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Mendocino County Today: July 8, 2013

OUR SUPERVISORS will hold a closed-door meeting Monday at 11am. The agenda includes three items: labor negotiations and two court cases to be discussed with the county's legal counsel. The first case lists the cities of Ukiah, Fort Bragg and Willits as petitioners who are suing the County and Auditor-Controller Meredith Ford, along with “Does 1-10.” The second case on the agenda is Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg's lawsuit against the county in his attempt to get the County to allow his family's burial of his wife, Carrie Hamburg, on the family's property. The Supes meet in Fort Bragg on Friday the 12th at Town Hall downtown.


WHEN LIGHTNING sparked a fire west of Hopland last Thursday night, and a CalFire chopper showed up the next day when smoke made it visible, the bucket chopper passed low over a ridgetop grow where an ag man was tending his crop. In the nude. The ag man dashed for the trees as the chopper gave him a merry blast of its siren, and a good time was had by all.


CRAIG STEHR WRITES: Warm spiritual greetings, Today I spent the whole day in Catholic churches in San Francisco. Beginning with 7:30AM mass at the historic St. Patrick's, and then sat a lengthy meditation at Old St. Mary's. I walked to the National Shrine of St. Francis, and met with the new rector Fr. Snider. We briefly discussed my need of a spiritual vocation, and he appreciates that I have been active with Catholic Worker for 23 years. We agreed to pray for each other. A visit was then made to the Sts. Peter & Paul church, and I discovered upon leaving that the SF Mime Troupe was performing their new play across the street in Washington Square Park, so I watched "Oil and Water," realizing that it's not just my own circumstances which are dire. I've got one more week at the Berkeley men's shelter. I have no idea what I am going to do or where I am going to go. Of course I have sent out hundreds of emails to activist groups saying that I am willing to relocate to continue being involved. Nothing substantive has been received yet. I have given up all hope, and am praying continuously. I ask for your prayers to receive a spiritual vocation, and am as always only seriously interested in doing the will of God. That's just the way it is with me. Thank you very much, Craig Louis Stehr, Email: Mailing address: c/o NOSCW, P.O. Box 11406, Berkeley, CA 94712-2406.


MAJOR CORPORATION execs now make, on average, about 273 times more than the average worker, according to a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) of the CEO-to-worker pay ratio at top 350 firms. The average pay, EPI found, was $14.1 million in 2012, up 12.7% from 2011. That’s a big change from a half-century ago. In 1965, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio was about 20-to-1, but it grew over the next three decades, and that growth picked up speed in the 90s. It peaked in 2000 before the early 2000s recession, with a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 383.4-to-1. It hit a lesser peak again in 2007, before the Great Recession, with a ratio of 351.3-to-1. During the recovery, CEO pay has been climbing upward once more. At the same time, for most Americans, wages have remained stagnant at best.



The Link Between Suicides & Homicides

By Ralph Nader

“I am sorry that it has come to this.” Thus began the searing suicide note by 30-year-old Iraq War veteran, Daniel Somers on June 10, 2013 to his wife and family.

On the other side of the violent divide are video messages from the suicide bombers — the oft-described “weapon of the weak” against US soldiers and their presumed local collaborators.

In 2012 suicide by active duty American soldiers exceeded the number of US combat deaths in Afghanistan. Why?

In the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, young natives are lining up to become suicide bombers. Why?

For the soldiers’ conditions, there is an acronym — PTSD or post-traumatic stress syndrome. During World War I, it used to be called “shell-shock.” But in the Afghan and Iraq regions, the adversaries are not modern armies armed with “shells” — they have no thunderous artillery, missiles, gunships, tanks fighter planes or drones. They have rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide belts sporadically used. Something else is at work that is causing PTSD.

War correspondent and author, Kevin Sites offers this explanation: “Our understanding of PTSD from a clinical perspective has been that it’s triggered by witnessing a traumatic event that resonates so deeply that it prevents a person from leading a normal life in the aftermath. And so it is the witnessing of the event that causes the problems…. The Veterans Administration (VA) started looking at the connection between killing and post-traumatic stress and found that those soldiers who were involved in killings or who witnessed killings were experiencing a higher degree of post-traumatic stress disorder… It was about the feelings of guilt they had about what they did or witnessed. And the guilt stemmed from two things: the guilt from killing, whether justified in the line of duty or killing a civilian by accident or killing one of your own guys by accident or killing in a war crime — so any kind of killing; the second point was surviving, survivor’s guilt. Their friends died, but they didn’t.”

The VA distilled thousands of interviews in their 2009 report, Moral Injury in the Context of War, to come to their assessment.

Mr. Sites came to the same judgment after his many profiles of returning veterans. In an interview with the Northwestern Alumni Magazine, he said “when we do something that goes against our moral compass — and killing goes against a lot of moral compasses out there — unless you’re a sociopath — we do feel some empathy…. So that idea of participation in something that goes against your moral compass really screws you up. It makes you feel bad, makes you feel guilt and shame.”

But soldiers aren’t supposed to talk about these feelings and don’t, which is why Sites titled his new book The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War (Harper Perennial).

The fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were so one-sided in weaponry and so full of casualties of innocent civilians, including children, who never threatened our country, exacerbates these feelings of guilt.

This trauma coursed through the lengthy suicide letter of Daniel Somers who ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in Iraq during 2004-2005 and later worked with JSOC — Joint Special Operations Command — in Mosul, Iraq.

He writes “to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing… During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from…. To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing cover-up is more than any government has the right to demand.”

In Daniel Somers’ final message he asks: “And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for?”

As for what he called his “actual final mission,” he wrote: “Not suicide, but a mercy killing…. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free…. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations.”

What of the young suicide bombers who are depicted in their videos as wanting to become martyrs? Western reporters like to say their motivation is to go the Islamic paradise. That is not what University of Chicago professor, Robert Pape found in his extensive research, concluding that their principal motivation was to expel the occupying invader.

Their immense poverty, war-torn devastation of their villages and tribal areas, and the absence of any future, whether of economic survival or personal achievements, was probably also in the mix. Perhaps some money was given to their destitute families in exchange for their attacks.

Whatever the reasons, to dismiss these fighters as sociopaths is to help preclude our own examination of why we are there blowing apart their societies, provoking sectarian revenge cycles, bribing our way everywhere with crates of $100 bills. As a Yemeni villager plaintively asked, after a devastating drone attack that killed many civilians, “Why do you hate us so much?”

Here in the US we better start understanding the rising tide of suicides generally. The Centers for Disease Control totals suicides in 2010 at 38,364 Americans as compared with homicides totaling 16,259. Among the baby boomers, suicides are sharply higher than previous generations, especially since the onset of the recession, unemployment and home foreclosures.

We better starting digging more deeply into the conditioning “whys?” and discounting the traditional explanations of self-hatred and hating us “for our freedoms.”

(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.)



by Bruce McEwen

On Tuesday June 25th a bench warrant was issued for Matthew Hamburg, the troubled son of Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg. Matthew had bailed on a promise to appear at a hearing that day. He had failed to appear at a previous court date as well back on June 11th. A bench warrant had been held at that time, at the request from the Public Defender. But in fact, Hamburg wasn’t supposed to have been granted bail at all, since he was the subject of a felony hearing to determine his mental competency to aid in his own defense, and it was speculated in open court that the Hamburg family had intervened in Matthew’s case for “political reasons.”

The case is a kind of local version of the Kennedys in the sense that Dan Hamburg is regionally regarded as the leader of the soft liberalism that prevails on the North­coast. It may be remembered that when she became an embarrassment to the Kennedys’ political ambitions, the disabled Kennedy sister, Rosemarie, was shipped out West to a private institution and given a lobotomy. When the Hamburgs bailed the troubled son Matthew out of jail a few weeks ago, he too was put in a private mental institution and was probably given a prescription for an oral lobotomy — Big Pharma has plenty of ’em.

But on Tuesday the 25th, the court agreed that the Hamburg’s political interests were being put ahead of Matthew Hamburg’s mental health interests and the warrant was issued.

It has been common knowledge for years that Matthew Hamburg has mental issues, and it is often speculated that his heavy use of marijuana at an early age caused the condition he suffers from.

The latest episode involving him occurred on May 5th, when Matthew got into some sort of squabble at or near the Frank Zeek School in South Ukiah. He was reportedly using foul language at peak volume and blis­tering the sensitive ears of the young scholars on the playgrounds. The police were called, a chase ensued across town and out the Boonville Road to Shepherds Lane, site of the Hamburg property, where Matthew was finally run to ground and arrested after a scuffle with deputies. He was charged with recklessly evading an officer, a felony.

The case was assigned to Carly Dolan of the Public Defender’s Office and a prelim was set for May 22nd. Ms. Dolan in the meantime made a motion for a sanity hearing due to her doubts that Mr. Hamburg was men­tally competent to aid in his own defense. This proceeding includes appointments with psychologists to determine whether a person is crazy or not, because, well, in a culture as crazy as ours, only a professional with an office in an old Victorian house on School Street in Ukiah can tell for sure who’s crazy and who’s sane.


But before the psychological evaluations could be completed enter Richard Kossow, described as “a visiting judge from Humboldt County.” He may live there now, but the Honorable Richard Kossow was a pioneer stoner who rose from a prolonged interlude of hippie grab ass at the famous Rainbow Commune on Greenwood Road, Anderson Valley, to the Superior Court sinecure he occupies to this day. Judge Kossow, who goes all the way back with Hamburg to the days of full moon boogies, had already granted bail to Matthew Hamburg on the grounds that a conservatorship was underway.

Matthew Hamburg had disappeared.

Someone — presumably a member of the Hamburg family — had bailed Matthew out on a promise to appear on June 25th. But he failed to appear, and the judge handling the case, the Honorable Ann Moorman, wanted an explanation why she shouldn’t issue a bench warrant. Her Honor was also annoyed with a set of orders with political overtones from an undisclosed source.

“I’ve been presented with orders I won’t sign,” Judge Moorman said.

Ms. Dolan wasn’t present, so Public Defender Linda Thompson filled in for Dolan, saying that it was her understanding that Matthew Hamburg had been taken to a private mental health facility and that County Counsel Tom Parker had somehow been involved in making this unique arrangement.

“The case has taken a weird turn, frustrating my office,” Ms. Thompson said. “I suspect something political is going on here. We had no notice his bond had been posted, so he could be taken to North Valley Mental Health on a 5150. But Ms. Dolan was hoping the 1368 (competence hearing) wouldn’t have to be declined.”

Thompson said it was her understanding that Matthew had somehow been found incompetent and his public guardian had asked for a temporary conservatorship.

“Dr. Kelly spoke with Matt and said he’d been restored… somehow. Then Judge Kossow accepted the placement.”

Kelly is also a long time Hamburg supporter.

Judge Moorman said she wasn’t entirely confident as to where Mr. Hamburg was. “But we need him here,” she added, emphatically. “And I won’t sign a placement recommendation.”

Deputy DA Matt Hubley wanted the bail bond forfeited and a bench warrant issued. “There’s a political element here,” he said, “and Dr. Kelly is caught in the middle. The defendant was not going to go back to North Valley.”

The Public Defender said she’d like the warrant held until she could contact the mental health facility and find out if Mr. Hamburg was there or not; and whether or not he was the subject of a conservatorship. DA David Eyster said it was unheard of that a conservatorship would be done when a defendant was the subject of a competency hearing, without first consulting with the DA.

DDA Hubley said, “Let the bench warrant issue and let law enforcement get him here.”

Thompson said, “I talked to Dr. Kelly this morning and he said if he could get the order today, he’d go back to North Valley and talk to him [Matthew Hamburg]. The family and Mental Health made this decision to get him out of here. If the court could hold the warrant until I can talk to ‘the powers that be’ and see if we can get him back here without law enforcement involvement…”

Judge Moorman said she agreed with Ms. Thompson that Matthew Hamburg’s interests were taking a back seat to his  connected family’s interests, and that his father’s political influence had obviously been exerted.

Moorman said, “I have an obligation to keep track of the expenses involved here. He was in court and Judge Kossow found him incompetent and agreed to the placement. Now, I‘m being asked to spend more tax dollars on the same questionable decision.”

Hubley said, “The DA was approached by two county officials asking for the release and placement — this comes at a time when we have other people waiting for those beds, and I don’t see why Mr. Hamburg should receive preference.”

DA David Eyster said, “I’m not sure how it happens that a 1368 felony gets bailed out of jail… I think the court has to forfeit the bond and issue the warrant.”

Judge Moorman said, “I don’t have jurisdiction if I don’t have a body so I’m going to issue the bench warrant in the amount of $35,000. The bail bond is forfeit because the defendant bailed to appear and failed to do so. I am also ordering County Counsel to be here, and I’m considering recalling Judge Kossow’s incompetent ruling. The court has not rescinded the 1368 even though he may have failed to appear intentionally.”

An honest judge is a wonderful thing to see.

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