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Posts published in January 2018

Mob boss in the White House

richardson

Every American who has ever pledged "allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands,” should have a shudder running down their spine. At the helm of that republic sits a would-be tyrant who denigrates the rule of law and thinks himself above the law.

In an interview with the New York Times, Donald J. Trump declared: “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” Claiming to have the power to open, or end, an investigation, Trump referenced the Mueller inquiry saying, “[F]or purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.”

His not so cryptic message is both stark and horrible: “If Mueller does not exonerate me, I can – and I will – shut him down.”

Were Trump to attempt to do this, it would be a manifest obstruction of justice, an offense for which he should be impeached and convicted; but we cannot count on the Republicans in Congress to rise to the occasion.

Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and so many of their GOP colleagues have become Trump’s defenders. They have no objectivity, no sense of shame. As former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum has wisely observed, "This isn’t remotely like Watergate. During Watergate, Congress cared whether laws had been broken."

In the same interview, Trump continued his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation – a recusal absolutely required by Justice Department protocol. Trump then claimed that former Attorney General Eric Holder protected President Obama and deemed such “protection” praiseworthy.

Trump has no facts to support his conclusion that Holder “protected” Obama and offers no evidence in support of that assertion. What is profoundly troubling, though, is the unmistakable implication that a good attorney general will protect the president who appointed him. The attorney general serves the country and the constitution, not the president. Trump’s view of the ideal attorney general is a “yes man,” a sycophant, a political hack who will reward his patron with “protection.”

We do not have a president, as our founders envisioned a president; we have a mob boss running a criminal syndicate from the Oval Office. In 2018, we must elect a Congress that understands the difference.
 

Slowing the draw

stapiluslogo1

Do you drink the bottled Arrowhead Spring Water, sold by Nestle?

There may be a little less of it available, depending on how several water rights-related legal tests pan out.

On December 20, the California State Water Resources Control Board told Nestle that it doesn’t have the rights to drew water – or at least, the amount it’s drawing now – from the San Bernardino National Forest.

This situation dates to at least April 2015, when the state began to receive complaints about the company: “The complaint allegations included diversion of water without a valid basis of right, unreasonable use of water, injury to public trust resources, and incorrect or missing reporting, all regarding Nestlé’s diversion of water from springs at the headwaters of Strawberry Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest for bottling under the Arrowhead label. Many of the complainants emphasized their concerns about the impacts of Nestlé’s diversions during California’s recent historic drought.”

To be clear, Nestle did not just walk onto the forest lands and start pumping; it does have a legal argument. It has reported its groundwater diversions to the state, saying they comport with state requirements. It claims a right, for example, that dates back to 1865, and makes use of a 1912 basis for a right that specifically refers to water bottling.

But the amounts have been large: “Over the period from 1947 to 2015, Nestlé’s reported extractions from the springs in the SBNF have averaged 192 acre-feet, or 62.6 million gallons, per year [emphasis added]. Nestlé claims several bases of right for the diversion and use of water from the Strawberry Creek Watershed.”

The legal problem seems to relate to the idea that water bottling on a really large scale is relatively new thing.

For example, the state found that the 1865 water right Nestle says it is using does exist, but it “is limited to riparian uses and is not valid for Nestle’s current appropriative diversion and use of water.”

And although some rights have been reasonably (or at least realistically) used for some diversions, “a significant portion of the water currently diverted by Nestle appears to be diverted without valid basis of right.”

And, there isn’t enough solid information to be able to tell whether the public trust is being harmed by the large-scale diversions.

This is the latest turndown of a major diversion by Nestle (another large rejection, at the Columbia River basin in Oregon, came only weeks earlier) in recent months.

Might this be an indicator that a tide is turning, as it were, on the question of how much water we’re willing to pull out of the ground to fill containers of bottled water?

Could be.
 

Happy New Year!

And welcome to 2018. Before we welcome another year in another 365 days, we should have quite a bit to discuss. We'll be back to get it started tomorrow.

Enjoy!