Archive for June, 2015

Profits Flow as California Drought Worsens

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

drought pic

California enters the summer in the midst of a historically bad drought that has plagued much of the state for nearly four years. In recent months, Governor Jerry Brown implemented the first water restrictions, highlighted by a 25% decrease in water usage by citizens and non-agriculture businesses. A crisis such as this certainly warrants a response, but what we must ask ourselves is was this an efficient way to address the worst drought California has seen in the last 100 years?


California has been dubbed an agricultural superpower, producing roughly half of the county’s fruits, nuts and vegetables as well as exporting a large amount of agricultural products to China. This agricultural prowess provides jobs to Californians and a sizable portion of the food consumed in the US, yet it is an extremely wasteful process in terms of water use. As Mark Hertsgaard reports, Agriculture uses 80% of the water in California while only contributing 5% of the state GDP.  As the state’s largest water user, why was the agricultural industry spared from the recent restrictions placed on water consumption?


While the recent restrictions on water consumption didn’t include the agricultural industry, the past year has seen federal and state water agencies drastically reducing the amount of water distributed to farmers in California. This has had a major impact on farmer’s lives as a large majority of acres remain unplanted and economic livelihoods lost. However, with a vast amount of resources and capital “Big Agriculture” has been able to continue normal production and has boasted of record profits recently. In the face of a decrease in available water from state and federal agencies, corporate farms have turned to ground water extraction.


The deep pockets of “Big Ag” and lack of state regulation have allowed companies to continue drilling deeper for groundwater, something that the average farmer cannot afford to do. Much of this is due to the political clout of the agricultural industry in California. Billionaires such as Stewart Resnick have been among the top contributors to the political campaigns of California’s top politicians. This clout is evident in the recent fight for ground water legislation, which due to agricultural interests will not be implemented until 2022 and full implementation won’t occur until 2040. Further, agricultural lobbyists continue to fight increases in the price of water which is kept cheap due to federal and state subsidies. California is also the only western dry state without legislation on ground water use. This drilling is at the expense of other Californians, as continued overuse of ground water could destroy aquifers and leave the ground barren.


This turns us back to the question of what type of policy should be in place to get California through an environmental crisis. Should large corporations be allowed to buy their way out of the drought? It’s a simple question, should public policy favor corporate profits over the needs of the masses? Policy should be logical and efficient, California’s recent actions are not.


For more on Big Agriculture and the California drought see the following:


Kevin McElrath


Kevin McElrath is a PhD student in sociology at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on work, economic inequality, and labor markets. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2014 with a BA in sociology. He is an avid sports fan following the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Cavaliers and Duke Blue Devils.





Three important Lessons About Blogging

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

generating idea 03

As a blogger, freelance writer, and regular contributor to Can the Man it is often hard to continue to come up with fresh topics to write about on a daily basis.  While I was stumped on what to write about this week I did a quick internet search to find an exciting topic.


I happened upon the “Blog Post Idea Generator” on   The idea generator is an interesting tool that produces prompts for blog writing.  This tool functions very similarly to writing prompts that I have used in writing classes and workshops to stimulate various writing projects from personal essays to short stories.


When clicking on the generator it produces a kernel of a thought to build on.  The one that was generated for me was “Lessons I have learned…”  This got me thinking about the lessons I have learned about blogging.  After considering it for a while I came up with three of the most important things I have learned about blogging:


1.  Variation:  It is important to vary the content of your blogs.  Blogging can be a great way to explore many different interests.  The short blog format allows one to wade into topics without having to delve deeply.  It is a great excuse to learn about new subjects and expand one’s knowledge.  Variation is also good for growing a readership because it draws more people to your website with diverse interests.  Also, it keeps the content fresh so your readers don’t get bored.


2.  Boosting the blog with Media:  The blog format is conducive to using other types of media than simple text.  Individuals have many different ways that they learn best from visual to audio learners.  So, it is important to utilize the blog format by incorporating other media such as videos and pictures, this creates a richer experience for your readership by catering to various ways people enjoy consuming information.


3.  Keep it Simple:  Blogs are best when they are not too lengthy and don’t consist of lots of complex language.  In much of the academic writing I have done the language must be of a technical nature and often it is bogged down by stuffy jargon.  Blogs should generally be more conversational than many other types of writing, even more so than what you would find in a news magazine like Time or in your daily newspaper.  I usually sign only my first name to the blogs because I feel that I am developing a more intimate connection with the reader, so the formalities can be stripped away.


So these are some of the most important aspects of blogging I have learned over the past few years.  With these tips and tools like the idea generator, you could be well on your way to a blogging career of your own!



Five Important Quotes from Ronald Reagan that offer a Glimpse of the Man behind the Legend

Sunday, June 14th, 2015


Some people view Ronald Reagan as the demigod and other as a demi-clod.  No matter what your opinion of “The Great Communicator,” you have to admit that he produced some entertaining quotes.  Here are five notable utterances from the actor-president.


1.  Reagan on the Military: “You have to remember, we don’t have the military industrial complex we once had, when President Eisenhower spoke about it.”  (1/5/83)


2.  “The Gipper” on Unemployment: “Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.”  (Sacramento Bee, 4/28/66)


3.  Important thoughts on Political Theory: “Fascism’s private ownership, private enterprise, but [with] total government control and regulation.   Well, isn’t this the liberal philosophy?”  (Newsweek, 1/12/76)


4.  Nancy’s husband on the virtues of Nuclear Energy:  “Nuclear power is the cleanest, the most efficient, and the most economical energy source, with no environmental problems.”  (Sierra, 9/10/80)


5.  Reagan’s stand on the Civil Rights Act: “I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at the point of a bayonet, if necessary.”  (L.A. Times, 10/20/65)


Then: “I would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”  (L.A. Times, 6/17/66)



The Patriot Act, The Freedom Act, and the Future of Surveillance

Sunday, June 7th, 2015


Despite its name the Patriot Act has done little to advance causes that benefit most citizens in the United States.  Since the legislation passed in the wake of 9/11 that act has curtailed many rights of citizens for many reasons, including allowing the government unprecedented access to information that citizens once had the right to keep private.


In the wake of Edward Snowden’s leak of information sparked a new debate on how much the United States could spy on its own citizens.  The debate had been raging for weeks in Congress, leading to deep divisions within the Republican Party and across party lines.


What Happened


After a heated debate in congress led by Mitch McConnell who vehemently supports government oversight of U.S. citizens’ in the name of security and Rand Paul who asserts that such programs are curtailing freedoms a decision was reached.  On June 1st Section 215 of the  Patriot Act, the provision that allowed for the National Security Agency’s aggressive information gathering program, was allowed to expire.


The Freedom Act


For those who support the Patriot Act, their reasoning can be boiled down to a single phrase “national security.”  Opponents assert that the premise that the Patriot Act greatly improves national security is deeply flawed and the greater result from the type of security measures that the Patriot Act allows is a curtailment of basic rights.  Other opponents such as Rand Paul contend that the act is an assault of privacy and must be stopped at once.  As a substitute for the protection lost under the Patriot Act, the Freedom Act (another bill with a lofty, but misleading name) would allow government surveillance with additional bureaucratic oversight.   More on the freedom act here.


What Does this Mean?


Allowing Section 215 to elapse is a victory for those who believe that the U.S. government is overreaching its limitations on domestic surveillance.  But the debate will continue to rage and other infringements on civil liberties remain unchecked.


Here are some helpful links for further reading: