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January 4, 2012     Feather River Bulletin
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Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 7B COMMUNITY PEKSPECTIVE No th'ing to hzlde,. everything .to fear WHERE I STAND IGOR BIRMAN CHIEF OF STAFF FOR CONGRESSMAN TOM McCLINTOCK One of the most haunting impressions of my Soviet childhood was stories my grandparents told about the Black Raven. As a small boy I was terrified of this polished and poised creature of the night, usually sighted as it crouched to swoop upon an unsuspecting victim and carry him away, never to be seen again. The Black Raven, however, was no avian figment of the human mind. Rather, this secret-police sedan-- named for the Russian Symbol of death -- was a very real fixture of life in the Soviet Union of the 1930s. Those who saw the Raven stop outside their building of communal flats contemplated last words to families as they waited tensely for the dreaded knock. Its reverberations from another door brought a macabre sense of relief, lasting only until the Raven's next appearance. Such was the abject terror of living in the claws of despotism. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't tempered by that infamous platitude: "If you have noth- ing to hide, you have nothing to fear." How very different from a life in America, secured from fear by the assurances of individual liberty. But in the 17 years since I became an American we've been averting our gaze as these sacred assurances slowly waned. With passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, we look away again as Congress exposes Americans to the specter of prlson without charge or trial and smothers that basic right of free citizens to invoke the law against their government, Predictably, proponents of dispensing with that anti- quated and inconvenient notion of due process would have us believe that warnings of the tentacles of tyranny are so much flimflam. They declare that they didn't change existing law. That would be satisfying, if not for the inconvenient fact that there is no existing law on military detention of Americans on American soil. Rather, the past two presi- dents have simply asserted that power as lurking in an undisclosed location within the Constitution. The constitutional duty of Congress was to restrict that toxic overreach. Instead we codified it. Never mind that our nation successfully meted out justice to traitors for over two centuries without de- stroying our commitment to such principles of freedom as the trial by jury that define us as Americans. Supporters go on to say that this law was written to apply only to terrorists. That would likewise be comforting, except that it consigns to indefinite de- tention anyone whom the government simply suspects of "substantially supporting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces." What does it mean to "substantially support"? And who or what are "associated forces"? And above all, are we to retain our freedom by submitting to the untested breadth of those words? The famous writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who exposed the secret network of Soviet indefinite-detention camps, wrote of a similarly broad and vague law that ultimately enabled the gulags: "One can find more epithets in praise of this article than (the great Russian authors) once assembled to praise ... Mother Russia: great, power- ful, abundant, highly rami- fied, multiform, wide sweep- ing, which summed up the world not so much through the exact terms of its sections as in their extended interpre- tation. "Who among us has not ex- perienced its all-encompassing embrace? In all truth, there is no step, thought, action, or lack of action under the heavens which could not be punished by the heavy hand of this article." Perhaps there is an explana- tion for the acceptance these empty assurances have found. After all, our nation is only familiar with the travesties of tyranny by reputation: from the words and suffering of others. But Americans should know that, to eyes familiar with tyranny by experience, congressional consent to these broad new powers marks a major milestone on the road to serfdom. Before it's {oo late, let us resolve to renew and reinvigorate our vigilance for freedom. Until such time, we are left with a familiar refrain as the proponents' last refuge: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear." That too rings hollow. In a nation that casts aside the shield of individual liberty for the fig leaf of faith in a benevolent government, citizens with nothing to hide have precisely everything to fear. The long story of humanity is very clear on this point: benevolence is fleeting. And once it's gone, we are at the mercy of that old Biack Raven. Igor Birman arrived in Northern California as a Soviet refugee at the age of 13. He serves as chief of staff to Congressman Tom McClintock. Minimum wage increase will.00 help working families WHERE I STAND CHRISTINE L. OWENS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT While working families struggle to make ends meet in this sluggish economy, there is a bright spot on the horizon: On Jan. 1, the mini- mum wage will increase in eight states, raising wages for more than 1.4 million low-wage workers. The in- creases in Arizona, Colorado , Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Wash- ington are a result of state laws that adjust the mini- mum wage upward each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living. . .... :, As a result, individuals who do the hard work of cleaning and securing office buildings, providing day care and serving food will not fall further behind as prices for food, gas and utilities con- tinue to rise. The increase not only helps hard-working men and women provide for their families, but also boosts the overall economy. When Franklin Roosevelt first established the federal minimum wage during the Great Depression in 1938, he emphasized a strong wage floor is "an essential part of economic recovery.' The same is true today. When low-wage workers have more money in their pockets, fliey have 1R(le choice but to spend it imme- diately on basic necessities like groceries, clothing and school supplies. And as de- mand for goods and services grows, businesses expand and hire; the increased spending resulting from the minimum-wage bumps in eight states on Jan. I will lead to an additional $366 million in economic output and create the equivalent of more than 3,000 jobs, ac- cording to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. That's a shot in the arm our economy desperately needs. The minimum-wage in. crease is especially important when so many better-paying jobs in sectors like construc- , tion, manufacturing and finance have disappeared, and many families are left supporting themselves with lower-paid service-sector jobs. An analysis by the National Employment Law Project finds that while the majority of jobs lost during and after the recession were in mid-wage occupations, roughly three-quarters of the jobs added since job growth resumed are in low-wage occupations. And things aren't going to improve any time soon: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated seven of the 10 occupations with the most job growth between 2008 and 2018 will be low:paying positions. While we know our economy will have an increasing number of positions in home health care, food preparation and customer service, these jobs don't have to pay poverty wages. At one time, the manu- facturing jobs we now yearn for were dangerous, low.wage and undesirable. But we turned them into good jobs, with safer work places, higher pay and a voice for workers. Eight states will take a step in the right direction on Jan. 1 when they raise minimum wage rates to keep pace with inflation. But while more than 1.4 million workers will see their wages increase Jan. 1, millions more must depend on the stagnant federal minimum LETTERS to the EDITOR wage of just $7.25, or $15,000 a year for full-time work. The American people know thfs isn't right: A national poll conducted in November found more than two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. It's a deeply popular idea that can help boost the economy while not adding to state or federal budget deficits. It's time for Congress and state legislatures across the country to take a cue from these state leaders and raise and index the minimum wage. Christine L. Owens is the executive director of the National Employ- ment Law Project. Guidelines for Letters All letters must contain an ad- dress and a phone number. We publish only one letter per week, per person and only one letter per person, per month regarding the same subject. We do not publish third-party, anonymous, or open letters. Letters must be limited to a maximum of 300 words. The editor will cut any letter in excess of 300 words. The deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. (Deadlines may change due to holidays.) Letters may be taken to any Of Feather Publishing's offices, sent via fax to 283-3952, or e-mailed to mail@plumasnews.com. Occupied A few words about the Occupy movement in Quincy: I am part of it because I see so much injuMice, unfairness and dishonesty in our world. People should be treated with justice and dignity. Democra- cy should function under the rule of law. I want to live in a place where people cannot be arrested and held indefinitely as the Constitution promises. No one in Plumas County is responsible for the injus- tice that is rampant. We can't demonstrate against the pow- er of Wall Street in our small town. We are seeking ways to support each other here. We are becoming informed about the issues that affect people here in Plumas County and to figure out what we can do. Every Wednesday we gather at 3 p.m. to talk about these things at the Alley Cat Cafe. At 4 p.m. we go out and wave our signs at the traffic during rush hour. We are scheduling other gatherings to discuss what can be done here. The Occupy movement impresses me because every- where R adheres to democratic principles and actions. Every voice is respected and there is no hierarchy. It is always non-violent. Violence never does any good. It is shocking that police in the cities are using force against peaceful demonstrators. We want to help people who are having their homes foreclosed. Sometimes these foreclosures are not legal. I don't see how it can be bene- ficial to a bank to refuse to negotiate a mortgage to bring it in line with the value of the property. The cost of foreclo- sure, repairs, resale, refi- nance could be avoided and the neighborhood saved if the banks would negotiate. Peo- ple did not cause the housing crisis, the investment banks did. The economy won't be fixed without fixing this housing crisis, ff you agree or have ideas, please join us. Check Facebook, Occupy Quincy. Judy Houck Quincy Cure is worse Under the auspices of becoming a greener society, the administration, through non-legislative actions, make choices for the rest of us. The decision to fund and fast-track the Solyndra operation, for example. Job creation -- 0, homes saved -- 0, tax base increased -- 0, tax- payer impact -- negative $500 million. And what did this decision accomplish to make us less dependent on fossil fuels and foreign oil? The Keystone XL pipeline. Under study for three years, estimated to create tens of thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, this project would not only cush- ion us against blackmail from OPEC, but put dollars in American workers' pock- ets, state and local coffers, but with little or no negative taxpayer impact. The admin- istration decision, let's postpone it until after the election. We have a cure for cancer, heart disease, AIDS and even poverty. It's called starva- tion; unfortunately, it kills the host. Our national policy towards our energy needs seems to be following the same logic. Coming soon, the president's promise to make electric rates skyrocket. Brian Luce Portola War's end Dec. 18, 2011, marked the end to the Iraq war. You remember the Iraq war -- right? On that fateful night nine years ago, television brought you live coverage of America invading an unarmed sovereign nation. Remember the Bush administration taking six months to advertise and sell the "war" to America as if it were a "product"? Remember the reason for the invasion? Remember the chemical weapons, the aluminum tubes, the "(Iraq) aggressive move to develop nuclear weapons," the smoking gun of a mushroom cloud... It was all a lie. The evidence was fabricated. Weapons inspectors were in country and stated no WMD exists. No WMD have ever been found. The Bush admin- istration then had to sell other reasons -- Hussein is . evil, must end Hussein's regime and the War on Terror. Throw in false claims of 9/11 involvement, "axis of evil" and "spreading democracy" -- you get a brand-new sparkly American war. You see, war is a racket. It's the war "industry." It's all about profit -- the munitions makers, the con- tractors, the mercenaries and the news propaganda indus- try whose parent corpora- tions are part of the war industry. And all that oil... There was no draft. There was no national sacrifice. Congress even handed out Bushes tax cuts for the rich while we were told to "shop." Four thousand, four hundred eighty-six American soldiers were killed in this nine-year-long war for profit. Thirty-two thousand, two hundred twenty-six soldiers were severely wounded and countless soldiers with PTSD. Soldiers come home to no jobs and many are homeless. While America crumbles, $800 billion was spent on this invasion. And 113,000 to 1 million innocent Iraqi men, women and chil- dren were murdered. Rendition, torture, murder and invading a sovereign nation are war crimes. With no accountability or prosecu- tions, these are the actions of a heartless, soulless, apathetic, unjust nation. Mark Mihevc Graeagle The Waltons An interesting statistic emerged in the news. The wealth of six Waltons (owners of Walmart) equals that of the bottom 30 percent of Ameri- cans. Since the population of the United States was 312,787,331 on Dec. 16, 2011, that means that the wealth of those six Waltons equals that of 93,836,199 Americans. Then why in the world does Walmart have to move into communities and drive out small, independent busi- nesses? Even more puzzling is why they have such a poor record in their treatment of their employees. If, indeed, their wealth is a result of those practices, then it seems to me that there is something wrong when a few people acquire their unreasonable wealth at the expense of their employees and the stability of old, estab- lished communities. Also, I doubt that they would even come close to losing their status as part of the 1 percent if they were kinder and more considerfite. Salvatore Catalano Taylorsville Contact your ........ elected officiais::" .... PLUMAS COUNTY SUPERVISORS - 520 Main Street, Room 309, Quincy, CA 95971; (530) 283-6170; FAX: (530) 283-6288; E-Mail: pcbs@countyofplumas.com. Individual supervisors can also be e-mailed from links on the county website, cuntyfplumas'cm PRESIDENT - Barack Obama, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20500. (202) 456-1414. Fax: 202-456-2461. E-maih whitehouse.gov/contact / U.S. SENATOR - Dianne Feinstein (D), 331 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20510. (202) 224-3841; FAX: 202-228-3954; TIW/TDD: (202) 224-2501. District Office: One Pos t Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco, CA 94104; Phone: (415) 393-0707; Fax: (415) 393-0710 Website: feinstein.senate.gov. U.S. SENATOR - Barbara Boxer (D). District Office: 501 I St., Suite 7-600, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 448-2787; FAX (916) 448-2563; OR 112 Hart Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20510. (202) 224-3553. FAX (202) 228-0454. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, 4TH DIST. - Tom McClintock, 508 Cannon HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515. (202) 225-2511; FAX (202) 225-5444. mcclintock.house.gov. DISTRICT OFFICE: 8700 Auburn Folson Rd., Suite #100, Granite Bay, CA 95746; (916) 786-5560, FAX: (916) 786-6364. STATE SENATOR, 1st DIST. - Ted Gaines. State Capitol, Room 3056, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 651-4001, FAX: (916) 324-2680. Roseville office: 2140 Professional Dr., #140, Roseville, CA, 95661. (916) 783-8232, FAX (916) 783-5487; Jackson office: 33 C Broadway, Jackson, CA 95642, (209) 223-9140. STATE ASSEMBLYMAN, 3RD DIST. Dan Logue, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 319-2003; FAX (916) 319-2103. District Office, 1550 Humboldt Rd., Ste. #4, Chico, CA 95928; (530) 895-4217, FAX (530) 895-4219. GOVERNOR Jerry Brown, office of the Governor, Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814. Website: gov.ca.gov/ (916) 445-2841.. FAX: (916)558-3160. State