Category Archives: California

Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning

Rome is scorching hot. This beautiful city is becoming unbearable for other reasons, too. Though every corner of the beaming metropolis is a monument to historical grandeur, from the Colosseum in Rione Monti to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in San Giovanni, it is now struggling under the weight of its own contradictions.

In Via Appia, bins are overflowing with garbage, often spilling over into the streets. The smell, especially during Italy’s increasingly sweltering summers, is suffocating.

Meanwhile, many parts of the country are literally on fire. Since June 15, firefighters have reportedly responded to 37,000 fire-related emergencies, 1,500 of them on July 18 alone. A week later, I drove between Campania, in southern Italy, and Abruzzo, in the center. Throughout the journey, I was accompanied by fire and smoke. On that day, many towns were evacuated, and thousands of acres of forests were destroyed. It will take months to assess the cost of the ongoing destruction, but it will certainly be measured in hundreds of millions of euros.

Additionally, the entire southern Europe is ablaze, as the region is experiencing its worst heat waves in many years. Greece, Spain, Turkey, and the Balkans are fighting fires that continue to rage on.

Across the Atlantic, the US and Canada, too, are desperately trying to battle their own wildfires, mostly direct outcomes of unprecedented heat waves that struck North America from Vancouver to California, along with the whole of the American northwest region. In June, Vancouver, Portland and Seattle all set new heat records, 118, 116 and 108 Fahrenheit, respectively.

While it is true that not all fires are a direct result of global warming — many in Italy, for example, are man-made — unprecedented increases in temperature, coupled with changes in weather patterns, are the main culprits of these unmitigated disasters.

The solution is more complex than simply having the resources and proper equipment to contain these fires. The impact of the crises continues to be felt for years, even if temperatures somehow stabilize. In California, for example, which is bracing for another horrific season, the devastation of the previous years can still be felt.

“After two years of drought, the soil moisture is depleted, drying out vegetation and making it more prone to combustion,” The New York Times reported on July 16. The problem, then, is neither temporary nor can be dealt with through easy fixes.

As I sat with my large bottle of water outside Caffettiamo Cafe, struggling with heat, humidity and the pungent smell of garbage, I thought about who is truly responsible for what seems to be our new, irreversible reality. Here in Italy, the conversation is often streamlined through the same, predictable and polarized political discourse. Each party points finger at the others, in the hope of gaining some capital prior to the upcoming October municipal elections.

Again, Italy is not the exception. Political polarization in Europe and the US constantly steers the conversation somewhere else entirely. Rarely is the problem addressed at a macro-level, independent from political calculations. The impact of global warming cannot and must not be held hostage to the ambitions of politicians. Millions of people are suffering, livelihoods are destroyed, the fate of future generations is at risk. In the grand scheme of things, whether the current mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, is elected for another term or not, is insignificant.

Writing in the Columbia Climate School website, Renee Cho highlights the obvious, the relationship between our insatiable appetite for consumption and climate change. “Did you know that Americans produce 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, sending an additional one million tons a week to landfills?” Cho asks.

This leads us to think about the existential relationship between our insatiable consumption habits and the irreparable damage we have inflicted upon mother earth.

Here in Via Appia, the contradictions are unmistakable. This is the summer sales season in Italy. Signs reading “Saldi” – or “Sale” – are everywhere. For many shoppers, it is impossible to fight the temptation. This unhinged consumerism – the backbone and the fault line of capitalism – comes at a high price. People are encouraged to consume more, as if such consumption has no repercussions for the environment whatsoever. Indeed, Via Appia is the perfect microcosm of this global schizophrenia: people complaining about the heat and the garbage, while simultaneously consuming beyond their need, thus creating yet more garbage and, eventually, worsening the plight of the environment.

Collective problems require collective solutions. Italy’s heat cannot be pinned down on a few arsonists and California’s wildfires are not simply the fault of an ineffectual mayor. Global warming is, in large part, the outcome of a destructive pattern instigated and sustained by capitalism. The latter can only survive through unhindered consumption, inequality, greed and, when necessary, war. If we continue to talk about global warming without confronting the capitalist menace that generated much of the crisis in the first place, the conversation will continue to amount to nil.

In the final analysis, all the conferences, pledges and politicking will not put out a single fire, neither in Italy nor anywhere else in the world.

The post Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Taking Action Against 5G:  Advice from a People’s Lobbyist

Perhaps you have been already convinced by reading articles on this site about the devastating effects of the ongoing rollout of massive numbers of 4G/5G so-called small cells (short for cell towers) throughout cities in the U.S. If you’re not up to speed about why you should be extremely, extremely alarmed, you can read my previous article on the subject  (“The 5G Juggernaut, Coming Soon to a Utility Pole Outside Your Home“)

Assuming you are now aware that this rollout will have devastating impacts on our quality of life, and the-well being of the planet, how can you take action to fight it? Two bills have been introduced in the CA legislature to essentially remove any local government oversight of the telecoms, and will be catastrophic if passed.  These are AB 537 and SB 556.  This article explains how you can be effective in convincing legislators to oppose these bills, but this same advice applies to lobbying legislators in any state.

My advice is based on my past experience as a lobbyist representing a statewide human rights organization when, on more than one occasion, a tiny group of us were able to win extraordinary victories against bills being strongly pushed by powerful corporate interests. I also worked as a legislative assistant to a city council person, giving me an inside look at the dynamics of local government, and was very involved in the successful 2017 campaign in California to defeat a similar 5G greenlighting bill.

Mindset is important. If your mindset is “The government is totally against us, we live in a corporatocracy and I just need to register my outrage, but I know we’re not going to win,” your lobbying efforts are unlikely to succeed. If your mindset is “Legislators definitely don’t share my values, but maybe I can trick them into supporting us, by greatly watering down what I believe into a more palatable ‘mainstream’ message,” No, this is not going to convince them to take the action you’re hoping for. Or “What if I come up with an assertion that is so powerful that the person I’m talking to will be absolutely overwhelmed, and whether or not I provide them with supporting arguments and documentation is not really important?”– Uh, no.

There is no question that anti-5G lobbyists are up against huge forces that have almost unlimited funds to bribe legislators with donations, and pay full time lobbyists to perpetuate their propaganda.

In my opinion, there is only one way to win when the odds are so stacked against us, and that is to connect with the person that you’re communicating with as a fellow human being, who is trying to make sense of a world where all our usual assumptions about normality have been turned upside down. A fellow/sister human who cares as deeply as you do about the health and well-being of their children, family, and friends, and who has a strong interest in the future of California, and does not want the state destroyed by catastrophic wildfires which could result from this massive, unregulated cell tower rollout.

Ask yourself what argument is going to overcome all the years of telecom and mainstream propaganda they’ve been programmed with? Maybe explaining that their child could get a brain tumor — or they might not even be able to have children

— as a result of the ever-increasing close proximity radiation that this legislation would create? Or perhaps giving them documented information about the extreme fire risks posed by locating these very powerful small cell towers everywhere.  (You can see a lot of the documented evidence of 5G fire dangers in this article I wrote, which describes the woeful lack of fire protection provided by Berkeley lawmakers when they crafted their city’s small cell ordinance.)

Although the industry likes to describe them as “small” cells, the equipment can be quite large, adding greatly to the aesthetic deterioration of California cities and towns. And the radiation can often be just as powerful as the traditional 3G/4G macro towers, now with the added very strong EMF (electromagnetic field) pollution that is caused by the 5G antennas. 5G is not replacing 4G, it is adding on to it.

It’s important to do your homework, so you are familiar with what the bill you are lobbying about says, and can provide backup documentation for your assertions.

It should go without saying that you need to adhere to the truth 100% of the time. The truth about the planned rollout of thousands of 5G cell towers directly outside our homes is so horrendous that we don’t have to exaggerate anything, or slant the truth to get a desired effect.

An example of activists of being less than accurate was the flyer, posted on many webpages, which noted that for many years, telecoms had not been able to get insurance for small cells.  They could only get insurance if there was an exclusion for “EMF pollution” (i.e., all the people that can be expected to get deathly ill as a result of having powerful 4G/5G antennas outside their bedroom windows). Then there’s other information indicating that small cells present very serious fire risks. Somehow these two arguments got combined  into one shorter message, that telecoms can’t get insurance for small cells due to extreme fire dangers. Since many legislators might not even know what EMF pollution is, that makes for a much more impressive message, since everyone who lives in California is worried about wildfires. The only small problem is that that argument is not true.

If you’re going to contact legislators, it’s essential to make sure that your arguments relate to the particular bill that you’re contacting them about. Do not use a generic “5G is terrible” message. Telecoms have full-time lobbyists that will be sure to point out any factual errors in your arguments. Legislative aides and committee staff will also note errors. No point in your trying to give them information that can’t be backed up — aside from the fact that some readers of this kind of messaging will just have an intuitive sense that there’s something off about your argument.

Activists may have read somewhere that they should be certain to avoid mentioning health impacts, or even ANY harmful impacts caused by close-proximity cell towers, when talking to legislators. There is a huge amount of scientific evidence showing extremely harmful health impacts of living near a cell tower and/or being exposed to wireless radiation — cancer clusters, strokes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. That is one of the most effective arguments you can use, since small cells will increase the level of radiation exponentially.

Because this dictum has gone out so widely to anti 5G activists, that any mention of health should be strenuously avoided, I reached out to several of the top anti-5G attorneys regarding this issue. They all said there is no reason for activists to censor themselves about detrimental heath impacts of cell towers when contacting state legislators.

As one of these attorneys explained it, according to federal law, the only time you cannot talk publicly about health and environmental impacts is before a local governing body that is deciding whether or not a particular cell tower is going to be placed. (You can feel free to say whatever you want when speaking to city council members privately.) If the telecom applicant can show in court that the denial of their permit was based on health concerns, the telecom wins the right to put in their tower.

Please don’t confuse that nuanced issue of local zoning procedure with what kind of issues you can and should bring up when lobbying state legislators.

Aside from the federal law which restricts local siting decisions based on health, there are other federal laws and court decisions that require governments to ensure the safety of communities from harmful effects of cell tower radiation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act, which do not allow laws or regulations that deny access by EMF-disabled people to their own homes or services in their community. There is a DC Court of Appeals decision (Keetoowah Tribes vs FCC) that said national environmental laws also must be considered in the siting of all small cells.

Even the California Supreme Court issued an opinion (T Mobile West vs. City and County of SF) that cities cannot evade their responsibility to protect public safety regarding cell tower placement. Here’s a relevant quote from that opinion:

Under the California Constitution, cities and counties “may make and enforce within [their] limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws…. local police power includes broad authority to determine, for purposes of public health, safety, and welfare, the appropriate uses of land within a local jurisdiction’s borders.”

As a people’s lobbyist, you are not required to be able to debate the finer points of all these laws, regulations, and court decisions. Even though all the attorneys consulted agreed that none of these laws or court opinions represent a gag order for lobbyists, for strategic reasons, it’s always a good idea to bring up other issues, in addition to health and environmental impacts, when opposing 5G legislation. There are many other crucially important reasons to oppose this uncontrolled rollout, some of which I’ve described in my article which I linked to previously. More can be found here and here.

You will be on very strong ground legally and ethically if you base your discussion of health impacts on how these bills violate the ADA, that is, the rights of people who have electro-sensitivity (sometimes abbreviated to ES). However I believe it’s a mistake to make the whole issue of health impacts solely related to people who are already disabled by this condition. Many legislators probably don’t believe that such a thing exists, and even if they believe it does, that is a very small segment of the population, compared to the huge number who are being deprived of adequate high-speed internet access — the problem these bills claim to fix.

It’s excellent to bring up the ADA, but cell tower health impacts affect everyone, not just this small group who are already experiencing ES. As the former President of Microsoft Canada, Frank Clegg, explains it:

Everyone can develop ES. People are not born with ES but develop it as a result of exposure to radiation from wireless sources…. As with other conditions, a person may have a disposition towards a certain condition and therefore may develop it sooner than another person with the same exposure. The increasingly high prevalence of ES makes it clear that the attempts to suggest that those who suffer from the condition are a small fraction of the population that is ‘sensitive’ or that their response to radiation deviates from that of the general population, are false.

(Frank Clegg is now devoting much of his time to countering telecoms’ lies about the safety of 5G as you can see here.)

Even the former Prime Minister of Denmark, who is also the former Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, developed very strong sensitivity to EMFs.

The health impacts are not just the numerous discomforts experienced by those who are EMF sensitive — such as severe head pain and pressure, heart pain and palpitations, sleep disturbances, dizziness, ear pressure or ringing, brain fog, burning skin, constant nose bleeds, etc. The health impacts the legislators need to know about, in addition to the symptoms of EMF sensitivity, are the ones documented in peer-reviewed journals, showing serious diseases like cancer resulting from wireless radiation.

You may be thinking, I don’t have time to track down all these scientific articles about the health impacts of wireless radiation. Luckily, Environmental Health Trust has done an exhaustive job of collecting all the documentation about health impacts, and many other issues related to stopping 5G, which you can find here.

The health effects of cell tower radiation was probably the winning argument (among many) that was used in 2017, when opponents of SB 649 kept bringing up the fact that firefighters were exempted in the bill from having a cell tower near their station, resulting from their fierce objections due to their past experiences of major neurological deterioration as a result of such towers.  There is a similar exemption for fire stations in this current 5G streamlining bill, AB 537. If firefighters are protected, what about children, the elderly, and all the rest of us? In what upside down universe does that make sense?

So, no, it’s not true that you have to avoid any mention of health impacts when lobbying state representatives.

You may have been told legislators have short attention spans, so you need to make your message very short and catchy. They are not going to read a long letter with a lot of research attached.

Not true. They might not read every long letter, especially if it’s filled with rambling thoughts and unsupported assertions, but if your letter is well organized and accurately addresses what the bill says, their aides/staff will look it over, since it’s their job to know all the facts related to the bill. Some even appreciate that you are helping them do their job, and activists’ research will influence how they write up the bill.

Your task as a lobbyist is to explain all the reasons why the bill will be extremely bad for California. Yes, it’s good to choose your words carefully, but if it takes you more than one page to explain all the reasons, that’s OK.  It’s also totally fine to focus on one or two key points, as long as you can back up your arguments with some form of documentation, and can explain how they relate to the bill.

As far as choosing which issues to focus on, don’t limit yourself to a neutral and non-controversial argument; e.g., local control by the cities is an important principle that should be upheld, or 5G next to people’s houses will reduce property values. Legislators are already aware that these bills greatly restrict or eliminate local control, and many cities will be writing to strongly remind them of that fact.

You are trying to transform the legislator’s entire worldview about the supposed miraculous benefits of saturating our lives with wireless radiation. A neutral message like “someone’s property values could go down” is not likely to convince them. (Is it even true that someone’s property values will go down from having a small cell tower in front of their house, if every third house in that community has a small cell in front of it, as the authors of these bills intend?)

This brings me to the very prevalent use of “talking points,” which are very condensed messages that can be used by members of groups to attempt to sway legislators. There is a school of thought which says the main goal in lobbying the legislator is to get the largest number of people possible to call into their office and/or wait in line at a hearing to give a “me too” statement. The “me too” statement only allows them to present name, organization, if any, and a yes or no position on the bill. And since the main goal is to get large numbers of people to call in, you don’t want to burden potential citizen-lobbyists with a lot of details about the bill. It’s better, this theory goes, to just give them some sound bites that then can be repeated endlessly by everyone who calls in.

There is some truth in this approach, which is if you can get a large enough number of people from the legislator’s own district to call in, they might be responsive to the sentiments of their constituents — but probably not responsive enough to overcome the power of the telecoms to establish the discussion parameters about why this bill is so necessary.

If there is a group of activists who all live in the same legislator’s district, they should set up a meeting with the legislator, or if that’s not possible, the top aide working on the bill. That would have a much greater impact, as opposed to all the activists in that district calling in with the same few, identical talking points.

One problem with talking points is that they make it less likely you will be able to make an authentic connection with the aide. They’ve heard it all before, maybe ten or twenty times before, and their goal will be to get you off the phone as quickly as possible.

Another problem with talking points is that they’re not always true. What?? I saw it on a flyer or I saw it on a website, so it must be true! I’ve already talked about the issue of wrong information being widely circulated. I think it’s like the game of telephone we played as kids. The first person in the circle whispers something to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, and by the time it reaches the last person, the original message has been changed into something totally different.

You need to ask yourself, does this argument make sense? Can I find any information to back it up?

Regarding what I described as the telecoms setting the “parameters of discussion,” they claim that due to the Covid-19 crisis, when people in low income and rural communities are unable to receive high-speed internet access, their ability to access government programs, education for their kids, and to earn money for their survival, is severely threatened. Providing high-speed access to these groups should be the main concern of legislators who are trying to help their constituents.

All other arguments seem to pale against that urgent need — unless you can get into a real conversation with the aide, and explain the fallacy of that position.  Of course, we agree that all under-served communities need to have high-speed internet. However, corded internet connections (such as Ethernet, DSL and cable) are just as fast or faster, and they don’t have the downsides of EMF pollution and extreme fire risks. Point out that there’s nothing in the bill that requires telecoms to actually serve under-served communities.

The much-touted promise of 5G to provide faster connections and download speeds has not held up in practice, according to investigators from PC Mag, who did tests of 5G vs. 4G speeds.  5G also does not work in very hot weather.  You can explain that by removing local control, the bill also removes the ability of the local government to negotiate with telecoms to provide access for everyone.

Instead of trying to manipulate, or bombard with robo-calls, the person you’re trying to convince, what if you just tried to educate them? As I previously noted, humanity right now is facing unprecedented threats. Rather than this piece of proposed legislation providing a solution, you can tell them how this bill will increase environmental and public health disasters a hundredfold.

What is the point of giving everyone in California internet access (not that we’re saying these bills WILL do that) — if at the same time you are putting in thousands of extremely fire-prone installations throughout neighborhoods? To put it another way, what good is it for a family to have fast home internet, if they don’t have a home?

These fires can be caused by overloading utility poles, frequent use of smart meters (which are a documented fire hazard) on the small cells, lack of built-in fire safety features, lack of state-required fire safety inspections and reports, and the temporary or permanent use of backup generators containing fire-prone substances, such as diesel fuel or lithium batteries.

Thousands and thousands of these terribly risky installations will be put in right next to people’s homes, or kids’ schools, or facilities for the elderly, so there will be no time for people to escape in a disaster.

On April 19. 2021, fire safety consultant Susan Dana Foster was the first opposition witness regarding SB 556, a 5G bill to greatly reduce the involvement of local governments in the 5G rollout, in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. She was providing refutation to the testimony of the Verizon representative. She explained that firefighters cannot put out electrical fires, such as would occur at a 4G/5G small cell, because putting water on those fires would cause electrocution.

All they can do is wet the ground next to the fire in short bursts. They have to wait for the power to be shut off, which for various reasons that she explained, could take from ten minutes to up to two hours. She also describes how the telecoms have been successful in evading the usual government electrical codes at the federal, state, and county level.

During that hands-off period for firefighters, that could last up to two hours, strong winds could spread the original electrical fire much, much further. In a state like California, where massive wildfires are already causing immense destruction to life and property, these provisions seem like a recipe for unimaginable disaster.

One thing I would strongly urge when trying to find out accurate info about a bill, is to read the official analysis and summary of the bill you are going to be speaking or writing to legislators about. These official analyses are a gold mine of information, and sometimes sound like they could have been written by a fellow activist.  (Of course, sometimes they also sound like they could have been written by telecom spokesperson.)

You need to familiarize yourself with the lingo. The term “deemed approved” is one you will see over and over again in these bills. It means if the city is unable to respond to a telecom application within a very short time period (called a shotclock), then their application is automatically accepted without the need for city approval.

Another important term is collocations. This refers to the telecoms’ ability to keep adding more and more antennas, which they would prefer to do without local government oversight. You can find all the information you need about each bill, including what committee it’s headed to, here.

Another good site to know about is the California Legislature Position Letter Portal, which allows you to send a letter to the entire committee where the bill is headed, by just going through their easy registration steps. It’s also helpful to send a copy to your representatives in the Assembly and Senate.

In a few committees, the letters sent through the official portal do not reach the individual committee members, which is why it is good to also send it to them individually. You might even consider using snail mail if you are unable to reach individual legislators through their email.

Sometimes when calling their office you may be told that the legislator only wants to hear from district constituents. You can tell them that as a resident of California, you are a constituent, since their decisions on this committee will affect everyone in the state.

To sum up, while I’m not saying that large numbers of people calling legislators’ offices with talking points is never of benefit, in my experience, the only truly effective way to win the legislator’s or aides support is to get them to understand the deeper reasons this bill will be devastating to so many people.  It actually only takes one citizen-lobbyist to have that kind of conversation.

Your underlying message should be: Don’t vote against this bill because we’re asking you to. Vote against it because you care about the well-being and safety of your family and community, and about the people of California, and will do whatever is necessary to protect them from the catastrophic impacts of this technology that is running amok.

The post Taking Action Against 5G:  Advice from a People’s Lobbyist first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Out to Lunch: The Atrophying of Western Minds

— Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary

This is what real education looks like — Evo Organizes Anti-Imperialist Day School For Youth

Iris Varela spoke about the history of the Bolivarian Revolution and explained in detail how the economic blockade in her country works. The PSUV lawmaker concluded with an invitation for participants to visit Venezuela for the inauguration of a similar project in Caracas; “we’re opening a university to teach people reporting and social media skills, we’re cordially inviting the youth of the union federations in Chapare to come and coordinate an exchange with the Juventud PSUV, maybe in August a group can come here, and a group from here can go there. Our Bolivian brothers will always be welcome to the country of father liberator, Simon Bolivar. We need to strengthen education and build cadres who can defend revolutionary processes.”

Nieves Colque, one of the young members at the school today said of the classes, “This school of ideology and anti-imperialism helps us to grow, it’s nourishing. The economics session was especially important, learning and analyzing the principles of Bolivia’s social communitarian economic model so we can work in this new term to recover the country’s GDP”.

Go to any of the corporate Un-News outlets, like Bing, and this is what fascism looks like —

Chief of staff Helge Braun told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany. But Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters or sports stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”

Braun said getting vaccinated is important to protect against severe disease and because “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedoms than unvaccinated people.” He said such policies would be legal because “the state has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens.”

More of the same dirty White Western Culture (sic), AKA, White Civilization (Sic) —Report: UK military failing to protect women from abuse

British soldiers evaluate coordinates at the Tapa Training Grounds, Estonia.

Around two-thirds of female veterans in the British armed forces have experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in their careers, a parliamentary report said Sunday.

The report also said that women who reported serious sexual offences are “denied justice” by an inadequate military court system and complaints process.

And, the pigs trained and outfitted in “Israel,” for the most part, treating citizens like Palestinians — 9 arrested in violent clashes between Paris police, anti-vaccine protesters

a group of people wearing military uniforms: 9 arrested in violent clashes between Paris police, anti-vaccine protesters

Ah, the Aussies too, having their pig moments — Anti-lockdown protest: two men charged with allegedly striking police horse in Sydney

A police strike force has been established after an anti-lockdown rally on Saturday.

Ahh, islands on fire, Sardinia — Fires ravage Italian island of Sardinia, forcing evacuations

Cars are parked by the road as fires have been raging through the countryside in Cuglieri, near Oristano, Sardinia, Italy, early Sunday, July 25, 2021. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in many small towns in the province of Oristano

Then, of course, water, fire, flood, death by a million safety net cuts, and then the Olympians are the networks, getting — how many billions does NBCV get for these absurdities, the Olympics, by 2023? $7.7 BILLION!

What we’re witnessing right now play out in Tokyo is unparalleled in the political history of the Olympics. And you’re pointing the finger in the right direction, when we think about the International Olympic Committee. The saga in Tokyo has exposed an International Olympic Committee that openly disrespects the will of locals, that brushes off inconvenient facts from experts, like medical experts, who have long been saying these games are a terrible idea. And the IOC tends to prioritize its profits over all else.

Meanwhile, the Olympics tend to kneecap democracy, undercut democracy, in ways that you describe, with the very prime minister essentially reduced to a contractual supplicant to the International Olympic Committee, with no power to decide whether to cancel or not. And you’re seeing also that everything is very vulnerable to things like COVID-19 and also, I think, climate change. So, when the International Olympic Committee arrives in the host city, it’s this parastate-type organization. But what we’ve seen time and time again, and now in Technicolor in Tokyo, is that it’s also a parasite on the host city.

There is a lot of money sloshing through the Olympic system. It just tends to slosh upwards into pockets that are already filled. NBC gives about 40% of the International Olympic Committee’s revenues. And overall, in terms of the Olympics, 73% of the revenues for the International Olympic Committee come from broadcaster fees. And I think that helps explain why they’re perfectly content to have a made-for-TV event without all those people in the stands. Of course, they’d prefer to have them in the stands, but even if they don’t, the money continues to flow into their coffers. NBC has announced that even though these games are hit with the pandemic and people won’t be in the seats, this could well be the most profitable Olympics ever for NBC because of ad sales and other measures.

The corporate sponsors provide another 18% of the revenues for the International Olympic Committee. And I think we’re seeing a really interesting divide between the corporate sponsors right now. On one hand, the sort of long-term, worldwide partners that fork over these nine-figure fees to be associated with the five rings, they’re basically playing the long game, with the exception of Toyota, which of course has strong base in Japan. The local sponsors, domestic sponsors — by which, by the way, they raised more than $3 billion from local corporate sponsors in Japan, more than ever before — they’re in a much trickier position. And I think that’s why you’re seeing Toyota basically say out loud that the Olympics have become a toxic property inside of Japan.

So, there’s plenty of money to be had. It just tends to shuffle to the International Olympic Committee, to broadcasters, to the corporate partners, as well as to real estate interests in the Olympic city. — Jules Boykoff

 

PHOTO: Water levels at Great Salt Lake are shown at its record in 1986, average in 2000 and new record low this weekend. (Utah Department of Natural Resources)

Oh, the great dysfunctional USA, Capitalism, etc. Think: Nazi Merkel and others in her cabinet blame the deaths of hundreds in Germany as a result of recent flooding on, oh well, “climate change and climate unpredictability . . . .”

Imagine that, the mayor of the town said:

We have had floods in this area for centuries. We have asked for help to mitigate the floods. We have had governments not responsive to the needs of people. Blaming climate change on incompetent and heartless neoliberal governments, on the excessive hording of money, the waste and corruption of trillions, stolen, given to billionaires, to the military complex, and other Corporate and Financial Complexes, then stating these German lives could not be saved because ‘climate change is so unpredictable, and just get used to it” serves the people the words from which to raise pitchforks, juice up the Molotov cocktails, grease the shotguns, tie the ropes and sharpen the guillotines for hanging and beheading deservedly so against the elite and their bed-fellows, the Eichmann Mentality, and the fascist leanings of Capitalism. This is the response of these people who go to climate change talks, who shuttling around the world in jets for Davos and World Economic Forums, for the bootlicking foisted upon us all to the murderers, the BlackRocks’s and Blackstone’s and World Bank and Goldman Sachs. You dictate those who did not get the chemical jab of Corona Capitalism will have lesser value in society, and then those smug ones who have succumbed to the pressure for yearly or twice-yearly boosters, they too will allow the rich and fascistic governments to make excuse after excuse as governments and towns go bankrupt, and all life saving services and community rights, vanish.

Well, he didn’t say that, of course, because I made it up and politicians do not speak about capitalism as the ultimate evil. However, one German mayor was in tears about the loss of life, and said it could have been prevented with a government and localities working together to mitigate floods. Whether once in a hundred years, or otherwise.

a person that is on fire

Dixie Fire rips through Sierra communities, with ‘extreme’ conditions likely to worsen

Hochwasser Dresden

Then, more of the 80-year-olds drilling down on destroying the young, the unborn, the middle aged — Some Americans could need COVID-19 vaccine booster – Fauci

a group of people walking down the street: People wear masks around Times Square, as cases of the infectious coronavirus Delta variant continue to rise in New York City, New York

So, we follow the way of “Israel” — We have given up as people, this unending multi-billions in profits, mercenary, war profiteering profits these companies are stealing from the taxpayers. Like the Military industrial complex, the Big Pharma and Private Medicine industrial complexes are eating our souls. And the rot-gut corporate media and those that echo the prevailing narratives, well, they too eat our souls.

“It’s a dynamic situation. It’s a work in progress, it evolves like in so many other areas of the pandemic,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “You’ve got to look at the data.”

Last week, Israel’s health ministry reported a decrease in the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine in preventing infections and symptomatic illness. But it added that the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer with partner BioNTech still remained highly effective in preventing severe illness.

The decline in efficacy coincided with the spread of the Delta variant, now the dominant strain in Israel.

Israel is administering third doses of the vaccine to immunocompromised people, including those who have had heart, lung, kidney or liver transplants and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Friday that the United States had purchased 200 million more doses of their vaccine to help with pediatric vaccination as well as possible booster shots.

No deep stories on that, uh? How and why so much money is being thrown at companies with histories of felonies? Here, this headline, censored everywhere — CDC “Panel Signals Support for Booster Shots, as Reports of Injuries, Deaths After COVID Vaccines Near 500,000

Oh, they salute the money makers, and we are a society going down down down because of the rich, the millionaires, the billionaires, and these fascists, saluting what?

FILE PHOTO: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on federal government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in Washington

Here a local older woman, trying to make sense of the lock-step pro-lockdown, pro-mask, pro-anticivil liberties mentality of Oregonians, and their editorial boards:

Copy of my Letter to the Editor of the Eugene Register-Guard; it has been received but not published — I usually get pleasure from wordsmith Don Kahle’s clever articles. However, in his July 16 column he encouraged incentives to get more citizens injected with an unlicensed, unapproved experimental gene procedure to lessen symptoms from a viral disease with a better than 99% recovery rate for most age groups.

A review of history is needed. In 1986, Congress passed a law that allowed pharmaceutical companies ZERO liability from damages from their vaccine products. The PREP act is the latest iteration which gives drug companies immunity from damages caused by their vaccines.

The Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System was established in 1990 by the CDC and FDA to monitor damages and deaths caused by vaccines. Although the system is voluntary and underreported, as of this writing, VAERS data showed a total of 463,457 adverse events from all age groups following COVID vaccines, including 10,991 deaths and 48,385 serious injuries since Dec. 14, 2020. Serious injuries include myocarditis, pericarditis, paralysis, neurological disorders, blood clots, irregular menstrual bleeding, and more.

Drug companies are poised to earn billions of dollars from vaccine sales, mostly paid for by our taxes. “Safe and effective” is a marketing slogan and is inaccurate. Mr. Kahle, I urge you to do investigative journalism regarding germ theory vs. terrain theory. Rather than promoting pills and injections, it makes sense that public health funds should be spent on improved sanitation, hygiene, nutrition and exercise guidance for individuals and communities and to promote decentralized, regenerative, organic agriculture on a global scale.

It’s easy to say to this person that this opinion letter to the editor will not be published since the newspaper (sic) will deem the information as faux, false, and dangerous. This is the way of the present, and no matter how “alternative” or “left” the rag, those old hippies are indeed fascists, one and all, in many cases, in this case, with the Corona Capitalism. Sick stuff, capitalism crunched all up in Big Media, Big Lies, Big Propaganda:

Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
[The opening ceremony is being held in Tokyo’s National Stadium, but the 80,000-seat arena, built for this purpose, is largely empty. Fewer than 1,000 VIP guests have been invited to attend. Spectators have also been barred from sporting events throughout the games. The 2020 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to take place a year ago but were postponed due to the pandemic.]

Ahh, we can go on and on about how we got here, 2021, but a great thing is we saw it in the history books.

[The blacklisted mathematics instructor Chandler Davis, after serving six months in the Danbury federal penitentiary for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), warned the universities that ousted him and thousands of other professors that the purges would decimate the country’s intellectual life.]

Chandler Davis — 1995 talk!

“Shooting Rats in a Barrel”: Did the Red-hunt Win?

These years, 1947-1950, established the ground rules that remained in force for the decade that followed. Most institutions, from the government through the unions and universities to the American Civil Liberties Union (yes, I said the American Civil Liberties Union), declared Communists unwelcome. Among the means used to exclude them were loyalty oaths, often including the phrase “I am not a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which…” It became glaringly obvious, that employers, in particular universities, would shy away from hiring anyone who might be attacked as a Communist; a reputation as a student radical was thus enough to make one a bad bet for an academic job; so student radicals became (in a few short years) very scarce. University administrators would occasionally say, if asked, that there were no Communists on the staff; but they hoped they wouldn’t be asked. The FBI and the Red Squads of state and some local police forces kept files on thousands. They had a reputation for exceeding legal restraints in interrogation and for keeping very dubious material in their files; later research bears this out. They cooperated (when it suited their own agenda) with employers who were cleansing their staffs. This put them in an ambivalent relation to the federal government in particular. The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, while nominally responsible to the Attorney General, sometimes cooperated covertly with Congressional exposés of government agencies.

Most universities wouldn’t even let left-wingers speak on campus under auspices of a student group! Paul Robeson, Howard Fast, and Dirk J. Struik are among those banned by administrations in the early 50s. By the late 50s, the invitations had dried up.

It was further established that one could be imprisoned for Communist Party activity itself, at least if one were a leader: the Supreme Court upheld in 1951 the conspiracy convictions against the CP officers under the Smith Act. The government maintained concentration camps in which it could incarcerate thousands of dangerous people if it declared a national emergency to exist, and everyone knew whom they considered dangerous. (These camps were invented by the “liberal” senators in 1952 in an attempt to show voters that they were just as security-conscious as the Right. But though they originated as a mere tactic, they were not merely on paper, they existed physically. I was told this in casual conversation in 1955 by an acquaintance who was employed at a federal prison — a prison, it happens, where I became an inmate five years later. The story would be better if the guard had looked me up and said hello to me then, but — sorry — we were no longer in touch.)

These words from Davis to Chris Hedges are just the same today, for MANY of us, who have been marginalized, Google Searched into the Poor House:

Though you see the remnants of the former academic left still, though some of us were never fired, though I return to the United States from my exile frequently, we are gone,” he said. “We did not survive as we were. Some of us saved our skins without betraying others or ourselves. But almost all of the targets either did crumble or were fired and blacklisted. David Bohm and Moses Finley and Jules Dassin and many less celebrated people were forced into exile. Most of the rest had to leave the academic world. A few suffered suicide or other premature death. There weren’t the sort of wholesale casualties you saw in Argentina or El Salvador, but the Red-hunt did succeed in axing a lot of those it went after, and cowing most of the rest. We were out, and we were kept out. — “The Origin of America’s Intellectual Vacuum”

See the source image
See the source image

Finally, read David Rovics’ blog, and he is now in Denmark playing live crowds. I feel badly for him, he being accused of antisemitism, and he is being doxxed, and his Wikipedia has been changed but “crowd-souring” folk.

Blog —

Confessions of an Ecumenical Leftist

It seems a ridiculous thing to have to say, but I think intellectual discourse is generally a very good thing, rather than something to be stopped at all costs.

I’m realizing that most people who come across something I wrote don’t seem to have read anything else I’ve ever written, and haven’t listened to my music.  This post is going to be especially personal, so it’s important that you have some idea who I am first.

I’m 54 years old, and I’ve been some kind of an activist since I was 12.  I learn a little more with each passing year on Earth, but lately the pace has accelerated, along with everything else.  I was raised by musicians, and I became one myself early on.  When I started writing songs about different social movement activities and notable moments in history from around the US and the world, I started meeting more and more people from everywhere, and touring everywhere, too.  As a songwriter and performer I’ve been able to participate in social movements on an ongoing basis in a dozen or so countries, spending most of my adult life on the road, doing that.

Although the campaigners may be few, I have seen these campaigns work again and again.  You spread enough rumors, they dominate the narrative.  There are already people updating my Wikipedia entry to inform people that accusations of my alleged antisemitism are “in the news.”  Of course, they’re “in the news” because there have been news stories written about the campaign against me — not because any serious person has ever accused me of antisemitism, with any basis for their claim, aside from failing to find the anti-Semitic bits in a book, and wanting to talk to people with disparate viewpoints who may have deep insight into how we might prevent a fascist future in America, regardless of anything else.

Of course, Wikipedia and Google and the rest are propaganda and government run and ZIonist outfits, for sure:

Indeed, already in 2007, researchers found that CIA and FBI employees were editing Wikipedia articles on controversial topics including the Iraq war and the Guantanamo military prison.

Also in 2007, researchers found that one of the most active and influential English Wikipedia administrators, called “Slim Virgin”, was in fact a former British intelligence informer.

More recently, another highly prolific Wikipedia editor going by the false name of “Philip Cross” turned out to be linked to UK intelligence as well as several mainstream media journalists.

In Germany, one of the most aggressive Wikipedia editors was exposed, after a two-year legal battle, as a political operative formerly serving in the Israeli army as a foreign volunteer.

Even in Switzerland, unidentified government employees were caught whitewashing Wikipedia entries about the Swiss secret service just prior to a public referendum about the agency.

Many of these Wikipedia personae are editing articles almost all day and every day, indicating that they are either highly dedicated individuals, or in fact, operated by a group of people.

In addition, articles edited by these personae cannot easily be revised, since the above-mentioned administrators can always revert changes or simply block disagreeing users altogether. (Source)

There you have it, on a Sunday, just cruising through the shit-storm news of the shit-hole Mass Murdering Media!

See the source image
The post Out to Lunch: The Atrophying of Western Minds first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Manifest Destiny” and the Mexican-American War

Each year tens of thousands of Irish-Americans proudly celebrate their heritage on St Patrick Day, yet few are aware of the fate of the Irish in the St Patrick’s Battalion (el Batallón de San Patricio) who chose to fight under their green flag for Mexico against the aggression of the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 .

How many Americans are fully aware of their country’s land-grab and the illegal annexation of what was Mexican territory. Hollywood glorifies the Texas rebellion but fails to shine a light on the later American invasion of Mexico, a war opposed by many Northerners such as Abraham Lincoln even though some Northern merchants did believe it would open up the Pacific Coast ports as gateways to China. As with Texas, the plantation-owning Southern elite coveted the vast stretches of northern Mexico where they could expand their slave economy. The conquest of what is now south-west United States became their objective. It was sparsely settled and still remained mostly populated by Native Americans. The ideological justification for this expansionism was the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny”.

As early as 1825, President John Quincy Adams attempted to purchase the Texas province from Mexico. When Mexico refused, other means were employed. The southern plantation owners encouraged the settling of Texas by Anglo-Americans with the hope that they would outnumber the small Mexican population and create enough difficulties for Mexico so that it would relinquish control to the United States. The main issue of the presidential campaign of 1844 was the annexation of Texas, with the Democratic Party running James Polk in favor. The victory of the Democrats, who represented the southern planters, guaranteed annexation. The Anglo-American Texans, who were legally Mexican citizens, refused to submit to the authority of the Mexican government and maintained slavery. They set up the Independent Republic of Texas in 1836. This led to the Alamo and the subsequent defeat of Santa Anna by the army of Sam Houston. The slavocracy of the South looked forward to immediately annexing Texas to the United States but divisions within the U.S. ruling class delayed annexation until 1845, as the northern capitalists opposed adding Texas as another slave state, fearing the enhanced political weight of a strengthened South.

But plans and desires went far beyond Texas. President Polk was intent on provoking Mexico into a war which would end in the conquest of all of Mexico.  The immediate cause of the war was a dispute over the border between Texas and Mexico. The area involved about 150 square miles of territory. Before the dispute could be resolved through negotiations, the president ordered U.S. troops under Zachary Taylor to cross the River Nueces and hold the disputed area. When the Mexican army sought to eject the U.S. army from its territory, the United States used this as its pretext to declare war on Mexico.

The annexation nature of the war was obvious. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought as an officer in the war, would write:

We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it…The occupation, separation, and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American union. Even if annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced on Mexico cannot.

The outcome of the war was almost a foregone conclusion. The Mexican army was badly led and poorly equipped. The U.S. military advanced into Mexican territory and began conducting a campaign of brutality and engaging in numerous acts of wanton violence and destruction against civilians. Commanding General Winfield Scott admitted his U.S. troops had “committed atrocities to make Heaven weep and every American of Christian morals blush for his country. Murder, robbery and rape of mothers and daughters in the presence of tied up males of the families have been common all along the Rio Grande.”

So barbaric were the actions of the American army that some 250 Irish deserted and went over to the side of the Mexicans.

American armies attacked the Mexicans in northern and southern California as well as throughout New Mexico and Arizona. The United States defeated Mexican armies and went on to occupy Mexico City. The United States captured almost 50% of Mexico’s territory.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

On February 2, 1848, Mexico agreed to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico accepted the Rio Grande as the Texas border and ceded the Southwest (which incorporates the present day states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado), an area larger than France and Germany combined, to the U.S. for $15 million. The Democratic administration favored taking all of Mexico, but was opposed in Congress.

This treaty was also important because the Mexican negotiators were more deeply concerned to ensure the protection of the democratic rights of Mexicans remaining in the Southwest and it should not be forgotten that, with the exception of the Native Americans, Mexicans are the only minority whose rights were specifically legally safeguarded by a formal treaty. It contained provisions concerning the treatment of the Mexicans remaining in the Southwest. The U.S. agreed to safeguard the property rights of the Mexicans and guaranteed their civil and religious rights. Their culture as well as their land grants were to be respected. The Mexicans were to receive full U.S. citizenship within one year. Article VIII stated:

Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican Republic, retaining the property which they possess in the said territories…In the said territories, property of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably respected. The present owners, the heirs of these, and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire said property by contract, shall enjoy with respect to it guarantees equally ample as if the same belonged to citizens of the United States.

Article IX guaranteed to those who became citizens (automatic one year from the date of the treaty, unless an individual specifically chose to remain a Mexican citizen)

…enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution… [and also] …the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secure in the free exercise of their religion without restriction.

The U.S., however, never lived up to its promises and almost systematically violated the guarantees given to the Mexican people in the Southwest.

Nor were any of the Mexican signers of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty aware of the fact that nine days before its signing, gold had been discovered in California. Not only had half of the national territory of Mexico been outright stolen at the point of a cannon, but now lands unbelievably rich in gold and silver, had been ceded away.

Juan Crow

Following annexation, the United States set out to impose its rule over the newly conquered territory and begin to economically exploit it. The tremendous wealth derived from the mines and lands stolen from Mexico began to play an important part in the financing of capitalist industrial expansion.

Very soon the subjugation of the Mexican people began. It was not possible to accomplish this all at once throughout the entire Southwest region so the consolidation of the region happened in stages.   California quickly became a state in 1851, while New Mexico and Arizona remained colonies and were not admitted into the Union until 1912, a full 64 years after they were stolen from Mexico. The ensuing Civil War then hampered efforts to promote development in the Southwest.

The new Anglo rulers unleashed a campaign of terror and thousands of Mexican farmers and laborers were shot or lynched. Between 1850 and 1930, more Mexicans were lynched in this area than Blacks in the South during the same period. In Los Angeles, in the one year of 1854 alone, an estimated 360 Mexicans were murdered .

Big ranchers set up groups like the Texas and Arizona Rangers to “legally” terrorize and subdue the conquered population, expropriating the Tejano (Mexican-Texan) landowners. The Texas Rangers and other vigilante groups simply shot hundreds of Mexicans and took over their property. Not a single white American, however, was ever convicted of killing a Mexican in Texas in the 50 years immediately following annexation.

The ranchers and merchants hoped that this terrorism, which now is described as ethnic cleansing, would drive those of Mexican origin across the border to Mexico. Anglo-American migration into the Southwest quickly changed the character of the area and the overall population of Texas and California became predominantly white, (although the southern parts of both states along the border remained mainly Mexican inhabited.) The new settlers reneged on the treaty obligations and began deprived the Mexicans of political rights and power. By 1880 in California no Mexican served in public office where previously they held legislative, judicial and executive positions throughout the state. Originally designated to be a bilingual state (Spanish and English), by as early as 1855. the California state government required all schools to teach exclusively in English and then the 1878 State constitution completely eliminated Spanish as an official language. Special taxes and restrictions were levied on the Mexicans in California as well, such as the “Foreign Miners’ Tax,” to drive non-white miners out of the gold fields. The Mexicans from Sonora were expert miners who introduced such innovative mining techniques as panning and the dry-wash separation of gold. There were also laws prohibiting or restricting traditional fiestas. Similar curtailments spread throughout the Southwest. From 1850 to 1900, the Anglo settlers, expropriated almost the entire propertied class of Californios. Those who did not lose their lands were reduced to small holdings.

Mexican-Americans were transformed into foreign “aliens”. The persecution of the Mexican people went hand-in-hand with the theft of their lands. In many cases, the objective of the murder and violence against them was to take over their property, regardless of the promises of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This great land grab was second only to the massive theft of Native American land. All in all, it is estimated they lost 20 million acres of land in Texas alone. In California and New Mexico the original inhabitants lost much of their land through legal manoeuvres, squatting, claim-jumping and exorbitant taxes. In 1851 California passed a “Land Act” which required that Mexicans go through a complex process to prove title to their land. This was very difficult in many cases since the lands often were owned in common or accurate records were never kept. In New Mexico, 80% of them lost their property, most of these small farmers and herders. An infamous conspiracy of merchants, lawyers, bankers and politicians known as the Santa Fe Ring controlled the territory’s courts and government and awarded themselves millions of acres through swindles. The Surveyor of General Claims Office of the New Mexico Territory could take up to fifty years to process a claim, meanwhile, the lands were being squatted upon by the Anglo newcomers who often sold the land to land speculators for huge profits.

The federal government in 1891 eventually established a Court of Private Land Claims to settle land “disputes” in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.  In its 13 years of existence the court heard cases involving 35.5 million acres. The court upheld the original claims of less than two million acres. All the rest were denied and the claimants lost their land. The court, in actuality, legalized the land grab. And the federal authorities itself were not above getting involved in this property theft, especially in New Mexico. Between 1850 and 1900 the federal government accumulated 14.5 million acres of land, the majority of this from individual or communal Mexicans’ lands. The courts, being an instrument of class rule, were used to legitimize the theft of the Mexican people of their land. For sure, it was often the ownership of changing from Mexican feudal grandee to an American capitalist. The huge haciendas of landlord class of Mexico gave way to the vast ranches of Bonanza fame. The economy of the Southwest, geared to small-scale trade and production to satisfy local needs, where much of the land was held in common by communities represented an obstacle to the greedy commerce of the encroaching capitalists who sought to maximize the productive forces. Peasant plots and sheep pastures were converted into grazing land for the new capitalist cattle barons, with Mexicans forced to sell their labor power to their new patróns. The pauperizing the peoples of the Southwest enabled the new owners to freely exploit the land and labor of the region.

Organised resistance on the part of the Mexican people developed to try to halt Anglo incursions. The most famous were seen as Robin Hood figures. Courageous banditos waged a guerilla struggle against the American whites; men such as Tiburcio Vasquez and Joaquin Murietta. In Texas, there was Juan Cortina, who became a folk-hero; and in New Mexico was the “Las Gorras Blancas” (“The White Caps”), direct-actionists who cut the fences and burned the barns of ranchers enclosing the Las Vegas Land Grant commons.  They destroyed railroad tracks and burned bridges seen as the foundation of commercial development. “Las Gorras Blancas” sought to develop a class-based consciousness among local people through the everyday tactics of resistance to the economic and social order confronting common property land grant communities.

In a manifesto, Las Gorras Blancas explained their actions as efforts “to protect the rights of the people in general; and especially those of the helpless classes…We want the Las Vegas Grant settled to the benefit of all concerned and this we hold is the entire community within the grant… will fight any scheme that tends to monopolize the supply of water courses to the detriment of residents Las Gorras Blancas received popular support from small grazers who had watched the common lands slowly disappear behind barbed-wire fences defending the dubious property claims of wealthy newcomers. Las Gorras Blancas became El Partido del Pueblo, the Peoples Party, and entered the State legislature but found reformism to be a dead-end.

As for the fate of the St Patrick Battalion volunteers, at their court-martial none of the men were legally represented nor were transcripts made of the proceedings. Contrary to the Articles of War, which stipulated that the penalty for desertion or defecting to the enemy in a time of war was death by firing squad, only members of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion were executed by hanging as common criminals.

The executions took place at three separate locations on three separate dates; 16 were executed on 10 September 1847 at San Ángel, four were executed the following day at the village of Mixcoac on 11 September, and 30 were hanged at Chapultepec on 13 September. One soldier was hanged even though he had had both legs amputated the previous day. When the army surgeon informed the colonel that the absent soldier had lost both his legs in battle, Colonel Harney retorted: “Bring the damned son of a bitch out! My order was to hang 30 and by God I’ll do it!” The prisoners spared the gallows were flogged and branded on their cheeks with the letter D to signify deserter.

The San Patricios continue to be honored as heroes in Mexico. Their role in the Mexican-American war has long been acknowledged. They have been remembered as a symbol of international solidarity by the Zapatistas. But as to be expected, in the USA, the memory of the battalion was very different and the American army long denied even the existence of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion until 1915 when it finally conceded it existed.

“Manifest Destiny” and the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American war is often explained by the hysteria drummed by the popular press of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, fanning the fire and inflaming the passion of public opinion until every lie was believed as the truth that the American government were acting from no selfish motives, other than altruism

While in the Mexican-American war, it was the Southern Democrats who spoke of the historic necessity of the United States to dominate whatever lands or peoples it so desired as an integral part of the country’s foreign policy.  At its convention of 1896, it was the Republican Party which announced itself to be the party of “Manifest Destiny” to bring civilization to the inferior peoples. The victory in the election was interpreted as carte blanche to go implement an aggressive foreign policy. American business interests had been casting its greedy gaze for many years at the islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific with a dream of a global American empire.

Like all the European powers Spanish rule was ruthless and cruel; based upon the exploitation of its resources and  people. Revolutionary stirrings in its colonies had long been in existence,

Cuba broke out into open revolt in 1895. The Spanish authorities responded brutally setting up de facto concentration camps, herding the families of the rebels and all those suspected of disloyalty into them.

American businesses owned a wide range of investments in Cuba. Those vested interests were in favor of taking control of Cuba’s chaotic conditions and ejecting Spain from Cuba was seen as the first step. The Republican Party platform of 1897 had already declared that Spain was unable “to protect the property and lives of resident American citizens.” The “Manifest Destiny” Republicans launched their interventionist campaign with the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer reporting lurid tales of atrocities, clamoring for war to fight on behalf of a defenseless people – the same “humanitarian” war lie we hear so often today. Astute industrialists recognized that war with Spain would increase the business and earnings of American commerce.  It would increase the output of every American factory, it would stimulate a stagnant economy.

In January, 1898, the battleship Maine went to Havana on a “good-will” visit. But on February 15, 1898, the battleship mysteriously exploded at anchor. An investigation could not determine the actual cause of the explosion which took the lives of 258 crew and it may have happened in a number of different ways. Today there is still no real definitive explanation of its cause.

Regardless, the navy concluded that the Maine had been blown up by a mine. The pro-war faction embarked upon a great war-mongering campaign led by Teddy Roosevelt as President McKinley and the Spanish Government tried to resolve the issues peacefully.

In their zeal to avoid a conflict with America the Spanish  accepted all the American proposals but America’s plutocrat and oligarchs were not to be cheated out of their war. On April 19, the United States declared war.

The ostensible purpose for entering the war was to free Cuba. Yet, when it came to the peace terms, America demanded it included the acquisition of Puerto Rico, the islands now known as the Marianas, Guam and the Philippines. The Peace of Paris, December 10, 1898, liquidated the colonial empire of Spain for $20,000,000 compensation. Cuba was not even represented at the conference table. And upon its evacuation by Spain it was to be occupied by the United States. The Cuban people thought the war was for Cuba’s independence but those who had fought and suffered to win their freedom were betrayed.

Many Americans today are well aware of the US military base at Guantánamo Bay and it was from this period of history America acquired the 28,000 acres with its buildings, airfields, docks and a notorious prison camp purposefully placed outside the reach of any legal system. The US pays Cuba $3,386 dollars and 25 cents annually for this occupied territory The presence of American troops in Guantánamo are against the wishes of the Cuban people and it remains Cuba’s occupied territory.

Under the influence of war-fever, the annexation of Hawaii was also quickly accomplished. McKinley declared that “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny” and the compliant press raised exaggerated stories of the threat to the islands from the Japanese and the Germans.

Secretly, Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, had already deployed Admiral Dewey’s Pacific fleet to the Far East to attack the Spanish in the Philippines, two months before the outbreak of the war. The Spanish navy was routed and American troops later arrived and occupied the Philippines with the aid of Filipino rebels.

The people of the Philippines sincerely believed that the Americans were there to deliver them from the tyrannical yoke of Spain so that they may be a free and independent nation. The Filipino politicians were already setting up a Republic. But the Americans falsely described the situation as being one of “disorder” and required the American military to take command. When the Filipinos finally realized what had happened to them, they turned their guns on the American occupying force who proceeded to teach them all about America’s style of establishing democracy. In the three year war against the Filipinos 60,000 US troops infected with racism committed numerous atrocities and strict censorship silenced the tales of massacres and torture. Estimates of the death-toll vary but it was in the hundreds of thousands. A puppet Philippine government was established in 1907 by a restricted election in which only property holders — about 100,000 — could vote. An American Governor-General ruled with veto power.

The US was not in business of freeing people.  Its objective was merely to exchange Spanish domination with Washington’s. America had commenced the Spanish war to emancipate “little” Cuba and concluded it with the bloody subjugation of the Philippines.

Conclusion

When one risks life and limb, a rational person needs a good reason for the possible sacrifice. To make somebody even more wealthier is not a very good motivation.

The Irish Catholics of the St Patrick Battalion understood first-hand foreign oppression and religious repression. They witnessed the deceit of the the United States in launching its invasion of Mexico. They believed they possessed a worthy cause greater than themselves as individuals to fight and die for.

But others require something much more to go to war and face death. Countries will try to instill a national identity, loyalty and patriotism. When that may not be enough, an appeal to God may be called for, with government declaring they hold a divine mission to conduct a “Holy Crusade” and this is what Americans meant by their doctrine of “manifest destiny”, or what is more commonly called American “exceptionalism” these days. It offers a cloak of respectability for what can only be described as inhuman, brutal behavior. It is imperialism by another name and the aim remains the same — economic, military and political domination of the world.

There are two Americas. One is the America of the capitalist clique who threaten the world’s security. This is the America the people of the world has learned to detest and fear.

Then there is the other America — the America of  working people with a revered record of sympathy for people of other lands in their struggles against kings and despots.

This is the America that has held out the hand of comradely friendship to the oppressed people in the world and at one time offered security and sanctuary to the persecuted. This is the America that must take the power from the exploiters and parasites. The American working class can open up the way to a new world. They have the power in America. All that is necessary is for them to understand it — and to use it. We believe they will do so. We believe the real America — the America of the working people — will help save the world by saving itself. This is America’s true “manifest destiny”.

Postscript

In Europe, the Fraternal Democrats, a radical wing of the Chartist movement, issued a condemnation of the American war against Mexico, endorsing the view that the war was unjust to Mexico, disgraceful to the United States and a war for the extension of slavery.”

Following their policy of supporting the development of nascent capitalism, Marx and Engels took the opposite opinion and condoned the American aggression of the Mexican invasion. Engels writes:

We have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced in it…[and]… that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexican…[and]…for the first time really open the Pacific Ocean to civilization.

The post “Manifest Destiny” and the Mexican-American War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When will Californians wake up to the Risk to Children from Nuclear Radiation?

On March 7, the Inter Press Service (IPS) published my article, “Eight Years on, Fukushima Still Poses Health Risks for Children,” and I am very gratified to learn that it was the second most popular article published in IPS News that week. It also appears that many readers were surprised to learn that removal of the irradiated cores from the three crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima would take at least forty years.

This revelation reminds me of my conversation with the late Dr. Hans-Peter Durr, former Director of the Max Plunch Institute of Germany, when the Fukushima accident occurred in March 2011. Hans-Peter called me to say that the Fukushima accident was much worse than the government of Japan and TEPCO were disclosing to the public and suggested that I talk to the Prime Minister of Japan on this urgent matter. When I asked Hans-Peter how long it might take to solve the Fukushima accident, he replied that it will take at least forty years.

It shocked me to realize that the consequences of such a human accident would take so long to resolve. For example, twenty years after the complete destruction of Tokyo City during World War II, Tokyo City hosted the 1964 Olympic Games. In contrast, the huge area impacted from the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 remains desolate 33 years later and will likely remain so for many more decades or even centuries.

World Wars I and II destroyed cities in huge urban areas, yet many of these cities were rebuilt within 20 years. The difference between these catastrophes is due to the fact that while the environmental landscape in cities destroyed by conventional warfare stayed relatively healthy, cities which were impacted by nuclear radiation will remain partly or completely uninhabitable for centuries. Within the “controlled” environment of a nuclear plant facility, spent fuel rods should be kept in a safe place for 100,000 years, and the 250,000 tons of radioactive waste produced worldwide will remain dangerous to all life for thousands of years. I have never thought of such a long time-span which could well extend beyond humanity’s existence on Earth.  This new discovery is what I and many of my readers share.

Based on the following facts related to the Fukushima nuclear accident, I have the following concerns regarding radioactive damage to ocean marine life and related health risks to both the children of Fukushima and/or the West Coast of North America:

  1. It would take at least 40 years (my nuclear scientist colleagues say between 60 to 80 years) to remove the irradiated cores, yet nobody knows the exact location of the irradiated cores, or how to remove them and how long it might take once they are located and a method for removal and containment is determined.
  2. The latest radiation readings by a remote-controlled robot to detect the radioactive level in Reactor 2 was 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the March 2011 meltdown. Radioactive winds flow toward North America every day and will continue until all radioactivity at Fukushima is contained.
  3. There are approximately 1,000 storage tanks containing 1.1 million tons of high-level radioactive water.  These tanks were built on an emergency basis and are therefore not expected to last 40 years.
  4. There is no space to build additional tanks in the Fukushima area, and sooner or later there will be no choice but to release the contaminated water into the ocean.
  5. And independent assessments indicate that, despite the Japanese government’s best efforts, hundreds of thousands of gallons of irradiated water “leak” out to the Pacific Ocean every day due to the physical impossibility of capturing all the irradiated water in to the referenced storage tanks.
  6. A strong earthquake or the eruption of Mt Fuji are predicted in the near future, and there is considerable uncertainty as to whether the three crippled nuclear reactors would withstand the seismic impacts from such an event. If one or more of the three nuclear reactors collapses, or the respective reactor cores are further impacted by adverse earthquake pressures, an extreme worst-case scenario in addition to the current crisis would be created.

As no scientists would argue with the above facts, I come to my primary concerns:

  1. The cumulative risks from radioactive environmental contamination to young children and women of childbearing age living in the wider Fukushima prefecture and the West Coast of North America continues unabated.
  2. Ongoing radioactive contamination of the sea adjacent to the Fukushima plant results in increased uptake of radionuclides by fish and other sea animals, increasing the risk of long-term seafood contamination to all nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Dr. Hiroaki Koide, a well-regarded nuclear scientist and former Professor of Kyoto University, said that Japan originally established the legal limit of permissible radiation as 1 ml Sievert per year for the average person, and 20 ml Sievert per year for nuclear research professionals like him.

However, since the Fukushima nuclear accident, the government of Japan officially announced the Nuclear Emergency Countermeasure Declaration [RP1], which voided the prior law. A UN Special Rapporteur criticized Japan for sending evacuees home to radiation exposures 20 times higher than the original limit before the nuclear disaster of 1 ml Sievert per year.

According to a radiation simulation map by the Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherche en Environnement Atmosphérique (CEREA), along with research by Professor Hiroaki Koide, of Kyoto University, radiation levels in the state of California seem to be higher than those of the city of Hokkaido in Japan. As it is understandable that scientists have not yet calculated the cumulative impact of radiation on the West Coast 40 years from now, we therefore need the International Assessment Team to analyze the current situation and to dedicate the best expertise and resources to plan both short- and long-term strategies. It must also be noted that prevailing winds carrying airborne radiation from Fukushima do not stop at the western U.S. coastline. Indeed, this is both a national and global issue.

The confounding task of trying to address a life threatening situation for which there currently is no recognized solution presents obstacles with multiple levels of denial. The first level of denial is deliberate institutional silence.  However, it is specious to argue that because there is no solution, there is little value in talking about it and raising stress and anxiety levels.  When examining the eight years of unabated radioactive leakage from Fukushima, institutional silence from governments and academia concerning measured radiation levels and the foreseeable health impacts must be exposed and challenged.

California currently ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy, with agriculture, science and technology, media and tourism constituting the most dominant sectors. However, California’s continued economic performance can only continue when its land and citizens remain healthy.

It is past time for Californians to take a hard look at the reality of continued exposure from Fukushima and other radioactive sources, and not push the problem on to future generations. To borrow from an American Indian proverb:

We do not inherit our land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

A Public Bank for Los Angeles? City Council Puts It to the Voters

California legislators exploring the public bank option may be breaking not just from Wall Street but from the Federal Reserve.

Voters in Los Angeles will be the first in the country to weigh in on a public banking mandate, after the City Council agreed on June 29th to put a measure on the November ballot that would allow the city to form its own bank. The charter for the nation’s second-largest city currently prohibits the creation of industrial or commercial enterprises by the city without voter approval. The measure, introduced by City Council President Herb Wesson, would allow the city to create a public bank, although state and federal law hurdles would still need to be cleared.

The bank is expected to save the city millions, if not billions, of dollars in Wall Street fees and interest paid to bondholders, while injecting new money into the local economy, generating jobs and expanding the tax base. It could respond to the needs of its residents by reinvesting in low-income housing, critical infrastructure projects, and clean energy, as well as serving as a depository for the cannabis industry.

The push for a publicly-owned bank comes amid ongoing concerns involving the massive amounts of cash generated by the cannabis business, which was legalized by Proposition 64 in 2016. Wesson has said that cannabis has “kind of percolated to the top” of the public bank push, “but it’s not what’s driving” it, citing affordable housing and other key issues; and that a public bank should be pursued even if it cannot be used by the cannabis industry. However, the prospect of millions of dollars in tax revenue is an obvious draw. Los Angeles is the largest cannabis market in the state, with Mayor Eric Garcetti estimating that it would bring in $30 million in taxes for the city.

Bypassing the Fed

State Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, who is running for state treasurer, says California’s homegrown $8-20 billion cannabis industry is still operating mostly in cash almost 2 years after state legalization, with the majority of businesses operating in the black market without paying taxes. This is in large part because federal law denies them access to the banking system, forcing them to deal only in cash and causing logistical nightmares when paying taxes and transferring money.

Cannabis is still a forbidden Schedule 1 drug under federal law, and the Federal Reserve has refused to give a master account to banks taking cannabis cash. Without a master account, they cannot access Fedwire transfer services, essentially shutting them out of the banking business.

In a surprise move in early June, President Donald Trump announced that he “probably will end up supporting” legislation to let states set their own cannabis policy. But Ma says that while that is good news, California cannot wait on the federal government. She and State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) have brought Senate Bill 930, which would allow state-chartered banks and financial institutions to apply for a special cannabis banking license to accept clients, after a rigorous process that follows regulations from the US Treasury Department. The bill cleared a major legislative hurdle on May 30th when it passed on the Senate Floor.

SB 930 focuses on California state-chartered banks, which unlike federally-chartered banks can operate under a closed loop system with private deposit insurance. As Ma explained in a May 17 article in The Sacramento Bee:

There are two types of banks – those with federal charters, and banks with California charters. Because cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic, we cannot touch federal banking wires. We want state-chartered banks that are protected, regulated and certified under California law, and not required to be under the FDIC.

State income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment, workers’ compensation and property taxes could all be paid through a closed-loop system that takes in revenue from the cannabis industry, but is apart from the federal banking system. . . . Cannabis businesses could be part of a cashless system similar to Apple Pay, and their money would be insured by a state-licensed institution.

That is a pretty revolutionary idea – a closed-loop California banking system that is independent of the Federal Reserve and the federal system. SB 930 would bypass the Feds only for cannabis cash, and the bill strictly limits what the checks issued by these “pot banks” can be used for. But the prospects it opens up are interesting. California is now the fifth largest economy in the world, with 39 million people. It has the resources for its own cashless “CalPay” or CalCoin” system that could bypass the federal system altogether.

The Bank of North Dakota, currently the nation’s only state-owned depository bank, has been called a “mini-Fed” for that state. The Bank of North Dakota partners with local banks to make below-market loans for community purposes, including 2 percent loans for local infrastructure, while at the same time turning a tidy profit for the state. In 2017, it recorded its 14th consecutive year of record profits, with $145.3 million in net earnings and a return on the state’s investment of 17 percent. California, with more than 50 times North Dakota’s population, could use its own mini-Fed as well.

Growing Support for Public Banks

It is significant that the proposal for a closed-loop California system is not coming from academics without political clout. Fiona Ma is slated to become state treasurer, having won the primary election in June by a landslide; and the current state treasurer John Chiang has been exploring the possibility of a public bank that could take cannabis cash for over a year. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front runner for governor, has also called for the creation of a public bank. These are not armchair theoreticians but the people who make political decisions for the state, and they have substantial popular support.

Public bank advocacy groups from cities across California have joined to form the California Public Banking Alliance, a coalition to advance legislation that would facilitate the formation of municipal banks statewide under a special state charter. A press release by Public Bank Los Angeles, one of its founding advocacy groups, notes that 15 pieces of legislation for public banks are being explored across the nation through municipal committees and state legislators, with over three dozen public banking movements building in cities and states across the country. San Francisco has created a 16-person Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force; Seattle and Washington DC have separately earmarked $100,000 for public banking feasibility studies; and Washington State legislators have added nearly a half million dollars to their budget to produce a business plan for a public depository bank. New Jersey state legislators, with the backing of Governor Phil Murphy, have introduced a bill to form a state-owned bank; and GOP and Democratic lawmakers in Michigan have filed a bipartisan bill to create one in that state.

Cities and states are seeking ways to better leverage taxpayer dollars and reinvest them in the needs of local communities. Public banking serves that purpose, providing local determination and the opportunity for socially and environmentally responsible lending and investments. The City Council of Los Angeles is now taking it to the voters; and where California goes, the nation may well follow.

• A version of this article first appeared in Truthdig.

Blackstone, BlackRock or a Public Bank? Putting California’s Funds to Work

California has over $700 billion parked in private banks earning minimal interest, private equity funds that contributed to the affordable housing crisis, or shadow banks of the sort that caused the banking collapse of 2008. These funds, or some of them, could be transferred to an infrastructure bank that generated credit for the state – while the funds remained safely on deposit in the bank.

California needs over $700 billion in infrastructure during the next decade. Where will this money come from? The $1.5 trillion infrastructure initiative unveiled by President Trump in February 2018 includes only $200 billion in federal funding, and less than that after factoring in the billions in tax cuts in infrastructure-related projects. The rest is to come from cities, states, private investors and public-private partnerships (PPPs) one. And since city and state coffers are depleted, that chiefly means private investors and PPPs, which have a shady history at best.

A 2011 report by the Brookings Institution found that “in practice [PPPs] have been dogged by contract design problems, waste, and unrealistic expectations.” In their 2015 report “Why Public-Private Partnerships Don’t Work,” Public Services International stated that “experience over the last 15 years shows that PPPs are an expensive and inefficient way of financing infrastructure and divert government spending away from other public services. They conceal public borrowing, while providing long-term state guarantees for profits to private companies.” They also divert public money away from the neediest infrastructure projects, which may not deliver sizable returns, in favor of those big-ticket items that will deliver hefty profits to investors. A March 2017 report by the Economic Policy Institute titled “No Free Bridge” also highlighted the substantial costs and risks involved in public-private partnerships and other “innovative” financing of infrastructure.

Meanwhile, California is far from broke. It has over well over $700 billion in funds of various sorts tucked around the state, including $500 billion in CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state’s massive public pension funds. These pools of money are restricted in how they can be spent and are either sitting in banks drawing a modest interest or invested with Wall Street asset managers and private equity funds that are not obligated to invest the money in California and are not safe. For fiscal year 2009, CalPERS and CalSTRS reported almost $100 billion in losses from investments gone awry.

In 2017, CalSTRS allocated $6.1 billion to private equity funds, real estate managers, and co-investments, including $400 million to a real estate fund managed by Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, and $200 million to BlackRock, the world’s largest “shadow bank.” CalPERS is now in talks with BlackRock over management of its $26 billion private equity fund, with discretion to invest that money as it sees fit.

“Private equity” is a rebranding of the term “leveraged buyout,” the purchase of companies with loans which then must be paid back by the company, typically at the expense of jobs and pensions. Private equity investments may include real estate, energy, and investment in public infrastructure projects as part of a privatization initiative. Blackstone is notorious for buying up distressed properties after the housing market collapsed. It is now the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the US. Its rental practices have drawn fire from tenant advocates in San Francisco and elsewhere, who have called it a Wall Street absentee slumlord that charges excessive rents, contributing to the affordable housing crisis; and pension funds largely contributed the money for Blackstone’s purchases.

BlackRock, an offshoot of Blackstone, now has $6 trillion in assets under management, making it larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China). Die Zeit journalist Heike Buchter, who has written a book in German on it, calls BlackRock the “most powerful institution in the financial system” and “the most powerful company in the world” – the “secret power.” Yet despite its size and global power, BlackRock, along with Blackstone and other shadow banking institutions, managed to escape regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act. Blackstone CEO Larry Fink, who has cozy relationships with government officials according to journalist David Dayen, pushed hard to successfully resist the designation of asset managers as systemically important financial institutions, which would have subjected them to additional regulation such as larger capital requirements.

The proposed move to hand CalPERS’ private equity fund to BlackRock is highly controversial, since it would cost the state substantial sums in fees (management fees took 14% of private equity profits in 2016), and BlackRock gives no guarantees. In 2009, it defaulted on a New York real estate project that left CalPERS $500 million in the hole. There are also potential conflicts of interest, since BlackRock or its managers have controlling interests in companies that could be steered into deals with the state. In 2015, the company was fined $12 million by the SEC for that sort of conflict; and in 2015, it was fined $3.5 million for providing flawed data to German regulators. BlackRock also puts clients’ money into equities, investing it in companies like oil company Exxon and food and beverage company Nestle, companies which have been criticized for not serving California’s interests and exploiting state resources.

California public entities also have $2.8 billion in CalTRUST, a fund managed by BlackRock. The CalTRUST government fund is a money market fund, of the sort that triggered the 2008 market collapse when the Reserve Primary Fund “broke the buck” on September 15, 2008. The CalTRUST website states:

You could lose money by investing in the Fund. Although the Fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it cannot guarantee it will do so. An investment in the Fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. The Fund’s sponsor has no legal obligation to provide financial support to the Fund, and you should not expect that the sponsor will provide financial support to the Fund at any time.

CalTRUST is billed as providing local agencies with “a safe, convenient means of maintaining liquidity,” but billionaire investor Carl Icahn says this liquidity is a myth. In a July 2015 debate with Larry Fink on FOX Business Network, Icahn called BlackRock “an extremely dangerous company” because of the prevalence of its exchange-traded fund (ETF) products, which Icahn deemed illiquid. “They sell liquidity,” he said. “There is no liquidity. . . . And that’s what’s going to blow this up.” His concern was the amount of money BlackRock had invested in high-yield ETFs, which he called overpriced. When the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates, investors are likely to rush to sell these ETFs; but there will be no market for them, he said. The result could be a run like that triggering the 2008 market collapse.

The Infrastructure Bank Option

There is another alternative. California’s pools of idle funds cannot be spent on infrastructure, but they could be deposited or invested in a publicly-owned bank, where they could form the deposit base for infrastructure loans. California is now the fifth largest economy in the world, trailing only Germany, Japan, China and the United States. Germany, China and other Asian countries are addressing their infrastructure challenges through public infrastructure banks that leverage pools of funds into loans for needed construction.

Besides the China Infrastructure Bank, China has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), whose members include many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative.

Germany has an infrastructure bank called KfW which is larger than the World Bank, with assets of $600 billion in 2016. Along with the public Sparkassen banks, KfW has funded Germany’s green energy revolution. Renewables generated 41% of the country’s electricity in 2017, up from 6% in 2000, earning the country the title “the world’s first major green energy economy.” Public banks provided over 72% of the financing for this transition.

As for California, it already has an infrastructure bank – the California Infrastructure and Development Bank (IBank), established in 1994. But the IBank is a “bank” in name only. It cannot take deposits or leverage capital into loans. It is also seriously underfunded, since the California Department of Finance returned over half of its allotted funds to the General Fund to repair the state’s budget after the dot.com market collapse. However, the IBank has 20 years’ experience in making prudent infrastructure loans at below municipal bond rates, and its clients are limited to municipal governments and other public entities, making them safe bets underwritten by their local tax bases. The IBank could be expanded to address California’s infrastructure needs, drawing deposits and capital from its many pools of idle funds across the state.

A Better Use for Pension Money

In an illuminating 2017 paper for UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute titled “Funding Public Pensions,” policy consultant Tom Sgouros showed that the push to put pension fund money into risky high-yield investments comes from a misguided application of the accounting rules. The error results from treating governments like private companies that can be liquidated out of existence. He argues that public pension funds can be safely operated on a pay-as-you-go basis, just as they were for 50 years before the 1980s. That accounting change would take the pressure off the pension boards and free up hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Some portion of that money could then be deposited in publicly-owned banks, which in turn could generate the low-cost credit needed to fund the infrastructure and services that taxpayers expect from their governments.

Note that these deposits would not be spent. Pension funds, rainy day funds and other pools of government money can provide the liquidity for loans while remaining on deposit in the bank, available for withdrawal on demand by the government depositor. Even mainstream economists now acknowledge that banks do not lend their deposits but actually create deposits when they make loans. The bank borrows as needed to cover withdrawals, but not all funds are withdrawn at once; and a government bank can borrow its own deposits much more cheaply than local governments can borrow on the bond market. Through their own public banks, government entities can thus effectively borrow at bankers’ rates plus operating costs, cutting out middlemen. And unlike borrowing through bonds, which merely recirculate existing funds, borrowing from banks creates new money, which will stimulate economic growth and come back to the state in the form of new taxes and pension premiums. A working paper published by the San Francisco Federal Reserve in 2012 found that one dollar invested in infrastructure generates at least two dollars in GSP (state GDP), and roughly four times more than average during economic downturns.

This article was originally published on Truthdig.com.

“Soledad Brother” John Clutchette Granted Parole: Will CA Governor Jerry Brown Reverse the Decision?

John Clutchette

On January 12, 2018, the California Board of Parole Hearings granted parole to an elderly inmate named John Clutchette. However, supporters of parole for Clutchette are concerned that California Governor Jerry Brown will reverse the Board’s decision, and Clutchette will not be released.

Supporters have a reason to be concerned. After all, this is exactly what happened in 2016 when Clutchette was similarly granted parole by the Board but Governor Brown chose to reverse the Board’s ruling.

Legal scholar Angela A. Allen-Bell, a professor at Southern University Law Center and students in her “Law and Minorities” class began researching Clutchette’s legal battle over a year ago. Following extensive research they have concluded that “the law has been used to perpetuate an injustice in Mr. Clutchette’s case.”

Why did Governor Brown deny parole to 74-year-old John Clutchette?  In our interview with Professor Bell, she refers to Brown’s written explanation for his 2016 parole reversal, where Brown cites the fact that in the early 1970s, Clutchette was one of a trio of inmates at California’s Soledad Prison, who became high profile co-defendants known as the “Soledad Brothers.”

The Soledad Brothers, with John Clutchette on the left, reprinted for a 1970 poster

Since Clutchette was ultimately acquitted of all charges in the Soledad Brothers case, Professor Bell argues that it is problematic for Governor Brown to use this as his reason for reversing the parole board. In our interview, Bell further contextualizes Brown’s reference to the Soledad Brothers, and identifies other troubling aspects of the case.

Professor Bell concludes with a call to action, urging readers to contact California Governor Jerry Brown and express their support for the California Board of Parole Hearings January 12, 2018 decision granting parole to John Clutchette.

Angola 3 News: Can you tell us about the work you and your students have done researching the case of “Soledad Brother” John Clutchette?

Angela A. Allen-Bell: In my “Law & Minorities” class, the law students explore the use of law both to perpetuate and eradicate racial injustice in the United States by exploring past and current legal, racial and social justice challenges involving minorities, indigenous peoples and others in vulnerable situations. Once such a challenge is identified, the students conduct investigative research. Restorative justice principles are then employed.

A year ago, when we began our work on the case of Soledad Brother John Cluchette, we knew only that he was in custody and that he had some historical connection to the late George Jackson. The four law students who worked on this case sifted through volumes of dated Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents, numerous era-related court cases, news stories, books and interviews. They also conducted their own interviews.

These collective efforts led us to conclude that the law has been used to perpetuate an injustice in Mr. Clutchette’s case. In conjunction with this conclusion and, as a restorative justice measure, we filed a complaint to the United Nations through its Special Procedures Division.

A3N: Last week, on January 12, 2018, the California Board of Parole Hearings granted parole to Mr. Clutchette, but before he is actually released on parole, this ruling will now have to be affirmed by CA Governor Jerry Brown. In the past, Governor Brown has rejected parole for Mr. Clutchette. On what grounds did he make this decision?

AB:  On November 4, 2016, California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. reversed the 2016 California Board of Parole Hearings decision that had granted parole to John Clutchette. Governor Brown reasoned:

He has told the Board many times that he was not and had never been a member of the Black Guerilla Family….Mr. Clutchette has been identified as a high-ranking and revered member of the gang since the 1970s  and as recently as 2008.  Although he was acquitted of the murder of a correctional officer in 1970, he later admitted to fellow inmates that he had knocked the officer unconscious before George Jackson killed him.  The pair, along with Fleeta Drumgo, became known as the “Soledad Brothers,” and made national news when Mr. Jackson’s brother made a failed attempt to take the judge, a deputy district attorney, and jurors hostage….While Mr. Clutchette acknowledged that he knew all of the individuals involved at the time and shared the same ‘political ideology,’ he steadfastly denies that he was ever in the [BGF] gang or that he was ever involved in ‘any violence or anything since I’ve been in prison.’ These statements are contradicted by ample evidence in the record . . . While I appreciate that Mr. Clutchette has completed the stepdown program and has now been deemed an inactive gang member, I remain troubled by his version of events. His statements, and the evidence to the contrary, demonstrate that Mr. Clutchette has not acknowledged or come to terms with his key role in these historical events or the magnitude of his actions.

I have considered the evidence in the record that is relevant to whether Mr. Clutchette is currently dangerous. When considered as a whole, I find the evidence shows that he currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.

To appreciate our conclusions about this being an injustice and a human rights violation, Governor Brown’s decision must be viewed within the larger context of this case.

From all indicators, John Clutchette was a politically inactive citizen in 1966 when he was convicted of burglary. For that charge, he was supposed to have been released from prison in April 1970. However, instead of seeing freedom, he became a character entangled in a web of racial politics and social struggle on a forgotten page in a discarded history book.

In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the civil rights era was underway in the United States. Free citizens and inmates alike were demanding civil and human rights. At this moment in time, J. Edgar Hoover was leading the FBI. Through COINTELPRO, a clandestine intelligence program, Mr. Hoover sought to neutralize many activists, advocacy groups, dissident voices, artists and innocent citizens. His tactics were often unconstitutional and largely illegal. For over forty-seven long years, Mr. Hoover declared war on free expression, chilled speech, intimidated and bullied dissenters, meted out private punishments, invaded privacy rights and engaged in discriminatory law enforcement practices. The Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) were two groups that Mr. Hoover had a particular disdain for. Mr. Hoover’s practices were successfully suppressed from the American public until 1975. The full extent of COINTELPRO harms have yet to be realized all these years removed.


The late George Jackson is another prominent figure in Mr. Clutchette’s story. He was a successful organizer, an activist, the founder of the BGF, a member of the BPP and a respected prison intellectual. In 1970, he released Soledad Brother, a book that exposed prison conditions to a captive world audience. While this endeared legions of inmates and free people to him, this cemented his adversarial relationship with the prison staff and administration. His opposition extended beyond the prison gates. He was a target of Mr. Hoover’s COINTELPRO program.

In the early 1970s, John Clutchette was incarcerated at California Correctional Training Facility at Soledad. He was housed in the “Y” wing on the tier with George Jackson. At the time, there were documented racial problems inside the facility, as well as allegations of excessive force and other abuses on the part of correctional officers. In this climate, three African American inmates were murdered by a white guard, African American inmate witnesses were not allowed to testify at trial and the officer was not prosecuted. Shortly thereafter, in January 1970, John Mills, a white prison guard was murdered in what some describe as an act of retaliation. George Jackson, John Clutchette and Fleeta Drumgo were accused of Officer Mills’ murder and, subsequently, indicted in February 1970. The trio became known as the “Soledad Brothers.” Mr. Clutchette was less than three months away from parole.

Months later, in August 1970, heavily armed, seventeen-year-old Jonathan Jackson joined this cast of characters. Jonathan, George’s youngest brother, entered the Marin County Courthouse during a trial. Jonathan armed three prisoners before the group left with five hostages, which included the judge and district attorney. In an effort to stop the escape, officers killed Jonathan, the judge and two of the prisoners. A year later, in August 1971, George was killed by San Quentin prison guards, leaving his associates, however distant, to pay for his sins, both real and imagined.

From all appearances, officials deemed the Soledad Brothers guilty on the day they were arrested and viewed the surrounding legal process as a mere formality—something akin to a pit stop on the way to their final destination toward literal or figurative death in prison. Fate would write another ending for John Clutchette. In February 1972, John Clutchette was acquitted by the all-white jury that presided over his case. He further defied odds when he was granted parole on November 13, 1972.

Photo of the Soledad Brothers, Clutchette on right

Significantly, none of the “Soledad Brothers” were found guilty of the murder of Officer Mills.  Also noteworthy is the fact that John Clutchette was not charged or convicted in the 1970 Marin County Courthouse matter that was onset by Jonathan Jackson nor was he charged or convicted in the 1971 Adjustment Center incident that resulted in the death of George Jackson.

John Clutchette remained a free man from 1972 until 1980 when he was placed in custody to stand trial for the murder of Robert Bowles. Mr. Bowles’ lifeless body was found in a parked car with two gunshot wounds to the head. Mr. Clutchette, then a substance abuser and a party to illicit drug operations, testified only to participating in the cover up of the murder. Despite his testimony, he was convicted of first degree murder. An indeterminate sentence of seven years to life was imposed. Two additional years were added for use of a weapon.

Mr. Clutchette presently speaks of this crime with great remorse and sorrow. His moral convictions led him to pen a heartfelt letter to the Bowles family. In that letter, he expressed:

I…extend[] my deepest apologies and sincere regrets to the entire Bowles family for the devastating and irreparable harm that I have caused with my callous disregard for Robert’s life…I’ll forever live with the shame of my actions…It did not happen overnight…I am taking full advantage of the rehabilitative process; in my long journey of self-discovery, I have matured and learned to use my care and concern when I know that my actions have the potential to affect the lives of my fellow man/woman and community…I am on my perpetual road of atonement….

A3N: Do you know how Gov. Brown arrived at the conclusions that led him to reject the Parole Board’s decision granting Mr. Clutchette parole in 2016?

AB: His written reasons suggest he used subjective, unvetted, unreliable information and inaccuracies from John Clutchette’s prison file. This includes statements from prison snitches, memoranda from confidential sources, statements from prison staff and the like.  Many of the documents are self-serving.  Others are little more than speculation.  They are not the product of any vetting, or credible or fact-finding process; yet they have been given the veracity of such.

This is more than speculation.  In 1997, the appellate court made such a fact-finding: “We agree that Clutchette’s file contains false information. He produced uncontroverted declarations which provide that he was neither involved in nor prosecuted in connection with [the 1971] San Quentin Adjustment Center takeover attempt.”

This same court urged California officials to correct Mr. Clutchette’s records, stating that:

[T]his false information suggests that Clutchette was involved in a serious breach of institutional security and implicates him in the death of inmates and correctional officers. Because of the seriousness of this implication, the Department voluntarily should expunge the false information from Clutchette’s file. Removing the false information from Clutchette’s file might avoid litigation each time Clutchette is considered for parole in the future.

Unfortunately, California officials undertook no such action, leaving the inaccuracies in place to fulfill the court’s prophecy about the potential for harm this false information could cause.

California’s standards governing eligibility of parole board commissioners are high. The individuals who make parole decisions must have a broad background in criminal justice and experience or education in the fields of corrections, sociology, law, law enforcement, medicine, mental health, or education. Additionally, they must fulfill rigorous, annual training requirements. Such a highly distinguished Board thoroughly reviewed Mr. Clutchette’s prison record and determined some of the salacious contents not worthy of their use.

Moreover, a 2007 appellate court deemed much of the content “historically interesting but otherwise irrelevant” for purposes of parole eligibility. In his 2016 reversal of parole, the Governor imprudently relied upon these contested contents in Mr. Clutchette’s prison file. In so doing, he completely ignored the wisdom of the board that he appointed, a Board that spent considerable time examining the records in this case, and the guidance of the judicial system and rendered a decision that defies logic.

Mr. Cluchette has paid for his past crimes.  He is not a public threat. This is evidenced by the California Board of Parole Hearings granting him parole in 2003, 2015, 2016 and again on January 12, 2018. Because of pending, parole-related litigation, Mr. Clutchette postponed at least seven parole suitability hearings, resulting in even more time in custody. He has been eligible for parole since 1988.

The Governor is wrong for his: (1) reliance on the false and unreliable information in Mr. Clutchette’s prison records; and, (2) display of an animus to, through the parole process, “sentence” or punish Mr. Clutchette for the 1970s Soledad murder that he was acquitted of, the 1970 Marin County Incident with which he was never charged and the 1971 Adjustment Center Incident with which he was never charged.

Tragically, the Governor’s decision to disregard the legal dictate that his actions be guided by some evidence of current dangerousness has come at the expense of an elderly man who is afflicted with a host of health problems. Worse, without intervention, Mr. Clutchette will never be able to establish his suitability for parole because these flawed records will always serve as a bar to his freedom (or can be used as such). Such decision-making is in conflict with California law, as well as human rights tenants.

A3N: What’s the official status of John Clutchette’s case at this moment?

AB: In addition to the pending human rights complaint, Mr. Clutchette has formally brought his challenges to the court (in the form of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by his incredibly talented attorney Keith Wattley).

In December 2017, the Attorney General (AG), in defense of the governor, filed a request to keep the records the governor used under seal. In support of this request, the AG argued:

Disclosure [of the documents the Governor used to support his decision that John Clutchette is unsuitable for parole] would reveal the identity of the confidential informants from whom the confidential information was obtained and would release information that poses a threat to institutional security.

These records have been openly considered and discussed by the various parole boards over the years. In each of those instances, the respective boards deemed many of these records unreliable and consistently felt they did not amount to a showing of present dangerousness.

In concert with all of this, Mr. Clutchette appeared before the parole board again on January 12, 2018.  He was once again granted parole. However, Mr. Clutchette will not actually be released on parole without Governor Brown’s formal approval.

Photo of John Cluchette in the 1990s with his late wife

A3N: How can our readers best help his effort to finally be paroled?

AB: Brother Clutchette is approaching seventy-five years of age. He has lost too many years to this injustice. Readers have to become his voice at this critical time. They must create a theatre of agitation that makes elected officials uncomfortable abusing power and partaking in racial or social injustices. Officials need to know that political accountability will await them for doing so.

Readers must make John Clutchette’s story a topic of robust discussion. Most importantly, they must speak their immediate opposition to Governor Brown. Supporters can mail a written letter, send a fax, make a phone call, and/or send an email to his office.

Contact Information for Governor Brown, Suggested Talking Points and Sample Letter:

Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, California 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Office email (click here)
Link to email submission page:  https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/

Governor Brown,

Elderly inmate John Clutchette was again granted parole on January 12, 2018. I urge you not to oppose his release.

In February 1972, John Clutchette was acquitted by the jury who heard and evaluated the evidence against him for the murder of Officer John Mills. In November 1972, he was granted parole. I remind you that none of the “Soledad Brothers” were found guilty of the murder of Officer Mills.

Also noteworthy is the fact that John Clutchette was not charged or convicted in the 1970 Marin County Courthouse matter that was onset by Jonathan Jackson, nor was he charged or convicted in the 1971 Adjustment Center incident that resulted in the death of George Jackson.

Despite this, your reasons for opposing his release appear to involve your desires to punish Mr. Clutchette for these things, extrajudicially. If so, this is an abuse of your powers and it is a violation of California law and of human rights principles.

Mr. Clutchette has fulfilled the 1980 sentence that was imposed in conjunction with the Robert Bowles case. The judicial system did not impose any other sentences upon him.  Please respect that.

As determined by your very capable parole board on multiple occasions, he is not a present danger and the record, when contextually considered, does not hold “some evidence” of current dangerousness. Please respect this too. I thank you for your attention to this request.

Cannabis Cultivating Re-Visited

Sonoma County, California — Readers of this reporter’s August local and national articles on unpermitted cannabis growing expressed both appreciations and appropriate criticisms. Their feedback has made me aware of how complicated this issue is.

I am a patient at Peace in Medicine, a dispensary here in Sebastopol, California, and appreciate its CBD cannabis. It is essential to this 73-years-old person, as it is to other elders and those with a wide variety of health issues for which cannabis is an appropriate plant medicine.

Cannabis can be more healthy than some of the chemical medications to which people get addicted; it is better for one’s health than alcohol. Medications such as opioids can drastically worsen one’s health, create addictions, and even cause death.

“I got my cannabis card not to get stoned, which I am too old to do,” commented businessman Andy Cohen. “I use CBD topicals, as well as tinctures, because of my arthritis and gout. It works better than Tylenol or Ibuprofen. It doesn’t damage my liver or put a hole in my stomach.”

This article seeks to promote dialogue among cannabis growers, users, critics, government officials, and others. Participants in the expanding cannabis business have educated me about some of the complications, especially with respect to applying for permits and how expensive they are.

I support cannabis growing by locals on appropriate sites that do not damage water use by humans, other animals, and plants or harm nature in other ways. Such operations provide good agricultural employment for people. These small farms literally “keep families afloat,” as one cannabis farmer expressed.

Cannabis Growers and Allies Speak Up

I have visited small and medium-size cottage cannabis operations and been informed and impressed by responsible growers. Among the things they said are the following:

“The legalization of marijuana has opened a Pandora’s Box, which will have many unintended consequences.”

“We started growing high CBD medicinal cannabis for my cancer. We could not find it anywhere and realized we needed to grow it ourselves to insure purity and viability for my health. Unfortunately, we will also quit after this year’s harvest because of the severe and expensive regulations of the county. It’s heart-breaking that this vital medicine is being capitalized on and forcing intelligent, experienced growers out of the market.”

“I understand your frustration and anger with the recent opportunistic, irresponsible “wildcat” growers you are encountering, but I think it is a mistake to lump them together with people who have devoted their lives to improving marijuana strains and who feel strongly about the benefits it provides.”

“An impediment to getting small growers to apply for permits is that marijuana is still illegal as far as Federal law goes. Long-time small growers fear that by applying for permits they will become sitting ducks when and if the Feds decide to hold raids. Given the current political climate, this is a reasonable fear.”

“Mom and Pop cottage growers are being marginated by corporations.”

Marijuanaland: Dispatches from an American War is a recent book by Jonah Raskin. In a September article in the AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser), from Mendocino County, he writes the following: “The cannabis story is a story of freedom and incarceration, a rags-to-riches story, as well as a tale about American capitalism, which will capitalize on anything and everything that’s profitable. Weed brings in big bucks.”

Sonoma County — along with the nearby Northern California Mendocino, Humboldt, and Marin counties — are the four largest growers of cannabis in the U.S. We are experiencing what some call the “green rush of capital” and the “corporatization of cannabis.” Multi-national corporations from outside that show little or no respect for the local environment or communities concerns many locals.

A September 10 New York Times article on Mendocino County reports that investors from Russia, China, Jamaica, Mexico, and Bulgaria are involved in marijuana growing there. Seven times more marijuana apparently is exported from California than used by the local market.

An estimated 5,000 cannabis cultivators exist in Sonoma County. That number may expand, since growing cannabis only became legal in 2016. Yet as of September 12 only 115 cannabis applications had been submitted. The August 31 deadline to submit an initial one-page application was extended to October 31, with the complete application due June 1, 2018.

“We want to see more cultivators coming out of the shadows and into the light,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. “The solution is to bring all these growers into compliance,” said cannabis attorney Omar Figueroa. “A crackdown doesn’t work. We don’t need more prohibition. We need regulation.”

Neighbors Complain About Un-permitted Grows

Various people contacted this reporter about incidents similar to the two unpermitted operations here in the Blucher Creek Watershed, which I previously reported that neighbors were able to get shut down. They were environmentally destructive and problematic, especially to families with young children. Our Bloomfield/Lone Pine/Cunningham Neighborhood Association connected other nearby neighbors to the correct code enforcement officer, who got unpermitted cannabis grows removed.

“In our rural residential neighborhood a stop work order was issued last week to the owner of an operation, but the grow and the work toward harvest continues. People are camping on the property in at least one trailer,” said one neighbor.

“There is no septic or legal electrical power or plumbing. The only water source is a man-made seasonal pond that dries up by this time. A non-permitted road was cut through the entire eighty acre parcel up to the top where there are at least six large grow houses, each approximately one thousand square feet in size,” he added.

“We are concerned for our wells and springs with regard to the clear cutting of so many trees and then shoving them off the ungraded dirt road, which will likely turn to sludge as the rains come. Everyone in this once peaceful neighborhood is mindful of our water supply and use; we all work to maintain our shared dirt driveway. We are painfully aware that two of the largest and extremely devastating fires in California history were caused by illegal grow set-ups such as this one in our tiny neighborhood,” he concluded.

Among the positive responses to our interventions to support our rural neighborhood have been the following: “The neighbors’ actions inspire me to rouse from my ‘it’s inevitable’ victim attitude toward possibly illegal cannabis operations. Taking action against rule breakers has nothing to do with whether we ourselves are cannabis consumers, or how we feel about the burgeoning pot culture,” wrote Randi Farkas.

“With the legalization of cannabis, it’s important to move towards county policies of accountability on everyone’s part, including growers, lawmakers, code enforcement, clearly articulated zoning laws and neighbors not looking the other way, but holding their neighbors accountable. I voted yes to legalize cannabis growing. I did not vote yes to support black-market businesses that suck the life out of our communities,” wrote Roberta Teller.

It is important for governmental agencies and members of our communities to come together to ensure that we continue to enhance our economy, while keeping the integrity of our neighborhoods and environment in tact.

As one successful rural activist said, “Public exposure is what gets the attention of elected officials.”

Neighbors Shut Down Illegal Cannabis Grows

Sonoma County, Northern CaliforniaOne of the United States’ top four cannabis-growing counties is Sonoma County, California. In 2016, it became legal for adults to consume marijuana in California. One of the nation’s first dispensaries, Peace in Medicine, was founded here.

Disclosure: I’m a Peace in Medicine patient in small town Sebastopol. CBD-rich cannabis improves my health. I support legal cannabis growing that follows the rules and does not endanger creeks, wildlife, or neighbors, especially children.

Cannabis is a front-page story in our daily Press Democrat. “Environmentalists say proposed cannabis grow rules fail to protect wildlife,” headlines an August 9, 2017, article. It reports four groups faulting state rules for “failing to protect imperiled species.”

“The Center for Biological Diversity, a national conservation nonprofit,” the article continues, “and three allies filed a 36-page comment alleging numerous shortcomings in the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s draft report on the proposed standards for growing legal marijuana.”

Among the threatened wildlife are foxes, eagles, owls, bobcats, raccoons, fishers, and others. The harm comes mainly from eating poisons or rodents killed by toxins. A huge amount of water is needed for marijuana plants; it is often taken illegally from nearby streams and huge wells, compromising both neighbors and wildlife.

“Sixty percent of all cannabis grown in the country comes from four California counties: Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, and Humboldt,” reports the July 4 issue of the region’s weekly Bohemian. Its support for cannabis includes headlines like “Off the Booze…and on the weed” and “Joint Venture: Wine and pot mergers are coming.”

The corporate wine industry has already purchased most of the local vineyards and wineries here in Sonoma County, displacing food farms and driving up land and home prices. Many locals have left for less expensive places and more privacy away from the massive tourism taking over the county.

“California’s cannabis industry is conservatively valued at $7 billion,” according to the Bohemian. Meanwhile, “the state’s grape crop is pegged at about $5 billion.” According to executive director of a cannabis industry trade group “70% or more growers will stay in the black market or find something else to do.” That would be many illegal sites.

Visiting an Illegal Grow Operation

A food farming neighbor here in Blucher Creek Watershed, Lari Adams, emailed this reporter August 7 that a new neighbor had just bulldozed a huge area to construct large cannabis grow buildings. We immediately visited the site—now a disaster to many life forms dependent on that water, including listed endangered California freshwater shrimp, much wildlife, vegetation, and humans.

“What we saw was jaw dropping.  Land cleared, all the topsoil pushed into the creek bed,” wrote Adams.  The environmental consequences will be long-lasting and hard to remedy soon, certainly not before the coming rains that farmers and others depend upon. Then plastic, silt, and sedimentation will wash into the stream, choking and polluting it downstream.

“Landscaping filled the tributary, so needed for flood protection. A 100-foot building replaced what three days prior was a virgin field.  Three more large building sites were cleared, and the topsoil pushed into the riparian zone.  Miles of plastic, barrels of chemicals, fertilizer piles, and marijuana plants arrived. We actually stood there mouths agape! How can this happen?” added Adams.

He contacted the Bloomfield/Lone Pine/Cunningham Neighborhood Association, which researched the parcel and moved promptly into action. No permits existed for this devastation. The violation was reported to various government officials and agencies, including County Supervisors David Rabbitt and Lynda Hopkins. They responded promptly and effectively.

“Illegal grows are a huge concern, environmentally and socially,” wrote Supervisor Hopkins. “Unfortunately they give the folks doing the right thing (going through County permitting processes and growing in appropriate locations) a bad name,” she added.

Neighbours Push Back

On the next day, representatives from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board, the county’s Permit and Resources Management (PRMD), Supervisor Rabbitt’s office, and the Neighborhood Association met at Adams’ farm. The government officials visited the grow, and shut it down. Though the buildings are gone, the damage will be long lasting.

The new owner then put it up for sale, at a higher price, though to remedy his abuse will likely take years and thousands of dollars. We reminded his agent that a full disclosure was necessary; he took the “For Sale” sign down, though he did not take the listing off line.

Another neighbor showed the neighborhood group an un-permitted grow nearby. The group also managed to get that operation shut down. “Weeks ago, huge earth-moving equipment came onto the property that adjoins us, graded a large area and began to construct a massive greenhouse for commercial cannabis, all without a permit,” said Patrick Ball.

“Families with children live on both sides and across the street. We are on wells and worry about the massive amount of water a commercial cannabis operation consumes. If this is allowed on the large scale intended, we will have lost the safety, peace, and well-being that makes our neighborhood such a wonderful place to live,” Ball added.

“Country life shared with neighbors, wild animals that we see daily, domestic animals that we dearly love, and the habitat that we enjoy has been one of life’s greatest rewards,” writes Judy Logan, who lives nearby. “We must steward our land and water and be sensitive to endangered creatures to continue this lovely gift bestowed upon our hearts.”

Hundreds of such un-permitted cannabis operations are popping up around the county and elsewhere, especially in Northern California. This endangers food farming, as well as the environment and neighborhoods.

“I voted to legalize medical cannabis because I value its medical benefits,” writes Roberta Teller. “I hoped that instead of unregulated growers with unknown, questionable agricultural practices, legalization would guarantee a high quality product and consumers and members of the community would be protected from unsavory business operations,” she added.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case. We have a Cannabis Board filled with people from the industry. I know of a case where a realtor falsely advertised a property as agricultural in hopes for a quick sale to the next illegal grower,” Teller said.

“Land is being fenced off, fences are getting higher, animal habitats are being compromised and newly installed security cameras are spying on us. We need Sonoma County to step up to the job of regulating this already spiraling out-of-control Industry,” she concluded.

To cannabis growers out there, please do it the right way. Growing should not only benefit you financially, but also the environment, its many critters, and neighbors. The Bloomfield/Lone Pine/Cunningham Neighborhood Association watches cannabis growing carefully.

Growers without permits should avoid the Blucher Creek Watershed, which has a cannabis watch group with neighbors willing to work to shut you down, unless you have the necessary permits.

This group does not oppose appropriate, permitted cannabis growing. “I’m so grateful that medical CBD cannabis is now available,” wrote Alexandra Hart, co-founder of the neighborhood group. “It provides my 78-year-old arthritic body almost instant relief with no side effects, save a little, quite pleasant buzz. The speed with which the greedy are taking advantage without following environmental guidelines and neighborliness is distressing. Our human greed may well cost us our planet.”