Friday, November 20, 2009

Liberal and Conservative Books

The tally at Mount Shasta's Village Book's is two sales for Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue," and one for Al Gore's "Our Choice."  Come on book lovers, isn't Mount Shasta supposed to be a blue community? 
--The one for Al Gore was me.  I may write a little on it later. 

Global Warming Stalled

Here is a good simple article on recent climate.  Global warming has been stalled for the last nine years.  This is admitted by most scientists in the field.  The most likely causes are the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and a minimal period of sunspot activity.  When these non-anthropogenic cycles start to reverse, warming will be accellerated and the impact of anthropogenic causes will be more evident, according to the scientists he interviews.  The author is a journalist.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Checking on Medical Marijuana

Redding police are getting organized to check the records of marijuana dispensaries, after the city council passed an ordinance this week.  Record-Searchlight
Why don't we have an ordinance like that here in Mount Shasta?  Fifty year old Ronald Lynn Henderson here was caught last week selling marijuana to two teenage girls near the high school.  Is he a medical marijuana user?  We don't know.  Was he getting medical marijuana and reselling it?  We don't know. I was trying to thing where I might have seen Henderson before, and he looks somewhat like I guy who was collecting signatures for the medical marijuana initiative a few years back.  Lieutenant Tazzari of the MSPD didn't even know about the case when I inquired.  The bust took place just outside of the city limits, in county jurisdiction, but you would think there would be more coordination between the sheriff and the local police.  This case should be prosecuted.  I know from personal experience that students on marijuana put out a very minimal effort to get by in school or at work.  I hope we are not so jaded that we condone selling it to minor girls.  The flaws in the water initiative (see previous post) might be due to the fact that the principal author of it is also one of the main advocates for full legalization of marijuana.

Update:  Yreka has banned marijuana dispensaries.  here  This means the Mount Shasta dispensaries are likely to get more business.  This will increase the need for oversight. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Water Initiative

Some of my friends are circulating a local initiative petition to ban cloud seeding in the city of Mount Shasta, as well as banning commercial water bottling.  After reading all 13 pages of the proposed ordinance (here), I believe that it is, unfortunately, very poorly conceived. 

Inalienable Right to Water?

Section 2.1.1, by declaring that residents have an inalienable right to use and consume water, would appear to prevent the city from shutting off anyone's water for non-payment.  Water is, unfortunately, a commodity.  In much of the world, people can't get as much of it as they would like.  The city has a property right to its water supply, thanks to the foresight of the city fathers.  Residents have a right to use this water that is conditional on paying their hookup fees and monthly bills.   Do the many millions of Southern Californians have an inalienable right to water?  If so, that implies that they have an inalienable right to take water from from Northern California, since they don't have enough of their own. 

Cloud Seeding
Section, prohibiting cloud seeding or weather modification in Mount Shasta, addresses a nonexistent problem.  Nobody would pay to do cloud seeding here, because nobody has a vested interest in increasing rainfall within the city.  We have no agriculture.  There is a very small hydro operation at Lake Siskiyou, which probably couldn't afford a cloud seeding operation.  And most of the water in the Lake comes from the Sacramento inlet, well to the west of town on national forest property.  The existing bottling plant knows well that rumors of silver iodide use would be very bad for their business, so they wouldn't want cloud seeding even if they needed to increase their flow.  
And the ordinance would not do anything about the cloud seeding that is proposed or ongoing in the McCloud and Pit River watersheds by PG&E. 

Biological Impacts of Cloud Seeding

One study on  the health impacts of cloud seeding indicates that the average person gets more exposure to silver from tooth fillings than from silver iodide, and more iodine from the iodized salt that most of us consume.  (wikipedia)   A publication here indicates that silver concentrations in Sierra Nevada areas where there has been a lot of cloud seeding are about 100 parts per trillion, as opposed to a US Public Health Service maximum of 50 parts per billion. This, admittedly is from an overview published by the industry    This  study analyzed toxic impacts of another silver compound at concentrations of 10 to 30,000 parts per billion, in contrast to the parts per trillion residues found as a result of cloud seeding.  (sorry, abstract only)   The most thorough study I can find on aluminum toxicity is here, from a United Nations group.  Unfortunately, it does study this specific compound.  The toxic impacts are generally from ionic silver, and I am not enough of a chemistry student to predict the breakdown of silver iodide.  If I have any readers (dream on) who are chemistry nerds, please comment.  BC Guidlines  Here is another good reference.  And another -- Nat Biological Service   The main reference cited by Wikipedia, showing no accumulation of silver above background levels resulting from cloud seeding, is a 256 page book by Donald A. Klein, which is not on the net and probably not available locally.  Silver iodide has a relatively low mammalian toxicity.  The toxicity for microorganisms and marine life is much higher, but I can't find any real world evidence that cloud seeding has ever increased silver iodide concentrations to anywhere near the toxic threshhold. 

Water Bottling (Export) Prohibition

Section and prohibit commercial water bottling operations in the city.  This is one provision that I could support.  The city water supply is likely to get smaller in future years, because climate warming in California is generally correllated with drought.  The existing Coca-cola (formerly Dannon) water bottling plant is outside the city limits.  At one time, the city was considering selling water to this plant, but they couldn't agree on a price. 


Various parts of section 2.2 attempt to override state and federal law regarding the rights of incorporated businesses.  Section specifically asserts that state laws to the contrary are null in Mount Shasta.  I don't think we pay our police force enough to get them to be a militia protecting our independence from the state.  This is sort of a left wing sagebrush rebellion.  I would be worried if the people promoting this initiative were gun nuts, but fortunately, most of them are peace/love types.   Actually, I couldn't sign the petition if I wanted to, because I have a two bit volunteer job with the city which requires me to swear to defend the constitution of the state of California. 

City Required to Sue

Section requires the city to sue if city residents are found to have contaminants such as silver iodide in their bodies.  This would open up a huge can of worms.  When I first heard about the initiative, I thought it referred to the city water supply, which can easily be tested.  But silver iodide in someone's body could come from anywhere.  I personally know someone local who has taken silver products internally as an alternative therapy for a medical problem.  And the references indicate that silver exposure is much more likely to come from industrial sources than from cloud seeding. 

No Growth . . . Period?

Section 2.4, on the rights of natural communities and ecosystems, provides fertile grounds for anyone to sue anyone who proposes to build anything in Mount Shasta.  Existing CEQA law already requires government permitting agencies to carefully consider any adverse effects to the environment, and to carefully balance human needs against potential adverse impacts.  But this ordinance would automatically prohibit any development which had any adverse impact on wetlands, streams, aquifers and other natural communities and ecosystems.  If enforcable and enforced, it would surely shut down Sousa's quarrying operation at the north end of town.  This business is admittedly an irreversible alteration of the landscape, and a huge eyesore where it can be seen.  But it has been grandfathered in for many years, and the building products it and similar quarries produce are essential to our civilization.

Initiatives are required to be limited to a single topic.  I count five different subjects in this one.  However, the courts have generally been pretty liberal in interpreting this rule. 

So, for my two cents worth, don't sign the petition.  It could have serious unintended consequences in several respects.  We have a lot of real problems to address without this diversion

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Our Afghanistan Dilemma

This piece by Stephen Walt in "Foreign Policy" makes more sense to me than most of what is being written about Afghanistan.  Damned if you Do, Damned if you don't

(last paragraph)
With respect to Afghanistan: it is either a worth a prolonged and costly investment of lives and money or it isn't. Either we go all in -- which in my view is still a very bad idea -- or we should get out. Trying to split the difference on this issue is not leadership; in fact, it is a recipe for failure

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Murder on the Klamath--Mistrial

Judge Rufus Yent declared a mistrial Thursday morning in the Greg Nelson trial.  The final poll was six to six on the kidnapping count, and seven to five for conviction on the murder count.  Unfortunately, I missed the drama of the moment.  I was working on my garden patch, and found one last onion. 

But I did get to the courthouse at 3:30.  Court was in session from 4:00 to 4:30.  The prosecution now has moved to try Greg Nelson and Suzanne Little together, with jury selection beginning Jan. 11.  Neither defense lawyer seemed to have any serious objections, but they will have until the 19th to reply.  The judge postponed action on the motion of John Forsyth, representing Little, for a change of venue.  It looks like both teams are proceeding on the assumption that the trial will be in Yreka, but we will see. 

A joint trial would be a logistical problem because the small courtroom would have to hold two separate juries, each with four alternates.  There will probably be occasions when one jury would be escorted out of the room because defendants may have conflicting interests. 

Judge Yent indicated that Little would probably be released on own recognizance in exchange for a waiver of right to prompt trial, provided that she stay away from Hoopa.  Forsyth said she would be in San Francisco.  Both defendants were present, in prison orange instead of street clothes.  Court was recessed after the discussion of scheduling.  Other than a few comments, Forsyth had little opportunity to demonstrate his skill.  Prosecution witness Sylvia Jenkins claimed that they robbed the Ray's Sentry supermarket to get money to pay him.  (Not that she is a very credible witness, but that was the rumor in Hoopa.)
I was surprised that murder got more votes for conviction than kidnapping.  The corroboration of the murder confession rested almost entirely with Steve Marshall.  To believe his story, you have to believe that after he told his mother he saw Greg, Suzanne and Joyce, and was told to keep quiet and stay close, then a few weeks later they dropped him off at the home of the suspected kidnappers for babysitting.  What parent would do that?  The kidnapping confession, on the other hand, seems to be corroborated by his sister's testimony, and a couple of others who said they saw the child.  Plus, the kidnapping confession took place during the "good cop" part of the interrogation, and seems more spontaneous.  But, I'm not entitled to second guess the jurors.  They got intimately familiar with all the evidence.  I heard a little bit directly, and the rest second hand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Serious Drought in our Future?

Here is an interesting report on past climates in California.  In some areas, climate warming equals warmer and wetter, but it looks like the impacts in California would be warmer and much drier. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This is from an anonymous poster on the Eureka Times-Standard forum:
The jury sent out a note this afternoon saying that they are at an impasse. The judge brought the jury into court and the foreman said that the vote is 7 to 5 on both charges, with 7 for not guilty on both charges. The judge sent the jury home. The courts are closed tomorrow. [Veterans' Day] The judge told the jury to come back on Thursday morning to give another try at deliberating. The judge told the jury that if they still cannot agree on verdicts on Thursday, then he will release the jury and declare a mistrial.
Earlier, I had called the courthouse and the clerk said only that they had come in to ask some questions of the judge, and would resume deliberations shortly.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nelson's Sentence, If Found Guilty

As of Monday morning there is still no verdict.  Daily News 

If found guilty does the court or the jury have much sentencing discretion?  According to the current criminal code, it looks like the only possible sentence on either count is life without parole.  Section 209a  of the Calif. Penal Code prescribes life without parole in any kidnapping case in which the victim is held and detained or held for ransom if the kidnapping results in death of the victim.  kidnapping code   This would be true even if the jury does not necessarily believe Bill Cooks testimony that he did get a ransom note, which was subsequently lost.  However, if the Penal Code in 1976 prescribed or allowed a lesser sentence, that code would apply.  I'm not a lawyer and that would be beyond my couch potato research ability. 

On the murder count, if the jury convicts and finds special circumstances, the only possible sentences are life without parole and death, but the prosecution has said it will not seek the death penalty.  Section 190.2 of the Cal. Penal Code defines most of the special circumstances.  special circumstances (scroll down)  The one that would certainly apply to this case is number 10.  The victim was killed to keep him from talking.  Also, number 1, that the victim was killed for financial gain, would apply if the jury believes that they were trying to get money from the Cook family.   Again, if the law was different in 1976, the penalty could be different. 

Would Nelson actually stay in prison until he is taken out feet first?  Since the law giving the court the option of death or life without parole was enacted, I don't think anyone has been released.  Governor Gray Davis didn't even release anyone with a 25 to life sentence, for fear of being attacked as a liberal wuss.  However, I wouldn't count on it.  The state is under a court order to reduce the prison inmate population and one report recommends that people who have served 20 years and are over 60 years old be considered for release even if their crime was murder (but not sex predators).  I'm not optimistic about the California economy, and it is likely that the prison problems we have now will be as bad or worse in 20 years. 
Another possibility is that the court will offer Nelson a post-conviction deal to testify against Suzanne Aubrey and any other possible defendants.  This would make sense for the prosecution, because their case against Aubrey is not as strong.

Friday, November 6, 2009

No Verdict Yet

Jurors in the trial of Greg Nelson for the 33 year old murder and kidnapping of Willie Cook in Happy Camp are apparently still deliberating as of noon Friday.  Three and one half days of deliberation could mean the jurors are just being conscientious, or it could mean there are some who have serious doubts about the validity of Nelson's confession.  A hung jury would be extremely difficult to retry.  Of the three living officers from the 1976 investigation, only Jack Partlow is still with it enough to testify convincingly.  And his testimony did not strongly support either side. 
I just recently noticed that prosecutor Christine Chenevert used to be a salaried deputy DA, but is now in private practice, and was retained at a fee not to exceed $95,000 for this trial.  If there is not a conviction, people will be asking serious questions about why DA Kirk Andrus couldn't try this case himself.  Codefendant Suzanne Little will be represented by John Forsythe, a reknowned bay area attorney who, I believe, has appeared on Greta Vansusteren's show.   A conviction in that case will be much more difficult, since there is no confession.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Biomass in Siskiyou County

Here is an article by Felice Pace on the limitations of biomass harvesting in Siskiyou County.   here

Much of it I agree with.  But, there are a couple of old environmentalist talking points that shouldn't go unchallenged. 
Removing too much forest canopy opens the forest to sunlight and reduces competition for moisture. This encourages brush sprouting and tree seedling survival. If the canopy is reduced below 60%, the result will be much greater fire risk 8 to 10 years down the pike. Unfortunately, the Forest Service – and Mr. Alexander’s group - usually insist on reducing canopy to 40% or less and calling this “fire risk reduction” In reality these practices create more fire risk over time.
There are some modeling and temperature studies that predict higher fire intensity at canopy levels under 60%, but actual real world fire behavior  studies show lower fire intensity in treated areas, even at low canopy levels.  Young forests on productive lands, if cut to 40% canopy closure, will return to 60% closure in 10-20 years.  If left at 60% closure, the results typically will be overstocking and stagnation with spindly trees in 20 years.  If we are treating a mature stand, 60% might be appropriate on high sites.  On the east side, the typical pine forest could not even support 60% crown closure in the long run. 

 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong would have us believe that the health destroying smoke experienced by Californians is the result of failure to log. This just repeats what Armstrong has heard from her timber industry backers. But – judging from the extensive fires of 2008 - at least half of that smoke is not from natural forest fires but from ill advised, dangerous and (at times) irresponsible burn-outs and back fires lit by overeager firefighters who do not understand how fire behaves in Northern California’s forested mountains.
 A backfire or burnout is designed to burn out the areas where the fire would go anyway.  If done right, it reduces smoke by burning more areas during the cooler night time weather, and less during the blow-up periods of two to eight p.m.  Typically, the fire managers resort to burnouts when there are large numbers of fires caused by lightning, and it is obvious that there are simply not enough firemen, air tankers and other resources to stop them from burning together and going to the ridge.  By burning down from the ridge at night instead of waiting for the fire to come up to the ridge in the afternoon, you increase your chances of holding the fire at the ridge.  To try to separate the smoke from the burnout from the original fire is misleading. 
That said, I have seen some abuses and bad decisions.  Most notably, on the Megram Fire in 1999, the fire team insisted on burning out the entire drainage of Horse Linto Creek, in mid-October, against the advice of locals.  Most of the burnout never got started, and the final fire perimeter was a very large U.  On another occasion, in a wilderness area on the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California, we had permission to build a fairly minimal tractor line in the wilderness.  But the burnout team insisted on lighting it off in mid-afternoon, causing a lot of containment problems.  We ended up building the four blade wide dozer lines that we had promised the resource officer we would avoid. 
Howver, in 2,008, we had a huge lightning bust in a drought year, just as fire danger was becoming extreme in late June.  There may not have been a lot of options. 
Furthermore, many of our largest fires “blew up” into firestorms in the flammable “slash” (small trees, branches and limbs) left behind by timber companies. Here’s a partial list of Siskiyou County fires that “blew up” in logging slash: Hog Fire (1977), Yellow and Glasgow fires (1987), Specimen Fire (1994).
The only one of these that I worked on was the Hog fire.  This was a typical case of lack of resources.  We were doing fine, lining a relatively small fire which was partially in a logged over area.  Then air support was restricted due to many fires in other areas.  One of the dozen or so lightning fires was giving us problems, and the fire team decided to pull back and burn everything out on the south side.  The north side was wilderness, and burned until we got an early rain, just as the management on that side was preparing to abandon direct attack and go to a burnout. 
Biomass generation that makes good environmental and economic sense and which protects public health will be supported by the environmental community
I hope so.  Generally, in my career in the flat, well roaded forests of McCloud, I had few problems with local environmentalists.  But two sales with a lot of biomass as well as commercial thinning and salvage were sued by out of town groups, resulting in costly delays.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The David Dingle Trial

The case of the people vs. David Dingle dates back to Feb. 8, 2008.  According to testimony in the preliminary hearing by the defendant's brother, Malcolm, an argument between David Dingle and Frank Martin resulted in David Dingle shooting Martin.  Martin then ran into the woods, but was found by the Dingle brothers.  According to Malcolm, David shot him two more times, then slit his throat.  Daily News, Preliminary Hearing Story

In jury selection today, it appeared that the defense was planning to argue for a verdict of justifiable homicide.  Unlike most murder trials, the defense appeared to favor law and order types, including a former state employee who had worked with inmate fire crews, and had once made a citizens arrest of a burglar in his home and held the suspect until police arrived.  Most of the challenges were of women, and the final jury composition was eight men and four women.  If the brother's testimony is admitted, the defense will have a high barrier to jump over. 

Nelson Trial, Continued

Closing arguments were completed today.  In the morning, I was in the jury pool for the David Dingle trial, and missed prosecutor Christine Chenevert's presentation.  After lunch, the jury was empaneled for the Dingle trial before I was called for interview, and I was excused in time to see much of public defender Lael Kayfetz' closing argument.  At times I feel like a flea trying to describe the elephant.  Kayfetz hammered away at inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution witnesses, and appeared effective, particularly in undermining the testimony of Steve Marshall, who lied about his alcohol use, Sylvina Logan, whose memory the prosecution even admitted was getting foggy, and Sylvia Jenkins, a meth user since she was 13 and the primary suspect in the arson of Logan's home.  One point I had not realized was that although Marshall's claim that he witnessed the kidnapping and the murder was what kicked the investigation off dead center, the prosecution did not even call him as a witness.  He was instead called by the defense in an effort to show inconsistencies in the case. 
Kayfetz faces a much bigger hurdle in convincing the jury that Nelson made a false confession, but may have made some inroads.  Her most notable point may have been that Nelson, after confessing to the murder, did not identify the correct location of the body, but instead mentioned a different location which may have been suggested to him by the interrogator.  She also spent some time going over the possible alibi testimony of Ken and Diane Oliver, and Barbara Gaedel, as well as a police report indicating that a deputy saw Nelson and Joyce Croy at the home of Nelson's parents an hour after the kidnapping. 
In her final rebuttal, Chenevert claimed that the timeline was irrelevant, that Nelson could have taken Cook to Hoopa anytime, not necessarily right after the kidnapping.  She did not attempt to defend Steve Marshall's testimony, asserting that his testimony wasn't even necessary since they had a confession.  One thing that surprises me is that nobody suggested that Cook might have been taken first to the Aubrey place on Clear Creek, which is 10-15 minutes away from Happy Camp.  For myself, if I wasn't feeling reckless, a round trip from Happy Camp to Hoopa would be more like a three hour drive. 
Chenevert showed the last two minutes of Nelson's confession on video.  Nelson appeared extremely uncomfortable, but the sound was, unfortunately, inaudible to the back of the trial room in the courthouse basement.  She ended with two minutes of silence, representing the two minutes that it allegedly took Nelson to strangle Cook, while juxtaposing a 3 foot photo of the six year old victim with a still of Nelson in the interrogation room, and a very brief exhortation to the jury to do the right thing and find Nelson guilty of both charges. 

The jury instructions will be given tomorrow morning, Tuesday the 3rd.  The jury will probably begin deliberations the same day.  Although there are thing I still don't fully understand, such as how damaging the actual testimony of Nelson's twin sister was, the case will hinge mainly on whether the jury believes Nelson's confession.  Will the jury buy the prosecution contention that false confessions are so rare that the possibility can be discounted, or will they have nagging doubts based on defense claims that a weary and drugged Nelson was simply parroting information fed to him by officers Mendes, Blaney and Hilsenberg. 
There is still the possibility of a split verdict.  The jury could convict Nelson of kidnapping  based on his apparently more willing admission that he did transport the victim, but hang or even acquit on the murder charge.  I would not expect a verdict before Wednesday.
Dave Smith's story in the Daily News  here Covers the prosecution's closing arguments. 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Exaggerated Global Warming Claims undermine the science

This is from the London Times.  The author is the paper's science editor.  That is, he is not a scientist himself, but someone who keeps up with the literature and should be relatively objective. 

Exaggerated and inaccurate claims about the threat from global warming risk undermining efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and contain climate change, senior scientists have told The Times.

Environmental lobbyists, politicians, researchers and journalists who distort climate science to support an agenda erode public understanding and play into the hands of sceptics, according to experts including a former government chief scientist.

Read more: