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COURSEY: A front page full of human error

The front page of today's Press Democrat is a study in just how wrong people can be.

I'm talking about all people – including me. But I'll start with the others.

Oops! If you pooh-poohed Tuesday's story about the long-lost Winnie-the-Pooh sketch that brought in $7,618 in an online auction for our local Goodwill agency, you were right. It was Goodwill who got this one wrong ("It was very, very badly drawn. Most schoolchildren could have done better," the expert said.) And, yes, the PD got it wrong, too. But both were good-faith mistakes, and Goodwill and the PD went out of their way to correct them as soon as they were discovered. Goodwill contacted the buyer and rescinded the sale. The PD, which reported the amazing find on Page B1 Tuesday, reported the embarrassing gaffe on Page A1 today.

But not all mistakes are so benign. The new, young and untested leader of North Korea is saber-rattling with nuclear weapons, threatening to cut off talks on containing its nuclear program and instead ramp it up. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observed, Kim Jong Un has gone too far. "Things must begin to calm down," Ban said. "Nuclear threats are not a game."

Back in the USA, the National Rifle Association continues to play political games in the wake of the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. As Congress debates restrictions on rapid-fire, high-capacity weapons capable of killing many people in a short time, the NRA continues to insist that more guns will lead to a safer America. An NRA task force this week recommends placing police officers, armed guards or armed teachers in every school in America. This is wrong on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin (maybe we could start with salary – will they be paid like cops, or like teachers?) Congressman Mike Thompson, the St. Helena Democrat who has been leading the House task force on gun issues, put this in perspective: "Arming the teacher is merely a response to the last tragedy. The one before that was in a shopping mall in Oregon. The one before that was in a movie theater in Colorado. I don't think the proper response is to arm all the projectionists in the movie theaters or all the vendors in the mall."

And then, there is my mistake – which was aided and abetted by Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol. Last week, I criticized the tree-sitting demonstrators trying to stop construction of the Highway 101 Willits Bypass in Mendocino County. I said their tactics were futile and dangerous, and that the environmental and economic concerns they were raising would ultimately be decided by "grounded people with difficult jobs who serve diverse constituencies with competing demands."

In essence, I made a call to let cooler heads prevail.

To which Caltrans and the CHP responded on Tuesday with SWAT teams, bean-bag projectiles and strong-arm arrest tactics on the same day that Sen. Noreen Evans – one of the cooler heads I mentioned last week – was scheduled to sit down to talk about the project with Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Evans, understandably upset about timing and tactics, said, "They literally bulldozed their way through the protesters in a very aggressive manner, removing the ability to try to mediate the issue and try to smooth things over."

What was the hurry to remove the tree-sitters, one of whom has been hanging out in a pine tree since Jan. 28?


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