Sunday, April 12, 2015


* Bend Over Here It Comes Again

Politics of Water in California

California is currently experiencing a serious drought. The previous serious drought was in 1977 when the very same Jerry Brown was governor. It makes about as much sense to blame the drought on global warming as does Mr Brown as on the people of California for again electing him as governor.
California Governor Jerry Brown has announced that private citizens and small businesses — among others — will have their water usage restricted, monitored, and subject to heavy fines if state agents determine that too much water has been used. Noticeably absent from the list of those subject to restrictions are the largest users of water, the farmers.

Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water consumption, but 2 percent of the state’s economy. To spell it out a little more clearly: Under Jerry’s Brown water plan, it’s fine to use a gallon of subsidized water to grow a single almond in a desert, but if you take a shower that’s too long, prepare to be fined up to $500 per day.

There Is No Market Price for Water

The fact that the growers, who remain a powerful interest group in California, happen to be exempt from water restrictions reminds us that water is not allocated according to any functional market system, but is allocated through political means by politicians and government agents.
When pressed as to why the farmers got a free pass, Jerry Brown was quick to fall back on the old standbys: California farms are important to the economy, and California farms produce a lot of food. Thus, the rules don’t apply to them. If translated from politico-speak, however, what Brown really said was this: “I have unilaterally decided that agriculture is more important than other industries and consumers in California, including industries and households that may use water much more efficiently, and which may be willing to pay much more for water.”

In California, those who control the political system have ensured that water will not go to those who value it most highly. Instead, water will be allocated in purely arbitrary fashion based on who has the most lobbyists and the most political power.

Numerous economists at and elsewhere (see here and here and here) have already pointed out that the true solution to water shortages lies in allowing a market price to determine allocation — and in allowing there to be a market in water — just as there is a market in energy, food, and other goods essential to life and health. Supporters of government-controlled water claim that billionaires will hoard all the water if this is allowed, although it remains unclear why the billionaires haven’t also hoarded all the oil, coal, natural gas, clothing, food, and shoes for themselves, since all of these daily essentials are traded using market prices, and all are used daily by people of ordinary means.

City Water vs. Agricultural Water

For a clue as to how divorced from reality is current water policy in California, we need only look at the government-determined “price” of water there. Even under current conditions, water remains very inexpensive in California, but for the record, city dwellers have historically paid much, much higher prices for water than growers.

For example, according to this study, water for residents of San Francisco rose by 50 percent from 2010 to 2014, but residents were still paying about 0.8 cents per gallon for water. In Los Angeles, the price growth was a little less over the same period, but the Los Angeles price was also low, coming in a little over 0.6 cents per gallon. City dwellers are told that water is incredibly scarce, but as Kathryn Shelton and Richard McKenzie have noted, the price of water is so low that virtually no one even knows the per-gallon price.

But how much do growers pay for their water? In a recent LA Times article contending that growers “aren’t the water enemy,” it was noted that growers are now paying $1,000 per acre foot. This is supposed to convince us that water prices are incredibly high. But how does this compare to city prices? An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water, so if we do the arithmetic, we find that growers who pay $1,000 for an acre-foot are paying about 0.3 cents per gallon for their water. That’s a little less than half as much as the city users are paying.

Now, city water is treated potable water, so we might expect a premium for city water. Historically, however, the gap between city prices and agricultural prices is much, much greater. Bloomberg notes that as of 2014, the price of water had risen to $1,100 “from about $140 a year ago” in the Fresno area. Going back further, we find that in 2001 many farmers were paying $70 per acre foot. Prices well below $1,000 are far more typical of the past several decades than the $1,000 to $3,000 per acre-foot many growers now say they pay. In fact, if we see what the per-gallon price would be for a $140 acre-foot of water, we find that a city dweller could use fifty gallons per day at a monthly price of 64 cents per month, or a per-gallon price of 0.04 cents.

At prices like these, it is no wonder that there is now a shortage of water. The price of water has for years been sending the message that water is barely a scarce resource at all.
In many cases, the low prices are enabled by decades of taxpayer subsidization of water infrastructure. A year round flow of water to both cities and growers is ensured in part by huge New Deal-era projects like Shasta Dam, and Hoover Dam, which the State of California could not afford to build, but which today California largely relies upon for water, care of the US taxpayer.

In central and northern California, the primary beneficiaries of federal water projects are growers, although it’s the city dwellers, who use a relatively small amount of water, who get lectured about conserving water. Were an actual market in water allowed, however, growers would have to compete for water with city dwellers, whose industries are far more productive than agricultural enterprises and who are likely to be willing to pay higher prices. Even when the private sector owners of water are old farming families (a legacy of prior appropriation), the water would still tend to go to those who value it the most as reflected in the per-unit prices they are willing to pay. That is: city dwellers.

 What Will We do Without California Growers

The fact remains that much California farmland is in a desert where it rains under twelve inches per year. Massive irrigation projects have made farming economical in the region, but it’s unlikely that the status quo can continue forever if California dries up and cities begin to compete for more water.
When crops like pecans, which are native to Louisiana where it rains over fifty inches per year, are being grown in central California, we will have to ask ourselves if there is true comparative advantage at work here, or if the industry is really sitting upon a shaky foundation of government-subsidized and -allocated resources.

The rhetoric that’s coming out of the growers, of course, is that California growers are essential to the American food supply. Some will even suggest that it’s a national security issue. Without California growers, we’re told, we’ll all starve in case of foreign embargo.

But let’s not kid ourselves. North America is in approximately zero danger of having too little farmland for staple crops. In fact, one can argue that some of the best farmland in the world — in Iowa for instance — is underutilized because policies like Jerry Brown’s farm favoritism send the message that California will prop up its desert agriculture no matter what.

No, if California farmland continues to go dry, this only means that Americans will have to turn to other parts of the US or imports. After all, many of the crops grown in dry parts of California are much more economically grown in more humid environments, including citrus plants, avocadoes (which are native to Mexico), and various tree nuts. And of course, it’s these crops, which are already fairly expensive and water-intensive that get mentioned when we’re told that California growers must be given what they want until the end of time. This will likely mean higher prices for some of these crops in the short run, the correct response is not government favoritism, but free trade, and letting comparative advantage work. In a world with market prices, it’s simply not economical to grow everything under the sun in the California desert. If markets were allowed to function, with real water prices and free trade, this would quickly become abundantly clear.

Ryan McMaken

Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Tangled Web of US foreign Policy

As the US-backed Saudi bombing of Yemen enters its second week, more than 500 people — including many civilians — have been killed, what infrastructure existed in the impoverished country has been destroyed, and the ousted president cheers on the destruction of his country within the protective embrace of the country that is bombing his own.
What is less reported in US mainstream media is that one group in Yemen seems to be making out quite well in the US-backed and Saudi-created chaos: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Yes, al-Qaeda. The group that the US has been droning in Yemen since 2010. The drone strikes that set the population and especially various tribes like the Houthis against the US-accommodating Hadi. The Houthis who had been fighting al-Qaeda in Yemen before they started being bombed by Saudi Arabia. That al-Qaeda.
A Thursday prison raid by al-Qaeda operatives in the port city of Mukalla freed one of their commanders, “emir” Khaled Batarfi. Barfi celebrated his freedom by taking up residence in the abandoned regional governor’s palace as Saudi planes continued to bomb al-Qaeda’s enemy in Yemen, the Houthis. Barfi even used the palace telephone apparently to issue orders to his minions. It must have been hard for him to believe his incredible good luck!
The Saudis are said to have air-dropped weapons to supporters of ousted president, Mansur Hadi, in the battleground port city of Aden. How long before al-Qaeda shows up with these gifts from the Saudis by way of the US military-industrial complex?
So why is the US backing the Saudi attack on its neighbor? It is complicated. According to US government logic, when Yanukovych was chased by a mob from his office in Ukraine, by leaving the country he lost legitimacy. In Yemen, on the other hand, when president Hadi was chased by a mob from his office he retained his legitimacy and Saudi airstrikes were approved and coordinated by the US to put him back in office.
It had something to do with democracy, it was said. However, Hadi was “elected” after overthrowing his predecessor in a coup and standing for office as the only candidate on the ballot. Not surprisingly in the circumstance, he “won” more than 99 percent of the vote. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was effusive in her praise, claiming the Soviet-style election and inauguration “were promising steps on the path toward a new, democratic chapter in Yemen’s history.”
Yanukovych, in contrast, was elected in a contested election judged to be “free and fair” by international monitoring bodies.
Watching State Department Spokesman Jen Psaki defend these double standards is one of those golden comedy moments that makes you laugh and then cry.
So the US backs Saudi attacks on Yemen in the name of democracy even though neither country is remotely democratic, and even though none except al-Qaeda and the US military-industrial complex seems to be benefitting. Is this incompetence, arrogance, ignorance, or something darker?

Daniel McAdams

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ISIS – America’s (Latest) Frankenstein


Dating back to at least 2007, the Bush Administration and its Saudi and Israeli allies were hatching the plan to overthrow the government of Syria. It was also well known that the use of radical Islamic organizations or Jihadists was a sanctioned tool in this plan. As reported by Seymour Hersch, Saudi Arabia left no doubt about its intentions in Iraq and Syria:
“The Times reported that the King warned Cheney that Saudi Arabia would back its fellow-Sunnis in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw…’The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.’
“Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”
“Jumblatt then told me that he had met with Vice-President Cheney in Washington last fall to discuss, among other issues, the possibility of undermining Assad. He and his colleagues advised Cheney that, if the United States does try to move against Syria, members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood would be ‘the ones to talk to,’ Jumblatt said.”
Upon her appointment as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton willingly picked up the torch on the policy to overthrow the government of Syria. In this cause she enlisted underlings Robert Ford, and Susan Rice. Ford openly fomented opposition while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, while Rice pounded the table as Ambassador to the U.N. relentlessly demanding international military action to unseat Syria’s President a demand she has continued to make in her position as National Security Advisor. Throughout this period somebody else had Clinton’s ear on Syria – someone with ties to Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood. That person was Huma Abedin, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff.  Adebin was also the wife of disgraced former New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner, and a Clinton aide since 1996. Abedin was considered Clinton’s closest policy advisor on the Middle East. Is it any wonder that Clinton has been the talon-baring hawk for military intervention in Syria? In taking this line, Clinton insures both Saudi and Israeli support for her run at the Oval Office.
Which takes us full circle to America’s latest ‘existential threat’ – ISIS or ISIL or IS, depending upon which moniker the West has decided to use for the day. ISIS never existed until the conflict in Syria. Its members have come from throughout the world, their common denominator being their fervor for Jihad and cutting off peoples’ heads. How were all of these individuals able to travel freely from their native countries, including the U.S. and Britain, to the Middle East? Who paid their way? Who purchased and supplied the weapons they are unleashing from Syria to Iraq? Who provided them with military training? Why are western nations backing them in Syria, but attacking them in Iraq? If we are now worried about the return of the American jihadists from their butcher-fest in Syria, and we know who they are, why does the U.S. government not simply revoke their passports and refuse them re-entry. Why does Obama not simply order them assassinated as he did with U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki???
It is commonly known that ISIS gets its support from those nations (including prominent individuals and organizations within those nations) which are trying to assure the destruction of Shiite influence in the Middle East. They plan to accomplish this through the advancement of a Sunni extremist agenda. How ironic that those nations – Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – also happen to be America’s closest allies in the region! If ISIS is such an existential threat, why are we not threatening or bombing Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar?  As columnist Patrick Buchanan recently wrote:
“If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to crush ISIS, he could seal his border to foreign fighters entering Syria and send the Turkish army to assist President Bashar Assad in annihilating ISIS in Syria.” Buchanan notes that instead of supporting them, U.S. politicians like John McCain, want to attack “Syria’s army, the most successful anti-ISIL force in the field.”
The Obama Administration’s see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil policy on the Benghazi fiasco is also rooted in the ISIS issue. It is known that Benghazi was being used by the United States to procure weapons and Libyan jihadists to send to fight in Syria by way of Turkey.
The recent execution of American journalist James Foley (if it occurred) also has its roots in America’s Syrian policy. Foley was originally kidnapped not by ISIS, but by Senator John McCain’s ‘moderate Syrian rebel’ allies, the so-called Free Syrian Army. The same ‘moderate rebels’ who cannibalized dead Syrian soldiers on camera. They then transferred or traded Foley to ISIS.
In the classic television comedy The Three Stooges, the Stooges are working as exterminators. Business is slow so they find a way to increase their business by pretending to conduct home inspections for pests while actually planting pests in the home. They then leave the homeowner with their business card and wait for the call. Soon after, the frantic homeowner urges them to return quickly and they have a paying job of their own creation.
The trail of ISIS terror leads painfully, inexorably and unmistakably back to the United States and its allies. ISIS was a creation of the West and its failed policy decisions. Now ISIS is being used as the excuse for further military adventurism in the Middle East. Stooges indeed!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

When in Hole Stop Digging

By Michael Rozeff

Where it counts, in the higher levels of the U.S. government, the most powerful positions are filled by fools. What other conclusion can be drawn when every major policy move is foolish, destructive and dangerous? Are we supposed to believe that American meddling and aggressions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria accomplished something desired by these men and women and something beneficial to Americans? Are we supposed to believe that the management of the American economy has benefited this country, or that the surveillance state is a big plus? Are we supposed to believe that the huge spending financed by a huge national debt is producing dividends for America?
And now, are we supposed to believe that confronting Russia over Ukraine, seeking to bring down Putin, and stirring up trouble inside Russia is going to produce a new set of institutions and leaders in Russia that is more beneficial to us? Are we supposed to believe that confronting China will do the same? Or that spreading American forces throughout Africa will bring us peace?
Why should we expect anything but bad results from American meddling and confrontations when that is all that they have produced for many years now? Why should we not conclude that the country is being run by ignorant and naive fools or jackasses, who keep beating their heads and ours against one wall after another? How stupid are they to be imbued with confused ideas about remaking the world and whose methods for doing so cluelessly produce one debacle after another?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Government Lexicon

By Michael S. Rozeff

Words no longer mean anything stable and therefore laws mean nothing stable at the highest level of U.S. government. The government is the master of words now. It creates threats when none exist. It defines and names them according to its pleasure. This in turn justifies it in creating a national emergency when there is none.
There is no restraint, no constraint, no boundary on what a president can do when and if words fail to provide such constraints. When a president uses words to mean things they do not in fact mean, that is, when he uses bald-faced lies as justifications for his actions, then any so-called law can be issued by a president. He can do anything by declaring that the situation demands it, even if it doesn’t. At that point, words mean nothing of what their conventional content gives them. They become what authority says they mean. At that point, we are in an Alice in Wonderland world.

Alice is talking with Humpty Dumpty:
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
“‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
“‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”
Who is master, the word or its user, in this case Humpty Dumpty? Humpty tells Alice he’s the master.

Obama is now the master. Here is Humpty Dumpty Obama speaking. Obama issued an executive order that says:
“I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the actions and policies of persons — including persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine — that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:”

What national emergency? There isn’t any. I defy anyone to prove that there is an actual national emergency because of relations between Crimea and Ukraine. Obama finds “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States…” What threat? I defy anyone to prove that there is a threat to the security of Americans arising from Crimea’s relations with Ukraine.

What danger is there to Americans if Crimea holds a referendum? What danger if it decides to alter its political relations with Ukraine and Russia? What actually is the “Government of Ukraine” of which Obama speaks? What are its democratic processes being undermined? How can a vote in Crimea cause an emergency to Americans? How can such a vote cause an emergency to Americans while riots in the streets, snipers and thugs can cause a change in government in Ukraine and that is no cause for Obama to declare an emergency, indeed that becomes a cause for approval?

In Obama’s dictionary, if he thinks something has happened in Crimea having to do with its government that another government (in Ukraine) has not authorized, then this constitutes “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States…” This constitutes an “emergency”.

If the foreign policy of the United States is unlawful to begin with and if it is thwarted by Crimeans or a Crimean vote to separate from Ukraine, does that give rise to a threat to the foreign policy of the U.S.? Even if it does, which it doesn’t in this case, is it so serious as to declare that the U.S. foreign policy faces an emergency?

A national emergency arises from a threat to THE NATION, that is, to Americans regarded as a people. If there is a threat to the foreign policy of the U.S., and I deny that a vote among Crimeans is a genuine threat even to that, this is not the same as a threat to Americans. There is no national emergency.

How can a vote in Crimea be viewed as a threat to U.S. foreign policy and the overturning of the government of Ukraine by violent means not be viewed as a threat? Only if the U.S. is content with the latter but unhappy with the former. In other words, to the U.S. government, a threat is that which frustrates what it desires. It is not based on something objective that endangers Americans but on an impediment to U.S. foreign policy. This impediment is declared to be a threat so that then a national emergency can be declared when none exists. That in turn then is used to justify taking actions in the form of sanctions.

Is the frustration of a want to be called a threat? If I want a Mercedes-Benz in a showroom but can’t get it without paying for it, is the dealer a threat to my “foreign policy”? Do I then declare that the dealer has threatened my family? Do I declare a family emergency? Do I then use my power to blockade the showroom or to prevent the dealer from accessing his bank account or to stop trailers from delivering new cars to him? Yes, this all sounds very far-fetched but so is it far-fetched for Obama to see a threat to this nation from a vote in Crimea and declare a national emergency.

Obama’s executive order is a raw exercise of power dressed up to give the appearance of legality.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The below embedded video interview of the whistleblower/hero “traitor” Edward Snowden by a German journalist was expected by this writer to go viral on the internet. Strangely, although having been posted many times on YouTube, its shelf life has been shall we say “short”. It would appear that our minders in the US media do not wish dissemination of any but the official version of the NSA leaks. In any event, dear readers, please avail yourselves of the opportunity for exposure to a non official perspective regarding the lies, lawlessness, secrecy and obtrusiveness of the imperial regime: ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Death by Government

Government More Likely to Kill Your Kids Than a School Shooter Is

By Thomas Hochmann
December 14th, 2013
Government More Likely to Kill Your Kids Than a School Shooter Is
In light of the sensationalist news coverage of yesterday's Arapahoe High School shooting, I thought it would be fun to look at some actual facts about school shootings. I know, I know... It's so old fashioned to resort to such inconvenient things as facts. Please forgive me for committing this grave sin against the journalistic standards of the 21st century.
First off, there are 132,656 K-12 schools in the US. From 2003 to date, there have been 76 shootings in US schools. 53 of those shootings resulted in deaths. Thus, over this 10 year period, the US has experienced an average of 5.3 fatal school shootings per year. Using these numbers, you can figure out that the odds that any given school will experience a fatal shooting during an entire calendar year are about 1 in 25,029.
Compare that figure that to the odds that you will die from:
  • An air travel accident (1 in 20,000)
  • Drowning (1 in 8,942)
  • Electrocution (1 in 5,000)
  • Falling down (1 in 246)
  • Committing suicide (1 in 121)
  • A car crash (1 in 100)
According to Wikipedia, "schools will do a lockdown drill one or two times per year." In anticipation of an event that has a 1 in 25,029 chance of actually occurring at a given school, children have a 100% certainty that they will be terrorized by the school itself at least once every year. On any given school day, there's at least a 1 in 270 chance that the school will frighten the crap out of your child with a lockdown drill.
Schools don't have mandatory drowning drills (though death by drowning is twice as likely as experiencing a fatal school attack), or mandatory "how not to fall down" classes (100 times as likely), or mandatory "don't get in a car because you might die" drills (250 times). They don't even devote this much shock-and-awe theatrics to teaching kids about cancer, which has a 1 in 7 chance of killing you (3,575 times more likely than a fatal school shooting).
As a fun aside, it's worth noting that you have a 1 in 89 chance of being killed by your own government. That's right: it's 281 times more likely that your own government will kill you or your child than your child's school will experience a fatal gun attack.
Funny how the schools don't drill kids on how to evade the police or withdraw their consent from government, both of which are far more likely sources of death and destruction than any crazed civilian gunman.