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(photo by Bubba Hotep)

Fire is a natural part of California’s ecosystems. For nearly five centuries – since the first European “discoverers” encountered the Native residents of California -self-serving lies by the most powerful have been a perennial feature of California’s political ecology.

Power’s servants found elegant – even divine – excuses for the enslavement and extermination of the state’s First Peoples.

In The Age of “Discovery”, Europeans sailed off killing and looting because it was what God them to do. How could they know? Well, God’s representative to the (Catholic) world – the guy who just happened to get a big hunk of the treasure – the Pope said all this killing and looting was part of saving souls. The Pope’s servants in California were so concerned about souls they built a whole chain of missions slave labor camps spaced a day’s ride apart – just so none of the Indians’ heathen souls would be too far from salvation – or the service of the Spanish Crown.

For Drake, he knew his work was Divine ’cause Her Majesty the Queen – the gal who got the big hunk of Drake’s looted treasure – said all this killing and looting was part of her Divine Right of Queens.

Up the Coast at Fort Ross, the Russians who forced the Pomo Indians into enslavement (by murdering the men and taking the women and children and women for rape and work camps) killed and stole for the sacred glory of the Tsar.

After word of the gold strike at Sutter’s mill spread in 1848, goldseekers from all over America (and the rest of the planet) flooded California – bringing diseases for which Native California had no immunity. In seeking their sacred metal, the 49′ers poured across California – bringing infectious diseases unknown to the First Peoples – or their immune systems.

In our sacred duty to civilize Native Californians – part of that whole Manifest Destiny gig – US Army troops pitched in, vigorously assisting the locals in killing and subjugating the pesky Natives resisting forced labor, rape, and slavery.

In May of 1850, a detachment of Army regulars led by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon entered the Clear Lake area to punish the Indians….. Unable to find the band of slaves who had fled, they attacked a small Pomo village, Badonnapoti, on an island on the north side of the lake — later called Bloody Island by the Pomo.

[snip]

Men, women, and children, unable to flee, were massacred by the U.S. Army there. On their way home, the troops continued their bloody actions, massacring every Indian group they encountered — mostly Pomo groups. …

The Northern Californian which covered it differently, told of “Indiscriminate massacre of innocent Indians — Women and children butchered” covering the details of the brutal Bloody Island slaughter with hatchets and axes of 188 peaceful men, women and children in their villages. The youthful editor, western short-story writer Bret Harte, then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob, which smashed his printing press for daring to tell the truth about it.

[snip]

The massacre and round-ups of the Pomo took place …. just 1 year after the U.S. took control of California, after its victory in the Mexican war.

When it comes to fine words and lofty ideologies to justify heinous deeds, the rest of the world ain’t got nothin’ on California.

Jonestown; massacre of the Pomos at Bloody Island; the Manson cult’s murders; UFO suicide cults….

If some whacko somewhere on our unhappy planet can invent a religious excuse for mayhem and murder, true believers somewhere in the Golden State will rush to the next cult – and start the killing.

Or re-start the killing, to be more precise.

Which brings us to the modern-day cultist Frank Knight.

Frank Knight is a truly fortunate cultist – his cult belief makes a few people whole pile of money.

And those few people love them their Frank Knight.

And those few people sacrifice us – using his cult as the excuse for a merciless ideology of greed and mass killing through neglect and violence.

In her comprehensive work The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein observes:

Knight, one of the founders of of Chicago School economics, thought professors should “inculcate” in their students the belief that economic theory is a “sacred feature of the system”, not a debatable hypothesis.

Ahh – a religious theory cloaked as an economic belief.

What a perfect closed system – impermeable to rational assessment or disproof.

But what does the God of the Market have to do with the SoCal infernos?

I mean – everyone knows SoCal has Santa Anas and wildfire, right?

Yep – they do.

In fact, wildfires are such a certainty the former San Diego Fire Chief quit two years ago – he couldn’t get the funds he needed to protect the city through CA’s political processes

April 5, 2006

San Diego Fire Chief Jeff Bowman said there wasn’t enough time or money to fix the city’s broken fire system.

In announcing his resignation yesterday, Bowman said he was tired, frustrated, worried about his health and ready to leave.

He said he would step down June 30.

[snip]

Ron Saathoff, president of the San Diego City Fire Fighters Union, said in a statement: “Firefighters, and all of San Diego, are better served because of Chief Bowman’s efforts.”

Almost since the day he took over four years ago, Bowman was clear on one thing: A community constantly at risk for a deadly wildfire should be better prepared for a major disaster. He said it to just about anyone who would listen.

He pointed the finger at City Hall and said no one had the courage to raise taxes.

I[snip]

After the 2003 wildfires, Bowman publicly ripped city officials for underfunding the department. “This city has not prepared itself for even day-to-day events,” he said during a meeting with The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board. “We did not have enough resources to handle the fire. For a county with the risk that this one has, I’m absolutely amazed at the lack of resources.”

Bowman, whose firefighters ran out of batteries for portable radios while battling the flames, took a similar tone five months ago when a reporter asked about the wildfire season.

“This is the most understaffed fire agency I’ve ever seen,” he said of a department with 875 firefighters and 45 stations.

He said the city should have 20 more fire stations, which would cost $100 million to build and equip. It would take an additional $40 million a year to operate them.

“So when you start adding all that up, that begins to explain why it’s not being done today,” he said.

Gee – just four years ago in San Diego, the Cedar fire (and firestorm) killed 22 people and caused huge economic losses. Why wouldn’t the stridently pro-business types who infest San Diego politics (and the City and County governments) spend the money to keep business going strong? Because the Club For Greed Growth will spank them – hard:

Club for Growth President Stephen Moore, head of a 6,000-member group that is frequently at odds with Republican strategists who favor pragmatism over ideology.

If there is any single role that Club for Growth plays, it is to hold Republicans accountable for votes that betray the Republican agenda,” said Moore, who hopes to discover and nurture the next generation of Ronald Reagans. “We think we play an important role in disciplining the party.”

Frequently that means challenging a Republican incumbent or candidate who is backed by the party’s establishment but does not support the club’s vision of tax and budget cuts, Social Security privatization and free trade.

The club targets primary races, where the dollars go farther and the group’s conservative ideology is more in tune with hard-core Republican voters, Moore said.

“We have a lot of members who are more driven by ideology than party,” Moore said during an interview in his office, rented from a Washington law firm. “We think we are starting to change the culture of the party.”

The club spent more than $2 million in 2000 in 17 races, winning 10 of them. This year it has backed about a dozen candidates in primaries and will support a total of about 20.

[snip]

With a membership list dominated by Wall Street financiers and executives, Club for Growth expects to become even more influential under new campaign finance regulations that limit soft-money donations to parties.

It models itself after Emily’s List, the liberal group that raises money mostly for Democratic candidates favoring abortion rights, by “bundling” donations to its hand-picked candidates. It asks members to write checks to the candidate but send them to club headquarters in Washington, which then passes them on.

That allows the club to be responsible for far more in donations than it otherwise would be allowed, boosting its clout and, Moore hopes, spreading its influence.

“We’re trying to let candidates know that if they ever voted for a tax increase, we’ll never support them and in fact we’ll work to defeat them,” he said. “We’re trying to get the word out to even the lowest grass-roots level that if you’re a Republican you aren’t allowed to vote for taxes.”

But what does the Club For Greed Growth have to do with jolly ‘ol Grover Norquist and his bathtub?

The Club for Growth (which shares an office with Americans for Limited Government) is an offshoot of the Cato Institute (which was founded by the Kochs, who also created Citizens for a Sound Economy, predecessor of Freedomworks), and was originally headed up by Stephen Moore, former Director of Fiscal Policy at Cato. The Club for Growth has a history of funneling contributions to candidates hand-picked by Tom DeLay. Paul Jacob of US Term Limits (which also shares an office with Washington initiative backer Americans for Limited Government and has been involved in Oregon term limits efforts), Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform , and Pat Toomey (and predecessors) of the Club for Growth are very clearly connected, both personally and philosophically.

The Club for Growth Founders Committee includes Brent Bozell, an in-law to William F. Buckley, of National Review, where former Club For Growth President Stephen Moore is a contributing editor (Moore also was chief economist and assistant to Dick Armey when Armey chaired Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, and Dick Armey is Co-Chair of Freedomworks, formerly Citizens for a Sound Economy and backer of Oregon initiatives). Norquist’s ATR offices were the weekly meeting place for Tom DeLay’s K Street Project. Obviously, these groups are really the same characters operating through several interconnected entities.

[snip]

….at the Club for Growth, for example (the group that shares the same address as Americans for Limited Government): One board member, Lawrence Kudlow, came from the Bear Stearns investment bank, known for money laundering. (Incidentally, Kudlow also is the economics editor for National Review Online.)

But what does Grover have to do with California and the CA Rethugs?

Norquist–president of Americans for Tax Reform and arguably Washington’s leading right-wing strategist–is rushing from meetings on Capitol Hill to strategy sessions with antitax activists. One minute he’s putting the finishing touches on planned demonstrations in Washington and all fifty state capitals on tax-return filing day; the next he is juggling appearances on right-wing talk-radio shows and stints on MSNBC and Fox. And, as he has for nearly eight years, Norquist is coordinating the agenda for his signature event, the regular “Wednesday meeting” that draws more than a hundred representatives of conservative groups to a standing-room-only conference room at his organization’s L Street offices.

[snip]

A Harvard-educated intellectual and self-conscious student of the left, over the past decade Norquist has eclipsed such older stalwarts as Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation to emerge as the managing director of the hard-core right in Washington. But while firmly planted on the extreme end of the political spectrum, Norquist has also built a solid working alliance with the Fortune 500 corporate elite and its K Street lobbyists. “What he’s managed to do is to chain the ideological conservatives together with the business guys, who have money, and to put that money to work in the service of the conservative movement,” says Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future, who’s repeatedly clashed with Norquist. [snip]

Graduating just in time to sign up with the burgeoning tax-revolt movement in the late 1970s, Norquist did a stint with the National Taxpayers Union and then returned to Harvard for graduate school. Trekking back to Washington after Ronald Reagan was elected, Norquist took over as executive director of the College Republicans, a post that brought him into contact with the rising stars of a new generation of right-wing activists, many of whom are his allies today. After a couple of interim stops, in 1986 Norquist was tapped by President Reagan’s White House to run an ad hoc group called Americans for Tax Reform, an in-house operation to build support for the 1986 tax bill. Soon afterward, Norquist took ATR private, and he has run it ever since.

[snip]

Norquist used to do some work as a lobbyist–at one point he was on a $10,000-a-month retainer for Microsoft and at another he lobbied on behalf of the Seychelles, an island republic in the Indian Ocean–but those ventures brought him bad publicity and he no longer takes private clients. Instead, he draws a retainer as a consultant and strategist for a lobbying firm he helped to found, Janus-Merritt Strategies, which represents Seagram, BP, Universal Studios and a wide range of Mexican industrial groups.

[snip]

Norquist has also organized seventeen conservative groups under the umbrella of the American Conservative Union to support Bush’s plan, even though most of them, including ATR and ACU, would prefer even more sweeping tax cuts.

[snip]

Norquist serves on the ten-person executive council of the Tax Relief Coalition, set up by the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the US Chamber of Commerce. More than 700 corporations and trade associations have joined the Tax Relief Coalition, with eighty paying $5,000 each to be part of its steering committee. The group divvies up responsibility for lobbying individual members of the House and Senate as individual pieces of the package move forward.

Gee. Grover cut his teeth with the National Taxpayers Union on his way to be ED for the College Rethugs…and then was hand-picked by the Reaganites for further mayhem.

Now what does the NTU have do with CA politics and buying fire trucks and aircraft?

Grover Norquist was NTU’s Executive Director before being tapped by
the Reagan White House to head Americans for Tax Reform.

[snip]

Pro-tax cut Activities:
NTU’s main focus is lobbying Congress. NTU bills its congressional scorecards as “the only
scorecard that grades Senators and Representatives on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy,
including taxes and regulation.”

Upper Brackets: The Right’s Tax Cut Boosters

Right-wing foundations that help fund NTUF include: Scaife, John M. Olin and JM Foundations.

Quotes about NTU:

“My Administration came to Washington to achieve many of the goals shared by the National
Taxpayers Union – Reduction of income taxes rates, control of government spending…NTU’s
support for the across-the-board tax rate reduction and income tax indexing helped pave the way
for Congressional adoption during the first years of this Administration.”
Former President Ronald Reagan

“The National Taxpayers Union…is the Grand-daddy of the tax revolt organizations.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“After Howard Jarvis’ victory on California’s landmark Proposition 13 tax-limitation referendum
in 1978, the NTU helped to convert the victory into national momentum for the Reagan agenda.”

Human Events

Now who cares about Prop 13 and Howard Jarvis, anyway?

“It is an absolute truth — had we had more air resources we would have been able to control this fire” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather said.

[snip]

Local firefighters — who saw support from the state and other outside agencies Tuesday for the first time, including four air tankers, two helicopters and more than 100 firefighters — were told not to expect many more resources in the near future.

“We put in a request for a lot of outside resources that just plain are not available,” Capt. Stephen Miller said. “As you’re seeing what’s going on in Southern California, everybody’s stretched pretty thin.”

Even firefighters on the scene were occasionally pulled back because of the blaze’s unpredictable behavior.

Early Tuesday, firefighters from Station 16, a tight-knit volunteer station in Modjeska, stopped at the mouth of the canyon with tears in their eyes, helpless as their and their neighbors’ homes were threatened by flames.

Well, OC Fire Authority Chief Prather, for one.

For another, SD Fire Chief Bowman – the fellow who retired last year ’cause SD pols wouldn’t push for taxes.

You see, Prop 13 and the no-tax cult are the Holy Relics of CA Rethuglican politics.

Prop 13 not only holds megacorps’ property taxes at absurdly low levels, but also requires a 2/3 super majority to pass local special spending districts – like fire districts.

Thanks, Howard Jarvis, Grover, and Club for Greed Growth.

After all, Southern Californians – all 22 million of ‘em – are far less important than your free-market cult.

Ahhulnd sure thinks so – he falls right into line with Grover and the Club for Greed Growth:

What Ahhnuld failed to mention is that he vetoed four bills that would have increased staffing and fire resources after the Cedar Fire, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. A fifth bill, signed by Schwarzenegger, requires local governments to first submit safety plans to the California Department of Forestry and will not take effect until 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported in a May 20, 2007 article titled “Fire danger acute as 2003 lessons fade.” …..

The same story cited Dallas Jones, former director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and current official with California Professional Firefighters union. Jones damned Schwarzenegger for failing to provide additional firetrucks. “How many years are we since the ’03 fire siege?” he asked, “and so far, nothing.”

Other unfulfilled recommendations made to Schwarzenegger by his Blue Ribbon Fire Commission include replacement of aging fire helicopters, increasing staffing to assure four person crews on each state fire engine sent to major wildfires, and nighttime air drops.

A national contract fleet of heavy air tankers has fallen from 41 to 16 in the last five years, with aging aircraft deemed unsafe and grounded. The state firefighting fleet has not replaced two air tankers that crashed, the L.A. Times reported.

CNN reports that only 1,500 National Guard have been sent to assist Californians during the current wildfire crisis—less than 1/10 of the state’s 20,000 National Guard members. Clearly having the bulk of our National Guards forces deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan have hindered emergency response here at home.

Some improvements have been made since the Cedar Fire, including coordination with the military to help combat fires, but even those are inadequate. Four Marine helicopters at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station are equipped with buckets to fight San Diego’s fires—but remain grounded because Cal Fire officials insist the choppers can’t fly without state fire crew spotters on board – and there are none available. Not even Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), former chair of the House Armed Service Committee has yet been able to resolve this bureaucratic SNAFU.

So even when outside aircraft may be available, Cal Fire doesn’t have enough money to get spotters on all the planes.

Thanks, Ahhnuld.

Nice you can find time to listen to the Club For Greed Growth.

Too bad you couldn’t bother to listen to your own Blue Ribbon Fire Commission.

But the Commission’s merely concerned about our survival.

By vetoing firefighting funds and pleasing the the Club For Greed Growth and the anti-tax cult, Ahhnuld’s working for his survival – as a pol.

Just as SD pols on the city and County level, CA pols on the State level, and pols on the Federal level have learned to do.

You see, for the Chicago School, their enforcers in the Club for Greed Growth, and the uber-wealthy families still bitter about the New Deal, our lives are just a game.

They seek plenty – and beyond – for their families.

That’s why Ahhnuld lives in Brentwood, not Compton.

For the rest of us, the cult of the free-market means no spare capacity – ever. In the cult’s world, any unused capacity in the public sector is evil.

If you’ve been to an ER, you’ve seen the consequences of no surge capacity and forty years of deliberate disinvestiment under the free-market cult.

If you live in Southern California, you’re smelling the consequences of no surge capacity and forty years of deliberate disinvestment. The wealthiest state in the nation can easily afford enough Cal Fire staff to put on every outside plane available in time of crisis. The wealthiest state in the nation can afford to purchase and maintain a far larger fleet of firefighting aircraft -and enough firefighters and equipment and supplies and stations so that every fire season is not a desperate effort to spread too few brave men and women over too many fires.

And California is still wealthy enough to reclaim her rightful place as leading the nation is school funding and academic performance – as well as transportation and infrastructure.

But so long as Grover Norquist and the Club For Greed Growth threaten craven pols like Ahhnuld to put their next election ahead of our own welfare, it won’t happen.

And so long as any greedy billionaire can buy enough airtime to fool one-third of our poorly educated voters into acting against our own welfare, we’ll have an uphill fight.

Yet – as expensive as the free-market cult tells us taxes may be -

the price of doing nothing will remain catastrophe and conflagration.

Which – if you’re Grover, the Club for Greed Growth, or Arnold – is all in a day’s work.