Union Democrat staff

Health care solution

To the editor:

I'm as confused as the next person as to what the proposed health coverage changes going through Congress will actually do. For the life of me, I can't understand why, when there is already a government health care plan in place (Medicare), that it can't be gradually extended to everyone else in the population who is under 65, rather than having to create a completely new bureaucracy, which is where the new proposals seem to be headed. Or perhaps that is too simple and sensible a solution for the bureaucratic mind to absorb?

One thing I do know is that the current health care system in this country is seriously broken, and needs to be fixed. Having one's health care tied to being employed is just plain nuts. I don't think any other country in the civilized world has a system like that, especially our neighbor to the north, Canada, where basic care and emergency treatment is available at very low cost to everyone, with next to no paperwork involved, and no insurance company breathing down your neck all the time.

Sure, they have to ration certain procedures, particularly elective, non-emergency operations, but no one is terrorized into staying in a job they hate by the threat of losing their health coverage, nor do they lose their coverage when they become unemployed.

In the U.S.A., health care rationing is based on whether one has a job or not. Ever try getting an elective procedure done with no insurance? You'd better be darn wealthy. Why people put up with this situation is completely beyond me.

Malcolm Carden

Long Barn

Standard Mill closure

To the editor:

Tuolumne County has lost another business to the downturn in the economy that began in early 2006.

Fortunately, rural areas like ours feel the pain later, but unfortunately we also usually recover later.

The closing of Sierra Pacific Industries' Standard mill is a casualty that was unavoidable. Lumber prices have been dropping steadily, approaching historic lows. And if management could not compete with lumber that was being shipped from New Zealand, 6,000 miles away, well I think we can see what caused the closing.

SPI's owner is among the richest people in the world, and being a multi-billionaire one would think he would know how to run the mill more efficiently. He has the land, plenty of timber at the site, an experienced workforce, timber harvest plans that are negotiated for three year periods, etc.

Which brings me to the real problem, our problem: Tuolumne County has an abysmal track record when it comes to handling situations involving pollution. Makes you wonder, is the Standard mill the next Jamestown Mine?

The Standard Mill is virtually another toxic waste dump, so many chemicals in the pools, and the debris just everywhere. I also understand SPI is going to develop housing right near the mill fence line. Let us watch this closely, as this could be our Love Canal (Niagara Falls, N.Y.).

I also wonder if this is not a blessing in disguise. Could this closing lead to an end of the destructive clear cutting of thousand of acres of forest land in Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties? Could it also mean no more wasting of money fighting the pollution caused by their use of deadly chemicals?

Domenic Torchia


Domenic Torchia is president of the Tuolumne County Democratic Club. He was a candidate in 2008 for the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors.


To the editor:

Mr. (Gil) Fryer (letter, July 30) needs to get his facts straight, too. Clear-cutting is Sierra Pacific Industries' M.O. That's what the dissent is about.

Statistics show SPI has clear-cut (including harvest plans still being reviewed) more than 12,674 acres. There are 640 acres in a square mile, so SPI has clear-cut over 20 square miles. That said, perhaps "clear-cutting" should be defined.

As opposed to "selective harvesting," where trees are thinned for market purposes, clear-cutting is stripping a large patch of land of its native growth and habitat. Sometimes a dozen or so scraggly trees are left. Herbicides are then applied to kill any remaining growth, and the soil is tilled to prepare for "crop" planting. The crop is usually ponderosa pine, sometimes incense-cedar, or fir, but it tends to lean toward single specie plantings that are marketable. This has been dubbed "even-age planting" by SPI, mainly because they know the "clear-cutting" preceding it is a dirty word with a great many people.

When you drive up Highway 4 in the winter, you can easily see snow-laden bare patches that have been clear-cut by SPI. "Even-aged" is a process where trees are planted simultaneously on clear-cut land with the expectation of a one-time harvest (like corn). One problem is that, with even-aged crowns (tree tops) and thin bark, these plantings are fire prone.

The U.S. Forest Service has conducted scientific studies and fire observations confirming that younger tree plantations burn disproportionately more intensely than selectively harvested forests. Since SPI generally thins the plantations, leaving thinned trees on the ground, creating ground fuel, the threat is exacerbated. Once the fire reaches the crowns it spreads rapidly.

S.L. Sorensen

Hathaway Pines

Wonderful thing

To the editor:

My wife is from the Sonora area and she's always griping on me to move up there. I told her that I don't want to move there because a VA hospital for me would be too far and it would be hard to have a face-to-face meeting with a VA adviser. Now I see that you all have a wonderful thing. With the VA. coming in, I'm really considering it now. Do you all have room for another disabled vet from the Iraq War up there?

Manny Arredondo

Kingman, Arizona