Pinola
Minor, Mora, Pinola

CHLOE MINOR, Fort Bragg. DUI, probation revocation.

PABLO MORA, Ukiah. Saps and similar weapons. (Frequent flyer.)

ANTHONY PINOLA, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.

Sanchez, Smith, Verville, Weaver
Sanchez, Smith, Verville, Weaver

DANIEL SANCHEZ, Ukiah. Possession of meth, receiving stolen property, possession of assault weapon, ex-felon with firearm, possession of controlled substance, probation revocation.

JEREMY SMITH, Desert Hot Springs/Ukiah. Possessession of controlled substance where prisoners are kept.

ROBERT VERVILLE, Willits. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)

ASHEL WEAVER, Willits. Probation revocation.

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Happy New Year

From Craig Stehr

All of the environmental complications, and all of the peace and justice related social issues, are now in a reed basket on a river bank, gently warmed by the sun. Please go there and sit down, and watch your breath effortlessly go in and out of your nose, as your stomach extends and retracts, extends and retracts, and it is all witnessed by…

You are invited to complete this poem.

Craig Louis Stehr


Snail mail: P.O. Box 809,

Berkeley, CA 94701-0809



  1. Harvey Reading January 1, 2015

    How does one “believe in” aliens? Is “belief in” aliens another religion? I don’t “believe in” the planet being somewhat spherical, but I accept that it is, based on the evidence. I certainly don’t “believe in” imaginary beings, usually peddled as gods, either, since there is no evidence for them, except the pseudoevidence of myths and wishful thinking, embodied in holy books, like the Bible and Koran. Nor do I “believe in” the notion that anti-war protestors spit on returning Vietnam vets, again, because there is no evidence, as opposed to hearsay, to support the assertion, and because there weren’t even rumors of it when it was supposedly happening.

    Finally, why would a person continue to watch (“believe in”?) television and read major noozepapers, while apparently being aware that everything they peddle is distorted in favor of the rulers? And then write about it?

    • Harvey Reading January 1, 2015

      I cannot help wondering if the person, whose heart now beats in Richard Cheney’s putrid, war-criminal body, was really dead before the heart was transplanted …

  2. Jim Updegraff January 1, 2015

    Pudd’nhead Wilson – “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so”

  3. Rick Weddle January 2, 2015

    Zippy the Pinhead observed some decades ago that ‘Life is a blur of Republicans and meat.’ It seems our microcephalic prophet knew what he was looking at.

    Cheney’s heartswap must have been legit. But I’ve got faith he could act like a vampire as a matter of course just the same.

    Catch the interview where he says he’d do it all again in a minute to accomplish their objectives. This is blatant, confirmed, CONFESSED advocation, promotion, and manifest practice of torture, terrorism, and other crimes against humanity. How is it this jack ‘public servant’ manages to lecture us about what’s good for us, and what’s really good for us, actually the Best We Can Do is torture, rendition, drone-strike, kidnap, disappear, blow the crap out of pretty much everything, including the weather. This behavior is precisely the sort that Laws are crafted to define as crime…it’s why we have laws at all. The best he could do couldn’t be much worse.

    In a just country, unlike this one, he’d fast be apprehended, with all the paperwork in line: indictments; public Grand Jury investigations; extra-special prosecutors; warrants; arrests; seizure/freezing of all assets; trial by full due process; sentences of Real Time in a Real Pen; maybe revive the colonial custom of public ‘stocks’ as certainly not cruel nor unusual…out on the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., with baskets of overripe fruit handy for pelting…No more free healthcare, pensions, none of it…no more Secret Service babysitters

    We could do a lot better than the ‘objectives’ put forward by these warcriminal creeps; insisting on obeying our own laws might be a good place to start.

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