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Letters (Nov 19, 2014)

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Plans for a new St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic church to be located on Highway 128 property, Boonville are proceeding, slowly, but surely. The pastoral Council of the parish as selected a barn structure with a seating capacity of 250 worshippers. The present wooden chapel in Philo was built in the early 1950's next to the Philo Mill with a seating capacity or 80 people. The increase of the valley's vineyards and wineries has also brought an influx of Mexican agricultural worker families. Recent Sunday attendance in Philo has increased to 150 with worshippers extending and standing on the outside steps.

Our group has raised about $560,000 in pledges and cash donations toward our ultimate goal of $850,000. I am directing the Campaign and feel confident that we will reach our goal.

Soon passers by on Highway 128 will view a large road sign indicating the site for the new church that will also feature a beautiful outdoor plaza. The sign will also suggest that gifts of any kind, cash, stock, CD's, and any other legal tender will be greatly appreciated.

We are hoping for a 2016 dedication. Readers with questions can contact me for additional information.


Gerald (Jerry) Cox

Chairman, St. Elizabeth Seton New Church Campaign
(707) 895-3342
PO Box 337, Navarro, Ca 95463

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Dear Community of Anderson Valley,

We can't thank you enough for all of the support we received after our mother passed away. Diane spent 40 years building community in the Anderson Valley and we felt it all flowing back to us. We appreciate everyone who dropped by the house with food, flowers, and memories. And everyone who made the memorial such a beautiful celebration of Diane's life. Whether you helped set up, brought crafts and food, shared stories, or cleaned up, your contribution reflected exactly the kind of event that Diane would have organized herself.

The memorial was just the first step in our lives without Diane. But we feel grateful to be undertaking it with the support of a community like the Anderson Valley. We know that she will be missed and that we all will have to do a bit more to carry her work and spirit forward.

Laurel, Jade, and Charlie Paget-Seekins

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Dear Editor,

This morning's cup of coffee I used to wash down my daily helping of DemocracyNow! The later part of the netcast was this Lt. General. Daniel Bolger, who's new book, 'How We Lost The War,' about Afghanistan, Iraq, and others seems like a must-read. His on-screen delivery, being a guest of Ms. Goodman's, might be familiar to those of us who've survived time in the US military; the guy's the kind of pressed, starched, unblinking, straight-talking sort they like putting on recruiting posters. General Bolger's main points in his book boil down to the novel assertion that the US military is not designed to fight this kind of war, nor are its designers inclined to see the errors of their ways at the drawingboard. (And these designers keep cashing their checks from US, and sending US to kill and/or perish for 'em?!)

The General stopped short of calling G.W. Bush a flatout war criminal (too much starch, I guess), even with Ms. Goodman's prompting, but he does seem to have experienced something of an epiphany in his 35 year career. He notes that he's been thus outspoken for some time before retiring, which I find refreshing and a little heartening.

I've long known there is a “constitutional” element in the Pentagon, I've just wondered where the Hell they are. After repeatedly making the point that the particular problems in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere are really (REALLY) only solvable by the residents of those places (Big Ass Revelation along the lines of self-determination), the General and Amy amicably signed off. Neither of them noted that the real (REAL) reason for those conflicts was OIL — the oilfields of Iraq and its neighbors, and the Afghani route of the pipeline bringing petro from Watdafrackistan.

They have time constraints, but still, I thought it a conspicuous omission.

As if this wasn't yummy and nourishing enough, and with a compulsive interest in surviving this overpowered nuthouse of a “nation,” I went to wikipedia to look up the Boxer Rebellion. Hoo, Lordy! These bastards have not learned anything in more than a hundred years except there's a KILLING to be made in the mass-killing racket. If you've not checked this out, try it. It includes a link to an item on the Boxer Rebellion (and the Phillipines) by Mark Twain, called “To the Person Sitting In Darkness.” It's probably a bit long to include in your paper or webedition, but I thought you'd like to see it if you haven't — classic, armor-piercing Twain.

Cheers, Rick Weddle, Hawaii

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Dear Editor,

Claudia Jimenez will take the seat on the Search Committee to fill the vacancy resulting from Gaile Wakeman’s resignation. Claudia will provide liaison with the Health Center board of which she is a welcome new member.

I wish to quell concerns that the Search Committee is on the hunt for a C.E.O. That is not the case. The Search Committee is looking for an executive director. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR! Given the relatively small size of the Health Center, such an office and title fit the Health Center’s needs quite sufficiently.

The Search Committee is not seeking to find a C.E.O. or the Queen of Darkness or a Knight in Corporate Armor. No one aspiring to such status need apply.

Best regards,

Bill Sterling, Chairman

Health Center Search Committee


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Dearest Esteemed Editor & Discerning Readers,

“The sun was shining on the sea,

Shining with all his might:

He did his very best to make

The billows smooth and bright —

And this was odd, because it was

The middle of the night.”

We would like to take a moment or so to offer many thanks to the gracious and spacious Solar Grange, to those who created epicurious curiosities, who supplied the donations of libations, who vended victuals, and who volunteered variously.

Boondogs; Alicia's Catering; Emerald Earth; Erica Kessenheimer Fine Treats; Anderson Valley Brewing Company; Bite Hard Cider; Handley Cellars; Meyer Family Cellars; Roederer Estate; Husch Cellars; Philo Ridge Vineyard; Seebass Winery; Signal Ridge Winery; Maple Creek Winery; Balo Vineyards; Bink Wines; Toulouse Winery; Scharffenberger Cellars And a tip of the "drink-me bottle" to the Magic Company, toast and tea to their honor.  In short, a mad hats off and mighty thank you to all who enjoyed themselves at this third annual Dark Carnival.  It was mad successful.

Twas Brillig,

The Dark Carnival

P.S. For photos, clues and curiosities regarding future events, you know where to find us.

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I keep my floor clean enough to eat off of because there is a good chance I'm going to. I'm poor and a little bit clumsy, so if in opening a package of Ramen a few noodlecules land on the floor they are by God going into my bowl. Noodle packs are scarce enough without me reverting back into careless profligacy, accusations of dirtbaggery be damned. To be known as a "dirtbag" in prison is to invite derision and scorn if not outright violence, but I am personally environmentally spotless — no flies on me. I shall not be shunting any potential calories into the dustbin, though. Many of my fellow miscreants can afford to be reckless, wasteful or generous — the guys who go 220 fat at the store every month and get packages each quarter bulging with dainties and delectables, spreading lavishly every night, disdaining chow hall fare and the unfortunates who must partake of it. They tuck their gold chains inside their snowy Dickies T-shirts and bend at the waist to avoid dripping their overstuffed burritos onto their immaculate Jordans — the inside pair. They pass the last few bites to some poor sap like myself who will happily wash their dishes in exchange for their delicious leavings.

I refuse to delude myself that any perverse, prideful satisfaction I might derive from not being subservient to the haves from time to time would in any way further my growth or reputation as a man and a convict.

While I would not be so insensitive or obtuse to characterize my condition as "hunger" — millions around the world would be overjoyed to get what I get — there is a fairly keen edge to my appetite and the occasional tidbit means a great deal to me. Between my workouts and strict 2000 per day count calorie count, I've got my calorie balance sheet about zeroed out.

The duration and intensity of my workout is in direct proportion to the rage and contempt I accumulate each day as a resident of a dorm in which the 80 other inhabitants will happily watch The Fast and Furious every time it comes on TV, approximately once an hour. If this sounds impossible to you, you are probably unfamiliar with either basic cable or the breadth of the F&F oeuvre. Either way, thank your lucky stars. If it's not an overblown adventure spectacle, it's a Discovery Channel pseudoscientific exploration of Bigfoot or Megaladon or Chupacabra or the bogeyman, and if I don't want to sit around gnashing what remains of my meth-ilated dentation, I must needs sweat it out on the running track and yoga mat.

I tried violence. I recently picked a fight (over the television) with a guy twice my size and half my age. You know how these things are supposed to go. After a protracted and heroic battle, experience and guile triumphs over youth and vigor to the beat of a slow clap amid the swelling strains of celebratory strings. Didn't happen quite that way — experience and guile wound up in a bloody heap on the floor after nine or 10 unanswered wallops to the bean, thence to be dragged off to The Hole to ponder my folly for the succeeding 10 days. Bright side — I was able to read both War and Peace and Infinite Jest in quiet solitude. I found the former immensely satisfying and the latter a little addling and indicative of both a staggeringly prodigious intellect and profoundly twisted sensibilities. I found myself in awe and wonderment at both the work and the man.

When I returned to the dorm it was clear that not a few were of the opinion that Mr. Smartass, Know It All taking a few lumps was more or less in the natural order of things, and I was roundly jeered at and ironically dubbed "Tyson." Oddly enough, all this had the result of making me a little more tolerant of and friendly with my dorm-mates. While I won't be playing Uno with them or watching Vin Diesel flex and bristle, I do recognize their right to exist and enjoy their plebian diversions.

My "hunger," such as it is, has some benefits, the main being a sincere appreciation of prison food and the capacity to truly enjoy the occasional morsel tossed me by some charitable fellow. I honestly think I'm happier this way than I would be with a locker full of his ZuZus and Whamwhams; I suspect they would constantly be preying on my mind. Do I have enough to last me? Should I share with my bunkie? If I mow down this whole box of Zebracakes how many laps must I run to atone? Is someone going to steal from me? Pretty much the same questions I used to ask myself regarding my dope sack.

No, I enjoy the small chunks of happiness I'm able to wrest from this damnable plight. And the cool thing is that happiness is a constant, like the speed of light. So is misery. Regardless of where you start from you get to the same relative place. To wit: if your basic rich, handsome rockstar is drinking Crystal and snorting fine cocaine while being serviced by a Brazilian supermodel, he is still no happier than I would be given a fresh volume of P.G. Wodehouse and a few crisp apples. Conversely, if said rockstar must listen, post servicing, to said supermodel blather about her acting career after said bev and blow have run out, he is equally as miserable as I was when I woke up at Wildwood after a ten-day run realizing I'd robbed a bank, the money and dope were all gone, and my shoes had been stolen off my very feet I slept. (Brief aside: this was my first visit to that notorious cesspool on Highway 20 and I still shiver when I think about it. They weren't just violating state and federal laws up there, they were desecrating every cultural taboo and principle decency imaginable. I was at my absolute nadir and still shone as a paragon of rectitude among those vermin.)

I'll take my happiness where I can get it, and being able to be thrilled to pieces by a good book or a Nutty Bar or a new episode of The Walking Dead is the bright side of this totally sucky situation. Because when I get out it won't be nearly so simple. Happiness is a far more elusive and complex thing out there in the big wide world and the temptation to distill the pursuit down to simply "high/not high" is great. I think that's one of the things I loved about addiction. Things are either totally fucked or totally awesome, depending on whether you're high or not. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me now, three years clean, but I know that at a time it seemed like an elegantly simple solution to a scary and confusing world.

There are times when I'm wallowing in it that I tell myself: Dude, you're missing the point. You're not supposed to be happy; you did a bad thing and you are being punished. But like the rest of my species, I am nothing if not adaptable. It's simply a matter of repositioning lines and redefining extremes. They can't lock up my creative drive, my senses of absurdity and irony, my love of literature, and my endlessly churning critical facility. This last may at times ruffle some feathers, but it really does give me a great deal of pleasure to let other people know how stupid the things they enjoy are. It's a duty and a calling.

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The guys across from me are assembling a large batch of (prison) sweet and sour, a complex affair involving pork rinds, jelly, sausages, sri racha, chilis, etc. It smells amazing and as I sit here gnawing on my pen-cap and feeling like a slavering urchin staring at fat children cramming cream puffs into their mouths through a restaurant window, I try to console myself with thoughts of my slender profile, low cholesterol, and efficient waste elimination practices. It works, a little. I do feel slightly superior, but that's not going to stop me from positioning myself just so at the end of the meal so I'm the first person they see when they look around for a hungry lackey to bust suds. Bon appetite, indeed.

Flynn Washburne


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Dear Senator Feinstein,

Thank you for answering my letter regarding the money wasting, useless F-35 boondoggle aircraft. In defense of this welfare program for the rich you state that this project will create maybe 28,000 jobs in California worth approximately $5 billion and maybe 250,000 jobs nationwide. Lifetime maintenance of these planes is estimated at $1 trillion. So if we give the war mongering corps and the superrich over $1 trillion of taxpayer money they will give us a bunch of ultra-complex unneeded poorly functioning aircraft. You and every other congressperson will get their cut, also known as a bribe or campaign contribution. The few crumbs (relatively speaking) will trickle down in the form of jobs costing the taxpayer approximately $1 million each. Isn't this system of government waste that mainly benefits the rich what's wrong with America? This plane does nothing to defend it.

Part of Osama bin Laden's plan was to bankrupt the United States, to lessen its ability to meddle in other countries' affairs. Even if Osama didn't invent this project, it furthers his goal so well that I think we should rename it the F-35 bin Laden.

The military industrial congressional complex is the most expensive way to create jobs. Giving each successful job applicant for this project $1 million would be cheaper than building this plane. I can't believe you can't think of a better way to spend this money. I can never ever vote for anyone who votes for this wasteful nation-weakening project.

Don Phillips, Ex-captain USAF


PS. The Pentagon has admitted that China has hacked into its computers and now has the plans for this unnecessary plane, possibly restarting the arms race for the benefit of the superrich and further weakening our country.

PPS. Bumper stickers seen in Point Arena: "The zombies are winning — just look at Congress." … "Ordain women — or stop dressing like them." … "I was addicted to the hokey pokey but I turned myself around."

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Policies, politics and What the F___?! at the County Jail—

"So, do they have a high suicide rate here?" JC asked.

I replied: "F — - yeah!" I'm betting JC is from Utah or Humboldt or something. JC's been here a couple of weeks. I've been here six months or so. A few minutes prior to his question I watched a bunch of deputies storm one of the housing units of the Mendocino County Jail with a nurse in tow. (I am housed in an adjoining unit.) We were discussing whether or not we may be seeing another body carried out of here.

I was telling JC about the last suicide. I did not mention that a few months back I watched a kid try to hang himself in the cell across from mine. I don't mean to sound like I was just watching, but I was. I had already tried to console the kid the best I could. He was in his 20s. I am 36. There was no way he was going to pull it off the way he was doing it. The anguish on his face had me kind of hoping he could achieve some relief, at least through a momentary unconsciousness. No such luck. Everybody just has to "freak out" when they see a guy in a homemade noose practicing a little strangulation. The cops were there in no time. Poor kid. The room they're taking him to is on a level of misery not only indescribable but I am pretty sure you would not believe me anyway.

Where was I?

Oh yes, a high suicide rate. I'm not really sure how you "rate" a suicide rate, but my answer was not really referring to the "suicide rate," more the rate of people feeling suicidal in his jail. Also hard to rate. I think my response: "F — - Yeah!" may be biased a lot by my personal life and experience with life, jails and my own mental health. (Of course bodies piling up is a good indicator.)

For the record before I tell you what I really want to tell you with this letter, I am not suicidal right now. Off the record I'll tell you that telling anybody you're suicidal while you are here may be one of the stupidest things you could do here (unless you are some sort of masochist, which I am, but that level of perversion would be even beyond me).

Now I said I'd been here around six months, but I have been here a few additional times in the last year. Let's just say I went through a series of tragic events in my life in the last year and a half or so. I am not saying that I am not partially or possibly even fully responsible for these "events," just simply that they happened. To say my mental and emotional state during his period (and now) is a little off balance would be sarcasm only I could appreciate.

I have a bit of history of dysfunction involving my mental health, drugs, alcohol, relationship problems and incarceration. I've spent my entire life putting my all into overcoming my problems with the goal of simply functioning, having a place to live and staying out of jail. Sadly, I have somehow learned from our society and our system that not only is there no help for me but that seeking help can actually make things worse. Despite these "realities," I've had a measure of success over the last five years virtually alone. I say "virtually" because outside of myself the two things that seem to help me are money and love, although family and loved ones are reluctant to expend either based probably on their belief that I can't manage either correctly. Nevertheless, I have managed to find enough to survive.

But when things went wrong this time I discovered new levels of mental and emotional derangement, only I think temporarily slightly relieved as I struggle to see and find glimmers of hope as the courts review my case with consideration of my mental health and what services they may be able to offer.

Wait! Sorry. I didn't mean to get into all of that. I was just trying to give a little historical prologue before the next part of the explanation for my exclamation regarding the question posed to me by a cellmate regarding suicide.

So there I was, sometime before Christmas last year in county jail with my life in ruins, suicidal as hell, balancing on a razor blade between hurting so much emotionally that I fantasized constantly of suicide and on the other side of a pain so deep and sad caused by the thought of the world losing something I believe to be so beautiful: me.

So I decided maybe I should try to talk to someone. I put in a mental health request and within a couple of days found myself being seated in a little medical "nook" meeting who I assumed to be the acting mental-health nurse in Mendocino County Jail.

"What can I do for you?" or something similar, he said.

I said, "I really really think I need some help."

He said, "What's the problem?"

I told him I had been mildly delusional. I told him I had been having extreme anxiety and severe depression. He asked me how they can help. I told him that on most of my previous visits over the years they gave me medication that helps. He asked me if I had an up-to-date prescription. I said no. He said that they cannot give me any medication without a current prescription.

I blurted out, "So you guys just want people killing themselves around here?"

He said, "Well, they make it pretty hard around here."

"What?!" I said, and then, "Believe me, it can be done."

At this point I decided he may not be the one I want to talk to. I asked him how I would go about seeing the prescribing psychiatrist. He told me there is not one. I asked him if there is someone I may be able to talk to, maybe once a week. The answer was no. At this point he basically had told me they had no help for me whatsoever. So as a scheme to learn what I could about my suicidal condition I assumed the act of a regular half-assed intellectual stumbling onto the interesting concept of the absence of mental health services resulting in suicide. The conversation transitioned from me possibly referring to myself, to a discussion of county jail politics and policies. It may have been too smooth for him to notice. Either I'm a hell of an actor or he does not care. His explanations went from, "They make it hard to do that here (suicide)," to, "They believe people manipulate the system to get drugs," to "They do not have a doctor," to "they do not have money to pay a doctor."

Well there it is right there. Money. Now forgive me for being this naive (and believe me I am), but this small nugget of information that it is not about care or compassion or any kind of moral or ethical reasoning, but money was used as a springboard into new dimensions of growth. I thought nobody cared the whole time. (Psst! I still do). Now, you can't just have problems with no solution. Your problem will not go away. Just like mine won't. I realized I must take action to attempt to solve "our" problem from the inside out. I will do all that I can. I have expressed a lot of this to the court. I have realized that I must work with someone else or my cycle of illness will not end. Pray for me. Compassion and love fuel the down and distraught. I hope I do not fall through the cracks that are the gaps between human beings, although I will do my best to fight the good fight even if I am alone.

I welcome any thoughts or comments.

Bret Bengston

951 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, CA 95482.

PS. If I am no longer here, go to BretBengstonTattoo on Facebook. Thank you

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Dear Editor,

Respects and salutations to you and all the loyal readers out there. You just recently did an article on me that was really inaccurate since you missed the part of my preliminary where my lawyer came back from another case. So I thought I would drop in and give you all the facts. No doubt you will get them anyway. But let's clear the air. By the way, the rest of my preliminary will resume this coming Thursday.

I don't own a smart phone. I have a phone, but it's a Samsung Netzero phone. I don't really like those touchscreens. They are pieces of crap.

Those mysterious text messages were so funny I couldn't help actually laughing in the courtroom. Well, I was arrested with my cellphone and no text messages like that ever left my cell phone. I doubt there ever were text messages. If you had gotten the court minutes where Patricia cross-examined Detective Espinoza you would have known that. The two detectives had already been caught tampering with evidence, violating people's rights and lying on the stand for a liar.

If I had been stabbed (which I have been before) I would know where I got stabbed. There is absolutely no reason to concoct a bunch of wild stories unless he's trying to cover up for his crimes.

Valdez has another story. His 911 call said he got stabbed at a car wash, almost a quarter of a mile from Laws Avenue. Of course he knew he may be wanted for a robbery on Laws Avenue, so you know he couldn't admit to being on Laws Avenue, wouldn't you? And the blood stains were at 161 Laws, not 155 Laws. 155 is closer to State Street. So if he had gotten stabbed in front of the 155 Laws complex and went toward State Street he would go east, not west. So who the hell knows who those so-called bloodstains belonged to? Or if it is even blood?

It's a bad neighborhood, even McEwen admits that. Anyway, the text messages were allegedly traced back to a phone belonging to a Miss Dutra who told the detectives I never used her phone and she never even met me. All this was forced out of Detective Espinoza on the stand during cross-examination. He never even took photos of the so-called text messages. Are those detectives? Or two lazy corrupt cops? And what about all the "I do not recall" on key points to an investigation? Where did these dumb asses get trained? How do you not recall? Very fishy. It smells so fishy I need a fishing pole.

And last time I checked, nighttime is when all the tweakers and crooks come out to rob, steal and get high. Why not on Laws block? It's crook heaven. As Valdez said, he wanted to "score." Score meaning get, rob and steal. And the two crooked detectives would have everyone believe that someone like me who has two jobs and a family is just going to walk up to a random stranger and say "Wassup" and then stab them with no motive, no prior altercations and no associations with the victim. If anyone believes that horseshit, they might need professional help.

Anyway, I did enjoy the article and the spotlight. Your paper always puts a smile on my face. I hope your leg gets better, McEwen. By the way. The title was superb: "Bring Me The Head of Johnny Valdez." It sounds like a good shitkicker. With that said folks, my salutations as always.

Sincerely, Michael France, Scapegoat of Mendocino County, California Capital of Corruption

Mendocino County Jail, Ukiah

One Comment

  1. debrakeipp November 19, 2014

    Don Phillips, the peacemonger of Mountain View. Love his letters. Keep it up, Don.

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