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Yasha Levine

Mt. Whitney -- Owens Valley

This story was first published on

The city of Los Angeles recently announced plans to transform Owens Valley into one of the largest sources of solar power in America, outfitting the region with a massive energy farm that would span 80 square miles and generate up to 10 percent of California’s total electricity output. It truly is a monster, able to generate as much as 5 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.5 million homes, dwarfing China’s plans to build the world’s biggest solar farm by a factor of three.

The scale of this energy farm would make a solar panel manufacturer drool: while its total cost has not been disclosed, a test section 1/600th of the project’s final size is expected to cost $50 million. The hefty price tag is why L.A.’s Department of Water and Power (DWP), the city’s giant utility that will build and operate the solar farm, is eager to get cranking, afraid of missing its opportunity to tap into the lucrative government subsidies being handed out for solar and other green energy projects before they disappear. (more…)

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Posted: March 2nd, 2010

Check out this awesome 1987 “conspiracy theory” documentary called “America’s Secret Government,” which connects the Iran-Contra scandal to the secret post-WWII lives of Nazi officials in the US, the manufacture of the “communist threat” as a bullshit excuse to expand American business opportunities abroad, blowback from the CIA-led coup against a democratic Iran in 1953 and ponders if it isn’t unreasonable to assume that our own government had a hand in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Other than the whiney Jackson Browne intro, it’s almost hard to believe you’re watching PBS or any other American TV.

American politicians lying, cheating, robbing and conspiring against the American people? You can just hear the tea baggers screaming about this elitist, anti-American propaganda.: “No way man! Not Ollie North! He’s a great patriotic American and host of Fox’s of ‘War Stories.’ He’d would never do something like this! He was lying for our own good.”

Posted: February 14th, 2010

Tommy Feinstein

This story was first published on

California’s Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein showed Californians who she really serves this past Thursday, when news emerged that she was trying to ram through a massive transfer of precious water out of the hands of millions of state residents, and into the private pockets of a clique of billionaire corporate farmers.

Here’s how the San Francisco Chronicle described the swindle: (more…)

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Posted: February 13th, 2010


This article was first published by AlterNet.

HESPERIA, CA—Say hello to the thing that could save our gas-guzzlin’ suburban lifestyle: affordable residential solar power that’s within reach of the most cash-strapped America consumer. This breakthrough is not a result of technological innovation, but a new financing scheme cooked up on Wall Street called a “residential solar lease,” a no-money-down, low-monthly plan that has made solar electricity cheaper than the stuff we get by wire. It’s an old approach to a new source of energy, and it is taking California by storm. (more…)

Posted: January 16th, 2010


We’ve been lied to for years now about the severity of California’s water shortage. The media and state officials have been ringing the alarm,  warning that the state was in the grips of the quite possibly the “worst California drought in modern history,” when in fact the state nearly pulled in its average rainfall in 2009. The fearmongering is about to go into overdrive, as powerful interests start whipping up fears of drought to push through a $11 billion bond measure on the upcoming November elections, setting up the Golden State for a corporate water grab.


Posted: January 8th, 2010


This article was first published by TruthDig (

Michele Bachmann has become known as the Queen of the anti-government Tea Baggers, protesting health care reform and slamming every other government handout as “socialism.” But what her followers don’t know is that Rep. Bachmann is also a queen of another kind—a welfare queen. That’s right, the anti-government insurrectionist has taken more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts thanks to corrupt farming subsidies she has been collecting for at least a decade.

And she’s not the only one who has been padding her bank account with taxpayer money. (more…)

Posted: December 22nd, 2009

Farm Water

The problem with the water debate, to the extent there is one, is the way it’s spun. Long dominated by eco-warrior do-gooders, the fight for water has been framed as boringly and abstractly as possible. How is the “environment” supposed to register in our primitive brains when 1 out of 5 Americans still think the sun revolves around the earth? In fact, it’s pretty simple what the big struggle for water is all about: the rich fleecing the rest of the country. Fact is, they’ve been treating our water wealth like one giant personal trust fund. And it seems they’ve been hitting up the ATM so often that even NASA’s satellites can see the withdrawals all the way from space: (more…)

Posted: December 16th, 2009


Article originally published by Vice magazine

Prospects have never been good for ex-cons. Even during good economic times they hover between 50 and 75 percent unemployment, and generally take home about nine grand a year. No wonder 70 percent of them wind up violating their parole and getting back in the slammer. Now, with unemployment rates hitting levels unseen since the Great Depression, we might just make it to 100 percent recidivism.


Posted: December 3rd, 2009


This article was first published on AlterNet

What are we getting in return for the bailout? So far, predatory credit card rates, exorbitant bank fees and obscene Wall Street bonuses. But we’re being robbed in other, sneakier ways, too. It seems that taxpayers in the poorest, most vulnerable parts of the county are getting plundered by the same institutions they bailed out. One example is AIG’s underhanded fleecing of residents of rural Kentucky.

Middlesboro and Clinton are two tiny, impoverished towns in southern Kentucky with a combined population of 12,000. In 2008, Middlesboro’s per capita income was $13,189 a year, only a few hundred dollars more than the average worker earned in third-world Mexico. That is if they were lucky to even get a job. (more…)

Posted: November 26th, 2009

This article was first published by TruthDig (

In recent days, students have been rallying and barricading themselves inside buildings on University of California campuses to protest a 32 percent hike in tuition fees. Last Wednesday and Thursday, scuffles broke out between police and student protesters on UC campuses around the state, with dozens of students arrested and a few roughed up by eager cops. The protesters’ mood was combative, and they were boiling with anger that three days of protests had had little visible impact. But the students would be even angrier if they knew that the tuition increase, instead of funding essential services, was going toward securing cushy pensions for baby boomer university employees to the tune of $340 million a year. (more…)

Posted: November 25th, 2009


This article was first published on

A group of water oligarchs in California have engineered a disastrous deregulation and privatization scheme. And they’ve pulled in hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars without any real public outrage. The amount of power and control they wield over California’s most precious resource, water, should shock and frighten us — and it would, if more people were aware of it. But here is the scary thing: They are plotting to gain an even larger share of California’s increasingly-scarce, over-tapped water supply, which will surely lead to shortages, higher prices and untold destruction to California’s environment. (more…)

Posted: November 19th, 2009


How about this for a plan for sprucing up our nation’s crumbling housing projects: ship lazy black folks out to the subprime suburbs, privatize their apartment buildings and hand them over to real estate developers. That’s what T.A. Frank, a New America Foundation think tank shill, thinks Los Angeles needs to do with Jordan Downs, a notoriously dilapidated and crime-wracked project in Watts: (more…)

Posted: November 17th, 2009

housing crash

Here’s yet another depressing area in which Victorville excels: According to the latest Housing Hall of Misery stats released by the National Association of Realtors, the greater San Bernardino metropolitan area came in 3rd place in the race to the bottom of the biggest collapse in last quarter’s home prices. And while it’s not #1, the area did manage to edge out some pretty fast-crashing competition from the likes of Phoenix, Reno, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. (more…)

Posted: November 14th, 2009


Ames emailed me a New York Times blog post from last February by one Casey B. Mulligan–which may sound like a fictional baseball player’s name, but no, he’s real all right, just another in a long line of insane econ professors from the University of Chicago. In the blog post, Mulligan cheerfully announced that when it comes to commercial real estate, we’ve got nothing at all to worry about. There’s no danger of a CRE  crash, like the one we’ve experienced in the residential market, so we can all go back to being happy free market beneficiaries.

No CRE crash? Ha-ha! I just love these Chicago School alchemy frauds! It is truly a joy to see them make such fools of themselves on the permanent public record. And not surprisingly, although Mulligan struck out, he’s still at the plate, batting out barely comprehensible economic fatwahs for the New York Times like nothing ever happened—that’s the kind of free market a real Chicago School economist likes. (more…)

Posted: November 4th, 2009

CNN Slurps Corporate Ass Juice

A few days back, Jon Stewart had a great segment ridiculing CNN for “playing journalist” by getting tough on an SNL skit for “not getting the facts right,” even though CNN regularly allows health insurance shills to trash healthcare reform without subjecting them to the same fact check that they give to the comedy skit.

The sad thing is that CNN’s pro-corporate bias no longer outrages, or even surprises, us. This country is becoming more cynical, accepting the Pravda-ization of its media with a “yeah, no shit” shrug. Kind of like how Russians cynically accepted Pravda long after knowing it was full of shit. We know that there’s an overarching Corporate Party line, and a handful of organs that spread its propaganda. (more…)

Posted: October 16th, 2009

Bank robbery, High Desert

We had ourselves one hell of a crime-filled summer out here in the greater metropolitan area of Victorville. And it’s only getting hotter as the High Desert transitions into the icy nights and gale-force winds of autumn that are starting to roar through. Case-in-point: just in the past week, there were three four bank robberies, a triple homicide, a couple of deadly shootings and a foiled drive-by (and that’s not counting all the usual petty crime and DUI manslaughter stuff). (more…)

Posted: October 9th, 2009


Fuck, why did I listen to the asshole who told me that ground water up here in the desert was some of the cleanest in the nation? I’ve been drinking it straight out the tap for six months now, and just yesterday I found out that I’ve been gulping a whole lot of arsenic down with it.

The EPA recommends that there be no more than 0.02 ppb (parts per billion) in drinking water, and California’s set the limit to 0.01 ppb or less. In Victorville, most recent tests show a concentration of 11 ppb. That’s a 1,100 times over the limit! Let me repeat that: the concentration of arsenic in Victorville’s water is ONE THOUSAND TIMES  over the threshold of safety.


Posted: October 2nd, 2009


This article was first published by Vice magazine.

We do not live in a democracy because America is all about serving the haves and the have-mores: a capitalocracy, where money talks and broke nobodies like you and me walk. Many people vaguely understand this, but I get to see it every day up close and personal in my adopted home of Victorville, California. (more…)

Posted: October 1st, 2009


Once again, the Case/Schiller Index has lived up to its name. All summer long, real estate shills have used it to jack up homebuyer confidence and fluff the housing market. Now, they are doing it again. Just look at the bullshit headlines coming out today:

U.S. Economy: Home Prices Increase by Most Since 2005 . . . US home prices up for third month . . . Index shows home prices rose for 3rd month in July . . . Money Daily Brief: US home prices rise for third straight month . . . Home prices gain for 3rd straight month . . . Denver home prices rise again, getting closer to 2008 levels

Most of this unbridled optimism is based on the just released Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller’s U.S. National Home Price Index data for the month of July, which showed that home prices went up by 1.2% since June. A one-point-two-percent month-over-month increase? Ain’t that something! (more…)

Posted: September 29th, 2009


Border Barrier Blues:
Mexican footpaths on the Arizona side of the fence

Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a depressing audit of the US-Mexico border fence we’ve been trying to put up for the past three years. The report caused about 8 hours of pretend outrage and was promptly forgotten. It found that we’d already shoveled $2.4 billion to half-seal 600 miles of the border since 2005 (we still have about 100 to 200 miles to go) and we would need to spend an additional $6.5 billion over the next 20 years just plugging up holes punched in the fencing.


Posted: September 24th, 2009