Monday, October 24, 2016

NorCal congressman offers help to Guard enlistees

From Northern California's Rep. Tom McClintock:
The reports that the California National Guard is demanding repayment of bonuses offered as enlistment incentives is one of the most outrageous injustices I have ever seen. These men and women acted in good faith and responded to incentives that were promised them in small compensation for their service. For the government now to renege on that promise is dishonorable, despicable and shabby.

If the administration refuses to stand by the promises it made when these soldiers enlisted, immediately forgive these debts and make the soldiers whole, I expect Congress will demand it – and hold accountable the officials responsible for this outrage.

I urge any constituents who are in this position to contact my district office at 916-786-5560. I will stand by them and do everything I can to see this injustice corrected.

Stormy weather to continue into next week

Winter in the north state is off to an early start. From the National Weather Service:
Slick roads
High elevation snow with possible impacts for seasonal mountain pass travel & Lassen NP
Wind may make driving difficult, loose objects may blow around

Forecast Confidence
High for cool and wet Conditions
Low for precipitation amounts and timing

Timing and Strength
First System: Today through Wednesday Morning
Rain: 1-2 inches in the northern mountains, .10 to 1.00 inches for the Valley
Snow levels: mainly above 7500 feet
Wind: Valley winds 25 mph gusting to 35-40 mph this afternoon, 40 to 55 mph over higher Sierra elevations at times through Wednesday
Max temps: 5-10 degrees below normal
Second System: Thursday into Early Next week
Rain: See Precipitation graphic
Snow levels: mainly above 7500-8000 feet
Wind: Periods of southwest wind gusts 40 to 55 mph over higher Sierra elevations
Max temps: 5-10 degrees below normal

Weather Summary
The first system is moving through today and tonight, with a cold front bringing a period of rain and gusty winds today into early Tuesday, and additional showers continuing into Tuesday night. Rain is still forecast to lift north of the area on Wednesday. A few inches of snow are possible over seasonal passes and Lassen National Park through Tuesday.

Another moist system arrives Thursday, with a series of disturbances bringing periods of wet weather through the weekend and potentially into early next week. Exact timing of these systems remains uncertain. Snow levels are expected to be fairly high at this point, with snow over higher mountains.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sites Reservoir leaders celebrate project's progress

Today in Maxwell, political leaders pushing for the Sites Reservoir project celebrated the vast growth of its coalition and the passage of a bill in the Legislatute to help the project forward.

Agencies and organizations supporting the project have grown from 14 to 34, including from the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley, said Jim Watson, the Sites Authority's new GM.

The leaders also marked the passage of AB 2551, which gives flexibility in construction methods to expedite completion of the project.

Applications for Sites and other major storage projects will go before the state Water Commission as it hands out $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 bond funds.

For my full story, check soon.

Silence in the face of corruption is killing journallism

No matter who wins the presidential election, what it has shown us about our major media will have ramifications that will last a generation or longer. If good people within the profession don't start shoring up its reputation and soon, historians may even look back at 2016 as the year journalism itself died as an industry.

The state of American journalism has long been a tale of two cities, or perhaps a big city and a small town. For a long time it has seemed that the Big Media -- as in the major TV networks, news magazines and national newspapers -- don't seem to abide by the same rules most of us do in flyover country. For instance, local journalists don't normally go "on background" with their city officials or local businesspeople for run-of-the-mill stories, but it's done routinely in Washington, D.C., even for such benign stories as the USDA handing out specialty crop block grants.

But now, it appears that much of Big Media is playing by no rules at all, and this has grave implications for public perception of the industry itself -- especially if journalists who have integrity remain silent about what is happening.

Many on the right have long accused the major news media of having a liberal bias, and these complaints tend to grow louder during elections. But what we've seen in the past year has gone well beyond simple bias. As Ken Kurson writes in the New York Observer:
It is no secret that the mainstream media has decided that the threat presented by a possible Donald Trump presidency is so grave that it has suspended even the illusion of objectivity. Writing in The New York Times, media columnist Jim Rutenberg granted permission to his fellow journalists “to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career.”

The Observer and others have detailed the ways in which traditional media companies and even tech companies have colluded to maximize negative coverage of Trump and minimize negative coverage of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. But it doesn’t end there. As Rutenberg described, many journalists feel the need to “move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.”

That opposition has extended into new and uncharted territory. In the coordinated effort [...] the mainstream media has taken not just to bashing Trump but to extracting a price even from those who support him.
Rutenberg wasn't the only one to advise other journalists to, in the words of Newsmax media analyst James Hirsen, "jettison their ethics" and take sides in the campaign. Emmy Award-winning former CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson told of attending a journalism awards dinner in Washington, D.C., where an ex-bureau chief urged reporters to "step outside of their role" to sway the election results -- and received a standing ovation.

CNN was caught fabricating a story about the Secret Service supposedly warning Trump to tone down his gun-rights rhetoric. A Telemundo journalist was caught on video staging a protest at a Trump rally. The Associated Press has been caught colluding with the Clinton campaign on how best to report on the email scandal. Just this week, video footage captured a top Clinton aide feeding questions to reporters, including NBC's Andrea Mitchell, to ask Clinton during a post-debate presser.

On several occasions, journalists have urged their colleagues to suppress information. A New York Times tech columnist called on Google to hide health information on Clinton, and Google complied. The Washington Post published an article titled, "Can we just stop talking about Hillary Clinton's health now?" After NBC News published a five-paragraph brief about a coughing spell that Clinton had last month, he was attacked on Twitter by former Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter and others. CNN abruptly canceled Dr. Drew Pinsky's television show on the HLN network after he speculated about Clinton's health on a local radio show.

Think this is just happening because of Trump? Think again. A lot of this activism started during the Democratic primary, to the detriment of Bernie Sanders.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, "(a)bout 430 people who work in journalism have, through August, combined to give about $382,000 to the Democratic nominee." In April, Politico's chief White House correspondent, Glenn Thrush, cleared part of an article about the primary through Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta before it was published. Donna Brazile, then a commentator for CNN, gave Clinton the questions she would be asked at a CNN town hall in March. Staff at the Boston Globe coordinated with the Clinton campaign to maximize her "presence" during her campaign against Sanders. A-listers in the national media dined and partied with top Clinton aides days before the rollout of her campaign in 2015, in "fully off-the-record" gatherings "designed to impart the campaign's messaging".

This is corruption on a grand scale, and it's diametrically opposed to everything most of us regular folks in journalism were ever taught and have ever practiced. Reporters at the Capital Press or the Daily Astorian or the Feather River Bulletin wouldn't even consider donating to a city council or congressional candidate's foundation and then advocating publicly for his or her election while covering the campaign. Yet there's a strange code of silence that prevents otherwise conscientious reporters, editors, publishers and TV producers from speaking out against this activity when they see it at the national level, and this silence is a danger to our industry.

There are two reasons for this. First of all, most people don't differentiate between Big Media and small, or responsible media and irresponsible. People don't say, "Well that's the news media, except for community papers and niche publications like Capital Press." In an American Press Institute survey of more than 2,000 adults this spring, only 6 percent said they have "a great deal of confidence" in the press, while 41 percent said they had no confidence at all. A Gallup survey last fall found similar results. These folks aren't saying they don't trust the media "except for our local TV station," they just say the media. So if we who try to do things right say nothing about our industry's worst actors, how are people to know we're any different?

This will affect all of us in a multitude of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, from the growing number of businesses that decide to spend their limited resources on marketing directly to customers rather than advertising through the media -- any media -- to the growing number of people who'd just rather not make time for reporters. You may think your community weekly is more well-liked than the dailies, but they won't have any time for you, either.

The second, more important reason: Within a few years, the only resumes editors will receive will be from recent journalism-school grads who haven't a clue how to do anything but be activists. After all, that's how they see journalism practiced on TV. And they're not likely to get much help in today's journalism schools. Not when professors at some of the nation's most prestigious, such as Columbia University and New York University, make excuses for the unbalanced coverage or scream for more of it.

I understand some may find it difficult to denounce this media activism without appearing to defend Trump, who's brought some legitimate bad press upon himself. Trump picks fights with journalists, and as Mark Twain once advised, one shouldn't pick fights with those who buy ink by the barrel. And local editors within major-media corporations may not wish to criticize things that people in their own companies may be doing, whether they agree with them or not.

But I was always taught to do my job well regardless of what a source called me, and there is precedent for small and niche media outlets calling out Big Media on its reporting.

In 2009, the president of the National Newspaper Association, which represents 2,400 of the nation's daily and weekly community newspapers, urged other news organizations to stop referring to the H1N1 virus as swine flu. Pork industry groups and even U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had chided media outlets for referring to the virus as swine flu, arguing that it was inaccurate and unfairly harmed pork producers.

At the Capital Press, my editors have defined our role clearly for readers so that they don't get the mistaken impression we won't cover all sides of issues because we're a "farm newspaper". "While we work hard to cultivate friendly working relationships with all of our sources," Editor Joe Beach wrote in 2011, "our watchdog role and professional obligation as journalists can put these relationships to the test."

Those of us who care about the future of our industry can't afford to keep our heads down and pretend that what's going on in Big Media won't affect us. If a rising tide lifts all boats, then certainly the opposite is true. So more of us had better start bailing and rowing before we, too, scrape bottom.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Clearlake man faces arson charges over Clayton Fire

From the AP via
A California man was arrested Monday on arson charges for allegedly sparking a wildfire that exploded over the weekend, destroying more than 175 homes, business and other structures in a Northern California town, authorities said.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said Damin Anthony Pashilk, 40, of Clearlake was arrested Monday on 17 counts of arson and is in jail. He is suspected in numerous fires in Lake County over the past year.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said the blaze in the town of Lower Lake has caused over $10 million in damages and left dozens of families homeless.
The full story is here.

As I reported today, the fire has burned a winery in downtown Lower Lake as well as vineyard, walnut orchard and grazing land.