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Letters To The Editor



From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

URGENT UPDATE: In the US alone, over 250 species of birds are endangered, threatened, or of growing conservation concern. This means 1 in 4 birds from Alaska to Hawaii to the continental U.S. is in peril.

These alarming findings come from the State of the Birds Report, created by a partnership including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and issued by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Many species of birds are in decline; some are on the brink of extinction. But not all the news is bad. The report also shows that a number of bird species have recovered where conservation efforts have been undertaken—it shows that we can and do make a difference.

Your support is more important now than ever to help protect birds and other wildlife species we love—and to prevent the silence created each time another species is lost forever.

Please join us today.

From the National Audubon Society's website:

What's happening to birds we know and love?

Audubon's unprecedented analysis of 40 years of citizen-science bird population data from our own Christmas Bird Count plus the Breeding Bird Survey reveals alarming declines for many of our most common and beloved birds.

Since 1967 the average population of the common birds in steepest decline has fallen by 68 percent; some individual species nose-dived as much as 80 percent. All 20 birds on the national Common Birds in Decline list lost at least half their populations in just four decades.

The findings point to growing impact from the many environmental challenges our birds face, from habitat loss from development, deforestation, and conversion of land to agriculture, to climate change. Only citizen action can make a difference for the birds and the state of our future.

Which Species? Why?

The wide variety of birds affected is reason for concern. Populations of meadowlarks and other grassland birds are diving because of suburban sprawl, industrial development, and the intensification of farming over the past 50 years.

Greater Scaup and other tundra-breeding birds are succumbing to dramatic changes to their breeding habitat as the permafrost melts earlier and more temperate predators move north in a likely response to global warming. Boreal forest birds like the Boreal Chickadee face deforestation from increased insect outbreaks and fire, as well as excessive logging, drilling, and mining.

One thing these common species all share is the grim potential to become uncommon - unless we all take action to protect them and their habitat. Browse the species and learn what you can do to help.

What we can do to help?

Charge Caltrans officials with CRIMINAL NEGLIGANCE. The Clean Water Act protects all United States marshlands. It has been used to force municipalities to restore wetlands. It has set precedent. The Clean Water Act is not an impediment to be circumvented, er, bypassed. Where is the long arm of the law when we need it? Support and honor the activist citizens who have walked in the shoes of Thoreau, Ghandi, Rosa Parks, John Muir and David Brower. Remember the words sometimes credited to the Chief of the Nez Pierce, the Cree Indians, the Osage or the Sakokwenonkwas, “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that you cannot eat your money.” Or the last marsh drained, dry, waterless in a time of ongoing drought and unpredictable, drastic climate change.

Consider the words of General Smedley Butler. “War is a criminal enterprise.” Caltrans is conducting a war on Willits, its environs, its residents, its wildlife, woodlands, and especially its besieged birds. How do we handle crime?


Dorotheya M Dorman

Redwood Valley




We joined friends in Mendocino, Saturday July 6, for the Bob Ayers “Swingin’ Boonville Big Band” free concert on the Mendocino Art Center lawn.

What a treat! The band features highly-polished professional quality musicians, all of whom played their hearts out. It’s hard to single out anyone for specific praise, but vocalist Sharon Garner and alto sax player, Erica Zissa, were outstanding, and it’s very encouraging to see young musicians, including Ms. Zissa, continuing the Big Band tradition.

A diverse, enthusiastic crowd enjoyed a brisk, clear day that was highly suitable for impressive, aerobic swing dancing.

The seasonally appropriate chow made the day complete — Round Man grilled weenies, Wonder Buns, hand-crafted potato salad, artisan beer, and Handley Cellars wine.

It was a great joy to experience an outdoor event in Mendopia without being visually and verbally assaulted by roving bands of belligerent drunks and passive-aggressive stoners.

And, it was good to see Doug Roycroft out and about.


Don Morris


PS. The concert was sponsored by the Mendocino Coast Jazz Society and Mendocino Art Center. Based on the enthusiastic turnout, they’re considering having another free concert in August.




"Chasing Ice" Shown At the Mendocino Film Festival

MSS was proud to sponsor Mendocino Film Festival's well-attended showings of "Chasing Ice," the story of one man's passionate mission to document global warming. From left to right: MSS co-owners Bruce Erickson & Maggie Watson, scientists Adam LeWinter who appeared in the film, and Richard Heinberg, author of "The Party's Over" and "Power Down." View the preview, find out about future showing and get more info on this film at this link.

Common Myths About Solar

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” — Arthur C. Clark

That’s what I love about solar: that these simple panels can silently — with no moving parts — convert sunlight directly into electricity, like magic! Invented over 50 years ago, solar electricity is one of the fastest growing sources of electric generation. Yet it is still not well understood by many people. Here are some common myths and the real facts:

Myth: “I have to change my lifestyle to have solar.”

Fact: You don’t need to change anything about your appliances, lights, etc. The solar system makes the same kind of electricity as grid power, but supplements or replaces grid power when the sun is shining. It operates invisibly and automatically behind the scenes, in conjunction with your existing electrical system.

Myth: “Solar is unreliable, and requires maintenance.” Fact: Grid-tied systems have only a few elements, none of which require maintenance, except for occasionally rinsing off the panels if they get dusty or dirty. Solar panels have a long track record and will produce power for decades, and are typically warranted for 25 years. (Just make sure to avoid low-cost panels, especially those made in China, and stick to well-known brands.)

Myth: “Solar can’t work on the foggy Coast.”

Fact: There are solar installations up and down the Coast with owners well satisfied with the performance for years. The fact is that, although there are a number of foggy days, over the course of a year there are many beautiful bright days. More importantly, solar panels actually work better in cool weather. In hot inland climates, production suffers when it gets too hot, so coastal systems can “catch up” in comparison.

Myth: “I can’t afford to go solar.”

Fact: Prices have come down dramatically in the last few years. Although an installation will typically need to be financed, the utility bill savings is a revenue stream that will pay for the system well before its useful life is over. Escalating electric bills get replaced by lower, fixed payments. When the payments are through, electricity will be essentially free for many additional years.

Another option that has become popular is solar leasing. With as little as zero down, homeowners can make monthly payments and save from day one. This can eliminate any risk as well, as the leasing company will be responsible for power output and any repairs for the typical 20 year life of the lease. Better yet, leases are qualified only by FICO score with no regard to home equity or income.

Myth: “All those holes in my roof might leak!”

Fact: Attachments to your roof will be made with industry standard flashing products, just like what is used for the plumbing vents, stovepipes, etc, that are already in your roof. Also, some systems are ground-mounted where the roof is too small or shaded, and there is enough space on the ground.

Myth: “But solar panels take more energy to build than they produce.”

Fact: The energy used to make a panel is equivalent to only about two years of its power output, giving it potentially 30 or more years to send clean, renewable, locally-sourced power to the grid.

Solar has become a reliable, mature technology, that allows almost anyone to have a home-sized “power plant” that will cleanly take the abundant sunshine that falls on our rooftops, and make electricity that can be shared with the neighbors, and reduce the amount of utility power that has to be imported into our County. Homeowners can now convert their concerns about pollution, climate change, and resource depletion into action, and save money in the bargain!

For more information contact us or visit the Solar Questions page of our MSS website.

No-Cost Solar Evaluations!

Based out of sunny Little River, Mendocino Solar Service is your local solar company: we're always here to answer your solar questions, and we offer Free Solar Evaluations for your home or business.

Evaluations are scheduled at your convenience by specially trained MSS staff using the Solmetric SunEye Digital Solar Analyzer, and most evaluations take only an hour.

MSS can also help answer your questions about financial options, rebates, and maximizing your system. For more information or to schedule, email, visit our website, connect with us on Facebook, or call 707-937-1701.

Bruce Erickson, Owner

Mendocino Solar Service

Little River




About the hunger strike at prisons, it has long been recognized that extensive solitary confinement is as destructive to a human being as many types of physical torture, and in some cases more so. Keron Fletcher, a former British military psychiatrist who was on the receiving team for many hostages returned to the UK after solitary confinement and who followed them for years afterward, said that most survived their ordeal, though relationships, marriages and careers were often lost, but none saw solitary confinement as anything less than torture. So, if we call it torture when foreigners do it, please give it its proper name when Americans do it to Americans. The situation is even worse than this: It is primarily Americans of color who are suffering this torture.

David Belden

San Francisco



To: Heidi Cusick Dickerson, District Representative for Congressman Jared Huffman, PO Box 2208, Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Dear Heidi,

It was a pleasure to talk with you at the RFFI annual meeting. I hope you did not mind my bringing up a subject not directly related to the business at hand that day. The matter of how generic drugs become the exclusive property of pharmaceutical companies that neither developed the drug in question nor have any motive other than pure profit is one that every member of congress should be concerned about.

In the article, I raise questions as to just how a single company can through the mechanism of an application, gain sole patent rights to a drug that has been available for centuries, and is beyond question proven to be efficacious and safe. In this case the FDA did not put in place safeguards to prevent exploitative pricing on the part of URL Pharma and its successor Takeda Pharma. As importantly, what the “Unapproved Drugs Initiative” of 2006 has opened up is a pandora’s box, one that offers windfall profits to selected pharmaceuticals at the expense of the health care of millions of Americans.

The FDA Commissioner (appointed by President Obama), Dr. Margaret Hamburg, promised (May 19, 2009) to provide “An FDA that the American public can count on.” Transparency is one of her key concerns. From what I can glean, there has been no Congressional oversight of the practice of awarding exclusive rights to market generic drugs by a single pharmaceutical. The fact that one company can apply for exclusive rights, pay a large application fee, and claim to conduct clinical tests is on its face a flawed and secretive process. The purported testing that URL Pharmaceutical proposed was NOT a comparison of the generic colchicine versus the URL marketed Colchrys. How could it be? Colchrys is nothing more than colchicine under a new name. Testing Colchrys versus Allopurinol and/or a placebo does not prove anything with respect to the superiority of a brand name versus a well proven generic of the same formulation. The scathing criticism of this entire affair has come primarily not from ordinary citizens but from respected and accomplished medical researchers, including some who have worked within the drug testing apparatus of the FDA.

If it can be explained why a drug widely available for literally centuries (and proven effective) can without the public’s knowledge be handed over to a single pharmaceutical for testing, then let the explanation see the light of day. No one familiar with the outcome of this affair can fathom how a dose at low as $.04 a day could suddenly cost more than 100 times that amount, without any visible added benefit to the patient. If the patents on the brand name Colchrys hold up, the Japanese Pharmaceutical which acquired URL Laboratories in 2012 for $800 million (and which almost immediately spun off all other properties of URL to an Indian Pharma, with the exception of Colchrys), will reap a long term windfall of up to %55 Billion. Is this what Dr. Hamburg professes to be a success of the goal of increasing globalization?

I request that a formal explanation of FDA policies regarding the granting of exclusive rights to generic drugs be given by the FDA. Without question, the FDA will be much more receptive to the queries of a sitting member of Congress than to an ordinary citizen. My first article on this affair has reached a wide audience, one beyond the AVA. It has been circulated with my health care provider to a number of physicians who have been caught unawares of the sudden withdrawal of colchicine from the market in favor of the absurdly priced Cochrys. There is available, fortunately, an alternative to Colchrys, namely a combination dosage of Probenecid/Colchicine, which retails for about $1 a pill. While this is still a cost far above what was once available as colchicine alone, it is effective for many patients. The savings can be to the benefit of patients, health care providers, health care insurers, Medicaid, and Medicare. It is time we are provided with an FDA that genuinely has the health and welfare of Americans as its first priority.


Franklin C. Graham (




To the Editor:

I have a bittersweet announcement to make. I will be resigning from the city council. I have accepted a full time position in Monterey County working as an analyst for the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). I plan to serve through August 16th.

It has been my privilege to sit on this dais on behalf of the residents of the City of Ukiah since 2002, 11 years. My work with the City of Ukiah has been a gift. It has changed my life, shaped my thinking, and caused me to grow in countless ways, both personally and professionally. My time in public service has expanded my appreciation for our system of government, especially at the local level. The range of services that Ukiah Valley residents enjoy and depend on as a result of the hard work and dedication of City staff goes largely unrecognized by the general public, and used to be a mystery to me as well, but it is expansive and impressive. In addition, my work on the city council has led me down paths that I never would have explored: I served on the boards of directors of the League of California Cities Mendocino Transit Authority, Mendocino Council of Governments, and LAFCo, and made personal connections with professionals in fields as diverse as green building, hydrology, and the arts, just to name a few. And now my work with city council is leading me down a new career path. I will be applying long-honed skills of researching and writing to problems at the intersection of land use and government, which I find very interesting.

I want to acknowledge these countless gifts and thank the public for supporting me and enabling me to be forever enriched by the experience of serving you.

Mari Rodin, Councilmember





I write in response to a recent San Francisco Chronicle story about the proper role of photojournalists (“Eyewitness to History,” Insight, SF Chronicle, July 7, 2013).

I think that the creed of objectivity has ruined journalism and that it should be abandoned entirely. Journalism should be concerned with truthfulness, not “objectivity,” and the two are not the same.

Journalism should tell us what is going on and why we should care. If a journalist does not care about what he covers, why should the public? But to be “objective” means to be morally and emotionally uninvolved, uncommitted, disinterested.

It defeats the whole point of reporting on current events which is to inform the public about matters of public interest. If the journalist is not morally and emotionally engaged in his subject, why should he expect the public to be?

The very decision to cover a story implies that the story should engage the public. By eschewing any personal moral or emotional engagement with the story, the journalist is surely not going to engage the public.

This credo of “objectivity” is at odds with the entire purpose of journalism and explains why so much “mainstream” journalism is so boring.

Steven Yourke

San Francisco




Maybe Bruce Bochy is short-tempered from all the flak over the Giant's poor record recently, and maybe that's why he yanked Matt Cain after only 2/3 of an inning on Wednesday. And maybe Cain is tired after years of quality pitching into the post-season or maybe he's developing some physical anomalies that affect his control. But I don't hear Kruk & Kuip or Rich Aurelia or the other pundits mention another possibility that I call the Zito Syndrome.

The Zito Syndrome occurs when an excellent pitcher who has proved himself early in his career receives a monster contract. Suddenly he is being paid ten times what he earned before, but he can't pitch ten times better, because he is already at the top of his game. But he feels obliged to pitch ten times better, to justify the new pay, and because this is impossible, a mental dissonance is set up that interferes with his control. As his game degrades he feels even more unworthy of his salary and a vicious circle ensues.

Barry Zito was given a monster contract by the Giants and pitched badly for years afterwards. Only last season did he regain his natural abilities. Tim Lincecum was given a monster contract and immediately fell apart to the extent that he was demoted to middle relief. Only recently has he shown some return to his old form, striking out 10 against the Mets in Monday night's endless snorathon I could not leave because the ferry would not leave. Now Cain, pitching poorly all season after receiving a monster contract, has hopefully hit bottom, but history shows that recovery from Zito Syndrome can be long and difficult.

We all hope that the Giants will snap out of their funk, that their pitchers will shake off their affliction with Zito Syndrome, and that they will give us a second half to remember! Go Giants!!!


J. Biro

Santa Rosa

Ed note: I was up in View for that particular Giant bummer. There are signs of panic in the Giants camp. Signing a number one pick from yesteryear (Jeff Francoeur) on the hope that he'll somehow hit again, bring in an aged singles hitter from Japan (Tanaka), keeping Brandon Belt in the lineup, the pitching in a state of collapse, Brandon Crawford with a sudden case of the bumbles, although he did drive in a run today. Two great plays by the Mets shortstop. It's always major league baseball no matter who wins, and I'd pay at least ten bucks just to sit up top looking out at the water. Poor Cain. I've never seen him as bad as he was Wednesday, but I think Bochy was right in getting him outtathere. I thought it was a bad omen when I saw that Zack Wheeler was pitching for the Mets. Wasn't he the guy the Giants traded away for a few months of Carlos Beltran? Wheeler duly mowed down his former comrades. Nice day though, east of VanNess. To the west the fog in all day Wednesday. I wonder if you saw Larry Ellison's lego catamaran go by out on the Bay? On Tuesday New Zealand raced itself and won. Frisco's been had big time by this so-called America’s cup, with major giveaways to Ellison and an event no one gives a hoot about. I say the boats should be wood and canvas, and the race out to the Farallones and back.




My main problem is the lack of care being given veterans such as myself in this area. It is a crock of BS.

My main concern about my lack of care is having to wait so long for a response. I have been trying to have my right foot taken care of for 14 years. At that time I walked into the Ukiah veterans unit and got nowhere. I am now unable to walk more than a few steps. I understand that they have mandated guidelines and rules to follow and the number of veterans who need both physical and mental health must be out of hand.

I asked a social worker to put in a request for a scooter for me three months ago but they needed more information from me. So I resubmitted the request which got lost in the shuffle. The third time I was interrupted because my new doctor wanted to see me before he felt comfortable signing the order. I was given an appointment two weeks later.

I've been on the list to have knee surgery but I have to have a clean urine sample for a number of times. My pain medications were stopped because they said they drug test was dirty in April. I tested clean in June for methamphetamine. My pain meds have been started again however my request for a scooter was turned down for positive tests for Benzedrine, Xanax and valium.

I have just lost my house due to a shyster landlord. My girlfriend of four years left me and I'm now homeless. I cannot walk and the veterans have cut off my medications.

I know I often make poor judgment calls but given decent circumstances they would understand. I've never tested dirty for Benzedrine of any kind — I've never been on them. But they tell me I have to turn in another urine sample in a month, then they will reconsider the scooter. I am almost ready to become that Vietnam veteran who explodes at legal clinics etc.

I know I'm starting to ramble on now. Hopefully you can start to see where I am coming from. I would like to set an appointment with someone and discuss this in depth. I would also like to see if the lawsuit can be filed against the Veterans Administration office. I would hope that perhaps a lawyer might step forward to help with that.

If anyone has any suggestions or help to offer please call me at any time: 707/841-0407. I can be reached by mail at:

James McKinley

c/o General Delivery

Willits, CA 95490.



Dear Editor,

I have recently begun to hear a number of rumors about a policy adopted by the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office which is referred to as the “Knock and Pay Policy.” I have been told that persons who are accused of certain crimes in Mendocino County are given an option of making a payment to the District Attorney's office instead of or in lieu of having a prosecution commenced against that person. I spoke to Mr. Eyster about this policy after I began to hear rumors and he confirmed that the District Attorney's Office is collecting funds from persons accused of some crimes and that his office has been disbursing those funds to school districts and law enforcement agencies in the county, but the occasion did not lend itself to further conversations about the matter. Therefore, I don't know the details of this program.

I wrote to the District Attorney some months ago requesting more information about this policy but my letter went unanswered. I sent a follow up letter but it too went unanswered. I then called Mr. Eyster and Mr. Geniella, his public affairs officer, and neither of them returned my calls.

As a citizen and lifelong resident of Mendocino County and as a person who is proud to call myself a Mendocinian I am concerned about this program. It is not clear to me if the persons who are making such payments have been prosecuted or if the payments are made before any prosecution occurs or if the payments are to prevent the prosecution from occurring or if the payments are to buy the payor's freedom. If the payments are to purchase freedom I, as a concerned citizen, am interested to know what the price of freedom is in Mendocino County these days and whether a poor Mexican laborer can buy his freedom or if this program is available only to the wealthiest of miscreants.

I hear all kinds of rumors. I have spoken to local lawyers and to some law enforcement officers. Some know of this program some don't. I have spoken to a member of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors who told me the Board doesn't know the details of the program and don't know where the money goes or how it is tracked.

I don't know where the money goes, how it is tracked, how it is distributed, how the decisions to make a distribution is made, what statutory authority exists for the program or for the disbursal of the money received. I am concerned that an executive officer of our local government is exercising legislative authority in making the determinations about how to assess what appears to me to be a freedom tax, who is entitled to buy his freedom and who is not, when and to whom the money is to be disbursed and for what purposes. I am concerned that the citizens of Mendocino County seem to have no control over these sum, don't know how much is being collected or any of the other important details of the program. I am concerned that the citizens of Mendocino County don't seem to have any way of influencing this policy or the way the moneies derived from this policy are used.

I think there is a lot to worry about when it comes to this program. I may be wrong but I don't have enough information to know that. Therefore, on July 11. 2013 I submitted a California Public Records Act Request pursuant to Government Code Section 6260 et. seq. seeking information about this policy. (I have copied that request below.) If you agree with me I would like you to send a letter to the District Attorney telling him you want all of the details of this program made public. His address is David Eyester, District Attorney of Mendocino County, Courthouse, 100 North State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482.

Thomas F. Johnson

Redwood Valley

Ed note: The lengthy list of what Mr. Johnson has requested from the District Attorney is posted on our website:




Captain Fathom presents his shortest short story: Another Photo Opportunity—

I was selected to gather our family for another group picture. We had been informed that our champions were at the very gates of the city. So soon we will be rescued from this long nightmare. We make our way down to the large room in the basement. Our father asked for a chair for our mother and himself. Everyone has taken their usual place. The headman steps forward. In a clear loud voice he speaks, “In view of the fact that your relatives and supporters have continued their attacks on the Soviet Union, The Great Lenin has decided to execute you all.”

Captain Fathom





As a pilot and former flight instructor, I've been following this Asiana Airlines crash story very closely.

At the outset — I picked up the incident early on the car radio when I was out shopping. I spent the rest of the day on the net trolling the world (in the four languages I can get along in) to see who was reporting what.

One seemingly significant thing I found was that early on, the Italian press [la Repubblica} noted that the pilot had declared an emergency. They changed the verbiage three times on their website, but the message remained the same. No one else anywhere (that I could find) mentioned the pilot declaring an emergency.

Soon after this revelation — early afternoon, California time — I found on the Hearst Chronicle sfgate website a [purported] recording of the SFO tower:

(1) It informed OZ 214 that the emergency crews would be available;

(2) It gave approach instructions for other inbound aircraft;

(3) It shooed some other aircraft away with "go-around" instructions. The 214 pilot's responses were undecipherable. He was saying something — quite short, possibly simply an affiirmative — but who knows what?

And I have not heard another thing about this recording. (It would unravel a lot.)

My initial reading of the crash was that there must have been a runaway trimtab. The plane pitched up and the pilots tried to compensate. How else could it get so low and slow? That's why they hit the barrier.

(The initial radio reports were that the plane lost its tail on landing — which I figured must have been caused by metal fatigue: The tail fell off, and then the plane went — bang — nose-first into the ground. The first report is, of course, always wrong.)

The recording also noted that OZ 214 was cleared for 28L. Which means that any mechanical problem must have occurred shortly before final, because otherwise tower would have cleared them to a closer runway — which is 10. And they could have come in over northern Pacifica and saved several minutes of flying, rather than going to San Jose just to go north. (This approach to 10/28 is used only during bad weather, about which Bay Approach controllers used to say, Hey, we're always out of practice, because we only use this approach 5 days a year.)

This was a visual approach. Any pilot looking out the window is trained to tell where the plane is going to land: Your landing spot is where the terrain doesn't move. You can see your way right to the runway. This is basic pilot training.

Plus, a VASI (or, I think, on big planes) PAPI system of lights will give you a very good idea of whether you're descent is high, low, or appropriate. (SFO's glideslope wasn't working, but, hell, this wasn't an instrument approach; if the pilots can't do a visual in VFR, they shouldn't be trying to land the f-ing plane in the first place. — which may be recursive.)

Any student pilot can go low and slow. (It's the classic set-up for a stall-spin accident.) Speaking as a former flight instructor here, if you let 'em get away with it a time or two and then scare the hell of them (by saving the landing), they'll never ever do it again. They've been there, they know. Presumably.

Then there's cockpit communication problem. CRM — Cockpit resource management. Some decades ago, because of the overweening authority of pilots in command, it was determined that anarchism trumped authoritarianism: All authority must justify itself. The pilot flying is hands-on. The pilot nonflying monitors and challenges. (“Captain, the airspeed is too low”; or generically "Hey, the instruments say otherwise!”) Consider the commercial jet that flew into the swamp in the Southern USA. There was a malfunctioning indicator light. Nobody was watching the store. Nobody monitored; nobody challenged. For OZ214, with three experienced pilots in the cockpit, how in the world is it possible that the sloppy approach goes unmonitored, unchallenged?

Now if the reigning Samsung honcho can call a six-hour meeting with no dissent — or even bathroom breaks — allowed, perhaps the S. Koreans are too much in awe of authority. Or as one of the OZ training pilots commented [to closely paraphrase], If someone in the cockpit had said “Airspeed,” we wouldn't be talking about this.

It's a shame we have to.

Michael Slaughter


PS. The KTVU debacle, however racist (as is widely and snidely sneered), is to me still very funny. Involuntarily so — but I still giggle everytime I think of it.

And today, some corporate media were declaring that this incident has smeared the reputation of KTVU. I say, however, that that's nonsense:

It's U.S. television — WHAT reputation?

The overall silliness reminds me of an old two-panel Wizard of Id cartoon:

Employment interviewer: "Your name?"

Candidate: "Dhing Dhong."

Interviewer: "Your previous employment?"

Candidate: "Avon Man."

In short, IMO BFD.

Silly, stereotype-invoking, but funny.

PPS. If you want real racism in action in the USA, look at Juan Cole's piece on July 14 on a racial breakdown of who gets murdered [by the state] for murdering whom? Or the comparison he notes of comparative household wealth, black/white. Stunning.




It was a somewhat quiet morning when the ambulance pulled onto the yard, and I noticed that no one was in any kind of a hurry. Then it dawned on me — someone’s dead. About an hour later they emerged from the building with a black body-bag on a stretcher and I wondered who and of course how. My first thought was that it was one of our elderly lifers. God forbid we ever let these guys see the light of day again. They might start robbing banks and strolling off at a snail’s pace behind their state issued walkers with wheels. These men are far too feeble to commit the crimes they were able to 30 and 40 years ago, not to mention their mentalities have changed with age, but we must keep them locked up in the name of “what if” and fear of crimes committed in the 60s and 70s. Needless to say I was wrong and it wasn’t an old lifer, it was a fairly young one.

I’m going to step out on the limb and clue you into a little fact about myself, I’m a nerd at heart and I belong to a “book club.”

That being said, this man was in my book club. He was highly intelligent and always thoughtful. He had a very gentle way about himself and we had some great discussions. His perception was very deep and sometimes I would have to ask myself if we read the same book. I would see him every morning on my way to school and his way to work. We would exchange hellos and go on about our day. I think just about everyone on the yard knew him because he was an ADA porter, so you would see him pushing the sick, injured, and elderly in wheelchairs to and from doctor’s appointments and wherever else they needed to go. He had been in prison for a little more than 18 years and was about to go back in front of the Parole Board.

Then something happened, none of us really know for sure what it was, but he made up his mind to free himself on Independence Day. Joshua Voss took his own life with a razor blade. He cut himself from ear to ear and was found dead in his cell the morning of July 4, 2013. I can’t help but feel loss, not for the person he was 18 years ago because I don’t know that guy, but loss for who I knew him as. In here, intelligence is few and far between and its the littlest things that give you bits and pieces of hope and you hold it as tight as possible because that’s all you got. Then to see someone lose that, someone who could have been so many different things if circumstances were different, suddenly becomes nothing. Here yesterday and gone today.

California is not doing anything effectively to solve these kinds of problems and if you tell staff how you feel, then you’re stripped naked placed in a velcro gown and thrown in the hole under “suicide watch.” Where is the compassion in taking already fragile people and treating them worse with isolation instead of a kind ear and therapy? My counselor does nothing for me or counsels me in any way, shape, or form. I mistakenly asked my counselor in San Quentin for a hardship to be closer to home due to my elderly father and my children, his response was “Get the fuck out of my office!” and that is a direct quote.

Staff in here is harsh, and guards can be outright cruel. They seem to like to play little childish bully games and if you’re fool enough to participate you can kiss your out-date good-bye. They know this and use it as a form of torment. Whether it is physical or mental, it’s still abuse, a belligerent abuse of power.

We often lose our program and suffer excessive lockdowns due to the fact CDC-R did lay-offs. So the COs on our yard think, in their neanderthal minds, that more alarms and lockdowns will show a need for more staff and they can get their pals back on-board. We take the brunt of their anger and frustration. We’re often talked to like dogs or like we’re far less than human. If we stand up for ourselves they have a nice little button on their belts that leads to rat pack, pepper spray and batons. The one with the big stick always wins.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but sadly I’m not. I’ve seen many accounts of violence and beatings. Why do people keep coming back to prison? It’s simple, if you treat people like animals they will become animals. Take compassion out of people’s lives and you adapt, you learn to live without it, yet not in just one aspect but completely without it.

I overheard the COs laugh about Josh giving himself an extra smile. A part of me feels sorry for them because they have become so calloused by their jobs that they forgot he was a person, and a part of me hates them for their ability to be so vile.

I was a name before I was a number; I had love, happiness and hope. I was an anchor to my family, an uncle, a brother, a son, a father, a husband and a friend to many, but due to alcoholism I lost all of that. Sadly, I more than anyone understand Josh’s plight and what motivated him. But I still wish he’d held on for one more day and one more after that.

I wish I knew how he felt earlier. I wish I could have brought a few more smiles and a little more laughter in his direction. Hindsight’s not only 20/20, it’s a brutal son of a bitch that mocks you, capitalizing on your conscience. I know that no one could have effectively changed his mind in the very last moments, but I would have given anything for a chance to try. Why weren’t there groups, meetings, or places for people to get help while we live in the most depressing of atmospheres? I committed a crime and was held accountable for my actions and sent to prison. Now who’s accountable for Josh Voss’s. I know Josh killed himself, but where was Mental Health? Counselors? CDC-R? First, we must admit our system is failed before we can fix it. Nothing will change as long as our Governor keeps proclaiming California’s prison systems as one of the “finest.” (?) When are we going to start taking responsibility for the deaths in the CDC-R? When are we going to install checks and balances to prevent abuse from corrupt guards? When will there be humanity for the incarcerated? When will these people get the help they need to stay alive?

Josh, I don’t know where you are, but I hope you have a safe journey and you find peace. You’re free now my friend. Free.

Ralph Hollis Bullard AM4454

CTF North WB 302-U

PO Box 705

Soledad, CA 93960

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