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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Connecting the Dots: California Wildfires and the US Empire Building in Iraq (ie Blackwater)

For those reading here, I have received several emails asking if my family is safe from the wildfires. Yes, our nuclear family is safe thus far from the actual fires, but to go outside is to breathe in horribly toxic air. The sun is pink and the moon is orange. Where we live, the fires are to the north and the south and the east, but the smoke is engulfing the entire Southland, and that is NOTHING to complain about in comparison to the horrific losses of others. My sister in law lives in Mission Viejo where the fires in Santiago and Trabuco Canyons were started by arsonists. She had cataract surgery yesterday and it is nearly impossible for her to avoid the smoke to her eyes if she is anywhere in the SoCal. Roughly one million people have had to be evacuated, over 1200 homes burned, businesses burned, and lives destroyed which will have to be rebuilt. (that's the latest-but ever changing news) There is just no describing it, the same thing happened a few years ago but not nearly to this extent. SoCal is a disaster area, a true disaster area, some of us affected MUCH more than others. I ask that you pray for those affected and if you wish, to donate to those affected. It is SoCal's Katrina, except it is by fire, rather than by water. Thank you everyone who has asked how we are, I truly truly appreciate that with all my heart.

To tell you the truth, it is impossible to keep up to date on this situation, because new fires are starting everywhere, but this is the latest off of California Fire News

California Firestorm 2007

San Diego County
Witch Fire – 196,240 acres – 20% contained
Poomacha Fire – 35,000 acres – 10% contained
Rice Fire – 9,000 acres – 20% contained
Harris Fire – 75,000 acres – 10% contained
Horno/Ammo Fire – 10,000 acres – 40-50% contained
Wilcox Fire – 100 acres – 100% contained
Cajon Fire – 250 acres – 100% contained
McCoy Fire – 300 acres – 100% contained
Coronado Hills Fire – 300 acres – 100% contained

Los Angeles County
Ranch Fire – 54,716 acres – 70% contained
Canyon Fire – 4,500 acres – 85% contained
Magic Fire – 2,824 acres – 100% contained
Buckweed Fire – 38,356 acres – 100% contained
Meadowridge Fire – 40 acres - 100% contained

San Bernardino County
Slide Fire – 10,152 acres – 0% contained
Grass Valley Fire - 1,100 acres – 30% contained
Martin Fire – 123 acres – 100% contained
Walker Fire – 160 acres 100% contained

Orange County
Santiago Fire – 22,00 acres – 30% contained

Santa Barbara County
Sedgewick Fire – 710 acres – 100% contained

Riverside County
Rosa Fire – 411 acres – 100% contained
Roca Fire – 270 acres – 100% contained

Ventura County
Nightsky Fire – 35 acres – 100% contained

Source: California Fire News

From an email received, thank you David

2 articles to connect dots: Irony of natural disaster and the US empire made disaster of Iraq ravaging CA in tandem.

First article: state officials complaining about danger of inadequate equipt to deal with fires and other disasters since over one billion doll worth of equipt is gone to Iraq or to battle immigrants at the border. Second article: A support solicitation letter on behalf of residents of Potrero, CA (45 mi east of San Diego) who have been battling to stop Blackwater from building the largest private mercenary training headquarters in north America. They were on the verge of a special recall election to get rid of those on the planning commission who colluded with Blackwater to sell the land, when the fires wiped out the election for now.


State National Guard warns it's stretched to the limit

Friday, May 11, 2007

Carlos Arellano of Pittsburg says goodbye to his wife, Ch...

(05-11) 04:00 PDT Sacramento -- As state forestry officials predict an unusually harsh fire season this summer, the California National Guard says equipment shortages could hinder the guard's response to a large-scale disaster.

A dearth of equipment such as trucks and radios -- caused in part by the war in Iraq -- has state military officials worried they would be slow in providing help in the event of a major fire, earthquake or terrorist attack.

The readiness of the Guard has been described as a national problem and has become a political liability for the Bush administration, which came under fire this week when the governor of Kansas complained that the National Guard response to a devastating tornado in her state was inadequate. National Guard readiness has become a growing concern as the Guard has taken on extra responsibilities caused by the Iraq war and the increased threat of terrorism.

In California, half of the equipment the National Guard needs is not in the state, either because it is deployed in Iraq or other parts of the world or because it hasn't been funded, according to Lt. Col. John Siepmann. While the Guard is in good shape to handle small-scale incidents, "our concern is a catastrophic event,'' he said.

"You would see a less effective response (to a major incident),'' he said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also acknowledged the National Guard's equipment woes and attributed them to the war. National Guard policy has required that much of the equipment that goes with units to Iraq stays there.

"A lot of equipment has gone to Iraq, and it doesn't come back when the troops come back,'' Schwarzenegger said Thursday at a news conference in Sacramento, where he was asked about the National Guard. "So this is one thing we have been talking about, how do we get this equipment back as quickly as possible in case we need it, and we also need it for training.''

Schwarzenegger and other state officials say they are confident the Guard could handle most emergencies, however, noting that about 2,500 guard personnel are deployed overseas out of a force of more than 20,000.

"We are ready to respond, and we will respond to anything,'' Siepmann said, noting that problems would arise only in the case of a major problem on par with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

And the National Guard is not the only agency charged with dealing with major emergencies: Bill Maile, a spokesman for the governor, noted the state had a well-choreographed emergency management system tying together local jurisdictions and state agencies like the Office of Emergency Services.

The National Guard performs a wide range of activities during emergencies, such as helping to fight fires, evacuating residents and providing security and supplies.

Siepmann said the Guard's aerial equipment that is used to fight fires, such as C-130 airplanes and CH-47 helicopters, was in good shape. But officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have noted that a dry winter could lead to a particularly bad fire season.

Two fires in Southern California this week have prompted concerns that the season is starting unusually early.

The California National Guard is missing about $1 billion worth of equipment of all types, according to a Guard listing provided to The Chronicle. Much of the equipment would be useful in handling events like electricity blackouts, earthquakes or other emergencies.

For example, guidelines suggest the Guard should have 39 diesel generators on hand, but it has none. Guidelines suggest having 1,410 of a certain type of Global Positioning Satellite device; the Guard has none of those.

Some of the equipment is in Iraq, Afghanistan or other parts of the world -- 209 vehicles, including 110 humvees and 63 military trucks that could be used to transport troops or supplies, are out of the state. The Guard has only 62 percent of the vehicles it believes it needs in California.

Other equipment has not been funded by the federal government, which provides virtually all of the National Guard's budget.

Some equipment and about 1,400 California National Guard personnel are deployed along the Mexican border as part of a directive by President Bush to help bolster border security, but Siepmann said those troops could be quickly redeployed around the state if needed.

Bush was assailed this week by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who said the National Guard in her state was limited in its response to a tornado last Friday that flattened the town of Greensburg and killed at least 11 people. Sebelius said the state's military was missing trucks, bulldozers and helicopters that could have helped secure the town and search for survivors.

The White House insisted it had provided Kansas with all of the supplies it requested.

But around the country, concern is growing about the National Guard's ability to handle emergencies.

The head of the National Guard told a congressional committee in March that Army National Guard units have on average just 40 percent of their required equipment on hand and that bolstering supplies to a proper level would require an extra $40 billion. And an independent commission created by Congress to study the National Guard called the equipment shortage unacceptable in a report this year.

The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves noted the new responsibilities imposed on the Guard since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Iraq war have led to a utilization of National Guard personnel and equipment that "is not sustainable over time.''

The overuse of the National Guard overseas and limited federal funding for equipment to be used in the country could lead to a situation in California similar to the one in Kansas, said state Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who is chairman of a legislative committee on emergency services and homeland security.

"These are policies that are putting California residents in jeopardy,'' said Nava, who is planning hearings on Guard readiness this summer.

California National Guard

-- Current strength: 20,059

-- On federal active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere: 2,500 (approximate)

-- Killed in action: 23 (all in Iraq)

-- Serving on the Mexican border: 1,400

-- Available for state missions: 16,000

E-mail Mark Martin at



Dear Tom,

As I write this, massive fires are raging across Southern California. While it is quiet and normal at my house in Los Angeles, I can see smoke in the distance and smell it in the air. And I keep thinking about the good people of Potrero -- a serene small community in East San Diego County -- that I met just a few weeks ago as we rallied together to block Blackwater from building a base in their tiny, beautiful town.
These concerned community members have been working for months to stop Blackwater from building
a mercenary training facility on 824 acres, consisting of 11 firing ranges, a helipad, and an emergency vehicle operator's course covering the equivalent of 10 football fields. As we watch the fire burn across the area today, one can only imagine what might have happened if an armory full of ammunition and explosives were located inside this box canyon.
I was inspired and proud to march with the good folks of Potrero, people who are not usually political, but who know that if they do not stand up against Blackwater in their own community, then no one will.
We need to show our support for the people of San Diego County at this difficult time. Click here to send a brief message to Potrero residents expressing your support and then consider sending a donation to the San Diego Foundation's "After the Fires Fund":
Beyond the damage and destruction to life and property, the timing of this wildfire could not be much worse. This fire exploded just as the people of Potrero were preparing for a recall election on December 11 to kick out the planning group members who approved Blackwater's base. With ballots scheduled to be mailed in early November to less than 600 registered voters in this historic vote-by-mail recall, Potrero residents were preparing for an intense campaign over the next six weeks.
But the actual landscape -- and the political landscape -- of Potrero have been transformed over the last 48 hours.
There's no time to waste. On Sunday, if the situation permits, I will travel down to Potrero with my Courage Campaign colleagues Eden James and Julia Rosen. If we are able, we will hand-deliver your notes of support to the people of Potrero, survey the damage and determine how we can help them move forward.

Please click here to watch a brief YouTube preview of a documentary film being made about the battle over Blackwater and the people of Potrero. Then consider sending a donation, and let them know that you are behind them:

Jan Hedlun and Carl Meyer are two Potrero residents featured in the documentary film produced by Alternate Focus that you can watch at the link above. Although she is not identified, Jan is the first woman appearing on-screen, describing how the Potrero residents "first heard of Blackwater."

Just last Sunday, as we were about to talk with both Jan and Carl by conference call about how to help them block Blackwater's base, news broke of a huge fire moving towards Potrero. We spoke with Jan again that evening but, despite many repeated attempts, we have not heard back from either Jan or Carl since Sunday night. While we assume they are OK, reports from East San Diego County have been unclear and we remain deeply concerned.

Obviously, the last thing Jan, Carl and their fellow concerned citizens can think about right now is Blackwater and the recall election. But I can guarantee you that Blackwater is thinking about nothing BUT that recall election. From what we understand, Blackwater is already crafting arguments to defend their proposed base and play on people's emotions during this crisis. Blackwater will likely argue that their base will not increase fire danger in San Diego County even as they plan to build it in a brushy, dry box canyon with only one way in and one way out.

We need to be there for Jan and Carl and everyone in Potrero. After watching the YouTube video, will you consider sending a donation to the "After the Fires Fund" or a note showing your support for the people of Potrero? On Sunday, we'll hand-deliver the note for you:

While the good people of Potrero are focused on recovering from this disaster, we will continue to keep you updated on the other disaster threatening their community -- Blackwater's plans to build a mercenary base on their pristine land, just a few miles from the California border.

Thank you again for everything you are doing to support the people of Potrero.

Rick Jacobs

P.S. Three weeks ago, we asked you to sign your name to a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer about Blackwater's base, including a warning about Potrero's "fire-prone landscape":

"Not only will Blackwater's proposed California paramilitary base disrupt the lives of its residents, but it will also threaten the pristine natural habitat of the Round Potrero Valley, which includes part of Cleveland National Forest and is adjacent to the proposed Hauser Wilderness preserve. The regular detonation of firearms would be a risk both to the fire-prone landscape as well as to the wildlife that currently calls that area home, including the golden eagle and the California condor."

Despite this ominous warning, Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer have failed to respond. The residents of Potrero and San Diego County can't wait for politicians to act to reduce the fire danger posed by Blackwater. That's why the Courage Campaign is getting involved now.

To show your support in their time of need, please consider sending a donation to the "After the Fires Fund" and a note of support to the people of Potrero:

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