Dan Hamburg has written for Harper’s magazine, The Nation and The Texas Observer.

His articles have also been published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury-News, the San Francisco Chronicle,
the Press-Democrat, the Santa Monica Mirror and on numerous websites.

Santa Monica Mirror San Francisco Chronicle San Jose Mercury News La Opinion
Press Democrat
San Francisco Examiner commondreams.org

TOPICS:

Campaign Finance:

Inside the Money Chase

Media's Bottom Line -
Corporate profits dictate too much of what is news

Health/Big Pharma:

Government Of, By and For The Pharmaceutical Industry

Allowing the Drug Companies to Poison our Children

Dr. Frist Immunizes Big Pharma

Protecting Against the Protectors:
Mercury-laced vaccines are a danger to our children's health

Environment:

The Idea Of Earth Day

$130 Million Headwaters Is No Deal

Another way to save California's heritage trees

A Monumental Effort to Save the Sequoias?

Who's Protecting California's Environment?
Gov. Davis campaigned on the promise
...

Marijuana:

Lawmakers part ways in state's war on pot

Consumerism:

The Incomplete Human:
We teach our kids to be consumers rather than thinkers

 

Politics:

I'm in governor's race to broaden debate

Of Turtles and Teamsters

Time for President Bush to Go

Se disputan el voto latino para gubernatura estatal

The best argument not to impeach Bush is Cheney

Martial Law: Once Unthinkable, Now Threatened

We Need a Hero

Hamburg on Obama's First Year

Why There Was No Exit Plan

A Challenge To Corporate Feudalism?

Civil Liberties:

Rule by Fear or Rule by Law?

Pruneyard & The Walmart 9 - Arrested at Ukiah Walmart

End the State of Emergency!

Will Obama restore constitutional government?

State of Emergency: The U.S. in the Final Six Months
of the George W. Bush Administration

Election Fraud:

Way to go Ohio! Dan and Carrie jailed in Columbus

GMOs

Ban Biotech Farming? Yes on H!

 

commondreams.orgCommon Dreams

A Challenge to Corporate Feudalism? March 11, 2020

by Dan Hamburg

"[T]he powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences." --Prof. Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 1966

For the first time in more than four decades, a militant student movement is taking shape across the country. This movement is in direct response to the IMF-style "austerity measures" being waged against all American citizens in the form of new mandatory taxes and a range of government-imposed belt-tightening measures designed to restore "fiscal responsibility." Students are facing astronomical increases in tuition (32% in California's famed UC system), expanding class sizes, loss of vital programs in the arts, music, technical and physical education. 19,000 California public school teachers have received pink slips and 20,000 students will be turned away from community colleges next fall. Add in thousands more support staff facing layoffs, cutbacks, and shrunken benefit packages and you have a mass of angry students, educators, and workers.

Of course, nearly all Americans are feeling the pinch. Nationwide, 50 million people need to use food stamps to eat. 50 million have no health care, with 60% of bankruptcies resulting from medical emergencies. Americans have lost $5 trillion from their pensions and savings and $13 trillion in the value of their homes since the latest economic crisis began. The real unemployment rate is over 20% with 30 million US citizens unemployed or underemployed. Deutsche Bank predicts that the number of ‘underwater' loans may rise to 48 percent, or 25 million homes by 2011. Every day 10,000 US homes enter into foreclosure. 60% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck.

But it's the students who offer the best potential to make change happen. Unburdened by mortgages and families, young people have the least to lose and the most to gain by overcoming a trend that is turning the majority of U.S. citizens into modern day serfs. And it's students' newfound understanding of the linkage between neoliberal economics and the collapse of public education that may push the kind of change that Barack Obama never imagined in his wildest dreams.

As Will Parrish and Darwin Bond-Graham write in their latest column for Counterpunch titled "WE Make the University Crisis": "Something new is afoot here."

This new student movement, informed by both the successes and failures of movements past, has the potential to probe more deeply into the inherent flaws that plague the American system and thus to achieve more in the way of establishing something closer to real democracy. Young people are especially fed up with seeing public dollars line the pockets of the economic elites while education, and steady employment, increasingly become an unattainable dream. Those young people tenacious and fortunate enough to make it through the system leave school saddled with crushing debt and facing a job market that is dicey at best.

Even as students in large numbers begin to pick up their placards and march, occupy offices and blockade freeway ramps, the state's machinery of repression is oiled-up and ready to roll. A recent article in Harper's magazine titled "The Soft-Kill Solution" describes in grisly detail the expanding arsenal of non-lethal weapons being developed and tested for crowd control, mostly with government funding. The United States now hosts on its soil battle-hardened army brigades trained in places like Fallujah to deal with civil unrest. In a previous post to this site, we discussed HR 645, a bill to establish six command-and-control "emergency centers" under the direction of FEMA and located throughout the continental United States. We have also pointed to the series of single-bid contracts that the Army Corps of Engineers has entered into with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations. ("Rule by Fear or Rule by Law," Common Dreams, 2/4/08)

The latest bombshell is the "Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010" recently reported by Marc Ambinder on The Atlantic website. This bill, introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman this month, sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of "suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning."

McCain/Lieberman, which does not distinguish between U.S. persons-visa holders or citizens-and non-U.S. persons., appears to be a follow-up to California Rep. Jane Harman's Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act which ultimately failed in Sen. Susan Collins's Homeland Security Committee. Obama may have rebranded Bush's War on Terror as an "overseas contingency operation," but it's clear that the war continues both on foreign lands and right here at home. Those old enough to remember COINTELPRO and more recently, John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program won't be surprised at any of this.

McCain/Lieberman asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a "high-value detainee" if he/she (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities with the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) has potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda; or (5) is deemed such based on "other matters the President considers appropriate." Determination of whether an individual is a "high-value detainee" is to be made by the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the CIA. As Ambinder glibly notes, "The President himself doesn't get to make the call."

A very noxious brew is being cooked up here. First, the elites, lurking in the shadows behind a neutered government, squeeze the vast majority of citizens, workers, and students, moving their jobs overseas, foreclosing on their homes, looting their savings, stealing their hopes and dreams. When they rebel, they are gassed, tased, shot with rubber bullets, and have their nervous systems attacked with high-tech non-lethal weaponry. If they persist in their protests, they will be jailed (according to a new report cited by David DeGraw on Alternet, "a new prison opens every week somewhere in America") without habeus corpus or rights to trial. They can then be detained indefinitely in camps. They can even be disappeared.

Yes, disappeared as in murdered. It may be hard to believe but just last month it was none other than President Obama's very own Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair who acknowledged in a congressional hearing that "the U.S. may, with executive approval, deliberately target and kill U.S. citizens who are suspected of being involved in terrorism."

This is America as it moves into the second decade of the 21st century. All we can say is that we the people better wake up fast, before there's nothing worth waking up for.

Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment [1]. Dan Hamburg, a former US congressman, is executive director.

 

The Nation

"Inside the Money Chase" May 5, 1997

The best things in life are free,
But you can give them to the birds and bees,
I need money (That's what I want).

--"Money"
Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford

My wife and I have a favorite saying: "It's not the money." To me, getting money to make my first run for Congress in 1992 was simply something I needed to do to win. I certainly never intended to become the least bit impressed with it or driven by it. After getting elected, I was sure I could be a freewheeling progressive. Joining what I believed would be legions of my kind in the new Congress and a Democratic administration, we would begin to put the country right.

When I ran for Congress, I had never raised more than $15,000 for a political race. But I knew that Congressional seats didn't come cheap. I contacted an old supporter, Bonnie Raitt, and asked her to help me raise money for my campaign. To my elation, she said yes and I was off and running.

Bonnie, along with Holly Near, did several concerts for me in early 1992, raising a total of about $60,000. It turned out, incredibly, that no-one challenged me in the spring primary. I remember thinking that the money would now flow like wine. It was exciting. I had already caught money fever.

By June, I was broke, my campaign management team having taken virtually all the money for their salaries and ancillary expenses. My Sacramento-based campaign manager put it this way: "As a candidate, you have two jobs: carry the message and raise money."

It was time to raise more. I was learning my job. I raised another $800,000 or so for the general election. Bonnie helped raise another chunk with a blockbuster concert with Jackson Browne on the driving range of a Napa country club golf course. Where did the rest of the money come from? Environmentalists. Labor. Women.

Peace and justice organizations. That was my mantra whenever anybody asked me where the money was coming from. I said it with pride, as if cool people got cool money and everything was cool.

Pretty quickly I lost track of where much of the money was coming from. I was far too busy trying to cover the sprawling seven-county district and raise the money needed to keep an ever-expanding campaign team in place. Some money came from wealthy individuals who were known to me simply as "major donors," some from state and national parties, some from Democratic incumbents who just wanted to make sure the party continued to hold the majority in the House. About a third of the roughly $900,000 raised for the 1992 campaign came from PACs. At one point, at the urging of Democratic Representative Bill Brewster, I found myself talking to the N.R.A. about giving me money because my opponent had voted to restrict sales of automatic weapons. Finally, they offered me no money, but agreed not to fund my opponent either.

By the time I won the general election that November, the campaign was in debt about $80,000 and I was personally in debt another $40,000. But hell, I'd raised nearly a million and now I was the incumbent, so no sweat! It took nearly all of 1993 to clear my '92 campaign expenses. It turned out that in off years (years in which there is not a House election) much of the fundraising had to be done at in-district events in which supporters pay and gather around to hear the celebrity/politician expound on the political wars in D.C.

In September 1993, I went to see the President and Vice President at the White House. This was a small meeting, with about eight members of Congress, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, George Stephanopoulos and David Gergen. The day before, I had been at the annual picnic of the Operating Engineers, a union that "maxed out" to me ($5,000 each for primary and general elections). At the picnic, several of the union leaders had gone over a problem they were having -- getting the go-ahead for a freeway widening project in the district. I said I'd do what I could. The next day, there I was at the White House arguing for
more money for "infrastructure," including, of course, the project the Operating Engineers were pushing.

This is the kind of thing members of Congress do routinely. After all, this is how the system is supposed to work. The member goes out into the district, talks to the constituents, finds out what they need and then fights to get it, especially if it's for a group that's good for $10,000 the next time election season comes around I knew lots of reasons that the widening project was a bad idea, at best unnecessary. In fact, I had voted against it as a county official several times. But it wasn't hard to conjure up reasons to be for it either: primarily, jobs and campaign money.

Once, when I complained to my administrative assistant (and '92 campaign fundraising director) about how much time it was taking and how demeaned I felt constantly sticking my hand out for money, her response was, "If you Congressmen didn't have to grovel for money, your heads would be even fatter." I really thought about that. Is fund-raising some kind of leveling devise, forcing the pol to go to the people? I concluded that if it is, the leveling needs to happen in other ways. There's nothing inherently character-building or constituent-serving about having to call people on the phone again and again to get them to cut you a check or come to a fundraiser at $250, $500 or $1,000 a ticket, stand around in some tastefully remodeled Victorian on the Hill and eat hors d'oeuvres and drink wine with people with whom your connection is a check.

A "successful politician" is a politician with a healthy bankroll. Behaviors that we might think of as degrading to the profession or "detrimental to democracy" are to the politician both legitimate and necessary. All the rewards come with raising tons of money --pundits laud your "prolific fundraising," colleagues have confidence in your viability (i.e., re-electability), staff members need not fear for their jobs.

Most large individual donations come from wealthy business-people. Campaign rules disallow corporate giving to individual candidates. So unless they give through a PAC, individuals must write non-tax-deductible personal checks, for which they expect a service. For example, the Congressional district I represented has lots of wineries. Wealthy vintners routinely give large checks to candidates, often to candidates from both parties. When the Clinton Administration considered raising taxes on alcohol to help cut the deficit in 1993, the wine and beer industries screamed bloody murder. Raise taxes on the sustenance of Joe and Jan Six-pack? Blasphemy! Raise taxes on the nectar of yuppiedom? Quell horror! Besides, it would cost jobs and tarnish one of the few bright spots in U.S. trade.

Members of Congress who represent competitive districts spend hours each week, and during campaign season hours each day, making fundraising calls from private offices on Capitol Hill. "Making your calls" is a basic responsibility of the job. But the problem doesn't end there. Despite all the whitewash, the fact is that campaign funds are routinely solicited from federal offices.

When I entered Congress, I was advised that while it was illegal to make fundraising calls from my Congressional office, it was legal to accept return calls. Of course, even this phony line is frequently crossed. Politicians as seemingly at odds as Phil Gramm and Al Gore have claimed that it's O.K. to use Senate and even White House offices to make fundraising calls so long as they used their own, or their campaign committee's credit cards. Gore came up with yet another angle when he claimed that it's O.K. to make such calls from official quarters so long as the recipient was not receiving the call on federal property. The relevant point here, of course, is that public officials should not be soliciting funds from offices owned by the taxpayers.

California Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh once said, "If you can't take their money and then vote against them, you should get out of politics!" Unruh was no ingénue, but that comment seems ridiculously naive now. For one thing, money shapes what even makes it to the floor for a vote. Proposals that are perceived by the moneyed interests as truly threatening, such as single-payer health insurance, are quickly squelched by committee chairs fattened up by industry. Sure, the Progressive Caucus gets a few hours once a year to argue for a budget that would slash military spending, but it's a very pro forma exercise. Progressives may take a nick out of the system once in a while, pass an amendment to build three Trident subs instead of four, but that's about it. Money buys power. Why else would it be that only the poor are getting kicked off the government dole?

On a less grand level, here's how it works: A company, say United Parcel Service, has problems with an arcane section of a bill dealing with air transit fees that's coming before your committee. You know there may be some opposition to the bill by the Teamsters, but they haven't pressed their case. The U.P.S. lobbyist meets you at the door of your office as you're returning from the floor (lobbyists have an uncanny knack for finding members and waylaying them). He states his case. He's a nice guy, he sounds authoritative on the subject. You're inclined to say, "Fine, I'll be glad to support your position," or at least, "I can't say how I'll vote but I think what you say has a lot of merit." The fact that this person has handed you two checks for $5,000 over the past months certainly helps seal the deal. The vast majority of your constituents will never know what has happened; the consequences will be well hidden.

Many entrenched politicians are not only able to fund their own re-election campaigns and intimidate potential opponents, they establish their own PACs to give money to other members. This is another way, besides the seniority system, that established politicians influence less-established politicians. It's also another way that money controls politics. Several times I went to the floor of the House to seek out members, whose names I would have typed on an index card, who were known to have money to hand out. These members might be ideological allies or might simply have ambitions to move up through the system by handing out $1,000 checks.

It was no secret in the House that Charlie Rose of North Carolina intended to challenge Dick Gephardt for Democratic majority leader. His plan was to run against Gephardt during the party organizational period just before the 104th Congress commenced. I had an important bill before one of Rose's subcommittees, so I felt the need to have him as a friend. After all, he could kill my bill on a whim anytime he desired. Instead, Charlie took me under his wing and helped guide my bill toward passage. He also gave me $1,000 from his personal PAC to help me in an unexpected primary I faced in the spring of '94, a race in which my challenger spent at least $250,000.

The next time I asked Charlie for money it was for the November general election. In the meantime, I had decided to support Gephardt to continue as majority leader, mostly because of his strong stance opposing NAFTA and his generally more liberal politics. I also knew that I was facing another million-dollar race. When I approached Charlie for money, his response was, "Son, you better get on over with your friend Gephardt. You won't see any more money coming from me." I felt so awkward and silly. I was a grown man, a Congressman, getting blown off for a lousy $1,000.

The issue of campaign finance points to a deeper problem in U.S. politics: the subservience of the political system to the economic system. The real government of our country is economic, dominated by large corporations that charter the state to do their bidding. Fostering a secure environment in which corporations and their investors can flourish is the paramount objective of both parties. Campaign finance works to place and keep in office those who willingly reproduce this culture. The covenant between the citizen and the law, as recapitulated through the electoral process, has lost its meaning. Campaign finance is a useful way of looking into a larger question: In an era of increasing economic globalism, when the state itself is fast becoming a subordinate entity, what is the relevance of being an American citizen?

BACK TO TOPICS

Santa Monica Mirror

"Government Of, By and For The Pharmaceutical Industry" January 26 - February 2, 2020
Dan Hamburg, Mirror contributing writer


Hidden in the folds of the thickly pork-laden Department of Defense Appropriations bill that slid through Congress just before Christmas and was signed into law a day before New Year’s was a big slab of holiday cheer for the pharmaceutical industry.


There were no press releases from congressional offices and no mention in the news - maybe no one wanted to take credit for this latest assault on the 14th amendment.


The so-called “Frist provision” - named after the ethically-challenged physician-turned-politician Bill Frist - will immunize Big Pharma from responsibility for vaccine-related injuries. The main rationale for this latest gift to industry at the expense of the public is - you guessed it! - the War on Terror.


Our representatives in Congress pled that corporations like Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth, and Eli Lilly might just have to close up shop if they were forced to take responsibility for injuries caused by their products. These companies hardly need the help. Pharmaceuticals, despite their whining about risk, are some of the most profitable businesses in the country with the median profit margin of the top 10 companies more than five times that of all other industries on the Fortune 500 list.


Vaccine-induced injury has been around for as long as vaccines. The most famous case is the 1955 “Cutter incident” in which massive scientific, regulatory and industrial failure led to hundreds of thousands of people being injected with live polio virus. 70,000 people contracted the disease within days of being vaccinated, 200 were permanently paralyzed and 10 died.
Two vaccines came into question in the 1990s: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B. According to research reported in 1998 by British physician Andrew Wakefield and since confirmed by others, the MMR vaccine may cause gastrointestinal problems that can lead to autism. In 1998, France became the first country to stop requiring hepatitis B vaccination for school children, following reports that French children were developing chronic arthritis and symptoms resembling multiple sclerosis following administration of the vaccine.


By 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had suspended the hep B vaccine for low-risk newborns.
These cases pale in significance compared to the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal. Lilly introduced thimerosal in the 1930s after testing it on a group of patients already suffering from meningococcal meningitis. Doctors injected 22 patients with high levels of thimerosal. Most died within days, from meningitis. Thus, no adverse thimerosal effects were observed.


By the 1990s, American children were routinely receiving vaccinations exposing them to up to 87 times the EPA safety limit for adult mercury exposure. Government agencies and the medical establishment argue that there’s no proven connection between high levels of exposure to the mercury in thimerosal and a sixty-fold spike in cases of childhood autism. Others disagree.


In metropolitan Chicago, Homefirst Health Services serves several housand children whose families have taken advantage of the religious exemption in Illinois state immunization mandates. According to Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Homefirst’s medical director, of the 35,000 children served by Homefirst over the past thirty years not a single case of autism has been noted among unvaccinated children. Statistically, there should have been over 200 cases of full-blown autism. Similar results have been noted among the Amish in Pennsylvania. No vaccinations, no autism.


American politics is a pay-to-play system. Big Pharma pays big time. Tens of millions of dollars are given to politicians like Senator Frist each and every election cycle to insure that corporate interests trump the rights of mere mortals, including vaccine-injured children and families.
The parents of autistic children, who face costs of $3 to $5 million over their child’s lifetime, reasonably seek out the courts as recourse. However, in order for a “vaccine-adverse event” to be compensated in the federally-established Vaccine Court, it must be listed on the federally-established Vaccine Injury Table. Autism is not listed.
This is because the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has “failed to find evidence tha thimerosal in vaccines is a causal factor in autism.”
The IOM maintains that while such a link is “plausible,” the evidence is insufficient. Recently, the CDC tacked in a different direction, with director Julie Gerberding calling for new studies of the link.


But this begs a prickly and potentially very expensive question: Why have the Centers allowed a huge increase in the exposure of American children to thimerosal without first guaranteeing its safety? After all, mercury has long been known to be a neurotoxin and one of the most dangerous substances on the planet.


With the president signing the Frist provision into law, the pharmaceutical industry has secured immunity from legal liability for vaccines and drugs administered to fight “epidemics, pandemics, and bioterror agents.” While the presumption is that this law will be applied prospectively, in treating an avian flu outbreak for example, parents of autistic children are justifiably concerned that it will be applied in a blanket fashion. In other words, total immunity from allegations of harm related to vaccines: past, present, and future. Injured persons would be forced to prove “willful intent to harm” - an extraordinarily high standard - in order to be eligible for compensation. And - surprise! - the new law provides no funds for compensation.
We are well down the road of sacrificing our once great country to a flaccid and corrupt government in bed with profit-obsessed, amoral corporations. When will the American people finally say “Enough! We demand our country back!”


Dan Hamburg is a former member of Congress. He is currently executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Marin-based nonprofit.

Here are letters written by Mirror readers in response to Dan's article:

Wants series

To the editor:
Thanks for having the spine to publish Dan Hamburg's article “Government Of, By and For the Pharmaceutical Companies.” I hope it will be just the first in a series. After he's done the thimerosal and oncogenic viruses in vaccine issues, perhaps you'll encourage him to tackle mercury amalgams in dentistry.
Patricia Aiken
Hawaii

Hamburg’s heroism

To the editor:
Santa Monica Mirror writer Dan Hamburg is quickly approaching hero status in my eyes with this absolutely astonishing article.
He actually reported on the lack of any government toxicity testing for the deadly mercury additive in vaccines.
The same preservative that the CDC claims is perfectly safe when injected into babies, despite a 6,000 percent increase in autism in the last twenty years, is finally uncovered. The federal government can only point to easily flawed and manipulated population studies to "prove" mercury is safe. Mr. Hamburg investigates the history of corruption, collusion, and cover-up resulting from a total oversight failure on the part of the federal government.
Anne McElroy Dachel
Chippewa Falls, WI
mother of two mercury-damaged children

Bang on

The article "Government Of, By and For The Pharmaceutical Industry" by Dan Hamburg was bang on. Hoping you would be kind enough to pass on this note of thanks to Mr Hamburg for a job well done.
Randy Toni
Ontario, Canada

Thank you!

Alexis Foundation

Dear Editor, I wanted to say thank you for the article Dan Hamburg wrote "Government of, by and for the Pharmaceutical Industry.”
As a parent of a daughter with autism, this article gave me hope that people outside of the spectrum really do see what is going on with our government and these children.
As the Director of a National Foundation, The Alexis Foundation, I am very pleased anytime there is an article written about how one sided our government is. This article was to the point and in my opinion made a strong point as well.
While I know the intention is to get the news out, by writting this article Mr. Hamburg has helped people like myself and my daughter make others aware that autism is a real problem. Not to mention it shows that our government does not side with vaccines injured children, but instead sides with those who will line their pockets with cash!
Thank you!
Erica Kosares, mom to Alexis 8, living with autism & Zachary 5, supportive of his sister.
Longwood, Florida

Son victimized

To the editor:
I read with great interest the article by Dan Hamburg concerning big Pharma'a inoculation against vaccine injury liability. I have a heart-invested interest in this issue.
You see, on March 6, 2020, I had a healthy, happy, fifteen month-old son, a good marriage, and money in the bank. Life was good. We were living the American Dream.
On March 7, 2020, I took my son in for his routine vaccinations. Because I had seen a documentary concerning a causal relationship between the thimerosal contained in the Prevnar vaccine and a rising incidence of autism, I told our pediatrician that our son was not to
get that vaccine again. Her demeanor toward me changed drastically, but I was insistent, and I demanded to know the dangers of the other vaccines. She lied and said "redness at the sight or slight fever." She KNOWINGLY withheld from me the fact that three of the four other vaccines he was to receive that day also contained thimerosal for a total of 67.5 mcg of mercury for a single day. My son was under the fiftieth percentile for weight, so that meant he received over 100 times the amount of mercury as allowed by EPA guidelines.
Our son immediately lost the ability to speak. He was unresponsive, acted deaf, screamed in horrible pain for hours at a time, threw horrendous tantrums, developed obsessive compulsive behaviors, developed light and sound sensitivities, became susceptible to repeat upper respiratory infections including pneumonia, and was plagued by intestinal problems.
We received no help from his pediatrician who just kept saying "wait and see." When autism was suggested at 23 months by Callier Center, the pediatrician was angry with them. When I asked if thimerosal had been in the other vaccines he received that day, she said, "Well, yes" and she laughed! When I demanded mercury testing, Pediatrics Associates of Dallas treated us abominably.
Our son received a diagnoses of heavy metal poisoning from the head of pediatric neurology at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. The physician said to us, "Gee, I thought they took that stuff out of vaccines...But you've got to understand, by mass vaccinating, we are saving so many, but there are going to be losses. Your son is one of them and you just need to home and accept it."
I am writing to you to thank Mr. Hamburg for his article and to thank you for printing it. The unfortunate truth is that it is just not going to reach enough people who ought to read it. What do I have to do to gain permission to reprint the article and disseminate it in our rural community?
Within fifteen miles of our farm, there are fifteen children with autism, and ALL the parents say it was thimerosal in the vaccines.
We have spent our life savings. I cashed in my teacher retirement, stocks --everything to help our son. I have no regrets about it, but it is hard now with nothing to fall back on.
It was all worth it. The medical mainstream gave us no hope of improvement, but by going outside the norm through the gf/cf/sf diet, vitamin, mineral, pro biotic and amino acid supplementation in addition to chelation and multiple learning therapies, our son is speaking in sentences, sleeping through the night again, and learning. He still has a long way to go, and we do not know yet if he will be able to lead an independent life, but we will never give up trying to help him.
Without any legal recourse, we are left with nothing but to try to disseminate the truth. Please, let me know about obtaining permission to reprint and distribute the article.
Thank you so much for your time,
Haven DeLay

BACK TO TOPICS

Santa Monica Mirror

ALLOWING THE DRUG COMPANIES TO POISON OUR CHILDREN - March 30 - April 5, 2020
by Lewis Seiler & Dan Hamburg

Top Republican so-called leaders—Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)—recently sold the future of our children to Big Pharma for a paltry $4 bucks a pop. That’s the additional cost to produce a safe vaccine, a vaccine minus the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. Mercury is a deadly neurotoxin that has long been known to cause serious learning disabilities, autism and death.
According to the California Public Schools Autism Prevalence Report for the School Years 1992-2003, the increase in autism prevalence is systemic across the entire United States “and should be an urgent public health concern…The disease frequency of autism now surpasses that of all types of cancer combined.” The report notes a 1,086% cumulative growth rate of autism over the period, with a 23% average annual growth rate.
A recent study published in the Spring 2006 volume of the peer-reviewed Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons shows that the rate of neurodevelopmental disorders in children has decreased following the removal of thimerosal from most American childhood vaccines. However, only about a third of the 11 million children vaccinated for influenza this year will receive mercury-free vaccines.
At the end of last year, President Bush signed the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREPA), granting blanket immunity to pharmaceutical companies for vaccine-induced injuries. The measure is a carte blanche for industry, allowing it even to reintroduce mercury in vaccines that are currently clean, and under the behest of the World Health Organization, to continue shipping tainted vaccine to the “developing world.”
The federal government has known enough to stop the use of mercury in vaccines for more than a decade. Industry has known of the dangers of thimerosal since at least 1991. But using the preservative made the sale of vaccines more profitable. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has at times seemed just as concerned about these profits as the companies themselves! Cynics have noted the “revolving door” between industry and government that seems to alter the perspective of both.
In 1999, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended “the elimination of thimerosal as soon as possible.” In 2002, the CDC stated in a press release “all vaccines will be thimerosal-free as soon as adequate supplies are available.” Yet, last year the CDC rejected an offer from vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur to supply the entire country with safe influenza vaccines, claiming “no preference for thimerosal-free vaccines.”
In order to secure passage of the PREPA, Senators Frist and Ted Stevens (R-AL), joined by Speaker Hastert, lied to members of the House-Senate conference committee. These leaders assured their colleagues that immunity for the drug companies would not go forward as a tack-on to the 2006 defense appropriations bill. There were no public hearings on the immunity provision, no debate, no disclosure of the proceedings of the committee. Press coverage was virtually non-existent.
According to one prominent member of the committee, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), “This legislation was unilaterally and arrogantly inserted into the bill after the conference committee was over. It was a blatant power play by the two most powerful men in Congress.” Sen. Ted Kennedy called the legislation “a blank check for the industry.” Sen. Robert Byrd, dean of Senate rules, opined: “There should be no dispute. The processes leading to passage of this bill [was] an absolute travesty.”
The PREPA is unconstitutional. It removes the right to due process and judicial review for persons injured by vaccines, thus granting a virtual license to kill. Under the new law, companies making vaccines can be grossly negligent and act with wanton recklessness and still escape liability as long as they can show that their misconduct wasn’t “willful.”
It is impossible to conceive of a lower standard for the drug companies or a higher burden of proof for injured parties.
The refusal of the drug companies to take responsibility for the products they produce, and the complicity of the highest levels of government in their refusal, will diminish public confidence in the entire US vaccination program. Already, thousands of mothers, including our own daughters, are fearful of having their infants and toddlers vaccinated.
The PREPA also preempts the laws of states like California that have passed legislation outlawing mercury in childhood vaccinations. Meanwhile, the CDC continues to send its henchmen into state legislatures around the country in attempts to abort measures banning mercury.
It’s worth considering why the drug companies feel they need such treatment. Is it because they have known for decades that their product is harmful? As we learned with Big Tobacco, denial is the first defense.
Eventually, the truth will come out about mercury and the depravity of injecting a neurotoxin into the bodies of infants and toddlers. The question is: how many more children will be made sick before the leaders of the country get their priorities straight?

Dan Hamburg is executive director of Voice of the Environment. Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment.

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CommonDreams.org


"Dr. Frist Immunizes Big Pharma," Thursday, January 26, 2020
by Dan Hamburg

Hidden in the folds of the thickly pork-laden Department of Defense Appropriations bill that slid through Congress just before Christmas and was signed into law a day before New Year’s was a big slab of holiday cheer for the pharmaceutical industry. There were no press releases from congressional offices and no mention in the news - maybe no one wanted to take credit for this latest assault on the 14th amendment.

The so-called “Frist provision” - named after the ethically-challenged physician-turned-politician Bill Frist - will immunize Big Pharma from responsibility for vaccine-induced injuries. The main rationale for this latest gift to industry at the expense of the public is -- you guessed it! -- the War on Terror.

Our representatives in Congress pled that corporations like Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Wyeth, and Eli Lilly might just have to close up shop if they were forced to take responsibility for injuries caused by their products. These companies hardly need the help. Pharmaceuticals, despite their whining about risk, are some of the most profitable businesses in the country with the median profit margin of the top 10 companies more than five times that of all other industries on the Fortune 500 list.

Vaccine-induced injury has been around for as long as vaccines. The most famous case is the 1955 “Cutter incident” in which massive scientific, regulatory and industrial failure led to hundreds of thousands of people being injected with live polio virus. 70,000 people contacted the disease within days of being vaccinated, 200 were permanently paralyzed and 10 died.

Two vaccines came into question in the 1990s: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and hepatitis B. According to research reported in 1998 by British physician Andrew Wakefield and since confirmed by others, the MMR vaccine may cause gastrointestinal problems that can lead to autism. In 1998, France became the first country to stop requiring hepatitis B vaccination for school children, following reports that French children were developing chronic arthritis and symptoms resembling multiple sclerosis following administration of the vaccine. By 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had suspended the hep B vaccine for low-risk newborns.

These cases pale in significance compared to the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal. Lilly introduced thimerosal in the 1930s after testing it on a group of patients already suffering from meningococcal meningitis. Doctors injected 22 patients with high levels of thimerosal. Most died within days, from meningitis. Thus, no adverse thimerosal effects were observed.

By the 1990s, American children were routinely receiving vaccinations exposing them to up to 87 times the EPA safety limit for adult mercury exposure. Government agencies and the medical establishment argue that there’s no proven connection between high levels of exposure to the mercury in thimerosal and a sixty-fold spike in cases of childhood autism. Others disagree.

In metropolitan Chicago, Homefirst Health Services serves several thousand children whose families have taken advantage of the religious exemption in Illinois state immunization mandates. According to Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, Homefirst’s medical director, of the 35,000 children served by Homefirst over the past thirty years not a single case of autism has been noted among unvaccinated children. Statistically, there should have been over 200 cases of full-blown autism. Similar results have been noted among the Amish in Pennsylvania. No vaccinations, no autism.

American politics is a pay-to-play system. Big Pharma pays big time. Tens of millions of dollars are given to politicians like Senator Frist each and every election cycle to insure that corporate interests trump the rights of mere mortals, including vaccine-injured children and families.

The parents of autistic children, who face costs of $3 to $5 million over their child’s lifetime, reasonably seek out the courts as recourse. However, in order for a “vaccine-adverse event” to be compensated in the federally-established Vaccine Court, it must be listed on the federally-established Vaccine Injury Table. Autism is not listed.

This is because the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has “failed to find evidence that thimerosal in vaccines is a causal factor in autism.” The IOM maintains that while such a link is “plausible,” the evidence is insufficient. Recently, the CDC tacked in a different direction, with director Julie Gerberding calling for new studies of the link. But this begs a prickly and potentially very expensive question: Why have the Centers allowed a huge increase in the exposure of American children to thimerosal without first guaranteeing its safety? After all, mercury has long been known to be a neurotoxin and one of the most dangerous substances on the planet.

With the president signing the Frist provision into law, the pharmaceutical industry has secured immunity from legal liability for vaccines and drugs administered to fight “epidemics, pandemics, and bioterror agents.” While the presumption is that this law will be applied prospectively, in treating an avian flu outbreak for example, parents of autistic children are justifiably concerned that it will be applied in a blanket fashion. In other words, total immunity from allegations of harm related to vaccines: past, present, and future. Injured persons would be forced to prove “willful intent to harm” - an extraordinarily high standard - in order to be eligible for compensation. And - surprise! - the new law provides no funds for compensation.

In the past five years, we have witnessed a steady decrease of our rights alongside a steady increase of American bullying abroad. One reflects the other. Warrantless searches. Preemptive war. Detention without charges. Torture. Rendition. Domestic surveillance. And now, at the instigation of Dr. Frist, the excision of the rights of injured parties to meaningful due process.

We are well down the road of sacrificing our country to a flaccid and corrupt government in bed with profit-obsessed, amoral corporations. When will the American people finally say “Enough! We demand our country back!”?

Dan Hamburg is a former member of Congress. He is currently executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Marin, CA-based nonprofit.

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Santa Monica Mirror

"The Idea Of Earth Day" April 20 - 26, 2006
by Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writer

Earth Day corresponds to the vernal equinox to mark the precise moment that spring begins in the north and autumn in the south. It’s the global moment when night and day are of equal length anywhere on Earth.

Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) took the lead in organizing the first Earth Day in 1970, to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda. Senator Nelson staffed an office with college students and selected Stanford man Denis Hayes as coordinator. It was an era of student political activism and street protests that attracted lots of attention from the media.

According to Senator Nelson, Earth Day "worked" because of the spontaneous grassroots response. Though Nelson had neither the time nor resources to organize the millions of demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated, these things did happen. According to the Senator, "It organized itself."

Earth Day became extremely popular in the United States with participants and celebrants in 2,000 colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the U.S. Senator Nelson credited Earth Day with helping to persuade politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. Suddenly, it seemed everyone was an “environmentalist.”

Many important laws were passed by Congress in the wake of the early Earth Day celebrations. The Safe Drinking Water Act. The Endangered Species Act. The Marine Mammal Protection Act. Important amendments were added to the Clean Air Act. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were put into place within a few years of the first Earth Day. Indeed, the 1970s are often thought of as the golden age of environmental legislation.

Earth Day leadership fractured over the years, with Hayes and Nelson and other widely-known Earth Day leaders favoring more programmatic and conventional public relations approaches to the observance, while grassroots groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which might actually change behavior and provoke meaningful policy changes.

During Earth Day 2000, the event's 30th anniversary, actor Leonardo DiCaprio was chosen by Denis Hayes to be the spokesperson of the event, despite the fact that DiCaprio drove a large SUV at the time. DiCaprio was also viewed skeptically as trying to rehabilitate his public image in the wake of controversy over a film he’d recently made in a pristine national park in Thailand.

The idea of Earth Day seems rather shopworn today. With Earth’s species becoming extinct at rates unprecedented in thousands of years, climate change bringing on its myriad ill effects, varying kinds of pollution out of control and planetary population beyond unsustainable, it will take more than a day a year to raise awareness to the level that might actually lead to policy, let alone behavioral change. Many reputable scientists believe that we’ve already passed the apocalyptic “tipping point” from which there is literally no turning back. Sadly, it’s the children and grandchildren of the people reading this column who will bear the brunt of our collective ignorance and torpor.

The utter cluelessness of the majority of Americans allows people like George Bush to sit in the Oval Office, blithely ignoring even his own scientific advisors. On the Democratic side, the leadership is not much better. Even back when I was in Congress, Bill Clinton refused to spend a buck of political capital moving the Kyoto Accords through the US Senate, preferring to lay it on the line for NAFTA. Clinton and Al Gore abandoned their primary environmental initiative - the carbon tax - before they’d be in office three months.

Gore, who supposedly wrote the cutting-edge book “Earth in the Balance” in 1992 (the joke was that he not only didn’t write it, he failed to read it!) and who is now lecturing feverishly about global warming, chose not to bring up the environment during his campaign for the presidency in 2000. John Kerry left the environment out of his stump speech as well. The vaunted presidential debates of 2004 passed without mention of looming environmental catastrophe.

Americans are largely alienated from the environment. Our genes cling to the idea of nature as something wild to be tamed, and finally vanquished. We’re acculturated to think of the environment as something “out there,” separate and apart from human beings, adequately “protected” in parks and a few “wilderness areas.”

To our great and growing peril, the environment has become just another “issue” and not a very pressing one at that when compared to hot buttons like taxes, gun ownership and gay marriage. Sure there are scores of environmental groups out there trying to sound the alarm. But after awhile, it’s just a cacophony. And by the way, who are the Dodgers playing this weekend?

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Santa Monica Mirror

"Time for President Bush to Go" January 25 - 31, 2007
Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writer

On August 7, 2020, three prominent Republicans - Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, House Minority Leader John Rhodes and Sen. Barry Goldwater - went to the White House to tell Richard Nixon that it was time to leave office. This was the last straw for Mr. Nixon, who resigned the next evening.

George W. Bush is facing a crisis of confidence nearly as intense as that faced by Richard Nixon. It has been remarked that if the US had a parliamentary system like Great Britain, a “no confidence” vote would have ousted Bush already.

While the US is not a parliamentary democracy, we are seeing the signs of Bush’s isolation in the current resolutions being prepared in the House and Senate. Basically, these resolutions state that Mr. Bush’s planned escalation of the Iraq war, and his dangerous adventurism in terms of widening the war further into Iran and Syria, are “not in the national interests of the United States.” These resolutions are guaranteed bipartisan support.

It’s time for a group of prominent Republicans - perhaps led by Sen. Chuck Hagel - to pay a visit to the president and vice-president. For the good of the country, and the world, these men should be told to step down now, or face impeachment. This is literally the only way to save the republic and, possibly, avert World War III.

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Santa Monica Mirror

Opinion March 1 - 7, 2007
Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writer

The best argument not to impeach Bush is Cheney. But what if we got rid of Cheney first? Then both chambers of Congress would have to confirm a new vice president. It would be hard to get anyone worse than Dr. Doom. Then we go after Bush.

What's wrong with this scenario? The most frequently heard complaint is that it will take a long time and divert attention. Divert attention from what? Making more wars?

Besides, the briefs against Bush and Cheney have already been written by legal experts. What it takes is the political will. Do we really want to allow these thugs to set the country’s agenda for another two years? I think not.

On a related topic, I’d like to see the administration come right out with the truth about this war: that it’s about oil. You don’t see the US expending a billion dollars every few days and allowing tens of thousands of young people (albeit, mostly poor) to get killed and maimed over maize or bananas. In case you missed it, the US economy is dependent on the importation of foreign oil and Iraq’s got lots of it to export.

Therefore, short of impeachment, don’t expect the US to be leaving Iraq any time soon. Permanent US bases, complete with KFCs and Pizza Huts, are already built in Iraq. The US has spent over a trillion dollars in Korea since that debacle ended. A good guess is that it won’t take nearly 50 years to match that in Iraq. Heck, we’re pretty near halfway there already!

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San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle

"Why There Was No Exit Plan"April 30, 2020
by Dan Hamburg & Lewis Seiler

“There are people in Washington…who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they’re looking for 10, 20, 50 years in the future…the reason that we went into Iraq was to establish a permanent military base in the gulf region, and I have never heard any of our leaders say that they would commit themselves to the Iraqi people that 10 years from now there will be no military bases of the United States in Iraq.”- Former President Jimmy Carter (2/3/06)

For all the talk about timetables and benchmarks, one might think that the US will end the military occupation of Iraq within the lifetimes of the readers of this column. Think again.

There is to be no withdrawal from Iraq, just as there has been no withdrawal from hundreds of places around the world that are outposts of the American empire. As UC professor emeritus Chalmers Johnson put it recently, “One of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn’t intend to leave.”

The United States maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries around the globe. They exist for the purpose of defending the economic interests of the US, what is euphemistically called “national security.” In order to secure favorable access to Iraq’s vast reserves of light crude, the US is spending billions on the construction of at least five large permanent military bases throughout the country.

A new Iraq oil law, largely written by the US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority, is planned for ratification by June of this year. This law cedes control of Iraq’s oil to Western powers for at least a generation. There is major opposition to the proposed law within Iraq, especially among the country’s five trade union federations that represent hundreds of thousands of oil workers. The US is working hard to surmount this opposition.

The attack upon, and subsequent occupation of, Iraq can be seen as a direct result of the 2001 National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as vice president Cheney’s energy task force) that was comprised largely of oil and energy company executives. This task force - the proceedings of which have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of “executive privilege” - recommended that the US government support initiatives in Middle Eastern countries “to open up areas of their energy sector to foreign investment.” As Antonio Juhasz, an analyst with Oil Change International, wrote recently in the New York Times, “One invasion and a great deal of political engineering by the Bush administration later, this is exactly what the proposed Iraq oil law would achieve.”

The people of the United States have indicated, in the national election last November and in countless polls, that they no longer support the Bush administration’s war. The Scooter Libby trial revealed that top administration officials, including the vice president, “cherry-picked” and distorted intelligence in order to sell an illegal “preemptive” war to a spooked public. The squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars, some billions of which, according to Seymour Hersh writing in the New Yorker, is being siphoned into “black-ops” programs being run out of Mr. Cheney’s office (a stunning redux of Iran-Contra carried out by many of the same actors), has also strained the patience and credulity of the American people.

Another betrayal is the “contracting out” of “war-related activities” to corporate cronies like Halliburton, Bechtel, Chemonics and Blackwater. Halliburton, vice president Cheney’s previous employer, calls itself an “energy services company” but has tentacles reaching into nearly every aspect of the war (originally dubbed Operation Iraqi Liberation until some bright bulb among the Bushies realized that “OIL” might not be the best handle for an oil grab). Halliburton has also profited handsomely from no-bid government contracts awarded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the construction of the national embarrassment known as “Gitmo” and, most recently, from the fiasco at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC. Cheney himself has enjoyed a financial boon; his Halliburton stock options rose over 3000 percent in value over his years as a “public servant” in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately, all this corruption, mayhem and death are good for some (or it wouldn’t go on). The profits of the military-industrial complex (yes, President Eisenhower was right!) continue to soar along with stock portfolios of the Bushes, Bakers and Blums. They even have their very own Frankenstein monster known as The Carlyle Group, a “global private equity investment firm” that sucks up the profits of war-making. The US military budget, larger than that of the rest of the world combined, continues skyward, even without all the “supplementals” passed regularly by Congress to fight the “war on terror.”

The question we must ask as citizens is this: Is the US a democratic republic or an empire? History demonstrates that it’s not possible to be both.

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Santa Monica Mirror

"State of Emergency: The U.S. in the Final Six Months of the George W. Bush Administration" June 19 - 25, 2008
by Dan Hamburg & Lewis Seiler, Mirror Contributing Writers

In short, we are living in an on-going state of emergency whose exact limits are unknown, on the basis of a controversial deep event—9/11—that is still largely a mystery.

UC Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott

Unhindered by a neutered Congress and a compliant Court, President Bush has six months remaining to pursue his agenda of expanding the war in the Middle East and ensuring the continuation of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) beyond his tenure in office.

As we pointed out in a previous article on this page, the current administration has taken unto itself unprecedented, nearly hegemonic powers since the events of 9/11. On that day, George W. Bush issued his “Declaration of Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks” under the authority of the National Emergencies Act. This declaration, which can be rescinded by joint resolution of Congress, has instead been extended six times. In 2007, the declaration was strengthened with the issuance of National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), which gave the president the authority to do whatever he deems necessary in a vaguely defined “catastrophic emergency,” including everything from canceling elections to suspending the Constitution to launching a nuclear attack.

Despite time constraints, there are clear signs that the president, the vice-president, and their neocon collaborators are not finished. The constant saber-rattling toward Iran, with strong support from Israel, should send a chill down the spine of any peace-loving American. Military chiefs who oppose the president are “retired,” as observed most recently with the March dismissals of CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon and 6th Fleet commander Vice-Admiral John Stufflebeem. Public opinion counts for nothing. In a March 24 interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, vice president Dick Cheney responded to a question about the war weariness of Americans with a languid, “So?”

According to J. Scott Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, Cheney pushed hard for airstrikes against Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases last summer. He was deterred by Pentagon officials who insisted that retaliation might be difficult to contain. Now, with Cheney ally General David Petraeus poised to take over Fallon’s command, a significant obstacle has been removed.

It seems clear that there is a deadly struggle going on within the US government, a struggle that could well determine not only the election of the next president, but the survival of the republic. On one side are the neocons, the fanatics who led us into Iraq and who believe they alone possess the strategic acumen to usher in a “new American century.” On the other is the Republican Party old guard, ostensibly led by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates was brought into the administration at the end of 2006 to replace the disgraced and despised Donald Rumsfeld, and generally to ride herd over the neocons.

The conflict between these factions has broken into the open over the past eight months. The first public signal came in October of last year, when the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies issued a consensus National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that cut the legs out from under the administration’s argument that Iran was on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon. The NIE stated that the Iranians had stopped work on the project in 2003.

Just before Labor Day last year, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber carrying six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads flew an unauthorized mission from Minot AFB in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. Due to anonymous, high-level tips to the Military Times, the warheads were recovered. After several seemingly inconclusive investigations of the incident, Pentagon chief Gates fired Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne last week, without revealing the role either man played in the nuke heist. Given the volume of evidence that this unprecedented transfer of live nuclear weapons was not an accident, the question remains: what individual or individuals within the government have the authority to commandeer nuclear bombs?

Conservative pundit Patrick J. Buchanan has suggested that the neocons might be tempted to go to war with Iran in order to improve John McCain’s chances of winning the presidency. As audacious as that seems, we want to go one step further. We believe that this administration is so zealous, so determined to hold on to power, that they may well stage a “false flag” attack, creating just the kind of “catastrophic emergency” to which NSPD-51 refers.

On April 29 of this year, CIA veteran Roland V. Carnaby was shot dead by police officers after a high-speed chase through the streets of Houston. Carnaby, who had been the CIA’s Chief of Station for the Southeast Region headquartered in Houston, was involved in conducting security surveys of the Port of Houston and had discovered that the Department of Homeland Security was tolerating gaping holes in port security. Carnaby and Houston intelligence and law enforcement personnel were also investigating the presence of “Middle Easterners” who were conducting surveillance of the Port of Houston. The “Middle Eastern” designator is the term used by the FBI for Israelis (typically Mossad agents) in order to avoid “political” problems with superiors.

Former National Security Agency analyst and naval intelligence officer Wayne Madsen has been in Houston investigating the Carnaby case at great personal risk. Madsen believes Carnaby was involved both in heading off a potential war with Iran (by leaking Mossad plans to assassinate Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah just days before Carnaby himself was killed) and in trying to forestall a potential terrorist attack on the port.

According to Madsen, “Federal agents in Houston fear that ‘another 9/11-type part false flag’ attack is imminent, perhaps as early as July 4.” Such an attack along the 25-mile Houston Ship Channel, site of more explosive materials, toxic gases, and deadly petrochemicals than anywhere else in the country, could create an environmental and economic catastrophe that would dwarf 9/11.

How will the struggle within this administration be brought to an end? Will courageous military men like Adm. Fallon speak out before the next national tragedy befalls us? Will Congress act decisively to remove the president’s emergency powers, challenge NSPD-51, and defend the Constitution? Will Defense Secretary Gates hold the line?

With just a half year left in what many believe has been the worst presidency in American history, the possibilities are many, and some of them are truly frightening. As citizens of this country, we must do everything in our power to ensure that there is no expansion of war in the Middle East, no “false flag” attack at the Port of Houston or anywhere else, and a peaceful and constitutional succession to a new administration.

Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment, Inc. Dan Hamburg, a former U.S. representative, is executive director.

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Santa Monica Mirror

"Martial Law: Once Unthinkable, Now Threatened" January 22 - 28, 2009
by Lewis Seiler & Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writers

Martial law may be on the way.

A series of presidential directives and legislative acts since 9/11 could quickly transform the United States government from a constitutional republic into a system that resembles fascism.

George W. Bush declared a national state of emergency on September 14, 2020. He has renewed this declaration annually, most recently on August 28, 2020.

According to the National Emergencies Act of 2002, Congress shall review a declared state of emergency every six months “to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.” In the past seven years, Congress has not once met this statutory responsibility, perhaps because it, like the general public, is unaware of the situation.

Last October, the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), was deployed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Scantly reported, this marked the first time in two hundred years that the president has commanded an army within the borders of the United States of America.

This time, the WWI division proudly nicknamed the “Rock of the Marne” is being called upon to hold back American, not German, citizens. The 1st BCT has served three Baghdad tours; their domestic assignment will be to “help with civil unrest and crowd control.”

So there you have it. U.S. soldiers on U.S. soil poised to control U.S. citizens.

On October 3, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) stated on the floor of the House of Representatives that “a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no [on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill].” Under National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), the president has sole discretion to invoke martial law in case of a "catastrophic emergency" defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

Full implementation of martial law would include the invocation of a series of executive orders (10990-11921) which entail government control of all modes of transportation, communication, utilities, food, health, education, and welfare functions. The statutes also allow for the mobilization of civilians into work brigades, the relocation of communities, and control over all U.S. financial institutions.

It has been widely reported, including on this page, that the Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a Halliburton subsidiary, for the construction of civilian detention centers throughout the United States. While the government claims that these centers are for the purpose of dealing with an “influx of immigrants,” whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg is among those who warn these camps could also be utililized to incarcerate thousands, if not millions, of civilian dissidents.

As author Naomi Wolf has pointed out, preemptive war, torture, arbitrary detention, the creation of an extra-legal prison system, the conflation of dissent with treason, unlawful surveillance, the weakening of century-old posse comitatus statutes— all these signs point toward an authoritarian state.

This country is in the throes of two major emergencies; one declared and redeclared annually by the president regarding terrorism, and the second a financial meltdown of epic proportions.

Both of these emergencies have stretched the trust and patience of the American people. Less than one in five Americans believes the country is headed in the right direction. The so-called War on Terror has been the single most important factor in doubling U.S. debt over the past eight years. The Wall Street/subprime meltdown will lay trillions more debt on taxpayers, once again transferring massive amounts of cash from the middle class to the corporate elite.

Last year on this page we asked: What could the government be contemplating that leads it to make contingency plans to detain without recourse millions of its own citizens? The question remains. But with public anxiety over the economy at an all-time high, and intelligent, forthright leadership at an all-time low, the answers may be coming into focus.

Six months ago on this page we asked whether the United States has the capacity to lawfully and peacefully transition from the most unpopular administration in a lifetime to the installation of a new executive in the White House.

Demand that Congress review and repeal the state of emergency before it’s too late. The future of the republic literally depends upon it.

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Santa Monica Mirror

"We Need a Hero" January 29 - February 4, 2009
by Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writer

In the Disney animation The Tale of Despereaux, the hero is banished from Mouseworld because of his refusal to cower. As the plot thickens, Despereaux is forced to traverse a ledge strewn with deadly mousetraps in order to escape the dreary Ratworld, rescue the fair princess, and resurrect the kingdom.

Despereaux is Barak Obama, right down to the adorable ears.

The heart of the 1992 Democratic Party surge was Al Gore’s exhortation at the Democratic Convention held that year in Madison Square Garden: “It’s time for them to go!” And if they went, the ticket promised to address the multiple “deficits” (jobs, health care, education, infrastructure) keeping hard-working Americans from their promised dream. Unfortunately, for those of us who wanted to see the Democratic Party become a progressive force, President Bill Clinton quickly shifted his focus to free trade and another deficit, the budget deficit.

The story I heard was that Bob Rubin had taken the then president-elect “to the woodshed.” “Balance the budget and the markets will purr,” counseled the economic whiz kid. And he did and they did.

Clinton’s achievements in his first two years--budget discipline and free trade--along with the colossal failure of Hillary’s baffling, corporatist health care plan, led directly to the Democratic debacle of 1994 in which the Republicans took the House for the first time in 46 years. Thereafter, Clinton and the Democrats became the vehicle for Dick Morris-style triangulation, bringing together Republicans and Blue Dogs to end welfare (as we knew it), outlaw gay marriage, and break down the six-decade firewall between commercial and investment banking.

Unlike Bill Clinton, Barack Obama comes to office with a mandate. In 1992, Clinton snuck in with 43% of the vote. Obama won by at least 8 million votes, too many for even Karl Rove and his stable of IT saboteurs to make vanish in cyberspace. Like Clinton, Obama has solid Democratic majorities to work with in both houses. Clinton squandered this advantage; Obama must not.

The Obama phenomenon far surpassed anything seen during the Clinton campaigns. Some of the excitement was, as in 1992, about getting rid of Republicans. “It’s time for them to go” became “We can’t afford four more years of George W. Bush!” But there was more to it.

Barack Obama assumes office in a time of unparalleled challenges for the country and the planet. For the first time in my lifetime (and I was born in the year Harry Truman was elected!), the very idea of the United States of America is in question. For what would this country be if it were no longer powerful, if not the most powerful nation on earth? And that possibility is looking us right in our collective eye.

When it became clear after the first couple of years that Bill Clinton was not going to move the country in a progressive direction (in fact, the Democratic Party crashed nationwide during the Clinton years), there was still the enormous smarts and great charm of the man; those, and a weak 1996 opponent, were enough to stake him to two terms. Despite dishonoring his office and despite the fact that many of the policies that we came to hate under George W. Bush actually began with him, Bill Clinton is still much loved by his party.

But love will not be enough for Barack Obama. He must produce. If Clinton faced deficits, Obama faces chasms. Military quagmires. A broken health care system. Public education in shambles. Unprecedented income inequality, and an economy on life-support.

If in two years Obama voters feel cheated, their high hopes unfulfilled, there will be hell to pay--for the Democrats, but more importantly, for the country.

But allow me to conclude by returning to Despereaux. The subtitle of the hero-mouse’s story, appearing on the screen in the film’s opening frames, is: “A Hero Doesn’t Appear Until the World Really Needs One.”

Well, we really do!

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Santa Monica Mirror

End the State of Emergency! August 27 - September 2, 2009
by Lewis Seiler & Dan Hamburg, Mirror Contributing Writers

While readers of Sarah Palin’s Facebook page obsess over government-run health care, a much greater usurpation of power has been going on virtually unnoticed for nearly a decade.

On September 11, 2020, the government declared a state of emergency. That declared state of emergency (SOE) was formally put in writing on 9/14/2001:

“A national emergency exists by reason of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, New York, New York, and the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks on the United States.”

The state of emergency has been re-enacted annually for the past eight years, most recently on August 28, 2020. On that date, in a notice published in the Federal Register and transmitted to Congress, President George W. Bush wrote that: “Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2020, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2020.”

What are these “powers and authorities” that have been assumed by the executive branch? According to diplomat and professor emeritus Peter Dale Scott, these “almost certainly include Continuity of Government (COG) rules.”

COG rules supersede the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and can be invoked to cover “any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.”

COG encompasses at least fourteen executive orders, which can, under the SOE, be enacted by the president with the stroke of a pen. These orders allow for a take over of all modes of transportation, fuel, food resources and farms, the allowance for government to mobilize civilians into work brigades, the allowance for government to take over all health, education and welfare functions, and direct the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency (FEMA) “to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit, and the flow of money in U.S. financial institutions.”

In 1987, it was revealed that FEMA, under director Louis Giuffrida, had prepared plans for the suspension of the Constitution along with detailed arrangements for the declaration of martial law. Although details remain classified, it is indisputable that the steps from a declared state of emergency to COG to martial law are firmly in place.

Under the 1976 National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601-1651), a law enacted in the wake of extensive investigations by the Church Committee of executive branch abuses, Congress is required to review presidentially declared emergencies. Specifically, “not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.”

This has not occurred in the eight years since the current declaration was put into effect.

Will President Obama continue the Bush policy of annual extensions of the national state of emergency declared in 2001? It may be up to us. Whether you are a liberal or a conservative, the question you need to ask is this: Do I want the executive branch of the government to retain dictatorial powers based on events that occurred eight years ago?

You might also demand that Congress follow the 1976 law cited above by reviewing the current declaration as required. Incredibly, even the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee has been denied access to “classified Continuity Annexes” that are “protected from unauthorized disclosure” by the executive.

As congressman and committee member Peter DeFazio concluded, “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.”

Now is the time for citizens, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, to transcend partisanship and defend the Constitution. Don’t allow the government to continue holding the threat of martial law over our heads!

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San Francisco Chronicle

"Will Obama restore constitutional government?" Friday, February 20, 2020

By Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg

While most of us have had our attention fixed on the global economic firestorm, President Obama is failing to meet his only sworn responsibility as our chief executive - to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Americans understand that President George W. Bush defiled the Constitution with the Patriot Acts, military commissions, torture, extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping. Now, just weeks into the Obama era, we are seeing that little has changed in terms of extra-constitutional prosecution of the so-called war on terror. So far, Obama has signed an order banning "harsh interrogation techniques" but may be keeping other reprehensible policies in place, and perhaps adding a few of his own.

President Obama issued an order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison as one of his first official acts. He was duly praised for what seemed a reversal of the sad legacy of his predecessor. Days later, however, the Christian Science Monitor reported that, in seeming contradiction to the Obama executive order closing Guantanamo, nearly three times as many prisoners are being held without due process at an enormous U.S. military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. Last month, U.S. District Judge John Bates gave the Obama administration until today to "refine" its position on "open-ended detention."

Meanwhile, plans for detention at home are being expanded under Democratic Party leadership. On Jan. 22, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., a former judge who was impeached and removed from the bench before being elected to Congress, introduced HR645, the National Emergency Centers Establishment Act. This bill calls for the establishment of six centers on military installations across the United States. Previous centers were for addressing an "emergency influx of immigrants" or to support "the rapid development of new programs." These new FEMA centers are "to provide temporary housing, medical and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster."

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is to date the sole member of Congress willing to raise a public stink. "Apparently, the fusion centers, militarized police, surveillance cameras and a domestic military command is not enough," blogged Rep. Paul. "Even though we know that detention facilities are already in place, they now want to legalize the construction of FEMA camps on military installations using the ever popular excuse that the facilities are for the purposes of a national emergency. With the phony debt-based economy getting worse and worse by the day, the possibility of civil unrest is becoming a greater threat to the establishment. One need only look at Iceland, Greece and other nations for what might happen in the United States next."

Why, asks Paul, are these centers being constructed on military bases if they're not for the purpose of detaining large groups of people? Obama should explain what is going on.

Last fall, we learned who would be doing the rounding up when, for the first time since Reconstruction, U.S. troops were deployed within U.S. borders. The Third Infantry Division's 1st Combat Team, trained during multiple tours in Iraq, will "help with civil unrest and crowd control." According to Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, at least two more brigades will be deployed by 2010. The doctrine of posse comitatus, under which U.S. troops shall not be used against U.S. citizens, prohibits detaining us. Obama needs to explain why continuing this program is not a violation.

In his inaugural address, Obama "rejected as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." His actions in the first month of his presidency appear to belie his rhetoric. The success of the Obama presidency will turn on the degree to which he can command the trust and respect of both the American people and the international community. If he shortchanges his pledge to return the country to lawful and constitutional government, achieving his greater goals may become impossible.

Lewis Seiler is president of Voice of the Environment. Dan Hamburg, a former member of Congress, is executive director.

This article appeared on page A - 17 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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"Rule by Fear or Rule by Law?" Monday, February 4, 2020

By Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

- Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943

Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of "an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."

Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.

According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of "all removable aliens" and "potential terrorists."

Fraud-busters such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, have complained about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars should not go to taxpayer-gouging Halliburton. But the real question is: What kind of "new programs" require the construction and refurbishment of detention facilities in nearly every state of the union with the capacity to house perhaps millions of people?

Sect. 1042 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies," gives the executive the power to invoke martial law. For the first time in more than a century, the president is now authorized to use the military in response to "a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or any other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order."

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, rammed through Congress just before the 2006 midterm elections, allows for the indefinite imprisonment of anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on a list of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's policies. The law calls for secret trials for citizens and noncitizens alike.

Also in 2007, the White House quietly issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), to ensure "continuity of government" in the event of what the document vaguely calls a "catastrophic emergency." Should the president determine that such an emergency has occurred, he and he alone is empowered to do whatever he deems necessary to ensure "continuity of government." This could include everything from canceling elections to suspending the Constitution to launching a nuclear attack. Congress has yet to hold a single hearing on NSPD-51.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice (Los Angeles County) has come up with a new way to expand the domestic "war on terror." Her Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR1955), which passed the House by the lopsided vote of 404-6, would set up a commission to "examine and report upon the facts and causes" of so-called violent radicalism and extremist ideology, then make legislative recommendations on combatting it.

According to commentary in the Baltimore Sun, Rep. Harman and her colleagues from both sides of the aisle believe the country faces a native brand of terrorism, and needs a commission with sweeping investigative power to combat it.

A clue as to where Harman's commission might be aiming is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law that labels those who "engage in sit-ins, civil disobedience, trespass, or any other crime in the name of animal rights" as terrorists. Other groups in the crosshairs could be anti-abortion protesters, anti-tax agitators, immigration activists, environmentalists, peace demonstrators, Second Amendment rights supporters ... the list goes on and on. According to author Naomi Wolf, the National Counterterrorism Center holds the names of roughly 775,000 "terror suspects" with the number increasing by 20,000 per month.

What could the government be contemplating that leads it to make contingency plans to detain without recourse millions of its own citizens?

The Constitution does not allow the executive to have unchecked power under any circumstances. The people must not allow the president to use the war on terrorism to rule by fear instead of by law.

Lewis Seiler is the president of Voice of the Environment, Inc. Dan Hamburg, a former congressman, is executive director.

This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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Santa Rosa Press Democrat

"Yes on H: Mendocino County Voters shouldn't roll Dice on GMOS" February 8, 2020

By Dan Hamburg

The whole world will be watching on March 2 to see whether Mendocino County voters have the foresight and the fortitude to stand up to Monsanto, Dow Chemical and rest of the bully boys from biotech. We would be the first county in the nation to do so.

Measure H bans the growing of genetically engineered plants and animals in Mendocino County. Consumers will still be able to purchase foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) at grocery and feed stores. Measure H will have no effect on biotechnology in medicine, or on the sale of such medicines in Mendocino County.

Our opulently funded opponents want you to think that removing genes from the DNA of one species and splicing those genes into the DNA of an unrelated species has been proven safe. It hasn't.

The National Research Council -- research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, the nation's three most prestigious scientific advisory bodies --says these laboratory-created organisms are difficult to contain once they are released into the environment.

``The sad conclusion is that there really aren't any viable bio-confinement methods that could be adopted commercially without significant additional research and testing,'' says Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology programs at the prestigious Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The fact is genetically engineered products simply haven't been tested enough and have already put our health at risk. The genetically engineered amino acid L-tryptophan was marketed in the United States in 1989 as a food supplement by the Japanese company Showa Denko. Within a few months of being sold, the supplement had caused the deaths of 37 Americans, apparently from Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome (EMS). At least 1,500 others were permanently disabled.

A definitive answer on the cause of the toxic effects was never reached because all relevant evidence in Showa Denko's laboratory was destroyed before it could be examined.

In September 2000, the presence of StarLink, a corn flour product genetically engineered for animal feed was identified in Taco Bell taco shells distributed by Kraft Foods, Inc.

The discovery came after dozens of cases of severe allergenic responses, including anaphylactic shock, were traced to eating StarLink corn. Since no government testing regime existed (or now exists), it was only through the work of Friends of the Earth that the contamination came to light. In the following months, StarLink was detected in a wide variety of yellow-corn products, including several outside the United States. More than three years later, contaminated grain is still showing up in the nation's corn supply.

Currently, a Massachusetts company called Aqua Bounty Technologies is engineering a ``new, improved'' salmon that grows four or five times as fast as natural salmon, and reaches the market in half the time. Scientists worry that the fish, dubbed Frankensalmon, will inevitably escape its ocean pens and contaminate dwindling stocks of wild Atlantic salmon.

The campaign against Measure H is busy trying to frighten Mendocino County voters. But our facts speak louder than their falsehoods. Contrary to anti-H hype, County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Bengston has stated outright that backyard investigations will not occur if H passes.

In fact, it is genetically engineered pollen that is intrusive, contaminating crops without the consent, or in some cases even the knowledge, of farmers and gardeners. And the claim that ``taxes could rise'' as a result of Measure H is belied by the fact that California law requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.

Measure H is cost-effective, good government and so well written that it passed muster with the county's own attorneys who called it ``clear'' and ``enforceable.''

By banning the growing of genetically engineered plants and animals, we stand up for what we most love about Mendocino County: its natural and impossibly diverse beauty and its gritty, independent spirit. We don't like the idea of fish genes in our tomatoes or rat genes in our rice. We like our salmon and goats just the way God made them. In fact, many of our best customers, both here and abroad, like our products that way, too.

The biotech industry wants us to ``roll the dice'' on a genetically engineered future. My hunch is that the majority of Mendocino County voters appreciate the uniqueness of what we've already got and will refuse to be part of the world's largest biological experiment.

That's why they'll vote yes for Measure H on March 2.

Dan Hamburg, a Ukiah resident, is a former U.S. representative. He is executive director of Voice of the Environment and serves on the Committee for a GMO-free Mendocino.

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Santa Rosa Press Democrat

GUEST OPINION: Hamburg on Obama's first year

By DAN HAMBURG January 7, 2020

Almost a year ago, I wrote an opinion piece for The Press Democrat calling on Barack Obama to be the champion the country so sorely needed (“Looking for a hero in the White House,” Close to Home, Jan. 17, 2009). I pointed back to the flush of hope that greeted Bill Clinton's election in 1992, hope that was quickly dashed on the shoals of NAFTA and the Contract with America. Would Obama's early tenure follow a similar trajectory?

So far it has. Obama's first year, including the ongoing health care snafu, has served only to amplify the fact that the government of our country is run by corporations. As Ralph Nader pointed out more than a decade ago, it is government “of the Exxons, by the General Motors, and for the DuPonts.” Meanwhile, these corporate “persons” slyly deflect public anger back onto the government for the dysfunction and cruelty that results.

This is a society in which the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider even as the work-for-a-living class forks it over to cover bad bets made by the wealthiest. It's a society in which health care remains a privilege, tens of millions of middle-class homes are submerged and untold millions of well-paying industrial and information jobs have been outsourced. Public and private debt has reached astronomical proportions. It's a society inured to perpetual war in service to a vast armaments industry.

As Rabbi Michael Lerner put it, it's a society that “leaves people hungry not only for life's necessities, but for ethical and spiritual fulfillment as well.”

While the failure to reach a climate agreement in Copenhagen is being blamed on China, it was the United States — the world's lone superpower — that lost face.

Mark Lynas exposed this in the Guardian writing “The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country's foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal ...”

But the most hideous manifestations of the current moral, ethical and legal swamp we inhabit — worse even than the ongoing hijacking by Wall Street banksters — are the nearly decade-old wars/occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These demonstrate how far we have strayed from the nation's founding principles.

Today, our patriarchs are people like Alan Greenspan, who casually admit that “The Iraq war is really about oil.”

In truth, as author Dallas Darling recently put it, “In the end, the global war on terror is really a ruse for a centuries old dream by western powers to dominate the Arabian Peninsula.”

The AfPak war is more of the same. Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar's sums it up: “Once again, since the late 1990s, it all comes back to TAPI -- the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Pakistan/India gas pipeline -- the key reason Afghanistan is of any strategic importance to the United States.”

Barack Obama understands this. He also knows that beneath the soil of Afghanistan is a rich store of uranium, tungsten, molybdenum and rare earths (used for everything from TVs to wind turbines to Priuses). And the corporations that supply the missiles, the drones, the surveillance equipment, the helicopters and the fighter jets know that Obama knows this. Why else would they have made him the heavily funded presidential hopeful in history?

In fulfillment of his pledge to the armchair warriors, President Obama has just signed the largest military budget in history, larger than the combined spending of the rest of the planet. Now this military is being unleashed on a semi-literate people engaged in a decades-long civil war. Chances of “success” are slim.

As Florida Democrat Alan Grayson explains, “This is an 18th century strategy being employed against a 14th century enemy.”

Military intelligence inside the Obama administration estimates that there are approximately 100 al-Qaida fighters in the entire country of Afghanistan. This is the “cancer” the president says justifies sending 30,000 more troops at a cost of $1 billion for every thousand. Once the latest Obama surge is in place, the United States will have twice as many troops and contractors in Afghanistan as did the USSR at the height of its south Asian disaster.

While the elites — economic, military and political — hold tight to their faith in the exceptional character of the American imperium, pressure is building for a new narrative. “Burgeoning forces for democracy are emerging,” writes Middle East scholar Mark Levine, “both in the Muslim world and across the global south.”

These forces were on display in Copenhagen and are now bravely gathering on the streets of Tehran. U.S. preoccupation with the global war on terror has helped Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and other Latin American countries free themselves from decades of subservience.

The new decade could even bring a resurgence of democracy here at home. If Barack Obama isn't prepared to help lead such a movement, he'll have to get out of the way.

As Dylan warned a few decades back, “You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone.”

Dan Hamburg, a resident of Ukiah, represented the 1st Congressional District from 1993-95.

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CommonDreams.org


"Way to Go, Ohio!" Monday, December 13, 2004
by Dan Hamburg

On Monday, December 6, my wife Carrie and I, accompanied by a local ABC cameraman and a local radio talk show host, attempted to deliver a letter to the Secretary of State of Ohio, J. Kenneth Blackwell. Mr. Blackwell is housed on two floors of the Borden Building (yes, that’s the Elsie the Cow Borden Building) in downtown Columbus. The letter contained four demands that had been raised at a well-attended rally outside the Ohio Statehouse on the previous Saturday.

We requested that Secretary Blackwell commence the recount of votes in Ohio (as he had said would do based on payment for same by the Green and Libertarian parties), that he refrain from certifying Republican electors until the recount was completed, that he respond to questions posed to him by twelve House Judiciary Committee members led by Rep. John Conyers regarding the election, and that he formally recuse himself from the recount.

These issues have consumed quite a few bytes on the Internet over the past weeks, although mainstream media coverage has been scant. Since the day after the election, close observers have noted that Mr. Blackwell has been engaged in a tactic known in basketball jargon as “running out the clock.” In other words, he has taken as much time as possible with each step of the certification process, rather than speed that process along. In so doing, Mr. Blackwell makes it increasingly difficult for a meaningful recount that meets state and federal deadlines.

I was surprised that few Ohioans I spoke with over my week there knew that the Secretary of State, in addition to being the constitutional officer in charge of the election, also served as co-chair of the Ohio campaign to elect Bush/Cheney, and as the spokesman for the state ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. This is the second time in two elections that the Secretary of State in the crucial battleground state has also served as Bush/Cheney campaign chair. In 2000, it was Katherine Harris, who now represents Florida’s 13th district in the US Congress. Word in Ohio is that Blackwell’s sights are even higher. He intends to run for governor of Ohio in two years, no doubt with significant help from the Bush machine.

From the moment we presented identification (God forbid anyone should try to pass go anywhere in post-9/11 America without picture identification!), there was trouble. Private security officers, having noted that there was a thoroughly peaceful picket on the sidewalk in front of the building, moved in to discourage us to pass through the now-omnipresent metal detectors and on to the elevators. However, we breezed past them, found an elevator and whom should we find on the same elevator that we were taking but J. Kenneth Blackwell himself.

“Hello, Mr. Secretary.” I said. “I’m former congressman Dan Hamburg from California. We have a letter for you, requesting that you recuse yourself from the upcoming recount of Ohio’s presidential vote. We have also raised several other issues that need your attention immediately.” Blackwell quickly launched into a blustering monologue about how we didn’t understand Ohio law because if we did, we’d know that he had nothing to do with counting the votes. With the floors whizzing by, my wife Carrie asked Blackwell whether he thought there might be at least the appearance of a conflict of interest in his serving as both final arbiter of the vote and as co-chair of Ohio Bush/Cheney. Blackwell frowned, the elevator door opened, he made a beeline for his private office and disappeared behind glass and steel.

However, we were far from alone. There to meet us as we stepped out was a phalanx of law enforcement and security officers—Columbus Police, Ohio Highway Patrol, Borden Building security, and several husky plainclothesmen. All seemed to feel the same way about any further attempts at interaction with Mr. Blackwell or his staff. As they were explaining to us our choices—leave immediately or be arrested--who should pop back out of his office but the Secretary of State?

“Here,” he said to me, “read this. It should take care of your concerns.” He handed me a two-page copy of an article that had appeared in Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer titled “Conspiracy theories on Ohio vote refuse to die.” I asked the Secretary if it would be all right if I sat in his foyer and read the article. He quickly did an about face and returned to his private digs. We were left alone again with the officers. (Later, I read the article and found that while it addressed a few of the issues that have been raised regarding the Ohio vote, it left out many others.) One plainclothesman, nattily attired in a black trench coat over a gray suit, a conspicuous wire running up the side of his neck ending in an earpiece, let us know, in the famous words of Al Gore, that it was “time for us to go.”

So we left, tails between our legs. But at least we’d been able to confront the man himself and perhaps made him feel a few moments of discomfort for all the hours of discomfort he helped put the citizens of Ohio through on voting day, not to mention the four years of discomfort ahead for the country and the world under W.

Monday was also the day that Secretary of State Blackwell was finally going to announce the certified vote for the Ohio presidential election. Obviously, he hadn’t been in much of a hurry. It had taken his office five full weeks to certify, making Ohio the last state to accomplish this task. Blackwell had run the clock as far as he could without actually being charged with “delay of game.”

After quite a bit of confusion about the time and venue of the certification announcement, we learned at about 3 pm that the Secretary would announce the certification at a media-only press conference to begin in a half hour at the Borden Building. Fortunately, we had brought press credentials from a small newspaper based in our hometown of Ukiah, California. But lo and behold, when we approached the front desk with our credentials in hand, we were again rebuffed.

Many of the same officers we’d gotten to know in the morning quickly converged to prevent us from boarding the elevator to the floor where the press conference would take place. I remember thinking that Columbus must be a really safe town since they had the capacity to assign so many officers to a couple of 50 year-olds who hadn’t even let off a loud chant. Finally, a “representative” from Mr. Blackwell’s office emerged with the official word “from the Secretary” that I could go on up to the press conference but Carrie could not. Rebuffing their rebuff, we brushed past the security entourage at which point Mr. Black Trench Coat looked over at the Blackwell aide with imploring eyes. “It’s all right, let her come,” the woman sighed.

Victory! We were going to be able to attend the press conference! We might even be able to ask a question in a press forum where it would be difficult for the power-talking Mr. Blackwell to hide. But our win was ephemeral. Just as we arrived at the conference room, the Secretary of State was leaving the podium. He gave us a toothy grin as he passed us by. We hung out in the room for a few minutes asking what had happened. A brief statement of the “results” had been given, a few softball questions tossed, and that was that. Ten minutes! These guys definitely knew how to use the clock. We learned from people who had been privileged to attend the quickie conference that Blackwell had referred to stories of irregularities in the vote as “hiccups.” As we left to go back downstairs, our “escorts” stood in a lineup outside the room, looking like the proverbial cats that ate the canaries. “Very slick,” was the only comment I could manage.

Wednesday at 10 am was the scheduled time for the forum in Washington called by Rep. John Conyers and the Judiciary Committee members. We knew that Blackwell had received a fourteen-page letter dated December 2 with thirty-four specific questions under two main categories: counting irregularities and procedural irregularities. Counting irregularities referred to everything from the “security lockdown” on election night in Warren County (supposedly due to a “Level 10” alert from Homeland Security, about which the agency later denied any knowledge) to the situation in one Franklin County precinct where the president was initially awarded 3900 votes in a precinct that boasted fewer than 700 registered voters! Procedural irregularities included issues like machine shortages in heavily African-American and college precincts, interminably long lines, invalidated provisional ballots, and directives issued by Mr. Blackwell regarding acceptable paperweight for registration applications.

We also knew that Mr. Blackwell had received an invitation to come to Washington in order to address the committee members. It’s a $39 ticket from Columbus to the nation’s capital so we thought the Secretary of State could dip into his budget and come up with the bucks. However, if financial considerations or the affairs of state weighed too heavy to allow his on-site presence, the committee had indicated its willingness to allow telephonic testimony.

So at around 10 am, Carrie and I went to the front desk with a copy of the Conyers letter and presented our driver's licenses. We were told to wait while the receptionist called the Secretary of State's office, which told her "someone will come down and get the letter."

At that point, we retreated to Zuppa's, a very untrendy cafe located on the north side of the lobby. We ordered orange juice and sat down at a table. Within minutes, security was all over us.

"You must leave this building now,” said an exasperated Borden security cop, his hands shaking quite visibly.

“What’s the charge?” I asked. “Are we trespassing or do you just ‘reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?’”

“You must leave this building now,” he repeated.

"Sorry, we're not going. We don’t believe we’re trespassing by sitting here drinking our orange juice. We’re not interfering with other patrons of the building. We’re not blocking or obstructing anything. But we understand that you're just doing your job. Please try to understand that we also need to do ours.”

It took about fifteen minutes for several white-shirted Columbus police and heavily-velcroed Highway Patrol officers to appear on the scene. We were cuffed, and taken out behind the building to a waiting patrol car. That was the beginning of our experience as arrested misdemeanants under the authority of Franklin County. Over the next thirty hours, we were printed (not just fingers but hands) twice, photographed three times, cuffed and uncuffed more times than we could count, held in scantily heated and odor-challenged holding tanks for hours on end, served endless smashed baloney-on-white sandwiches, and subjected continuously to the sneers and snide tongues of our keepers.

We also had the opportunity to meet some of the people we had come to Ohio to see--poor, mostly African-American folks, the very people for whom voting on November 2 had been such a challenge. By this, I don't mean that the prison population at Franklin County Corrections Center (known affectionately as "The Workhouse") was necessarily a voter-rich environment (though I did hear several stories inside the jail from people who at least knew others who had waited many hours and braved lousy weather in order to cast a vote that might rid the country of the horror that is the Bush presidency).

What I mean is that within the walls of the FCCC were men and women who hadn't had a lot of breaks in life. They were the people who suffered the worst housing, the worst schools, and the worst public services. In Ohio in 2004, they also suffered, as had happened in Florida in 2000 and in countless other elections across this country since its birth, the worst (and least) voting equipment and overall ease of voting. It was not by chance that in Franklin County there were less voting machines available than in 2000, despite the fact that election officials, from Ken Blackwell on down, knew that Democratic registration was up nearly 25%. By contrast, strong GOP precincts were provided with more machines.

Katherine Harris rode her performance in the duel roles of Florida Secretary of State and co-chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign to the US congress. How far might Ken Blackwell go, having delivered Ohio in 2004?

Elected officials like Harris and Blackwell sow discord by taking on multiple, and conflicting roles, especially when the presidency is at stake. Blackwell has created another problem by housing himself in a private building, isolated from the public that pays his keep. A private corporation like Borden should not be running interference for elected officials. Nor should the police. It would have been more appropriate for Borden security, or Blackwell himself, to have made citizen’s arrests and then let the court decide whether those arrests were appropriate to the circumstances.

We met some wonderful people in Ohio. Unfortunately, by and large they weren’t the ones that we taxpayers are supporting. Over the next few weeks, the people of Ohio have a unique opportunity. A recount of the vote will begin on December 13, with the January 6 date on which Congress certifies the Electoral College coming up fast. Only the watchful eyes of Ohioans can force that recount to be full and fair, Blackwell or no Blackwell. Nothing less than the fate of the nation, and even the world, could be at stake.

Dan Hamburg is a former US congressperson from northern California. He is currently executive director of Voice of the Environment, a San Francisco based nonprofit.

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"Protecting Against the Protectors: Mercury-laced vaccines are a danger to our children's health" Tuesday, September 7, 2020

by Dan Hamburg

A commonsense bill to rid childhood vaccines of the mercury-laced preservative thimerosal now sits on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. While the bill appears to be a no-brainer, the pharmaceutical industry and the state Department of Health Services are urging a veto.

Thimerosal, a preservative that is 49 percent ethyl mercury by weight, is present in many vaccines today, and will be in most of the flu vaccines given to babies, toddlers and pregnant women in 2005. Ethyl mercury, a mercury compound, and thimerosal are known neurotoxins, considered by the state of California as chemicals known to cause reproductive and developmental harm.

Because of thimerosal's toxicity, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Public Health Service urged vaccine manufacturers in 1999 to remove it from all regular childhood vaccines, and the vaccine manufacturers appear to have done so. However, thimerosal is still added to pediatric doses of flu vaccine. Next year, as many as 800,000 California infants and toddlers could receive a mercury-containing flu shot because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that all children between the ages of 6 and 24 months receive flu vaccines.

It is common knowledge that mercury and ethyl mercury can damage developing nervous systems in fetuses, infants and toddlers. The California Environmental Protection Agency recently reported that the scientific evidence that thimerosal causes reproductive and developmental toxicity is "clear and voluminous." The U.S. House of Representatives' Government Reform Committee found that "thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is likely related to the autism epidemic" and charged that the federal Food and Drug Administration has been "asleep at the switch" with respect to thimerosal. A 2003 study published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons found "strong epidemiological evidence for a link between mercury exposure from thimerosal- containing childhood vaccines and neurodevelopment disorders."

So why does the governor appear hesitant to sign AB2943, the Mercury-Free Vaccine Act of 2004? Drug companies, led by the Bayer Corporation and Aventis Pasteur, claim that the bill is unnecessary, that it may cause thousands of children to contract influenza, that it will undermine public confidence about vaccine safety and that it is too costly. Let's briefly dispense with these specious arguments.

Despite the FDA's and the vaccine manufacturer's assurances, California children are still receiving vaccines that contain mercury. As the U.S. House committee pointed out, the FDA has never required industry to conduct extensive safety studies on thimerosal. Vaccine manufacturers have the capacity to produce sufficient doses of mercury-free flu vaccines by the date the bill takes effect (July 2006). AB2943 will actually increase public confidence in vaccine safety by giving parents certainty that their infants and toddlers will not be injected with mercury. According to the state Department of Finance, the bill would cost the state of California $40,000 and save untold dollars by decreasing the possibility that California's children develop autism and related disorders.

Between late 1999 and late 2002, thimerosal was removed from most childhood vaccines. Because of this, California now has a population of children nearing age 3 and 4 who received a significantly lower dose of mercury than children born before 2000. Preliminary studies show that the rate of increase in the number of children over age 3 with autism has been in decline for nine months now. This is the first time autism rates have fallen in the entire 35 years California has been collecting this data in the Department of Developmental Services.

Perhaps the reason that the drug companies want thimerosal-containing vaccines to be used up rather than destroyed has more to do with potential legal liability than it does with safety. More than 5,000 American families are seeking compensation in the U.S. Court of Claims for damage to their children allegedly caused by mercury-containing vaccines. If drug companies are found to have knowingly participated in risking the health of our children, these parents could become just the head of the line and damage awards could reach into the billions.

The question is: Will Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger listen to the well- founded concerns of thousands of parents with developmentally disabled children? Or will he bend to the powerful pharmaceutical lobby? This is an opportunity for the governor to prove that he's a real hero, not just acting. Parents for generations to come will thank him for his leadership.

Dan Hamburg, a former U.S. representative from Northern California, is executive director of Voice of the Environment (www.voiceoftheenvironment.org), a nonprofit based in Marin.

This article appeared on page B - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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"Another way to save California's heritage trees" Wednesday, May 28, 2020

by Dan Hamburg

Californians cheered in 1999 when Sen. Dianne Feinstein and newly elected Gov. Gray Davis announced passage of the Headwaters Forest Agreement. Public acquisition of 7,500 acres of ancient forest for a cool $480 million and a 120- year logging plan designed to preserve habitat and protect streams were thought to be the ticket to peace in the woods and survival of endangered trees and other species.

Now, four years later, it looks like the deal is unraveling. In April, newly elected Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos charged Pacific Lumber Co., the world's largest owner of old-growth redwood and Douglas fir forests, with deceiving the California Department of Forestry through submission of fraudulent data. Gallegos contends that Pacific Lumber was allowed to cut 100,000 giant redwoods as a direct result of this intentional deception.

Then on May 19, a Superior Court judge in Humboldt County indicated that he would strike down permits issued by the state that are at the heart of the Headwaters deal. Judge John Golden said that the state Department of Forestry and the California Department of Fish and Game failed to follow the law in blessing Pacific Lumber's mega-logging plan, along with permits to alter streams and "take" (i.e., kill) endangered species.

The Gallegos suit, which has already led to a serious recall campaign to oust the D.A., along with the anticipated dismantling by Golden's ruling of the major components of the Headwaters deal, underscore the need for a new approach to saving what little remains of California's old growth heritage. It's not that the district attorney, the judge and the environmental organizations that pressed to stop Pacific Lumber's outlaw logging aren't praiseworthy. But the fact is district attorneys can be voted out of office, and lawsuits take years to meander through the various levels of courts and endless appeals. The state bureaucracy, up to and including the governor, seem often to be nothing more than pawns of corporate timber interests. And the big trees just keep hitting the ground.

Into the void has stepped Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland. Senate Bill 754 would ban the cutting of selected species of old-growth trees (coast redwoods, giant sequoia, Port Orford cedar, Douglas fir and hardwoods) on nonfederal forestlands that were alive in the year California became a state (1850). The heritage trees protected under this bill represent only about one-half of 1 percent of trees standing on California's forestlands. These trees often remain because they were uneconomical to remove or were out of reach of prior forestry technologies. They are now threatened by modern forestry methods.

SB754 passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee last month. It has a strong chance of becoming law this year. A statewide Campaign for Old Growth has formed to lobby SB754 through the Legislature and the governor's office. The group has found that well over 60 percent of Californians endorse saving the remaining old-growth trees in the state. But it won't happen without a strong push from those citizens now.

Californians support saving old growth for many reasons. Old-growth trees benefit the state's economy by decreasing fire risks, increasing home values and providing incomparable aesthetics. Old-growth trees improve our health by enhancing air quality through carbon sequestration and provide a treasure trove of pharmaceutical potential. Old-growth trees maintain the genetic variety of our forests, which allows for optimal disease resistance.

Incredibly, at least 97 percent of the original native forest of California has already been cut. This occurred in a very short period of time, less than 150 years! SB754 will go a long way toward protecting what's left as a heritage for future generations of Californians. If we wait for lawsuits to do it, we may win the suits, we may even survive the recall attempts, but will there be any trees left to save?

Dan Hamburg, a former member of the House of Representatives, is executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Bay Area nonprofit, and a member of the steering committee for the Campaign for Old Growth.

This article appeared on page A - 19 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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"A Monumental Effort to Save the Sequoias?
Clinton's grand gesture to ``save'' the forests is really a way to divert attention from the increased cutting of the forest"
Wednesday, April 19, 2000

by Dan Hamburg


THE GALLING THING is that on the face of it, it sounds like a good deal: President Clinton promising to ``save'' majestic California sequoias by creating a national forest monument in the southern Sierra Nevada Range.

But it has all the earmarks of a betrayal, another environmental ruse gussied up and sold to the American people as a plan to preserve trees when it really will destroy them.

Last Saturday, President Clinton declared the creation of the Sequoia National Monument, composed of 327,000 acres of the 1.1 million-acre Sequoia National Forest.

The management plan for the monument has not yet been released. There are no maps, no budget. The government, afraid of inciting its critics, is unwilling to share these critical details, although the ``declaration'' was saturated with emotional fanfare reminiscent of the extortionate Headwaters deal. The Sequoia National Forest has been mismanaged and overcut for decades. This has occurred under the stewardship of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture. Activists have gone to court repeatedly to stop the worst predations on the Sequoia National Forest. Now, when it seems we are on the threshold of a great victory, we are taking a step backward.

This is because, as a sop to two sawmills, the Clinton administration is poised to allow the cutting of 28 million board feet of Sequoia National Monument timber over the next 2 1/2 years. This is four times the amount of the current annual cut on the entire 1.1 million-acre forest.

In other words, while the president declares a national monument out one side of his mouth, out the other he calls in the hogs to the trough for one last feeding. The trees to be cut will, in most cases, come from the best forests remaining, those closest to the old-growth stands of giant sequoia, ponderosa pine, and fir that we are supposedly trying so hard to protect. The Forest Service defends this last fling of timber cutting within monument boundaries as a ``forest health'' measure. They claim that fuel loads need to be reduced and ``hazard trees'' removed. This is nonsense. When will the federal government stop playing God with our public forest land? In fact, the entire ``forest health crisis'' has been manufactured by industry lobbyists and government bureaucrats determined to get rid of every last tree.

It's hardly news that Forest Service management of public forest land across the country has been a disaster for the taxpayer and for the environment. Logging of federal forest lands costs taxpayers more than $1 billion a year, not counting inventory reduction, loss of soils, denuding of slopes, choking of streams and the loss of species by the score.

In most cases, national monuments are overseen by the more environmentally benign National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior. Why is the Sequoia National Monument being left in the hands of the Forest Service? This is akin to leaving the fox to watch over the hen house. Perhaps the fox has reformed himself, but who would want to bet on it?

Even at this late date, no one knows which areas are to be protected. We've now been told that the monument will contain 327,000 acres, but we're not told which 327,000 acres. Many areas that will no doubt be included have already been cleared of trees and wildlife. We look forward to a long, arduous and expensive job of restoring these areas to something approaching their natural condition.

The size of the monument also remains a bone of contention. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has taken an active role in the establishment of the monument, originally called for a minimum of 400,000 acres to be included. Now, the proposed size of the monument is down to 327,000 acres. Worse, some of the acreage, notably the Kings River Special Management Unit (over 25,000 acres), has already been protected by Congress. According to one longtime sequoia preservation activist, the Clinton administration is ``puffing (the monument) up with fake acreage.''

The Clinton administration's crude manipulations have left sequoia activists vowing to sue. ``Instead of being lulled, we're more outraged than ever and more determined to do something about it,'' says Martin Litton of the Sequoia Alliance. Unfortunately, no one seems to know whether future legal actions will have greater or lesser standing. Monument status may even exempt the federal government from obeying certain of its own laws when approving timber cuts.

If we can afford to create the Sequoia National Monument, we can afford to reclaim the contracts for the 28 million board feet of timber inside the monument that to date have been neither cut nor paid for.

Further destruction of the unique and precious habitat of the giant sequoia forests is totally unwarranted, unnecessary, and counterproductive. We can't save the forest by continuing to destroy it.

Dan Hamburg, a former member of Congress, is executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Bolinas-based nonprofit.

This article appeared on page A - 21 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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"Of Turtles and Teamsters" Friday, June 23, 2020

by Dan Hamburg

THE CHINESE CURSE, ``May you live in interesting times!'' must be ringing in Al Gore's ears. Gore, who wrote in 1991 that ``we must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle of civilization,'' is scrambling for the support of major environmental organizations. The man who reveled in his endorsement from the AFL-CIO last year is today taking jabs from union officials threatening to bolt the Democratic Party tent.

For the past eight years, the Clinton/Gore administration has tried to have it both ways -- cheerleading the onslaught of globalization while hanging onto their traditional allies. But the endgame may not be far off.

``One moment, presidential candidate Gore is telling the labor movement that he believes human rights, workers' rights and environmental protections should be included in core trade agreements,'' fumed United Auto Workers President Sam Yokich recently, ``the next, Vice President Gore is holding hands with the profiteers of the world and singing the praises'' of the China trade deal.

Without the active participation of organized workers and environmentalists, Al Gore may well lose the presidency. The lackluster efforts of these two groups were largely responsible for the post-NAFTA election debacle of 1994 in which the Republicans took over the House of Representatives for the first time in nearly half a century. But more than the Gore candidacy may be at stake here. The globalized corporate economy is driving workers and environmentalists toward an embrace that seemed unlikely just a few years ago. As this relationship develops, it has the potential to rally a broad-based movement that could transform American politics and the market-driven logic that undergirds it.

One sign of this transformation emerged in May 1999, at a Maxxam Corp. shareholders' meeting in Houston, when Don Kegley of the United Steelworkers of America and David Brower of Earth Island Institute were introduced. Over drinks, they conceived the formation of the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, which brought together forest activists and Kaiser Aluminum workers in their joint struggle against Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz.

A few days later, in a document dubbed the ``Houston Principles,'' environmental and labor leaders decried the ``huge price tag'' that has come with the past two decades of wealth accumulation by corporations and America's most affluent citizens. In a relentless drive to maximize profits, they claimed, corporate leaders ``too often regard working people, communities and the natural world as resources to be used up and thrown away.'' Traditionally a supporter of the Democratic Party, organized labor has become exasperated by a succession of trade agreements, from NAFTA to establishing permanent normal trade relations with China, all championed by a Democratic president. While creating enormous new opportunities for investors, these agreements undermine wage and job stability for millions of American workers. Many environmentalists, also traditionally Democratic, are severely disenchanted after eight years of Clinton/Gore compromise on carbon emissions, logging, endangered species and more.

It's noteworthy that major unions, including the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters, and environmental organizations, such as the Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, are considering breaking with the Democrats to endorse Green Party dark horse Ralph Nader for president. The California Nurses Association has already endorsed Nader.

While leaders in environmental and labor politics may yet fold and go for Gore, the links between environmental and labor organizations at the grassroots level is clearly on the rise. There are a number of reasons for this, according to Michael Eisenscher, an electrical workers' organizer who helped form the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition two decades ago.

``Both groups are becoming less parochial in their perspectives as the interconnect edness of things becomes more clear,'' he said. He also points to shrinking numbers in the ranks of organized labor, now less than 15 percent of the total workforce. In Contra Costa County, building trades workers have teamed up with the Sierra Club and the Greenbelt Alliance to keep developers in check. ``There was a time when building trades people automatically supported development and saw environmentalists as obstacles to prosperity,'' said Aram Hodess, an official with Plumbers Local 159 in Martinez. ``Now we're recognizing that we are most effective when we work with environmental and community organizations for responsible growth.''

The anti-WTO protest in Seattle last year was a major turning point in bringing workers and environmentalists together on a national level. Televised images of ``Turtles and Teamsters'' marching in the streets together became the symbol for a heightened level of opposition to corporate predations against both the global environment and the worldwide fortunes of working people. Subsequent protests over the past six months, in Washington, D.C., Davos, Switzerland, and most recently at the Organization of American States convention in Windsor, Ontario, have solidified the relationship.

The near-term success of the alliance between workers and environmentalists may depend largely on the fortitude of their leadership. If leaders like Yokich of the UAW and George Becker of the United Steelworkers merely talk about their dissatisfaction with the current direction of major party politics, progress could be slowed. Gore didn't help his case last week when he named Commerce Secretary William Daley, the administration's top lobbyist for Senate passage of the China trade bill, as his new campaign manager. Steelworkers spokesman Gary Hubbard commented that Gore seems ``not to understand how strongly working people feel on the trade issue.''

Teamsters President James Hoffa called Gore's decision ``a slap in the face.'' At a press conference with Nader yesterday, Hoffa called on the Presidential Debates Commission to allow both Nader and Patrick Buchanan to participate. ``Who really wants to see a debate between Gore and Bush?'' Hoffa asked.

Environmental organizations should ask the same question. Their willingness to settle for half a loaf from the Democrats may work for fund-raising appeals but recently led Brower of Earth Island to accuse Sierra Club leadership of ``fiddling while the planet burns.''

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club's top hired gun, Carl Pope, continues to defend Gore as, at worst, the lesser of evils. But even if the presidential election of 2000 goes by without a hard stand by labor and environmental leadership against the Democrats, the die seems to be cast.

The early capitalists were the iconoclasts of their day. They had to create a new logic, a logic of the market organized around profitability, in order to end their subordination to the landed gentry. This logic brought about the Industrial Revolution and the spectacular wealth of a small percentage of the Earth's people today. However, for workers and environmentalists, not to mention the majority of the world's population, it is becoming increasingly anachronistic. Corporate capitalism, especially in its globalized form, is fostering economic and social inequalities that are intrinsically unstable in a democracy. Even more ominous, because it involves the very survival of our species, is the current order's inability to deal with the multiple environmental crises.

Our challenge today is to forge a new logic, a logic that defines what it means to be a free human being in the modern world. Without doubt, economic concerns will remain key; however, they'll take their place among a larger constellation of concerns. Instead of just making economic sense, things will have to make environmental sense, social sense, human sense. The alliance of workers and environmentalists is an essential step in this transformative process.

Dan Hamburg, a former member of Congress, is executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Bolinas nonprofit.

This article appeared on page A - 25 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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San Jose Mercury News

"Lawmakers Part Ways in State's war on pot" May 10, 2020
by Dan Hamburg

The war against marijuana took two interesting, and very divergent, turns last week. In Ukiah, California, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors placed a measure on the November ballot to decriminalize the personal cultivation and use of marijuana. In Sacramento, the Assembly Public Safety Committee voted to reimpose California’s “Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License” law.

Mendocino County is where the state’s war on marijuana began 21 years ago. In a headline-grabbing event that helped fuel his gubernatorial ambitions, then-Attorney General George Deukmejian, accompanied by automatic rifle-toting, flak-jacketed agents, descended by helicopter on a northern Mendocino County garden. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent annually on all aspects of the marijuana war. Two decades later, the weed is more prevalent than ever.

The message from this state of affairs is so plain and simple that only a politician could miss it--prohibition doesn’t work. But the war on marijuana has never been about stopping marijuana use so much as it has been about pandering to a public that is legitimately concerned about health and safety, especially the health and safety of children. Pandering is where Governor Gray Davis and the Assembly Public Safety Committee come in.

The “Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License” mandate was devised by the Bush administration as an attack on California’s marijuana decriminalization law under which possession of less than an ounce is deemed an infraction rather than a misdemeanor. To this day, the feds withhold transportation funds from states that refuse to take driver’s licenses from drug offenders, regardless of whether the drug offense has any relationship to operating a vehicle. States that don’t wish to abide by the mandate can “opt-out” with the signature of the governor. Thirty-two states, including every state west of Texas, have taken advantage of the “opt-out” option. Despite polls showing that two-thirds of Californians disagreed with him, former Governor Pete Wilson chose to support the Bush mandate. That Wilson law is due to expire in July 2000.

Now, to the shock of many of those who supported his bid for high office, Governor Davis has made it clear that he wants the Wilson policy extended. This despite the fact that California will be forced to continue spending millions processing minor pot offenders, whose charges would otherwise be dismissed with a ticket, to come back to court in order to defend their licenses. This despite the fact that the law Davis supports, AB 2595, would make it a worse offense to have a joint in your pocket or purse at home than to be caught speeding, driving recklessly, or with an open liquor container in your car.

In the halls of the State Capitol, our leaders, eager to prove how much they care about kids and despise crime, sip their martinis and condemn pot smokers. Many of them have no doubt “experimented” themselves. Even more no doubt have children who have. When those kids get in trouble they are typically “diverted” from the system, given clemency due to the extenuating circumstance of having a powerful parent. For the rest of our kids, and ourselves, it’s “smoke a joint, lose your license,” or worse.

The governor and our misinformed state legislators need to pay heed to the discussion now going on in Mendocino County. Sheriff Tony Craver signed the initiative to legalize the personal cultivation and use of marijuana. He did this not because he supports marijuana use but because as a longtime law enforcement official he has seen that prohibition is a bust. If the initiative passes, he believes it will “send a message to policy makers in Sacramento and Washington that despite decades of efforts to suppress marijuana, the number of users and amount of plants seized continues to increase.”

Mendocino supervisors were urged by County Counsel Peter Klein to perform their ministerial duty of putting the initiative on the ballot, but then to challenge its legality in court. Klein argued that the initiative was unenforceable because it preempts state and federal laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana. However, as Supervisor Richard Shoemaker pointed out, Proposition 215, the 1996 “medical marijuana” initiative, purportedly had similar problems and is now being successfully implemented. Supervisor David Colfax reminded the Board that it would be “bizarre” to challenge the marijuana initiative while continuing to subsidize the county’s robust wine industry. The Board, which has a conservative majority, voted unanimously to reject their counsel’s advice and move forward to a test of the voters’ will in November.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that it is in the county where the pot war got started that it’s now winding down. Mendocino County has experienced many of the negative effects of illegal pot. Millions of dollars spent by law enforcement, skewing priorities and clogging the courts. Thousands of casual users arrested, sometimes imprisoned and left with indelible marks on their records. The hypocrisy of preaching against pot while pushing more dangerous drugs. A culture of greed and occasional violence brought about directly by astronomical prices. The unseemliness of an economy whose largest cash crop is an illegal weed.

Mendocino County has learned the hard way and is finally on the right track. Threats and bullying don’t work. Lose your home. Lose your freedom. And now lose your license. Too bad the politicos in Sacramento seem once again to have lost their minds.

Dan Hamburg, a former member of Congress, is executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Bolinas-based nonprofit.

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CommonDreams.org


"Pruneyard & The Walmart 9" Wednesday, April 5, 2020
by Dan Hamburg

On February 18, Richard Johnson, a Mendocino County newspaper publisher and Green Party activist, was handcuffed, placed under arrest, and held in the county jail for six hours for the crime of gathering signatures at the Ukiah Walmart. Although his violation was of the trespass law, Walmart officials were candid about their displeasure with the content of the petition, decriminalization of marijuana. Four days later, eight of us were arrested for protesting Walmart’s treatment of Mr. Johnson. We were taken to jail, booked, and released.

Several factors have made confrontations like the one we had at Walmart almost commonplace in today’s California. People seeking to exercise their free speech rights, whether to gather signatures or to rally for a cause, go where the people are. Increasingly, as the town squares of California are diminished, the people are at shopping malls and big box retailers like Target, Costco, Home Depot, and Walmart. A second factor is the proliferation of initiatives--there are simply more people out there gathering signatures for everything under the sun. Our recent state election sported 21 initiatives, each one requiring 700,000 valid signatures to qualify.

The issue of First Amendment protections in California’s new shopping havens was handed down from the bench in the 1979 California Supreme Court case Robins v. Pruneyard. The case involved a group of high school students who had set up a card table to collect signatures in support of the state of Israel. Shopping center management filed an injunction to force them to leave the premises. Before it was over, the case had determined that while retail establishments may adopt “reasonable regulations,” they cannot outlaw political activity on their property. Further, they cannot regulate the content of petitions nor can they draw regulations that are so narrow with respect to “time, place, and manner” as to discourage the full exercise of civil rights under the First Amendment.

Back to Walmart...on March 2, Mendocino County District Attorney Norm Vroman announced that “the alleged acts [of the nine arrestees] do not rise to the level of a criminal offense. Therefore, criminal charges are not merited.”

Vroman rested his decision on Pruneyard, holding that under the California Constitution, “the public has the right to engage in free speech and petitioning on private property when that location has the characteristics of a public forum. If the commercial property becomes a place where citizens congregate, the owner’s property rights must yield to the public’s right to engage in expressive activity.”

This is a critical point. Private property advocates sometimes claim that retail stores have no obligation to allow free speech activities. However, the courts have ruled that since retail stores invite the public in to do business, they compromise certain of these rights. Still, stores like Raley’s have claimed, in trying to get around Pruneyard, that the are not “a place of congregation nor a substitute town square.” Raley’s managers have followed a similar course to Walmart, intermittently placing petitioners under citizen’s arrest.

Vroman went on to state that ...analyzing Walmart’s rules and regulations, it is apparent that they are too narrow as applied to the individuals in question. Limiting someone to a three by four foot space that is approximately 17 feet away from the main entrance is more restrictive than is necessary to promote Walmart’s commercial interest. Furthermore, it appears that Walmart’s motivations are based on the fact that they feel that the subject matter of the petitions is personally offensive. This is the exact type of restriction that the courts have found to be constitutionally defective.

Furthermore, the alleged activities by the individuals concerned do not rise to the level of a criminal offense as defined in the Penal Code. Since Walmart’s property is open to the public, the code sections that apply are limited. The individuals arrested on the second incident were booked under Penal Code section 602. But to be guilty of that section the offender must do more than just trespass. A violation of that section also requires that the purpose of that trespass is to injure, interfere with, or obstruct the conduct of business, or to intimidate those doing business at the location.

Although the law is not more specific as to the type of activity that would be legally offensive, it is clear that it must be more than displaying signs or soliciting signatures. It must be some type of physical interruption or breach of the peace. From the reports that were submitted, it is clear that this is not the situation currently before this office.

So that should have been the end to it. But it wasn’t. Just three days after the DA’s decision was made public, Walmart managers harassed another signature gatherer, ordering him to “get inside the yellow box” designated for free speech activities. When he reminded them of the DA’s decision that this was an overly restrictive rule, two more Walmart employees came outside and began photographing the petitioner.

It was after this incident that many of us decided it was time for our group, dubbed in the local newspapers as the “Walmart 9,” to consider what further actions to take to uphold our rights and create a new precedent at least for Mendocino County if not for the state. In the days immediately after the group arrest on February 21, we had offered to mediate our disagreement. Walmart management refused. Now they had again demonstrated their arrogance by continuing to harass peaceful people in spite of the DA’s crystal-clear position.

Of course, there is something going on here that is larger than our struggle with Ukiah Walmart. The retail industry in California hates the Pruneyard case. They are determined to attack it where it is deemed weak, especially on issues related to “time, place, and manner.” The 1997 case known as Needle Trades gave the industry an opening. In that case, union workers protesting the manufacturer of Guess jeans failed to present sufficient evidence to support their activities, thus ceding to retailers powers beyond those deemed necessary in Pruneyard. For example, some retailers like Walmart use Needle Trades to disallow all free speech activity for certain periods (i.e., Thanksgiving through Christmas) known as “blackouts,” to limit individual petitioners to three consecutive days of activity, and to force petitioners to stand in “designated areas.”

In our case, the fact that none of us were paid signature gatherers is in our favor. Also, Walmart clearly discriminated on the basis of content, telling us that our petition was inimical to the “family values” the chain promotes. It also helps that the local DA says the law is on our side.

When and if we finally come before a judge and jury, who knows how things will turn out. But it’s clear that not standing up for free speech is the final step before losing it and that as always, democracy is not something you have but something you do.

Dan Hamburg is executive director of Voice of the Environment, a northern California nonprofit dedicated to protecting the public from greedy, unprincipled corporations like Walmart.

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"Who's Protecting California's Environment?
Gov. Davis campaigned on the promise that he would preserve forests and fish habitats and safeguard schools from toxics, but the Democratic governor has done little to reverse the neglect by four Republican administrations Sunday"
--November 14, 2020

by Dan Hamburg

In a major environmental address last year, then-Lieut. Gov. Gray Davis promised to ensure that "wetlands are preserved, rivers are clean and all old-growth trees are spared from the lumberjack's ax."

Most environmentalists, weary after four consecutive Republican administrations in Sacramento, were eager to hear those words and to believe that once in the governor's office, Davis would bring renewed commitment to solve the environmental problems of California. But with only minor exceptions, this has not come about.

Davis started out on the right foot with several solid appointments, including Mary Nichols as state Resources Secretary, Tom Hannigan as director of Water Resources and Rusty Arieas as director of Parks & Recreation. These people had credentials with the mainstream environmental community, and it was hoped that they would bring significant positive changes to their respective departments. What no one foresaw was that Gov. Davis, a renowned micro-manager, would sabotage any significant changes by keeping them on very short leashes.

DAVIS' REBUKE

For example, one of Nichols' first official acts as Resources Secretary was to withdraw a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Wilson administration to block implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. This 1992 law, steered through Congress by Martinez Democrat George Miller and then-Sen. Bill Bradley aimed to create a restorative balance between agricultural and other uses of freshwater flowing through the San Francisco Bay and Delta. In a move that shocked environmentalists, Davis ordered Nichols to rescind her action and then not-too-privately called her on the carpet for acting without his direct instruction.

Davis' penchant for micro-management is being blamed for his slowness in filling scores of key positions in his new administration. The result is that many state regulatory agencies continue to function as if this were the third administration of Pete Wilson. Earlier this month, Davis was reproached for his failure in articles that ran in both The Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.

``Many of the enforcement decisions are still being made by Wilson holdovers,'' said Bill Magavern of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a Los Angeles-based organization that focuses on environmental protection and nuclear safety. Magavern complained that polluters are still being protected, not public health. The regional water quality control board responsible for the sensitive Lake Tahoe area completely ceased to function when Davis failed to appoint new members. Other boards are functioning only because members have agreed to serve beyond the expiration dates of their terms.

MTBE DEADLINE

In March, Davis took what appeared to be a strong step when he imposed a Dec. 31, 2002, deadline for the phaseout of the gasoline additive MTBE that the governor called ``a significant threat to public health.'' At the same time, he asked refiners to supply MTBE-free gasoline to service stations in Lake Tahoe ``as soon as possible'' to appease a region up in arms over losing nearly half of its drinking water to tainted wells. Six months later, 11 of 15 Tahoe stations were still selling MTBE-laced fuel.

Meanwhile, the governor pressured Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, into dropping the 2002 deadline from his bill. Critics charged that Davis is ``flip-flopping on his promise to protect California's environment, embarrassing the Legislature and harming his own credibility.''

One of Davis' selling points to environmentalists when he ran for governor was his opposition, as a member of the state Lands Commission, to a proposed radioactive waste dump in the Mojave Desert at Ward Valley. As governor however, Davis has been agonizingly slow in reversing the pro-Ward Valley stance of the Wilson administration. When the project seemed to implode over the summer, Davis packed the Nuclear Waste Advisory Group with industry executives, and commissioned the group to find a replacement site.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has raised concerns about the group's composition and has questioned the need to locate any new nuclear waste facility in California. One watchdog group claims that Davis has still not given up on locating a waste dump in Ward Valley, despite overwhelming public opposition that culminated in a 103-day occupation by environmentalists and local Indian tribes last year.

SCHOOL PORTABLES

Recently, Davis inexplicably vetoed the Healthy Schools Act, a bill that would have required the state to study problems with air quality in portable classrooms. There are currently more than 86,500 of these portables across the state, housing more than a third of all California public school students.

Studies have shown that portables can expose children to toxic chemicals at unacceptably high levels. The bill also called for better notification of pesticide spraying around schools and the training of school personnel in environmental health standards.

The governor's veto is especially hard to understand in light of recent surveys that have identified high levels of toxic substances in California schools, both in portables and traditional classrooms. In the governor's hometown of Los Angeles, a $200 million high school sits half-built on top of an abandoned oil field while seismologists try to determine the extent to which petroleum-based toxins are leeching upward.

FORESTRY PRACTICES

The governor also has been slow in overseeing the Board of Forestry, which has long been a focal point for environmentalists concerned about sustainable logging. Ultimately, it's the board that has to address problems such as overharvesting, cutting on steep slopes and in unstable areas, disruption of watersheds and water quality. Failure to address these issues adequately has led to ongoing struggles, including civil disobedience in places like Headwaters Forest and Jackson State Forest.

Many have charged that the board does a poor job of enforcing existing forest-practice rules and has failed to prevent practices that lead to property degradation and violations of clean water standards. Under Gray Davis, the board remains a quagmire, unable to take even modest steps toward reform.

On July 7, timber industry executives feted Davis at a reception in Anderson (Shasta County), headquarters of timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries. The event was held on the same day that his administration proposed stricter regulations for timber harvesting on private lands in order to protect rivers and wildlife.

Curiously, Davis claimed to be unaware of the new rules, even though they had just been issued by two of his own cabinet officials! The reception was just one of several half-policy, half-fund-raising sessions with industry that would be a Davis trademark if Bill Clinton hadn't already perfected the genre.

According to a recent article in Time magazine extolling him as ``the most fearless governor in America,'' Davis has already raised $7 million for his 2002 campaign war chest, an amount that dwarfs previous first-year efforts by any sitting governor anywhere on the planet.

Voters will ultimately have to decide whether Davis' fund-raising is skewing his policy judgment or not. But it's clear that timber industry prerogatives are being well tended under the guidance of his administration.

COHO SALMON

Last month, the Board of Forestry again delayed a vote on new rules to protect coho salmon habitat, rules most conservation and fisheries organizations already felt were too weak. The board's lack of will caused Joe Blum, a representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service, to warn that a listing of steelhead trout may be necessary.

Listing of steelhead as a threatened or endangered species could help restore the coho as well, but would also devastate the sport fisheries (and their attendant industries of fishing guides and outfitters) of Northern California, including some relatively healthy rivers such as the Trinity and the Smith.

To his credit, Davis didn't veto two measures on the March 2000 ballot that could have significant benefit to the environment. A $1.97 billion water bond would finance improvements in flood protection, water quality, levees and conservation.

The governor also signed a $2.1 billion park bond act that would begin to address the severe state of dilapidation in our state parks, beaches and historical sites. However, to call allowing these measures on the ballot a ``bold step,'' as Davis did at his signing ceremony, is disingenuous if not plain deceptive. If there is to be a bold step taken, it will be by the state's taxpayers, not its governor.

NOT AN INNOVATOR

In the recent Time puff piece, Davis is praised for his advances in gun control, HMO reform and education. There is no mention of the environment whatsoever. No serious environmentalist would call this governor an innovator.

Most of the environmental bills he has signed, such as Democrat Assemblywoman Carole Migden's bill to allow the nine regional water quality control boards to sanction repeat offenders, have sat around the capital for years waiting for a Democrat governor to sign them. In fact, Gray Davis has proposed no bold steps to deal with the imminent collision of the state's human population with its battered natural resource base.

Most environmentalists have thus far been reluctant to criticize the governor publicly. After all, given the rapacious tilt of California's Republican politicians on environmental issues, what choice is there? But at least a few think it's time to take off the gloves. Ted Nordhaus, executive director of Next Generation, an Oakland environmental consultant, is one.

``There is increasing trepidation among environmentalists that Davis isn't very serious about protecting the state's environment,'' Nordhaus says.

Nordhaus recently surveyed leaders in the mainstream environmental community throughout California and found that there was a general consensus that Davis had put good people in place in state government but that ``at the larger policy level, there hasn't been much in the way of new initiatives.''

Kathy Bailey, state Forest Conservation chairwoman for the Sierra Club, is blunt about the administration's handling of endangered species. ``From what we have seen in the past few months, it has become increasingly clear that the Davis administration is not committed to saving coastal salmon (coho, chinook and steelhead) from extinction in California. We're facing a crisis of extinction, and the Davis administration is doing nothing.''

CRITICS MUST SPEAK UP

The governor needs to be taken to task more vigorously by the environmental community. The stakes are too high to wait. Another three, or possibly seven years, of Davis neglect will certainly make our challenges that much more difficult to meet. Some environmentalists are proposing ways to go around the governor, such as appealing directly to sympathetic ears within the business community. While commendable, this tactic seems unlikely to yield a high level of success. After all, business runs on the principle of the bottom line, not the more subjective criterion of the public good. That criterion is supposed to be the province, and indeed the purpose of government.

A turnaround in California's approach to its environment would be a powerful signal to the rest of country and the world. It would also be the best gift we could give ourselves and future generations of Californians. Based on the evidence of nearly a year, we will have to make it happen without a great deal of support, let alone leadership, from Gov. Davis.


Dan Hamburg is a former county supervisor and member of Congress. He is currently executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Bolinas-based nonprofit.

This article appeared on page SC - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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"The Incomplete Human: We teach our kids to be consumers rather than thinkers" Thursday, June 17, 2020

by Dan Hamburg

WHAT IS MOST STRIKING about American culture, aside from its unprecedented ubiquity, is its celebration of consumption. The economy is our religious faith, consumption our orthodoxy.

Advertising is our culture's propaganda, its clarion to consumption. Our children are spoon-fed a daily mega-dose of ultrasophisticated marketing, even on the campuses of public schools. Bloated with corporate hype about everything from crotch odor to gas additives, we practice our patriotism at the mall. Feeding the beast has become our national raison d'etre.

No group is more exploited by our market culture than teenagers. Remember how important it was to fit in in high school? Remember how painful it was when you didn't think you did? Joe Camel is such a powerful messenger to teens not just because of the drug he deals but because of the savoir-faire he exudes. Then there are the clothes, the cars, the booze and the sexy bodies that look just so.

Despite our flashy modernity and bull markets, ours is the imagination of scarcity, of economic paranoia. No amount of wealth can ever fully assuage our fear of not having enough. When Thomas Malthus argued at the end of the 18th century that human population inevitably outstrips its ability to produce, he laid the groundwork for the harshly competitive society Darwin would soon stamp with a ``scientific'' imprimatur. ``The Descent of Man'' replaced the Bible as our origin narrative.

Because we perceive that there isn't enough to go around, winners and losers have to be determined. Our children learn that society is a set of stairs; they must compete and prove their merit first in the classroom, then in the marketplace. Their relative success is evidence of their relative stature as humans, of their degree of selectness. Those who fall short fall back -- even to the street, to joblessness, homelessness, hunger. As Thomas Hobbes said, for the riffraff, life is ``nasty, brutish, and short.'' Welfare moms, illegal aliens, SAT flunkers -- bring on Nature's broom and sweep them down the drain of history! Progress is the province of the winners, of the strong.

As parents, we send our children a mixed message. On one hand, we teach compassion, generosity and humility. These are the attributes that create strong families and communities. On the other, we teach that ``out in the real world'' they will contend aggressively for the top job, the prestigious address, the glitzy car. For consolation, it is considered normal, even noble, to ``burn out'' from 60-hour weeks and spirit-numbing commutes.

Consumer culture, bourgeois culture, is threatened not because it is wrong or bad, but because it is incomplete. While it has done a terrific job of mastering the processes of material production, it has failed almost as grandly to answer fundamental questions about ecological sustainability and the ethical distribution of the Earth's resources.

In fact, we are much more. We are the only creatures who define ourselves, who define what it is to be alive. We are the only beings who create culture, even as culture is creating us. We must teach this lesson to our children -- that they live in a specific culture, that they can know it, and therefore, that they can change it.

We need a shift in thought no less dramatic than that of Columbus when he insisted he could reach the East by sailing west, no less dramatic than that of Coper nicus when he said, ``It may seem absurd, but the Earth also moves.''

We stand at a crossroads. A turn toward a better world is both necessary and attainable -- necessary because the environmental and social costs of this culture are too high; attainable because we have the capacity to do so. Imagine a world in which our young people could grow up without constant admonishment to get those grades, get into that school, and follow the narrowing pathway to material salvation. Imagine a world in which success had more to do with personal peace than with purchasing power. Imagine a world in which every human being was valued simply for being the remarkable creature each of us truly is.

Dan Hamburg, a former member of Congress, is executive director of Voice of the Environment, a Bolinas-based nonprofit.

This article appeared on page A - 27 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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"Media's Bottom Line - Corporate profits dictate too much of what is news" Wednesday, April 14, 1999

by Dan Hamburg

STEPPING UP to the microphone in the ballroom of the Los Angeles Omni Hotel, I noticed the TV crews in the back of the room packing up their equipment.

With a thousand people in the audience, including my two major-party rivals, Gray Davis and Dan Lungren, I quickly turned my attention back to the business at hand.

My speech that day at a conference sponsored by the Southwest Voter Registration Project lasted less than 20 minutes, and was interrupted by three standing ovations, and a post-event cheer of ``Go Greens Go!'' led by Dan Lungren. As a crowd gathered around me, Gray Davis was asked why my slams against NAFTA had gone over with the largely Latino audience. An Associated Press reporter wrote a story contrasting the tepid response to Davis and Lungren with the uproar that had greeted Green positions opposing capital punishment, welfare ``reform'' and anti-immigrant initiatives.

I felt confident that one way or another, I would gain the opportunity to debate Davis and Lungren before a statewide TV audience -- that could lead to the mainstream media coverage that had eluded us in the early months of the campaign. With five scheduled debates, I didn't think I could possibly be excluded from them all. But I was wrong.

The Davis and Lungren campaigns saw no benefit in opening the debates. Neither did the debate sponsors, a group that included several major newspapers around the state. To its credit, the Sacramento Bee refused to sponsor a Sacramento debate when Davis and Lungren insisted on prescreening questions and questioners. But by and large, the media performed docilely. The debates were lackluster, constrained by the relentless logic of the corporate bottom line.

Candidates are bankrolled. Corporate sponsorship is the sine qua non of the ``serious'' political player. Corporations, including media conglomerates, sponsor the political platforms of both Democrats and Republicans. These platforms are isomorphic with the imperative of corporate profitability. Corporations determine what is politically possible, and what is not. Universal health care? Off the table. A living wage? Off the table. Three strikes for corporations that pollute? Off the table. Decriminalizing marijuana? Off the table.

The media is one of the pillars supporting the corporate capitalist temple. That's not a criticism; it's a fact. Media is not simply owned by big business. It is big business. Publisher Mark Willes, who cut his teeth at General Mills, recently stated his intention to ``take a bazooka'' to the wall separating advertising and editorial divisions at the L.A. Times. While newspapers have always catered to their advertisers, the drive for the dollar drives the news as never before.

Occasionally, an enterprising reporter like Gary Webb deeply challenges the legitimacy of the system. Webb detailed how the CIA, in support of the rebels in Nicaragua, helped infuse massive amounts of cocaine into cities across the country. His editors at the San Jose Mercury News made it front-page news. Then the system pounced back, led by the Washington Post and the New York Times. Quickly, the Merc backtracked and banished Webb.

Candidates who push strongly anti- corporate platforms are typically treated as oddities. As a Green, I cheer the election of Audie Bock. Bock stands for all I believe in. As the first minor party candidate elected to the state Assembly in 60 years, she joins a handful of renegades who were able to win against all odds, without corporate backing. Interestingly, The San Francisco Chronicle was content to endorse Democrat Elihu Harris, despite the fact that he repeatedly refused to debate his Green opponent.

The media serves the corporate culture whose organizing principles are growth and profit. Newspapers, and the media as a whole, promote the recapitulation of this culture. As long as poverty is at ``acceptable'' levels, as long as domestic and world affairs are sufficiently ``orderly,'' as long as global warming and species extinction are ``manageable,'' the momentum of the culture sweeps contradictions aside. We are not talking about evil here. We are not talking about conspiracy. We are talking about agreement. As long as there is agreement that corporate capitalism's benefits outweigh its costs, the struggle for a new culture will be waged outside the mainstream media.

Dan Hamburg, a former Democratic member of Congress, was the Green Party candidate for governor in 1998.

This article appeared on page A - 21 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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"$130 Million Headwaters Is No Deal" Wednesday, July 22, 2020

By Dan Hamburg

CHARLES HURWITZ swaggered down the halls of the state Capitol earlier this month in his shiny black cowboy boots, warning that he'd be forced to cut down the Headwaters Forest, or sue the government for ``taking'' his property rights, unless the state ponies up $130 million.

State Senator Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) thinks he can get Hurwitz to leave a few more trees vertical than was called for in the agreement negotiated between U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Hurwitz. Governor Pete Wilson, prompted by large campaign contributions from Hurwitz's timber PAC, thinks DiFi's deal is good enough.

In chorus for once, Dems and Reps give obeisance to Hurwitz, ignoring the fact that this man seriously wants the money, and the increased opportunity to log, that this deal brings him. No one seems willing to call Hurwitz's bluff. The only other explanation for the frenzy to hand over taxpayer cash is that our misguided legislators want ``Saved Headwaters Forest'' for their campaigns.

That's where this latest round of buyout fever started, with the Clintonians trying to prove that they were still some shade of green. Headwaters has now become the ``environmental no-brainer'' of the '90s, like offshore oil was in the '80s.

But this deal is far from a no-brainer. While the real reason for the strange generosity of our high officials may not be clear, what is clear is that the state should not appropriate money for Hurwitz at this time. Here are four good reasons:

1) Completion of the deal, with or without the Sher language, will lead to the destruction of more ancient redwoods and old-growth Douglas fir than if there were no deal. Under current law, particularly the Endangered Species Act, Hurwitz can only log small amounts of dead and downed wood in the areas of old-growth forests. The whole point of this deal is that Hurwitz wants to log in areas in which he would otherwise be prohibited by law.

The first substantive clause of the Feinstein/Hurwitz deal states: ``Pacific Lumber desires to obtain a permit under section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act.'' Without this permit, which allows Hurwitz to harm or kill endangered species, Hurwitz's chain saws are largely idled in areas of old growth. 2) There is a 1,000-acre ``hole'' in the middle of the proposed Headwaters acquisition area, 70 percent of which is included in a Timber Harvest Plan now going through the final stages of approv al. If these 1,000 acres are excluded, the essential stream-side buffer for the south fork of the Elk River will be lost.

According to Humboldt County Supervisor John Wooley, ``The south fork of the Elk River is one of the best coho salmon spawning streams in the state of California.'' This will not be the case if logging is allowed. 3) Already more of the acquisition area's designated buffer is clear-cut than treed. Also, within this 1,000 acres is the most feasible location to develop public access to Headwaters Grove and Elk Head Springs. Someday the more hearty among us may actually want to hike in and have a look at what we bought. 4) The state does not know what it's buying for $130 million. The federal government is conducting an appraisal of the land to be acquired, at a cost of over $500,000, but the appraisal will likely not be completed until the fall. Your legislators are about to spend a very large sum of your money on real estate whose value has yet to be determined.

The Legislature forgot to require scientific peer review by an independent scientific body, such as the National Academy of Sciences, in its conditions for the mandated Habitat Conservation Plan. Before spending such a huge chunk of taxpayer money, shouldn't we be sure that the plan to protect endangered species from extinction uses credible scientific standards?

We should not allow Hurwitz to bilk the taxpayers yet again.

Dan Hamburg, as a former member of Congress, authored the Headwaters Forest Act which passed the House in August 1994. He is now executive director of V.O.T.E. Action Committee, a nonprofit group in Bolinas, and the Green Party gubernatorial candidate.

This article appeared on page A - 23 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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San Francisco Examiner

"I'm in governor's race to broaden debate" Sunday, October 11, 2020

by DAN HAMBURG

WE STAND at a crossroads in the history of our state, and our planet.

The decisions we make in the next few years will have enormous impact for decades to come. That's why I'm in this race.

My goals for this campaign are to build the Green Party movement and to break the stranglehold of Democrat / Republican politics in California. If that qualifies as spoiling, so be it.

Like the rival fiddlers Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Gray Davis and Dan Lungren play an indistinguishable tune. The differences they exhibit are far from the heart of the matter. We receive a meager fare of warmed-over abortion, death penalty and assault weapon politics. We even have to listen to them argue Vietnam again.

We hear nothing from the two campaigns about the fact that 7 million Californians lack health insurance and nearly a third of our kids live in poverty. Nor do we hear much about an environment that is nearly compromised beyond our current powers of repair. Neither candidate supports Proposition 9, the citizen initiative to stop a massive rip-off by big utilities, or Proposition 5, the Indian Self-Reliance Initiative. Both oppose implementation of Proposition 215, despite the fact that the voters overwhelmingly said they want medical marijuana.

California, the richest state, can afford the richest education for our children. Instead, we lag near the bottom. When our country wanted to win the Cold War, President Reagan didn't hesitate to open the U.S. Treasury. Do our children deserve less urgent attention?

California, the richest state, can afford health care for all of its citizens. California, the richest state, can afford to clean up its environment. California, the richest state, need not force its weakest citizens to bear the brunt of popular discontent - especially the children, our children. Our juvenile justice system is, overall, shameful; many of the offenders caught in the three strikes madness do not belong in prison.

I'm running for governor because the breadth of political discourse in this state is too narrow. We need not just a new riff, but a whole new tune. It's a tune about how we approached the brink and turned back. The amazing thing is that we know what it would take to do that. We know what it would take to make the transition to a more just and sustainable economy and society.

Let's start with a living wage for all Californians; universal health care; abolition of the death penalty and three strikes; respect for the rights of indigenous people, gay people, all people; gender equality on all levels; and an end to corporate giveaways. Let's move forcefully to a non-fossil fuel economy so we can get some oxygen back into the air. Let's stop paving over the best farmland in the state. Let's make agribusiness pay its way. Let's stop using issues like abortion, affirmative action, and bilingual education to divide our citizens. Let's stop the mass extinction of species in California before our species is next.

It's high time to let some light into the political process. California needs prohibitions against corporate bribery (i.e., campaign contributions) and California could use some modern electoral options like instant runoff voting and proportional representation. We can re-energize the electorate by making voting more convenient, and more meaningful. Just look at what the Greens are accomplishing in Germany.

If there is a spoiler in Democratic Party politics, it is President Bill Clinton.

Since he took office, Democratic numbers have crashed across the country. The House of Representatives (net loss: 51 seats), the Senate (7), governorships (18), state legislators (490), and Democratic Party officials turned Republican (367) - this is what Bill Clinton has wrought in six years. The Democrats' problem is the Democrats, not the Greens.

Now, if only I could get Dan Lungren and Gray Davis to debate me.

Does anyone out there have their cell phone numbers?

Examiner contributor Dan Hamburg is the gubernatorial candidate of the Green Party of California

This article appeared on page D - of the Examiner

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