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April, 2007



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By Jeanette Pontacq

Last month, there was a giant blip on the face of the artificially-stable world marketplace. China's stock market, mostly controlled by the communist government in power, tripped and fell, sending immediate shockwaves to the rest of the world's markets, which also tripped and fell. The reasons for all the tripping and falling are detailed elsewhere, in varying degrees of honesty and reality by analysts in the main media. Then it was officially swept under the rug by the same talking heads.
What is important for the rest of us mortals to understand is that the recent blip from China should be a wake-up call for investors. When I use the word "investor," I am using it in the modern sense, which includes you and just about everyone else, including everyone in West Marin or West Timbuktu. The result of all the "free trade" plans and agreements put in place over the last 20 years or so has been to make every worker in the world ultimately face the ramifications of having their financial and real lives controlled by political decisions made far, far away.

Our country's massive deficit, via the required interest on the debt, is being financed by China and Japan, along with others. So when China coughs, we will sneeze from now on. The U.S. trade deficit in 2006 rose to an all-time record of $764 billion. The deficit in goods hit $836 billion. The deficit with China alone raised 15 percent, from $203 billion in 2005 to $233 billion in 2006, the largest trade deficit ever recorded between two nations. The deficit with Japan rose to $88 billion, the largest ever between the two countries.

Under Bush, the U.S. trade deficit has set five straight world records, as has the U.S. trade deficit in autos, parts and trucks. For manufactured goods, our trade deficit rose to $536 billion, from $504 billion. In Bush's six years, America has run a total trade deficit of $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods, as 3 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared and wages in that sector have fallen 3 percent in three years.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU? If you hold stocks or equities in the market, even if diversified, you are at direct financial risk from "world affairs." If you don't hold such "papers," but are salaried or dependent for income from others dependent on the market, you are also at risk. In other words, all this free trade stuff that bores you to tears is actually more important to your personal survival then when and if we can extricate ourselves from the stupid war in Iraq.

I would suggest that we all pay attention to the world financial arrangements that are being made mostly out of view. The future of our children and us may depend on it. In the meantime, I also suggest you get out of debt, stop buying cheap stuff from China, support fair trade and hope to hell that China doesn't get mad one day and stop paying for our debt.

Does the National Park hear us?
Back in the 1970s, when the former program for managing the exotic-deer herds through culling was established, for example, the public debated the alternatives, experts of various points of view spoke, and a consensus was reached to maintain the herds at 350 each. And where did all this happen? In public sessions of the Citizens Advisory Commission to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore.

The commission required Congressional reauthorization every few years, and for almost three decades, Congress approved it as beneficial to the public. However, in 2002, its term expired again, and with Republicans in charge of Congress and the White House, the commission was allowed to die.

National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher did not want a Citizens Advisory Commission then nor does he seem to want one now. As park spokesman John Dell'Osso acknowledged several years ago to the Point Reyes Light, the park administration had found the commission sometimes interfering with what park staff felt should be done. The Neubacher administration has further argued that local residents don't speak for all Americans. It's a specious argument since most park visitors are from the nine-county Bay Area and because people here are far more familiar with the park than people in other parts of the country, who typically know little or nothing about it.

Pleas to Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Woolsey to reinstate the Advisory Commission in order to give a voice to locals have not met with success, either during the era of Republican control or under Democratic control. The Democrats fear having a commission stacked with Bush anti-environment types and the Republicans (and the local Park administration) just didn't want local voices countering administration directives for the parks.

The former issue of the pepper-spraying of locals, along with the present issues of controlling the deer population, negating oyster-growing in Drakes Bay or supporting market-rate building on the delicate edges of the pricey Tomales Bay Wetlands restoration, are all issues which could be better decided upon through the crucial interface of the Advisory Commission and the Park Service administration.

The present system of Superintendent Neubacher using an unofficial "kitchen cabinet" of yes-men to make decisions affecting locals is unacceptable. West Marin needs a valid Advisory Commission in place to counter too many directives affecting locals not well thought out by the Park.

Key information for this column was copied from the website of David Mitchell, former editor of the Point Reyes Light, who maintains a personal website at

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