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Gerald G. Doane: What real leadership is about

The Afghanistan conundrum, from the beginning when we went there to kill terrorists who killed many of us to 20 years of nation-building and finally to a disastrous pullout, encourages the question about political leadership in our nation’s Capitol.

I’m afraid we have lost the idea of what leadership is all about, for there has been an emphasis on “political” and a de-emphasis on “leadership” over the past 20, even 30 years, in my opinion.

What is leadership? For many, personality and politics define leadership.

Let me assure you, principled leadership isn’t about personality. It isn’t about how many ribbons, medals and awards you have. It’s not about how successful you were in climbing the political or bureaucratic ladder. It’s not about the length of your apprenticeship or service.

My education and experiences have taught me that real leadership is about a process and a commitment to basic principles. These principles apply wherever and whenever leadership comes into play, be it a strategic setting, a tactical operation, within a public institution, or private organization.

What are the principles of leadership? Have our political leaders measured up to leadership principles in Afghanistan and elsewhere?

Principled leaders make reasoned planning, organizing, executing, and controlling decisions that affect the mission and affect those being led. More on this later, because decision-making is the most important leadership activity.

Principled leaders communicate in a manner that creates understanding among those being led and those within the chain of command. Obfuscating, deflecting and outright lying by political leaders have created confusion, misconception and mistrust.

Principled leaders motivate, inspire, encourage, even impel on occasion so that correct actions are taken by those being led. However, constant reliance on the stick and the gun by political leaders creates distrust, resentment, even outright rebellion.

Principled leaders select the most qualified persons or groups for the work required, neither selecting nor rejecting because of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or quotas. “Most qualified” shall be the sole criterion. Need I say more?

Principled leaders develop and improve the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of those being led with continuous mentoring, training, and education. Political leaders seem to indoctrinate rather than educate.

Principled leaders allow those being led to carry out the mission and receive rewards for “mission accomplished.” Political leaders micromanage for political survival and gain.

Principled leaders take full responsibility for both successful and failed missions. Principled leaders must create successes or they don’t continue as leaders for long. Political leaders make big mistakes, never take responsibility for them, and continue in office without consequences.

As previously opined, decision-making is probably the most important activity in leadership. How a leader makes decisions often determines the success or failure of the mission.

Decision-making requires a detailed process with an exception for emergencies. In emergencies, policy, protocol,and procedure (all previously made decisions) and intuition are the principled leader’s guide.

A tested and proven decision-making process called the five chapter “decision book” is as follows:

Defining the situation becomes the first chapter in the principled leader’s decision book.

The first scene in this chapter is fact finding, intelligence gathering, and surveilling.

The second scene is assessing and determining viable options.

The third scene is testing, forecasting and predicting (role playing, outcome analysis, data modeling, etc.) viable option outcomes before reaching conclusions and making final decisions.

Defining the mission becomes the second chapter in the principled leader’s decision book. This is a determination, expressed in broad general terms, about what the principled leader wishes to accomplish.

Defining the execution becomes the third chapter in the principled leader’s decision book. This is a determination, expressed with specific objectives, activities, and assignments, about those actions necessary in carrying out the mission.

Defining the administration becomes the fourth chapter in the principled leader’s decision book. This is a determination of logistics and supply objectives, activities and assignments.

And finally, defining the command scene, control scene, and communications scene becomes the fifth chapter in the principled leader’s decision book. This is a determination of command structure, control policies and communication protocols.

Key to all leadership principles is accurate and timely intelligence. Planning, organizing, executing and controlling all require reliable and timely information so that the decision book becomes a flexible tome.

Can we take personality and politics out of leadership in Washington, D.C? This is very difficult because of established social and political norms. Only when major mission failures occur will the public and political leaders hopefully turn to a more principled leadership model.

Gerald G. Doane lives in Grass Valley.



Ralph Hitchcock: A different view on 9/11

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 has just passed. My evaluation of the events of 9/11 has been so far off the mainstream of the American opinion of the event that I am usually very careful about voicing my own opinion.

There are many reasons Americans may evaluate the 9/11 events to such an extreme level of historical importance, as if such a terrible thing has only happened to us:

— We are historically a very insular people living in a country 3,000 miles by 1,000 miles; we are separated from Europe and Asia by oceans; and we border only two nations, both friendly.

— We only emerged from our historic isolationism, including educational, after World War II.

— In contrast to most European and Asian nations, we have not been invaded since 1812.

— Many (most?) Americans are either oblivious to world events or oversimplify them.

— 9/11 was on TV instantly, followed by total coverage as no other tragedy had been, and it has been followed by 20 years of TV talking heads’ commentaries and interviews each Sept. 11.

While I was, like everyone, shocked and saddened by what happened, I have a problem giving 9/11 the same magnitude as most Americans do because of my historical perspective and world view.

All my years of living in the UK and then around the world among non-European peoples in poorer countries allowed me to learn about, be interested in and respect other cultures. This experience gave me a worldview unlike the more typical, somewhat insular American.

For me, this put the events of 9/11 in a different and much larger world context. As terrible as it was, I was not able to accord it such a comparatively high position among the many shocking human tragedies.

Here are some events also involving civilian casualties, for comparison with the 3,000 deaths and the destruction of the Twin Towers and part of the Pentagon:

— The German Blitz of London. There were 1.2 million homes destroyed and about 50,000 civilians killed.

— The Nanking Massacre by the Japanese army. It is impossible to come up with accurate numbers, but various sources give 50,000 to 200,000 civilians killed by the Japanese soldiers.

— The Vietnam War. Estimates range from 500,000 to 1,200,000 civilians killed in Vietnam. This does not count the Cambodians killed by our bombing and invasion and the resulting murderous Pol Pot regime.

During the height of the Cold War, our government overthrew heads of state we deemed not anti-Soviet enough and installed our own puppets, many of whom were terrible despots, such as:

— In the Congo after Lumumba was killed, we installed Mobutu Sese Seko. Our agents and our military aid kept him in power for 30 years, during which time 1 million to 2 million people were killed.

— In Chile, Allende was the “socialist” president. We did not trust him, so a coup was arranged, Allende was killed, and we installed Pinochet, a good conservative who could be trusted. He killed 30,000 people. Thousands of them just disappeared, so their families had years of doubt about their existence, and to this day many families have no closure.

The foregoing has attempted to put the magnitude of the 3,000 World Trade Center and Pentagon victims and destruction of the buildings into perspective. For me, this approach of putting it into a world-wide historical context reduces the magnitude of the actual 9/11 events when compared to other tragedies suffered by peoples around the world.

Finally it should be noted that the results of our extreme insular reaction to 9/11, which caused our massive involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East with the resulting regional instability, has led to continuing civilian deaths and cultural destruction.

Ralph Hitchcock lives near Nevada City.


William Larsen: Use your God-given reason

I missed my chance to speak at the recent Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting, so I offer this account of my experience with both science and the medical application of scientific fact. This is a deeply personal story, and I ask those opposed to COVID-19 vaccines to at least consider what I have to share.

In 1979, my wife and I were blessed with her first pregnancy. At the time, we were passionately opposed to Western medicine, particularly as it related to the birth process. Consequently, we rejected the very concept of a hospital birth, opted for a home delivery, and hired one of the two local midwives who were in practice at that time.

We still ardently support home births, but unfortunately, our situation was one that demanded hospital intervention. Our midwife, zealous in her belief but lacking medical proficiency, bungled the situation and our baby died in the birth process.

Three years later, we conceived a second time. We definitely went the medical route this time with a skilled obstetrician delivering our precious daughter via C-section. One interesting thing about this birth is that my wife was given every drug under the sun, and yet our baby scored a perfect 10 on her Apgar test measuring a newborn’s health.

One anti-vaxer speaker at the recent Board of Supervisors meeting elaborated how God would punish the board and Dr. Kellermann for their transgressions. While neither she nor I have the right (or wisdom) to speak for God, it has always seemed to us that we were getting a divine message in our daughter’s perfect score: Trust our reason and not our emotions in such critical life choices.

Years earlier, scientific medicine saved my own life. In 1969, I was struck by three AK-47 rounds in Vietnam, one that went through my left lung, and one that shattered my jaw.

When I awoke in the hospital a couple of days later, I was hooked up to a feeding tube, chest pump sucking fluid out of my lung and a couple of IV tubes. Without that skilled, scientifically evolved medical treatment, I would have died.

Later, in Okinawa, I was blessed with a super talented oral surgeon who performed the first of three operations on my jaw. Without that incredible treatment, I would have very likely been disfigured.

Fast forward to the 1990s when I was diagnosed with both glaucoma and macular degeneration. At one point, my inter-ocular eye pressure soared to a level where my doc said flatly, “You will be totally blind within a year if we don’t fix this.” And she did, through a surgery opening a hole in the inner eye that allowed the fluid to be released. My vision was saved, and I didn’t even need to continue with the eye drops that had sustained my vision for years.

It’s been the same with the wet macular degeneration (for which there was precious little treatment at the time). Again, medical science saved my vision when a brilliant scientist made the discovery that using a drug that blocks the formation of new blood vessels in the colon could be used for wet macular degeneration.

My vision, which had severely deteriorated by the time this treatment was available, was restored. I could not be more grateful for this scientific discovery.

For sure, the treatments can be difficult and painful when a needle is poked deep into the eye and the medicine is released near the retina (I’ve had 26 injections thus far). Like a vaccine, this is an invasive procedure that anyone would preferably avoid, and I dislike having a chemical injected into my body. But years later, I can still drive, read and see the faces I love.

I am appalled that so many people utilize medical science for their medical ills yet rebel against this scientifically sound vaccine. Is it 100% safe? Of course not. Nothing is. But the personal and societal benefits vastly outweigh the risks.

Surely, as I have learned in the bitter lesson given by my two children — one dead, one thriving and alive — it is time to use our God-given reason in this matter rather than our egotistical emotion. I say thank you, Dr. Kellermann!

William Larsen lives in Nevada City.

Pamela Carter: One woman’s undeniable contributions to Nevada City



Sugarloaf Mountain in Nevada City.
Submitted photo

Laurie Oberholtzer has been fired as a Nevada City’s planning commissioner by a three-to-two vote of the Nevada City Council. The threesome that voted to remove her gave little reason for their votes. Mayor Duane Strawser, with council members Erin Minett and Daniela Fernandez voted to oust her. Vice Mayor Doug Fleming and council member Gary Petersen dissented.

Fleming cited Oberholtzer’s accomplishments and contributions over many years. Peterson noted the multitude of issues facing the town that far outweighed any missteps that may have occurred.

In light of what just happened, I believe it is important to share some of the great things she has contributed to this city as a planning commissioner, City Council member, mayor and resident.

In 2001 Planning Commissioner Oberholtzer, resident Paul Matson, and the late Bob Wyckoff, Nevada City’s historic preservation officer, prepared a presentation to the county on behalf of the city. The request was for funding from Nevada County to buy Hirschman’s Pond. The Board of Supervisors, in a four-to-one vote, allocated $480,000 to Nevada City from a State Parks and Recreation bond to purchase this former hydraulic diggins. It was an extremely competitive process with groups from all parts of Nevada County working to fund their own projects. Today, Hirschman’s is a popular destination and helps the town retain a rural flavor as our area continues to grow.

In 2007, the Indian Trails subdivision, adjacent to Hirschman’s Pond, was in the works. Laurie worked to save 40 acres of that property, along Highway 49, donated to the city as a mitigation for impacts on the city’s recreational facilities. Today a trail graces that land, connects to the pond trail system, and is popular as well.

Another former mining site, Manzanita Diggins, and its neighboring promontory, Sugarloaf, are important to Nevada City and its small-town atmosphere, look and feel. Sugarloaf is Nevada City’s backdrop.

It took six years of working with the owners and piecing together the funding to pull it off. With a lot of help and perseverance from Laurie, Friends of Sugarloaf was formed with strong support from residents Liz Ely, Paul Matson and the late Charles Woods. Ultimately Nevada City set aside $379,000 of its Proposition 40 funds and the county $250,000 of accrued recreation mitigation funds, in Nevada City’s zone. The county’s allocation later dropped to $71,000 due to an improved purchase price. The Bear Yuba Land Trust loaned some money, to fill the breach until grant funding arrived, and Friends of Sugarloaf ponied up a balance needed of $3,800.

Both Hirschman’s Pond and Sugarloaf would be private property today without her hard work.

Housing is a hot topic these days, and it was Laurie Oberholtzer who helped initiate a requirement that 30% of all new housing developments in town be affordable, mostly through second units.

Laurie has led the charge in working to make sure that when the old HEW property on Willow Valley Road develops, it will be in keeping with the character of the city.

She spearheaded the drive to save Nevada City Elementary School, Nevada City’s oldest and only downtown school. In 2011 and 2017, the Nevada City School District entertained renting it and later, demolishing it for commercial and government use. In both cases, Friends of Nevada City Elementary, which she led, prevailed. Today it continues its role as a school, home to the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning, a public college prep high school.

This is the short list of her efforts, which are impressive and ongoing, as well as her accomplishments over the past 32 years while volunteering for her town and her community. We owe her a great debt of gratitude. Thank you, Laurie!

Pamela Carter Meek lives in Nevada City.


George Rebane: America the unnatural

America is an exceptional country and an historical social experiment in more ways than I can count. It is also an ongoing test of how humans can live and profit by behaving unnaturally toward each other. That is by becoming sanguine in the practice of unnatural behaviors which go against the millions of years of evolution through which our progenitors and species survived.

Anthropologists and paleo-sociologists have long known and written about how primitive societies formed, fought, and sometimes flourished. The pervasive watchword among all critters, including hominids, has been “Stick to your own kind’”(as even Maria was advised in “West Side Story”). The fundamental behavior that supported survival and progeny was to be with and trust only those whose behavior you could reliably predict. To this day, we distance ourselves (including denying their access to us) from people in our midst whose behavior we cannot predict. This is the very natural hardwired instinct with which all critters of some intelligence that includes us are born. Even infants begin expressing it at a very early age.

As we should know, all this gave rise first to extended families, that then grew into tribes of related families, that then grew into larger social units, usually under the heavy hand of a strong leader or the demands of meeting a common need. In such social expansions trust in strangers grew slowly, almost always over generations during which a common culture was adopted with a common language, shared traditions and gods, along with known and formalized social customs. Such common cultures served to build trust, promote extra-familial relationships, and serve the common good.

The immediate advantage of such trustful social groupings was that individuals then had the ability to specialize in the products and services they offered each other. Communities that supported such specialization – “you make candles and I’ll make shoes” – were able to trade and garner wealth beyond their daily needs for shelter and sustenance. Trust was the key, common culture was the means, and civilization was the result.

Eventually, diverse cultures inhabited a city or kingdom only for over-arching economic or security purposes. However, the different cultures, even living cheek-by-jowl, always maintained their own ways that allowed them to distinguish and value “the me and mine” as a source of succor and an ever-present redoubt in an unpredictable and often turbulent world. Trade with all, but always stick to your own kind.

As civilizations, empires, and kingdoms flourished and fell over the ages, the world order of cohesive societies remained unchanged. It was natural to conquer or crush cultures, but not to coalesce them with each other. This continued unchanged in the post-Columbian New World, including in the British colonies of North America, until the last quarter of the 18th century when a new type of union was tried in the desperate attempt by disparate colonies to break away from their tyrannical home country. Such an unnatural arrangement to come together was recognized by each of the thirteen colonies as a new and risky experiment. Many thought it might only be a temporary union of convenience until the British yoke could be overthrown.

Ultimately, it became clear to the unusually wizened, nay, brilliant leaders Fortuna had assembled from the colonies, that they could not survive as a collection of small sovereign nation-states. Britain, or even France, would eventually return them to their colonial folds using the well-known divide and conquer stratagems. And so they decided to confederate a new single nation made up of cultures that didn’t even share a common language. During the American Revolution the dominant languages of the colonies were English, German, Dutch, French, and various native American tongues. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, more Americans spoke German at home than any other language.

So our founders knew that what they were attempting had no precedent, that a new country would be born, underpinned by an extremely tentative and fragile (think brittle) social structure. But they had hope that new ideas of common liberty and individual freedoms could be codified in a constitution of laws, and along with ample territory for individual initiatives and industry, this would provide the needed ingredients to give people time to see that different cultures could join together and form sufficient bonds for a country and government that would endure. With some trepidation, Ben Franklin said it would be a republic if we could keep it. And so began our unnatural experiment.

No student of our history doubts that our experiment has had its ups and downs as our republic traveled an uncertain and rocky road over the last two and half centuries. But we have survived, and have shown the world that a multi-cultural politics based on liberty, security, and property is indeed within the art of the possible. We have done this through the bit by piece method of trying new things, keeping what works, abandoning what doesn’t. But in this experiment, we devised a two-level structure for our national culture that let us overcome our heritage of fear and distrust of the other.

Over the decades we fashioned a common American culture to be practiced by all when in the public square – it became the culture the world saw, admired, and attempted to emulate. And concurrently we kept alive and practiced our indigenous cultures (e.g., from the “old country”) with others like us while respecting and giving space to our fellow Americans to practice their peculiar heritages with their own kind. We learned to do this over most of two centuries, always returning to and working with one another as the “e pluribus unum” Americans we were taught and have learned to be.

Sadly, today we are turning away from everything that has kept us intact and from going astray. Most of us have forgotten the American creed that each individual is created equal and possesses the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We have become tainted by the socialist lie that only through membership in a particular collective gives each person’s life a purpose, place, and meaning. In such a social order, cultural collectives are first identified (manufactured) by political elites to locate and separate a previously unified people (i.e., us) into mutually distrustful factions too fractious to oppose the state. The elites then categorize, castigate, or empower people only in terms of their membership in politically accredited and favored/disfavored identity groups based primarily on assigned race, gender, sexual orientation, ideology, and religion.

Today this approach has effectively destroyed “e pluribus unum,” which still requires all of us to form relationships with individuals based, not on their identity group membership, but on their demonstrated merits and the content of their character.

George Rebane lives in Nevada City.


Terry Robinson: I’m vaccinated; why should I have to wear a mask?

When the pandemic hit a year and a half ago, I considered myself at significant risk of the more severe symptoms. So I hit my local paint supplier and purchased another gallon of denatured alcohol for hand sanitizing, and hunkered down for more than a year. I guess that’s not too difficult for a hermit like myself.

When a vaccine became available, at the first opportunity I made two trips to Sacramento to get my vax shots. This was no small task. How long has it been since you braved the traffic on I-80? It takes a lot of time to make a round trip.

During my hunkered-down phase, I continued with my usual projects but relied on my extensive inventory of parts and materials until they started running low. Not wanting to associate with others, I resorted to buying online. I created a file on my computer of good sources, keeping track to reduce my search times. This worked very well.

The serious COVID-19 cases now are almost all unvaccinated people, so why is it I’m still being requested to wear a face mask in many establishments? Is this merely to give those unvaccinated a false sense of security?

If someone doesn’t want to get the vaccine, I’m fine with that. That’s their choice, but don’t try to require me to wear a face rebreather. I won’t do it and I won’t feel guilty about it, either. If the unvaccinated get sick, I’m sorry for them, but it won’t likely be my fault. It was their choice.

In past years, being retired, I made three to five visits to hardware, building supply and nursery suppliers a week. Now in the past year and a half I have made 10 to 15 visits for those larger items like bags of concrete and lumber not suitable for online purchases.

I find it sad that our fine local businesses have been the big losers here. They are darned if they do and darned if they don’t. Regardless, my new buying habits are now firmly entrenched and will not change going forward.

Terry Robinson lives in Nevada City.

Editor’s note: As more information about COVID-19 and its evolving variants is learned, the guidance evolves as well. We know that the vaccinated can spread the disease, and can catch the disease. We’ve always known that the vaccines greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming seriously ill from the disease.


Don Rogers: Olympian ski resort, whatever the name

So. Palisades Tahoe. Um, OK.

I get that squaw is an offensive word, and that is nothing new. It was derogatory before Squaw Valley was named. The valley, the creek, the ski resort.

Apparently it began with a French butchering of Algonquian words for female friend, woman of the woods, little woman baby. And “squaw sachem”: female chief. This contrarian view is from Vincent Schilling, an Akwesasne Mohawk and associate editor at Indian Country Today, making a case in 2017 that the word was not originally disrespectful. Other indigenous writers over the decades have written similar essays.

The dictionary definitions today, however, uniformly paint the word as a slur. And it sounds like a slur in old movies, old books, historic texts. Or if not a slur exactly in its old usage, certainly not a sign of great respect, either. Probably why Minnesota in 1995 passed legislation to rename all geographic features in the state bearing the word.

Anyway, the Washoe people native to the valley don’t like it. They praised the ski resort for at last changing the name this week.


The new name came from more than a year of research, surveys, focus groups and the best marketing minds in the industry.

For the resort, Palisades echoes the granite outcroppings forming the mountain’s legendary chutes and cliffs, the extreme stuff we mortals only gawk at — the terrain of McKinney, McConkey, Mosely. There’s a thrill.

Locals no doubt get it straight away. The Palisades. Well, of course. But the former Squaw Valley is an international draw, not primarily a locals mountain. I can’t imagine many vacationers getting it. Not ahead of some other connotations, anyway. And that’s too bad.

If the granite massif doesn’t come immediately to mind with respect to the resort’s new name, what does?

I mean, you have to live in western Colorado to understand the sweet meaning of a Palisade peach, and a lot more people eat peaches than ski or snowboard.

Is there a more common name for a development that fashions itself highfalutin’ — a subdivision, a gated community, a condo building, a spa — than Palisade? Palisade Gardens, Palisade Terrace, The Palisades at Squaw Valley, all real places.

Must you be academic to think first of the dictionary meanings and connotations: fortress, fenced-off, defensible space, impending combat?

The greater ouch for me, cringing a little, is the liberal reference to this word in the history of Indian wars. Pioneers defend palisades they’ve thrown up against the natives.

So no, can’t say I was a fan at first hearing the name. Less so upon reflection.


But like the important thing for some voters in the past presidential election, anything other than the incumbent name is a positive step.

So if Palisades doesn’t roll smoothly off the tongue and hearkens images of something gated and spiky, at least it’s no longer Squaw.

Granite Chief might still have been problematic, though there’s a real ring to it. Olympic Alpine might lack creativity, I suppose, since it came too quickly to my mind and Squaw Valley already went routinely by Olympic Valley.

Tahoe is in the name, which links nicely to the lake, of course. If Palisades is pure vanilla, at least Tahoe gives a geographical cue to the uninitiated. Still, it also contributes to the problem with the name, doubling down on generic if you don’t happen to be steeped in local lore.

But the resort formerly named Squaw is hardly generic. This is easily the pearl of the region, the one that always gets the nod for the best skiing in Tahoe. It will stay this way, of course, whatever the name.

It may also serve as evidence that the sweet promise of crowd sourcing boils down so easily to too many cooks in the kitchen.

Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 530-477-4299.

Tom Durkin: Reality bites back

Unmasked, unvaccinated folks are getting tiresome.

Now, they’re whining about being discriminated against. They’re complaining about being refused service in some businesses, events and nightclubs.

Many of them have disrupted public meetings and schools. They have been viciously vitriolic in their treatment of public health officers, city and county officials, school administrators and members of the media.

They have shamelessly displayed signs with slogans stolen from the pro-choice, abortion rights movement (“My body, my choice”). They have intimidated people on the streets and in the stores.

They deny reality. Some claim the pandemic is not real despite all evidence to the contrary. Others espouse ridiculous conspiracy theories like claiming the vaccines themselves spread the virus or that there are microchips in the vaccines.

They claim that they are not responsible for the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. If not them, who? Gremlins? Democrats?

They wave American flags around as if that justifies their disgraceful behavior. They claim to be “patriots.”

There is nothing patriotic about spreading disease to your fellow citizens.

By asserting their rights not to wear masks or get vaccinated, they have violated our right to public safety and health. They are the reason we can’t have nice things like indoor dining and live music and theater. They are the reason we still have to wear masks and physically distance.


And now the no-maskers and anti-vaxxers feel picked on? Somehow, I just can’t generate much sympathy for them … except for when they’re dying or long-hauling an oxygen tank wherever they go.

Then, I just feel sorry for them as human beings. I hate to see anybody suffer or die. They are proof that the more you ignore reality, the more reality bites.

I’m also sorry they believed and supported the corrupt politicians, medical quacks, conspiracy theorists, anti-government militants, and merchants of meds and merch who exploited them for their own nefarious gains and agendas.

Merch is slang for merchandise sold to promote a person or cause. Hats, T-shirts, flags, bumper stickers and you get the idea. There’s much money to be made selling to the faithful.

The money from merch, however, is pocket change compared to the alternatives-to-medicine industry. It’s good that some people are getting healthy in the hope or misguided belief that good health will make them immune.

It’s bad that some other people are buying into, and sometimes dying from, snake-oil remedies.

I do feel a special sympathy for the well-behaved unvaccinated people who wear their masks religiously and practice pandemic social parameters. Some unvaccinated people and kids under 12 genuinely can’t get vaccinated. Through no fault of their own, they can’t enjoy the privileges granted to those of us who are vaccinated.

Many others, for reasons beyond reason, choose not to get vaxxed. Several are friends of mine. I’ve given up trying to convince them, but I can’t give up worrying about them.

From all reports, COVID-19 is an agonizingly slow and painful death, and for some, survival is no blessing.


Pandemic skeptics point out that “only” 1% of COVID-19 patients actually die. Yeah, well that’s “only” 660,000 American deaths and counting.

What bothers me is how little attention is being paid to long-haul COVID-19. According to a March 30, report from UC Davis Health, anywhere from 27% to 33% of COVID-19 patients suffer post-disease maladies ranging from loss of smell and taste to permanent lung damage.

Brain fog, fatigue and severe headaches are also common symptoms of long-haul COVID-19, but the insidious illness has been known to damage hearts, nerves, kidneys and even the skin.

Remarkably, age, health and severity of the disease seem to have little relationship to the seriousness of long-haul COVID-19, the UC Davis report noted. Even long-haul patients who were asymptomatic can develop crippling disabilities.

If 660,000 dead people represent 1% of COVID-19 patients, the long-haul percentage extrapolates to somewhere between 17 million and 22 million people who survived but did not recover.

According to an April 15, story from the U.S. News & World Report, groups like the Long COVID Alliance and the Survivor Corps are emerging to demand Social Security and workers compensation benefits for people too injured by COVID-19 to go back to work any time soon, if ever.

“If they end up being a huge political force, then they can help force change in the disability system,” said Andy Imparato in the U.S. News report. He is executive director of Disability Rights California, a nonprofit legal services organization.

Talk about economic impact.

It’s easy to feel sorry for the true victims of COVID-19.

As for the unmasked and unvaxxed fanatics out there, God loves you, and I’m trying. Thanks for taking one for the herd, even if it disables or kills you.

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer, editor and photographer in Nevada County and a member of The Union Editorial Board. He may be contacted at tjdurkin3@gmail.com.

Alan Greenbaum: God and golf

Golf and God — sounds crazy, doesn’t it? No two things could have less in common, right? But in the past couple of months, I have discovered that the two are quite compatible.

For the readers of this article who are golfers, you know quite well that God is invoked quite often on every fairway and putting green. Wink, wink. But here I am talking about something quite different.

I have been working on a fundraising project for my synagogue, Congregation B’nai Harim, to improve the area behind the building so that we can have more programs outside, where people will be safer regarding the COVID-19 virus. Our plan is to have social events, classes and even an outdoor prayer services, all weather permitting.

Our rabbi, David Azen, is an avid golfer and was on the Princeton golf team when he was an undergraduate student there. He suggested that we host a tournament to help raise the needed money. In the past, all of our fundraisers focused on our famous ethnic Jewish foods at the Nevada County Fair Corner Deli and at an annual event we call Deli Nite. So running a golf tournament was new to all of us.

I joined the planning committee and offered to go into the community at large to find sponsors and businesses that would donate gifts to this event. In anticipation of this task I was very nervous. After all, two of the three “no no’s” in civil conversation are “money” and “religion” (the third being “politics”). And here I was, representing a religious community and asking for money. As our folks say : “Oy vey!“

What I have experienced so far (the tournament is not until Oct. 3) is just the opposite — generosity and enthusiasm. We are so blessed in Nevada County with a business community that desires for others what they desire for themselves: success and thriving. After our tournament I will publish a list of all the merchants who have participated and shown their support in order to express our gratitude.

So in the process of promoting a golf tournament I have experienced the presence of God among people of all (and no) faiths; what God has implanted in us all — love and generosity.

Alan Greenbaum lives in Grass Valley.

Dustin Wright: Dining, on the front lines

As the director of food and beverage at a venue located within my community, I have been on the front lines of the hospitality industry during one of the most challenging times our industry has faced and continues to face. That last statement feels odd to write, because in a “normal world” every day in our industry can feel like the most challenging.

When the world began to reopen, restaurants placed ads for positions, only to be met with echoes. The pandemic changed our industry, it was one of the first to go and was certainly not deemed essential work. From the articles I have read, servers, cooks and chefs have left or continue to leave to find work that offers more stability and/or less pressure.

As a professional server in a restaurant, you have a performance evaluation with every interaction, and the gratuity is your grade. The evaluation can be swayed by so many determining factors, including what type of day, week, month — and now especially with COVID-19 — year a guest had. Servers have told me stories of waking in the middle of the night with anxiety and disappointment, realizing they forgot to deliver the condiments their table requested.

Cooks are the unsung heroes. My first night in the kitchen on the expediting line, I immediately found a new respect for their craft.

I stood reading the orders hung in front of me, organizing plates in the window, and at times I was lost. During the chaos, I took a moment and was stunned at the tornado that emerged before me.

I observed the cooks standing over equipment reaching temperatures of 400 to 500 degrees — it resembled a battle scene. They methodically read their orders, formulating a strategy in a matter of seconds. Sauté pans shuffle and burgers are flipped as flames shoot toward them. Items are dropped into the fryer as the hot oil grazes their skin.

I stood in awe and was humbled by their skill … all while guests were in the dining room, seemingly unaware of the amount of detail in this process taking place in a matter of seconds and minutes.

Some restaurants have closed for good. The restaurants able to re-open their doors are limping along with limited team members. When my venue began to reopen, we started this way, and I thank my team regularly for being here.

If there is anything I have learned from COVID-19, it is to be grateful of what we have, especially those around you. I value and respect my team. They were so willing to jump back and push through all the challenges and uncertainty.

In my opinion, hospitality workers were needed more than the world realized. One server recently shared a narrative regarding a guest who frequents our venue. The guest shared that she is lonely and enjoys coming in to be around the buzz of people while she reads her book. The server sits with this guest for a few moments and asks about her day.

“Those are the moments that fill my cup, the meaningful interactions with those who need it,” the server says.

We have some overwhelmingly hectic nights in our kitchen —preparing over 100 orders of food in an hour and a half. Upon completing those nights, I have pulled the kitchen staff aside, thanking them for showing up.

On one particular night I gathered the team and stated, “I know tonight was hard and you could be sitting at home collecting unemployment, but you chose to be here, and you are here under incredible stress and pressure. Thank you for giving it your all and providing for our community.”

Behind the scenes, we are planning and hosting multiple events aside from running the day-to-day restaurant and bar, adding more pressure to the kitchen. Whether we are preparing for an 150-person golf tournament or a wedding, we are doing all we can to offer our community a space that exceeds expectations.

As we yet again hear about the rise in new cases, the thought of shutdowns remains in the back of our minds, and we hope they don’t occur again.

So, I ask, next time you dine with your local restaurant or elsewhere, and the wait is a bit longer than usual, and/or your table was not where you would have liked to be seated, please take a moment to appreciate being out in a social setting again.

Understand the people serving you with a smile choosing to show up day to day are doing it because they genuinely care to be here. They are doing their best to accommodate with limited team members at their side.

To those who continue to support us thank you, you’re helping us through some of our most challenging days.

Dustin Wright is the Lake Wildwood Association’s director of food and beverage.