Letters for September 29, 2011

‘Dirty Business’ economics

Re “Dirty Business” (Cover feature, by Howard Hardee, Sept. 22):

If only one person was arrested in the raid on the marijuana operation off Highway 70 in Plumas National Forest, how exactly does Deputy Doug Patterson conclude the grow was engineered by Mexican “cartels”?

Most large agricultural operations hire undocumented folks. If we were to bust in on a conventional peach harvest, we’d likely find a similar dark-skinned cast of characters doing the dirty work and shouldering the various occupational hazards that go along.

The black (or, as some say, gray) market for marijuana keeps the truth about growers, their employment practices, and their product’s destination in obscurity.

Another illogical and self-serving conclusion of Patterson’s is his projection about how ending marijuana prohibition would increase the difficulty of his job. Legalization won’t make Patterson’s work harder—though it may render his department’s services suddenly out of demand. Ending prohibition takes the profit motive out of the black market—that’s why hikers in California bear no risk of stumbling upon moonshine operations.

Monica Bell

I’m curious where Deputy Patterson studied economics. His reasoning that lessening the penalties for marijuana would encourage illicit cartel grows on public land is completely misguided.

First, decriminalizing marijuana takes penalties away only from the user, not the grower or supplier. This means that there is just as much of a negative incentive facing these growers.

Taxing and regulating marijuana would lessen the penalties for producing marijuana, but that would surely mean that there would be far fewer of these grow sites. After all, the only reason to hide these sites deep in the wilderness is to avoid detection and arrest. You don’t see illicit vineyards on public land, because vintners don’t face severe criminal sanctions for growing out in the open.

Morgan Fox
Washington, D.C.

Speaking as a retired detective, I know that the use of marijuana causes almost zero calls for service for my profession. It should be the very last thing on our “to-do” list.

Even if my colleague Deputy Patterson is right and the cartels still grow it after legalization in remote areas of the county, at least he and his team would not waste months cutting down thousands of plants. With the extra time he would be able to arrest all the pedophiles in the Internet chat rooms; something he and his team neglect as they chase a green plant.

Howard Wooldridge
Springville, Calif.

Burned by pot grower

Re “It’s a love/hate thing” (Cover package, Sept. 22):

A pot-growing renter just stiffed me. He left my rental in shambles. Even painting the entire inside and cleaning the house and carpet with deodorant did not entirely remove the distinctive moldy smell. The security deposit did not cover one-third of the cleanup cost.

My first clue about his nefarious operation was when the neighbors complained of the awful scent. When I asked him if he was growing marijuana, he denied it, pointing the finger toward the neighbors to the east. This was probably also true, but was just the beginning of a smokescreen of lies. Was the whole neighborhood going to pot?

As a person who has painful rheumatoid arthritis, and has seen the limitations of traditional pain relievers, I was sympathetic to users (not abusers) of marijuana. No more! Advocates for unlimited neighborhood growth of pot do not admit (or care) about the damage caused. Their legacy will necessitate new leases and laws. Once burned, twice learned.

Dick Cory

Saving Bidwell Mansion

Re “History in jeopardy” (Newlines, by Tyler Ash, Sept. 22):

We need a citywide fundraising campaign to preserve access to this local treasure. I implore the Bidwell Mansion Association to ask the public exactly what is needed in terms of financing to keep Bidwell Mansion open. As a community we can all work together to make this happen!

Hope Munro Smith

Crime and punishment

Re “Family of comatose teen calls for investigation” (Newslines, by Tom Gascoyne, Sept. 22):

Of course, this is no way for two adults to act. But, then again, the “boy” was with two adults. In some countries, those “men” who decided stealing a couple of bikes would be so cool would have their hands lopped off—and rightfully so.

Having something taken from you, no matter how small, tears you down and makes you question many things. Vigilante justice is all we seem to have these days, even in Chico, where the police officers are more concerned about citing skateboarders, kids smoking, and people talking on their cellphones.

If I had to guess, the police would have done nothing about the theft of those bikes. Maybe in this country we should seek out more for thieving. Maybe then these boys would have thought twice about taking something that wasn’t theirs.

Kerry Peck

If those grown men indeed hunted down those boys and proceeded to take matters into their own hands (or in this case truck), shame on them for the premeditated attempted murder of a local youth. People in America are not sentenced to death for stealing.

Christina Harrison

Neighbors weigh in

Re “Terrorist threats in Chico” (Letters, by Jerry Harris, Sept. 22):

I am a neighbor in the senior complex where Mr. Harris lives. He plays his music loud all the time, stomps around his apartment at all hours of the night and day, and has had numerous complaints made to management [by his neighbors].

Mr. Harris has the right to live without terrorist threats, as do the other residents in this building. Presently, we have been instructed to stay off the second floor, if we do not live there, to avoid a confrontation with Mr. Harris. I have friends on the second floor I cannot visit because of this man.

I wish Mr. Harris would leave us other seniors alone … or just leave, period.

John Lucas

I am also a neighbor in Mr. Harris’ building, and I heard the majority of this interaction. It started with Mr. Harris playing his music so loudly that it was impossible to hear a TV set or have a conversation near his apartment. The interaction he described was the other neighbor asking him to please turn down his music. The neighbor then went back to his apartment.

It has nothing to do with race, Jerry. It has to do with a bad attitude. Get a grip, man. Can’t we all just get along?

Lyn Ellis

‘All taste is personal’

Re “Sunny on the north side” (Chow, by Ken Smith, Sept. 15):

I had to laugh out loud at Ken Smith’s restaurant review about Sol Mexican Grill. Not because I disagreed with his assessment—I too have found the food there to be quite tasty and reasonably priced.

But what was funny was his smug condescension in comparing Chico’s Mexican cuisine to that of San Diego, which he termed “America’s Finest City.” Having been born in Mexico, and spent lots of time in San Diego, I can assure Ken that even San Diego has no match for my mom’s tacos.

The point is that all taste is personal, and contrasting Chico’s eateries to San Diego’s contributes nothing, but is annoying.

Barry Johnson

Fire and steel

Friday [Sept. 23] I attended the architects’ and engineers’ scientific presentation of the explosive-demolition theory regarding the astonishing collapses of three World Trade Center skyscrapers on 9/11. The auditorium was full, and the theory was proven valid scientifically.

This theory was born during the collapse; people closest to the scene candidly stated they heard, saw and felt explosions. This testimony was confirmed by video evidence of explosions. These facts have not changed since 9/11.

On Feb. 13, 1975, the north tower suffered a serious fire, burning out 65 percent of the 11th floor. “It was like fighting a blow torch,” reported Capt. Harold Kull of Engine Co. 6. Flames could be seen pouring out of 11th-floor windows on the east side of the building.

After this three-plus-hour fire, the floors were refurbished. None of the trusses supporting the floors needed to be replaced.

After 50 minutes of fire on 9/11, towers 1, 2 and 7 were matching piles of rubble. Weeks later, these three steaming piles were still at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a NASA thermal-imaging satellite.

How could fire cause complete destruction of 267 floors in less than 30 seconds?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology was told to “determine how fire caused the collapse.” Evidence of explosives and 12,000 pages of firefighter testimony containing hundreds of accounts of explosions and molten metal were excluded from their “scientific” analysis. Lacking this explosive data, NIST is befuddled: How does fire melt away hardened steel like ice in the sun?

Will future physics books have an asterisk alongside conservation of energy, gravity and the commonly known melting points for steel stating: (*consistent except in the case of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11)?

David Kiefer

Pipeline protests, plaudits

Re “My duty to protect this land” (Guest comment, by Steven R. Breedlove, Sept. 22):

How can 1000 people be arrested at a White House demonstration against the Keystone XL Pipeline and we hear nothing about it on the news?

This pipeline is a bad idea: It proposes mining the “dirtiest oil on the planet.” Producing it creates between 13 and 19 percent more carbon emissions and greenhouse gases than any other form of oil production.

They want to pipe this corrosive product in pipelines that are not designed for that use across the most important aquifer in the United States. The Ogallala Aquifer provides drinking water for millions and one-third of our nation’s irrigation needs. The smaller Keystone pipeline has had 14 leaks in its first year of operation—think Yellowstone River.

The Royal Society of Canada reports that the greenhouse gasses from this tar-sands production “pose a major and growing threat to Canada’s ability to meet GHG emission reduction targets.”

The supposed job increases may actually result in net job losses, according to the Cornell Global Labor Report, and even those few jobs created in the United States will likely be offset by losses in Canada.

The majority of this tar-sands oil is obtained by strip mining in Canada’s pristine and fragile boreal forests. A large part of an area the size of Florida has already been leased for production.

Rational people realize that the earth cannot sustain our dependence on carbon-based fuels for much longer. Do we want to continue this addiction for our lifetimes, or perhaps turn a page for our children?

Rich Meyers

Well, Nobel Prize-winner President Obama has had ample opportunity to be an opponent of the Keystone pipeline, but has been strangely neutral. He’s the one person in the world who could stop the pipeline, but he’s not going to.

If he had any intention of stopping the Keystone pipeline, he would have declared a moratorium of some kind, like with off-shore oil drilling, or ordered the EPA to re-evaluate the favorable EIS that it released back in August. The truth is that after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Harper in February, President Obama has already decided to approve the pipeline’s completion. Expect him to say so even before the Nov. 1 deadline.

Finally, it would appear that President Obama is placing the good that will be done from the taxes raised by the sale of the oil, and jobs generated by the pipeline itself, on par with his own well-intentioned but often misguided devotion to green energy. Good for him!

Tom Neary

Town on the go

Thank you, Chico News & Review! The buzz you created with your last three issues was felt far and wide.

There have been and continue to be wonderful public and fundraising events. Right now, Chico is an amazing, exciting if not an exhausting place to be—it’s a “do just about anything” kind of town.

From the Butcher Shop, the Mudder Run and the Chico Palio race to the Annie B’s rally at City Plaza (where we could all support each other’s efforts) and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, it just wasn’t humanly possible do everything, and there were some hard choices to make. I sure hope the Bidwell Park and Creek Cleanup was a success, as was “Puppets to Infinity” at the Pageant Theatre.

It was possible to get to the dinner at the Nature Center fundraiser and wrap it up on Sunday (with my kids and my neighbor’s kids in tow) at the World Music Festival, where there was free and low-cost activities for everyone—from crafts to face painting—and we danced to some the best live Nigerian music I’ve ever heard.

There are many mover and shakers in this town who deserve a mention by name, all doing their part to entertain us, save what natural resources remain, clean up our parks and streams, educate our children, and help us achieve a shared conscience or, rather, a group think of far-reaching imagination. Let’s hold this place.

Its tremendous work—connecting us familiar faces to new faces and to our wonderful North State. In particular thanks to our own Chico people and all of our gifts that keep on giving. The CN&R achieved it.

Liz Gardner

Revenge of the Bubble People

Comedian Bill Maher recently lamented that the average Republican voter is surrounded by a membrane of super-hardened bovine excrement so tough that “only Fox News can penetrate it and only misspelled signs and babies can get out.”

As an illustration of this, he did a skit where he presented an average Republican voter with irrefutable facts like: 1) Taxes are actually at their lowest level in 50 years; 2) taxes are lower with Obama than Bush; 3) most of the current deficit is due to Bush policies; 4) Reagan actually raised taxes 11 times and tripled the debt; 5) the Affordable Care Act is not a government takeover of health care but rather a mandate for citizens to buy private insurance.

Unfortunately the voter was in a plastic bubble with Muzak piped in and heard none of it.

This letter is not directed at the average Republican voter. It is unlikely that he or she will read these words. Those of us who voted for Obama and are disappointed that he turned out to be a moderate Republican should remember that he campaigned on a moderate platform of compromise and has kept true to that course.

Even the least extreme of the opposition candidates believe in a fearsome agenda for our country that (1) would cut the Medicare and Social Security we have paid for all our lives; 2) eliminate the modest improvements made to our health-insurance law; 3) further concentrate the wealth with the top 1 percent of our citizens; and 4) choose an even more right-wing judiciary that would bring us more decisions like Citizens United, which opened up the flood gates of political influence peddling.

Let’s not let the bubble people elect another benighted crackpot to the presidency. Voting matters.

Craig Vivas
Mt. Shasta City

Pot pros and cons

Re “It’s a love/hate thing” (Cover package, Sept. 22):

Sadly, CN&R’s “pot issue” reflects our community’s collective nearsightedness with regard to this critical topic. It is deeply troubling that the ongoing debate about medical marijuana, dispensaries and the like continues to completely eclipse a national human-rights crisis that many are calling “the new Jim Crow.”

While a good number of patients benefit from our state’s massive marijuana industry, some simple arithmetic confirms that the majority of California-grown pot hits the streets—both in and out of state. Let’s be honest. Many Chicoans and seasonal workers, the vast majority of them white, profit from this illegal market. The medical-marijuana system, with its nebulous legal framework, provides cover for many of them.

People in Chico are reluctant to talk about the full picture of the suffering that keeps this industry profitable. Despite statistics that consistently show drug use and sales are equal across racial and socio-economic lines, the blood-and-guts trenches of the drug war have almost always been in poor communities of color. With all due respect and compassion for the whites who also suffer, we need to recognize and deal with the fact that communities of color across the United States have been utterly decimated by the war on drugs.

Right to grow? Fine. Right to use? Sure. Right to profit? Not when such profit is bound up with grossly disproportionate arrests, incarceration and felonization of people of color.

Before you opt to grow or trim weed that may well end up on the street, ask yourself if you really want to work the supply side of a brutal and racist drug war—a drug war that deliberately targets people who are all too conveniently distant, geographically and psychologically, from Chico profiteers.

Chris Moore-Backman

There is a big difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting children from drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of marijuana and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What’s really needed is a regulated market with age controls. The United States has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available to adults 18 and older.

As is the case with alcohol, age controls can only go so far. Far more important is the separation of hard- and soft-drug markets. As long as organized crime controls marijuana distribution, consumers will continue to come into contact with sellers of hard drugs like cocaine, meth and heroin. This “gateway” is a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

Marijuana may be relatively harmless, but marijuana prohibition is deadly.

Robert Sharpe, MPA
Common Sense for Drug Policy
Washington, D.C.

In the past I was not especially pro or con legalizing marijuana, but I do find the ongoing “war on drugs” that seems to be waged primarily on small local marijuana growers in the hills a waste of our limited resources.

Perhaps if marijuana was legal the police (local and federal) could focus on the real problems, such as violence, gangs, meth, heroin, crack, ecstasy and of course cartel marijuana grows.

After reading this year’s almost daily newspaper-reported marijuana issues, I would vote to legalize (with special considerations in neighborhoods and around schools where it could affect others). It is time to move on.

Diane Pillsbury

Legalize it!

Re “Dirty business” (Cover feature, by Howard Hardee, Sept. 22):

While I applaud the efforts of Det. Doug Patterson and his colleagues in their efforts to rid our public lands of the horrible cartel growers, cannabis still needs to be legalized. We have to stop locking people up and ruining their lives over a plant that is safer to consume than beer, cigarettes or Tylenol.

Patterson is conveniently not thinking through the issue of legalization. When marijuana prohibition finally ends in California, we can simply outlaw gardens on public lands. Patterson and his crew would still be hard at work “weeding out” the cartel grows.

At the same time, the rest of us would enjoy the same freedom that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington enjoyed and took advantage of—the legal right to grow and use hemp. The more legal, above-board growers we have supplying the market, the less demand there will be for cartel-grown cannabis. Eventually Patterson and his colleagues will be able to focus their efforts on such things as meth labs, cocaine traffickers, rapists, murderers and thieves.

How refreshing it would be to see law enforcement actually working or real crime, rather than focusing on what people are smoking or eating. It always amazes me how stupid an otherwise intelligent public official can get when confronted with the issue of marijuana. It’s like their brains shut off and no amount of logic or reasoning can turn them back on.

Kenneth Williams
Yuba City


In our story last week about the June 2010 police raids on local medical-cannabis dispensaries, “Where are they now?” the cause of Trevor McBride’s death was incorrectly identified. He died from spinal meningitis. Our apologies for the error.—ed.