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Letters to the Editor 1/6/2009


To the editor:

Thanks to the thousands of voters in Mendocino and Lake counties for their incredible support during the election for Mendocino-Lake Community College District Area Five trustee. Not only in casting a vote, but also through financial help, in conversations around the district, by phone and e-mail. With encouragement to seek endorsements from various organizations, I was able to meet and discuss college issues with hundreds of people.

With the assistance of the following I recovered some of the cost of filing and campaigning for the office: Dorothy Sugawara, the National Women's Political Caucus, the Democratic clubs of Lake and Mendocino Counties, friends, colleagues, and others too numerous to mention here.

During the four-year term to which I have been elected, I will continue to work on critical issues facing the college: monitoring the dire budget situation, assisting the other members of the board, Superintendent/President Cathy Lehner, and the staff in implementing the College strategic plan, and overseeing with the rest of the board as well as college and citizen committees significant projects on the main campus in Lake County and in the North County (Willits) planned with measure W. bond funds.

As we were reminded on December 9 at the dedication of the community college solar field built by Sun Power and several local contractors, Measure W projects will be an economic stimulus for our district for many years to come, providing jobs and an infusion of these funds into Mendocino and Lake counties.

In all of these tasks I will be able to work with other trustees to maintain quality programs and services that help students succeed in reaching their educational goals. Unlike many districts in California, we are fully accredited and while we have had temporarily to offer fewer enrichment or recreational classes, we are continuing to fulfill our mission by scheduling coursework for students in all disciplines to meet the three state-mandated areas for service: transfer, career-technical, and basic skills.

Finally, with your help, Kathy and I will be able to speak for our district and for all community colleges in the system at the state level. Kathy is currently chair of the legislative advisory committee of the Community College League of California and I was elected this year to a three-year term on the Community College Trustee Board of the League. We ask you to keep in touch with us to voice your kudos and concern for the college so that we can address them both locally and statewide.

Thank you again.

Janet Cheniot, Chair, Mendocino College Board of Trustees



Howdy folks,

The reason Christ has not come back yet is: every time he tries, the impregnated lady has an abortion. A very sad revelation!

With love and respect,

Michael Skeirik




Enclosed is my cheque for $50 to renew the AVA subscription which expires in February. You’re about 3,000 miles away. I’ve not been to California since I was three. My parents lived briefly in Crow’s Landing. I’ve no intention of going there, so why get the AVA?

Because you people could write about watching paint dry and make it interesting!

It would have been tempting to send a cheque for $49.95 to see how you’d manage that. (C.f. dear old Gilles.) But you really are worth the whole $50!

Onward and upward gang. Or as we latinize it in our state motto:


Jim Lowe

Elizaville, New York

PS. Re Gilles — There’s an old staying here in the Catskills: Maybe he just had a fart caught crosswise.


To the Editor,

For those who buy gift cards, please beware! My husband and I purchased three gift cards from a major retailer in Ukiah as stocking stuffers for our kids. On Christmas morning when the kids went to use the cards we found out that none of them had been activated by the retailer.

Merry Christmas!

I looked all over for the receipt and of course couldn’t find it. We took the cards back to the retailer who of course asked for the receipt. Through my bank I found what I thought was the purchase date, but it wasn’t.

Since we had bought other items at the same time there was no way to figure out what day we had bought the cards or what the total amount on the receipt had been.

So they won’t do anything for us. It was their cashier’s error and we are out $55! Make that $110 since I now need to replace my children’s gifts with new cards (which I will purchase somewhere else.

Interestingly enough, as I stood at the store waiting to speak with a manager, I watched a cashier ring up a gift card for another customer and the cashier didn’t activate hers either. When I pointed this out to the manager he didn’t check into it and in fact seemed irritated. I understand they have to protect themselves as retailers. But my husband and I made an honest purchase and we don’t appreciate being treated like con-artists!

So words to the wise: Always check for the activation receipt when you purchase a gift card. The one time you don’t may be the one time you get cheated.

Tamara Grignon




The saga of sexual molestation perpetrated by Willits Charter School teacher has been bothering me since I first read it. It's inconceivable a judge would give a child molester a mere pat on the wrist. Imagine if this superstar of Willits had molested a child of the judge? Would the ruling have been different? I suggest a resounding “Yes."

In reading over some of the California penal code, Section 300, Welfare and Institutions, I find no relevance between the judge's “decision” and that of mandated reporter, as defined by 1165.7 (1) a teacher. Under this same code, (18) stipulates an investigator for the DA's office and (21) names psychologist as mandated reporter. What doesn't this judge get? Is he impervious to California law, in particular those laws which directly influence the legal well-being of children?

Let's say no one has to examine law, one can simply rule according to what pleases the Swillits mob. What a mockery of “our” judicial system and it's stated protection of minors.

Clint Smith is what? 23 years older? than his victim, a child under the age of 16 (who is therefore protected by law from child sexual abuse). If I'm understanding any of these particular protections of minors, then it's a felony to engage in sexual contact with a child under 16 by an adult 3 or more years older than the child. Does Judge Brennan have a concept how he would deliberate this case were one of his daughters or sons was molested/sexually assaulted by anyone?

Elizabeth Ryan

Fort Bragg



I hope the new health care bill works, as I have been an advocate of some type of universal healthcare for a long time. Especially since our health system costs have gone bonkers. It’s a shame that as the richest nation in the world we are the only industrialized nation that does not have universal health care.

Unfortunately, I have misgivings about this current plan as we also spend more money per person than any other industrialized nation and are way down the list of quality healthcare. No none seems to dispute these figures and our Congress goes merrily along without finding the causes.

One of the doubts I have is that it is apparently not clear what the bill does or where the money comes from. When government puts out a bill that is not clear, it’s not good. And one of those things that’s not good is the thousands of earmarks (perks demanded by congressmembers for their vote).

This goes back to campaign contributions. To win an election one must get huge amounts of money for television for the big big force. It’s impossible to pay back all the demands of all the donors and come up with a good bill. Politicians are no different than anyone else and will do some despicable things that are on the edge of legality or illegal to get in office or stay in office. We have got to eliminate campaign contributions entirely and have short campaigns not paid for by donors who demand all kinds of things.

Then we have to have all our legislators held accountable for the things they do. We can’t have a Janet Reno say she takes full responsibility for the Waco disaster and since she is in government, nothing happens. George Bush and his associates Dick Cheney and Colin Powell say Hussein absolutely had weapons of mass destruction which he didn’t have and nothing happened to them for starting a seven year war and going. Twenty people who caused the 9/11 blow up of the World Trade Center planned and infiltrated our country. The FBI, CIA and all kinds of government security agencies knew or should have known.

Locally illegal things are done by government and nothing is done about them or it’s covered up. The saying is, “No one is above the law.” That is except if you’re a government employee. Bernie Madoff should get any job with the government. They might not want to hire him, but if he says he’ll work for one dollar a year, I’m sure they will hire him. Then he could say, I take full responsibility for stealing $50 billion from thousands of people and he is scot free.

Emil Rossi




Cis Boom, Editor B.A.

When a mental health counselor told me to never say something I’ve never said, and to never do something I’ve never done, I filled my sun-filled feathers, quacked at his presumption, and flew off the handle. DUCKIE.

He wants to mental health me into Dead Duck Diana of Deadtree. Not me, I flew the coop. Whoop! Call me Charka. I’m tan. And with these fraudulent feathers, Condor, I, cry: “Accusation Counterfeit!” with verbose antiquity.

I stand beside an honest lake gone almost dry with two sticks stuck in the mud tied together with a shoelace. We can call this the Almost Dead Duck, or Duck Almost Dead.

Those listless, still travel along the ocean, elephants shake their heads, stumble and suggest I stop in the field and eat some grass. Then it rains like water off a duck’s back.

Diana Vance


PS. Yul Brenner America. I like men’s hair.


Dear Bruce,

Thanks for the props, but I am somewhat bewildered that my canceling of Joel Waldman's appearance on Takes on the World, which I did prior to KZYX&Z GM John Coate's own letter to Waldman, was a subject of your Dec. 30th Off The Record column since it took place back in February, 2009. Is Waldman trying to pretend otherwise?

I had already decided to cancel his February 25th appearance based on the following threatening email I received from Waldman the day before the program in which he had responded to my simple request to “Try and be there [at the station] by 8:50 AM.”

Wrote Waldman: “If, and only if, the broadcast proceedings of ‘takes on the world’ are saved in the best, standard audio medium available to KZYX, and all its affiliates, from the very top of the program to the sign-off and you agree to give me a single, un-edited copy of the show, before we leave the studio will I make further efforts to maintain my contractual agreement to remain civil with you. Failure to acknowledge this non-negotiable demand will be construed as a conspiracy to commit intellectual property theft on your part in concert with KZYX and all its affiliates against me and my estate.

“Reply immediately with your best understanding of which I am insisting, in your own words, or hazard what remains of your shaky, low-budget reputation.

“Do you read me?”

I first responded to him, thusly:

“Don't insult me. I always make a copy of my entire program as does the station automatically and I will see to it that you get a CD of the program before you leave the studio. As far as ‘intellectual property,’ all program content that originates at the studio belongs to the station and to its hosts. If your last comment is an example of your repartee tomorrow, I will shut off your microphone and take listener phone-ins. I trust you are mature enough to understand that.”

But then I had second thoughts and then sent him this message:

“Joel, On rereading your message to me and carefully reconsidering both its tone and content, I have decided to rescind my invitation to have you as a guest on my program tomorrow and will instead be taking call-ins from listeners. I do intend to get a knowledgeable pro-Israel guest on my program in the near future with whom I will be able to have a serious discussion without having to remind him or her to be civil.”

At which he responded with a long off the wall email of which the following is excerpted (full email available on request):

“I already have an intellectual properties and entertainment lawyer DIEING to hear what I have to say to you on the air. I wonder who will be responsible for his time now?

“None of what I wrote to you, nor what I have written to you, may be understood to represent any of my repartee tomorrow. I expect to be, as we like to say in the biz, Live and On the Air to deal with your grotesque calumnies, again, in person.

“I am mature enough to know that it is too late to ‘disinvite’ this listener/supporter of community radio from answering your on-the-air challenge.

“At the advent of your very first program I called the station management to complain that KZYX is responsible for the single largest source of air pollution in Mendocino County. You thought that was a cute line when I told you this at our meeting in the market, and you laughed.

“The joke is over.

“You have abused your privilege of free speech.

“Too many innocent Palestinians and Israeli's have gone to their deaths at the urging of savage politicians with egomaniacal secret agendas like yours.

“Your time is up.

“This County has seen the likes of you before. Jim Jones learned to make kool-aid. Charles Manson wrote a jig or two. Tree frog Johnson did child care.”

That was from the email to which he copied John Coate, and which triggered the latter's own letter to Waldman. Clearly we had a certifiable nutcase on our hands and both I, as the program host, and Coate, as the general manager, have a responsibility, irrespective of the program content, to make sure the airwaves are not abused by the kind of lunacy that Waldman clearly and proudly displayed in these messages. Of course, contrary to his claim, I, as well as other program hosts, are entirely responsible for selecting our guests as well as disinviting them if we so wish.

Waldman had been the only listener to respond to my on-air offer to debate someone who would take a pro-Israel slant and when we had met I told him that I wanted the program to focus on issues and that if he were to launch a personal attack on me, I would simply stop the “debate.” I had mistakenly assumed he could keep himself under control. His emails plainly indicated that was wishful thinking on my part..

In the past, I had offered three other pro-Israel critics of mine the opportunity to come on the air with me, separately or all at the same time but they all declined. The offer is still open but not to nutcases. Have I set the barrier too high?

Jeff Blankfort




The US Senate healthcare bill passed on Christmas Eve is stuffed with special “goodies” to buy votes from various senators for their states — but none for California. Were Senators Boxer and Feinstein Missing In Action?

• Florida, New York and Pennsylvania will have their seniors' Medicare Advantage benefits protected, even as the program sees massive cuts elsewhere. Where were Boxer and Feinstein? Oh yes, their healthcare vote was already “in the bag.”

• Gov. Schwarzenegger says that Medicaid increases in the Senate bill will add more than $3 billion to California’s budget each year. Yet, Massachusetts and Vermont received $1.2 billion and Louisiana $100-$300 million to offset Medicaid expenses and Nebraska a permanent exemption from Medicaid increases. California: $0. Where were Boxer and Feinstein? Oh yes, their healthcare vote was already in the bag.

• Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming got higher federal reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals that serve Medicare patients. California and every other state see Medicare reimbursement rates reduced. Where were Boxer and Feinstein? Oh yes, their healthcare vote was already in the bag.

• Connecticut is receiving $100 million for a “health care facility” affiliated with an academic health center at a university that contains the state's only “public academic medical and dental school.” California: $0. Where were Boxer and Feinstein? Oh yes, their healthcare vote was already in the bag.

Maybe it’s time we sack Harry Reid’s “bag ladies” and elect senators who will better represent the citizens of California.

Stan Anderson

Fort Bragg



Yummy! Ammonia-treated pink slime now in most US ground beef.

This is truly astounding, worse than I could've imagined.

You're not going to believe what you've been eating the last few years (Thanks, Bush! Thanks meat industry lobbyists!) when you eat a McDonald's burger (or the hamburger patties in kids' school lunches) or buy conventional ground meat at your supermarket.

According to a recent New York Times story, The “majority of hamburger” now sold in the US now contains fatty slaughterhouse trimmings “the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil,” … “typically including most of the material from the outer surfaces of the carcass” that contains “larger microbiological populations.”

This “nasty pink slime,” as one FDA microbiologist called it, is now wrung in a centrifuge to remove the fat, and then treated with AMMONIA to “retard spoilage,” and turned into “a mashlike substance frozen into blocks or chips.”

Thus saving THREE CENTS a pound off production costs. And making the company, Beef Products Inc., a fortune. $440 million/year in revenue. Ain't that something?

And to emphasize: this pink slime isn't just in fast food burgers or free lunches for poor kids:

With the USDA’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.

Bush's USDA also allowed these “innovators” to get away with listing the ammonia as “a processing agent” instead of by name. And they also OKd the processing method — and later exempted the hamburger from routine testing of meat sold to the general public — strictly based on the company's claims of safety, which were not backed by any independent testing.

Because the ammonia taste was so bad (“It was frozen, but you could still smell ammonia,” said Dr. Charles Tant, a Georgia agriculture department official. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”) the company started using a less alkaline ammonia treatment, and now we know — thanks to testing done for the school lunch program — that the nasty stuff isn't even reliably killing the pathogens.

But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the USDA about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-room trays.

In July, school lunch officials temporarily banned their hamburger makers from using meat from a Beef Products facility in Kansas because of salmonella — the third suspension in three years, records show. Yet the facility remained approved by the USDA for other customers.

Presented by The Times with the school lunch test results, top USDA department officials said they were not aware of what their colleagues in the lunch program had been finding for years.

A subsequent New York Times article has a rather innocuous headline, “Safety of beef processing method is questioned.”

I'd say this quote from the USDA department microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein, who called the processed beef “pink slime” in a 2002 e-mail message to colleagues, represents the situation better: “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.”

I've been thinking about an action item on this issue, and I've got three ideas: 1. write Michelle Obama through this web form: or snail mail: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500; 2. print out the NY Times article and give it to the manager of your local supermarket, and ask them if they sell any kind of ground beef that doesn't contain this “pink slime” or if their butchers will grind meat fresh for you; 3. just stop buying the damned stuff altogether.

Jennifer Poole



To the Editor,

I have pretty much lost faith in the belief that Congress and the Executive branches of our federal government represent the will of the people.

I have pretty much lost faith in the belief that our state government represents the will of the people.

I did find some comfort in the belief that there was still some local responsiveness to the will of the people. Many of us in Mendocino County worked hard to defeat Measure A. Some folks voted no on A strictly because they didn’t like an outside corporation trying to jump over the heads of the Mendocino County Planning Commission rules and regulations for Environmental Impact Reports, zoning, etc. For many however the bottom line was that South Ukiah had land already zoned for retail and here in Northern Ukiah there was this wonderful last big piece of industrial land which could provide good paying jobs for our county.

I can only imagine how shocked many were by the recent Ukiah Daily Journal headline saying “County-Costco discuss Masonite site options.” They were exploring the selling by mall developer DDR of a portion of the Masonite land to Costco. Due to a loophole, apparently this would not require new zoning. The Ukiah Daily Journal quotes County CEO Tom Mitchell as saying that “local naysayers” are calling this the foot in the door to a retail mall on the Masonite site and could set the stage for other stores to buy parcels from DDR and build under current zoning. “Potentially that could happen,” Mitchell said. “We’re not sitting around saying ‘what if?’”

Why doesn’t this leave me trusting the County?

What happened to suddenly make that precious industrial property not so precious?

What happened to respect for the mandate of the voting public in Mendocino County?

How can we, as citizens, ever believe that we have a voice in our community when our CEO and Supervisors are apparently deaf?

What can we do to achieve a fair representation in our local government? It’s increasingly obvious that neither protest nor voting do it.

Ruth Sander




Those long-hoping, long-enduring members of the liberal intelligentsia are starting to break away from the least-worst mindset that muted their criticisms of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign.

They still believe that the President is far better than his Republican counterpart would have been. Some still believe that sometime, somewhere, Obama will show his liberal stripes. But they no longer believe they should stay loyally silent in the face of the escalating war in Afghanistan, the near collapse of key provisions in the health insurance legislation, the likely anemic financial regulation bill, or the obeisance to the bailed out Wall Street gamblers. Remember this Administration more easily embraces bonuses for fat cats than adequate investment in public jobs.

Of all the loyalists, among the first to stray was Bob Herbert, liberal columnist for The New York Times. He wondered about his friends telling him that Obama treats their causes and them “as if they have nowhere to go.” Then there was the stalwart Obamaist, the brainy Gary Wills, who broke with Obama over Afghanistan in a stern essay of admonition.

If you read the biweekly compilation of progressive and liberal columnists and pundits in the Progressive Populist, one of my favorite publications, the velvet verbal gloves are coming off.

Jim Hightower writes that “Obama is sinking us into ‘Absurdistan’.” He bewails: “I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader.”

Wonder where good ol’ Jim got that impression? Certainly not from anything Obama said or did not say in 2008. But hope dims the memory of the awful truth which is that Obama signed on to the Wall Street and military-industrial complex from the get-go. He got their message and is going after their campaign contributions and advisors big time!

Norman Solomon, expressed his sharp deviation from his long-time admiration of the politician from Chicago. He writes: “President Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering — to the world as it is — a pro-war speech. The context instantly turned the speech’s insights into flackery for more war.”

Strong words indeed!

Arianna Huffington has broken in installments. But her disillusionment is expanding. She writes: “Obama isn’t distancing himself from ‘the Left’ with his decision to escalate this deepening disaster in Afghanistan. He’s distancing himself from the national interests of the country.”

John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine, was never an Obama fan and has been upset with what he calls “the liberal adoration of Obama.” In a piece for the Providence Journal, he cites some writers still loyal to Obama, such as Frank Rich of The New York Times, Hendrick Hertzberg of The New Yorker, and Tom Hayden, who are showing mild discomfort in the midst of retained hope over Obama’s coming months. They have not yet cut their ties to the masterspeaker of “Hope and Change.”

Gary Wills has crossed his Rubicon, calling Obama’s Afghanistan escalation “a betrayal.” Wills is a scholar of both the Presidency and of political oratory. (His small book on Lincoln’s Gettysburg address is a classic interpretation). So he uses words carefully, to wit: “If we had wanted Bush’s wars, and contractors, and corruption, we could have voted for John McCain. At least we would have seen our foe facing us, not felt him at our back, as now we do.”

Rest assured the liberal-progressive commentariat has another two years to engage in challenge and chagrin. For in 2012, silence will mute their criticisms as the stark choices of the two-party tyranny come into view and incarcerate their minds into the least-worst voting syndrome, just as they have done in recent Presidential election years.

It is hard to accord them any moral breaking point under such self-imposed censorship. Not much leverage in that approach, is there?

Ralph Nader

Washington, DC


Hey AVA folks & readers,

I got the recent Organic Gardening magazine and found another one of those toxic trespass problems my radio show is named after. It was in a not so great spot, the lids of canning jars. Remember all the hubbub regarding Bisphenol A.

That's the wonder chemical that almost became the means of regulating women's endocrine and reproductive health but lost out to cheaper mare's urine AKA Premarin (yes that is horse estrogen.) At a loss as what to do, the chem wiz's put it into a polymer and created that hard plastic used in CDs, water and baby bottles and to protect metal from acid foods in canning. Say your a scientist and you are putting out this new product that has a definite endocrine mimic in it. Don't you think maybe, just maybe, you might test it for reproductive activity? So you ask: It is only in one company, right? Huh-uh. Sorry it is in all of them except one that is all glass with a rubber gasket.

But there’s more, all those canning products actually are one parent company (Jarden). MONOPOLY! So we return to the “who's minding the store” question. Oh yeah, the self regulated good guys making food, who know what is best and are protecting our best interests. No wait, newsflash, *their* best interest. They know this bisphenol A is bad stuff because of all the ruckus about it in water and baby bottles, so they rushed to remove it from other unsafe places like soda cans and bottles and other cans.

Huh-uh, sorry. They think it is the only product to do the job. No, not true, chemical dudes. True Green chemistry, and there is such a thing is bringing us new plasticizers without all of this endocrine havoc. Meanwhile, contact those fools at Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest and Bernandin and scream bloody murder. Remember one company, Jarden Home Brands, owns all and thus they are running the same toxic product.

Jarden Home Brands comment line: 1-800-240-3340

Consumer Affairs Fax: 1-765-557-3250

14611 West Commerce Road P.O. Box 529 Daleville, IN 47334

This destroys the idea of organic home stored food. I recall one of the AVA’s other regular readers who signed of with Pay Attention. Or is it Buyer beware? What is not obvious is that all of the canned foods are lined with this bisphenol toxic. So contact Ball who does that at 1-800-240-3340 or Fax: 1-765-557-3250 or Maybe you should scream a little bloody murder at the USDA and the FDA too.

Oh, the purely glass version is made by Weck. Check out Buy it there and tell Jarden to get ethical.

Let's put a lid on this! No wonder there is so much cancer going on. This stuff is ubiquitous.

Get Healthy, get active

Greg Krouse




Sonoma County did the right thing when Acting County Administrator Chris Thomas consulted with county counsel and followed the case law in the 1989 Supreme Court decision in Allegany v. ACLU, which was on point about presentation of religious totems and trinkets being displayed by government entities.

Thomas and his counsel must have also considered the California Constitution, because I brought its provisions to his attention during our first (and only) face-to-face meeting.

But unlike Professor Rex Grady's attempt to narrow the question to a federal First Amendment issue only (Close to Home column, Dec. 24), my initial discussion with the county of Sonoma was based not only on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights but, more importantly, on the “no preference” sections of California's state constitution, primarily Article XVI, Section 5, as well as several other sections, all of which explicitly forbid government entanglement with religion in our state. These state provisions are buttressed by the federal First Amendment and Supreme Court rulings.

Grady went on to characterize Thomas' initial decision banning religious trinkets and totems as “arbitrary” and claims that it rejects “decades of official conduct and community sentiment.”

Exactly the opposite is true. Over the past four decades community standards have been evolving in Sonoma County on the question of government and religion. And much of the change and respect for diversity and multi-culturalism has come about from the Peace and Freedom Party's fight against religious bias by our cities, towns and now our county.

In the early 1970s, when the Peace and Freedom Party supported a winning slate of three candidates for Cotati's five-person City Council, one of the first acts of the Peace & Freedom council members, Stephen Laughlin and the late Annette Lombardi, was removal of a religious sign from the city-owned plaza in the center of town. And during the Vietnam War era, Peace and Freedom here encouraged a number of local Vietnam era draftees to resist induction in part by refusing the federal oath of office if it was administered with the religious ending “so help me God.”

In the 1980s, Peace & Freedom brought about the end of the state oath's supposedly optional religious reference when the Elections Division began to administer the oath of office to our elected county central committee members as well as to various others of our party's office seekers in a non-sectarian manner.

As we entered the 1990s, local community standards changed in a dramatic and drastic fashion in Sonoma County as Peace and Freedom Party ended city-sponsored prayers: first in 1992 in the city of Santa Rosa, when Presbyterian elder and then-Councilman Dave Berto attempted to reinstitute city-sponsored Christian prayers at council meetings after a 30-year hiatus.

A year later, the Peace and Freedom Party also took on the city of Petaluma's prayer which had been in place for over 50 years. Peace and Freedom, with help from the county's Human Rights Commission, successfully challenged Petaluma's prayers, which only sanctioned a Judeo-Christian version. The annual prayer which had preceded the first council meeting of the year in Rohnert Park since its founding was defeated by Peace and Freedom Party, not once but twice when Mayor Jake Mackenzie attempted to restore the prayer as part of a backroom political deal with some of Rohnert Park's right-wing clergy. Assisted by the local ACLU, we also eliminated Rohnert Park's city seal which had featured a Christian cross on top of a steeple rising out of a church.

If local governments like the county of Sonoma can ignore decisions like the Supreme Court's 1989 Allegany decision, or if the county's Board of Supervisors disregard their oaths to uphold the provisions of the Constitution of the state of California, then we will descend into mob rule where pandering to the majority sentiment of the moment will erode — if not eliminate — the rights of various minorities whether groups or individuals.

Had the state of Alabama been able to ignore or delay for 20 years the 1965 Voting and Civil Rights Act, African-Americans from Selma to Montgomery would have been denied electoral equality until 1985.

Sonoma County must end religious bias toward agnostics, atheists and all others who believe in separation of state and church.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane compares the White House display of holiday decorations to Sonoma County facilities. Zane's analogy fails.

The White House is not where people go to do the people's business. It is a residence, a perk of office, not a place to register to vote, pay taxes, file deeds, record vital statistics or engage in myriad other government services. Zane makes the mistake of saying the initial Thomas ruling would deprive certain county employees the right to bring in and display their own religious symbols on county-provided trees. Zane ignores the question as to whether the county should even be setting the stage for this seasonal Christian event. While pandering to fundamentalist religious groups, Zane's comments show no interest or concern for those county employees who are righteously indignant and offended at such religiosity but who have good reason to fear for their jobs and career advancement should they voice a complaint or concern to their department managers about the county's religious discrimination.

The answer is already laid out for us by the courts and our constitution and by use of our common sense. An appeal to reason requires absolute government neutrality on county government property.

No trees, angels, creches, crosses, Buddhas or animal sacrifices on county property. Religious activity is properly a function of the private sector to be carried out in homes, churches or graveyards.

No religious displays on government land or in government offices ever. Religious institutions do not pay taxes on their property and none of them seem willing to shoulder the financial burden they've dumped on the rest of us.

Irv Sutley

Glen Ellen


To the Editor:

An anonymous AVA letter writer (12/29/09) declined to state their name to avoid the “MMMAB hitlist.” What hit list?

Anyone who knows anything at all about the Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board knows this is a ridiculously false characterization.

Honorable people own their accusations rather than hiding behind a cloak of anonymity and the AVA is not above printing any old trash-talk gossip that generates heat at the expense of light.

The purpose of the letter was to question MMMAB's lack of support for a claimed medical marijuana indoor grow with a bypassed electrical meter, thus stealing the electricity from PG&E.

Electrical theft, like illegal water diversions or diversions of medicine to non-medical purposes, automatically make the grow illegal and unsupportable by MMMAB.

MMMAB is a medical cannabis policy coalition that seeks to set standards and principles under state and local law which will serve the interests of both patients and the community for the forseeable future. This includes recommendations for a regulatory system that integrates medical cannabis into the county economy, respecting environmental and neighborhood concerns.

MMMAB's policy recommendations are fashioned to fall within the parameters of Proposition 215, Senate Bill 420 and Attorney General Guidelines (August 2008). Their stated purpose is to “enhance access” to medicine and to protect qualified patients.

Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board Steering Committee

Fort Bragg


  1. Jennifer Poole January 8, 2010

    Hey, I see the AVA picked up my 1/1/2010 Daily Kos diary about ammonia-treated slaughterhouse scraps now passing for “ground beef” as a letter to the editor. Thanks! but in future, I’d suggest that editors try to include the appropriate links:

    NY Times story on which the diary was based:

    December NY Times story on beef by the same reporter:

    And a link to the original Daily Kos diary, which included a good 729-comment discussion, and a poll in which 1,057 people said “No, I will now buy organic local or grassfed beef even if I have to buy less.”

  2. Dan February 15, 2010

    John MacArthur & Pretrib Rapture

    Who knows, maybe John (Reformedispy) MacArthur is right and the greatest Greek scholars (Google “Famous Rapture Watchers”), who uniformly said that Rev. 3:10 means PRESERVATION THROUGH, were wrong. But John has a conflict. On the one hand, since he knows that all Christian theology and organized churches before 1830 believed the church would be on earth during the tribulation, he would like to be seen as one who stands with the great Reformers. On the other hand, if John has a warehouse of unsold pretrib rapture material, and if he wants to have “security” for his retirement years and hopes that the big California quake won’t louse up his plans, he has a decided conflict of interest. Maybe the Lord will have to help strip off the layers of his seared conscience which have grown for years in order to please his parents and his supporters – who knows? One thing is for sure: pretrib is truly a house of cards and is so fragile that if a person removes just one card from the TOP of the pile, the whole thing can collapse. Which is why pretrib teachers don’t dare to even suggest they could be wrong on even one little subpoint! Don’t you feel sorry for the straitjacket they are in? While you’re mulling all this over, Google “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” for a rare behind-the-scenes look at the same 180-year-old fantasy.

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