The Coastal Post - May 2000

Letters To The Editor


Founder Of League Of Conservation Voters Decries League's Endorsements, Absorbtion By Developers

In the March 7 elections in Marin County, a old line of mine came back to haunt me: "In any conservation battle, you must bell the cat: identify your opponents and publicize their works." I never dreamed the cat that needed belling would be my own.

In 1969, a year before the first Earth Day celebration, I founded the League of Conservation Voters, an outfit dedicated to belling cats in Congress, and to giving credit in Congress where credit is due. LCV is the only national environmental organization whose sole mission is to educate citizens about the voting records of members of Congress. State and local chapters of LCV have a similar mission on their narrower turf. To succeed, LCV must be non-partisan, must place environmental concerns foremost, and above all must be credible.

In the March elections, the Marin Chapter of the LCV endorsed incumbent candidates Steve Kinsey and Annette Rose for Marin County Supervisor seats despite clear evidence that the two had strong support from developers, had exaggerated their environmental accomplishments, and had spotty environmental voting records. There is strong evidence that Marin LCV board members lobbied to persuade the California LCV to endorse Joe Nation, the candidate favored by developers, in the North Bay's 6th District Assembly race.

The Marin Chapter of the LCV was co-founded by Linda Nation, Joe Nation's wife. Her husband's campaign donor list, like the lists of Steve Kinsey and Annette Rose, reads like a Who's Who of development interests. Donors to Joe Nation include Plum Creek Timber Co.; Doug Bosco, lobbyist for Maxxam Corporation, owner of Pacific Lumber, the company that did its best to log Headwaters Forest; and various pro-development groups.

Joe Nation wants to widen Highway 101 from Santa Rosa to Novato, which will increase development along that corridor. As a member of the Marin Water Board, he voted to divert water from the Eel River for developments in Marin and Sonoma. His Water Board vote later this month will help determine whether a pipeline is built to divert water from the Russian River to Marin. A "yes" vote will damage fisheries on the river and spawn more development in Marin. Genuine environmentalists should keep a close eye on this crucial vote.

Donors to Steve Kinsey include numerous venture capitalist and real estate and development interests. On the list is Webster Otis, former president of Land Investors Research, a group of real estate investors who in the 1960s bought up land in and around what is now Pt. Reyes National Seashore and started building houses in a transparent attempt to preempt the park.

Steve Kinsey has been a prime mover in the French Ranch Development, a ruinous and septic precedent that will speed development in rural Marin. He voted to reintroduce the trapping and poisoning of coyotes in Marin. Kinsey has presented himself as an "environmentalist" candidate, and the San Francisco Chronicle in its March election coverage accepted that characterization. In fact, Kinsey consistently exaggerates his environmental record. In his re-election mailings Kinsey claimed to have secured $5 million to restore Bolinas Lagoon. In fact, the primary funding for this project was secured by Assemblywoman Mazzoni, Assemblyman Burton, and Congresswoman Woolsey with additional matching funds from the federal government. Kinsey claimed to have "led efforts resulting in a full ban on jet skis in Marin waters." In fact, this effort was led by the Blue Water Coalition, a project of Earth Island Institute, an organization I founded. Kinsey claimed to have "negotiated the single largest land donation in Marin County history." In fact, what kept this land open space was a 1970s zoning law that Kinsey had nothing to do with. The land in question was donated by the developer of French Ranch to avoid taxes and upkeep on acreage that could not be developed.

Among donors to Annette Rose is Bruce Katz, developer of Baywood Canyon, a gated community of million-dollar homes. Baywood, on the outskirts of Fairfax, was once a wild canyon zoned recreational. The swing vote to re-zone this land for private development was Rose, who later received more than $5,000 from Katz in campaign donations. Annette Rose voted to approve the French Ranch Development as well. Rose has accepted thousands from other developers and from construction and real estate PACs.

Annette Rose, like Nation and Kinsey, occasionally casts environmental votes-enough to provide a little green camouflage-but too often has voted with developers or has been missing in action. Despite repeated requests from her constituents, who were concerned with the silting of Richardson Bay in her district, Rose did nothing to stop the developers responsible. The adjacent Belloc Lagoon is now a mud flat at low tide. It was only after the environmental group Bay Keeper filed a lawsuit that any corrective action was taken.

If the environmentalist's mission is to think globally and act locally, then the back-yard endeavors of Steve Kinsey and Annette Rose should give us pause. Days before the March election, Kinsey confessed to having illegally built structures on his property, and to having installed a substandard septic system that polluted groundwater since at least 1993, when it was discovered during a routine property reappraisal. "How can Kinsey sit in ultimate judgment over whether a property owner should be required to get a permit or face abatement, when he knowingly has skirted some of the very county regulations he's been sworn to enforce?" the Independent Journal asked on March 12. "This double standard is so troubling that we are withdrawing our endorsement of Supervisor Kinsey's re-election on Tuesday." Troubling too are the ethics of Annette Rose, who made illegal personal use of her county credit card, and then violated state campaign finance laws by paying the debts back with campaign funds.

In Marin the great issue of the new century will be environment versus development. The citizens of Marin need clarity about where their representatives stand, on opposing sides of this divide. Informing the citizenry in such matters is the sole raison d'etre of LCV. Industry and pro-development politicians grow increasingly skilled at adopting green camouflage. "Eco-pornography," as a colleague of mine once called it, has become a high art. It was to counter this sort of subterfuge that LCV was founded. We need a good house-cleaning, both on the third floor of the Marin County Civic Center and at the Marin LCV. The Marin LCV has not simply been infiltrated by the opposition; it was created by them.
David R. Brower

Farmers Going Under: Rise Up!

Family farmers are facing devastation not seen for decades. Joining with them in their demonstrations and protests not only strengthens the farmers' fight, but advances the construction of a worker-farmer alliance needed to take on the employers and their government.

These demonstrations sweeping across the Midwest and Southeast represent a significant shift in direction towards political action-the only course that can combat the conditions imposed upon tens of thousands of farmers by the ruling capitalist class.

A partial rundown of the conditions working farmers face today highlights the scope of the crisis:

Farm income in the U.S. plummeted 17 percent between 1996 and 1999. Thousands of farmers have been driven to bankruptcy. In this period farmers have seen a 42 percent drop in wheat prices, 39 percent in corn, and 20 percent in soybeans. Wheat and corn are at their lowest prices in 13 years and soybean prices are at a 25-year low.

High-cost insurance protection for crops hardly ever covers total loses.

The worst drought conditions in half a century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Hardest hit states include Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee in the South, and Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska in the Midwest. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama had the driest February since the 1890s. Farmers in Texas have incurred more than $90 million in losses so far this year, solely due to the drought.

"Disaster Relief" packages available to most farmers are like water from an eye dropper. In West Virginia, for example, $40 million in federal grants is available for drought-related losses. Total reported damages: $200 million. A West Virginia farmer is only eligible for a maximum grant of $2,500!

Prices U.S. dairy farmers receive for milk have been driven down by 40 percent since last September! In the Northeast, farmers are paid just over half the cost to produce a hundredweight of milk. While prices paid to hog farmers have risen some from all-time lows, some 14,000 hog farmers were still driven out of business last year!

Fuel prices are at a 20-year high, a major expense for farmers.

As working farmers go through ever-worsening conditions, capitalist politicians are pushing legislation to increase the profit margins of the rich farmers and agribusiness giants! The government just lifted any cap on the yearly subsidy an individual can receive, which is just a massive boon to wealthy farmers and agribusiness.

The root cause of the conditions farmers face, from Memphis, Tennessee to Donegal, Ireland, is the capitalist system. The only road toward ending the pauperization of rural toilers is to build a revolutionary movement of workers and farmers that has the imagination, capacity, courage, and leadership to throw off this system like a worn-out old coat!

We need to create committees of farmers and workers chosen by unions, farm organizations, and consumer groups to police the prices and profits of supermarkets and big business producers. This can help counter attempt to use commodity prices to divide workers and farmers and expose the bosses' practice of paying farmers bargain-basement prices for a product, then inflating the price at the supermarket!
Harrell Schultz
Sebastopol

Harvesting The Grapes Of Wrath

"They stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath."

In this wrath the people have but one choice: obey or be beaten. Obey or suffer malnutrition. Obey or be put in jail. Obey or die. Not many options were left open for farmers in the 1930s. Now, in the dawn of a new millennium, the cries of poor factory workers in Saipan, El Salvador, and Hong Kong are still being silenced. These issues have been left unspoken, behind closed doors, under the carpet. There they continue to infest, breed and thrive. They thrive on the souls of plastic workers, toys, and contraptions, otherwise known as human beings. What could possibly cause this horrendous torture? Who subjects these people to such inhumane conditions?

The Gap shirt you wore yesterday, the Nike shoes you continue to buy, the amusement park you visited last summer. Unfortunate as it may be, these companies are the predators. The lower class workers act as prey. Labor abuse has become a recurring complaint from Gap sweatshops in Saipan and Russia where factory workers are paid 11 cents an hour, cheated out of pay, and kept in slave-like conditions. Over 56 percent of Indonesian Nike apparel/shoe manufacturers have reported slapping from supervisors, verbal abuse, beatings, wage deductions, intimidation, excessive temperatures, and sexual discrimination. Workers have lost fingers as well as hands in machinery due to the poor safety conditions. Walt Disney Company's subcontractors have consistently violated Chinese labor laws by requiring overtime from workers, paying 13-36 cents an hour, working between 11-16 hours a day for 6-7 days a week. These unsanitary, unstable, unhealthy, degrading conditions are no better than that of a slave. It is a shock and disappointment to imagine such ridiculous treatment of factory workers who cannot even speak on the job in fear of termination. It is a critical issue which must be addressed. Without awareness, conditions will only worsen as rich companies become stronger and poor workers become weaker. There is only so much time before this hunger boils to an anger beyond a simple boycott, protest, or even newspaper article. Something must and will be done.

"In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."
Sarah Romanowsky, age 16
San Anselmo

Who Makes The Rules?

Though the phrase "what you don't know can't hurt you" is very comforting, it's not exactly true. When an organization is formed in which trade bureaucrats are able to start writing laws which supposedly benefit "world trade" but really benefit only themselves and the public knows nothing about what's really happening, there is no effort to stop the wrong. With very little dispute the World Trade Organization has been able to form such an organization. What the public doesn't know can and is hurting them.

Many large corporations from the United States as well as Mexico and Canada hold powerful, decision-making positions in the WTO. This is essentially a non-elected, unaccountable corporate-backed "government." They have the ability to change the laws of countries citing these laws as "barriers to trade" which can then be abolished. This gives them the ability to change laws put in place to protect the environment and even public health.

The corporations don't care about the environment. Recently the WTO has declared it illegal to enforce the law that requires shrimp sold in the U.S. to be caught using a device that allows endangered sea turtles to escape unharmed. More locally, citing the law to phase out MTBE in California's gasoline as a barrier to trade, Canadian based Methanex is suing California for $970 million. This chemical has been found in numerous water sources and has been proven to be an environmental hazard and has caused many health problems from nausea to death. Methanex produces the main chemical in MTBE, which is why they are upset about the law.

The WTO has also caused countries who don't enforce labor rights to be at an advantage to those who do. Mexico, for example, says that labor standards such as minimum wage and age limits are a barrier to free trade for those countries who have the advantage of using cheap labor. The WTO has declared it illegal to ban a product because of the way it was produced, or not buy from a company based on its relation with dictatorships. This means companies can use any means they want to make their products, such as child labor and subhuman conditions. The WTO not only says it's okay, but enforces laws which protect such things.

How have these companies gotten away with it? The top companies in the world are creating and overwriting laws so that they benefit themselves and there is no one to monitor or check them. It is time for the world to know what is really going on so that this can be stopped before it goes any further.
Jessica Charrier
Junior at Sir Francis Drake High School
Forest Knolls

Gun vs. Crime Control

A backlash by rational Americans responding to the Clinton-Gore administration's preposterous charges blaming NRA for gun crime has boosted NRA membership to new highs.

Just a year ago NRA had only 2.7 million members. NRA's membership today is at its all-time high of 3.5 million, an astonishing 29.6% increase in just one year, and is projected to reach 4 million by year's end.

Meanwhile, Liar-in-Chief Clinton, saying and doing absolutely nothing about the 400,000 new felonies resulting from his vaunted Brady Act, recently said NRA members are "basically against anything that requires anybody to do anything as a member of society that helps to make it safer."

That's the same NRA that has

* provided thousands of volunteer certified firearms instructors giving gun safety training to millions of Americans

* for many years advocated stronger enforcement of laws against criminals (while Clinton wars against an inanimate object),

* won the National Safety Council's highest public service award for its "Eddie Eagle" youth gun safety program which has already been taught to over seven million children,

* supported with funding and publicity and enabled passage of the first "three strikes" law (which Clinton belatedly supported recently after it had proved successful in several states),

* supported with publicity and funding the first "Project Exile" anti-criminal program in Richmond, Virginia, which a number of other cities have since adopted (and which Clinton, again belatedly, just days ago, said he now supports).

That's the NRA that Liar Clinton says does nothing to make society safer!

* * *

The U.S. Supreme Court in Murdock v. Pennsylvania (319 US 105, 112-155, 1943) explicitly ruled that to impose a license tax upon the exercise of a right guaranteed by the federal Constitution amounts to prior restraint of the right, that it is a flat tax upon the right and is therefore unconstitutional.

In Cooper v. Aaron (358 US 1, 18, 1958) the Court unanimously ruled that a legislator "warring against the Constitution" violated his sworn oath to support and defend it.

Clinton, then Gore and now Feinstein, citing necessity to curb gun crime, propose an unconstitutional license tax on gun ownership.

Those three "scoffoaths"-and the public-should heed and remember these words of William Pitt: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
Fielding Greaves
Former NRA Director
San Rafael

Are We In The New Frontier?

What has Fairfax become, the new frontier? What are we becoming, Davey Crocketts and Daniel Boones, blazing our way across the new horizons with no regard for permits while our trails and forests and even our streets are destroyed?

Shame on all of you! Steve Kinsey has no permits, Camp Tamarancho has no permits, but in the name of the Boy Scouts of America, we can wreck all the beauty because we're doing it for the kids.

Every time we take a walk out in the beautiful area, remember-we created the rules to make it and keep it that way. The minute we start giving out "special favors" and breaking the rules-it ends.

Supervisor Kinsey, what are you going to do about the Bicycle Trails Council's eight miles of excavation without permits?
Ken Rattan
Fairfax

They Are Machines

Open letter to Dondo
Having been raised in the Bay Area, I find the e-mail posted by Donald Smeryl really laughable (mountain bikers have a right to all open-space trails "whether you believe it or not"):
(http://www.cyclery.com/lists/romp/romp-archive-hyper/romp.200004/0029.html).

I honestly thought it was sarcasm or at best, a joke ("the times call for something radical, something that the Mis-management of the Closed Space has never seen before or expected").

I personally think mountain biking is a great sport and good for exercise. I just think that bikers should wake up and realize why there is resistance to the sport. A bike, especially "tricked out," does not naturally co-exist with anything to do with ecology and wilderness issues.

Hello, mountain bike people, they are machines! Just open any magazines that appeal to the sport and almost every ad is geared towards adding suspensions, power gearing and gizmos to destroy tree roots and hit the erosion ruts for comfort and speed to the riders ("The Bay Area has to support a huge audience of action-oriented people"). Why can't I take my Harley Sportster on the trails if we "have the right to all trails?" Is it because mountain bikers pedal their machines?

Mountain biking is about competition. And there is nothing wrong with that. Let's get honest here, shall we? Let's talk about something that really matters-Mountain Bikers are pretending to be Naturalists to be Bad Boys and Bad Girls. And it is just pretension. Look, I'm no tree-hugger or trying to save spotted owls kind of guy at all. But you can't pretend a race down Mt. Tam is a "wooded experience" (to use your words, Dondo). You guys want to use the wilderness experience as if the trails were created for your own enjoyment in a great environment and tell yourselves that you have a right to it. You don't.

That's the problem here. You avoid trees, you don't look at trees. Can you avoid the discomfort when you come off a six-foot jump? (Hope you have that new butt suspension seat working for you). Mountain biking is a business that caters to Guys and Gals who are too damned lazy to stand up and walk or jog.

I don't say it in a bad way. For every problem, there is a solution! Action-oriented people: Get a clue, kids. Get together as a focus group, buy property together where you can ride. Work with the areas that have wilderness space. It can be ever-changing. You can be blocked off and the courses can be changed without your knowledge on every ride (or race).

Nah, you people don't want to do that. You want it free and without any responsibility. If you break your ankle or miss a jump you want us to pay for it. You want that ambulance Johnny-on-the-spot. You want to destroy property I pay for as well as you, but I didn't crash my $5,000. bike into an oak tree. But you pay your taxes, so you have the right to do it? I'd demand a mountain bike fee-$3,000 a year and you'd need a license to destroy the trails. That shouldn't sound bad or be a problem, should it? A way to repair the damage you've done, right?

Dondo Smeryl, get off your butt and go out and walk around in the same area you would normally ride. Push your bike through it, listen to the sounds, look at the trees, calm your spirit.
Ken Rattan
Fairfax
[email protected]

No Vote In DC

I just surfed in to your site. Looks interesting. How about an article about DC Voting Rights? Here in the District of Columbia are a half-million-yes, 500,000-US citizens who have no representation in the US Congress! Just a delegate in the House who can't vote on the floor. That's taxation without representation. George W. Bush is in favor of the status quo; Ralph Nader is in favor of changing things; Al Gore claims to be sympathetic but won't come out and say so publicly. This is a national issue since it involves a) the national capital and b) equal rights for the inhabitants of DC.

It's important that the news media around the nation agitate for a change so that DC citizens can be represented fully in the US Congress.

Please encourage your readers to write their senators and representatives to support DC Voting Rights in Congress.
Richard Steacy
[email protected]

What's The Deal At Camp Tamarancho

Today my husband, Ricardo (Fairfax Police Officer), his 15 year-old daughter, Tyna, his 11 year-old son, Ricky and I had our family pass to Camp Tamarancho revoked by Gordon Rubard, president of the Marin Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The reason given was "your disobedience of our on-site camp manager-Ranger Phil Galbreath. On March 25 he instructed you more than once that you were walking on a trail not yet open for Friends of Tamarancho use. While you gave verbal acceptance of his instructions your actions were to do just the opposite-to ignore his request and walk the trail in spite of his direction. We cannot maintain a program where participants ignore the rules."

I was at Camp Tamarancho on March 25. I never saw Phil Galbreath at any time, nor spoke with him, while I was on a trail. I saw no signs that any trail was closed to the public. That day, no trail on which I walked did not have other people on it, including hikers, bicyclists and even a dog. No one I saw said anything about being on a trail that wasn't open for Friends of Tamarancho use. I saw no signs prohibiting use of any trail nor did I see Ranger Phil Galbreath at any time while I was on a trail.

Earlier that day, I spoke with Ranger Phil who asked for my FOT pass (at the main parking lot near the ranger's office) and told me FOT members should stay out of the central camp when the flag was up. This I did. When I began walking the perimeter fire road, he told me to leave and stay only on the trails. This I did.

My husband and I have always respected the property and no member of our family has "disobeyed" a Boy Scout ranger. No Scout representative interviewed any member of my family regarding this charge prior to the revocation.
Terri Alvillar
Fairfax

Blame It On The Relatives

One item continues to appear in the media, and may well be the catalyst behind Elian's stay in Miami and Elian's finger-pointing video. What's a kid to think when he's told "his mother may show up someday-in this country," and has no way of finding out the real truth. Miami relatives have been laying this trip on Elian from the beginning, and it has surely caused confusion in the boy's mind. Blame it on the relative's lies and deceit.
Ron Lowe
Nevada City, CA

Prayer alert!

There is a case in the U.S. Supreme Court as to whether evangelical Christians have the right to impose their viewpoints and prayers on the student body of a school. The case is brought to court by students and parents who have been strong-armed, ostracized and threatened by these paragons of faith for opposing said indoctrination. In it, we again see, that religious intolerance does not only exist outside of the U.S.
Ron Lowe
Nevada City, CA
[email protected]

Are Cuban Exiles Crazy?

When you see a demonstration in front of the Miami Arena against a concert by Los Van Van, when you read that the U.S. Congress passed legislation to strengthen the embargo against Fidel Castro even though the measure hurts U.S. allies, when you hear that some politicians are asking Congress to grant U.S. citizenship to a boy named Elian Gonzalez even though his father in Cuba is asking for his return...I know what you think: these Cuban exiles are crazy.

Although most people understand why those hard-working, outspoken Cubans came here, many disagree with them at least on the issues that Elian belongs with his father, and that artists shouldn't be harassed.

After all, most American children belong with their parents, and it is not common for American musicians to suffer boycotts from other Americans.

But there are things we see, do, and read that can explain the madness of this tiny group of about 1.5 million human beings living mostly in Miami-Dade, Florida.

When we travel to Argentina, for example, there we can get a taxicab as we do in America. When we travel to Mexico, we can buy a book written by Henry Kissinger, and a different one written by Karl Marx, as we do here. And when you see Bill Clinton, you are seeing a man who has been President for eight years, elected and re-elected by your fellow Americans. A man who still has a lot of sincere backers in spite of the fact that the U.S. Congress unsuccessfully impeached him. These are common events at least in North, Central, and South America, and in Europe, but not in Cuba. There is an element in the Cuban political life which is unknown for most Westerners: totalitarianism.

Somoza, Batista, and Pinochet are only a few, probably the best known Latin American dictators. Right-wing dictators. Violators of most basic human rights. The Somozas, father and son together, stayed in power for less than 16 years in Nicaragua. Batista left Cuba after ruling the island for six years, nine months, and 21 days of his second government. Pinochet ruled Chile for 17 years. Then he called for a referendum, and was defeated.

Neither Somoza, Batista nor Pinochet influenced my life. Another guy did. He won the political power in Cuba when I was exactly the age of Elian Gonzalez, and I am about to be 48 years old. This guy is named Fidel Castro.

Sent to a labor camp when I was 17, a playwright when I was 20, censored for having "ideological problems" when I was 21, and finally fired from the Cuban cultural life when I was 28, I think I can explain the madness of Cuban exiles, and why they can get so many political benefits from the U.S. Congress and Senate.

Totalitarianism is not a slogan. It is the absolute control of your life by the government, in countries where the rulers are the owners of the company you work with, and of the schools your children attend. The owners of the hospital where your doctor checks you out, and of the pharmacy where you buy medication. The owners of the TV newscast you watch in the evening, and of the newspaper you read in the morning. The owners of the theater you would like to visit to enjoy a play by a Cuban, revolutionary writer, produced by the same theater company that will never stage a play by Jean Paul Sartre because Sartre, like me, had "ideological problems." The owners of your life.

As owners of your life, the rulers can incarcerate you when you say something they do not like. And they can order a firing squad to execute you if you do something they do not like.

In the case of Cuba, this kind of life has not taken 16, 17 or 20 years, but 41 years and counting. That is why for so many Cubans, the island is no longer a country but a nightmare.

That is why so many Cubans are trying to keep Elian out of the nightmare, and in a few cases many of them sometimes get together to peacefully protest against Los Van Van. Why? Because they are mad at the fact that Los Van Van, as employees of the Cuban government, accept the nightmare, while Gloria Estefan, Paquito D'Rivera, Celia Cruz, and so many other Cuban artists and writers are prohibited in Cuba by the rulers, by the owners of lives.

If you have survived such a society and left it by plane or in a raft, and you don't need any psychological treatment, of course you can convince the U.S. Congress to pass the Helms-Burton Act, to enact the Cuban Adjustment Act, Radio Marti, and you can also get the U.S. citizenship for Elian even when only Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa have obtained such a privilege before.

But this does not mean they do not understand that children belong with their parents. Jesus Hernandez Cueller
Editor
Contacto Magazine
Burbank, CA

Jet Noise over Point Reyes National Seashore and Burton Wilderness Area

Mr. Andrew Richards
Air Traffic Manager
Federal Aviation Administration
Bay Terminal Radar Approach Control
1029 Grumman Street
Oakland, CA 94621

My family has lived in western Marin County next to the southern edge of Point Reyes National Seashore since 1992. We have a small horse ranch, and my husband and I work at home. During the past two years, and especially the past six months, we have been subjected to an increasing number of low flying jet aircraft. The noise is like thunder at times, and it is very disruptive of the otherwise peaceful parkland and nearby towns of Bolinas and Stinson Beach.

During the period between January 9 and 18, I recorded jet plane flights over our property on a random basis. The dates and times vary, and were not chosen according to any particular plan. I just happened to be home and able to record the events. Note that any jet that flies over our home has also traveled over the PRNS and Burton Wilderness.

The following data indicate how many jets passed over our property:

Jan. 9 1-2 pm 18
Jan. 10 4:20-6pm 6
Jan. 11 10:15pm-1:30am 6
Jan. 12 2-2:30pm 8
4:30-5pm 3
5-7:30pm 15
Jan.15 6:45-7:4am 6
8-8:57am 12
9-9:50am 5
10-10:18am 5
4:20-5:30pm 7
6-7:30pm 2
Jan. 16 12am-2am 4
7-7:15am 2
Jan. 17 7-8:30am 7
8:30-9:40am 4
12pm-3:30pm 12
4-5:49pm 11
5:50-7:00pm 3
9:10-9:16pm 2
Jan.18 6-9am 5
9:27-9:55am 6
11:12-11:14am 2

As you can see, there have been several times when jets have flown low over Point Reyes at five-minute intervals. I assume this was due to "stacking."

My data are random records, and I hope they are useful to you in assessing noise impacts to wildlife and people living near and visiting the park.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.
Anne Sands
Bolinas

Help For Mike Hodges

I have contacted Mike Hodges, the prisoner who wrote in last month about being brutalized at a California State Prison in Tracy. Mike is out of immediate danger, having been moved to a new prison at Vacaville. His allegations against guard Raymond Duran have supposedly been investigated and dismissed by the state inspector general's office. Attorney General Lockyer's office is defending Duran. Mike was born in San Rafael in 1959 and grew up in Mill Valley, Petaluma and Grass Valley. He is a musician who played drums with Country Joe and at his church. He had a prior felony conviction, but had reformed his life and was working as a tow-truck operator when he was arrested.

His son and a friend were caught at school with a tiny amount of pot, and the "friend" narced on Mike. Placer County police showed up the next day without a warrant, forcing themselves in and finding pot. When police found out Mike had a prior they charge-stacked, adding cultivation from a three-year-old stalk the couple was using as decoration, plus an intent to sell charge, each carrying a 3-year sentence. The evidence was never examined in court, and Mike was pressured to take a deal to so that the D.A. would not bring charges against his wife.

Mike asks for legal assistance. He has filed two cases himself: a writ of habeus corpus filed in U.S. Eastern District court on his "illegal conviction," and a civil rights lawsuit on the abuse he suffered in prison. He would be accepting of help from a law student, and sent me a list of law schools that could be contacted (I could use help with that project). If anyone can donate services or funds to help Mike, please contact me or Mike. (I don't need ideas or inspiration so much as the 99% perspiration of actual help.)

Supporters could also write to demand a full investigation from:
Steve White
Office of the Inspector General
801 K St. Suite 1900
Sacramento, CA 95814
Case # S-99-0829 WBS DAD P

Mike is just one of over one million non-violent offenders currently housed in jails and in prisons in this, the land of the free. To find out more visit www.lindesmith.org or www.november.org.
Mike W. Hodges P-19019
PO Box 4000 17-224L
Vacaville, CA 95696-4000
Ellen Komp
Program Associate
The Lindesmith Center-West
A Project of the Open Society Institute
San Francisco
email: [email protected]

Should India Resume Dialogue With Pakistan?

This is the question being asked by a number of people. I believe the question is too simplistic! In all seriousness, one cannot answer it either as yes or no.

Dialogue with Pakistan-for what? Should not this be first spelled out?

If the dialogue is to be about improving the Indo-Pak relations, the answer can be a qualified yes.

But then there is in Pakistan, currently, an illegal government led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has in a coup undone its democratically established government. And he has been the architect of back-stabbing in Kargil while already there was a dialogue with Pakistan at India's initiative. Moreover, until yesterday, it was Mr. Musharraf who had been threatening India with nuclear war if India would not discuss Kashmir and reach a solution according to Pakistanis' wish, which is centered on annexing the Indian state.

If it is about Kashmir, India's dialogue must be about vacating one-third of Kashmir's territory occupied by the invader Pakistan. If on the other hand, the military dictator Musharraf wants to talk only about Kashmir, then the Indian PM should tell him that he rather would talk about Lahore, not too long ago, a predominantly Hindu/Sikh majority city of India's West Punjab.

Why this foolish question of a dialogue with the dictator of Islamic Pakistan, which India has been asking to be declared a terrorist state, just until yesterday? Don't we see how the United States for the last 39 years has dealt with Cuba, simply because it has a dictator who runs the government on Communist policies? And, again, don't we see how the United States undertakes "dialogue" with Iraq's dictator Hussein nine years after President Bush invaded it restore the New World Order? The former is totally shunned and the latter bombarded practically every other day.

I believe it is high time that India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee demonstrated his strength on matters regarding India's national integrity by telling Pakistan frankly what any dialogue with it will be about: returning the PoK, restoring democracy in Pakistan and banishing Islamic fundamentalism. Only then will the Pakistanis know that India means business.
Sondeep Kumar Basak
Fremont, California

Mass Infringements Of Human Rights In Russia

Did you know that the Russian government is permitting terrible infringements of human rights not only in Chechnya, but in the heart of Russia too? It's true and it's happening right now. You can help stop it.

In 1999, in the Russian city of Kaluga, leaflets appeared with information accusing high-ranking Russian officials of stealing large amounts of foreign money. As a result, an enormous scandal spread throughout the city. The authorities, in an attempt to protect the high-ranking officials, have decided to present this incident as a schoolboy's prank.

With this purpose, they brought a criminal case against an innocent 18-year old named Valentin Mikhaylin, for slander. In order to force a confession from Valentin, the authorities placed him into a prison, where he subsequently became very sick.

Even though this "criminal case" does not have any proof that links the innocent Valentin Mikhaylin to the manufacturing and distribution of these leaflets, and despite the fact that it is well known he has an alibi, the criminal case has still been directed to a court. There, it is believed that the corrupt authorities will try to force a judge of the Kaluga city court to convict Valentin and serve him with highest and most severe sentence possible.

This case proves that there are mass infringements of human rights in Russia. Please, on behalf of Valentin and all other unjustly persecuted people in Russia, let your voice be heard and tell the world that Valentin is innocent!

There are ways you can help! The name of a judge is Mr. Taratuta. We kindly ask you to make your views known.

The address of the court is:
Kaluga Regional court
Kutuzova Street, 4
248600 Kaluga
Russia

If you need any additional information, please contact Valentin Mikhaylin directly. His e-mail address is: [email protected]
Gary Doer
Strasbourg, France

Mountain Bikers Harm Wildlife

This topic is very important to the future of recreation. We need to honestly consider it and open our minds to the possibility that we are harming wildlife, just as logging or sprawl is harming wildlife. There is substantial evidence that recreation does harm wildlife. Not in every case, not everywhere, not every species. Obviously pigeons, raccoons and deer are well adapted to human beings. But other species do not adapt and have been seriously harmed by a variety of factors, including recreation. One study of the list of endangered species in North America found that recreation was second only to water projects as a cause of species decline. (I have not seen this study and do not know about its credibility.)

For a thorough review of the topic, see the book Wildlife and Recreationists, Richard L. Knight and Kevin J. Gutzwiller, ed., Island Press, 1995. This book has a subtitle, Coexistence through Management and Research. That's extremely relevant to Chuck Ramsey's question: How do we recreate and enjoy observing wildlife while not harming them? We do not have clear answers at this time. This science is young.

I personally believe that science will increasingly demonstrate recreation impacts on wildlife. Sometimes, it will indicate that we need to stay out of certain places; or that we need to reduce our numbers in certain places, such as prime grizzly habitat; or that we need to avoid certain places at certain times, like elk calving areas for one month in the spring. However, it's also likely that we can coexist, provided we have better knowledge, smart management, and a sense of responsibility to the creatures with whom we share this planet.

Almost no science has been performed that compares wildlife impacts among user groups. This is a key point that IMBA is frequently raising. If a land manager proposes to close a trail to cyclists on the basis of our impacts to wildlife, then that land manager probably should close the trail to all users. Discussions of comparisons are largely hypothetical; ideas are not supported by empirical study.

I have not yet seen the grizzly bear study that allegedly justifies the closure of the Bryant Creek Trail to cyclists. The allegation there is that we cover more ground and invade habitat to a higher degree. I'll be interested to see whether or not that study compares the distance impact with the duration impact. If hikers are in the habitat for longer periods of time, they may be causing comparable or greater impacts than cyclists. If so, why ban cyclists and not hikers?

Also needed and missing is comparison of the impacts on wildlife of recreation versus other land uses, such as highways. In the White River National Forest, Interstate-70 has a huge impact on wildlife. So do other major highways and increasing sprawl. These impacts could be orders of magnitude greater than recreation impacts, but we don't really know. IMBA supports research that investigates these issues. We are promoting the formation of a science committee that could discuss, promote, monitor and evaluate such research.

I tend to speak about the seriousness of the impacts when I speak to recreationists. When I speak with conservation activists, I ask them to have perspective on this. I ask them to compare the impacts of recreation to highways and sprawl. Conservation activists also need to keep in mind that recreation is the foundation of the conservation movement. John Muir was an ardent hiker. People need to get out in the woods if they are to feel passionate about preserving Nature. For more info, see:
www.greatoutdoors.com/local/partners/imba/infoaction/library/cu_rec.html
Gary Lowell Sprung
Communications Director
International Mountain Bicycling Assn.
Crested Butte, CO
[email protected]

Prayer In Congress Equals Prayer In School

Here we go again on the prayer issue. While realizing that this will be pretty obnoxious to many of your readers nevertheless the recent appointment of a U.S. House Chaplain should be a challenge to all Americans who want no role of organized religion in our public domain. The Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin, recently selected to provide prayers for the House, hopefully bears no relationship to the infamous Father Coughlin of the Church of the Little Flower of Detroit (was it?), Michigan. Now once in for all Americans must come to grips with this issue. If a daily prayer is suitable and mandated in the U.S. House of Representatives, the United States Senate and before the opening of the Supreme Court, prayer must be permitted and encouraged before the opening of every day in our public schools. Less than this and we are demonstrating our hypocrisy. Prayer would be so much more important for the young developing minds than the political hacks of the Congress and wise persons of the court. Won't someone take up the battle for equal rights for children?

My advice would be to have a deliberate prayer at all public school graduations if only to read what is on a "penny" "In God we trust". If everyone took this coin out of their pocket and read it out loud three to five times I think the point would be made and the gauntlet thrown down. Just do it.
Dr. Norman E. Mann
San Diego

Examiner Employees Have Right To Decent Wages

I'm sure that everyone knows by now that the Examiner was bought by owners of the San Francisco Independent. Ted Fang, owner and publisher of the free three-day weekly paper made a comment, according to Chronicle staff writers, that he has no intention of offering union contracts. I hope Mayor Willie Brown, the Board of Supervisors and the community will be just as adamant about keeping the San Francisco Examiner a union newspaper as they were about keeping San Francisco a two newspaper town. With the cost of living like it is in the Bay Area, everyone deserves the right to a decent income, and that is the Union way!
Bruce Carlton
Mill Valley

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