Sunday, January 31, 2016

Do Not Support The Wounded Warrior Project. You're Being Scammed.

Overhead is the best measure of how charitable a charity actually is.  About 40 percent of Wounded Warrior’s donations in 2014 were spent on its overhead, or about $124 million, for marketing costs and administrative expenses, including lavish travel, dinners, hotels and conferences, according to a disturbing New York Times report.  That is far more than for many veterans charities, including the Semper Fi Fund, a wounded-veterans group that spent only about 8 percent of donations on overhead.  Then there is my favorite vets' charity, Puppies Behind Bars, which trains prison inmates to raise service pooches for wounded war vets and bomb sniffers for law enforcement.

Concepcion Picciotto (January 15, 1936 ~ January 26, 2016)


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mary Pinchot Meyer's Most Enigmatic Life & Oh So Weirdly Mysterious Death

When the body of Mary Pinchot Meyer was found in October 1964 on a wooded towpath in Washington's Rock Creek Park, the apparent victim of a random murder, she was mourned by friends as a beautiful Georgetown socialite who in the years since her divorce from a high-ranking CIA official had blossomed into an abstract painter with an independent streak that included affairs with President Kennedy and other powerful men.
It was obvious that the exceedingly discreet Meyer knew things that she wasn't supposed to know. Her sister and friends quickly found and secreted her diary and a high-ranking CIA official destroyed her other papers, leading to speculation that her death was somehow related to Kennedy's assassination. Rumors also have persisted that she turned on the young president to marijuana, as well as LSD that she had gotten from Timothy Leary.
Daughter of journalist Ruth Pickering and Amos Pinchot, a wealthy lawyer and key Progressive Party figure, Mary was raised at Grey Towers, a delightfully quirky estate in northeastern Pennsylvania that I have visited. She grew up in the midst of left-wing intellectuals, swam nude under the estate's waterfalls, rode horseback, played a mean game of tennis and dinned with her family in the Finger Bowl, a water table where food was sent out by servants on balsa wood rafts that were floated from diner to diner with gentle pushes.
Mary attended exclusive Brearley School in Manhattan and Vassar College, where she became interested in Communism, but left Vassar to become a journalist and wrote for United Press and Mademoiselle. Not just another pretty face, she was a bohemian of a sort and a woman who sought to dictate the terms of her own life in a man's world. She became a pacifist and as a member of the American Labor Party came under the scrutiny of the FBI.
Cord Meyer, a Yale graduate and Marine Corps lieutenant who had lost his left eye from a shrapnel injury suffered in combat on Guam, came into Meyer's life in 1942 and then again two years later. Attracted by his lean good looks, pacifism and support for a world government that was much the vogue in intellectual circles in the post-war years, they were married by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1945.
Mary settled into a housewife's life and she and Cord eventually had three sons, one of whom was to die when he was struck by a car. Her husband became president of the United World Federalists, but in the early 1950s began to re-evaluate his views as the American Communist Party infiltrated the organization.
In 1951, Allen Dulles, the first civilian director of the CIA, approached Cord and in what on its face appeared to be an extraordinary career change, he agreed to become the principal covert operative of Operation Mockingbird, which infiltrated and influenced domestic and foreign media. It was, in fact, a logical move.
Cord had never been a revolutionary as much as a pragmatist, while the communist-fighting CIA was an extension of the secret Yale societies of which he was a part. No fewer than 42 members of Cord's Class of 1942 had joined the CIA's predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services. Mary may also have done some work for the CIA during this period. She was a "cleared wife," considered to not be a risk to blab any secrets her husband might mutter in his sleep, but her fondness for spur-of-the-moment love affairs reportedly made the agency wary of her.
Cord's appointment marked a huge shift in the Meyer's lives. They moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. and then to the Georgetown neighborhood just as it was becoming the political and social center of the city.
The Meyers became highly visible members of capital society. Their friends included powerful journalists and even more powerful CIA officials, including legendary counter-intelligence officer James Angleton, who would destroy Mary's papers after her murder, and Mary and Frank Wisner, who was Cord's boss. Then there was neophyte Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, with whom Mary would become close.
Mary, encouraged by Cord, devoted what spare time she had to her painting and remained aloof of the social scene until she became a regular visitor at the Kennedy White House.
When Mary filed for divorce from Cord in 1958, many friend were shocked, but the marriage had been on the rocks for years. Both had had numerous affairs, including Mary's liaisons with an Italian gigolo who sailed around the Mediterranean on a yacht with his dog. He promised to marry but eventually jilted her.
Mary remained a dutiful mother to her two surviving sons, and in her spare time resume painting in a converted garage studio behind the Georgetown home of her sister Tony and her husband, rising Washington Post star Ben Bradlee.

Mary and Kennedy reportedly had about 30 trysts, most of them in 1962 and many at the White House when Jackie was out of town. No matter, the First Lady was aware of these goings-on and remain a good friend of Mary's.
In January 1963, Post publisher Philip Graham  revealed the ongoing affair to a meeting of newspaper editors, but his claim was never reported in the media. Although the president's philanderings were well known among the press corps and Georgetown elite, this was an era decades before the term "semen-stained dress" had entered the national vocabulary.
Ever the experimenter, Mary was turned on to LSD by Timothy Leary in 1962 and reportedly smoked marijuana and tripped with Kennedy during many of their trysts. Leary later claimed that Mary had influenced the president's "views on nuclear disarmament and rapprochement with Cuba."
On October 12, 1964, eleven months after Kennedy's assassination and two weeks after the Warren Commission report was made public, Mary finished a painting and went for a walk along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath in Georgetown. A mechanic trying to fix a car on Canal Road heard a woman cry out, "Someone help me, someone help me." He heard two gunshots and ran to a low wall looking over the path where he saw "a black man in a light jacket, dark slacks, and a dark cap standing over the body of a white woman."
Mary's body had two bullet wounds, one at the back of the head and another in her heart. An FBI forensic expert later said "dark haloes on the skin around both entry wounds suggested they had been fired at close-range, possibly point blank.
Minutes later a disheveled, soaking wet African-American man named Raymond Crump was arrested near the murder scene. No gun was found and Crump was acquitted after a trial at which Mary's background was kept from his lawyer, Dovey Johnson Roundtree,  and the jury.
"It was as if she existed only on the towpath on the day she was murdered," Roundtree later said.
Mary had told close friend Ann Truitt to retrieve her diary -- actually a sketchbook with paint swatches and some writing -- if anything ever happened to her. Truitt was living in Tokyo when the murder occurred and called Angleton and Bradlee to ask if they had found the diary.
What happened next remains a matter of dispute.
"We didn't start looking until the next morning," Bradlee recalled. "Mary's house . . . was locked, as we had expected, but when we got inside, we found James Angleton, and to our complete surprise he told us he, too, was looking for Mary's diary."
Tony and Ben Bradlee later found Angleton trying to pick a padlock at Mary's studio. After he left, Tony found the diary and many letters in a metal box. These were given to Angleton, who later claimed he burned the diary, in which he said Mary wrote that she and Kennedy had taken LSD before "they made love," but then returned it to Tony many years later, who then burned it herself in Ann Truitt's presence.
Several of the key players believe that Mary would not have wanted Angleton to have been involved, while his role in the events after her death and his pursuit of papers that mentioned Kennedy or his assassination has made her private life seem like a matter of national security.
Some insiders have stated that while Mary's diary detailed her intimate relationship with the president, it gave no suggestion that she knew anything about the assassination.
Cord Meyer publicly stated that he was convinced that Crump had murdered Mary, a response to be expected from an Agency man. But years later, literary biographer C. David Heymann claimed that when he asked Cord who had murdered Mary six weeks before his death in 2001, he reportedly hissed back, "The same sons of bitches that killed John F. Kennedy."

Portions of this post originally were published in June 2010.  It is based, in part, on Nina Burleigh's A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer (1999). The movie An American Affair (2009) was based on the book.

Paul Kantner (March 17, 1941 ~ January 28, 2016)


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Politix Update: It's The GOP Way As Palin & Snyder Blow Teachable Moments

While I dislike the term teachable moment, it does convey a certain gravitas while flirting with being just another cliché in a world chockablock with them.  And as two recent if disparate incidents show, the Republican Party has an extraordinary knack of taking things that could improve its cold-hearted image by showing a serial disinterest in teachable moments and instead branding itself with new and even blacker black marks as it yet again makes the case that it prefers whining to leading and has the compassion of Simon Legree
The incidents are the Flint Water Crisis, in which Republicans ignored the pleas of a poisoned city until that became politically untenable, and Sarah Palin's baseless implication that President Obama is somehow responsible for her son Track's arrest over a domestic violence incident that she claims was a result of Iraq war-induced PTSD because the White House doesn't give a damn about veterans.
Both could have been teachable moments: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder could have declared, despite his party's past indifference to minorities and the poor, that Flint was at the top of his administration's agenda, while the former half-term Alaska governor could have used her son as not yet another "victim" of the Islamofacist president's policies but as a poster boy to show that Republicans, despite their past indifference, care deeply about troubled veterans and are leading the charge to get them the services they so badly need. 
Palin's outburst is especially concerning to me as a veteran who has written about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seen its effects firsthand while ruing the reluctance of politicians in general and Republicans in particular to adequately fund veterans programs in general and mental health programs in particular
My friend Nick was never the same after Vietnam. He would lapse into deep depressions, let his teeth go, chain smoked cigarettes and pot and drank way too much booze, fought with his wife and would leave home for days at a time after suffering nightmares about the people that he had killed and seen killed skippering a Navy river boat that patrolled the Mekong River.  If you've seen Apocalypse Now, Nick lived it, and died way too young from the hydra-headed effects of PTSD. 
Track Palin, 24, the eldest child of the one-time vice presidential candidate and her husband, Todd, was arrested on January 19 and charged in a domestic violence case in which his girlfriend said he punched her in the head and threatened her with a rifle while in a drunken rage. 
The girlfriend told police Track kicked her on the knee and threw her cell phone, cocked a gun with his right hand near the trigger and his left hand next to the barrel, and said, "Do you think I won’t do it?"  An unloaded AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was on a kitchen counter when police arrived, and they found Track's girlfriend hiding under a bed. 
Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump later that day at a campaign event in Iowa.  The next day, speaking at an event for Trump in Oklahoma, Palin addressed what she called the "elephant in the room," saying her son had suffered trauma while serving in Iraq, where he was deployed for a year beginning in 2008. 
Not content to leave it at that, Palin chose to pile on.
She said soldiers needed a president who understands their sacrifices, "So when my own son is going through what he goes through coming back, I can certainly relate with other families who kind of feel these ramifications of some PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with.
"And it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America's finest that we have that commander in chief who will respect them and honor them."
Track Palin did not see combat in Iraq despite claims by his mother, so it is difficult to substantiate her assertion that he suffers from PTSD.  He and some other members of the Palin family have a history of being involved in violent incidents that long predate Track's deployment, and Todd Palin in particular was involved in several such incidents before and after his 2008 elopement with Sarah Palin.  
In suggesting that President Obama's policies had worsened her son's condition, Palin not only blew the opportunity of a teachable moment concerning combat and its pernicious psychological effects, she disingenuously used her son's domestic violence incident as a logical consequence of PTSD and in doing so labeled all veterans as ticking time bombs.
Sarah Palin is a narcissistic, power abusing kook and practiced liar, so her outburst comes as no surprise.  But it's still a damned shame that she chose to diss veterans -- and the president -- in defending her son's own behavior.



Why David Iaonne Can't Part With His $40,000 Guitar


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Politix Update: Ted Cruz Is On Thin Ice Constitutionally, But Will He Go Under?

One of the glorious things about the U.S. Constitution is its elasticity.  It has survived well over two centuries with a mere 27 amendments, many of the most recent ones technical in nature (use AA batteries, not AAAs), but two of its core provisions are being tested in these fractious times: The clause about "a well-regulated militia" and another stating that the president must be "a natural born citizen."
Both are hugely relevant, and not just for legal eagles.  An elastic interpretation of the "well-regulated militia" clause in the Second Amendment of the Constitution has been the legal rationale for the growth of a gun culture that has resulted in an epidemic of mass killings, while an elastic interpretation of the "natural born citizen" clause in Article Two of the Constitution underpins the presidential hopes of Canadian-born Ted Cruz. 
You do not have to be a constitutional scholar to understand the inclusion of the "well-regulated militia" clause by the Founding Fathers in the context of the times, specifically 1789, or what legal scholars call "original intent": Our young republic was still recovering from the aftershocks of the Revolutionary War, had no standing army and relied on citizens to grab their trusty flintlocks from over their fireplaces and muster in the town square if there was a threat to civil order, whether from Indians, rum runners or the British.
People have been interpreting the Constitution to their own political and ideological ends in the intervening 227 years.  But there also was no question whatsoever that the Founders could not have anticipated and would be horrified that the day would come when there would be 300 million guns carried concealed in shoulder holsters and belts, stowed in car trunks, arrayed on pickup truck rifle racks, and displayed in cabinets and over fireplaces, in a long mature republic that allows  -- and a sick subculture that encourages -- the purchase, possession and carrying of unlimited numbers of those weapons whose sole purpose is to kill and maim.  
The "natural born citizen" clause would seem to be similarly unambiguous in an historical context.
The Founders' "original intent" was to protect the young republic from foreign influence a mere six years after finally throwing off the yoke of British imperialism.  They seized on the term "natural born," which was derived from the common law notion of being born on the "soil" of the national domain and was an important measure of political loyalty. 
To the lasting chagrin of people who do not believe unfettered access to firearms of all kinds is a right, the Founders did not elaborate on what a "well-regulated militia" meant. 
The Founders also did not elaborate on what "natural born citizen" meant, but they didn't have to.  The president (and vice president) have to be born in these United States, period.  Meanwhile, fears about the French Revolution prompted Congress to build on the "natural born" concept by strengthening naturalization laws in the 1790s, while the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 granted the president authority to deport any alien who criticized the president or the government.
The Supreme Court has never ruled directly on the "natural born" clause and the eligibility lawsuits from the 2008 and 2012 elections were dismissed in lower courts because of the challengers' difficulty in clearing a very high bar by showing that they had standing to raise legal objections.
Cruz was born in 1970 in Calgary, Alberta in Canada to a mother who was an American citizen by virtue of her birth in the state of Delaware, and his claim to natural-born status is based on that.  His Cuban-born father had come to the U.S. on a student visa and kept his Cuban citizenship until he became a Canadian citizen, while he renounced his Canadian citizenship only in 2005 when he became a naturalized American. 
(John McCain's standing in 2008 rested on his being born on a military base outside the U.S. and that both his parents were U.S. citizens, while in 2004 there was an unsuccessful effort to eliminate the "natural born" requirement so that Austrian native Arnold Schwarzenegger could run for president.)
Cruz is certainly hoping -- and as a suck-up to evangelicals presumably is praying, as well -- that the bar also won't be cleared this time around because some really smart people who are constitutional scholars state he is not eligible to become president and the first of what is bound to be a flurry of lawsuits challenging his eligibility already has been filed.
The birthers who targeted Barack Obama in 2008, who later included Donald Trump, did not bother with legal niceties.  It was a personal matter to them.  Obama was called a liar, and the question was whether he was really born in Kenya rather than Hawaii.
Cruz offered an explanation for his eligibility during the January 14 Republican debate.
"Now since September, the Constitution hasn't changed, but the poll numbers have," Cruz said.
"Here's the problem," Trump counter punched. "We're running, we're running. He does great. I win. I choose him as my vice-presidential candidate and the Democrats sue, because we can't take him along for the ride. I don't like that. OK?"
The arguments being made by people like Mary Brigid McManamon, a constitutional law professor at Widener University Delaware Law School, and the estimable Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law who is a former professor of Cruz's, are that his birth on Canadian and not American soil makes him a naturalized citizen, rather than a natural born citizen. 
"Let me be clear: I am not a so-called birther. I am a legal historian," McManamon writes in the Washington Post.  "President Obama is without question eligible for the office he serves. The distinction between the president and Cruz is simple: The president was born within the United States, and the senator was born outside of it. That is a distinction with a difference." 
She notes that numerous pundits have declared that Cruz is eligible to be president, but the basis for that consensus --  that the Supreme Court has recognized that common law is useful to explain constitutional terms-- is faulty because they confuse common law with statutory law. 
McManamon concludes that:
"When discussing the meaning of a constitutional term, it is important to go beyond secondary sources and look to the law itself. And on this issue, the law is clear: The framers of the Constitution required the president of the United States to be born in the United States."
Tribe argues that under Cruz's own logic, he's ineligible to be president.
"Senator Cruz contends his eligibility is 'settled' by naturalization laws Congress enacted long ago," writes Tribe in the Boston Globe. "But those laws didn’t address, much less resolve, the matter of presidential eligibility, and no Supreme Court decision in the past two centuries has ever done so. In truth, the constitutional definition of a 'natural born citizen' is completely unsettled. . . . Needless to say, Cruz would never take Donald Trump's advice to ask a court whether the Cruz definition is correct, because that would in effect confess doubt where Cruz claims there is certainty."
The first Cruz lawsuit -- rambling in its reach and a bit nutty as birthers tend to be -- was filed by Houston attorney Newton Boris Schwartz Sr.  
The suit asks a federal judge to define the "status, qualifications and eligibility or ineligibility of defendant for election to the office of the President and vice President of the United States," a question that is "now ripe for decision," and invokes the  arguments used by birthers against President Obama, which even a long-form Hawaiian birth certificate did not silence.
"Cruz should welcome this suit," Schwartz says. "He should have filed it himself."
The suit has been assigned to a U.S. District Court judge in the Southern District of Texas, but Schwartz said he expects it to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.  If so, that is bad news considering that the high court has become a de facto arm of the Republican Party.



Monday, January 25, 2016

Politix Update: So It's Come Down To 'Merely Awful' Versus 'Truly Awful' For GOP

When a rooster gets its head cut off, it can still run around the barnyard for a few seconds. This, as scientists know, is because the neural network in the spinal cord is pre-programmed to direct the muscles in frequently used movement patterns such as running.  And as political scientists and pundits should know, this explains why the Republican rooster is running around the party barnyard these days cocka-doodle-dooing "Trump is better than Cruz!" despite -- or rather because of -- having lost its head.  

When the Republican rooster still had its head, and we're talking only a few weeks ago, it was cocka-doodle-dooing about how Rubio or Bush or Kasich or even Christie -- Somebody Please! -- was going to knock off the front runners and walk the Grand Old Party back into the White House.  But no more.  And so it has come down to the Merely Awful versus the Truly Awful for the GOP.
This has happened for reasons both obvious and no longer particularly surprising. 
To riff off a great Robert Hunter/Grateful Dead lyric, if you plant ice you're gonna harvest wind, and Republicans have done a textbook job of just that by refusing to learn the lessons from crushing defeats in 2008 and 2012, indulging in the magical thinking that has long pervaded the American conservative movement, and perfecting ignorance and hate as messages as its drift to the right morphed into a full-blown gallop and the party's base came to be dominated by Bible thumpers and angry white men -- and sometimes Bible thumping angry white men.
Both Trump and Cruz are nativist demagogues and sure losers should they get the Republican nomination, but back-on-their-heels party establishmentarians have been doing another kind of walk -- a frog walk -- toward Trump because they are first and foremost cowards who couldn't take a principled stand if their heinies -- or country and party -- depended on it.  They have never spoken out about the party's appalling antipathy toward minorities, women and the poor.  No one should be surprised that they are surrendering pretty much without a fight, and that while they view Cruz as a noxious pariah, the bigger problem for them in the long run is that he's a threat to the comity of the barnyard
And so you have the sad sight of Senator Orrin Hatch, a party éminence grise, its longest serving senator and, lest we liberals forget, Senator Ted Kennedy's longtime ally, saying that "I've come around a little bit on Trump." 
Then there is Bob Dole, who tepidly allows that Trump has "got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker."
"If it came down to Trump or Cruz, there is no question I'd vote for Trump," fellow career philanderer Rudy Giuliani opines. "As a party, we'd have a better chance of winning with him, and I think a lot of Republicans look at it that way."
"Cruz isn't a good guy, and he'd be impossible as President," said New  York Representative Peter King. "People don't trust him. And regardless of what your concern is with Trump, he's pragmatic enough to get something done. I also don’t see malice in Trump like I see with Cruz."
Note that Hatch, Dole, Giuliani, and King are all moderates by contemporary standards, and while they damn Trump with faint praise, they refuse to call him out on his policy excessesAnd so it's not about the best candidate or even the most electable one, but about maintaining what clout they have left while protecting the barnyard.  Long story short, Trump would not cause long-lasting damage to the barnyard, while Cruz would.
"You can coach Donald," helpfully explains former GOP operative Charles Black.  "If he got nominated he'd be scared to death.  That's the point he would call people in the party and say, 'I just want to talk to you.' " 
Conservative intellectuals are not so sanguine, which prompted the National Review to publish a symposium of mini-essays last week titled "Against Trump" in which big names made the case that they really didn't have a clue about why he is so popular (hint: it's because he's not really a conservative, he's a fricking populist) while trying to protect their corner of the barnyard.  And how craptastic that one of the National Review contributors was Bill Kristol, whose hard-on for Sarah Palin greased her path to the vice presidential nomination and coronation as the Queen of White Rage, and now Donald Trump's best buddy as he shows signs of running away from the field in that state's February 1 caucus. 
The moderates' surrender is even more dismaying when you consider that the early caucus and primary states -- Iowa and New Hampshire chief among them -- rarely pick the eventual winner and, at best, winnow down the field.
But you know things are really bad in the barnyard when Mister Plain Vanilla aka David Brooks of The New York Times, laments that:
"Members of the Republican governing class are like cowering freshmen at halftime of a high school football game. Some are part of the Surrender Caucus, sitting sullenly on their stools resigned to the likelihood that their team is going to get crushed. Some are thinking of jumping ship to the Trump campaign with an alacrity that would make rats admire and applaud.
"Rarely has a party so passively accepted its own self-destruction.  Sure, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are now riding high in some meaningless head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton, but the odds are the nomination of either would lead to a party-decimating general election [defeat]."
If nothing else, Republicans have been expert at backlash politics, so it's kind of ironic in a schadenfreudey way that they are now garment-rending victims of their own game.



Friday, January 22, 2016

The Great Nestlé-Deer Park Billion Dollar Poconos Spring Water Grab

It has been said that the next world war will be fought over water, but in a rural northeastern Pennsylvania township a battle already is being waged between residents and an immense multi-national corporation that plans to pump hundreds of millions of gallons of spring water from the aquifer beneath their farms and homes.
Nestlé S.A. is the world’s largest food and beverage company, and it is no accident that a company with annual revenues larger than the GDPs of many countries has chosen tiny Eldred Township in the Pocono Mountains for two extraction wells that will pump 200,000 gallons of water a day for the Deer Park Natural Spring Water brand bottled by a subsidiary.
This is because the water is clean, plentiful  — and free.
A 20-ounce bottle of Deer Park costs $1.29 in area convenience stores, and back-of-the envelope calculations show that for a minimal investment, Nestlé can generate about $825,000 in revenue each day from the Eldred wells.  This translates into about $300 million a year and an astonishing $3 billion over the life of the 10-year mass extraction permit it is seeking from the state. 
The compensation to Eldred residents from Nestlé would be exactly zero.


There is little question that Nestlé will prevail in Eldred.  
The transnational corporation projects a benevolent image, but it usually gets what it wants and has weathered many scandals over the years as the price of doing business.
The most odiferous of the scandals was in the 1970s when it was revealed Nestlé was getting Third World mothers hooked on its infant formula despite being less healthy and more expensive than breast milk.  It backed down in the face of a boycott of its products — which range from chocolate and confectionery, frozen foods, coffee and dietary supplements to pet foods — and has since turned its attention to promoting bottled water, turning one of life's essentials into a global brand that only the better-off can afford while depleting a precious natural resource.
Nestlé has the largest bottled water market share in the world, with revenues of $7.3 billion last year from its Deer Park, Pure Life, Poland Spring, San Pellegrino and Perrier brands.
Eldred Township has a total area of barely 24 square miles and a mere 2,500 residents.  Kunkletown sits at the only crossroads, but it is a town in only a figurative sense with a smattering of shops and nary a stop light.  But there is lots and lots of water, and the township supervisors, not necessarily aware of the mischief of other township officials, helpfully green lighted Nestlé's application to site two wells on an 80-acre, privately-owned sand pit after a ban on mass water extraction in non-industrial zones in a regional planning code was quietly reversed in 2014.
Residents have formed a citizens group to fight Nestlé and four homeowners, joined this week by about 25 other residents, have filed suit against the township supervisors over the 2014 zoning change.  They say there already is anecdotal evidence that Nestlé's test wells are contaminating the wells of nearby property owners.
They can expect no relief from the agencies who will review Nestlé's permit application — the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DEP) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) — because the regulatory process is rigged and Nestlé holds virtually all the cards.
All of the hydrological tests and other data required in the permit process are provided by Nestlé.  There are no independent tests to assess the quantity and quality of the water.  Asked at a public meeting in Eldred on Wednesday evening how many mass extraction permits the DEP has rejected or required substantial modification to prior to approval, the agency's top Safe Water Drinking Permit Program official in northeastern Pennsylvania hemmed and hawed. 
Pressed repeatedly to answer the question, his face growing increasingly red, he finally replied in a raspy whisper:

Eldred residents also can expect no help from local politicians.
The Poconos economy crapped out in the mid-2000s long before the rest of the nation, and for a while Monroe County led all counties in the U.S. in home foreclosures per capita.  This is because politicians, not content to try to build the tourist industry and brand the Poconos as a special place with beautiful woodlands chockablock with trails, waterfalls, creek and rivers, as well as golf courses, ski slopes and family-friendly resorts, climbed into bed with rapacious developers and usurious financial institutions after the 9/11 attacks to sell the Poconos as a safe haven from a world gone crazy. 
People flocked to the area from the Bronx, Queens and northern New Jersey by the thousands after 9/11, but the gauzy illusion that the Poconos was a paradise soon gave way to a harsh reality of which wise locals already were well aware: There was an apathetic political establishment resistant to reform, many roads and bridges were in atrocious condition, social services were overtaxed, schools ranged from mediocre to poor, crime rates were well above Pennsylvania county-by-county averages for adult major crime, drunk driving and vehicular fatalities, there was an increasingly degraded environment, and stratospherically high local tax rates that have been crushing to all but the relatively few affluent residents. 
If there has been a bright spot amid a chronically sick economy, it is water.
There has been a proliferation of water parks, which are supplanting ski slopes as the region’s largest tourist draw.  Five water parks have opened in recent years with more planned, which is not surprising when you consider that the parks' biggest expense, the enormous amount of water needed for their gigantic pools and slides, flow into the parks essentially free of charge because the taking and distribution of water is largely unnoticed, underregulated and the result of sometimes secret agreements between politicians and developers who are given tax breaks, zoning easements and handshakes for creating jobs, virtually all of which are minimum wage.
Water in the Poconos is clean and plentiful.  The Delaware, the largest undammed river east of the Mississippi, flows along its eastern border with New Jersey.  Nestlé has seven existing mass extraction sites in Pennsylvania, and bottlers have quietly pumped from Poconos aquifers for years to quench the thirst of people where water is a luxury and not taken for granted, or has been degraded as in Flint, Michigan, forcing people to buy water in bottles that are not biodegradable and add substantially to the enormous waste generated by a throwaway culture.  Nestlé's designs on Eldred is merely the latest water grab.
The weak and ineffectual Poconos political establishment has long been prey to powerful outside forces like Nestlé, and environmentalists fear that once the water is gone — and it will run out — an explosion of fracking will occur when the thousands of fracking sites in counties to the northwest are played out and energy companies turn their attention to the untapped oil and natural gas supplies in the rich shale beds beneath those woods and mountain streams.
The Pocono Record is the sole media outlet of consequence in the region.  It has ignored the story on its editorial page, seldom has a cross word to say about the ham-handed political establishment, and has been a slavish supporter of government giveaways to water parks.  One of the Record's few reporters has covered the Nestlé-Eldred story aggressively — and impartially —  but says his editors are being pressured by Nestlé to take him off the story.


The meeting on Wednesday evening was at the Eldred Fire Hall.  It was called by the township supervisors and billed as a question-and-answer session where officials from DEP and DRPA were to explain their mass water extraction permitting and regulatory processes.  Questions specifically pertaining to Nestlé were not allowed, but kept creeping in.
About a hundred people filled the firehouse meeting room, a darkened bingo board and the muted crackle of a fire radio providing the backdrop.
As the evening wore on, there was a palpable sense of bewilderment.  While the township residents attending included an environmental biologist, a medical doctor and a few other worldly wise burghers who had no illusion that the regulatory officials' presentation was a dog-and-pony show, it gradually dawned on others that they were being hoodwinked. 
These are simple folk, and that is meant in a most positive sense.  They are hardworking.  Most own their homes and farms.  They are churchgoers, they vote, and they are proud of their community, its 274-year history and its traditions.  Many fish on the Aquasicola and Buckwa creeks and hunt in the state gamelands below Blue Mountain, which forms the eastern edge of the Appalachians.
They came to the meeting believing that the township supervisors had done them wrong, and while no one has spoken in support of Nestlé at previous meetings, hard feelings have been pretty much held in check. The homeowners who filed suit decided to keep things within the family and take the commissioners to a county court rather than fight Nestlé head on. 
Eldred residents had faith in government, or at least enough to believe the state would turn down Nestlé because it would see that their way of life would come to an abrupt end with a massive pumping operation drawing down their water and possibly contaminating their wells, while convoys of diesel smoke-belching 18-wheel water tanker trucks clogged their narrow roads.  And no one knows what will happen when the water runs out, an eventuality not addressed in Nestlé's permit application or by the regulatory officials.
Residents left the meeting angry, shocked and disillusioned.  And many of them knew that even thought a final decision is probably months away, Nestlé already has won.