Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baseball and America

Leon H. Wolf blogs at RedState:

In his memoir Decision Points, George W. Bush relayed a story about the night he threw out the ceremonial opening pitch at Yankee Stadium when the World Series resumed play after the tragedy of 9/11. He said that he ran into Derek Jeter in the bullpen before the game and asked him if he should throw the pitch from the front of the mound or the top of the mound.

According to Bush, Jeter said, “Throw it from the top if the mound. If you throw it from the front of the mound, they’ll boo you. And don’t bounce it. If you bounce it, they’ll boo you.”

Maybe it is just be, but that night was the night to me that America seemed to really be back on its feet after 9/11. And as Jeter hit a home run to end the game with the wreckage of the twin towers still smoking, even I, as a die-hard Yankee hater who takes second place to no Yankee-hater on earth, could appreciate that once again baseball had symbolized America as a whole and the indomitable spirit of this great country.

Today, things are as uncertain as ever. But across the country today, grounds crews are busy mowing grass and raking infields. Yet again this year, pitchers will toe the rubber as sold out crowds wait in anticipation for the two words we have gone too long without.

May you be fortunate enough today to spend the day playing hooky from work and enjoying the pop of the leather and the crack of the bat with the feeling of warm sunshine on your face and the smell of warm hot dogs and funnel cake in your nostrils.

God bless America, and PLAY BALL!

I won't be playing hooky, but nothing says I can't find a game on the radio while driving back from my assignment in Orland.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Celebrate Earth Day -- by eating steak

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[ Photo caption: Dinner cook John Mockles keeps ribeye steaks handy for orders at Vic's Branding Iron restaurant in Cottonwood, Calif. ]

With Earth Day coming April 22, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board is urging people to celebrate it by eating steak.

Cattle raised today require less land, water and energy than before and each serving provides nutrients essential to the diet, the board asserts.

From its press release:

Producers can be proud of so many things:

* About two-thirds of cattle farms and ranches have been in the same family for two generations or more.
* On average, each cattleman has 13 different practices in place to accomplish environmental goals such as nurturing wildlife, preventing erosion and conserving and protecting water.
* Thanks to smart practices, raising livestock in the United States today accounts for less than 3 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Not only that, but the average American farmer feeds about 155 people worldwide, compared to 26 just a few decades ago. And experts estimate global food production will need to increase 70 percent by 2050 to feed a growing world population. Many experts agree U.S. livestock production practices are an environmentally sustainable solution for raising food and should be considered a model for the rest of the world.

“As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day, we’d like to remind beef and dairy producers to share their production story with everyone they know – family, friends, neighbors and even those they just met at the grocery store. We need to let them know that we’re proud cattle producers, providing 20 percent of the world’s iron-rich beef with just 7 percent of the cattle,” says Daryl Berlier Owen, chair of the checkoff’s Joint Public Opinion and Issues Management Group, and cow/calf producer from Amarillo, Texas. “That means people can enjoy a good steak as part of a healthy, balanced diet, knowing that it is being produced in such a way that’s good for their personal health and the health of the planet.”

For my story, check CapitalPress.com later in the week.

Of course, I think they ought to observe Earth Day about three weeks earlier -- on April 1.

Polls: Economy still in the tank

From Rasmussen:

The Rasmussen Employment Index fell sharply to the lowest level in seven months. Just 18% of working Americans now report that their firms are hiring while 25% say their firms are laying workers off. That’s far more pessimistic than a month ago when 20% reported hiring and 22% reported lay-offs.

Eighty-one percent (81%) know someone who is out of work and looking for a job. Forty-eight percent (48%) know someone who has given up looking out of frustration. Only 16% believe the job market is better than it was a year ago while 36% believe it is worse.

Just 30% of Small Business Owners say that economic conditions are getting better for their business. Among the overwhelming majority of small businesses hit by the recession, only 22% have seen a sustained recovery.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ranchers tout ag at Capitol

From the California Cattlemen's Association:

Despite a full week of rain in the forecast, cattlemen and women from nearly every area of the state made their way to Sacramento on March 23, for Agriculture Day at the State Capitol, where they promoted their product on the lawn of the capitol, visited the offices of their local lawmakers and mingled with legislators and agency representatives at the California Cattlemen’s Association’s 33rd Annual Steak and Eggs Legislative Breakfast.

In a standing-room-only event at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento, ranchers enjoyed a hearty steak and eggs breakfast alongside elected officials to help them better understand the issues threatening agriculture and open space in the Golden State.

According to CCA President Kevin Kester, the breakfast boasted its largest attendance ever, which is exactly the type turnout he said is necessary if ranchers hope to get their message out to the state’s decision makers.

“We are very excited to see so many of our state’s cattlemen and women take the opportunity to tell their story. In a time when more and more people are becoming further removed from agriculture, it is vital to share the importance of what we do with the people who can help us fight to stay in business,” Kester said. “What we do matters to everyone and only by speaking out and sharing our way of life with the public and elected officials can we expect to see their support.”

The event was attended by many legislators, several who addressed breakfast attendees about their support of the ranching way of life and shared reasons they intend to help ranchers stay in business. Among the elected officials who spoke were Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Assemblymember Connie Conway (R-Tulare), Sen. Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), and Assemblymember Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco)

Also in attendance during the breakfast were Gov. Jerry Brown and California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. This year marked the first time in many years that the Governor made an appearance at the breakfast. Both Brown and Ross shared a few words about the importance ranchers have in the state despite a tough economic situation for California.

“Having been raised in the cattle industry, I fully appreciate what you, as ranchers, do for our state, especially by maintaining open space and keeping land in food production.” Ross said. “In what has been a difficult time for California’s economy, I am proud to see that agriculture has proven just how valuable it is to our state.”

Brown, who owns a ranch in Colusa County, also echoed Ross’s comments saying farmers and ranchers are an important part of California’s economy. He also said despite the budgetary challenges in California, running the state as a business – with careful checks and balances – is the only way to get California’s budget back in good condition.

Following the breakfast, more than 50 cattlemen and women made their way to offices throughout the capitol building, sharing with legislators the current initiatives they hope to see support on in the upcoming legislative session.

“We had a terrific turnout with a great deal of positive feedback from legislators and legislative staff,” Kester said. “It is my hope that our members were able to see first-hand the positive impacts of getting involved and sharing their view on the issues that are not just important to them, but also to our state’s economy and the future of agriculture in California.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rainfall, reservoirs by the numbers

Redding's 8.39 inches of rain for March is nearly twice the normal 4.63 inches the city has normally received at this point of the month. But we don't hold a candle to the coast; Eureka's 11.61 inches of precip for March obliterates its normal of 4.96 inches.

Here's where everything stands.

March rainfall
Here are the March and seasonal precipitation totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of March 28:
Eureka: Month to date 11.61 inches (normal 4.96 inches); season to date 38.07 inches (normal 32.33 inches)
Redding: Month to date 8.39 inches (normal 4.63 inches); season to date 30.26 inches (normal 28.25 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 6.94 inches (normal 2.54 inches); season to date 21.4 inches (normal 15.92 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 3.15 inches (normal 2.07 inches); season to date 13.1 inches (normal 11.3 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 4.19 inches (normal 2.13 inches); Season to date 14.54 inches (normal 11.43 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 3.46 inches (normal 1.99 inches); season to date 14.94 inches (normal 9.64 inches)

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight March 27, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 85 percent
Shasta Lake: 92 percent
Lake Oroville: 81 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 80 percent
Folsom Lake: 66 percent
New Melones Reservoir: 79 percent
Lake McClure: 74 percent
Millerton Lake: 87 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 78 percent
Lake Isabella: 41 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 100 percent

The San Luis Reservoir, near Los Banos, can hold 2,039,000 acre-feet of water and has 2,035,210 in it, according to state figures. The reservoir has bounced all the way back from about two years ago, when it was only about 20 percent full.

Rancher to teach kids about nature

From the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition:

The Pathways to Nature Program announces its second nature day event on April 2, 2011. The program will be hosted by ranchers Chet and Angela Vogt on the Three Creeks Ranch located in western Glenn County. Pathways to Nature is a school-sponsored event designed to give all fourth grade students attending Willows Murdock Elementary, William Finch Charter School and Elk Creek Elementary hands on experience with nature and natural resources.

The all-day event allows the students to connect what they are learning in the classroom with the natural environment. Every student will spend time learning about various aspects of the outdoors and the environment, from hydrology to plant identification. This year will also feature a new career opportunity station. The reaction from the students who have had the opportunity to attend last year’s event in 2010 was overwhelming, they left the ranch inspired.

“It is our hope as teachers involved in the program that the students will learn environmental and agricultural lessons that will last a lifetime on this day,” states Jill Egly, fourth grade teacher at Willows Unified School District. “This event is something that students work throughout the year in the classroom learning and this day, out on a ranch, they will experience it firsthand.”

Event host Chet Vogt states, “It is a pleasure to have more than 200 students visit our property. Each day, as a rancher, I have the opportunity to experience the outdoors, care for the environment and raise food that feeds my family and yours. It is my hope that other ranchers will join me in educating youth and will partner with other schools around the state to hosts similar events on their ranches.”

This is a community-driven event that includes a diverse array of partners including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Glenn-Colusa CattleWomen, U.S. Forest Service, parents of students and other community organizations and individuals.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thar she blows!

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This photo, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, shows 40,000 cfs of water being released from Shasta Lake earlier this week to make room for more water from oncoming storms. At the time, the lake was 91 percent full, noted Sheri Harral, a public affairs specialist for the bureau.

Releases were eased up a bit in anticipation of Thursday's torrential rain, but water managers have ramped the releases back up again in the last 24 hours, per the Record Searchlight.

Bureau officials have to be wary of swelling tributaries to the river such as Cottonwood, Cow and Clear creeks, Harral told me. The goal is not to let any more than 100,000 cfs pass the Bend Bridge just above Red Bluff, lest the flows start causing flood damage, she said.

Relief for the waterlogged north state should come Monday, as the National Weather Service is predicting sunny skies all week.

For a roundup of how the March storms have affected crop development, check CapitalPress.com later next week.

Farm bureau to hold scholarship dinner

From the Shasta County Farm Bureau:

The Shasta County Farm Bureau proudly represents over 1200 farming and ranching families, businesses and agricultural supporters in Shasta County. The non profit organization is once again hosting their annual “fun” raising dinner. The dinner dance will be held on April 1, 2011 in Fusaro Hall.

The purpose of the dinner is to celebrate the future of agriculture by recognizing students that have excelled academically as well as served their community through leadership and volunteerism. $4,000.00 in scholarships will be presented to very deserving Shasta County Students. The 2011 Distinguished Service Award and 2011 Elizabeth Albaugh Memorial Outstanding Woman in Agriculture Award will also be presented to two outstanding community members that have contributed many years of service to bettering their industry and their community.

Be sure to join the fun with the live and silent auctions, gun drawing and desert auction. All funds will be used to support countywide agricultural education programs, and improve the Shasta County Farm Bureau. Items that are currently available are: Wilcox Ranch Fishing Trip, Romantic Wine tasting for 2, BBQ Barrel, 1 ton of Grass Hay, Hat Creek Herford Ranch Camp Ground Camping Trip, baskets, books and art work. More items are coming…please contact us for more details.

This night of fun and festivities would not be possible without our sponsors: Platinum Level-, Hat Creek Construction, Sierra Pacific Industries, State Fund Gold Level – Shasta Livestock & Western Video Market, Lassen Canyon Nursery, Wooten’s Golden Queens, Northern Lights Energy/Muse Trucking, WM Beaty & Associates, Shasta Farm and Equipment, Giles Insurance Services, Stayer’s Quality Queens, North Valley Bank, The Law Offices of Gifford and Harr & the Urrecelqui Family, Miller Equipment, Tri Counties Bank, Palo Cedro Silver Level – LoCoco Insurance, Northern California Farm Credit, Cross Petroleum, Plumas Bank, Ed Staub & Sons, VESTRA Resources Bronze Level –Wilcox Ranch, Cottonwood Creek Sand & Gravel, McArthur Farm Supply, HP Livestock & Hat Creek Grown, Cottonwood Vet Clinic, Valley Rentals & Materials, Goose Valley Farming, LLC, Elwood Ranch, Historic Hawes Farms, Redding Rodeo Association, Spanish Oaks Ranch, Leon Landis Livestock, Umpqua Bank, Palo Cedro Feed, Nor Cal Trees, Bank of Commerce – Redding, Pfeiffer Ranch, Eagleville, Ca., Carrel’s Office Machines Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Tickets are $25.00 each and are available at the Shasta County Farm Bureau Office.

For further information, please contact our office at 530/547-7170 or Julie Wold at 530/228-5412 or via e-mail juliecwold@gmail.com.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Almond trees felled by storms

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The past week's storms knocked down almond trees in Tehama County and elsewhere. Almond industry and UC Cooperative Extension experts say about 1 to 2 percent of older almond trees were blown over by strong winds, mostly during last weekend's gusts that approached 60 mph.

The photo above is of Rick Buchner, a UCCE farm advisor in Red Bluff, surveying a row of downed trees in an orchard near Gerber. Below, a driver thinks the better of trying to pass through water that flooded out Flores Avenue near Gerber.

Among the state's orchard crops, almond trees are probably the most vulnerable to winds because they leaf up sooner than plum or walnut trees. Older trees are all the more vulnerable because they're bigger and because root decay can undermine their grasp of the ground.

I'll have a full report on how this month's cold and wet weather has affected crop development in next week's Capital Press.

Movie night to feature 'Waiting for Superman'

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The Redding Tea Party will host a showing of the movie "Waiting for Superman," which (like the documentary "The Cartel") chronicles the colossal failure and indeed harmful effects of the public education system in the United States.

A synopsis of the movie is here.

The event begins at 6 p.m. tonight at the Bonnyview Baptist/Destiny Fellowship church hall, 2570 South Bonnyview Road, Redding. There is no charge for the movie and a soup-and-salad bar dinner will be available for a donation. The group asks that you bring a salad of your choice to share.

Is the Libyan non-war all about globalism?

In the mind of George Soros and his true believers (including, perhaps, President Obama), there are no such things as borders.

Per Aaron Klein at Fox News:

Philanthropist billionaire George Soros is a primary funder and key proponent of the global organization that promotes the military doctrine used by the Obama administration to justify the recent airstrikes targeting the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.

The activist who founded and coined the name of the doctrine, "Responsibility to Protect," sits on several key organizations alongside Soros.

Also, the Soros-funded global group that promotes Responsibility to Protect is closely tied to Samantha Power, the National Security Council special adviser to Obama on human rights.

Power has been a champion of the doctrine and is, herself, deeply tied to the doctrine's founder.

According to reports, Power was instrumental in convincing Obama to act against Libya.

The Responsibility to Protect doctrine has been described by its founders and proponents, including Soros, as promoting global governance while allowing the international community to penetrate a nation state's borders under certain conditions.

Oh, but I almost forgot -- this talk of global governance is a bunch of conspiracy-minded malarkey.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Putting the 'community' in community newspapering

Some local newspapers sit in a corner and sort of snicker at the communities they cover. Others embrace their communities and get involved.

Included in the latter group is the Red Bluff Daily News, whose publisher is actively involved in the local chamber of commerce and is about to become its chairman -- and whose editor is about to become president of the local Kiwanis organization.

I witnessed the Daily News' commitment to community first-hand a few years ago when I operated a bureau in Red Bluff for the Redding Record Searchlight. They showed up at every event, many of which they sponsored, and generally enjoyed a relationship with their readers that would make any community newspaper editor proud. It was painfully obvious to me within a few days of being in town that my mere presence wasn't going to run them out of business.

As a competitor, their involvement was a daunting sight. But as a reader, I always tipped my hat.

Texas drought hits beef, wheat

From Bloomberg:

The worst Texas drought in 44 years is damaging the state’s wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds, as rising demand for U.S. food sends grain and meat prices higher.

Texas, the biggest U.S. cattle producer and second-largest winter-wheat grower, got just 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) of rain on average in the five months through February, the least for the period since 1967, State Climatologist John Nielsen- Gammon said. More than half the wheat fields and pastures were rated in poor or very poor condition on March 20.

Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958. [...]

Cattle futures jumped 23 percent in the past year to $1.1335 a pound yesterday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, after touching a record $1.18 on March 9. Wholesale-beef prices are up 17 percent in the past year, touching $1.8905 a pound on March 22, the highest since at least January 2004, when USDA began its current price-tracking method. U.S. retail-beef prices were 9.4 percent higher in February than a year earlier, the USDA said last week.

The inflation train chugs on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Redding rainfall still less than normal

If all this rain in Northern California is making you think of building an ark, consider this.

The Redding Municipal Airport has received 5.31 inches of rainfall so far this month, according to the National Weather Service. That's well above the average of 3.9 inches for thus far in March, and way above the 1.6 inches recorded last year from March 1-23.

But Redding's 27.18 inches of rain for the season is below the average of 27.52 inches by this time of year, and the 11.11 inches we've received since Jan. 1 is below the 15.89 inches normally recorded for the period.

In Shasta County, the bureaucrats rule

Shasta County officials like to talk big when it comes to opposing a federal plan to close some obscure roads and campgrounds in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. But four supervisors had no trouble turning a deaf ear Tuesday to a room full of citizens -- and overwhelming public sentiment in three communities -- so they could lay the groundwork for high-density housing in the county's most remote areas.

And why would they make 170 acres in Cottonwood, Burney and Fall River Mills eligible for this kind of zoning? From the Record Searchlight:

Residents complained their small towns have few job opportunities and little resources to accommodate more people.

But Shasta County planners say the state requires that counties allow the option to rezone land in unincorporated areas for very low-income housing. Updating the general plan also maintains the county’s eligibility for certain state and federal grants, planners said.

Translation: Bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. -- with a little help from bureaucrats in Sacramento -- have absolute authority over Shasta County land use decisions. And most of our county supervisors seem content to defer to the bureaucrats in their own planning department, who are just carrying out the grand mission.

You may as well burn from your consciousness any idea that these people you elected actually represent your interests. Especially those of you in Cottonwood, whose supervisor voted with the majority. I say again and it bears repeating -- the American voter has never been less relevant in our nation's history. I suspect a few county residents sort of yearn for the days of Trish Clarke, who couldn't stomach ceding county land-use decisions to the city of Redding let alone bureaucrats in Sacramento or Washington.

As for the residents around Cottonwood, Burney and Fall River Mills who are concerned about an influx of people, someone I spoke to recently had an idea: Maybe the little apartments and duplexes are meant to be built for you, for when the bureaucrats and their friends in the environmental lobby finally succeed in throwing you off the land your families have been farming for generations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heavy-handed government moderator?

Some farmers in the Klamath Basin were offended by the way an informational meeting on the progress of the Klamath dam removal studies was moderated last week. They're circulating a video that shows the moderator plying the microphone out of the hand of a farmer who's in his 80s and uses a wheelchair before he was finished asking his question.

"I have been to, I can't tell you how many meetings I've gone to, and last night's meeting was the most appalling I've been to in 25 years," said Tom Mallams, a farmer and vocal critic of the dam removals and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

"I thought we were being run through a cattle chute literally," Mallams said. "It was supposed to be a meeting with public comment. They said this was a meeting for public input, not public comment, and there was a big difference there. They didn't record anything there. It wasn't done officially. We were told this was going to be a public comment meeting."

What struck me about their video was a certain level of contempt the moderator seem to have for the crowd, admonishing people to show respect for "your fellow, ya know (pause) ... neighbors" during the meeting. Our fellow what? Fellow backwoods redneck hicks? Is that what you were about to say? I don't know anything about the woman, but it doesn't sound like she gets out much.

Look for my story on the progress of the dam removal studies at CapitalPress.com later in the week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Poll: Unemployment actually 10.2 percent

CNS News reports:

One out of five American workers who wants a full-time job cannot find one, according to a Gallup survey released today.

This news comes 25 months after President Barack Obama signed a stimulus law designed to keep the U.S. unemployment rate under 8 percent.

Gallup derives what it calls the “underemployment” rate by combining the percentage of unemployed workers with the percentage of workers who are employed only part-time but want a full-time job.

As of mid-March, Gallup reported in its new survey, 10.2 percent of American workers were unemployed and 9.7 percent were working part-time but wanted a full-time job. That equals an underemployment rate of 19.9 percent—or approximately one out of every five workers.

According to Gallup, the employment picture in the United States is virtually unchanged from a year ago.

Of course, you probably didn't read that in your morning paper, which no doubt breathlessly rushed to tout the Labor Department's "improving" statistics.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NY gov 'wakes up and smells the tea'

From RedState:

The biggest political story of 2011 is at the state level, where new Republican governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder have followed in the footsteps of Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie by seeking not only to cut short-term spending to address their states’ immediate budget crises while resisting tax hikes, but to attack the #1 source of their states’ long-term fiscal problems: excessive long-term commitments to pay and benefits for (mostly unionized) state and local public employees. Local Democrats in many states have responded with apoplexy, reflecting their political and financial dependence on those same unions. In other states, where the Democrats still hold the statehouses, they’ve had to swallow some spending cuts, but are nonetheless in denial - Jerry Brown in California has tried to close his budget gap with a 50/50 mix of spending cuts and tax hikes, Mark Dayton in Minnesota has pandered to the DailyKos crowd by proposing to double the state’s top income tax bracket, Connecticut’s Dan Malloy - elected by the slimmest of margins - blasted Walker’s collective bargaining reforms as “Un-American” and proposed a battery of tax hikes, and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley even went to the Corzine-esque extreme of giving the keynote speech at a union protest against his own budget, swearing to avoid “Midwestern oppression.”

But oddly, at least one newly-elected Democratic governor seems to have come to grips thus far with reality, and it’s maybe the unlikeliest of all: New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

More here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Age-ism at a government school

Spotted on the message board at Rother Elementary School in Redding this week:

"Every step of the journey is the journey"

Huh?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Low approval ratings for Vilsack, Salazar

From Rasmussen Reports:

With gas prices soaring, the pressure's on the Obama administration to increase the number of permits for deepwater oil drilling. Right now, just 16% of Likely U.S. Voters have a favorable opinion of the man who'll grant those permits, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, with a scant one percent (1%) who regard him Very Favorably.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 27% view the former Colorado senator unfavorably, including 11% with a Very Unfavorable view of him. But like many of his fellow Cabinet members, Salazar is an unknown commodity to many voters: 57% don't know enough about him to venture any kind of opinion. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Rasmussen Reports has been regularly asking voters in recent weeks what they think of the president's Cabinet members. Despite the importance of many of their positions and the actions they take, most of these political appointees are little known to voters in general. A list of these findings is available here. With 60% favorables, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is the best-known and most popular member of the Cabinet.

By contrast, only 20% of voters have a favorable opinion of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, with two percent (2%) who view him Very Favorably. The former Iowa governor is seen unfavorably by 17%, including seven percent (7%) with a Very Unfavorable impression. However, 63% don't venture any kind of opinion of Vilsack.

Pastor Rick Warren, Obamacare champion?

Last night I heard an interview of Sarah Leslie, who's part of a Texas-based group called Discernment Ministries. She spent the better part of two hours detailing Southern California megachurch pastor Rick Warren's efforts as more or less a cheerleader for health care reform, including his compiling the private health information of members of his congregation through what the church calls its "Daniel Plan."

The group blogs:

What is this Daniel Plan? Obviously it doesn't have anything to do with the biblical Daniel. Rick Warren was well-schooled in Leadership Network's marketing model which encourages pastors to snap up a biblical-sounding term, apply it on to any new plan or program, and voila! It becomes a marketing logo! Note the emphasis on community in this description:

The Daniel Plan is designed to help people adapt a healthy lifestyle through a comprehensive 52-week journey--not just another short-lived diet. With the inspiration to know and live God’s Prescription for Health, The Daniel Plan supports you with world-class professional Doctors, small-group support, tools, resources and an online community![https://www.saddleback.com/thedanielplan/healthyhabits/ ] [emphasis added]

Being part of the community means that you go into the databank. The Daniel Plan is a massive health assessment for all evangelicals gullible enough to turn in personally identifiable health data to a Rick Warren's massive secretive databank.[9] The Daniel Plan asks users to create their own health profile online that divulges intimate medical information:

In order for us to support and guide in this journey, we need to know more about the history of your health and your current physical state. This profile will also help you track your progress, connect with others working the program, and get your questions answered. [https://www.saddleback.com/thedanielplan/getstarted.html] [emphasis added]

A broad range of health data will be collected on participants. (We guess the participants will yield their right to privacy! They will provide to Dr. Rick information that was previously confidential between them and their personal physicians.) At the Daniel Plan website, the "WEEK 1: Measure Your Way to Success!" explains:

Click "Get Started," and create your "Health Profile" where you will enter in information about your current condition. The site will save your statistics so you can compare your progress down the road. All the information is private, voluntary, and optional.

To help you get started on this journey, get your height, weight, blood pressure, measurements, and "before" pictures taken on your church campus this weekend. Then, you can add this information to your profile. We also recommend knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI), completing the Medical Symptom/Toxicity Questionnaire (MSQ), and if possible, getting a "full blood panel."

Coming soon…watch an in-depth video explanation from Dr. Mark Hyman regarding "Knowing Your Numbers." In addition, the doctors will be providing optional quizzes to help gauge your starting point.[http://saddleback.com/thedanielplan/][10]


"Private" is not defined in the above disclaimer about collecting health information. Furthermore, this personal "Health Profile" data is being collected for broadly unspecified purposes. Who are Rick Warren's partners in this endeavor? With whom will he share this data? Will this Church data be passed along to the State? Turned over to Corporations? (In other words, the other two legs of the 3-legged stool)? Given Warren's close association with Bill Gates, who is heavily involved in funding health care reform around the world, one can only guess how far-and-wide the Daniel Plan data could be divulged.

The group also smacks Warren for teaming with pop-culture physicians such as Dr. Oz in pushing his program. If your church is using this Daniel Plan or another program spearheaded by Warren, it might be worth a little research on your part.

My opinion of some of Warren's ministries and of his world-famous book, "The Purpose-Driven Life", is that they're a little heavy on psychology and light on spirituality. Plus I'm generally skeptical of celebrity preachers, and of pastors who dream of becoming celebrity preachers. It tends to become all about them, rather than about the true object of the faith.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Klamath Republicans target ESA

A press release from Republicans in Klamath County, Ore.:

The following resolution was unanimously passed by the Klamath County Republican Central Committee at its March 10, 2011 meeting:

“Moved that the Klamath County Republican Central Committee resolve to take on the charge and the focus, for the next two years, to rally all Republican Central Committees and all Tea Patriot groups and other appropriate groups in the Western United States to Reform the ESA, (the Endangered Species Act), so that farmers, ranchers, timber industry employees, fishing industry employees, mining employees and other employees can keep their jobs and make an acceptable living. And; so that economic growth, economic recovery and economic stability are given no less than equal status to non-human species.”

Klamath Republican Party leads the charge to reform the ESA

Never in our history, since the implementation of the ESA, has there been a more obvious need for a reform of the ESA. Earlier attempts have been made with no real success. The political climate across our nation is calling for this reform. Our local communities and our entire nation is being held hostage by the heavy handed, one-sided use of the ESA. There is a definite need for a watchdog advocate for our environment, but the ESA has become an out of control, rabid pit bull that needs to be contained. Our entire Nation is suffering from the effects of the ESA, from high fuel prices, loss of timber jobs, agriculture jobs, fishing jobs, mining jobs, development jobs and the list goes on and on. No one is immune from the negative effects inflicted on our citizens by the unanticipated use of the ESA. Our local budget crisis is a direct result of ESA collateral damage.

Our community can be united in this quest. We can survive, with a true balanced approach.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Is Time magazine inciting violence?

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly notes:

The attorney general's office in Wisconsin is investigating a number of death threats against some Republicans who voted to diminish union power.

A radio station obtained this e-mail: "Please put your things in order because you will be killed, and your families will be killed due to your actions in the last eight weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families, then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell."

Wisconsin authorities are taking this stuff seriously. They have a suspect. He has not been charged as far as we know.

In light of this, how responsible was it for Time magazine to post this headline with regard to events in Wisconsin? Are they so desperate to create bumper-sticker slogans for their Democratic friends that they could care less about the consequences?

Time magazine is awfully eager of late to predict the demise of the people and institutions its people despise -- America, Gov. Walker -- when its staffers ought to be more concerned about the magazine's own demise.

NFU sends condolences to Japan

From the National Farmers Union:

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (March 12, 2011) – At a meeting preceding the National Farmers Union (NFU) 109th Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas, the NFU Board of Directors signed a letter lending support and condolences to the people of Japan in the wake of the tragic earthquake and tsunami.

“The members of the National Farmers Union of the United States extend our sympathy to the people of Japan and to our friends at JA Zenchu,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “As farmers, ranchers and fishermen in the U.S., we are saddened to see the tragedy that struck your country. Words cannot express the dismay we feel as we see the destruction that has struck.”

“Our sympathy is with you and our prayers are for you,” said Johnson. “We want to help your members heal from that destruction in an appropriate manner. As the rebuilding and recovery process begins from this horrific tragedy, Farmers Union members from across the United States offer their support.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Barack Obama, president of China?

President Obama has reportedly been telling people he thinks it would be easier to be president of China than of the United States. The Weekly Standard blogs:

Mr. Obama is right.

If you’re president of China, people around the world who are fighting for freedom don’t really expect you to help. If you’re president of China, you don’t have to put up with annoying off-year congressional elections, and then negotiate your budget with a bunch of gun-and-religion-clinging congressmen and senators. If you’re president of China, you can fund your national public radio to your heart’s content. And if you’re president of China, when you host a conference on bullying in schools, people take you seriously.

Unfortunately, it's Obama's sometimes apparent effort to turn this country into another China that has people a little alarmed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is the government propping up the stock market?

With all the talk of conspiracy theories on this blog in recent weeks, I do have a favorite little pet conspiracy theory. It's actually not just mine; I'm told it's been fairly widely speculated in the hallways and power lunches of the industry in question, although it's rarely talked about in the news media or even on talk radio. The theory goes like this:

The federal government has been secretly pumping stimulus money into the stock market, mainly to avoid a slump that would drag down the president's poll numbers.

Market analysts have been baffled at times over the prolonged rally in the past two years, even in the face of a recession, the steadily declining dollar and rising oil prices. The notion of government tampering in the markets was actually uttered out loud about a year ago by Charles Biderman, the founder and chief executive of TrimTabs, a research firm that tracks liquidity flows in the market.

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The unusual circumstances that led the U.S. market to rally powerfully in 2009 might be explained by secret government moves to buy stocks, according to Charles Biderman, the founder and chief executive of TrimTabs, a research firm that tracks liquidity flows in the market.

"We cannot identify the source of the new money that pushed stock prices up so far so fast," Biderman said in a statement Tuesday.

The source of approximately $600 billion net new cash necessary to lift the market's overall capitalization by $6 trillion last year could not be identified by TrimTabs, Biderman said. The money, he said, didn't come from traditional players such as companies, retail investors, foreign investors, hedge funds or pension funds.

"We know that the U.S. government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to support the auto industry, the housing market, and the banks and brokers. Why not support the stock market as well?"

I would emphasize that nobody has come up with proof to back up this conspiracy theory. But the sometimes inexplicable market gains have continued unabated since Biderman made his comments. A running joke has been that a suitcase nuke could go off in New York and the Dow would gain 100 points. Well, today an earthquake wiped out coastal Japan and sent tsunamis all over the Pacific and the Dow gained 57. It was down early and rallied late. Gotta keep it above 12,000, I guess.

My understanding is that such a propping-up of the stock market wouldn't necessarily be illegal; in fact, one might argue it would be a good idea to protect people's retirement portfolios in a time of economic uncertainty.

But if it were indeed happening, it would raise two questions: First, who's accountable for how much is being spent and where? And secondly, as government funds continue to be used to purchase stock in companies, at what point can we say that nothing is truly privately owned anymore?

Don't mess with the ocean

...

Fierce waves are now crashing onto the beach near the Yaquina Head Light House in Newport, Ore., basically warning people to stay out of their way. Otherwise, it looks to be a pretty nice day. (Photo from The Coast Is Clear, a promotional Web site for Newport.)

Japan quake rattles US ag markets

From the Wall Street Journal:

A severe earthquake and tsunami in Japan rattled U.S. agricultural markets Friday, as traders tried to assess the potential impact on import demand for such commodities as pork and corn.

Corn and lean hog futures saw some of the sharpest declines as most farm products sold off on fears the disaster would slow demand from a key buyer. Further selling came from traders looking to just exit commodity markets because of the overall uncertainty that follows a natural disaster.

"The immediate impact of the earthquake was extreme uncertainty -- the condition most hated by investors," said Bryce Knorr, analyst for Farm Futures, an agricultural publication.

Avoiding the broad sell-off was lumber, with futures for May delivery climbing $6.40, or 2.1%, to $315.50 per 1,000 board feet on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Futures rose $10 in overnight trading, the largest one-day gain allowed under exchange rules. [...]

Hog futures sold off with the April contract, which is the most actively traded, recently falling one cent, or 1.1%, to 88.85 cents a pound. June hog futures were off 1.6 cents, or 1.6%, at 99.85 cents a pound.

Japan is the largest international customer for U.S. pork based on total sales, with the country spending nearly $1.65 billion on imports in 2010 and accounting for more than 34% of total U.S. export sales, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Meat Export Federation.

It is too early to assess the overall damage, yet in the short term "it appears there will be significant disruption to transportation," said Jim Herlihy, a spokesman for the export federation.

Delays of meat shipments from the U.S. may occur, which could temporarily put more pork supplies into the domestic market.

Consumer confidence at 2011 low

A funny thing has happened on the road to recovery. From Rasmussen:

The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures the economic confidence of consumers on a daily basis, fell more than two points on Thursday to 75.4, the lowest level measured since September 2010. Consumer confidence is down two points from last week and is down 14 and a half points from a month ago.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of American adults now rate their own finances as good or excellent. That’s down from 43% the night before Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008. It’s also down from 38% on the night President Obama was elected and 35% the day he was inaugurated. Twenty-five percent (25%) rate their personal finances as poor.

After rising steadily from the summer of 2010 to reach a two-year high in January, 2011, consumer confidence began to slip in February. In fact, for the full month of February, the Rasmussen Consumer Index was at 84.5, down three points from the previous month. So far in March, every single daily reading of the Index has been lower than the February average.

With gas prices having risen 67 percent since President Obama was inaugurated, the poll is not a surprise. Every uptick in gas prices -- and concurrently in the price of everything else -- increases the likelihood of a double-dip recession.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PLF sues over sturgeon listing

From the Pacific Legal Foundation:

Sacramento, CA; March 10, 2011: The federal government’s 2009 critical habitat designation for the green sturgeon must be withdrawn and reworked, says a lawsuit filed today by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, representing San Francisco Bay Area business and landowners associations.

The suit points out that regulators illegally set aside vast areas as green sturgeon habitat, up and down the West Coast and in California’s Central Valley, without even considering economic impacts in some areas and without properly balancing economic considerations, in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In addition, the suit was brought because the government utterly failed to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Donor-supported PLF is the leading legal watchdog that litigates, without charge, for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. In this lawsuit, PLF attorneys represent the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area and the Bay Planning Coalition, whose members are directly injured by the illegal government rule.

The case is Building Industry Association of the Bay Area and Bay Planning Coalition v. National Marine Fisheries Service. The complaint may be viewed at PLF’s website: www.pacificlegal.org. A PLF video on the case also may be viewed at PLF’s website.

"This critical habitat designation was not only illegal, it was reckless, because officials ignored the potential pain for the economy in many of the areas they designated as critical habitat," said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Ted Hadzi-Antich. "As tens of millions of Americans struggle to find jobs, comfortable federal regulators designated much of the West Coast as critical habitat for the green sturgeon, while refusing to comply with economic balancing requirements in the ESA. The government’s failure to consider the appropriate economic criteria and tests for critical habitat designation under the ESA, and its failure to consider alternatives under NEPA, is, quite frankly, flat-out illegal."

"By definition, critical habitat designations curtail economic activity," Hadzi-Antich continued. "So common sense – and federal law – require regulators to show care, nuance, and balance in making these decisions, but the regulators did not do so in this case."

Green sturgeon critical habitat: More than 12,000 square miles at issue

The green sturgeon has been listed as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act since April 7, 2006. The critical habitat designation for the green sturgeon was issued in its final form by the National Marine Fisheries Service on October 9, 2009, and it covers a vast area in the waters, shorelines, and land areas of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Included are:

1) Coastal U.S. marine waters within 60 fathoms depth from Monterey Bay, Calif. (including Monterey Bay), north to Cape Flattery, Wash., including the Straight of Juan De Fuca, Wash., to its U.S. boundary;

2) the Sacramento River, lower Feather River, and lower Yuba River in California;

3) the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Suisin, San Pablo, and San Francisco bays in California;

4) the lower Columbia River Estuary; and

5) certain coastal bays and estuaries in California (Humboldt Bay), Oregon (Coos Bay, Winchester Bay, Yaquina Bay, and Nehalem Bay), and Washington (Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor).

In total, the final rule designates approximately 11,421 square miles of coastal marine habitat, 897 square miles of estuarine habitat, and 320 miles of freshwater riverine habitat.

"All responsible Americans care about environmental protection, including protecting the green sturgeon, but a careful, balanced approach is essential, so we don’t derail ourselves economically in the name of protecting the environment," said Hadzi-Antich. "Critical habitat designations have the effect of limiting productive uses of property. Because the harms to human beings can be significant, federal law requires regulators to carefully balance economic impacts against conservation goals before designating any area as critical habitat. The National Marine Fisheries Service simply refused to follow this legal requirement when it decided to set aside as green sturgeon habitat large swaths of territory they viewed as high value areas. In short, the government broke the law in its misguided efforts to implement it."

The Endangered Species Act requirement for considering human economic impacts is set forth at 16 U.S.C. section 1531, et seq.

Additionally, under NEPA (42 U.S.C. section 4332(2)(C)), the Environmental Impact Statement for any regulation that would "significantly affect[] the quality of the human environment" must include an assessment of alternatives to the regulatory action.

"Put simply, the regulators broke the law when they designated critical habitat for the green sturgeon," said Hadzi-Antich. "This lawsuit isn’t just about the importance of a balanced approach to economic regulations. It’s also about the rule of law: Government has to comply with the law, just like the rest of us."

Plaintiffs in challenging the feds’ failure to weigh the economic impacts

PLF attorneys represent two plaintiff organizations in this case.

The Building Industry Association of the Bay Area (BIABA), a nonprofit association of builders, contractors, and related trades and professions involved in the residential construction industry, is bringing this lawsuit on its own behalf and on behalf of its members. BIABA represents the interests of its members and the residential construction industry in areas of California improperly designated by Defendants as critical habitat under the final rules, including the San Francisco Bay Area and the Yolo and Sutter bypasses adjacent to the Sacramento River.

The ability of these owners and developers to use their properties is undermined by the critical habitat designation because of strict land use restrictions that are triggered for the affected property.

Paul Campos, senior vice president and general counsel for the BIABA, issued this statement:

"It is ironic that at a time when there is an emerging consensus that federal regulations must take into account the impact on jobs and economic health, here we have a federal statute that requires just that – yet it is being ignored and undermined by the very federal agency charged with implementing the law. We are fortunate PLF is there to help us fight against this type of illegal government activity and to give us our day in court. The livelihoods of many property owners and businesses are at issue."

The Bay Planning Coalition is a nonprofit membership-based organization whose mission is to ensure a healthy and thriving San Francisco Bay Area for commerce, recreation, and the natural environment. BPC represents the interests of, among others, businesses and property owners in the San Francisco Bay Area whose land has been designated as critical habitat under the final green sturgeon rules.

John Coleman, executive director of the Bay Planning Coalition, issued this statement: "The rules go way too far in designating critical habitat in vast areas without properly considering economic impacts. This legal action is necessary to make sure the government plays by the rules."

Could ABC's "Good Christian' show start a TV-turnoff movement?

I've gotten to a point where I don't sit and watch most secular commercial television. We DVR movies and shows we specifically want to watch, buzz through the commercials when necessary, and that's it. My one exception is sports, and often with that I turn the sound down on the TV and put music on. I don't need to hear what some dipstick sports announcer is saying about the game I'm watching for myself.

Mostly, I just get tired of the noise. But one reason I'm so particular is stuff like this. From the American Family Association:

The ABC network is currently working on a pilot for a prime-time program called "Good Christian B-tches."

It's a Christian-bashing version of ABC's current "Desperate Housewives." The show centers on a recently divorced mother of two who moves back to the affluent neighborhood where she grew up to find herself in the whirling midst of gossip, Botox and fraud.

Disney-owned ABC has no reservations about creating hate speech against Christians, but you can be sure they would never consider a show called "Good Muslim B-tches" or "Good Jewish B-tches."

With a title like "Good Christian B-tches," you can imagine what kind of show it will be. Even if they change the title, the content will still mock people of faith.

TAKE ACTION

Sign a petition to ABC and parent company Disney to drop all plans to air the anti-Christian program "Good Christian B-tches."

We'll add your petition to thousands of other voices in also urging advertisers to place it on their "do not advertise" list and consider pulling all ads from the ABC network in protest of this Anti-Christian bigotry.

Please let your local ABC station know that you will pressure local advertisers to pull their advertising business from the show and station, should it choose to air the program. You can find your local station's contact information here.

My hunch is the AFA would be just as well off putting its petition to ABC and Disney in the circular file as sending it, because the networks don't care. The fact that the show has made it this far in production proves how little they care. Shows like this are made for fast-living people in large urban areas who never give a second thought to either using foul language or belittling people of faith.

People would have better luck targeting the affiliates, which have some real power. I'd be interested to see the station manager at every ABC affiliate in a small to mid-sized market put on record as to whether his station plans to air such a show. In our coverage area, that would include affiliates in Redding, Medford, Klamath Falls, Twin Falls, Yakima, the Tri-Cities and even Boise, Spokane, Eugene and Sacramento.

Of course, it would take church leaders to bring this kind of pressure in their communities, and they'd have history on their side. But unfortunately many pastors are too busy appealing to the masses with feel-good sermons and apologizing for their own congregations to take stands on principle.

So what's the solution? For many people -- and not just Christians -- it may well be to simply unplug and let the cable and satellite companies start to feel it in their pocketbooks. Maybe then a few of them would take a second look at their lineup of offerings, although I rather doubt it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rights expert coming to Siskiyou County

From Scott Valley Protect Our Water:

Attorney Fred Kelly Grant
Well-known fighter for Water
and Property Rights.
Constitutional rights!
Two meetings will be held,
Friday, March 11, 2011
at the Scott Valley Grange in Greenview
7 p.m.
&
On Sat. March 12, 2011
Flower building at Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds
2 to 5 p.m.
Come learn how to protect your
Water Rights and Private Property Rights.
PienPolitics.com

NPR, PBS violating lobbying laws (updated)

Seth McLaughlin and Stephen Dinan report in the Washington Times:

NPR and PBS stations nationwide are rallying their audiences to contact Congress to fight against Republicans’ proposed spending cuts, but some affiliates’ pleas may violate laws preventing nonprofits or government-funded groups from lobbying.

Interrupting popular programs, the stations air warnings that cuts could end beloved children’s television shows such as “Sesame Street.” Some stations urge their audience to call and let Congress know their feelings, while others go further, instructing viewers to “stop the Senate” or “defend federal funding” for public broadcasting.

The ad campaigns are a direct response to House Republicans’ push to eliminate all Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds for the rest of the fiscal year. Democrats have fought the cuts and President Obama asked for $451 million for CPB in his 2012 budget request — a $6 million increase.

But lawmakers and conservative critics argue the stations are breaking two laws, one that prohibits using taxpayer-funded grants to petition Congress for more taxpayer money and the other that bans nonprofits from doing much lobbying of any kind.

Meanwhile, commentator Hugh Hewitt continues to skewer NPR, citing an undercover video that shows NPR executives bashing conservatives and tea party members and basically calling Americans uneducated fools. Hewitt writes:

If the GOP House leadership leaves one dime in the CPB's account, it will be to their shame and it will not be forgotten by the base anymore than a failure to defund Planned parenthood will be forgiven. The majority of Americans are fed up with feeding the hard left interest groups in this country, no matter how nice their bump music or how self-satisfied and insular their hard-left leadership.

One has to wonder if the days of government-funded radio and television may finally be nearing an end.

UPDATE: NPR executive Vivian Schiller abruptly resigned today over the aforementioned video. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center opines that Schiller's resignation doesn't mean a thing when it comes to changing the culture at the network.

His observation makes sense. I've been in situations in the past when there was a changing of the guard in the top editor's or publisher's position and the newsroom didn't change a bit.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Did the DFG threaten farmers?

There appears to be a question in some people's minds as to whether California Department of Fish and Game officials actually threatened farmers and ranchers in the Scott and Shasta valleys with prosecution, or whether the landowners merely "claimed" they were threatened. Here's what we reported on May 13, 2010:

Those who don't sign up -- or don't obtain permits on their own later -- could expect inspections by game wardens and face civil and criminal penalties of up to $25,000 per violation and up to six months in jail, said Mark Stopher, the DFG's acting regional manager in Redding, Calif.

"We do have to have a point where we say one way or the another, they need to be compliant with the law," Stopher said. "We can't just let it be open for them to choose ... when they want to comply with the law."

Stopher said he sent a "rather stern letter" to ranchers in April as the irrigation season was beginning to "lay out their options." [...]

Stopher said for everyone who's complaining about the state's requiring the permits, there's an equal number of people impatient with the pace of the state's enforcement efforts.

"If telling people that they actually do have to comply with state law is intimidation, I can't help that," he said. "What we have done is frankly given people a five-year grace period since coho salmon were listed to comply with state law.

"We didn't have to develop this (watershed-wide permit), but we did," he said.

In my interview with him in May, Stopher said agricultural users in the two valleys are "currently out of compliance with state law," adding that Fish and Game Code section 1602 requires landowners to notify the DFG if they're making a substantial diversion from a river or stream.

"Nobody in either valley has agreed with us to substantially divert flow yet they're doing it already," he said. He added later, "The question of whether somebody is diverting in accordance with a water right is moot at this point." Then later, he said there's a "route we don't want to minimize, and that's the enforcement route."

Talk of enforcement actions didn't end when Stopher was replaced by Neil Manji, the DFG's current regional manager in Redding. As we reported on Sept. 9:

Some ranchers who signed up for the blanket permits are being asked to cut back on their irrigation, said Neil Manji, the DFG's regional manager based in Redding.

Holdouts were sent new letters in August again warning them of potential penalties, and wardens have visited the properties of some of the ranchers, he said.

"At this time we're not going out there with billy clubs and mace trying to get this thing done," Manji said. "We're trying to get as many ... permits issued to show the community up there that it's not really pulling teeth, it's just a nice teeth cleaning. I think everybody knows a lot of folks are afraid to go to the dentist to begin with."

Fallout over the threats of penalties prompted complaints from Northern California's state Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and later from Sen. Doug LaMalfa, and it ultimately moved Manji to try to change the department's approach with the landowners.

What we don't know is how heated some wardens' conversations with individual landowners may have become. But when it comes to its stance on enforcement, the DFG as a whole has left little ambiguity.

In the Scott and Shasta valleys, what's changed?

The short answer is, we don't know yet. There seems to be an assumption out there that, because of judge Ernest Goldsmith's smackdown of the California Department of Fish and Game's watershed-wide permits in the Scott and Shasta valleys, ranchers and other water users there are in big trouble. This may turn out to be the case, but for now, the focus is not on them but is on the DFG.

From my story Friday:

"With the lawsuit what we basically wanted to do was have (the DFG) go back to the drawing board and do the proper studies they needed to do to authorize more take in these watersheds," said Wendy Park, an attorney for Earthjustice. "It's really in the agency's hands."

Park declined to say whether the groups would begin targeting individual landowners.

In the interview, Park noted that the ruling was tentative and that Earthjustice is waiting for a final decision, which could take another month. She said it's up to the DFG to do the proper studies to authorize more "take" and come up with mitigation measures to restore coho salmon.

"We are hopeful that if they do have to go back to the drawing board, they will take that seriously and will do the proper science and do the proper studies," Park told me. "We would be watching that process all the way."

If anybody at Earthjustice or another environmental group is thinking, "Those farmers better watch out because we're coming after them," nobody is saying it. And rancher Jeff Fowle isn't assuming such a witchhunt would be successful, although he notes that farmers have faced the threat of individual lawsuits since the coho salmon were listed.

From my story:

Etna, Calif., rancher Jeff Fowle acknowledged there's a risk of such suits, but he said landowners have taken many measures to protect fish and have only diverted water in accordance with their adjudicated rights.

He expressed hope that Goldsmith's decision will cause Fish and Game to take a closer look at water-saving measures taken by landowners, such as replacing old wells with new ones in more strategic places and installing wheel and pivot irrigation devices.

Ranchers have put in Fish and Game-designed fish screens and permanent rock weir structures so they don't have to use push-up dams, Fowle said.

"Is it any higher risk now than it was a year ago? I really don't know," Fowle told me. "From my personal knowledge of a majority of the diversions in the Scott Valley, we have done everything that the Department of Fish and Game has requested when it comes to mitigating for impact on salmonids.

"In order for a third-party lawsuit to come about, the burden of proof is a dead fish," he said. "They have to prove it was a direct action by a landowner that caused the death of that fish and there's always a risk. We have a risk when we get out of bed in the morning. I don't think this necessarily increases that risk any."

Certainly the DFG has the authority to increase scrutiny on irrigators, but what shape that takes is yet to be seen. And judge Goldsmith isn't telling the agency how to go about protecting the fish; he only ruled that the agency's current effort -- the blanket permits -- weren't set up according to state environmental laws. From his decision:

In adjudicating the instant case, the Court does not and should not seek a particular result. Rather, the court's primary goal is to protect the public and ensure all legal and legislative mandates are followed by informed public policy makers. The Court may not "substitute [its] judgment for that of the people and their local representatives. [It] can and must, however, scrupulously enforce all legislatively mandated CEQA requirements."

For his part, Neil Manji, the DFG's regional manager in Redding, said even before the ruling there was no timetable for enforcement actions and that taking "the legal route" with each landowner would be "a no-win." From my story on Dec. 9:

A determination of whether a landowner is violating the state's fish and game code is "not really cut and dry," Manji said, adding there are "several things the department needs to look at to determine whether or not a permit is required."

Some diversions in the Scott and Shasta valleys may not be considered significant, although most agricultural operations there "fall within the category of needing to at least consult with Fish and Game," he said.

For one thing, local law enforcement has shown a reluctance to go along with prosecutions of farmers. I'm told Manji went to Siskiyou County last Thursday to talk with law enforcement officials and the meeting did not go well. And of course there's Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and Sen. Doug LaMalfa, who've taken up the landowners' cause and could persuade other lawmakers to come down on the DFG.

In court, the DFG "pointed out the logistical and practical difficulties in fully enforcing illegal take under CESA," according to judge Goldsmith, who was unmoved by the agency's argument. Now that the tentative ruling has come down, Manji appears ready to come to landowners with hat in hand.

"Our concern is we know and have known that fish are out there," he told me. "We need to rally with the landowners (to protect the fish). Part of that will be trying to incorporate a fix with some consensus with landowners who were engaged ... It would not be in our best interests to make decisions ... without fully vetting the landowners."

So the bottom line is this: At least some of the landowners who were cooperating with DFG may continue to do so. The ones who weren't, aren't about to start. And environmentalists appear to be waiting for the DFG to make its next move, which could take awhile. So again, what's changed, really?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Testicle Festival 'still hangin''

The actual press release for the annual Rocky Mountain oyster-eating fundraiser for the cowboy museum and Rotary club in Oakdale, Calif.:

Some say that the Oakdale Testicle Festival Committee was plain nuts when they came up with the idea to have a slogan contest celebrating the event’s 30th Anniversary. Creative minds threw out witty suggestions, innuendos and otherwise to the events website. There were 129 entries that festival committee members sifted through before coming up with a catchy phrase that was submitted by Escalon resident Jenny Nahhas. A woman? Yes guys, a woman. Jenny coined the slogan “30 Years and Still Hangin!” She found out about the contest on the internet and being a witty person, came up with several suggestions. She has never attended the event where bovine love parts are part of the menu but she’s willing to give em’ a try! Jenny won two tickets to the event and event merchandise!

The Annual Testicle Festival is co sponsored by the Oakdale Rotary Club and the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and will be held on Monday, March 28 at the FES Hall in Oakdale. Tickets are $50 each and includes dinner and a hosted bar. This is a fundraising event for both organizations and a raffle and live auction will also be held. To see more of the slogans submitted, buy tickets and event merchandise go to the website at www.oakdaletesticlefestival.com.


No comment.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The judge's conclusion in the Scott-Shasta case

Here is San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith's conclusion in his opinion on the environmentalists' lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Game over the watershed-wide permits in Siskiyou County.

Overview

The Court notes the record reflects DFG's good faith effort to enforce environmental regulations while accounting for economic realities through the Programs. Pursuant to its manifold mandate, DFG endeavored to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders in the Klamath Basin while grappling with the harsh truth that water is a widely shared yet severely limited resource in the West. All stakeholders involved here at some point encounter Coho, which course through this shared resource. Consequently, the Coho's listing under CESA will impose hardship on water users, especially agricultural operators, some of whom have been diverting water independent of DFG oversight before and after Coho were listed as endangered. In effect, water users have to adjust from an irregularly enforced ITP and SAA setting to a much higher and stricter plateau set by CESA. Understandably, the Programs seek to lessen the shock of this adjustment and make compliance more economically feasible by lowering permitting costs.

However, while DFG may pursue streamlined permitting processes, it may not do so by attenuating the strict directives of CESA. Given that the legislative mandate is to preserve listed species, the environmental analysis should consider all factors that may jeopardize their existence, including their presently reduced population. Water management is the central element of DFG's efforts to effect the survival of the Coho through the Programs. Water management inevitably has an economic component and water usage will increase or decrease in relation to cost. In the case of Coho survival versus agricultural use, no analysis has considered the economic value of the water and the Coho because there is a legislative mandate to preserve the Coho as a listed endangered species. However, the Programs have a significant fiscal component by offering the incentive of reduced permitting costs while threatening water users with high fees under the old permitting system or the potential of even higher costs and penalties involved in the enforcement process. As most or all agricultural operators inevitably participate in the Programs, more permits will issue, and Coho are at greater risk. CEQA requires analysis of this foreseeable increase of ITPs while CESA requires full mitigation of the increased take that naturally follows an ITP.

Overall, the more lenient effect of the Programs relates back to DFG's enforcement responsibilities. DFG has pointed out the logistical and practical difficulties in fully enforcing illegal take under CESA. This explains DFG's emphasis in creating a more liberal permitting system even though it will result in higher take of Coho under the rationale that an imperfect regulatory program is preferable to the alternative of not fully enforcing against agricultural operators. Respondent argues as justification for increased take under the Programs, the difficulty of detecting violations over a large geographical area and the uncertainty of follow through of prosecution. Nevertheless, the Programs must comply with the mandates of CESA and CEQA, which do not make exceptions for difficulties of enforcement, nor can the Programs relieve Respondent from its statutory enforcement duties.

In adjudicating the instant case, the Court does not and should not seek a particular result. Rather, the court's primary goal is to protect the public and ensure all legal and legislative mandates are followed by informed public policy makers. The Court may not "substitute [its] judgment for that of the people and their local representatives. [It] can and must, however, scrupulously enforce all legislatively mandated CEQA requirements." (Citizens of Godea Valley v. Bd. of Supervisors (1990) 52 Cal.3d 553, 564). In enforcing these legislative mandates, the Court must bear in mind that "the Legislature intended [CEQA] to be interpreted in such manner as to afford the fullest possible protection to the environment within the reasonable scope of the statutory language." (Laurel Heights, supra, 47 Cal.3d at 390 (citation omitted).)

CEQA's most meaningful impact, however, is as an accountability mechanism to ensure informed decisionmaking and informed public participation. The EIR, such as the ones at issue in the instant case, is

[A]n environmental 'alarm bell' whose purpose is to alert the public and its responsible officials to environmental changes before they have reached ecological points of no return. The EIR is also intended to demonstrate to an apprehensive citizenry that the agency has, in fact, analyzed and considered the ecological implications of its action. Because the EIR must be certified or rejected by public officials, it is a document of accountability. (Laurel Heights, 47 Cal 3d at 392 (citation omitted).)

In the midst of conflicting opinions as to whether the Programs are proper, "[t]he ultimate decision of whether to approve a project, be that decision right or wrong, is a nullity if based upon an EIR that does not provide the decision-makers, and the public, with the information about the project that is required by CEQA." (San Joaquin Raptor, supra, 149 Cal. App. 4th at 721-22.) Ultimately, the Court must protect the public interest by upholding CEQA, which "protects not only the environment but also informed self-government." (Laurel Heights, 47 Cal.3d at 392.)

Despite DFG's good faith efforts and potential hardship to water users, the Court must uphold the legislature's mandate to preserve listed species and conduct environmental review of all foreseeable consequences under CEQA and CESA.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How to artificially inseminate a cow

Shasta College is offering a class on the task later this month. From the California Cattlemen's Association:

* The Shasta College’s Agriculture and Natural Resources program is offering a cattle Artificial Insemination school on March 28-31. The first 20 paid students will receive classroom instruction. The $500 fee includes all the A.I. equipment and supplies needed, plus three full days of hands-on instruction from B.J. Macfarlane.

Those interested may register online at www.shastacollege.edu/ewd and click on ‘Pathways’ or call (530) 225-4835. Credit cards accepted.

For more information on the A.I. School, call B.J. Macfarlane at (530) 242-7564 or e-mail bmacfarlane@shastacollege.edu or Trena Kimler-Richards at (530) 242-2209 or e-mail trichards@shastacollege.edu.

Is America in decline?

Jay Nordlinger writes in NRO's The Corner:

I see on Drudge a headline that says “Time Mag: Yes, America in Decline . . .” I have an idea for the 2012 campaign. The Republican should frame it this way: “President Obama and the Democrats want to manage American decline. We want to stop it and reverse it.”

And I remind you of what George Bush (41) said, in that boffo (really) 1988 convention speech:

“My opponent’s view of the world sees a long, slow decline for our country, an inevitable fall mandated by impersonal historical forces. But America is not in decline. America is a rising nation.”

And on those last two words, Bush made a rising motion with his hand. He continued,

“He [Dukakis] sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe. And I see America as the leader — a unique nation with a special role in the world.”

A lot has happened since 1988, I realize. But I echo the words of John O’Sullivan and others: Decline is a choice. We decline if we so choose (through our electoral and other decisions). And that is essentially what Mark Helprin said yesterday in his Wall Street Journal piece, on our diminishing — our declining — Navy.

Of course, for Time magazine to declare that anything is in decline is a bit rich.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is Obama cheering for higher gas prices?

As $4 per gallon diesel costs worry farmers and truckers and threaten to push the price of everything upward, is the Obama administration cheering? So asserts Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

From the AP via CNS News:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential presidential contender, accused the Obama administration Wednesday of favoring a run-up in gas prices to prod consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.

Barbour cited 2008 comments from Steven Chu, now President Barack Obama's energy secretary, that a gradual increase in gasoline taxes could coax consumers into dumping their gas-guzzlers and finding homes closer to where they work. Chu, then a Nobel Prize-winning professor, argued that higher costs per gallon could force investments in alternative fuels and spur cleaner energy sources.

"This administration's policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive," Barbour said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast across the street from the White House.

In 2008, while the head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, Chu told The Wall Street Journal that energy prices were the lynchpin to an energy overhaul.

"Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," Chu said in September 2008.

McClintock on the Reclamation budget

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who chaired yesterday's House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, made the following opening statement:

With today’s hearing, the Water and Power Sub-Committee will begin the process of restoring abundance as the principal objective of America’s Federal water and power policy. We meet today to receive testimony from the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Service on their plans for the coming year. We do so in conjunction with our responsibility under the Federal Budget Act to provide guidance to the House Budget Committee as it prepares the 2012 budget and with our responsibility under House Resolution 72 to identify regulations and practices of the government that are impeding job creation and burdening economic growth.

In my opinion, all of these hearings and all of the actions stemming from them must be focused on developing the vast water and hydro-electric resources in our nation. The failure of the last generation to keep pace with our water and power needs has caused chronic water shortages and skyrocketing electricity prices that are causing serious economic harm.

In addition, willful policies that have deliberately misallocated our resources must be reversed.

California’s Central Valley, where 200 billion gallons of water were deliberately diverted away from vital agriculture for the enjoyment and amusement of the 2-inch Delta Smelt is a case in point. These water diversions have destroyed a quarter million acres of the most fertile farmland in America, thrown tens of thousands of farm families into unemployment and impacted fruit, vegetable and nut prices in grocery stores across America.

In Northern Arizona, 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity – enough to power a million homes – has been lost due to environmental mandates for the humpback chub.

In the Klamath, the federal government is seeking to destroy four perfectly good hydroelectric dams at the cost of more than a half billion dollars at a time when we can’t guarantee enough electricity to keep refrigerators running this summer. The rationale is to save the salmon, but the same proposal would close the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery that produces 5 million salmon smolt each year.

Meanwhile, funds that ought to be going to water and power development are instead being squandered on subsidizing low-flow toilets, salmon festivals, tiger salamander studies and grants to private associations whose principal activity is to sue the federal government.

We have also thrown hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into wildly expensive conservation programs that do little or nothing to develop new water and power resources.

Those days are over.

It is the objective of this sub-committee to restore the original – and as yet unfulfilled -- mission of the Bureau of Reclamation – to develop and utilize our nation’s vast water and hydroelectric resources to build a new era of abundance and prosperity for our nation.

And, I might add, to complete the greening of the west, to tame the environmentally devastating cycle of floods and droughts and to assure the perpetuation and propagation of all species through expansion of fish hatcheries and other cost-effective means.

We will seek to inventory all of our potential water and power resources, establish and apply a uniform cost-benefit analysis to prioritize financing for those projects that produce the greatest benefits at the lowest costs, and to restore the “beneficiary pays” doctrine that assures those who benefit from these projects pay for these projects, protecting general taxpayers of one community from being plundered for projects that exclusively benefit another.

With these policies in place, we can fulfill the Bureau’s original mission, to make the desert bloom and to open a new era in America where water and power shortages – and the policies that created them -- are a distant memory.

I also want to acknowledge the past work of the U.S. Geological Survey that produced accurate and reliable data necessary for sound resource policy and management. Today I will merely express the expectation that it will take stronger steps to resist efforts to politicize or compromise its work. I especially endorse Mr. Werkheiser’s statement that “the public deserves to know whether its investments are having tangible results.”

I hope that this administration will become a partner in this new era of abundance rather than an obstacle. The rationing of shortages has never solved a shortage – only a policy of abundance can do that. We have wasted not only money but time, and we can afford to waste no more of either.

As we reported in the Capital Press, McClintock sponsored the amendments stripping nearly $2 million in funding for the Klamath River dam removal studies.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'Why Gov. Scott Walker must win'

Pat Buchanan makes such a case. A cut to the chase:

Actually, what the governor wants to end is the scandalous practice of powerful unions raising millions and running phone banks and get-out-the-vote operations for politicians who thank them with wages, benefits and job security no private employer can match.

Since the 1960s, government unions have been able to sit behind closed doors with the politicians they put in office and write contracts, the cost of which is borne by taxpayers who have no one at the table.

They call this collective bargaining. A more accurate term is collusive bargaining. And Walker means put an end to the racket. [ ... ]

When government unions sit down with the politicians they put into office, the relationship is not adversarial. It is not healthy. It is incestuous. And taxpayers must pay the cost of their cohabitation.

Legacy Media outlets are doing backflips to manufacture polls favorable to the unions, but their duplicity hasn't gone unnoticed.

Clark S. Judge of the Pacific Research Institute offers a different assessment of the public opinion landscape here.

I still think there'll be some kind of compromise that allows both sides in Wisconsin to somehow save face. But one could make the argument that critics of public employee unions have already won, in that the public is now openly debating whether they're a good thing or an inherent conflict of interest. To the degree the parties meet somewhere in the middle, critics of unions could consider it progress.