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Mendocino County Today: April 18, 2013

THE MARIJUANA LAWS, proposed and actual, change so often it's hard to keep up. But a useful bill introduced last by Congressman Rohrabacher, R-Orange County, is aimed at resolving the conflict between the fed's total ban and state laws that permit medical or recreational use. (Recreational drug use, as Troll Brandon has memorably pointed out, “Is like smoking a joint while water skiing.”)

ROHRABACHER'S initiative has three Republicans and three Democrats as sponsors. It would require that the feds respect state pot laws.

THE BILL would also amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt from federal prosecution businesses and individuals, including marijuana dispensaries, so long as they comply with state law.


YESTERDAY'S POST about the unidentified Healdsburg woman who thought she might have seen a mountain lion, was posted as an example of the lame “reporting” now typical of the Press Democrat. Really? Someone thinks they might have seen a mountain lion?



 “Was it something I said, you fascist pig bastard?”



Dear Editor,

On Sunday I was traveling north through Willits. I saw the protesters and law enforcement. Other than following the accounts of the bypass in your paper I gave not a thought to the bypass, the protesters, or CalTrans. However it didn’t take long to form an opinion on whether there should be a bypass. I decided it was the best for those living in Willits.

And why? A young man walked out in front of my car with his arms out. He wanted the traffic to stop for him. He was angling up the street past the hospital east to west turning around and around. There was quite a bit of traffic going south and he wanted them to stop too, however they seemed a tad reluctant.

As I drove off he was still waving his arms about and wandering around the middle of the street. This young man was on a collision course with death. I would bet he had done his Pamplona act before — running with the cars instead of the bulls. I’m also inclined to believe that he’s not the only person in Willits who tempts fate in and out of traffic.

With a bypass he and others like him would be able to live long and possibly productive lives. Main Street would be theirs to ramble on at will. Save the endangered traffic darter. Put in the bypass. Thanks for your publication. It’s very enjoyable.

Jan Joki, Willow Creek


ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: “On the psych ward where I work, we confiscate and lock up the cell phones of all our patients (because some in the past have used them to take pics of other patients, and put them on FaceSchnook pages, which is a repulsive violation of those other patients' rights to not have the whole world informed they have mental problems.) When we do that, the cell phone-owning patients are utterly at a loss to get in touch with anyone, because they can't remember a single phone number. (Our ward has a phone we let patients use for free, unless they're calling 9-1-1 repeatedly to claim they're being held captive against their will. You would not believe how much 9-1-1 operators' time is wasted on crackpot calls.) We nurses will generally let patients grab their phones, write the vital numbers down on paper — what a concept, eh? — and use our ward phone to call. But the lack of non-technology-dependent information retrieval is just one of the many ways that the techno generation's life will collapse when the infosystems go down. They are completely at the mercy of their gadgets, and they don't even know it.”



America’s Miserly Minimum Wage Needs an Upgrade

By Raph Nader

America’s highest-paid CEO last year, John Hammergren of McKesson Corp., received compensation of over $131 million. That is the equivalent of about $63,000 per hour, or $10,000 more than the annual median household income in the United States. Meanwhile, some of this country’s lowest-paid workers—those on minimum wage—made just $15,080 annually at $7.25 per hour. Mr. Hammergren had surpassed that amount by 9:15 a.m. on his first workday of the year.

It is long past time for minimum-wage workers to receive a raise. Had the federal minimum wage just kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would stand today at $10.67 per hour, not $7.25.

President Obama finally broke his four-year silence on this issue by calling for a minimum-wage increase in this year’s State of the Union address. But he advocated a federal rate of $9.00 per hour by 2016—well short of the $9.50 by 2011 he promised while campaigning in 2008, and far from catching up with 1968. Rep. Alan Grayson (D., Fla.) rightfully went a step further this month by introducing a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour.

Mr. Hammergren’s compensation represents just one example of corporate avarice. The top 100 highest-compensated American CEOs all made more than $15 million last year. Over the last 45 years, the minimum wage has lost nearly one-third of its inflation-adjusted value, while CEO compensation has skyrocketed 900%.

At a Senate Labor Committee hearing last month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) noted that had the minimum wage increased in proportion to worker productivity since 1960, it would stand today at $22 per hour.

Critics argue that increasing the minimum wage will harm the economy. In fact, when low-wage workers receive a wage increase, they spend that money back into the economy to pay for the necessities of life. In 2011, a Chicago Federal Reserve study showed that for every dollar increase in the hourly pay of a minimum-wage worker, the result was $2,800 in new consumer spending from that worker’s household over the year. Studies from the Economic Policy Institute indicate that a $10.50 hourly minimum wage would increase economic activity by at least $30 billion over each of the first two years and add 140,000 jobs.

Opponents claim that a $10.50 wage would burden consumers with price increases. Yet Costco starts its workers at $11.50 per hour plus benefits, which assures lower turnover and higher productivity. Andy Shallal, owner of the successful Busboys and Poets restaurant chain, starts his workers at $10.25 per hour.

The last refuge of critics is the oft-repeated refrain that raising wages might harm small businesses (which already have received 18 tax breaks under Mr. Obama). The reality is that, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project, two-thirds of low-wage workers are employed not by small businesses but by large, multinational and highly profitable corporations such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.

The low wages provided by large, profitable corporations don’t harm only minimum-wage workers. They also harm taxpayers and many small-business owners who are already paying more than minimum wage in one simple way: through our taxes.

Corporations pay their workers such low wages that the workers can’t afford to buy the food, pay the rent, or get the health care they need. Consequently, these employees increasingly turn to the taxpayer-funded government safety net via food stamps, Medicaid, the earned income tax credit and housing-assistance programs. Taxpayers end up footing the bill for the unconscionably low wages paid by profitable corporations.

Wal-Mart, which grossed $318 billion in the U.S. last year, provides its workers with technical advice about how to apply for this public assistance. For responsible businesses to subsidize the low wages of their larger competitors is a complete perversion of capitalism.

Corporations like Wal-Mart have no problem making profits while paying the higher $10.25 minimum wage in Ontario, Canada, just across the border from Buffalo, N.Y. Australia’s minimum wage is almost $16 per hour. Of the 10 countries with minimum wages higher than America’s, eight have unemployment rates that are the same or even lower.

Poll after poll has shown overwhelming American support—70%—for increasing the minimum wage. All that is standing in the way is Congress. Thirty-nine House Republicans and 24 Republican senators voted to increase the minimum wage in 2007. The moral and economic reasons to increase the lagging minimum wage haven’t changed.

Do members of Congress want to serve the interests of their corporate pay masters? Or do they want to support a hard-pressed working class of 30 million Americans whose depreciating wages result in deprivations and tragedies? It’s time for our country to catch up to 1968 wages.

(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.



Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster Tuesday said the theme of this year’s National Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 21-27, is “New Challenges, New Solutions.”

“This is an opportunity to affirm our commitment to helping victims rebuild their lives,” said Eyster.

Eyster said the greatest challenge in 2013 is to match, if not exceed, the legacy of achievements in service to victims. “Violent crime inflicts emotional, physical, psychological and financial harm on victims and their families, the community, and the nation as a whole,” said Eyster. “What has unfolded and will continue to unfold in Boston is an extreme example of our need to stay focused as a community in extending helping hands to those who have been victimized.”

The Victims of Crime Act of 1984, the Crime Victims' Act of 2004, and the many laws at federal and state levels stand as benchmarks of the first quarter century of the victim rights movement. Eyster said the criminal justice system stands at the threshold of a new era in victim services, “One in which we acknowledge the challenges of serving victims of emerging crimes as well as responding to enduring crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual assault, with renewed energy and resolve.”

Any one individual or agency alone cannot achieve justice for victims justice is achieved through dedication and collaboration from many at the local, state and national levels.

The Mendocino County Victim Assistance Program is available to assist victims and witnesses of crime, and can be contacted at 463-4218. (District Attorney Press Release)

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