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Letters (Apr 1, 2015)

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We watched the 1956 film, "Moby Dick" recently and concur with Tom Milne's review below. Peck looked like he was Abraham Lincoln playing Captain Ahab. Of the prominent male actors at the time, Trevor Howard would have been a better choice to play Ahab — or better yet, George C. Scott. (See illustration below.)

Don Morris


Attached Review: Moby Dick, 1956, 116 minutes. Directed and produced by John Huston, screenplay by Ray Bradbury and John Huston. Photographed by Oswald Morris, edited by Russell Lloyd. Starring: Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, James Robertson Justice, Harry Andrews, Orson Welles, Edric Connor, Bernard Miles.

Easy to pick holes in Huston's brave stab at Melville's masterpiece which opens with breathtaking boldness as a solitary wanderer appears over the brow of a hill, comes to camera to proclaim his "Call me… Ishmael," then leaves it to follow in the wake of his odyssey. Granted the great white whale is significantly less impressive when lifting bodily out of the seat to crush the Pequod than when first glimpsed one moonlit night, a dim white mass of menace lurking in a Black Sea. Granted too, a lightweight Ahab and a pitifully weak Starbuck (Genn). But there are marvelous things here: Ishmael's alarming initiation into the whaling community at the tavern; Father Mapple's sermon (superbly delivered by Welles); Queequeg's casting of the bones in his preparation for death; nearly all the whaling scenes. Lent a stout overall unity by Ray Bradbury's intelligent adaptation, by color grading which gives the images the tonal quality of old whaling prints, and by the discreet use of a commentary drawn from Melville's text which imposes the resonance of legend, it is often staggeringly good.

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Dear AVA,

Using the word "voluntary" instead of "rights" is how they are framing it. Wish someone would inform all what is happening on this most critical of issues of our lifetimes. This follows exactly what the state said they were going to do when passing the 3 groundwater legislation bills I wrote about in my article I submitted to you. “Monitoring and conserving groundwater is no longer going to be voluntary,” said Jay Jasperse, chief engineer and director of groundwater management for the Sonoma County Water Agency. “Some people were saying they’re mad, that it infringes on private property rights and water rights, but on the other hand, we’ve also heard from people who are saying it’s about time to regulate groundwater.”

Jamie Lee


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To the Editor:

In his review of “For Love of Country” (March 15), James Wright aptly notes that fewer and fewer Americans have faced a draft or military service, but then asks, “How will the remainder of the population ever appreciate what they ask less than 1 percent of the citizenry to do on their behalf?” This ignores the bigger problem: that many, if not most Americans have not asked anybody to fight, especially in such misguided wars as Vietnam and Iraq. In fact, millions of us have protested these aggressions. This is not to diminish the heroism of our military, but also not to forget that the more recent battles they have been sent into have been tragic mistakes. As Ernest Hemingway observed: “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead.” This is even more tragically true when said war is neither necessary nor justified.

Steve Heilig, San Francisco

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This California is by definition a desert. Any place with less than 20 inches of annual rainfall is a desert. Per the Census Bureau, the population is growing at 500,000 per year. This means showers, toilet flushes, cooking and other water needs for millions of new residents. Low-flow toilets and no more lawns is not going to generate enough water to solve the problem.

Money doesn't seem to be a problem; we are building a train that goes nowhere, costing billions of dollars. Maybe we could put that money to a more productive use. How about increasing reservoir capacity, new dams or desalinization plants?

Keith De Filippis, San Jose

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I was a San Francisco police officer for 32 years. I worked patrol, vehicle and foot beat the entire time. I have seen, heard and done many things that most people couldn't even imagine. I have testified in court justifying a decision I made in a split second to people who had weeks and months to judge my actions. I have been through natural disasters, mass murder scenes, major-injury traffic accidents, and many other incidents that non-police officers would run from.

I have seen and done these things, and yet I don't profess to know all there is to know about police work. Each and every incident is different. None can be treated like the last. I say all this because I am tired of watching and listening to the many people out there who have decided that they know better than the police how an incident should have been handled. None of the people i've heard express their opinion was a police officer. How is it that anyone who hasn't done it knows how to do it better? I've done it and I don't know how to do it better.

Rod Lee, Vallejo

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The prevalence of prescribing psychiatric medications, especially anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs, has exploded in the United States in the last 20 years. I have been a consumer of psych meds for the past 21 years, taking them for depression and anxiety, always assuming that I'd be worse off without them and admittedly feeling a sense of superiority to those who medicated their emotional pain with alcohol or recreational drugs.

Now I'm not so sure.

Dr. Peter Breggin of upstate New York, in private practice since 1968, has a long history of challenging the “psychopharmaceutical complex,” as he calls it, having testified in support of consumers and their families suing pharmaceutical companies and having written numerous books and articles highlighting the dangers of taking psychiatric drugs. Breggin asserts that psych meds do more harm than good, and that simply put, they merely blunt emotions. He advocates therapy and social support instead of psych meds, and he doesn't feel that emotional and psychological issues are something to be treated medically.

My depression has a lot to do with learning to suppress my emotions in a dysfunctional family, and now to be exposed to the idea that I've spent 20 years taking drugs that further suppress my emotions is highly disturbing! If psych meds are nothing more than fancy anesthetics, then there's seemingly little difference between relying on psych meds and relying on alcohol or recreational drugs.

Note: Dr. Breggin asserts that withdrawing from psychiatric drugs is a difficult and potentially dangerous process and should be done with professional help. To check out Dr. Breggin's books, go to

Keith Bramstedt, San Anselmo

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Dear Editor,

I saw this article in my recent Farm Show issue [the second best thing I get in the mail], and thought you might find it pertinent. 45 db at 1000 feet. Obviously there are solutions to the noise.

Peter Prunuske


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Dear AVA,

First let me say that a lot of us at San Quentin really enjoy your paper and please feel free to publish this letter.

I received 118 years from the Lake County judicial system for an accident which occurred on September 22, 2013 at Redbud Park in Clearlake, California. At 4:28 in the morning I was traveling down Lakeshore Drive when I noticed a car's headlights in my rearview mirror approaching superfast. I pulled into the parking lot of Redbud Park which was full of SUVs with empty boat trailers. (There was a bass tournament underway.) I stopped and Katherine Jackson (the owner of the Tahoe I was driving) and myself were looking behind us anticipating the car with the headlights to pull up. The SUVs and empty trailers were parked side-by-side in the center of the parking lot. I was parked north of the SUVs and instead of the car that was behind us pulling in behind, it entered the parking lot south of the SUVs with the SUVs between us. Katherine started to say something and when I looked at her, lights illuminated her face and the whole cab lit up. She exited the Tahoe and I looked to my left and the car was coming straight at my driver's side door. I immediately put the Tahoe in reverse and backed up the way I came in to avoid getting t-boned. Had I gone forward I would have hopped a curb onto the grass then hit a retaining wall. My front wheels were turned slightly to the left, so I backed up and hit one of the SUVs which in turn hit a Ford-150. Dazed from the impact, I looked forward and saw nothing but bright white moving lights. (They were later determined to be spotlights at my jury trial.) I saw an opening to my left so I took it and exited the park and turned left on Lakeshore Drive toward the police station. When I wasn't followed I backtracked towards Redbud and parked Ms. Jackson's Tahoe about two blocks from Redbud. I had met Ms. Jackson and her boyfriend two days previously at a mutual friend's house. Two days earlier we all went to San Jose and San Francisco with me driving on the way back from San Francisco. Jackson and her boyfriend were fighting so we dropped him off in Lower Lake. Four hours later the drama with the headlights happened. Her boyfriend left a lot of his property in the Tahoe so we both assumed it was him behind us. It wasn't — it was a cop.

Field Training Officer Thomas Riley was training Michael Dietrik who was driving when they saw the Tahoe had a taillight missing. They followed at a high rate of speed without the siren or roof lights. (Dietrick claims he activated the roof lights when he entered the parking lot but admitted he never activated the siren.)

When Dietrik drove into the parking lot, Officer Riley jumped out of the patrol car and ran in between the SUVs and empty boat trailers. I believe he ran into an empty trailer, low to the ground, black in color, at 4:30am in the dark. They claim I backed into Riley from 30 feet away using my side mirror to target him. The district attorney claimed that Riley jumped out of the patrol car to chase Ms. Jackson. Thomas Riley never wrote a report. (He was discharged from the hospital the next day.) When Riley testified at my trial he said he couldn't remember anything. Three different medical reports say his memory was intact. Police reports state that five minutes after the accident he was directing trainee Dietrik to turn on his recorder, interview Jackson, call certain people, etc. Nobody witnessed Riley getting hit. Of course by the time of the preliminary hearing Ms. Jackson (who they let go with drug paraphernalia, needle marks over her arms) suddenly saw him get hit while in police reports she didn't. From the time I entered Redbud Park to the time I exited was maybe 15 or 20 seconds. From the time I saw the headlights coming towards me to the time of impact to the SUV was five seconds. All of this is on record, a matter of public record; look into it, or if I can send something let me know.

My first public defender was Doug Rhoads who has since been transferred to the Mendocino County Public Defender's Office. I believe I was his last Lake County victim. It took three Marsden motions to fire him. With the jury pool out in the courthouse hallway and parking lot, Judge Martin finally fired Rhoads and appointed Barry Melton who did great until jury instructions, jury selection, and the trial itself. He refused to cross examine officer Riley, allowed Postmaster Tracy Lane (Lakeport) to remain on the jury with 12 peremptory challenges left. I kept on telling him to get rid of juror number 10 and he dismissed the lady next to Ms. Lane. "No, not her." Then he dismissed the guy on the other side of her.

Since the accident, Thomas Riley has been promoted to Detective. At first all the papers claimed I crushed him in between my Tahoe and an F-250. At the prelim, district attorney Art Grothe claimed I crushed him between the F-250 and the F-150. Experts (CHP) testified he wasn't crushed between anything. They removed gravel from Riley's cut on his head. If you're running full blast in the dark, it is going to mess you up if you run into an empty boat trailer. A black eye, nondisplaced rib fractures, no tissue swelling (I believe from prior injuries he has a history of blunt force trauma) and a head laceration is not consistent with being crushed between two vehicles.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Riley was able to walk out of Sutter Hospital the next day. I myself spent three days at St. Helena Hospital due to "Dex," a canine unit mauling my arm while on the ground complying with the arrest — not resisting.

Granted, I'm a convicted felon with two prior strikes, 55 years old. I was convicted on my past. When you wake up the whole police department in the middle of the night and their average age is 25 years old, what did I expect?

Not 96 to life plus 22 years.

Feel free to edit this letter anyway you need to and if you ever need any information on prison life I'd be glad to help. If you publish this please send me a copy. Thank you for your time.

Danny York

San Quentin

PS. The case is on appeal. PPS. I didn't know an officer was injured until on my way to the County Jail from the hospital two days later.

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Board of Supervisors Office
Mendocino County
501 Low Gap Road, Room 1090
Ukiah, CA 95482

Dear Supervisors:

I’m writing to you as a rural fire chief concerned about a local forestry practice slipping between the cracks of public oversight. I ask for the issue to be discussed and vetted. I want to work with you and industry to find a reasonable solution.

Our fire district, an area of approximately forty-four square miles situated between the Navarro River and the town of Mendocino (map attached), includes a strip of grassland along the coast, but is largely comprised of forest lands. Approximately half the land in our district is zoned for timber and most residential development consists of homes tucked away in forest settings. A considerable segment of our district’s population benefits from just one means of egress. Residents on Albion Ridge Road, Middle Ridge Road and a plethora of adjoining shared driveways all funnel to a single intersection with California State Route 1. Residents in Little River have more options for emergency escape, but demonstrated by the windstorm of February 8, 2015, which completely closed all access roads in Little River, it doesn’t take much for this community to become an unreachable island.

Late last year, I attended an onsite field presentation hosted by Mendocino Redwood Company as part of their 1-14-080 MEN timber harvest plan review. The tour highlighted a number of public safety concerns and inspired me to write to Leslie Markham, Deputy Chief, Forest Practice, CAL FIRE. To date, a response has not been received. Attached you can find my letter, dated Nov 15, 2014, as well as one from my board, dated January 14, 2015, asking that they be treated as a signatory to my letter. During the field walk, John Andersen, Director of Forest Operations for Mendocino Redwood Company, showed us an experimental area on “J Road” in Albion where brush had been pruned by hand crews. Admiring the work, I asked whether this pattern could be executed across the entire plan. He offered cost as the main impediment blocking widespread adoption.

Sitting at the agency table during the CAL FIRE Second Review of 1-14-080 on February 5, 2015, I asked Charlie Martin, Division Chief, CAL FIRE, whether fire risk to the neighboring residents had been studied. He didn’t respond directly to the question, but explained he has participated at nearly every “big fire” in our county over the past two decades. I don’t discount his expertise and we should commend him for his demonstrated commitment to public safety, but for a matter so critical to health and safety, I would prefer his expertise be combined with formal study. I further pressed for an answer: does CAL FIRE have responsibility to study fire risk in the course of evaluating a timber harvest plan? I mean no disrespect to Chief Martin or his staff, but I left frustrated by the lack of clarity on ownership of the domain. If CAL FIRE has authority, the lack of memorialized study should be scrutinized. If this is not within scope of CAL FIRE review, which agency does own the responsibility? Any oversight, at all?

I cannot fault the applicant. Best I can tell, they operate in compliance with applicable law and work in an environment of ever increasing and arguably onerous regulatory creep. In response to the questions I have raised, they’ve even stepped forward to brainstorm evacuation routes, adding credence to a public concern in desperate need of remedy. For this, I am thankful.

I’m also not ready to place culpability in the hands of state regulators. It appears they are diligently following process. Unfortunately, the process, as implemented, seems to omit consideration for public safety, perhaps because forest management methods have outpaced legislative action.

Regulatory process aside, I see the proposed harvest as part and parcel of a much larger scale forest management endeavor. An intense harvest will encourage unwanted species to flourish under what pre-harvest is shaded by a redwood canopy. Unmanaged, tanoak can pose a challenge to foresters who wish to rebalance the forest toward redwood production. Due to bottom line cost analysis, a method known as “hack and squirt” is locally employed to kill off the unwanted species by hacking into the tree trunk and injecting poison.

Herbicide use is outside the scope of fire concern, but I’ve come to understand that the practice involves leaving the dead trees standing. Attached is an aerial photograph of Comptche, showing us just how many dead trees are produced.

I have raised concerns to the Mendocino Unit of CAL FIRE about a predominately dead forest impacting fire risk, but oddly most responses have been of the form “your area is already a high risk” and “dead trees burn the same as live trees”. In my experience, dead, seasoned wood burns more efficiently than green wood. An intentionally dead forest in decay is a fabrication of fuel ladders, a pattern of vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the forest floor into the tree canopy where it is more challenging to suppress. This is the very situation public policy attempts to prevent with California Public Resource Code 4291 as explained by CAL FIRE’s “Defensible Space” brochures.

David Shew, Staff Chief, Planning and Risk Analysis, Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (CAL FIRE), wrote in response to my inquiry regarding dead standing timber, “From my education and experience, a forest with dead standing timber can pose additional and different risks versus a healthy forest.” His full letter is attached.

Credible research has been conducted and published in respected journals. The most applicable study I have read was coincidentally co-authored by Hugh Scanlon, Unit Chief of Humboldt-Del Norte Unit, CAL FIRE, “Sudden oak deathcaused changes to surface fuel loading and potential fire behavior in Douglas-firtanoak forests.1”

I strongly encourage you to read the full report. Of particular interest to this discussion, the researchers used our geographic area with our forest species as their study plot:

“Our study area encompassed Douglas-fir-tanoak forests across three counties in northwestern California: Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt…”

And further, they focused on trees killed using both the ‘hack and squirt’ method and the exact poison (Imazapyr) that we see in our area:

“Tanoak trees in the study sites were killed via ‘hack and squirt’ injections of either glyphosate or imazapyr (DiTomaso et al., 2004) so that dead trees were killed while standing, as in the situation with P. ramorum2. It has been observed that the pattern of tanoak mortality across the landscape in many herbicide treatment areas strongly resembles that caused by P. ramorum.”

They discovered a twofold in downed debris:

“…total weight of downed woody debris (all size classes) approximately doubled with the herbicide treatment…”

And concluded:

“Fuel models based on the observed surface fuel accumulations in herbicide-treated and diseased plots predict that for some early-to-midphase (2–8 years) herbicide-treated forests, and for late-phase (8 years plus) diseased forests, rates of spread, flame lengths, and fire line intensities could increase significantly over the baseline, challenging effective firefighter response.”

One of the co-authors of the above study is J. Morgan Varner, a professor who specializes in fire ecology. Parallels in fire behavior have been observed between trees killed by Sudden Oak Death and those killed by herbicides. In an article, “HSU Scientists Pinpoint Acute Forest Fire Threat” Humboldt State Now (May 06, 2010), Varner described fire behavior of dead tanoak trees:

“The energy released is so great you can’t combat [crown fires] with standard firefighting practices,” Varner said. “You just have to move back, and let them die down. You could never imagine attacking this thing.”

“Once the tree turns brown, we know it has really low foliage moisture content and it is ready to be ignited.”

Varner was again quoted in 2012 “Scientists warn of disease-borne North Coast fire threat3” Northern California Society of American Foresters:

“These unnatural fuel arrangements can lead to fires so intense that you can’t combat them with standard, ground-based fire-fighting tactics”

In a time of severe drought we desperately need all parties to cooperate on a path towards improved fire safety. Governance should not allow private industry to create a public nuisance, certainly not one which jeopardizes life and loss of property. Private property rights must be protected, but fire does not respect property boundaries. By its nature, a fire hazard on one property adversely affects the rights of adjoining owners to use and enjoy their property, in this case impacting the health and safety of a community at large. While it’s true that our residents freely chose to live in and against a forest, I do not believe anyone contemplated the practice of intentional dead standing timber. Property rights on both sides of the line and totality of the circumstances must be considered.

Our entire district overlaps with State Responsibility Area, where the State of California has primary financial responsibility for the prevention and suppression of wildland fires, but this does not preclude our involvement in forest fires. In fact, due to the placement and only seasonal staffing of the nearest CAL FIRE station, my fire department typically arrives first on scene. We were first on scene to our portion of the June, 2008 Lightning Complex fires and have a history of containing forest fires in the early stages. Firefighters accept the risks inherent in combating nature. They should not assume additional man made risks that could otherwise be mitigated. The perils created by intentional dead standing timber will harm our volunteer firefighters' ability to confidently contain small fires.

This predicament could be a consequence of a deficiency in public policy described by the Grand Jury in, “SEVEN FIRE DISTRICTS OF RURAL MENDOCINO COUNTY” (June 28, 2005). The Jury’s report touched on two shortcomings pertinent to fire safety: inadequate district funding and lack of a county fire prevention program. In response to the funding concern, last year voters in my district passed Measure M, significantly increasing their special assessment. The second deficiency, “Mendocino County does not have a program of fire prevention, as opposed to fire suppression. The Mendocino Board of Supervisors has the authority to adopt a more stringent fire safety code that would incorporate a fire prevention program” has not been addressed despite a finding of agreement. “The Board of Supervisors agrees with this finding if it pertains to County Government.”

Ideally, the fire community should remain isolated from political debates about forest practice and use of economic poisons, but this relatively new radical practice of generating dead standing timber combined with drought conditions and unprecedented climate change demands evenhanded and responsible action. Unchecked by public oversight, it poses life safety risks to both residents and firefighters.

To be clear, I am not advocating specific action, but rather suggesting we apply precaution and treat fire prevention as a core government health and safety function, while minimizing the impact on industry. Sudden Oak Death is an unfortunate natural hazard. Actually creating such conditions during a severe drought as means to increase profit should only be allowed under careful review.

I am obligated to express this concern now rather than waiting until after a major fire has occurred. While I respect the timber companies’ profit seeking goals and private property rights, we must all work together to avert what is potentially calamitous.

Let’s coordinate?


Ted R. Williams

Chief, Albion Little River Fire Protection District

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Honorable Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
C/O Marijuana Legalization Ad Hoc
Low Gap Rd.
Ukiah, CA 95482

RE: Plant Count Increase Pros and Cons Evaluation

Dear Members of the Board and Committee,

Thank you for your efforts thus far in diligently reviewing the rather large topic of Marijuana Legalization and potential effects on Mendocino County. Your efforts are proactive and necessary for the economic well-being of our rural community.

It is with urgency we make this formal request to the Board of Supervisors to direct County Council to reach out to the Regional U.S. Attorney General, Melinda Haag, regarding amicable plant caps on medical marijuana cultivation in Mendocino County. Our neighboring counties with higher plant caps and no Department of Justice objection include Lake County plant cap at 48, Sonoma County plant cap at 30 and Humboldt County relying on the District Attorney position of 99 or less without regulation. It is in Mendocino County’s best economic interest to direct County Council to inquire with Ms. Haag if such neighboring plant caps in regulation would suffice for Mendocino County.

The Small Farmers Association believes allowing Mendocino entrepreneurs to prepare for upcoming legalization with plant counts more in line with our neighboring producer Counties will help feed all small business in Mendocino County. It will also assist Mendocino County in gaining back their role as a leader in an industry that provides the majority of economic buying power in our County. The SFA has requested the plant count cap be increased to 50 plants…two more plants than Lake County and twenty more plants than Sonoma County.

For your convenience, we have initiated a list of pros and cons to plant cap increases to utilize in your evaluation of a plant count increase in Mendocino County. This list does not include any objection from the federal government:

PRO: 50 plants is sustainable in drought. Please review our Drought Policy attached.

CON: Some may not realize 50 plants is sustainable in a drought.

PRO: 90% of the time all 50 plants won?t survive the entire growing season, resulting in real time plant count less than 50.

PRO: With legal access to water, if there is less water, there will be less plants, allowing nature to create it?s own cap on all agricultural commodities.

PRO: County Economy is suffering at an alarming rate. With any farming commodity, increase yields or herds most often results in increased profit for that small business.

PRO: Increased plant count with increased small business profits means increased tax dollars to the County.

PRO: Increased plant count results in increased yield or herds resulting in more new jobs.

CON: The reduction to 25 plants and the hold at that count is creating a pool of unemployed people that are trying to find jobs in other sectors of business with no result. The cost to the County through entitlements is increased.

PRO: Increased plant count providing more jobs in the community results in more productive citizens in the County.

PRO: An increased plant county will provide an economic surge in purchasing of products from small businesses, giving some economic relief to small businesses and increase sales tax revenue to the County.

PRO: No other agricultural crop has a cap on how much can be grown. Increasing the plant count moves us further into the realm of real agriculture, again preparing the county for future commercialization of this agricultural commodity.

PRO: With looming legalization/commercialization, small farmers and business entrepreneurs will be allowed to prepare for what is to come with an increased plant count, so they might position themselves to survive the transition.

No plant count increase will illuminate small farmers as they will not be able to prepare and position themselves to survive the upcoming legalization/commercialization.

The reduction to 25 plants and the hold at that count is creating a pool of unemployed people that are trying to find jobs in other sectors of business with no result. The cost to the County through entitlements is increased.

No plant count increase will illuminate small farmers as they will not be able to prepare and position themselves to survive the upcoming legalization/commercialization.

Whether you are a medical cannabis user or not, we all make up the Community of Mendocino County and act as a community together. Churches, hospitals, vacuum cleaner repair shops, schools, etc. do not use medical cannabis and benefit financially from it, with the majority of their income coming from the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry keeps small businesses open in rural producer counties.

We have been the leader with the 9.31 Program, and we believe with the recent regional summit initiated by Mendocino County, we are moving toward becoming a leader again in this up and coming industry. A plant count increase will assist in bringing us into the leadership realm once more. It will also help salvage what is left of the local small business industry that has thrived for centuries and placed Mendocino County in the top small town places to live in the Country. Without an increase, our rural values and lifestyle are challenged by corporate interests, large and small, who are on our doormat, positioning themselves to take Mendocino County rural values into their hands and shape them to their liking.

Please let the SFA know if there is anything else we can supply for your further evaluation and recommendations.

On Behalf of the Board of Directors,

Julia Carrera, SFA Representative

Neutral Third Party Inspector


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