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Letters (June 25, 2014)

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I love the horses on 128 between Philo and Boonville. Seeing these beautiful creatures when I drive by makes me happy each and every time. Whoever they belong to, thank you for sharing them with us!

What is up with the orange fencing in and around Philo? Each one has a sign on it saying “Protected Area — Stay Out.” There is one on my property too. I have no idea who put them up or what is being protected? Can anybody fill in the blanks?

I read with interest Brian Wood's letter to the Editor in last week’s AVA about the plans for a bicycle track through the valley. Some of his arguments against it really gave me food for thought and walking through Boonville this morning made for great people watching all because of the Music Festival, but at Mosswood I was handed a number after ordering my latte! It made me laugh, but if that would be the norm. I don't think I would laugh each time.

Monika Fuchs


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Mendocino County: Fountainhead of the Edible Seaweed Revolution

Seaweed as a delectable food has been discovered by chefs worldwide, and the seaweed harvested and dried lovingly by Mendocino Coast wildcrafters has a world reputation for taste, appearance, and nutritional quality.

I believe the edible seaweed revolution is just beginning. A human race hungry for the essential trace elements in seaweed, and for the protein contained in seaweeds, is increasingly bringing seaweed into the human diet.

On the rocks of the Mendocino County coast grows some of the world’s best quality and greatest diversity of wild edible seaweeds. Since 1980, a doughty band of small-scale hand-harvesters have created a commercial seaweed industry in harmony with the natural ecosystem.  California State Fish and Wildlife regulations have evolved in harmony. Now no mechanical harvesting of seaweed is allowed north of San Francisco Bay.

The leading Mendocino commercial seaweeds are sea palm, kombu (Laminaria setchelli), and wakame (Alaria marginata). Blade-only harvesting of these seaweeds, practiced by all Mendocino Coast commercial seaweed harvesters, assures that harvest leaves the seaweed alive and able to reproduce.

Seaweed wildcrafters offer smaller volumes of other seaweeds. Today we harvest only a minuscule sample of the massive blooms of edible seaweed along the Northern California Coast, hundreds of species, full of nutritional and medical properties just beginning to be explored.

Be cautious if you join us in the seaweed blooms of the Mendocino Coast this year; the relentless north winds make the intertidal zone a hazardous wave environment.

John and Barbara Stephens-Lewallen, Owner-Operaters of the Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company

Philo, California. (

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You probably never thought you'd hear from me after getting sentenced to 183 years to life in your beautiful little county. Before I get too far along I'd like to address two things. On the serious note to Deputy Brewster, I am very sorry for any harm I caused you and your family physically, mentally or emotionally because of my stupid and dangerous actions on February 27, 2013. It surely doesn't make it okay or wipe my slate clean, but I want you to know my apology is sincere.

Secondly, to the Hagas, I had no right going in your house and stealing your things you worked hard for. I am embarrassed and ashamed and hope you can accept my apology.

To Mark Bennett, I should have given you the crank you wanted for your old lady's laptop. You obviously ended up getting it somewhere and all I did was make myself a perfect scapegoat. 36 to life for not stealing your laptop, and 36 to life for not threatening your life. Wow, that's justice in Mendocino County. You are sleeping well I am sure. It took the jury one hour and 40 minutes to deliberate and find me guilty. I think that's how long juror number nine was asleep two days in a row. Oh yeah, by the way, it's on the record, did you guys have any clue that a sleeping juror denies me the right to a fair trial? The court of appeal is aware of it. I can't spell too well, but I can spell "reversal" and I can spell "new trial." There are laws and rules outside of Mendocino County that have to be followed. Did you know that DA Eyster kicked a six-month-old sleeping baby out of my trial? He didn't want me in eliciting any sympathy from the jury. Good luck with that, right. They convicted me so quick they didn't have time to finish their coffee.

Anyway, you at the AVA remind me of an old country song every time I see you, "I get stoned in the morning, get drunk in the afternoon."

Your coverage of my trial was a joke, almost like the 13 years with half Chris Skaggs got. For his cooperation with the District Attorney, he'll be out in less than five years. No worry though, I am sure he will be a changed man and a productive member of society.

You can hold Mr. Eyster responsible for whatever happens. He is the one who is letting him out. In closing, I am not a monster. I am not a target. I am not a feather in some DA's hat. So he can go high-fiving his buddies in the hallway. I am a son, a brother, a father and most people think I am a damn good friend.

I say all that to say this, I never claimed innocence. In fact, I did myself no favors along with Skaggs' 36 page statement and Tracy's 93 pages. Two and a half days before I even got busted, before they even knew I was in the car, I was convicted, guilty, and no chance of a fair trial. Regardless of guilt or innocence I have a constitutional right to a fair trial.

They let Tracy Cox on the stand knowing she was a liar, coaching her on what to say. Judge Behnke, my lawyer and Deputy Brewster have been friends and teammates for over 20 years. They allowed a juror to sleep during my trial for two days in a row. I was kept in isolation with no disciplinary history of any kind at the jail for one year.

I ain't dead yet and I ain't in Pelican Bay or Corcoran, but if and when I do die in one of these miserable places I will be there because I was given a fair and objective trial, not railroaded in your Barney Fife county.

So take care and hopefully the AVA sends a sober journalist to my new trial.

Walter Miller AE5304

Deuel Vocational Institution/Prison, Box 600

Tracy, CA 95378

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Are we a democracy?

Do elections tell us who we really are? Our Governor Jerry Brown says he has a balanced budget. It's only his word since the budget figures are always put out in a way that only a few insiders understand.

For instance, zero coupon bonds. Let's take a small amount, say $100. It would be the same if it was $100 or $100,000. Then borrow $100 and don't have to pay back for say 30 years, but then they have to pay back the $100 plus $500 interest. Meanwhile they have spent the $100 now. Business sometimes does this kind of borrowing expecting to grow, be profitable and have lots of money to pay off the bonds. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. But government does not invest in some things that will generate revenues like roads or schools. Since they don't have to pay it back they leave it out of the budget as an expense for the next 30 years. Then we hear all kinds of excuses and have to have a tax increase. And of course no one is held accountable. So now we start the same gimmick over and get further and further in debt. They call it unfunded debt (we ain't got no money). Then these things I call off-budget which are things they don't pay for, making long-term debt bigger, but don't show up in the balanced budget.

The saddest thing of all is our election system. In the United States about half the people who are eligible to vote (people with no criminal record, over 18 years old, etc.) are registered to vote. During the last California election some 30% of these registered voters actually voted. That means that half of that 30% says how this state and our politicians are going to run us. To put it another way, some 15% of our population is running us. To add to this imbalance in our elections is that most people who will benefit from things on the ballot will come out in big numbers making the outcome more lopsided.

I realize it is hard to overcome this apathy, but our leaders go around the world preaching our democracy which is pure horsepucky. Also telling the world that campaign contributions are freedom of speech when it's pure extortion by our politicians. $50 donation only by anyone will cure a lot.

Emil Rossi


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Dear Editor,

Okay, I get it. I read the letter I wrote to you which you printed on Page 3 in the June 11, 2014 edition, Hey Taxi! I appreciate the printing.

I like the cynicism in the commentary that followed it by Paul Theroux quoting Voltaire. I humble myself. I actually felt it was a great idea to help fund causes and when I died it would be left in the hands I have the most trust in the world as a pure charity of heart. I know that city life is congested. But it is a reality of life and the need for taxis is in fact a reality.

I too prefer the country. That's why I lived in Taft, a small rural town of 5,000, and worked in Bakersfield, population over 200,000. It would be great to have an attorney to research this, to see if the feasibility is accurate and legal which according to Title 15 Rule 3024, it is legal to have someone to oversee the business operation of Knight's Taxi. I do want this to be an open honest transaction for any would-be sponsors with the necessary integrity.

When I die this taxi will be known as The People's Taxi, for the people by the people. They will learn donations legally instead of begging for donation gifts.

I had three taxis in Bakersfield, two in Taft. This all started with one. Who knows? It's a $209 profit that can fund all sorts of projects or causes, even research. Yes, it is a huge endeavor. I understand that, so I won't bother you any further about this. I do appreciate your sincere generosity. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Ed Knight


PS. Tell me: Am I doing something illegal here?

Ed note: The quotation from Mr. Theroux which followed your letter was purely random, not intended to be a commentary on your letter.

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Dear Mr. Anderson,

The cat ate my canary, the dog ate my homework, and the post office ate my newspaper. Again. (Sigh.) If you have any spare copies of the May 14 issue, could you send one my way? The original seems to have disappeared into the postal ether. Thanks if you can help.

It's great to see you back up to 12 pages again the way God intended. And it's especially gratifying to see one of those pages occupied by Flynn Washburn (Letters, May 28). The more contributions from him the better. Same goes for the always rewarding Denis Rouse. Damn you put out a great paper!

Though it would be a noble gesture to be sure, don't sell your dentures just yet. As another letter writer suggested, if you need more funds to keep the AVA at full flame-fanning strength, don't be shy about asking your subscribers for contributions. I'm sure many of us would be willing to chip in a little extra if our finances permit.

Best always,

Jay Faler

Downers Grove, Illinois

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As the drums of war beat again in the hearts of congressional Republicans and Democrats demanding that more American troops be sent to Iraq, let us all now insist that Congress immediately reinstate the draft, starting with this September's freshman classes at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Columbia and every other university and college in America. Let us draft the homeless and the unemployed, men and women alike. Let us all fight the war we allowed President George W. Bush and Congress to start that they said would bring democracy to Iraq. Let us agree that this war requires more than a volunteer army. It demands sacrifice from all of us.

Tom Peck

San Francisco

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Dear Editor:

There has a some chatter among the talking heads and newspaper articles about Vice President Biden's proposal of a three-state division of Iraq. It certainly at this time is not feasible for the sunnis and the shi'ia. Further more it will not be feasible as long as wealthy families in Qatar, other Gulf states and Saudi Arabia (our allies!) continue to fund ISIS and other fundamentalist Islam groups abetted by money laundring by Kuwaiti banks.

The exception is the Kurdish territory which now functions as a de facto nation. Their taking of Kirkuk and adjacent oil fields as well as securing Irbil and adjacent land along with the new oil contract with Turkey has changed its political position. Plus the comment by the spokesman for the ruling party in Turkey saying it’s the Kurd's decision if they want to be an independent country assures it will become a de jure Kurdistan.

The US, of course, objects but it is just one more area where our opinion doesn't matter.

In peace,

Jim Updegraff


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To the Editor:

An Open letter to Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman:

I have received a report that the manager of Raley’s in Ukiah is hassling petitioners. Here is the report, followed by an explanation of the recent settlement with the County and changes in the Sheriff's policies concerning free speech and petitioning.

My informant says: “The incident which took place on Sat May 24, 2014 around 12:30 p.m. to the best of my recollection went something like this. I entered Raley’s, store ... on 1315 N State Street and asked to speak to the Store Manager. I was directed to a tall elderly man with blondish, gray hair. I let him know that we would be petitioning for the five or so weeks to put an Ordinance on the ballot to ban fracking in Mendocino County. He told me that Raley's store policy prohibited petitioning and that there was a “No Soliciting” sign on the front of the store which made this clear. He went on to say it was illegal to petition in front of Raley's even off to the side because Raley's was private property and it was illegal to petition on private property. When I countered this, and said that this was not true, and that it had in fact been recently contested in court and had been decided otherwise, he clarified his statement and said, 'Yes, political petitioning is allowed, but only if it is for a statewide initiative and yours is for the county.” The manager then called Carla Dieffenbach, the store director to speak with me, who initially reiterated what the manager had stated which was that petitioning was not allowed. After a somewhat heated discussion, Carla softened her stance if just a bit. She walked with me outside and directed me to where she would like the petitioners to gather signatures with the stipulation that she/Raley's would be forced to put up a big sign behind the petitioners stating that Raley's did not approve of any solicitors at their store.

“Later on this same day, I went to Walmart and spoke to an Assistant Store Manager to inform Walmart of our campaign and intent to gather signatures in front of their store. He informed me that all petitioners needed to first get approval and schedule the times and dates in advance on Walmart's calendar through a Store Manager, and if the petitioners started petitioning without prior scheduling/approval, the sheriff would be called to force the petitioners to leave.”

The attorneys for Raley's say that their policy is supported by California law. The case they're relying on was decided in December 2012. It says that if a store is the “functional equivalent of a stand-alone store,” then it is not the equivalent of a town square, and thus not required to afford free speech protections. The rest of the case then describes various indicators as to what makes a store the functional equivalent of a stand-alone.

Their position is that all of the indicators must be present near the place of petitioning. Our position is that their presence anywhere in the shopping center or mall is sufficient to trigger the protections.

In the settlement and protocols, the County and the Sheriff acknowledge that free speech rights do indeed exist at private malls and shopping centers, though not at stand-alone stores nor right in front of the entrance (even the earlier cases said no to that). But for anyplace else, there will be a presumption that the area is protected for free speech purposes. The officer will not be put in the position of having to make a legal determination at the scene. As in similar situations, he/she will turn to the owner/manager and say, “This is a civil matter.” If the owner/manager wants the police to act, he/she will need to get a court order that a given space is, for some reason, either not protected, or is interfering with the normal course of business.

And why have we shifted the burden of proving that to the stores? Because (drum roll) you cannot deprive someone of an essential right without due process of the law. Fuentes v. Shevin. And the police should not be the tools of corporations in doing so.

I believe Sheriff Allman came to the same conclusion from the practical side of things. The settlement maximizes free speech, our most cherished right, while still protecting commercial interests. And it keeps his deputies from being put in the position of having to resolve disputes that are properly for the court. Everyone should support these protocols.

I am no longer an active member of the bar, so I cannot represent anyone.

Throughout this effort I have been supported by the good folks at the Mendocino Environmental Center. Their mission is to protect the Earth and to promote peace and social justice. Please consider becoming a member if you have not already. $40 per year. 106 W. Standley St, Ukiah, CA 95482. And listen to their radio station, KMEC 105.1FM ( for more information about this and other important issues.

Thank you all for doing the good work, the essential work, of democracy.

Dennis O'Brien


One Comment

  1. Larry Vance June 26, 2014

    This is absurd. There are no free speech rights on someone else’s property. The Bill of Rights strictly outlaws GOVERNMENTAL interference with speech, it does not force private owners to have to put up with someone’s speech on their property. They are a private business, not a government owned ‘public accomodation.’

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