Tuesday, February 23, 2010

UFW President Slams California Water Bonds

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW), today blasted the $11.1 billion water bond on the November ballot in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

"The water bond that was recently approved by our lawmakers will give agricultural companies billions more in subsidized water," said Rodiguez. "The state treasurer has asked the right question: Why aren't these giant ag industry operators paying for their water like everyone else?" 

Rodriguez's eloquent slam against the water bond rammed through the California Legislature by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger completely negates the argument of corporate agribusiness "Astroturf" groups, such as the Latino Water Coalition, that the battle against the water bond and the peripheral canal is a conflict of "fish versus people" or "fish versus jobs." 

In reality, the campaign to restore the Delta, stop the peripheral canal and defeat the water bond is a conflict between the vast majority of people - including farmworkers, fishermen, Delta family farmers, California Indian Tribes and environmentalists - and greedy agribusiness corporations that don't care about the health and safety of their workers or the thousands of workers and fishermen unemployed because of the Central Valley salmon collapse. 

"The $800 million per year in annual bond payments required under the new water bond is more than California spends on health care for farmworkers and their children, more than the entire worker-safety budget, more than on farmworker housing, more than on pesticide regulations and food safety. In fact, it's more than all those things added together," noted Rodriguez. 

Why is the UFW opposing the bond? "We don't believe that the giant agriculture corporations should get more subsidized water until farmworkers get the right to protect themselves, including the right to clean and fresh drinking water," explained Rodriguez. 

"We see a clear and ironic link between a state government unwilling to enforce its own laws protecting farmworkers, a governor vetoing legislation to allow farmworkers to protect themselves, and a Legislature that bemoans budget cuts while giving the agriculture industry water subsidies at a cost of $800 million every year," said Rodriguez. 

Last year SEIU and the Teamsters Union put $1 million into a UFW "war chest" to fight Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's water bond. The groups fighting the peripheral canal and water bond were eagerly awaiting an official announcement by UFW against the water bond - and that announcement took place today. 

In the New York Times on April 17, 2009, Rodriguez condemned the Latino Water Coalition's "March for Water" for being a "farmer march orchestrated and financed by growers.” 

The UFW joins a growing group of conservation, fishing, environmental, tribal and family farming groups opposed to the water bond's bailout to corporate agribusiness. Everybody who cares about the future of California fisheries and Delta farms and the thousands of jobs that depend on them must applaud Rodriguez for speaking out against the budget-busting water bond! 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winnemem Wintu Tribe Urges Feinstein to Withdraw Salmon Killer Legislation

"The actions that are being taken to weaken Endangered Species Act protections are an affront to the Tribal nations of the State of California,” said Mark Franco, headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “They violate the spirit of the treaties signed and consultative processes that California Indians have fought for centuries to ensure remain in place." 

Photo of Mark Franco and Calleen Sisk-Franco courtesy of Indigenius .

By Dan Bacher 

The Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe of northern California today joined environmental organizations and fishing groups in strongly opposing legislation sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein to waive Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for imperiled Central Valley Chinook salmon. 

Feinstein has attached an amendment to a jobs stimulus bill that would increase pumping to subsidized corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley. The amendment would convert the “jobs bill” into a “job killer bill” that would result in the destruction of California and Oregon’s once vibrant salmon fishing industry. 

"The actions that are being taken to weaken Endangered Species Act protections are an affront to the Tribal nations of the State of California,” said Mark Franco, headman of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. “They violate the spirit of the treaties signed and consultative processes that California Indians have fought for centuries to ensure remain in place. These proposed actions and the failure of the government to even once engage in any discussion with the first people of this state regarding water rights and needs of tribal reservations, rancherias and communities is offensive and a slap in the face of all people of this state who believe in the truth behind the bromide ‘one nation under god, with liberty and justice for all.’” 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Haiti: Journal #8

Dear Friends,

Coming home from Haiti was very difficult and emotional for our team...some (including Paul) are sick, all have been touched...the following journal describes well a bit of our experience...it will also be printed in the (San Diego) OB Rag, since it was written, not by me, but by one of my sons, Jordan Barnes, who offered his service and skills as one of our team to Haiti.

Jordan writes:

I could not have anticipated what I was to see, or the affect that our experience in Haiti would have on me. 

My fiance Christene and I left from Ocean Beach to join ten others and 1,200 lbs of medicine and supplies that had been donated.  This is only a fraction of the donations that "Children's Hope" has received since the catastrophic quake, but such was our weight allotment, the rest will go down in subsequent trips. 

My mother Leisa Faulkner began Children's Hope, a non-profit/non-religious organization, in 2004 to help the desperate situation of the children of the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.  Along with humanitarian aid, my mother has become very involved in the political situation there.  Our last trip down there was her 12th. 

We spent most all our time in Port au Prince, where through her previous trips, my mother had established ties with community leaders.  Governing now only exists at the local level, "mayors" of what are now tent cities have the best idea of what the people in their area need most. 

We worked to distribute the huge quantities of medicine, stocking "pharmacies" (usually located in one of the few buildings still sound in the area) with what they needed, and then off through the debris filled streets.  When we felt as if we most usefully proportioned out the medicines, we took to helping in the hospitals.  Now in what used to be orphanages, schools, and soccer fields, under tarpaulin roofs, the battle is on against the second wave of this disaster.  Malaria, typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis A are breaking out as sanitation is almost impossible and the density of people guarantees quick transmition.  We gave vaccinations, changed bandages of amputees and helped teach them to use crutches or wheelchairs, and helped the sick in outlaying regions get the treatment they needed. 

The dozen or so soccer balls we brought were worth their weight in gold, or rather smiles.  Watching the children play soccer together; smiling, hugging, and laughing they seemed to forget if only for a moment the pain and just be kids.     

Now what little infrastructure and "stability" the people of Haiti had is all but gone.  The devastation is total; government buildings, schools, hospitals, and homes flattened. 

They press on through resiliency of spirit and unity. 

A unity and oneness that Fox news and CNN would not have you believe, and the mounted 50 caliber weapons on UN tanks do not promote.  We never saw riot or looting, but only people pulling together, sharing, lifting each other up.  Because they have to, because it is what they have always done. 

As a man sitting atop a pile of rubble that used to be his neighborhood his, his family still buried somewhere below his feet proclaimed, "I realize that I am here to help those less fortunate than myself."  The only people that I can think of that are less fortunate than that man are those in that country that have lost not only family and friends, but arms and legs.  It is a horrible thing to say, but we met countless Haitians, mostly very young, who fell to such a fate.  A people that have endured disaster after disaster, oppression, slavery, coup upon coup are now faced with surviving the worst natural disaster on record. 

The people of Haiti are the most beautiful I have ever met, their smiles beaming from under the rubble, and hand in hand they stand up and dance. 

I will most likely be returning to Haiti soon, accompanied once again by my loving mother, to sit on an enormous donation (from a resident of Ocean Beach-THANK YOU!) of 15,000 bottles of antimicrobial cleanser/sanitizer and ensure its passage and proper distribution.  Please continue to support, you cannot give enough.  The need is truly great, and the people could not be more thankful.

Jordan Barnes

If you would like to donate through Children's Hope:

Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road

Cameron Park, CA 95682

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Immigration and African Americans

One Future: The Shared Economic, Political Plight of African Americans and Afro-Immigrants

Immigration Reform. It's an issue that evokes social, emotional, and economic unease in communities across the nation. It's an issue that conjures up a new kind of scape-goating, even unapologetic racism--pitting community against community, neighbor against neighbor, and worker against worker.
Haiti's catastrophic earthquake should remind all of us that it's these kinds of tragic circumstances that move immigrants to seek hope and refuge in America. This tragedy should also remind us of the unique circumstances facing Afro- immigrants--too often overlooked in today's immigration debate.
For years, Haitians and other Afro-immigrants from Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean, have sought and will continue to seek refuge from civil war, political and religious prosecution, and social and economic injustice.
African Americans should be especially mindful of the mistruths and divisiveness that anti-immigration advocates will use to block any type of immigration reform that would actually help uplift our communities.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The U.S. in Latin America

The US Game In Latin America
US interference in the politics of Haiti and
Honduras is only the latest example of its
long-term manipulations in Latin America
Mark Weisbrot
The Guardian
29 January 2010

When I write about US foreign policy in places such as
Haiti or Honduras, I often get responses from people who
find it difficult to believe that the US government
would care enough about these countries to try and
control or topple their governments. These are small,
poor countries with little in the way of resources or
markets. Why should Washington policymakers care who
runs them?

Unfortunately they do care. A lot. They care enough
about Haiti to have overthrown the elected president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide not once, but twice. The first
time, in 1991, it was done covertly. We only found out
after the fact that the people who led the coup were
paid by the US Central Intelligence Agency. And then
Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the most notorious
death squad there - which killed thousands of Aristide's
supporters after the coup - told CBS News that he, too,
was funded by the CIA.

In 2004, the US involvement in the coup was much more
open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all
international aid for four years, making the
government's collapse inevitable. As the New York Times
reported, while the US state department was telling
Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the
political opposition (funded with millions of US
taxpayers' dollars), the International Republican
Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.

In Honduras last summer and autumn, the US government
did everything it could to prevent the rest of the
hemisphere from mounting an effective political
opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For
example, they blocked the Organisation of American
States from taking the position that it would not
recognise elections that took place under the
dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama administration
publicly pretended that it was against the coup.

This was only partly successful, from a public relations
point of view. Most of the US public thinks that the
Obama administration was against the Honduran coup,
although by November of last year there were numerous
press reports and even editorial criticisms that Obama
had caved to Republican pressure and not done enough.
But this was a misreading of what actually happened: the
Republican pressure in support of the Honduran coup
changed the administration's public relations strategy,
but not its political strategy. Those who followed
events closely from the beginning could see that the
political strategy was to blunt and delay any efforts to
restore the elected president, while pretending that a
return to democracy was actually the goal.

Among those who understood this were the governments of
Latin America, including such heavyweights as Brazil.
This is important because it shows that the State
Department was willing to pay a significant political
cost in order to help the right in Honduras. It
convinced the vast majority of Latin American
governments that it was no different from the Bush
administration in its goals for the hemisphere, which is
not a pleasant outcome from a diplomatic point of view.

Why do they care so much about who runs these poor
countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter.
The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the
game can often make a difference between a win or a
loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in
straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement
with maximising US power in the world, they like. Those
who have other goals - not necessarily antagonistic to
the United States - they don't like.

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration's closest
allies in the hemisphere are rightwing governments such
as those of Colombia or Panama, even though Obama
himself is not a rightwing politician. This highlights
the continuity of the politics of control. The victory
of the right in Chile, the first time that it has won an
election in half a century, was a significant victory
for the US government. If Lula de Silva's Workers' party
were to lose the presidential election in Brazil this
autumn, that would be another win for the state
department. While US officials under both Bush and Obama
have maintained a friendly posture toward Brazil, it is
obvious that they deeply resent the changes in Brazilian
foreign policy that have allied it with other social
democratic governments in the hemisphere, and its
independent foreign policy stances with regard to the
Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere.

The US actually intervened in Brazilian politics as
recently as 2005, organising a conference to promote a
legal change that would make it more difficult for
legislators to switch parties. This would have
strengthened the opposition to Lula's Workers' party
(PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but
many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by
the US government was only discovered last year through
a Freedom of Information Act request filed in
Washington. There are many other interventions taking
place throughout the hemisphere that we do not know
about. The United States has been heavily involved in
Chilean politics since the 1960s, long before they
organised the overthrow of Chilean democracy in 1973.

In October 1970, President Richard Nixon was cursing in
the Oval Office about the Social Democratic president of
Chile, Salvador Allende. "That son of a bitch!" said
Richard Nixon on 15 October. "That son of a bitch
Allende - we're going to smash him." A few weeks later
he explained why:

The main concern in Chile is that [Allende] can
consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the
world will be his success ... If we let the potential
leaders in South America think they can move like Chile
and have it both ways, we will be in trouble.

That is another reason that pawns matter, and Nixon's
nightmare did in fact come true a quarter-century later,
as one country after another elected independent left
governments that Washington did not want. The United
States ended up "losing" most of the region. But they
are trying to get it back, one country at a time. The
smaller, poorer countries that are closer to the United
States are the most at risk. Honduras and Haiti will
have democratic elections some day, but only when
Washington's influence over their politics is further


Monday, February 01, 2010

The Southern State of the Union Index

And, we in California thought things were bad here.

The Southern State of the Union

Facing South
January27, 2010
Out of 13 Southern states,* number with unemployment
rates over 10%: 8

Percent of African-Americans unemployed nationally:

Percent of African-Americans unemployed in South
Carolina: 20.4% (#1 in country)

Of 10 states with the lowest median income, number that
are in the South: 8

Of 10 states with the highest number of occupational
fatalities, number in the South: 5

Education spending per pupil in the state of New York:

Education spending per pupil in Tennessee: $7,113

Of 15 states with highest percentage of population
incarcerated, number in the South: 11