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Our View: Ad is another example of simplistic advocacy

Elsewhere in today’s Triplicate is a half-page advertisement purchased by advocates of inmates seeking almost a total abolishment of the Security Housing Units used at Pelican Bay and other state prisons.

It’s jarring in its description of SHU residency as “torture.” It’s also an illustration of the American right of free speech playing out in the pages of your local newspaper, agree or disagree (it appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday).

So here’s some more free speech. The advertisement is an example of the tendency of inmate advocates, including some state legislators, to ignore the problem SHUs were created to help solve:

Coastal Voices: Imagining a magical time

Recently while cleaning out my jewelry box, I came across a sweater pin of an amusement park. It has a ferris wheel, a roller coaster and arcades. It immediately brought to memory the sights, sounds and smell of thick, black grease that kept the gears and cogs turning in the salty air of famed Pacific Ocean Park down in Southern California.

This was a magical place where King Neptune guarded the gate against intruders with his trusty trident, a weapon that resembles a three-tined fork, and where mermaids found shelter in their giant clamshells. I can hear the chain of the roller coaster clicking, inching its way to the top only to spill over the edge down, down as everyone screams with delight and panic as the wooden roller coaster careens over the great, blue Pacific Ocean.

It seems I was able to convince my very loving, indulgent mother to take me there at least once every week. It was, after all, a very magical place, and only 10 minutes from my childhood home of Venice. 

Editor's Note: Thoughtful discourse on sheriff, gun laws

I’m going to turn most of my column over to the voices of others today.

A thoughtful string of comments appeared on the Triplicate’s Facebook page after we posted a notice of an online poll at triplicate.com asking: Is it proper for Sheriff Dean Wilson to not enforce gun-control laws he considers unconstitutional?

Wilson recently told members of a State Senate committee that he would direct his department to ignore at least one proposed new gun-control law if it was passed. He was speaking about SB 374, which would add to the state’s current assault weapons law all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, thus banning their manufacture and sale and requiring that those already owned be registered.

The sheriff said the proposed law would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which states in part, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The poll question will be on our website for about another week. It’s far from a scientific survey, although there is a safeguard in place against multiple voting from a single computer. So far, the “yes” responses are slightly outpacing the “no” responses. As to those Facebook comments, here are some excerpts, starting with five in support of the sheriff’s position:

• “Of course it’s proper. His job is to protect us from unconstitutional laws that big government is imposing on us.”

• “Yes ... because the Constitution supersedes any changes by politicians. The Constitution (provides) guaranteed rights .... unfortunately, we aren’t learning what this means as we grow up nowadays. Had to read and learn the original documents to find it out.”

 • “If a law is hastily written and unintentionally goes against the Constitution, then it is an unlawful law, and should not be upheld or enforced.”

• “He is bound by the Constitution, a higher authority than Sacramento legislators. Fortunately his position is an elected one. He has my vote!”

• “YES, 90% of our community are responsible hunters and we respect our American heritage! Thank you Sheriff Dean Wilson!”

On the other hand, here are five comments from people who disagree with Wilson in this case:

• “Of course it isn’t proper. Being sheriff doesn’t mean you get to pick and choose which laws you enforce. Be an example and go fight it the right way.”

Despite sheriff’s stand, it’s not high noon here

Sheriff Dean Wilson acknowledges there were some raised eyebrows in Sacramento earlier this month when he told a State Senate Committee that he wouldn’t enforce one or more of the gun-control laws it was considering.

There were some raised eyebrows here in Del Norte as well, even though this is one of those rural, politically conservative areas where gun rights are especially prized.

Whether a majority of Del Norters support Wilson is hard to say. Frankly, a lot would depend on how one words the question, something the newspaper attempts to do starting today in its online poll at triplicate.com.

The sheriff bases his opinion of what laws would violate the U.S. Constitution on its statement that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” His is a liberal interpretation, contending it applies to most of the firearms out there. There are plenty of other people who generally support gun rights but have no problem with the constitutionality of restricting certain types of rapid-fire, high-capacity weapons.

A second controversial issue at play here is whether the sheriff has the legal right to not enforce state laws that he believes violate the U.S. Constitution. You won’t find that decision-making power in his job description at the courthouse, but he says it’s inherent in the power of the executive branch of government. He also notes that even foot soldiers in the U.S. military have the right to disobey orders that are illegal.

Neither issue is likely to be laid to rest soon. Wilson fully expects the Legislature will pass and the governor will sign one or more gun-control laws that he will refuse to enforce.

That doesn’t mean that it’s almost high noon and Del Norters are going to have to choose up sides — are you with him or against him? Look a little closer, and the drama fades a bit.

Editor's Note: If you want DN’s best, you gotta stick around

Residing in Crescent City for five-plus years has led to one glorious revelation above all others: Living at the beach is far superior to visiting the beach.

Especially Pebble Beach, simply one of the most scenic stretches of coastline anywhere.

It’s not that the out-of-towners don’t get it. They have a hard time driving along Pebble Beach Drive without pulling over for pictures.

They do this in any weather, aside roiling waves or a still surface, the green water of a gray day or the sparkling blue of a sunny one.

But unless they’re lucky, they miss the transcendent events.

They may stay a few days and revel in the sea’s transformation from high tide to low, but they haven’t experienced those shifts occurring every 10 minutes unless they were here on March 11, 2011.

They may marvel at skydiving pelicans feasting on fish in the summertime, but they probably haven’t seen those birds massed at the edge of a bluff, their long bills tucked against a stranding January storm long after they should have flown south.

And they may turn pull-offs into haphazard parking lots at the slightest sign of a Pacific sunset, but … well, you get the idea. Sorry, Visitors Bureau, but the biggest rewards eventually go to those of us who are here for the duration.

Editor's Note: Will new Solid Waste Authority Board do its job?

The board of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority has work to do, starting at its meeting this afternoon.

Let’s hope the two county supervisors recently appointed to the board take that work seriously. For the last four years the county has seemed to play games with the agency tasked with overseeing the collection and hauling of waste and recyclables throughout Del Norte while also answering to the state over the environmental monitoring of the closed Crescent City Landfill.

The new members, Mike Sullivan and Roger Gitlin, are among the majority of county supervisors who have long questioned whether the authority should exist. They’ve implied there must be a more efficient way to oversee Del Norte’s waste, but four years of assessment have yet to produce a viable alternative.

Back in 2009, Sullivan was appointed to chair an ad hoc committee tasked with determining whether the authority should be disbanded.

Said Sullivan at the time: “We’re really going to have to go through the numbers, and if there’s a potential savings without a lapse in service then we’ll have to consider (dissolution).”

Alas, the committee completed its work without recommending dissolution. Then in late 2011 Sullivan and Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen called for creation of a new ad hoc committee to study, you guessed it, dissolution.

The Crescent City Council, a partner with the county in the joint powers agreement that created the authority, understandably made some noise about the county proposing to take the lead for the second time in forming a panel to study the authority’s viability. So instead of another ad hoc committee, all five City Council members and all five supervisors created a super-board of 10 members in October 2011 to oversee the authority.

First Jesuit pope just 1 of the signs

OK, by now those of you who are so inclined have filled out your brackets for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Which is a shame, because you really could have benefitted from the following information: Gonzaga University will win the national championship.

Del Norte High’s season is long over, the annual Crescent City Jaycees tournament is in the books, but the arrival of spring always heralds prime time for hoops at the higher levels.

The pros, ehh, they’ll be playoff-ing until practically summer. But the men’s and women’s college tournaments are things of beauty, three weeks of single-elimination games that begin today for the men.

Just think of it: As of this morning, 64 teams in each tournament can win the championship simply by putting together a six-game winning streak. Compare that to the sordid world of college football, where the only way to play for a national title is to crack a code dictated by biased pollsters and absurdly programmed computers.

And in office pools everywhere, we get to play along by making our picks, plunking down a few bucks and kibitzing with co-workers – the most wholesome way to gamble on sports.

Vista Point: Science of sneaker waves: Seeing isn’t always believing


Three boys stand on a log. An adult couple walks by 20 feet down the beach. That scene is not recorded, but presumably it’s what was happening just before video began to capture a moment of fright on Oct. 24, 2010, at Rockaway Beach, Ore.

The video shows three boys sent tumbling off their log as every visible part of the beach is rapidly inundated by a surging wave that seems like it will never relent.

Two of the boys struggle to gain their footing in the surge, and just as soon as they do a much longer log hits them in the legs, cartwheeling them face-first into the water. The third boy, up to his neck in water, can’t even get to his feet before he is swept about 15 feet down the beach by the second log and nearly pinned between third and fourth logs, one of them just missing his head as it rushes by.

By the time the recording begins, the couple who had been walking by have already been knocked down. One of them floats uncontrollably for about 20 feet, and only regains footing when the surge begins to recede. The other floats away, belly-down, for 30 feet, struggling to keep head above water, and has to be helped up after a sixth person runs out to assist. The person who is helped up staggers back to high ground, leaning on the rescuer for support.

As with giant squid or Siberian meteor blasts, the ubiquity of the video camera has revealed the secrets of another of nature’s elusive elements: the sneaker wave.


Editor's Note: There’s no such thing as a perfect newspaper

I’m coming up on 34 years of newspapering, so you’d think I’d know better.

There I sat with my coffee last Thursday, looking over that morning’s edition and finding it a shining example of what we’re trying to do here three times a week:

A front-page centerpiece about a highly charged local discussion of gun rights well-captured by the writer and photographer. An insightful look at one of the biggest local sporting events of the year and the volunteers who put it together. Intriguing developments regarding two high-profile figures under investigation. A story of a local family and its two generations of Warrior athletes. A preview of the next big community theater event, complete with great shots of rehearsing cast members.

Almost perfect, I thought as I turned through the pages a second time. But there’s nothing like journalism to cure a case of pride.

It was a couple of hours later when we noticed that a big chunk of one of those front-page articles had accidentally been left off a “jump” page, where stories are continued inside the paper.

Readers of the article about the reinstatement of Del Norte chief probation officer Thomas Crowell missed the details about the public safety officers’ fund he is accused of embezzling from. Gone also was Supervisor Martha McClure’s explanation for the reinstatement while charges are still pending: “We don’t always have to go for the jugular.”

 You can read the full article at triplicate.com — it’s the first one that comes up when you type “Crowell” into the search engine. Meanwhile, the Triplicate’s search for perfection is never-ending, if you know what I mean.

A rush to judgment with gun resolution

Some interesting reactions were on display as the Del Norte County supervisors listened to public comment and then voted Tuesday on a resolution “in support of the Second Amendment and the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

All but one of the 11 citizens who spoke supported the resolution. And the exception made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of additional gun-control laws. Bill Lonsdale just questioned the necessity of the resolution and implied that Supervisor Roger Gitlin was forcing a local vote on a hot-button national issue in an attempt to politically damage any colleague who disagreed with him.

Lonsdale wasn’t the only person in the room who seemed less than enthusiastic about what was unfolding. After the public comment period ended and supervisors had the floor, three of the five said absolutely nothing about the issue at hand.

Responding to Lonsdale’s questioning of the need for the resolution, Gitlin asked, “If not us, who?”

Martha McClure was the only supervisor who delved into the 11 “whereases” contained in the resolution, questioning interpretations of legal precedents in three of them.

“I too am a gun owner,” said McClure, but she noted that the supervisors had already taken oaths to uphold the entire Constitution and said it made no sense to “cherry-pick” amendments for special consideration.

She abstained, but her four colleagues voted in favor of the resolution. “Sure,” said David Finigan when the roll call came to him. It sounded more like, “whatever.”

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