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Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Sep 2, 2015

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LAYTONVILLE'S TEEN KILLER, Talen Barton, will appear in Judge Moorman's courtroom Wednesday at 1:30pm to enter guilty pleas under terms of a plea agreement reached with the Public Defender and the DA. Barton will have to serve nearly 70 years in prison without possibility of parole, putting him close to 90 before he gets out. The family that Barton destroyed are Quakers, and would not consider the death penalty. It will all be laid out during tomorrow's court hearing before Judge Moorman.


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RECOMMENDED READING: “San Francisco: Gold Rush to Google — Dancing on the Brink of the World” by Jonah Raskin with original art by Dana Smith. One reader described this long essay in booklet form as a "kaleidoscopic experience," which it certainly is with each part of the kaleidoscope combined for a wonderful capsule history of the cool, grey city of love. I have no idea what history they teach in high schools these days — some flabby, dumbed down, PC version, I'm sure — but Professor Raskin's lively essay, especially in this fetching samzidat format of art and prose, would be a very good introduction for students to their home state.

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VIA THE MIRACLE of the internet, Bruce McEwen's wonderful account of the Lake County con man, Ed Starski, was avidly read by several of Starski's victims in Georgia, Columbia County, Georgia, specifically the Augusta area. For a guy still on the sunny side of thirty, the bold Mr. S certainly gets around.

TWO GEORGIANS called last week with accounts of how Starski had ripped them off, with sidebar stories of alleged crimes committed by our peripetetic bunco artist in the state of Michigan. Harry Arthur wrote on our website, "Oh Ed Starski, finally gotcha. Well my judgment against you still stands here in Augusta, Ga and I am going to get mine. I am coming for you big guy!!”

STARSKI got off light here in Mendocino County. It's not clear if our DA's office was aware of his Georgia priors, and it wouldn't surprise us if Starski turns out not to be his given name. He might be going by Hutch now.

JUDGE MOORMAN sentenced Starski in July to 120 days in jail, and placed him on three years formal probation, meaning the guy will soon again be on the loose. We're re-posting McEwen's account here. We found it hilarious, and it certainly had many richly comic aspects, but Starski is only amusing if you haven't been victimized by him.

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Fooling Most Of The People

by Bruce McEwen


The week-long trial of Edward Starski, Esq, and his former client/father-in-law/co-conspirator and co-defendant, Larry Cornett, ended in guilty verdicts for both of them last Friday. They were charged with posing as a lawyer and attempting to defraud a local business, and Friday's verdict rang down the curtain on a week’s worth of high entertainment.

And oh what fun it was! With Starski, who represented himself, dancing along the jury box and around the evidence, it was all tons of fun for the other judges and lawyers who'd sat in on the show.

Some of the lawyers grew resentful, however, and their smiles turned to scowls as they watched Starski's lawyer imitations. At least one local lawyer, who had worked her way through law school as a single mom at two shit jobs with an empty fridge and piles of unpaid bills at home, was deeply offended. This lawyer was counsel for Starski’s co-defendant, and she let him know just how she felt in her closing arguments.

It is of course against the law to pose as a lawyer, a felony no less. Starski knew this all along but seemed to think he was clever enough to get away with it. His defense — he represented himself, natch — was that he had outsmarted everyone on technicalities, and that nowhere in the evidence did he ever come right out and say, “I’m a lawyer.”

The main piece of evidence, People’s Exhibit One, was a demand letter crafted by Starski with a letterhead announcing himself as The Law Offices of Edward Starski as “representing Mr. Cornett” that was sent to the CEO of Mendo Mill demanding nearly $4,395 for an alleged accident at the Clearlake store.

Mendo Mill CEO Mike Mayfield had never seen anything like this before. He asked the store manager, Steve Bricker, if there’d been an accident on the premises. No, Bricker said. The surveillance videos showed no sign of an accident.

Mayfield turned the letter over to the District Attorney. The DA’s chief investigator, Kevin Bailey, a man you definitely don't want on your case, asked Mayfield to make a pretext call to Starski. The call went something like this:

“So, I’m speaking to the lawyer for Mr. Cornett, is that right?”

“Yes, our office is going to represent him.”

‘Well, I don’t want to turn this into the insurance company if I don’t have to…”

“I’m not a lawyer to make a threat, but perhaps you should seek legal counsel.”

The slippery wording was what Starski was counting on. He hadn’t actually come right out and said he was a lawyer. The Esq. he'd appended to his name had apparently been awarded in very private ceremonies by a Christian sect called The Universal Spirit.

Sure, Starski was skating on thin ice by suggesting that he was in credentialed fact an attorney, but he hadn’t fallen all the way through, at least not in his own mind. The guy makes his living, he said at one point in the trial, by filing lawsuits. He said his lawsuit business makes him over $50,000 a year. He seems to sue everyone he comes in contact with. If he rents a slide for his kid’s birthday party, he sues the people renting the slide. If he puts his kids in day care, he sues the day care. If he needs some lumber to build his new law offices (which he says is perfectly legal, as long as he doesn’t say he’s a lawyer), he sends his father-in-law (for whom he has been granted power of attorney, another of his slight-of-hand ruses) to pick up the lumber and sues the lumber store for an injury that the lumber store can’t prove didn’t happen. He’s suing the DA for prosecuting him. He’ll sue the AVA for printing this story.

If you google Ed Starski you'll find that the federal bankruptcy courts are in awe over his legal smarts, and that he has even obfuscated his military service records with legal shenanigans to the point it’s impossible to tell whether he served or not, and if he did serve, for how long and where. At one point he said he left the military because of seizures, and that his mother is his legally paid caregiver for this perhaps mythical medical condition. At another point in the defendant’s murky history, we have him leaving the service on a hardship discharge to support his mom.

Prosecutor Josh Rosenfeld, formerly of the US Navy, had a copy of Starski’s release from active duty and his DD 214 form, which indicated Starski had gotten out of the Navy in Charleston, South Carolina. But Starski said he’d legally had his DD 214 changed to a DD 215 and the information was incorrect.

There was no pinning him down on anything.

One day the judge and lawyers were discussing Starski’s plan to put his mom on the stand. Judge Behnke warned Starski that this move could result in his mother being charged as a party to the conspiracy.

“I can skate around that,” Starski blithely replied.

“Mr. Starski,” Judge Behnke said levelly, “there won’t be any skating around anything in this court.”

I did not watch the entirety of Mom’s stint on the stand. I heard it was among the most moving expressions of maternal love seen in the Courthouse since the day Ma Jorgenson slipped her killer son a gun.

Gloria Cornett was so proud of her clever son she fairly purred his praises to the jury. But everyone who could, fled before Oedipus got his clothes all the way off.

Starski: “How long have you known me?”

Cornett: “Oh, all your life, my dear.”

Starski: “And what is it about me you like?”

Cornett: “Well, everything about you, dear, but especially because you’re my firstborn and the smartest of all my children.”

Starski: “Why did you give me power of attorney?”

Cornett: “Because you’re so smart, dear!”

Starski: “What is my philosophy in life?”

Rosenfeld: “Objection.”

Cornett: “I don’t know what you mean, dear.”

Starski: “My honesty — am I honorable?”

Rosenfeld: “Objection.”

Behnke; “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, statements made by the lawyers — and in Mr. Starski’s case, since he’s representing himself, this applies to him as well, his statements are not evidence; only the statements made by the witness are evidence.”

Starski: “Let me put it this way then, How did you raise me?”

Rosenfeld: “Objection.”

Behnke: “We’re getting a little far afield here. Sustained.”

Starski also put his developmentally disabled brother and his 10-year-old sister on the stand. But not his wife. According to the investigator, Mrs. Starski was shocked to learn hubbykins wasn’t a lawyer.

Most of the proceedings were taken up by Starski talking to and about himself. Because Starski was acting as his own lawyer, there was no one to ask him questions so he cross-examined himself, concluding that everything he’d done was perfectly legal and that he was an honest and honorable man just trying to do what was right by his stepfather who, after all, had sustained a four thousand dollar injury when a load of lumber was dropped on his foot at Mendo Mill. And for all his work trying to get justice in the form of cold hard cash for dad-in-law whose mishap, unfortunately, went unwitnessed, the DA and Investigator Bailey had conspired to make his life miserable.

In the end, the prosecutor, Deputy DA Josh Rosenfeld made Starski’s defense sound as ludicrous as it was, punctuating each chapter and verse of the narrative with the mocking refrain, “because Mr. Starski is an honorable man.”

But first there was defense attorney (from the Public Defender’s office) Heidi Larson’s blistering cross-examination and closing argument.

“You’ve claimed to have gone to law school, but you’re no lawyer, are you?”

“Not in California, no,” replied the master of equivocation.

“Bah! You’re not a lawyer anywhere, in any state! Are you?”


“But you like playing lawyer, don’t you?”

“No, that’s not true.”

“Oh no? Well, what about all the lawsuits you’ve filed? Fair to say you’ve filed hundreds of lawsuits in the past few years?”

“Yes, that’s true. I have a right to do that.”

“Is that how you make your living?”


“Then how?”

“As a paralegal.”

“Are you licensed as a paralegal?”

“Not in California.”

“Then where?”

“In Colorado.”

“You’re a paralegal in Colorado?”


“You are a paralegal in Colorado, but your address is in California?”

“It’s just a post office box, not a residence address.”

“But you live in Clearlake?”


“And you make your living as a paralegal?”


“And you enjoy playing an attorney?”

“I enjoy prosecuting my own cases.”

“So when you heard Larry had hurt his foot you rushed over there and took pictures and encouraged him to go to the hospital. Why?”

“You can’t file a lawsuit without that stuff.”

“You have actually filed lawsuits for both your parents that they knew nothing about, haven’t you?”

“No. My mother uses my computer and she put that stuff on there using forms I had.”

“She said on the stand she had no idea how to do that and that you handled all that for her because you’re so smart, remember?”

“No, no…”

“And in this case my client, your stepfather, Larry Cornett, had no idea you were holding yourself out as an attorney at law, did he?”

Mr. Cornett had told investigator Bailey that he didn’t want “fuck-all” to do with it. And Starski's developmentally disabled brother had told Bailey much the same thing.

On cross-examination, Rosenfeld said, “You’re a licensed paralegal in Colorado?”

“There’s no licensing in Colorado for paralegals like there is in California.”

“But your address is in California?”

“It’s just a post office box in Clearlake.”

“How many of your lawsuits do you end up winning?”

“About 90 percent.”

“And how much do you make a year, between your paralegal work and the lawsuits?”

“About $50,000.”

“How long have you been filing lawsuits?”

“Since 2012; in fact I was in the middle of some lawsuits when the investigators took my computers.”

In closing, Starski confidently informed the jury that there was nothing in the probate code that prevented him from calling himself a lawyer, and that the State’s case against him was a conspiracy by the DA and Investigator Bailey who Starski said were corrupt to the point that Bailey would even lie on the stand.

“And here’s another thing,” Starski proclaimed. “Even if there was no accident, did I reasonably believe there was an injury? We see somebody get millions of dollars for spilling hot coffee on themselves at a McDonald’s so it’s not unreasonable for me to get less than a measly $5,000 from Mendo Mill — and remember, I was very careful how I said things.”

Ms. Larson was unmoved. “We are here, all of us, and I want to thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, but we’re all here because of the actions of one person, Mr. Ed Starski. When he saw my client Larry’s toe, he saw dollar signs. Now Larry and Gloria are so proud of Ed that he’s so smart and successful at suing people and, by all accounts, he is a very effective litigator. But what we’re here to decide is whether Mr. Starski and Mr. Cornett conspired to get money from Mendo Mill through fraud; and when Mr. Starski poses as a lawyer, that’s fraud, and my hackles go up. Let me tell you why…”

Larson then related the story of the sacrifices and commitment it took her to get herself through law school and pass the state bar. It was a gripping, emotional tale, and she clearly had the jurors captivated. When Rosenfeld came on he seconded the indictment of wannabe lawyers, claiming that real lawyers, despite all the jokes to the contrary, are actually persons of integrity, for the most part, and believe in what they’re doing.

Ms. Larson maintained that her client, Starski's allegedly injured stepfather, had no idea what Starski was getting him into.

The jury didn’t buy it. Before the day was out the jury came back with guilty verdicts on all counts. But the fun and games may not be over yet. Starski is sure to sue everyone he encountered during the trial, and Steven Spielberg of DreamWorks may be tempted to make another movie, like Catch Me If You Can, featuring the courtroom adventures of Ed Starski.

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A CLOSE OBSERVER OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT IN UKIAH WRITES: "No one is denying the County needs to do a much better job protecting kids from serious abuse and neglect. At last week’s stakeholder meeting Bryan Lowery plainly admitted they had screwed up some cases. The only problem is he waited until the end of the meeting to say so. The meeting kicked off with a facilitator in charge. Most of the stakeholders thought they had been invited to a meeting to talk about the Grand Jury report and what needed to be done to address the problems. But from what I hear, it was only after Judge Mayfield spoke up that the facilitator allowed them to do so. After filling up several flip charts with a list of problems someone pointed out that almost everything came down to a lack of staffing. The good news, according to the department, is that staffing levels are up and if current offers are accepted they will be close to fully staffed. The next hurdle will be to retain the new hires long enough for them to get the field experience that only comes from time on the job."

“STAKEHOLDER,” as used in Mendoland, is a euphemism for self-interested parties. We are willing to bet that everyone in the room, except Judge Mayfield, was either a County employee or a "helping professional" working for one of the agencies that contract with the County. We would be surprised if anyone was there to represent the families or the children who function as funding units for the system — a system that seems geared toward providing jobs for as many helping professionals as possible. The First Five report identified poverty as a major contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. That being the case, why not add up all the salaries and overhead for the legions of helping professionals and their agencies, divide by the number of needy families, and cut everyone a check? Of course, it would probably help if Mendocino County was not ground zero for underground black market drug production and distribution. And the black market goes way beyond marijuana, as the surplus marijuana grown here is often traded for meth and heroin that gets sold locally.

THE SELF-SERVING LETTER from Camille Schraeder, head of Redwood Children's Services in yesterday’s Mendocino County Today, one of the main beneficiaries of the child welfare system, is a case in point. Couched in impenetrable bafflegab, the letter opens by thanking “Mr. Anderson” (ahem, the Editor, if you please) for his opinion and concludes by assuring “our wonderful AVA readership” that the aforesaid Mr. Anderson simply doesn't know what he is talking about. The passive aggressives always thank someone for their opinion just before throwing them under the bus. But without ever naming the particular points of disagreement, because doing so would violate the tenets of nice peopleism. The letter describes a system where eight or more highly paid helping professionals sit around discussing the future of whatever unfortunate child has been sucked into the system. Scrhaeder reels off a long list of treatment options and assures us that children are only drugged with court approval. Schrader gives lip service to “youth voice and choice” but we put the odds at near zero of little Johnny having any real say in his future as long as the helping professionals (inexperienced in many cases, see above) — fastened as securely as leeches — sense another pay day.

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Dear Editor:

The Mendocino Air Quality Control Board [i.e., the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors] made a terrible mistake on Aug. 28 when it rejected the Friends of Outlet Creek’s appeal of the Air Board’s decision to allow the Grist Creek Aggregates to open an asphalt plant in Longvale — without at full CEQA review and a new environmental impact report. As a consequence, Grist Creek will now begin to produce hundreds of thousands of tons of asphalt annually — a few feet from Outlet Creek.

Outlet Creek is our backyard, our inspiration, a place where we go with our friends, children and grandchildren to swim and enjoy the exquisite beauty of a unique riparian habitat.

We have seen otters, heron, trout, turtles and eagles in and around the creek, said to be the longest salmon spawning run in California.

We were shocked when the Mendocino Board of Supervisors fast tracked the project by a 5-0 vote in March of this year. Our appeal to the Air Quality Control Board was our last best hope of stopping the plant without having to engage in a lengthy and expensive lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors.

Because the asphalt plant is on the former river bed and current 100-year flood plain of Outlet Creek, its activities put at risk air quality in the narrow Longvale Valley as well as the water purity of the creek, wildlife habitats, recreational uses and traffic safety on Highway 162.

Yes, there was an asphalt plant along the creek many years ago, although no one, not even the applicant’s attorneys, can say exactly when it last produced asphalt. That old use of the site, wrong to begin with, should not be the basis for permitting a new, expanded plant to open under different ownership.

Marc Komer of Willits was the one Air Quality Control Board member who sided with Friends of Outlet Creek. Komer argued that the Air District did not determine effectively or convincingly that there would be no significant effects on the environment. He called for more due diligence on the part of the Air District and said important issues of water quality, fish habitat, and the cumulative effects of asphalt and aggregate crushing are all connected and relevant and have not been addressed.

We agree with Komer, and we will fight on through the courts to try to stop this egregious environmental assault on one of Mendocino County’s most precious riparian areas, considered so important that local wildlife and environmental agencies have already invested $2 million on Outlet Creek restoration projects.

Outlet Creek belongs to the whole county and the state, and before that it belonged to the Pomo Nation. How can politicians and government agencies urge citizens to protect our precious water resources, then give the green light to projects that put those very resources at risk? Do they understand the toxicity of asphalt fires? Have they considered the effects of the predicted El Nino floods on asphalt operations a few feet from Outlet Creek? Haven’t our elected officials promised to protect the environmental assets of our county?

We have put the inmates in charge of the asylum. That must change.

We welcome your support for our struggle. One way you can help is to send checks to Willits Environmental Center/Friends of Outlet Creek, 650 So. Main St., Willits 95490. Or email your inquiries to <>, topic line: Outlet Creek.

If the county needs more asphalt, our planners and elected officials should work with the applicant to find a better home. The flood plain of one the Eel River’s most important tributaries is the wrong place.


Jane Futcher and Erin Carney


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One of the most identifiable landmarks in Ukiah may be the old Fjord’s restaurant building on North State Street in front of the Crossroads shopping plaza, known not for its history, but for how long the facility has stood empty.

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On Friday, August 28, 2015 at approximately 12:49 PM, a Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputy observed a white Toyota Corolla with expired registration tabs traveling southbound on Highway 101 near Willits, California. The Deputy conducted a traffic stop at MPM 56.13 and contacted the driver, Franklin Timothy Lunney, 30, Phoenix. During the stop the Deputy detected the odor of marijuana coming from inside the car. A search of the car revealed two large duffle bags in the trunk. The duffle bags contained approximately thirty-one pounds of bud marijuana packaged in one-pound increments. Lunney was arrested for transportation of marijuana and was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail to be held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

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ON MONDAY, AUGUST 30, 2015 at approximately 9:00 AM, as part of an ongoing investigation into a series of burglaries in the Covelo area, Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to a residence in the 23800 block of Henderson Road in Covelo, California. Their purpose was to conduct a probation search in an attempt to locate stolen firearms and any suspect(s) associated with the burglaries. During investigations, Gabriel Azbill Bowes, 32, of Covelo was identified as being a person of interest and he was also wanted on a Mendocino County felony arrest warrant for violation of probation. Upon arriving at the residence Deputies located Bowes hiding in a bathroom. A stolen 9mm handgun and ammunition were found nearby in a bedroom. Bowes was arrested for the warrant and for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Bowes was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a no-bail status pursuant to the arrest warrant. The female resident of the home, Sammi Snow Leggett, 41, also of Covelo, was arrested for harboring Bowes and released upon her signed promise to appear at a future court date.

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ON THURSDAY, August 13, 2015, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Sheriff’s Deputies with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a residence in the 300 block of Myers Avenue, Myers Flat, to investigate the report of a disturbance. It was reported that two neighbors were in a dispute and at least one party had armed himself with a firearm. While en route to the call, the Sheriff’s Office dispatch center received several additional 911 calls reporting shots being fired.

S.Tilsner, C.Tilsner, Ingianni
S.Tilsner, C.Tilsner, Ingianni

Upon arrival, deputies contacted Steven Tilsner (age 52). Tilsner told the deputies that he has been involved in an ongoing dispute with several different neighbors. Deputies were unable to determine if shots were fired during the dispute, nor did they locate any gunshot victims. Deputies received conflicting statements from multiple parties on scene. Due to these conflicting statements, coupled with the lack of cooperation from all parties, no arrests were made. Deputies did learn that one neighbor accused Tilsner of recently stealing 200 marijuana plants, and this was likely the basis for the original 911 call. While on scene deputies observed growing marijuana on Tilsner’s property.

On 09-01-2015, at approximately 8:05 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, along with members of the Humboldt County Drug Task Force, served a Humboldt County Superior Court search warrant at 360 Myers Avenue, Myers Flat. During the service of the search warrant, deputies contacted Steven Tilsner, Christina Tilsner (age 30), and Jennifer Ingianni (age 27). All three subjects were subsequently placed under arrest for various charges (see below). Also located on the property were several firearms, suspected methamphetamine, hash lab components, approximately 586 growing marijuana plants, and approximately 90 pounds of processed marijuana.

All three subjects were transported to the Humboldt County Correctional facility and booked on the following charges:

Steven Tilsner – H&S 11358 (marijuana cultivation), H&S 11359 (possession of marijuana for sales), H&S 11379.6 (possession of chemical extraction components), H&S 11377 (possession of a controlled substance), H&S 11370.1 (possession of a controlled substance while in possession of a firearm), PC 12022 (possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony), PC 29805 (possession of a firearm with prior misdemeanor conviction), and PC 273.6 (violation of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order). Steven Tilsner’s bail was set at $500,000.

Christina Tilsner – H&S 11358, H&S 11359, H&S 11377, and PC 29800 (possession of firearm with prior felony conviction).

Jennifer Ingianni – H&S 11358, H&S 11359, H&S 11377, H&S 11370.1, PC 29800. Ingianni also had a felony warrant out of Sonoma County. Ingianni’s bail was set at $50,000.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, September 1, 2015

Basurto, BLack, Brockway
Basurto, BLack, Brockway

JOSEPHA BASURTO, Covelo. Burglary, vehicle theft.

CRAIG BLACK, Salida/Ukiah. DUI causing injury.

ROBERT BROCKWAY III, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.

Delatorre, Dinkha, Keator
Delatorre, Dinkha, Keator

STEPHEN DELATORRE, Kelseyville/Ukiah. Pot sale, transport, furnish, possession of controlled substance, probation revocation.

STEVEN DINKHA, Ukiah. Pot cultivation, processing, sale, armed with firearm.

BENJAMIN KEATOR, Redwood Valley. Pot sale, transport, furnish, under influence of controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, violation of county parole.

Mardesich, Martin, McAmoil, Oliver
Mardesich, Martin, McAmoil, Oliver

MICEL MARDESICH, Ukiah. Pot cultivation, processing, possession for sale, ex-felon with firearm.

CHARLES MARTIN, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.

DILLON MCAMOIL, Sacramento/Ukiah. Sexual battery on adult, false imprisonment, domestic battery, petty theft, probation revocation.

FRANKLIN OLIVER, Covelo. Robbery, possession of controlled substance.

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I have been a client with the California Department of Rehabilitation three times in the last 15 years, seeking help for employment based on a mental illness disability. I never liked the bureaucratic aspect of dealing with them, and the last few days I've tried getting a question with a yes or no answer answered by the DR counselor (a misnomer, really, she doesn't do any "counseling," she's a bureaucrat) who was assigned my case when I was last a client with them.

I've recently stopped taking psychiatric medication and am letting go of my psychiatrist, so my question to the DR counselor was whether I could still qualify for their services without a medical doctor treating my disability. I left her a phone message and sent her an email. She left me two phone messages in which she had interpreted my question as a desire to have my case reopened, which I had told her was not the case — I just wanted the question answered. In her emails she said she had to "review my old file" before she could give me an answer — why? … I don't know.

She comes across to me as dense, and it's disturbing to me that she won't answer a simple yes or no question. Also makes my desire to avoid DR stronger, hoping that my current volunteer work efforts could lead to employment without having to turn to an agency that appears incompetent.

Keith Bramstedt

San Anselmo

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“THE SINGULAR FEATURE of the great crash of 1929 was that the worst continued to worsen. What looked one day like the end proved on the next day to have been only the beginning. Nothing could have been more ingeniously designed to maximize the suffering, and also to ensure that as few as possible escaped the common misfortune. The fortunate speculator who had funds to answer the first margin call presently got another and equally urgent one, and if he met that there would still be another. In the end all the money he had was extracted from him and lost. The man with the smart money, who was safely out of the market when the first crash came, naturally went back in to pick up bargains. The bargains then suffered a ruinous fall. Even the man who waited out all of October and all of November, who saw the volumne of trading return to normal and saw Wall Street become as placid as a produce market, and who then bought common stocks would see their value drop to a third or a fourth of the purchase price in the next twenty-four months. The Coolidge bull market was a remarkable phenonmemon. The ruthlessness of its liquidation was, in its own way, equally remarkable.”

(Extracts from “The Great Crash: 1929, John Kenneth Galbraith, First Published 1955, Page 130 Things Become More Serious)

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As I have explained to preppers (i.e., “Doomsday preppers; neoY2K survivalists prepping for the apocalypse) in the past, just because I know how to spin wool and weave clothes doesn’t mean this is how I want to get dressed every day. First find a sheep and shear it (or just buy some fleece). You card it, spin it, and then you end up with yarn, which can be died using plant substances (if you’re lucky enough to have them growing on your land or you could raid the kitchen for things like onion skins). After a few weeks of knitting in my spare time, I may have a sweater. Or I could weave an entire vest just on one loom, again, in my not very copious spare time.

Bottom line, though: It’s a lot of work and a pain in the ass. People have no idea how time-consuming homesteading was – that’s why pioneers had lots of kids. I don’t see Americans coping well with the downsizing that the new economy demands. However, I completely agree with buying local produce and learning food preservation (which I’ve already done).

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by Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly

first recorded in 1933

Irene good night, Irene good night,

Good night Irene, good night Irene,

I'll see you in my dreams.

Last Saturday night I got married,

Me and my wife settled down,

Now me and my wife we are parted,

I think I'll go out on the town.

Sometimes I live in the country,

Sometimes I live in town,

Sometimes I take a great notion

To jump in the river and drown.

I love Irene, God knows I do,

I'll love her 'til the seas run dry,

But if Irene should turn me down,

I'd take morphine and die.

Stop rambling, stop your gambling,

Stop staying out late at night,

Go home to your wife and your family,

Stay there by your fireside bright.

* * *


* * *


by Joe Paff

The biggest Eucalyptus tree is not Clint Eastwood’s Blue Gum in Carmel, but the Alexander Cockburn Tree in Petrolia. A team of scientists showed up with measuring devices officially validating and registering its 56 foot circumference, vast canopy, and champion status.

Cockburns friends in Petrolia gathered at his grave site for a champagne seance (party) on a Saturday afternoon. Some one would remember an incident like Alexander arriving in an old giant Chrysler with a trunk full of firewood and the lid secured with a bungee cord. This would trigger a stream of reminiscences — laughter filled the cemetery.

There were a dozen of us – and many children. The children remembered Alexander’s handmade casket, the deep hole, and lowering him to rest. Where is he now asked the youngest? I pointed to where the casket was buried. He immediately wanted to dig him up. Austin was 4 at the funeral and is now 7 — it was the kind of memory that sticks! I explained that the roots of the giant Eucalyptus had already captured the coffin and Alexander too. Six silent children looked at the ground and then up at the tree. They immediately rushed to the tree and tried to climb up. I filled my glass with champagne (from the 2nd bottle) and followed the flock.


The branches of the Eucalyptus are bigger than the trunks of most trees and climbing proved difficult. Finally, we discovered a route up and kids were in the tree and soon hiding in its deep crevices. Suddenly a van pulled up — doors opened – and out streamed a half dozen people. A man walked directly to the tree and introduced himself. He was a professor from Cal Poly – here to measure the tree. I said I’d suspected they might be Christian missionaries here to throw a pall over our cemetery frivolity. I said we were all visiting our friend Alexander’s grave.

The scientists set about their task – the long tape measure around the trunk — more than 56 feet. He said they’d recently visited the Eastwood tree and ours was much bigger. Then out came the little helicopter/drone to measure the height and canopy. Our children were suddenly hooked on science — they surrounded the scientists with a dozen bright eyes.

While all this unfolded a long procession of motorcycles filed by like a procession! Did we stage this? Everyone commented that Alexander was bored by our talk and decided to spice things up.

The Australian Eucalytologist said there were taller Blue Gums in Australia but none bigger in circumference. The scientists came to see Alexander’s monument and photographed it. After they walked a little off and put their heads together briefly – they returned to tell us the tree would officially be named the Alexander Cockburn Tree. All of us — scientists and friends – posed in front of the tree for our official family photo.

Hearing the scientists name the tree was silently absorbed by wide-eyed children. This was for them absolute confirmation that the tree had swallowed Alexnder! The magic of words and naming things was still fresh with them. Nine-year-old Spencer whispered to me that the grave stone should be in the tree with Alexander, "In the center of the trunk”.


“Truth 5 cents a copy; Dynamite 50 cents a pound”

This innocent tree naming brought to mind the naming of the biggest redwood. The Karl Marx Tree was named by the Kaweah Communist community founded by San Francisco radical Burnette G. Haskell. He was a founder of the Seaman’s Union and published a newspaper called The Truth –whose motto headlines this section. Impatient with waiting for the revolution, they decided to start living as communists right away. They moved down to Tulare County and soon were exploring the great groves of Sequoia Redwoods and decided to cut down and mill only young trees and preserve the ancient giants. The groves they named and saved are today the park thousands of visit every year.

Their fame attracted Communist donations from around the country. Of course, one man’s fame is another man’s kiss of death. The Southern Pacific Railroad. They wished to cut down all the trees, ship the lumber by rail, sell the land to settlers, turn the Tulare river into an irrigation ditch, and Lake Tulare (the biggest lake west of the Mississippi!) into a dust bowl.

The outcome? The famous “Stump Meadow” with over 100 stumps more than 2000 years old.

The Kaweah settlers were charged with illegally cutting tees (!!!) and their land title challenged by the biggest crooks in the history of California. The only great trees surviving were those saved by Kaweah, which became the present park.

The Karl Marx Tree became the General Sherman Tree, as a fitting symbol of Southern Pacific’s scorched earth policy.

The tragedy continues – with all the surface water gone, with all Northern California’s water dumped into the expanding Central Valley salt flats and wastelands. With the soil actually dropping 1-inch a month as all groundwater is extracted. But this great tragedy is another story.

A final note. In July of 1950 Christopher Isherwood drove Igor Stravinsky up to the Sequoias. As they approached the trees Isherwood explained: “We’ll be in lot of small birch trees and suddenly look up and there they’ll be – high above us.”

Stravinsky nodded in full understanding and at once said “Like Shostakovich in the Hollywood Bowl”.


(Joe Paff is the chairman of the board for the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity. He lives in Petrolia.)

* * *


by Debra Keipp

When my daughter was nine days shy of her 13th birthday, she succumbed to pediatric cancer. We had some inkling since birth that she could be a short timer. When her brain tumor harvested itself at age six, it clarified many questions, medically. After that, we lived each day with no promise of tomorrow. I think it is a good way to live, disengaging expectation, making every day count for the best if you can. We had a memorable wake for her in Point Arena, tragic as it was.

Ruby had her own business license at age nine when she owned her own flea market. She had been an active member of her community. With the heart of an artist, she had acted in all of the plays the children of Acorn School created, wrote and directed during her years attending. She had a mind like a steel trap for memorization when her lines were read to her. Her brain tumor made it impossible to read well the words on the page. The last year of her life had been the most agonizing to watch in her deterioration toward death, when all she wanted was to reach 13, be a good student and have friends. Reminiscing about her emotional, as well as physical suffering, still breaks my heart. Cancer affects every facet of your life. And your family's life. As a parent, you feel so helplessly out of control, as if any of us are “in control” anyway. One support group suggested that mourning over the death of a child does not reach transformation for the parent until the offspring has been dead for as many years as alive. It's been 15 years so far since her death. I'm here to say, death is not something one so easily “gets over”.

“You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with a limp.” - Anne Lamott

A couple of months before Ruby died, Shirley Zeni called me to ask me if I wanted to buy her parents' old home on Mill Street in Point Arena. Her husband, George Zeni, was also dying of cancer and she needed some ready cash to finance George's hospice. We commiserated, I gave Shirley a down payment, and purchased her parents' former home. It was a strong home, built with two layers of 1.5” old growth redwood juxtaposed atop one another and caged in stucco. It never cracked from earthquake in all the time it stood on the San Andreas Faultline, and had a 2.5 car garage in the basement and a 500 sq. ft. old growth redwood skid shed out back on Point Arena Creek. It also had some history of import in Point Arena, for deep in the bowels of the cavernous basement it held the first indoor marijuana grow room in Point Arena, established in 1974. ...Almost a historical monument!

A spacious home, my friend, Sharon Neverwhite, a painter who calls herself a “colorist”, had colored each room inside our new home while we were in the hospital. She had covered one kitchen wall with black chalkboard paint. While she was at it, she also improved with chalkboard paint the ugly avocado green refrigerator. She artistically drew on the upper left corner of the wall in chalk, “Ruby in the Sky With Diamonds”. That started the flow of chalkboard art that happened that day with each mourner who arrived to pay their respects and condolences to Ruby at her 3-day wake, held in our new home, which Shirley so kindly and graciously helped arrange through inviting us to live there before escrow closed - in time for Ruby to die comfortably.

At wake's end, the driver finally arrived in the late afternoon from Santa Rosa to take Ruby's body to the crematorium. He remarked to me what an unusually pleasant wake he had witnessed while there waiting for us to get her body ready to go. I thanked him, pressed a doobie into his palm before he exited, and smiled, “Ruby's used to pulling over in Jenner.”

After they had gone, I opened the refrigerator to refresh my drink, and noticed a new drawing on the refrigerator chalkboard. Ruby's old friend, Carolyn Cooke had written, “A lady always knows when to leave.” I walked to the back porch, collapsed on the step and bawled, disgusted (as in having been robbed) by my enormous loss. She was just the kid I had always wanted.

“It was a fine cry – loud and long – but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.” (Toni Morrison, SULA)

Guilt set in when I surprisingly felt relief that Ruby was finally at peace after such a lifelong struggle. I could feel the relief of feeling her out of pain for once, but even so I felt badly that it almost felt okay that she was gone. Even though she was a very high functioning individual, complete with a fine sense of humor, all her life she had a disability that would eventually kill her, but that no one could “see”. Congenital, it was with her in utero (at conception). The tumor of unknown etiology was an estrogen mimic – a xenohormone. I grew up exposed to countless buckets of pesticides and herbicides sprayed by my father and cousin on our 400 acre farm - buckets labeled “Monsanto”, “DDT” and “2-4-D”. Because of my exposure, her early death was genetically programmed into the twist of her DNA from the get-go, to kill with the onset of puberty. She was done before she even got started.

“I simply wondered about the dead because their days had ended and I did not know how I would get through mine.” James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room

As I read the information describing depression, I knew I had many of the symptoms and wondered often if I was genuinely suicidal, and if that would be a good result. Researching her condition her entire lifelong, and the realization that it was incurable, caused waves of considerable redundant depression, and for good reason. I did not take prescription mood enhancers, or antidepressants, only because I believed I was not chemically predisposed to depression. I had previously been happy most of my life when left to my own devices and not selecting bad choices in relationships. I had every reason to be bummed and my body, mind and spirit told me so. I'm sure I have a large degree of post traumatic stress as a result of thirteen years of living with Ruby's acute medical intervention and care, also. I knew there was acupuncture, which often helped activate my “reset” button, but chose to sit with my depression more often than not and to mourn Ruby's loss in all its depth without masking with pharmaceuticals, the pain I felt in the process of mourning. Nonetheless, I thought about suicide to finally end the break in my heart.

“Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn't always easy, as they share many symptoms; but there are ways to tell the difference. Remember that grief can be a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you're in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.”

When “to be or not to be” is not really a question, suicide becomes an option to end the psychological pain which many depressives endure, living in the depths of constant torment and deep emotional darkness. Do some of us live because we are afraid to die or die because we are afraid to live? The mystery of suicide remains with those who don't experience severe depression and cannot grasp the reasons behind an act which is always devastating to survivors. There is a saying about suicide: “Those who fear suicide have never considered it.”

The town of Boonville was in a haze of loss after learning of the sudden death by her own hand of one of its teachers some months ago. It was a second suicide in three generations, each ending their all-consuming emotional pain caused by the depths of depression and all with a disability not apparent to the naked eye.

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. “This is my last experiment”, wrote a young chemist in his suicide note, “If there is any eternal torment worse than mine, I'll have to be shown.” - Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

The local school where she had worked closed early due to shock. She had played a crucial roll in her community as a teacher's aid. With her passing came nothing but kind words from her friends and those she had affected in life, students, former co-workers at the school and the Boonville Hotel where she had worked as an innkeeper and hostess and friends in the community. She was a sophisticated woman, attractive, well-traveled and well-liked with much to offer Boonville. The months following her death have offered a reflection on a life well-lived.

“Chronic anxiety is a state more undesirable than any other, and we will try almost any maneuver to eliminate it. Modern man is living in anxious anticipation of destruction. Such anxiety can be easily eliminated by self-destruction. As a German saying puts it: 'Better an end with terror than a terror without end.'” Robert E. Neale, The Art of Dying

In death there are no kind consolations. No easing of the pain with words meant to butter the brain in sympathy. Death can consume those of us who are left behind to grieve with aching hearts.

What is the right thing to say when a beloved member of a community dies? Want to console survivors – but lack articulate words of comfort? Welcome to the essentially inexpressible emotion of grief.

Grief is not strictly an emotional process. Frequently there are accompanying physical symptoms which cause visceral effect, such as fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or gain, aches, pains and sleeplessness. Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote in his book, Hallucinations, of “bereavement hallucinations” suffered by 40-50% of the aggrieved. When emotions pass on to “mournful”, he says, they disappear. He's proven this by functional brain imaging used while chemically-induced patients hallucinated. In this way, various emotional centers in the brain were mapped. He says hallucination simulates perception. It's part of a natural process of how various people trying to cope with loss of love or life, interpret their world.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” (Irish headstone)

Unfortunately, aggrieved family members should be prepared to hear words that are awkward and inappropriate, as most Americans have little understanding and rarely any education in the process of cultural rituals involving death and grieving. Questions will abound out of curiosity. Prepare a brief response and remember that you are not obliged to tell the entire story. If you can manage it as the aggrieved, simply say “thank you”. If you can muster it, be gracious to all expressing sympathy regardless of tactlessness, unfeeling remarks or just plain bad taste... Grief makes us awkwardly inflexible, emotionally.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” - William Shakespeare, Macbeth

I can only say from my own personal experience, that which I've learned not to say to the grief stricken. The full spectrum of off-putting phrases from, “I know exactly how you feel”, to “I can't imagine...”, bring eventual feelings of disdain from the survivors even though mourners are clumsily trying to share their feelings, too. The mourner uttering the inappropriate words, “I can't imagine”, seems trying to remove him or herself from death as if untouchable, even though... “We all die of something, sometime”, as Ruby used to say.

All the same, “I can't imagine”, when spoken in grief, leaves me to retort, “Why would you want to imagine that? Please think about what you say in condolence because “I can't imagine” is just plain condescending and wrong to say to anyone in grief because it pushes the survivor into yet further remote isolation, because you have chosen the one-ups-manship of removing yourself from something no one escapes - death.”

By projecting ones worst fear (of death) onto the survivor(s), insisting on expressing an empathic inability to show appropriate compassion by installing even further distance with “I can't imagine,” it implies to the survivor that it cannot happen to you. It is the survivor, consoling the mourner at that point. And, it is the most common expression used, because it is how the majority feels about death. That's what hurts the most – the off-putting assumption that death sets those affected by it – apart and aside, in a very scarey fear-based way. Death is that uncomfortable an emotion to comprehend for those not directly confronted with it - thus, they cannot imagine it. Unfortunately, inflicted isolation is often the end result for the aggrieved. Fear-based people often avoid families who've recently suffered a death.

But what is appropriate to say to someone who's suffered a death of a loved one?

Start by asking a helpful question instead of nervously sounding like an authority by making a statement about your own feelings. Death can't be “fixed”, so don't try. Sit with death in silence. Be compassionate. Be still. If that's not for you then try to discretely make yourself useful, even if only behind the scenes. For instance ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Find a need and selflessly fill it. This can involve taking out the garbage and recycling, cleaning up the refrigerator or dishes in the sink even if you've never cleaned a dish in your life, filling the tank up with gas or bringing food to the home of the mourners, which was our familial custom in the Iowa of old. However, in some Jewish traditions, I am told never should flowers, instrumental music or food be gifted in times of death. Cultural and religious mores should be safely and respectfully observed.

As we are taught in this culture to say, “I'm fine”, even when we're “not so fine”, so do the survivors unthinkingly utter those words of acquiescence. Go ahead and take the initiative to kindly take out the trash, do the dishes, or gift some other useful purpose to make their days easier after a death in the family. Drive them to an appointment. Quite often family members cannot remember much of the details of funerals as they are often floating in the fog of grief. Such details dim in comparison to the importance of life and the pain of life lost.

“The fog is clearing; life is a matter of taste.” - Frank Wedekind, Spring's Awakening

And after the initial rush of activity immediately following familial death, don't forget to show up also in the weeks and months following to offer support to survivors. Don't be a stranger. Loneliness sets in after the death of a loved one. Go visit, make calls and check in, making it a ritual in the months following death. Don't isolate your grieving friends through inaction. Look to the future with focus and help them do that, too. Offer to take them out for lunch. Take a little road trip out; ...or a little “carry-out” in... make new and meaningful memories.

“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so, has ceased to belong to the future.” - Albert Camus, The Myth of Sysyphus and Other Essays

Need is our past. Regret. Want is our future. Hope. Desire. Fulfillment. The creativity and completion of successfully avoiding past mistakes. After all, what is mental health, but learning from previous failures and not repeating those same mistakes? The Thai language is spoken in “Perfect Present Tense” - no past or future to it. Based in the Buddhist culture, the living no longer utter the name of the dead because it is believed that in order to let the dead go on to do their own best good in the next life, you have to set them free in spirit as well in their previous life, by not calling them back from their next life's journey. Dwelling on their past life keeps the spirit(s) of the dead hanging around out of the neediness of the living survivors who “miss” their beloved dead.

After the tsunami of 2004, I visited South Thailand, and had Thai friends at my door, grief counseling of sorts, because in their own Buddhist-based culture grief and especially uttering the names of the dead, were unspeakable. In that culture, you are not “dead”. Rather spirit has “finished” this life, before being reincarnated into the next. The South Thai Muslims even benignly refer to death as being “fini”, much like the end of a French film. While there, I was bitten by a “rock mover” fish when I was waist-deep squid fishing too close to the rocks with a hand-reel. The X-acto blade-like cuts in the knuckle of my big toe were excruciatingly sore with the poison the fish had pumped into my body. When I limped to the proprietors of the bungalow to ask if the poison was enough to kill me, they didn't understand what I was speaking about until I ultimately said, “Am I fini?” They told me, “Mai, Mai (no-no), but hurt like hell for long-long time!”.

Grief after a death in the family in American culture can overwhelm to such a degree that hope is lost and bills don't get paid, even though the money may be there as numbing depression sets in. One woman described her grief to me by pointing to an angel ring of redwoods, where two had stood together and one had fallen down, dead. She said, “See where the dead tree had stood there beside it? The big gap where their limbs intertwined? That's what it's like for me without my husband. I feel big gaps where he was...”

Metaphor is good when describing grief. When the words are painful to say. Ask if survivors need help getting back on track for a few weeks or months by offering any assistance in their daily routine. Patiently check on them. Don't be bossy or pushy. Baby steps at first. Be ready for anger – it's the second stage of grief, following denial. None of it is easy. As they go, so does their order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance... not always in that order and with some repetition. But where is guilt in that order? When does joy return?

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote the most ground-breaking work on death since Jessica Mitford wrote The American Way of Death, educates that “there is no typical response to loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives. Some of the emotions felt at the time of death are: 1) shock and disbelief – a numbing – denying truth, 2) sadness and emptiness, 3) despair, yearning, 4) deep loneliness, 5) guilt of the undone and unsaid, 6) anger and resentment, 7) fear – loss triggering blame and fear – worries (regret) set(s) in about that which was not said or done “in life”.”

There is no timetable for grieving measured in years or months. Grieving is a highly individual expression of coping styles, faith, nature of the loss and – it takes time to heal. Sometimes I don't feel healed, though, as much as I feel “changed” by the experience of time. Another expression to avoid: no one ever “gets over” the loss of a loved one, and in particular, the loss of a child. Death is nothing that one “gets over” because death is eternity.

“They say time heals all wounds; but that presumes the source of the grief is infinite.” Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

One day at breakfast, the owner of the restaurant where I was eating, could see I was having a difficult time trying to eat and take condolences about the recent death of my daughter. As I walked out of the restaurant to leave, the owner followed me out and shared with me the loss of his own son years earlier. I had no idea he had even had a son. He said, “I have to share with you something which was shared with me and helped me after the death of my son... You are not in control.”

I found those words not only unexpected, but profound. With that, I felt a big release of guilt, which oddly is not one of the stages of grief, but I think it should be the first stage of grief. There is something called “survivors guilt” which weighs particularly heavy on the human psyche. It affects those closest and left behind – the front line survivors – especially those associated with familial suicide or assisted death.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

If you recognize symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, be persistent as you can about finding a good mental health professional to speak with right away. You may have to interview a few until you find one who is actually helpful, such as it unfortunately is in the horribly underfunded and mismanaged mental health “industry” of today. Left untreated, however, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. Don't be afraid to ask for an advocate to help you through the healthcare maze. Treatment and time can sometimes help release depression's grip. Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you: 1) Feel like life isn't worth living, 2) Wish you had died with your loved one, 3) Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it, 4) Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks, 5) Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss or, 6) Are unable to perform your normal daily activities.

Suffering cannot be understood by those who do not share it. In the case of suicide, it is often a choice of exit for relief of the hopelessness of inescapable, unendurable, emotional pain.

I know after the death of my daughter, however, I felt all of these feelings for several years, and occasionally they still return when I see little kids wearing red eyeglasses, or with seasonal triggers such as birthdays, and her favorite major holidays - all of which included candy (Valentine's, May Day, Halloween, Easter...). I think she would be happy that I prefer to represent her in death with full memories, fun with laughter. Forever Ruby will be 13 in my memory.

* * *


After School Gaming Sessions

Get "the kids" (all bow) away from books and onto the library machines as early as possible!

On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, at 3:00 PM, and Wednesday, September 23, 2015, at 3:00 PM, the Mendocino County Library, Fort Bragg Branch is hosting After School Gaming Sessions.

Kids ages 8 to 15 should come and join us for WII-U gaming at the library. From 3 to 5 there will be drop in gaming with a different game each session. For more information, contact the Fort Bragg Branch Library, located at 499 Laurel St., Fort Bragg, California. You can reach the Fort Bragg Library by phone at 707-964-2020, or online at

* * *


by Dave Zirin

The NFL should be afraid of the forthcoming film Concussion, due to be released this December. Very afraid. I say that having not seen the film, just the trailer. But already there is enough revealed to know that the Will Smith vehicle should be giving league commissioner Roger Goodell night sweats.

First, there is the story itself. To tell the NFL’s concussion saga, director Peter Landesman has centered the story around the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, who first discovered the football-related brain injury CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) when performing an autopsy on Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who died at the age of 50, and Dr. Omalu’s efforts to get the NFL to give a damn. Landesman also made the criminally overlooked film Kill the Messenger about journalist Gary Webb, the late San Jose Mercury News reporter who uncovered the long rumored connections between the CIA and the wholesale importing of crack cocaine into the inner city to underwrite Latin American military coups.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the most mainstream of football writers, it is clear that Landesman is not giving any damns. He said:

I gravitate towards stories of David versus Goliath, the small man versus the machine. Whether it is Bennet Omalu or Gary Webb, a reporter who discovered the cocaine trafficking with the CIA and was destroyed by the Washington Post and the CIA and others. In my writing career as a journalist, it was little man against the machine so I think I am just hard-wired for that narrative.

Then there is the casting. Will Smith has long taken roles that portray himself as an avatar of what is heroic in this world. It may be a waste of the transgressive talent shown in his 1993 debut Six Degrees of Separation, but it has made him an icon of an almost Old Hollywood righteousness. You don’t root against Will Smith. It would be like, to use another edgeless Smith performance, wanting George Foreman to triumph over Muhammad Ali. But Will Smith is just the beginning. Landesman cast Luke Wilson, an actor best known for Idiocracy and a film where Will Ferrell first showed his ass, to play Roger Goodell. This is like casting Rob Schneider to star in a Reagan biopic. You are making a statement just by the choice. Another actor whose casting implies the politics at hand is Paul Reiser, who will play Dr. Elliot Pellman, the longtime chairman of the NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. Dr. Pellman is a rheumatologist without an expertise in brain research, and is alleged to have suppressed much of the data, at the NFL’s behest, linking head injuries and the sport.

The casting of the real-life NFL players also looks rocky for the league. Lined up against Luke Wilson and Paul Reiser, Will Smith will be assisted by David Morse: he of the soulful, sad eyes that make you involuntarily well up, as Mike Webster. Other actors with seriously heart-wrenching dramatic chops, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Richard T. Jones, have been cast in prominent roles to play Dave Duerson, the onetime Chicago Bears star who took his own life by shooting himself in the heart so his brain could be examined for CTE, and Andre Waters, who committed suicide at the age of 44. Waters’s brain tissue was described as looking like that of an 80-year-old with Alzheimer’s.

Serious football fans can cite the cases of Duerson, Waters, and Webster, chapter and verse. But for those who don’t pay attention beyond casual cheering on Sunday, the names will justly return to haunt the league.

Then there is the timing. If Concussion came out now, it would get less coverage than the Washington quarterback controversy. But tragically, we know that by December, another season of injuries, another season of tragedies will be winding down and the film will amplify all of those renewed concerns.

Lastly, there is the savvy perspective by Landesman himself. He is pressed by Peter King about whether this film is about campaigning to end football, he said:

I have no position on whether or not people should play football or whether they should have their kids play football. To me, this is a story about making adult choices. Once you have the information—and the information has been obscured for a long time, it’s been buried and covered up by people who don’t want to damage the sport—the information is now out there, and I hope this movie brings together the information in a way that the general public can metabolize and now make their own decisions. So now that you know that concussions can kill you and playing the sport can kill you, it’s on every parent and it’s on every college player, it’s on every high school player and professional player on whether you are going to let your child play…. I like to think in some ways that life is an occupational hazard. Something we do in our life is going to kill us; maybe now, maybe 50 years from now. You have to choose what those things are. We love to drink and be merry and be happy, we know it’s not good for us, but we do it. It’s about making adult choices.

The NFL spent decades infantilizing the public and denying parents the informed consent about the dangers of the game. Science is not a friend to Roger Goodell, and neither is full disclosure. Concussion looks like it could cement the growing conventional wisdom that this league damages the brain and its leaders are in over their heads. Roger Goodell should start sweating now. Peter Landesman is coming, and he’s bringing Will Smith.

[Dave Zirin is the author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil. Contact him at]

* * *


by Jim Wood

Imagine it's 2016 and you’re in Sonoma County, a quarter mile east of the county airport, and you want to reach Marin County, 48 miles away, and ultimately the Larkspur Landing ferry terminal. Here’s how SMART, the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit — now under construction — will get you there.

Boarding at the Airport Boulevard station, settle in for a four-mile run straight to the Guerneville Road station. SMART, as trains do, will pass through industrial landscape, but nearby are famous wineries such as John Ash & Co.’s Vintners Inn. Next stop: Railroad Square in downtown Santa Rosa — and it won’t take long, as SMART trains stop for no more than 40 seconds at each station (don’t worry, everything meets rigid safety requirements).

Though Rohnert Park is six miles away, it will take only minutes to get there because SMART trains reach 70 mph inside of 30 seconds. After you pass through more industrial areas and under Highway 101, Robert’s Lake Park and Foxtail Golf Club are on your left, and on the right, that’s the new Graton Resort and Casino. Next stop: Cotati, where a quaint but new depot awaits.

On to Petaluma. SMART’s run takes only five minutes and the stop is the decades-old train depot that’s been renovated and is now a visitor center. All aboard for Marin. But it isn’t the old Haystack Bridge that’s whisking you over the Petaluma River. This newer bridge was acquired from Galveston, Texas, was repurposed and has 85 years of useful life remaining. Now settle in for a 12-mile stretch through scenic backcountry to Novato’s San Marin–Atherton station, on the west side of Highway 101, walking distance to Fireman’s Fund and other employers.

Next stop: Hamilton. If you’re lunching at Hamilton Marketplace, you get off here. If not, SMART takes a picturesque three-mile loop behind St. Vincent’s School for Boys, past McInnis Park, then pulls into Marin County’s Civic Center station, located directly under Highway 101 (you can also walk from here to Northgate mall). The hop into downtown San Rafael — which appropriately stops at Whistlestop in the Transit Center — takes only two minutes and passes through the 1,300-foot-long, 80-year-old Puerto Suello tunnel, recently rebuilt to Federal Railroad Administration standards at a cost of $15 million. So it’s quick and clean.

Ah, but you wanted to reach Larkspur Landing and catch a ferry to San Francisco. If all goes as now anticipated, that will indeed be possible. According to SMART officials, a short but expensive stretch of new track is needed before you enter the already completed $28 million Cal Park tunnel and exit across Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from the ferry terminal. Currently, indications are positive that a Larkspur extension will be part of phase one and completed sometime in 2016.

The Plan

First, realize SMART is a diesel-powered train; it’s not an electric-powered light rail system like BART. In 2011, freight trains resumed running on the northern segment of SMART’s lines and they’ll continue running on them into the foreseeable future. Also realize that SMART was, in effect, given the land that comprises its right-of-way (see chronology), a benefit estimated to be worth a billion dollars. Currently, SMART train crews are laying all new track, ties and gravel ballast from northern Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, 43 miles south into downtown San Rafael and, as mentioned above, quite possibly on to the ferry terminal at Larkspur Landing. To date, 17 miles of track has been laid, all of it in Sonoma County.

“This is a huge project, the largest public works project in the history of either Sonoma or Marin county,” says SMART general manager Farhad Mansourian. “By comparison, Caltran’s Marin-Sonoma Narrows widening of Highway 101 is 18 miles long, and BART’s extension to San Jose is 17 miles long; what we’re building now is 43 miles long, possibly longer.” In addition to laying 43 miles of track, by the time the first phase is finished, SMART crews will have also constructed 10 stations and 41 signaled grade crossings, rebuilt two tunnels and rebuilt or replaced 20 bridges. “And remember,” Mansourian adds, “we are also building an operational train system that includes seven two-car train sets and all the personnel and programs needed to operate them safely, efficiently and effectively.” SMART plans call for the system to be operating by the end of 2016.

A 2005 Metropolitan Transportation Commission study indicated 17,000 residences and 40,000 jobs existed within half a mile of proposed stations. That survey did not include a SMART station near the Sonoma County Airport, which according to rail officials adds another 5,000 jobs to the mix and ultimately an expected 17,000 jobs by 2020. In all, 1.4 million passengers a year are expected to be served by SMART by the end of its first year of operation. And as Mansourian likes to point out, “Every time you spend $100 in Marin or Sonoma county, you’re paying 25 cents to create a transportation infrastructure that will last for many years to come. For some people it will be the only means of transportation; for others it will provide a choice.”

At present, SMART’s big unknown is the nearly two-mile segment from downtown San Rafael through Cal Park tunnel to a station a quarter of a mile from the Larkspur Landing ferry terminal. This extension has an estimated $40 million cost. Last year the Federal Transit Administration accepted this important link into its Small Starts program, indicating that federal funding could very well be provided for the segment’s completion.

Recently the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Transportation Authority of Marin recommended allocating $20 million toward the segment’s construction. “People have been calling lately,” reported Mansourian at the February board of directors meeting, “asking, ‘Now that you have the money, and the tracks are already there, when will SMART reach Larkspur?’ If only it were that simple.” Not only do all new rails and track beds have to be laid, he explains; the crossings of Francisco Boulevard West and Andersen Drive also present enormous and expensive engineering challenges. “But that’s our job,” he notes. “We’re engineers; we build things.”

The Challenges

Not that SMART’s progress to date has been without challenges. As approved by 69.6 percent of Sonoma and Marin county voters in 2008, the $540 million commuter rail line was to go from Larkspur 70 miles north to Cloverdale, in mid-Sonoma County, and be accompanied by a contiguous biking and hiking pathway. Basic funding was to be generated by a .25 percent increase in both counties’ sales tax. Then came the global financial crisis and resulting slump in tax revenues that reduced the project’s scope to what it is now. “But we’re continuing to work on that original vision, Larkspur to Cloverdale,” Mansourian says.

To date, $40 million in grants has come from such sources as Sonoma Open Space Conservancy, Sonoma County Transportation Authority, Transportation Authority of Marin, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Federal Transit Administration. Another aspect of constructing a rail and pathway project is obtaining permits from regulatory agencies. According to documents, to date SMART has dealt with more than 15 governmental regulating and permitting agencies, among them the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; U.S. Coast Guard; Federal Railroad Administration; California Fish and Wildlife Department; California’s State Lands and Public Utilities commissions; and numerous state, regional, county and city agencies.

It is the intricate approval process, Mansourian says, that has posed pitfalls for the biking and hiking pathway. “Unfortunately, we can’t go into sensitive marshlands as we’d hoped to, which creates some disconnects; and the pathway will not always parallel the rail line as some expected it to.” Early feedback from local bicycle groups revealed the right-of-way was too narrow or traversed habitat too sensitive to accommodate some portions of the pathway. The result: 54 miles of Class One trails and 17 miles of Class Two trails or surface street connectors within the full 70-mile system (Cloverdale to Larkspur).

Portions of the pathway have been completed around Santa Rosa and, in Marin, the Cal Park tunnel connects Larkspur with San Rafael. Both segments are proving popular with cyclists and pedestrians, and more stretches will be built this year. However, Mansourian says, several portions are tied up in environmental reviews. “We’re dealing with the National Environmental Protection Act,” he says. “And that takes a very long time; it’s a lengthy procedure.” The good news: Completing the NEPA process qualifies these segments for potential federal funding.

The Operations

As for times of day SMART trains will run and expected fares, “we’ll have trains arriving and departing every 30 minutes during peak commute hours, and one, possibly two trains running midday,” Mansourian says, with four trains running on weekends and holidays. “It’s too early to be specific” about fares, he adds, “but they will be competitive with other public transit options.” Also, use of Clipper, the popular all-inclusive Bay Area transportation payment card, is definitely under consideration. As for parking, most SMART stations will have newly constructed lots or will rely on parking that exists nearby. SMART officials are working with local transit providers in both counties to coordinate routes that will shuttle passengers to their nearest station. And until phase two is completed, Express Connector buses will transport passengers to SMART’s future stations in Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.

Some might find it interesting that SMART stations have already been completed at both Windsor and Cloverdale, even though these are considerably north of SMART’s phase one terminus at the Sonoma County Airport. But not Mansourian. “My task is to build a train that goes from Larkspur to Cloverdale,” he says enthusiastically. “That’s what voters approved in 2008 and my staff and I are to doing everything we can to see that that happens. We’re looking for money whenever and wherever we can find it.”

SMART main office: 5401 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 200, Petaluma, 707.794.3330. Construction information: 855.312.7444., info@sonomamarin Facebook:, Twitter: @smarttrain.


  1. Lazarus September 2, 2015

    Interesting article today by Linda Williams, The Willits News, concerning Mendo Sups etc., Angelo?, Brown and Woodhouse…

  2. james marmon September 2, 2015

    Regarding helping professionals:

    Of course they are almost fully staffed, but with EFAS workers not real social workers. Are you telling us that they are not going to hire any Master Level Social Workers now that they have filled all those slots with trainee level social workers.

  3. james marmon September 2, 2015

    Regarding helping professionals.

    I find it interesting how the mismanagement of FCS is being danced around and not properly addressed. Do these thugs, who retaliate against employees for asking questions and/or complaining just get a free pass, a do over? Do they think that just hiring new employees will solve the problems?

    I have written evidence that while Bryan Lowery was a FCS supervisor he deleted official documentation from the CWS/CMS database in an attempt to cover-up the illegal detention and questioning of two young girls from Covelo. I reported it to the District Attorney but he did not move on it, most likely because two sheriff deputies were involved in the case as well.

    I also have documentation where he ordered exculpatory evidence omitted from Court documents in order to cover-up another illegal detention.

    I reported this to Angelo, Cryer, and County Counsel, but they never looked into it. Instead they retaliated against me, and terminated my employment. One of the charges was that I broke the chain of command by reporting the illegal activity to them.

    These people are ruthless, and need to be dismissed from their current positions. If the Board of Supervisors are content with letting the fox guard the hen house, then they need to go as well. Remember them come election time.

    • james marmon September 2, 2015

      This guy Bryan Lowery is in charge of the distribution of millions federal, state, and county dollars. He is dishonest and corrupt. I hope they do take me to court, I can’t wait to testify. His email to me where he admits to deleting official records is enough to prove my point and expose him for what he really is, a cheat and a liar.

  4. JIm Updegraff September 2, 2015

    Talen Barton case – Quakers are not only opposed to the death sentence we also are opposed to long sentences without parole and in particular, for young offenders. We do not believe in revenge but do recognized that some offenders who continue to be a danger to society need to be in prison for extended periods. However, if a time comes when the prisoner has been rehabilitated then he/she should be considered for parole. I should mention that among the 33 industrialized countries only the U. S.puts young offenders on trial in adult courts.

  5. BB Grace September 2, 2015

    I read a study once about why government isn’t good at helping people find employment; Because the social worker can’t imagine the person they are helping getting paid more than them.

    Social workers are an interesting lot, and it appears Mendocino County might considering changing it’s name to “Social Worker’s R US County”, because it is from top to bottom.

    Perhaps if social workers didn’t believe in a caste system, where they need to be paid more than those they help, and these frickin’ ranks.. social work is so very military, like passive aggressive domestic class warfare?

  6. Bruce McEwen September 2, 2015

    “The Laytonville Slasher,” as DA David Eyster labeled Mr. Talen Barton, the fellow who slashed and stabbed to death his foster parents and nearly murdered the uncles and aunts as well, pled guilty “very guilty,” and “extremely guilty” to these charges today in Judge Ann Moorman’s court. The Judge asked the smirking, supercillious little killer if he was sober, had he taken any drugs, if he knew at all what he was doing. He grinned idiotically, indulgently — his come-on act, charming little imp part, apparently, and made quite a show for the photographers from the P D.
    It was sad, silly, disgusting. Judgment and sentencing set for October 6th, 9:00.

  7. Keith Bramstedt September 2, 2015

    Regarding SMART: I voted for a train line that would go to the Larkspur Ferry, so it’s disappointing that when SMART opens it won’t go there. I don’t expect initial ridership to be high because of that fact.
    But it will be interesting to see how ridership is down the road when the train does go to Larkspur Ferry.

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