Friday, February 24, 2017

Another take on Trump's 'enemy of the people' remark

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line poses the same question I did earlier this week about whether the news media is really the "enemy of the American people," as President Donald Trump labeled some outlets. He is right in saying Trump overstated his case, and he makes many of the same points I did, although much more concisely.

A sampling:
The best test of whether the new media fits Trump’s description occurs when an outlet has to decide whether to publish information the widespread knowledge of which threatens to harm members of the American public. Does it put the interest of public safety first? Or is its decision driven by other interests such as the desire for recognition or to harm an administration it doesn’t care for?

In my view, the New York Times behaved like an enemy of the American people when it published a story disclosing our government’s highly classified anti-terrorist-financing program. I agree with Scott [Johnson] that the story wantonly undermined an important national security program for no arguable public purpose. I agree with Tom Cotton that the Times endangered the lives of U.S. soldiers, again, for no arguable public purpose.

This isn’t the only instance in which the news media has put its interests ahead of the interest of Americans. However, I don’t know how widespread the practice is. When the media decides not to publish information because of its potential harm to America, we don’t know about it.

Thus, I think it would be unfair to conclude that the news media is an enemy of the American people based on a handful of instances in which it acts as such. As Tom Cotton once told the New York Times, we should not “paint with such a broad brush.”

It would, though, be fair to observe that many in the news media view a large portion of the American people contemptuously. My impression is that many look down on Trump supporters, and before that Tea Party sympathizers, viewing them as bitter, racist, and incapable of understanding that their interests are best served by left-liberalism (“what’s wrong with Kansas” and all that).

This doesn’t make media members enemies of the American people. However, it’s easy to understand why many Americans would have that sense.

How to spot left-wing Astroturf at town-hall meetings

When the tea party movement began in 2009, Democratic politicians and their news-media allies famously referred to it as right-wing "Astroturfing," or a fake grass-roots movement funded by big donors. My own interaction with north state tea party members and seeing how vibrant and active they were -- and still are -- quickly convinced me that the Astroturf label was a slander. But now that Republicans are in charge, it's their turn to accuse the other side of "Astroturfing" town-hall meetings, and they're offering some proof.

As CNS News reports, Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., told a radio program that "protesters attending his raucous town hall 'self-identified' as being from a group called Indivisible, which offers a 'practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.'"

From the news service:
The detailed guide was written by "former congressional staffers" who "reveal best practices for making Congress listen."

And what's happening at so many congressional town halls is clearly laid out in Chapter 4, which advises Trump opponents to:

-- Get there early: "Meet outside or in the parking lot for a quick huddle before the event. Distribute the handout of questions, and encourage members to ask the questions on the sheet or something similar."

-- Get seated and spread out: "Head into the venue a bit early to grab seats at the front half of the room, but do not all sit together. Sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room. This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus."

-- Demand real answers: Lawmakers are "very good at deflecting or dodging questions," the guide says. "If they aren't giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the MoC (Member of Congress) or applauding you."

-- Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer.

-- Keep the pressure on. "After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one."

-- Support the group and reinforce the message. "After one member of your group asks a question, everyone should applaud to show that the feeling is shared throughout the audience."

-- Record everything! "Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MoC’s response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media."

-- Reach out to media, during and after the town hall. "If there’s media at the town hall, the people who asked questions should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. When the event is over, you should engage local reporters on Twitter or by email and offer to provide an in-person account of what happened, as well as the video footage you collected."

-- "Ensure that the members of your group who are directly affected by specific threats are the ones whose voices are elevated when you reach out to media."
Erin Ryan, a field representative for Rep. Doug LaMalfa and a former Redding Tea Party leader, says she's encountered these activists in the north state. She distributed the guide to people on her email list and urged supporters not to get complacent. She wrote:
For those who have been working with the tea parties over the past 8 years it’s interesting to hear the left say that we were small self-funding and very effective groups when all we heard for years was that we were front groups for the Koch brothers. Be aware of what these guys plan to do because now is the time to defend our towns and cities from their anarchy. It’s also time to defend your elected officials from them.

Our offices have been bombarded with calls and walk-ins “demanding”, yes DEMANDING, that Doug hold a town hall so they can reenact a Jerry Springer episode for the cameras. They don’t want to discuss issues. They want to scream and yell and name call and DEMAND that he vote their way. They use that word a lot. Almost as though it has some secret meaning. Hmmm, in reading their Indivisible Guide I see they encourage them to go to the office or call us and DEMAND a town hall or an in-person meeting. Who does this besides 5 year-olds? It’s bizarre and exhausting.
One thing to keep in mind is that the media are a BIG part of this group's plan. You might have 50 people at a town-hall meeting and if two or three of them start yelling and cause a scene, that's what you'll see reported. In some cases, news outlets will find out ahead of time that these activists are going and cover a meeting they'd otherwise skip thinking it was routine. And in many cases, the outlets will be all too happy to champion these activists' cause.

Whatever your point of view is, perhaps it's best to attend these meetings yourself to give your valid feedback, listen to everything that's said and maybe report on social media what you saw and heard. If you can't attend, you could try to find a video stream of the entire event if one is available; hopefully these leaders will offer more of these raw streams considering how popular they've become on a national level. And barring all of that, try to read as many perspectives on the meetings as you can, including news reports as well as blog and social media posts from people who attended. Remember, you're in charge of your own information-gathering.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

NWS: Next round of storms to be colder, weaker

From the National Weather Service:
An upper level disturbance will rotate through northern California through Friday. Scattered rain and snow showers Today and Friday, mainly for the Foothills and Sierra.

Two cold, but weaker systems compared to earlier in the week, will move over the region late Saturday into Monday. These systems may cause just enough snow for mountain travel delays. Rainfall amounts will generally be light. The forecast trend with these storms has been for lighter precipitation.

Impacts
Longer travel times and possible chain controls over mountains
Flooded roadways and low lying areas will continue
Levees issues will continue, especially for the delta

Forecast Confidence
Medium for a weekend storm
Low for timing details, precipitation amounts

Timing and Strength
Today/Friday

Scattered rain and snow chances, mainly for foothill and mountains
Patchy frost possible Friday morning for the Valley
Saturday/Sunday
Cold storm system anticipated to arrive Saturday night
Snow levels between 2500 and 3500 feet
Generally light snow amounts through Monday
Light rainfall accumulations expected for the Valley and Foothill locations

Weekend storms flood farm fields, displace animals

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Strong storms during the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend flooded farm fields, caused several dairy farms to relocate their animals and brought other impacts on California farms and ranches. The storms also added more water to an already overtaxed system, and led to renewed calls to modernize the system.

“In the long term, the surge of storms should bring an improved water outlook,” California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said, “but it has definitely brought worries to farmers and ranchers whose land is inundated or whose crops may be at risk. We remain hopeful that weather in coming days will minimize any problems.”

Wenger noted that many reservoirs have filled and have had to release water, which underlines the need to enhance California’s water storage capacity.

“Believe it or not, there are people who think we don't need more water storage, and that we should even tear down many of the facilities we now have,” he said. “These activists don't care how many people suffer from devastating floods in winters like this. They don't care how many people suffer from water shortages during droughts.”

Wenger said California must move as quickly as possible to allocate money from the 2014 water bond, Proposition 1, to create more storage both aboveground and underground.

“Environmentalists say we can solve water problems by conserving more water and storing more underground. But we’re not able to conserve most of the water flowing through the system now—we have had to let it go. And moving water into the ground takes time. You can’t replenish groundwater if you don’t have aboveground reservoirs and canals to hold and move water to where it can effectively filter underground,” Wenger said.

Farm Bureau said farmers of a number of crops and commodities will be assessing the impact from the weekend storms, including:

• Almonds—The storms hit just as almond trees were blooming. Bees that pollinate almond blossoms don’t fly in the rain and prefer temperatures higher than 55 degrees. In addition, a number of almond trees were blown down by strong winds during the weekend. But farmers said the tree losses weren’t as bad as feared, and expressed hope pollination would still be successful.

• Berries—The rains delayed strawberry harvest along the Central and Southern California coast. Production may be temporarily reduced as farmers wait for waterlogged fields to dry and discard rain-damaged berries.

• Dairy farms—Several dairy farms located near the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers needed to move their animals to higher ground as river levels rose. Other farmers are watching river levels carefully and preparing to move their animals if needed.

• Field crops—Fall-planted grain crops that have germinated could take on too much water, which could ultimately reduce yields. Hay fields have also flooded. Soggy or flooded fields will delay planting for a number of crops.

• Grapes—Vineyards in various grape-growing regions have been flooded. Farmers say that could leave vines vulnerable to root-rot damage if they remain flooded for too long.

• Vegetables—Rains and muddy fields slowed vegetable harvest in Southern California and delayed planting in the Salinas Valley. Rain generally benefited vegetable crops in the Imperial Valley.

• Walnuts—Flooded orchards that remain waterlogged for too long could be vulnerable to root diseases that can kill trees.

• Miscellaneous—Heavy rains in foothill regions have washed out privately maintained roads, making it hard for cattle ranchers to reach their animals, and muddy pastures limit ranchers’ ability to reach herds on horseback. Pear orchards in Lake County have been flooded. Citrus fruit harvest was temporarily delayed. The storms brought large amounts of rain to Santa Barbara County farmers who have remained in severe drought. One farmer there reported losing about half an acre of avocado trees to a mudslide.

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 48,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.
On Tuesday I toured flooded and muddy farm fields in the Salinas Valley, where an artichoke field was among farmland that was inundated with water. The storms followed last week's crisis in the Oroville Dam area, where a swollen Feather River flooded farm fields amid a three-county evacuation.

I'll be checking with others to see the extent of damage. Watch for our coverage at CapitalPress.com.

DWR to hold next manual snow survey Wednesday

From a news release:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will host the news media on March 1 for this winter’s third manual snow survey at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada. Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, will begin the survey at 11 a.m. just off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. The survey will determine the water content of the snow at Phillips.

Water Year 2017, which runs from October 1 to September 30, is on track to be the wettest in DWR’s records. The statewide snowpack’s water content in data collected electronically currently is 188 percent of normal for today’s date. All three regions DWR monitors continuously for rainfall have had more than twice their average rainfall this year.

The Phillips snow course has been measured each winter since 1941 and is one of hundreds that will be traversed during a 10-day period around March 1 to determine the water content of the snowpack, which normally contributes about 30 percent of California’s water. Manual readings supplement DWR’s electronic data.
Our coverage of the season's first two surveys is here and here. For details on Wednesday's survey, check here and at CapitalPress.com.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Touring the Salinas Valley's flooded fields, farm facilities


Today I'm heading home after working Tuesday in the Salinas Valley, where I looked at impacts from the recent torrential storms, visited a leafy greens processing facility and talked with produce industry insiders.

In the photos, from the top: An artichoke field near Castroville is flooded; Joe Pezzini, president of Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms, stands near a field that's been prepared for planting spinach; workers in Ocean Mist's processing facility box and wash spinach that's been shipped in from the operation's fields in Southern California; and Jim Bogart, president and general counsel of the Grower-Shipper Association, stands outside the organization's headquarters in Salinas.

The main project I'm working on involves the 10-year anniversary of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which was hastily formed by industry folks after the 2006 E. coli outbreak essentially shut down spinach sales in the U.S. The LGMA's voluntary yet nearly universally followed food safety guidelines are now a model as the federal government implements the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule.

I'll also be doing a shorter, more immediate story on results of a grower survey the GSA published this week and checking for any agricultural damage from the past week's storms. In the Salinas Valley, the fields that weren't under water as a result of the storms were a muddy mess; you couldn't really get into the cauliflower and artichoke fields to pick them.

"We'll have to throw away all these artichokes, sure," Pezzini said of the flooded field shown in the first photo.

"We really need a few days to dry out," he said.

For these stories, check CapitalPress.com soon, and look for my LGMA centerpiece story in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NBC News bummed Trump still president after 32 days

From the Daily Wire:
In what has to rank as the dumbest headline of this year, NBC Politics ran with this shockingly bold story:

President Trump reaches 32 days, won't be shortest U.S. president

When President Trump says that the media are corrupt and vicious, that their tone is inexcusably detrimental to the nation, he’s thinking of headlines like this one. The tenor of lovelorn hope – well, he didn’t go in the first 30 days, but we can pray on it – is palpable. Did NBC run anything remotely resembling such a piece of news about Barack Obama? Or was it just a series of paeans to his genius?
They were sincerely hoping that something -- or someone -- would take him out, regardless of the national crisis that would create. And these are the people who have been given the privilege of beaming their signal into every home in America -- including your child's bedroom.