I received the following response to a letter from senator Feinstein:
Dear Mr. Blankfort:
Thank you for writing to express your concerns about Israel's decision to redirect a ship [with emergency medical supplies] heading for Gaza. I appreciate hearing from you on this topic, and welcome the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, on June 30, 2009 Israeli naval forces commandeered the Greek-registered ship Arion after it ignored a radio message from the Israeli military saying it would not be allowed to enter waters off of Gaza. The ship was redirected to the Israeli port of Ashdod where the passengers were checked by immigration authorities and then released. The humanitarian cargo the ship was carrying was later trucked into the Gaza Strip after undergoing security checks.
Like you, I am concerned about the situation in Gaza and believe it is vital that humanitarian relief efforts have access to the region and more is done to allow Gaza to function economically. Please know that I firmly support efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians with all outstanding issues being settled at the negotiating table. Be assured that I have noted your thoughts, and will keep them in mind as I continue to work toward a diplomatic solution to the situation in the Middle East.
Again, thank you for writing. I hope that you will continue to write on matters of importance to you. Should you have any further comments or questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.
Best regards. Sincerely yours,
United States Senator
* * *
Thank you for replying to my letter although I feel obligated to call your attention to the misinformation it contains. Israel's seizure of the ship in international waters at gunpoint was an act of piracy under international law as was the detaining of its crew and passengers. It was not redirected but taken by force by the Israeli navy to the port of Ashdod where most of the passengers, including former Congresswoman and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and former Irish Nobel Prize Peace Prize winner, Mairead Maguire, were not released but put into an Israeli prison for several days.
That there was not a single word of criticism from President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton or any member of Congress over the seizure of the ship and imprisonment of a former member of Congress is but further testimony to the power of the pro-Israel lobby over Washington's decisionmaking. That unbeknownst to most of their constituents, 54 members of the House, more than a tenth of that body, chose to go to Israel during the Congressional recess to affirm their support of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu against the stated policy of the US government would draw accusations of treason were they to take such an action in behalf of any other country.
Furthermore, that Israel received not a word of criticism during or after its three week onslaught on Gaza and has been allowed to maintain a blockade of that impoverished land's borders without a word of criticism from the Obama administration is unconscionable, given that the weapons used by Israel against the largely civilian population of Gaza were paid for by American taxpayers as were the weapons used by Israel against Lebanon in 2006, another war that was openly supported and encouraged by the Bush administration and, as with Gaza, both houses of Congress. When it comes to Israel, there is apparently no difference between this administration and the last nor the one before that.
As a long time member of the US Senate, you need to remember as well as to remind your colleagues that their primary obligation is to this country and to its citizens and heed the prescient warning against such “foreign entanglements” that our first president, George Washington, made in his farewell address, 213 years ago this month.
By coincidence my last letter to Pol Brennan came back marked “return to sender” on the same day that I received the August 26, AVA. So instead of calling you I opened to Off The Record and sure enough the first two paragraphs were about Pol’s deportation.
I learned about Pol through his articles published in the AVA in the past. In a letter written on May 5, 2009, and sent to Mr. Mark Van Der Hout, Pol’s lawyer, I said the following:
“I learned about Mr. Brennan’s situation in an article written by Mr. Brennan himself in the Anderson Valley Advertiser. I sent a contribution to help Pol buy books and also a letter of support.
“Since that time — sometime last Spring I believe — I have exchanged letters with both Pol and his wife Joanna. And I’ve spoken with Pol on the phone several times. The Brennans have gone from being a worthy cause to two people I know and consider friends.
“As the grandson of immigrants from Russia and Poland who fled pogroms and persecution to seek a better life in the US, I find it hard to understand Pol’s treatment by government agencies funded by my tax dollars. I spent a good part of my career teaching English as a Second Language to people fleeing oppression from all parts of the world. Pol’s treatment at the hands of the British occupiers of Ireland is as cogent a story as I’ve heard from any of my students from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Eastern Europe.”
You are correct in referring to the news of Pol’s deportation as “disgusting.” It is also emblematic of the police state/banana republic this country has become since the suspicious events of September 11, 2001. 9/11 has become the rallying cry of those who wish to increase the size and power of the armed forces, the police and thuggish alphabet soup agencies like the FBI, CIA and ICE. Pol is one more victim of this hysteria.
I’m glad Pol is free after 18 months of confinement in Wackenhut dungeons. His deportation is our loss, Ireland’s gain.
Roselle, New Jersey
To the Editor:
Compassion. Do you know and understand what the word means? If you don't I would suggest that you look it up in a dictionary to find the definition for that word. Compassion is something that maybe your grandparents were taught or even your parents. In this day and age it is unfortunate that people don't have compassion for others. One would expect people between the ages of 55 and 85 to understand the word compassion, as in their day and age this was something that was taught along with do unto others, and love thy neighbor. Unfortunately, our family has not experienced that from our neighbors.
In May of this year my parents' (Gary and Jeanne Nevill) business, Greeott's Brake and Wheel, burned almost completely to the ground. This is a business that has been around for a very long time and my parents, especially my father, have worked it hard for over 30 years. For over nine years my parents have also done foster care in Mendocino County and have adopted four boys and a girl through this system. They currently have two little boys in foster care that they also plan to adopt. So if you lost count that's seven children.
When my parents' business burned down in May, my father had very little time to make decisions about where to move. This happened on Thursday and he needed to be up and running by Monday morning. Due to the bad economic times and having seven mouths to feed, being down and not working was not an option. My parents decided that they would move the shop, temporarily, to his home located on Gobalet Lane until his shop could be rebuilt.
We had local businesses calling to see what they could do to help and to tell my parents how sorry they were and we appreciated that so much.
To their surprise this summer, ironically on the day that my dad's thank you letter to the community was in the paper, they were served with papers from their neighbors stating that they wanted my parents business shut down immediately. What happened to talking to your neighbors, asking them what the deal is, how long they planned on being here, if there was anything they could do to help? But no, just kick someone while they are down.
Coming from people of a different generation this was a shock to me. How about having some patience or some compassion? My parents have done nothing intentionally and very little to disrupt the lives of their neighbors. My father runs his shop Monday through Friday, 8 to 5. There are a lot of trucks, there are a lot of deliveries, and there are a lot of people and as you can imagine, this is a huge disruption to my family's life. But why not consider the inconvenience this has caused us all?
If my father didn't work his kids would be hungry and cold. I don't think for one minute that the neighbors bothered to think about that. What about the kids? Forget yourself and your complaints, what about the kids? My grandmother, who is in her mid 80's, is worried sick about her son and everything he is doing to make sure that his family is taken care of. Did you think for one second about her? She is also your neighbor. My grandmother is from the same generation as the neighbors and she would never in a million years behave the way that they have. We were raised not to lie, cheat, or steal, to always pick someone up when they are down. If this situation happened to any of our neighbors my parents would have been there to help them out and do what they could do.
On top of my parents running their business and raising their kids my father has been working at UPS at night, as a mechanic, to help out one of his good friends and former employees who is unable to work. This has been going on for quite some time. He does bring the occasional truck to the shop to fix it so that everyone can get their packages. So, neighbors, if you receive a package from UPS remember that my dad was up half the night fixing their trucks while you lay in bed and thought of ways to make life more miserable for them.
My feeling is, if you have so much time and money on your hands try putting it to work in our community, to a charity, and giving in a way in which actually helps people. I can only hope that the true targets of your frustration are not the children, grandchildren and family members of my parents. Believe me, we are frustrated as well but never have our frustrations been taken out on the people who started the fire at Greeott's, the insurance companies who take so long to pay, the banks and creditors who still expect their payments even if we have nowhere to operate our business.
Instead we want to especially thank Roger Coate, Richard Marsh Construction, the Savings Bank, our loyal customers and every other member of our extended family and community who have shown us compassion. I thank my parents every day for the values that they have instilled in myself, my four other siblings, and my adopted siblings and everyone's lives they have touched. I hope that people read this can demonstrate to their family what compassion is and are compassionate towards others.
Aimee L. Shields
In your “Off the Record” column in the August 26, 2009 AVA, you mention an SF Chronicle article on the deposition of Jack Kerouac's estate, which contains a sidebar stating that Kerouac believed that the Vietnamese War was a conspiracy between North and South Vietnamese to get American jeeps.
I remembered a remark by Allen Ginsberg in “Allen Verbatim,” a collection of talks and interviews with Ginsberg edited by Gordon Ball and published by McGraw-Hill in 1974, defending Kerouac from charges that he was pro-Vietnam War by citing Kerouac's appearance on one of William F. Buckley's “Firing Line” TV programs, during which Ginsberg recalled Kerouac saying of the South Vietnamese, “Aww, they just want our jeeps.” (I don't have the book at hand for the exact citation.)
So I went to YouTube, typed in “William Buckley Jack Kerouac,” and up came a short selection of the Firing Line interview in question. (It apparently was incorporated in an Italian documentary on Kerouac.) About 2:38 into the tape, Kerouac makes the statement more or less as it appeared in the Chronicle article sidebar. He looks like he was joking; he also looks like he was drunk. (There are several other panelists appearing with Kerouac on the show, one of whom appears to be Ed Sanders of the Fugs.)
Since this clip is apparently from a longer documentary, it includes comments by others, including by who look to me to be Truman Capote and Don Imus (?), by Allen Ginsberg, and by William S. Burroughs, who I think has the best quote in the tape. Noting that Kerouac was always apolitical, and yet the Beat movement led to far-reaching political effects, Borroughs remarks: “Jesus Christ said that you shall know them by their fruits, not by their disclaimers.”
WRONG IS WRONG
To the Editor:
The Mendocino County court system has a lot of teen kids in and out of court for the bad and wrong choices that they made. They get put on probation, told to pay fines, have urine tests, go to counseling, do community service and such, and then when a certain date comes around they will either be off probation or have their punishment lessened.
Before you even speak to the judge you are to swear to tell the truth. Perjury can get you a fine or jail time. So what happens when the courts lie to the kids? My son made a bad choice and accepted what the judge had him do: stay in school, community service, write “sorry” letters, stay out of trouble. He was on house arrest for months and didn't complain because he knew he messed up bad.
The first judge he saw told him “Be good, do what you’re told and have no trouble with the law and after a year the felony will be cleared from your record.”
Well, it's been a year. He went to court and had a new judge. The new judge told my son how well he’d done while on probation, made him feel proud of himself for being a good kid and passing all he was asked to do — except paying the huge fine. Now none of us expected him to be taken fully off probation due to the fact the fine was not paid. His lawyer told the judge that his lawsuit money would soon be in and that his fine would be paid in full.
The judge didn't care. He extended the sentence six more months. The lawyer even tried to have the case reviewed again in three months and the judge still said no.
So this makes me think why so many kids keep getting into trouble: it's not only because they don't care it’s because they have no faith in our court system. A lot of these kids and families work very hard to make sure the kids do all the courts ask of them and then they get told “too bad.”
Why is it OK for the courts to build up these kids' hopes that they will turn their lives around and they try so hard to make up for the wrong they have done and then they get told it wasn't good enough?
That's wrong. How are they supposed to learn the difference between truth and a lie when the courts can't even tell the difference? So when these kids get let down from the courts like that, the courts expect them to be back into trouble and that's just what they do. They are working so hard to prove themselves to the courts, then the courts laugh in their face. That's not teaching. That's just making things worse with the kids, making them angry and not care because they feel it doesn't matter what they do; in the eyes of the courts they will always be bad.
Not true. It's always about the money. The courts should practice what they preach. Show them the honest right way and maybe there wouldn't be so many kids in and out of the court system.
Some kids make it and do it all right and should be rewarded with what the judge said would happen. Then show them the good effects of doing what you're told. The ones who keep coming back? Maybe it is because the courts lied to them too?
Wrong is wrong no matter who you are. There is a serious problem with our juvenile court system and I feel they are partly to blame for why these kids are so angry and keep coming back to court. Do you really think they just like the looks of the courtroom or what?
Not all kids are bad, just misled. Show them the right way to turn the wrong they did right. Sometimes making them feel good about the hard work they put in to make the bad mistake right will work in the long run. I'm not for one second saying my son is perfect, but these are our kids and they need to be shown that this is what needs to be done on their end and this is what the courts will do when you have done when you were told.
NO MORE LAB WORK?
For many years now I have had the privilege of using the electronics program, lab, students and teacher to help fix my computer. The program is ending as of this Friday, September 4, 2009. I shall miss Francis and the kids and their wonderful experience and help. Is there an attorney out there, reading this, and a grant writer, who can help this program rise like a phoenix in a new form? The community needs this service, the students need the experience, and we all need fresh new ideas of helping each other. Here is a perfect opportunity to bring our heads together and reinvent a new format for this situation. I will do whatever I can to facilitate this process and am hereby making myself a volunteer for this project.
To the Editor:
DDR generously, but erroneously, attributes to my organizing skills the sing-a-long at their recent “town hall” in Redwood Valley. Kudos should be directed to the Bronnettes for their clever lyrics and singing! The subject of the meeting was Measure A, the initiative to put a monster mall on the old Masonite site. A YouTube video of the sing-a-long portion of the meeting can be found on Youtube.
In the video, DDR accuses the Bronnettes of disrupting the meeting. But if you look at the video, it's plain to see that the meeting hadn't begun; the room is nearly empty. The sing-a-long was simply a bit of pre-meeting entertainment. Hardly what I'd call “disruption.”
Why do so many oppose Measure A? If passed, Measure A would: (1) Allow an Ohio corporation to bypass local planning regulations that the rest of us have to follow; (2) Avoid review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA); (3) Replace jobs at existing local businesses with minimum wage jobs at the monster mall; (4) Create traffic nightmares; (5) Create polluting runoff from a huge parking lot; (6) Use lots of scarce water; and (7) Divert shopping dollars from downtowns across the county to big corporations that have no stake in Mendocino County.
Although I did not organize the sing-a-long (people pay me not to sing), it pleases me to see that it got DDR’s goat. And that’s a sign DDR fears the voters will turn down Measure A.
Vote No on Measure A!
Ed note: According to the text accompanying the YouTube video of the “singers” (one of whom is Fifth District Supervisorial candidate Dan Hamburg): “A group of protesters showed up to disrupt a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Mendocino County Tomorrow. The meeting was a Q&A about the Mendocino Crossings Project that will bring 700 jobs to the county as well as revenue to the county for public safety, public health and Education. The Singing Group is from an organization called SOLE, which they say stands for Save Our Local Economy. Apparently their answer for saving the economy is to sing protest songs. Maybe they are just reliving their youth. Judge for yourself.”
THE COLLECTIVE DRAFT
Most of you may know the Board of Supervisors referred the marijuana cultivation ordinance that has been in effect since February 8, 2008 to committee for review. This ordinance declares that the cultivation of more than 25 marijuana plants on any one legal parcel is a public nuisance and also imposes other restrictions. On the flip side, it still allows the outdoor cultivation of up to 25 plants on any legal parcel in the County, no matter how small the parcel or how near the neighbors.
The ordinance also currently prohibits the cultivation of marijuana within 1000 feet of sensitive uses like schools, parks, youth oriented facilities, and churches. Violations are subject to civil abatement. Where the authorities are able to establish evidence of commercial sales, they can still file criminal charges.
A court case last year clarified the meaning of “caregiver” and has greatly limited the practice of growing as a caregiver for multiple patients. In response, growers are now organizing as “collectives” which were recognized by Senate Bill 420 but not clearly defined. I believe the original intent was to allow patients and caregivers to organize and grow collectively, much like a community garden. In practice, collectives are typically organized as membership associations where one or a few people grow the marijuana.
The only contribution that most members make is to pay money in exchange for marijuana. As long as the money and marijuana are only exchanged within the “closed loop” of the collective membership the arrangement may be legal and the manager or director of the collective may pay themselves “reasonable compensation” as a salary.
Currently, the Mendocino County ordinance does not regulate collectives, except to place some restrictions on cultivation. There are currently at least three dispensaries operating in the County. Without additional regulation, a collective could open a dispensary next door to a school, park, church or anywhere else. The committee of which I am a member is considering amendments to the marijuana cultivation ordinance and is reviewing draft regulations for collectives, both for those that cultivate and those that dispense marijuana.
Some of the changes that are being considered impose a minimum setback from an occupied, legal residential structure and require that gardens not be visible from the public right of way. These changes, if adopted should reduce the level of neighborhood controversy that is often associated with marijuana gardens in residential neighborhoods.
Another change will allow growers the opportunity to voluntarily apply for a permit from the Sheriff. In return for complying with the terms of the permit, which includes inspection by the Sheriff's Office, applicants may receive an exemption from the 25 plant per parcel limitation that would allow them to grow up to 99 plants per legal parcel as long as they are in compliance with the terms of the permit.
A number of the marijuana advocates are opposed to these amendments going forward. They claim that it is not legal to regulate medical marijuana by treating it as a nuisance. They are either ignorant of the law or choose to ignore it.
Cities and Counties are able to enact laws to regulate nuisances under their “general police powers” that give them broad authority to legislate to protect the public health, safety and welfare.
Some of them chose to regulate them and others chose to impose moratoriums or bans. Several of the cities that have adopted ordinances regulating dispensaries (Albany, Atascadero, Cotati, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, and Tulare) declare that a violation of the ordinance “is a public nuisance and subject to summary abatement,” but the nuisance concept is implicit in all of them.
The cities of Willits and Ukiah have chosen to adopt bans on dispensaries while Fort Bragg has chosen to adopt an ordinance regulating them. Additionally, the cities of Willits, Fort Bragg, Ukiah and San Diego, among others, have also banned outdoor cultivation. I understand Lakeport has done the same.
It is preposterous to say the County lacks the ability to regulate to prohibit nuisances. A simple analogy is that everyone is able to legally drink milk but not everyone is allowed to keep cows in their backyard.
Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420 protect the right of medical marijuana patients to use medical marijuana consistent with the recommendation of their doctor, but nothing in either law specifies where and how it can be cultivated or dispensed. Until the State says otherwise that is the responsibility of the local jurisdictions.
This may already be more than you want to know about medical marijuana, but below is a link to a list of County and City ordinances, moratoriums and bans on dispensaries. It is my understanding that Americans for Safe Access says the site is current as of April of 2009.
Supervisor, District 2, Mendocino County
Ed note: The draft ordinance is available from Supervisor McCowen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling the Clerk of the Board at 463-4221.