Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bill says buh-bye to Barney

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News had some parting words for Rep. Barney Frank in his "Talking Points" last night:

Here is what I believe...Barney Frank is sincere in wanting to help the less fortunate, but his big spending policies simply don't work. And because he is unwilling to understand economics, his tenure in the House is harming the country.

Also Mr. Frank does not hold the high ground. It is much more humane to look out for all the folks, to demand fiscal responsibility so all Americans can prosper.

The left believes that the USA should be in business to help the down-trodden at the expense of everyone else. That's why doctrinaire liberalism is not helpful. The way you do help the unemployed and the ill-educated is to create widespread prosperity so they can hitch a ride on it and work their way up.

Giving people stuff is a recipe for failure. We've seen it over and over. But if you tell Barney Frank that, you're a bad person. America does not owe anyone a living. Barney never got that. But we wish him well anyway.

'Fraud' in the 'global warming racket'

A succinct argument as to why Climategate II just might be -- or perhaps should be -- the death-knell of global warming as a serious and credible theory (certain newspapers' resident alarmist bloggers notwithstanding) can be found on the editorial pages of today's Washington Times.

The upshot:

The latest release of 5,000 emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) reconfirms what the 2009’s “Climategate” files established: Global warming is more fiction than science.

The basic problem with climate research is that it is at best soft science, and this leaked correspondence demonstrate just how unsettled it is. “Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others,” one scientist wrote. “This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest.” Nonsense, another concluded: “The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guide what’s included and what is left out.” But what if the whole warming phenomenon is “mainly a multidecadal natural fluctuation?” one scientists muses. “They’ll kill us probably.”

The fact that different climate studies reach widely different conclusions is not surprising. Much of the global warming debate centers on the output of highly questionable computer models that conjure figures from scarcely understood variables, dubious raw data and gaping holes filled with assumptions that usually confirm the researchers’ biases. No wonder that even as reliable temperature measurements show global temperatures have flatlined or been falling for the past decade, claims of imminent catastrophe have grown more shrill. Garbage in, warming out.

Coordination and the feds who despise it

Interesting story making the rounds this week by John Miller of the Associated Press focusing on Fred Kelly Grant, the Idaho attorney and past "We The People" radio program guest who advocates local governments using a process called coordination to have a say in federal rulemaking.

The story (remarkably well-written and evenhanded, by AP's standards) focuses largely on Siskiyou County, where Grant has been retained to try to stop the Klamath dam removal project. A sampling:

Almost nowhere has Grant's message resonated more deeply than in California's Siskiyou County, in 14,179-foot Mt. Shasta's shadow. "Coordination" became a catch phrase in the battle over whether four Klamath River dams should be dynamited to help endangered salmon.

Craig Tucker, a spokesman for the Karuk Indian Tribe that favors dam removal, first heard the word after Grant gave a seminar in nearby Redding in 2009 attended by dam-removal foes.

"Now, when those guys open their mouths, the first thing they start talking about is coordination," Tucker said. "It seems to me Fred Kelly Grant has sold people a bill of goods that amounts to snake oil."

Jim Cook, a Siskiyou commissioner who attended Grant's Redding seminar, said Tucker and federal managers dismiss coordination at their own peril.

Maybe it's not a silver bullet, "but you do make them explain why they do things," Cook said. "That makes the agencies squirm. It asks, 'Can you come in front of a judge and explain why you blew this policy off?' "

My takeaway: People like Cook and Siskiyou Supervisor Marcia Armstrong have a valid point when they warn that coordination isn't a silver bullet. But observing how federal officials respond when it's invoked can provide some insight into the disdain with which many of them view locals.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UC-Davis' Maas receives cattlemen's award

John Maas, a UC-Davis large animal veterinarian who has property in Shasta County and has done numerous seminars and other events up this way, was recently honored at a cattle convention.

From Stevie Stewart Ipsen at the California Cattlemen's Association:

John Maas, DVM, a longtime California beef industry supporter, educator and researcher, was presented with the Gordon K. Van Vleck Award at the annual convention of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California CattleWomen, Inc., last week at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, Nev.

As the highest honor awarded by the California Cattlemen’s Association, the Gordon K. Van Vleck award is named for one of CCA’s great past leaders. It is awarded to an individual who is not engaged in beef cattle production as a primary occupation but has made great contribution to the industry.

“I can think of no one more deserving of this award than John Maas,” said Ione Conlan, one of the many California beef producers who nominated Maas for the award. “He is a selfless individual who has given tirelessly to beef producers, who have benefited from his extensive knowledge, kind demeanor and prolific writing and research.”

Maas said he was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college, after meeting his future wife, who was raised on a reputable Northern California Hereford ranch, he gained a passion for the ranching way of life and set veterinary medicine as his goal. He graduated from California State University, Chico with degrees in Biology and Chemistry. Maas continued his education at the University of California, Davis, where he became a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1973. After spending a number of years in private large animal practice, Maas attended the University of Missouri, Columbia, for a master’s degree in Veterinary Microbiology.

Upon presenting Maas with the award, Conlan said while working as a faculty member at the University of Idaho and Oregon State University, Maas became board certified in both Nutrition and Internal Medicine, thus adding more academic letters after his name than actually in his name.

Maas joined the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis in 1988. During his time serving California beef producers, Maas has been a founding member of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, serving as president and board chairman; chair of CCA’s Cattle Health Committee; Chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Producer Education Committee; CCA Second Vice President; and board member for NCBA’s Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Board.

In addition to his policy involvement in beef cattle organizations, Maas has testified before legislative bodies to protect cattle producers. He has written hundreds of scholarly articles and veterinary articles for beef publications and has been an integral part of California’s Beef Quality Assurance Program since its inception in the early 1990s.

“Dr. Maas has played an integral role in the California ranching community. His dedication has been felt in the animal health arena as well as the public policy arena. While he has been instrumental in the success of California ranchers, his efforts have also been felt throughout our nation as he has dedicated himself to so many educational causes that have benefited ranchers everywhere,” said CCA President Kevin Kester, a rancher from Parkfield.

Maas and his wife, Cathy, have been married for 42 years and have two sons, J.D. and Nathan. Upon receiving the award, Maas said that 60 percent of the award belonged to his wife. He said the other 40 percent belonged to the cattle producers and colleagues who have contributed to his career.

November rainfall by the numbers

Here are the November and seasonal rainfall totals and comparisons to normal for selected California cities, according to the National Weather Service. Totals are as of today:

Redding: Month to date 2.62 inches (normal 4.06 inches); season to date 5.95 inches (normal 7.07 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 3.85 inches (normal 5.13 inches); season to date 8.64 inches (normal 8.45 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 0.74 inches (normal 1.90 inches); season to date 2.08 inches (normal 3.19 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 0.73 inches (normal 1.25 inches); season to date 1.73 inches (normal 2.21 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 1.78 inches (normal 1.29 inches); season to date 3.3 inches (normal 2.07 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 0.67 inches (normal 0.99 inches); season to date 1.57 inches (normal 1.81 inches)

The pattern of dry periods punctuated occasionally by a few days of rain and snow should hold for a while in California. For my complete story, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chico State senior wins livestock competition

From the California State University-Chico College of Agriculture:
Jordan Baumgartner, a senior agricultural business major, was the high individual overall and led the Chico State Livestock Judging Team to a fourth-place overall finish at the American Royal Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Competition in Kansas City, Mo. [recently].

It was the first time in nearly 30 years that a CSU, Chico student was high individual at a major livestock judging contest.

Thirty-two college teams competed in the American Royal intercollegiate judging competition. In addition to its fourth place overall finish, CSU, Chico took fourth in sheep and goat, sixth in swine, eighth in cattle and seventh in oral reasons.

Baumgartner placed first among the 149 individuals entered; he also placed second in the sheep and goat judging. “It was one of the most exciting moments in my life—to win high individual and the contest itself is one of the most prestigious in the country,” said Baumgartner. “Our team was fourth overall, and we were not far from catching first. We are all very excited and confident going into the biggest contest in the nation, North American International Livestock Exposition.”

Animal science instructor and team coach Clay Carlson agreed that this high finish builds the team’s confidence going into the national championship in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 14. “I was extremely proud of our success at Kansas City,” said Carlson. “I have preached to our crew to never be satisfied with how they do, and hopefully we still have our best day ahead of us. This group has matured into one of the most competitive teams Chico has fielded in quite a few years, and it has been fun coaching them.”

Where I spent my Thanksgiving weekend




San Francisco, where I took the above photos at the weekly farmers' market at the Ferry Building on Saturday morning. The photos are for a weather wrap that you can look for at CapitalPress.com later in the week.

A few quick observations from the weekend:

-- If you've never seen an opera and you're only marginally into classical music, you might do well to start with Georges Bizet's "Carmen", which my wife and I did on Saturday night at the opera house. Much of the music is instantly recognizable, the story is easy to follow, and San Francisco's opera company is considered one of the best in the country.

-- Having been to the wax museum in Newport, Ore., several times, my wife and I were eagerly awaiting our visit to the one at Fisherman's Wharf in The City -- then were mightily disappointed with the quality, which paled in comparison to the one in Oregon.

-- We weren't paying for the rooms, but the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero seemed ridiculously overrated and overpriced for what you get. The "jacuzzi" in our suite was merely a bathtub with a few jets, which shot in cold water if you turned them on. But hey, it was one of the only bathtubs in the hotel, so my wife was grateful -- particularly since there's no public jacuzzi or pool. And considering the rooms we had were in the $300-a-night range, you wouldn't think they'd charge another $9.95 a day for Internet access, would you?

-- We did have an up-close view of Occupy San Francisco's tent city, and as I watched their march up Market Street on Saturday, I was struck by how few people they had in such a liberal city -- fewer than 100, I would say. They were noisy, though, with bullhorns and chants at all hours of the night. Their antics were enough to annoy my mother, whose political sensitivities might otherwise be compatible with theirs.

-- Quoth my stepmother on Thanksgiving day, after the Packers got through dispatching Detroit to improve to 11-0 on the season: "Yeah, they sure miss Favre."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Much to be thankful for

Among the many blessings I've been given, I'm thankful to work for a newspaper that publishes editorials like this.

A snippet:

Yet there is still plenty for which to give thanks. Anyone needing an accounting of those blessings need only look around the dinner table. The happy chatter of children, the excited talk among adults. The dreams and wishes that float through the air like balloons -- each is a gift from above.

To be sure, all is not roses these days. Our political leaders have fallen short as the economy has fallen flat.

Yet we do give thanks -- for family and friends, and for a great nation that will soon rise again.

In the tradition of the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors, let us give thanks this week for those and other blessings too numerous to count.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Bachmann wanders into ambush, blames NBC

From Fox News:

Republican candidate Michele Bachmann addressed the controversy surrounding her appearance on ‘Late Night With Jimmy Fallon’ this week, saying if what happened to her had happened to the First Lady, heads would have rolled.

When Bachmann was introduced on the Fallon's show Monday, Fallon’s house band, the Roots, played Fishbone’s song ‘Lyin’ Ass Bitch.’

Fallon has since apologized, and while Bachmann said she accepts the comedian’s apology, she thinks NBC should apologize as well.

“If that had been Michelle Obama, who’d come out on the stage, and if that song had been played for Michelle Obama, I have no doubt that NBC would have apologized to her and likely they would have fired the drummer, or at least suspended him," she told Fox News.

“This is clearly a form of bias on the part of the Hollywood entertainment elite," she said, adding the incident smacked of sexism as well.

Ms. Bachmann,

First of all, Michelle Obama would never, ever have been greeted with that song. And secondly, you're the one who was dumb enough to go on that network, which has tripped you up in the past. So basically, stop whining. It hardly looks presidential.

Fish and Game to develop 'strategic vision'

Highly technical but very important. From the state (via Erin Ryan):

The California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Executive Committee today released the draft interim strategic vision for public review. This document is the first draft of potential recommendations for a strategic vision for the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the California Fish and Game Commission (F&GC) that will be presented to the Governor and California State Legislature in February 2012 as required by AB 2376 (Huffman, 2010).

“The draft interim strategic vision is the first step toward developing a stronger Department of Fish and Game, and Fish and Game Commission. The thoughtful ideas in this document are a testament to the hard work of the stakeholder advisory group and the blue ribbon citizen commission members,” said John Laird, Secretary for Natural Resources and chair of the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Executive Committee. “I look forward to hearing from the public to help create a more effective and functional department and commission through an open, transparent and collaborative public process.”

The draft interim strategic vision contains a description of the strategic vision process, a summary of past plans, a study to evaluate barriers to their implementation, and suggestions for potential recommendations. The document is based on the work performed by the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) and the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Blue Ribbon Citizen Commission (BRCC) over the past several months. The diverse 52-member SAG conducted much of its initial work in six working groups that concentrated on specific issue areas. Members of the BRCC were assigned to these working groups to work closely with SAG members and provide guidance. The result of this initial process is a comprehensive look at DFG and F&GC, and what steps might be taken to help these organizations more effectively fulfill their public trust missions in the future.

The first draft of the strategic vision contains two important elements that give the public a chance to further engage in a dialogue about the future of DFG and F&GC:

1. Chapter 3 is a draft interim framework for a strategic vision, where potential core values, underlying principles, goals and objectives are identified and intended to initiate a public conversation. Reviewers of the draft interim strategic vision are encouraged to focus on chapter 3 as it will form the foundation for a future strategic vision and such review will best inform the reader’s understanding of the direction of the visioning process.

2. Appendix B presents diverse preliminary ideas about improving the function and structure of DFG and F&GC. The numerous and sometimes conflicting ideas in the tables emphasizes the draft nature of the product intended to initiate public dialogue.

The ideas in the draft document have not been finalized in any way and are meant for discussion purposes only.

There are several ways the public can get involved in the dialogue about the draft interim strategic vision, including providing public comment via an online form beginning Nov. 29, or via email to StrategicVision@resources.ca.gov, contacting members of the SAG that represent an interest area, attending virtual office hours with staff (Nov. 29, Dec. 2 and Dec. 13), and attending one of four public meetings throughout California to discuss and provide input on the ideas introduced in the draft interim strategic vision. Scheduled for Dec. 5-8, the public meetings are designed with a roundtable format that allows the public to attend at any time during the two hours and directly engage in discussion with SAG and BRCC members and staff.

Schedule of public meetings: [...]

Redding
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Turtle Bay Museum
840 Sundial Bridge (Auditorium) Drive
Redding, California 96001

In September 2010, Assembly Bill 2376 was signed into law, requiring the California Natural Resources Agency to convene a committee to develop and submit to the Governor and California State Legislature, by July 1, 2012, a strategic vision for DFG and F&GC. The California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision (CFWSV) Project is intended to establish a strategic vision for DFG and F&GC that addresses, among other things, improving and enhancing their capacity and effectiveness in fulfilling their public trust responsibilities for protecting and managing the state's fish and wildlife.

The California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Executive Committee, with assistance from BRCC and SAG, are developing three deliverables: The draft interim strategic vision in November 2011, an interim strategic vision in February 2012, and a strategic vision by July 1, 2012.

For more information about the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision Project, the public meetings, or how you can get involved, please visit www.vision.ca.gov.

New e-mails fuel skepticism over warming

Here's a story you probably didn't read in your morning paper. From Craig Bannister at CNSNews.com:

About 5,000 emails by scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been made public. Climate skeptics see it as a repeat of a similar e-mail release in 2009 that cast doubts on the objectivity and science of warming advocates – and an opportunity.

And, they’ve already adopted a name for the new release, tying it to the 2009 scandal: Climategate 2.0.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, says the latest e-mails – if authentic – could debunk the Obama administration’s justification for imposing costly, crippling regulations on the nation’s businesses:

"Remember, the Obama EPA is basing these regulations on its endangerment finding, which relies on the flawed science of the IPCC. Now a recent report by the EPA Inspector General has revealed that EPA cut corners in the process leading up to the endangerment finding.”

If legitimate, “Climategate 2.0 emails is just one more reason to halt the Obama EPA's job killing global warming agenda,” Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.) concludes.

The blog Watts Up With That offers up some of the e-mails, including these:

<3115> Mann: By the way, when is Tom C going to formally publish his roughly 1500 year
reconstruction??? It would help the cause to be able to refer to that
reconstruction as confirming Mann and Jones, etc.

<3940> Mann: They will (see below) allow us to provide some discussion of the synthetic
example, referring to the J. Cimate paper (which should be finally accepted
upon submission of the revised final draft), so that should help the cause a
bit.

<0810> Mann: I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she think’s she’s
doing, but its not helping the cause

The cause, indeed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The 15-minute budget

Siskiyou County cattle and hay producer Jeff Fowle was so exasperated over the failure of the so-called congressional "supercommittee" to come up with a budget solution that he sat down and crafted his own bill for Congress to consider.

It goes like this:

112th CONGRESS

1st SESSION

H.R. _ _ _ _

AN ACT


To balance the budget, eliminate the deficit and restore long-term economic stability.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

1. the budgets of ALL departments, agencies, programs, entitlements and all branches of government will be reduced by five percent, effective immediately;
2. all salaries, to all ELECTED and APPOINTED Federal officials will be suspended, effective immediately;
3. all insurance coverage held by all elected Federal officials will be suspended, effective immediately;
4. and all assets belonging to ELECTED Federal officials will be suspended, effective immediately.

The previously established conditions may be lifted when and only when:

1. a balanced budget is passed and signed by the President;
2. a plan to eliminate the deficit by 2022 is passed and signed by the President;
3. a plan to make Social Security solvent is passed and signed by the President;
4. and a plan to make Medi Care solvent is passed and signed by the President.

EFFECTIVE DATE – The actions of this section shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.

Passed the House of Representatives, November 28, 2011

North coast rancher named CCA officer

From Stevie Stewart Ipsen at the California Cattlemen's Association:

Last week, at the 95th Annual Convention of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Cattlewomen, Inc., a new state officer team was slated by the CCA Board of Directors and affirmed by the membership of the organization.

Lawrence Dwight, a fifth generation cow-calf producer in Ferndale, Calif., was elected to serve as CCA‘s second vice president for the 2012-2013 term. Having been involved in CCA for the past decade, Dwight is well-educated on issues in his local area as well as the issues ranchers face around the state. He says he is looking forward to representing California ranchers throughout the state.

“I have known Lawrence for the past several years and by showing up to state and local meetings, it is evident that he is passionate about the future of ranching in our state,” said CCA President Kevin Kester, a rancher from Parkfield, Calif., “Lawrence has a work ethic second to none and CCA members and cattle producers statewide are going to benefit from his experience and leadership attributes.”

Dwight said some of the issues he is most concerned with are those that threaten the future of cattle ranching for the next generation. Like many landowners in the Golden State, the Williamson Act is one that Dwight follows closely and hopes to see resolved.

“The battles we face on the North Coast are similar to those that ranchers face elsewhere in California,” Dwight said. “From struggles with water quality control boards and other environmental topics to sharing the good we do with the public, we all face the same battles and I hope I can use my experience to help cattle producers throughout our vast state continue their way of life for generations to come.”

Upon taking office, Dwight said he is eager to hear the concerns of other livestock producers, to learn how he can best represent them to see their needs are met.

“It is important for us to come to the table with different groups – even those who we may not always see eye-to-eye with – so that they might understand us better and see that our goals are to maintain open space and take care of Mother Nature to ensure that we are leaving our ranches in better shape for the future,” Dwight said. “I believe that CCA provides the much needed voice for all cattlemen on the legislative floor, in the regulatory agencies and at the consumer’s dinner table and I look forward to contributing to those efforts.”

The Dwight Family has been raising beef cattle on the North Coast since 1850. A graduate of Ferndale High, Dwight graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in Animal Science in 1986. He has one daughter, Josie, who hopes carry on the family business. Dwight is also a member of the California Farm Bureau Federation, Humboldt County Farm Bureau, the Humboldt County Fairboard, the Williamson Act Board for Humboldt County, California Department of Fish and Coho Recovery Team, has served on the CCA Board of Directors and is a Past President of the Humboldt-Del Norte Cattlemen’s Association.

Coffee event to spotlight veterans' museum

From Sen. Doug LaMalfa:

Senator Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) announced he will be hosting a community coffee in Redding at the Northern California Veterans Museum & Heritage Center.

“I’m looking forward to having the community coffee at the Veterans Museum. They do a wonderful job honoring our veterans’ memory and preserving our past,” said Senator LaMalfa. “Please come by and have a cup of coffee and let me know what issues are important to you.”

The details of the town hall are included below:

Northern California Veterans Museum & Heritage Center
Friday December 2, 2011
8 – 9:30 am
3711 Meadow View Drive
Redding

Contact: Brenda Haynes 530-225-3142

Monday, November 21, 2011

Study: State's farmers use water efficiently

From Fresno State University:

Claims that California farmers are wasteful and inefficient in managing their water supplies are inaccurate, according to a new report released by the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) at California State University, Fresno.

The report “Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update” also refutes assertions by some that large volumes of “new water” would be available through agricultural water conservation.

The findings are based on a thorough review of published research and technical data as well as state of California publications to assess the overall potential for agricultural water-use efficiency to provide new water supplies. The report found that little potential exists for new water unless large swaths of agricultural land are taken out of production, which technically is not water-use efficiency.

CIT Director Dr. David Zoldoske said, “The study is an important addition to the ongoing discussions about California water and specifically what decisions must be made to assure adequate supplies for the future. The information presented in this paper should provide a valuable tool in moving the discussions forward.”

Among the study’s key findings:

-- The estimated potential new water from agricultural water-use efficiency is 1.3 percent of the current amount used by the state’s farmers – about 330,000 acre-feet per year. That represents about 0.5 percent of California’s total water use of 62.66 million acre-feet.

-- Groundwater overdraft of about 2 million acre-feet per year continues to be a serious problem in certain regions of California because of inconsistent and uncertain surface water supplies.

-- Changes in irrigation practices, such as switching from flood irrigation to drip, have the effect of rerouting flows within a region (or basin) but generally do not create new water outside of the basin.

-- Previous reallocations of agricultural water supplies for environmental purposes represent 5.6 percent of farm-water diversions.

-- On-farm conservation efforts can affect downstream water distribution patterns, with potential impacts on plants and animals, recreation, as well as human and industrial consumptive uses.

The study is the culmination of a yearlong effort by irrigation experts at the Center for Irrigation Technology to update the 1982 University of California Cooperative Extension report “Agricultural Water Conservation in California with Emphasis on the San Joaquin Valley” by David C. Davenport and Robert M. Hagan.

The new study concludes that the 1982 report correctly framed the potential for agricultural water-use efficiency, and many of its findings are still relevant 30 years later. [...]

Created in 1980, the Center for Irrigation Technology is internationally recognized as an independent testing laboratory, applied research facility and educational resource. One of California’s biggest challenges is managing ever-increasing demands on its most precious resource – water. A core mission of CIT is to help extend this limited supply of water through the use of technology, research and education.

Lawmaker explains bill to limit Justice Act

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., used the Congressional Western Caucus' weekly address to explain her bill to reform the Equal Access to Justice Act by disallowing the reimbursement of attorney’s fees and costs for large, deep-pocketed special interests who repeatedly sue the federal government.

Some exerpts:

“In 1980, Congress passed a little-known law called the Equal Access to Justice Act. The idea of the bill was in recognition of the fact that suing the federal government is a daunting task, particularly for people or small businesses of limited means.”

“For 16 years, the program has existed without any oversight at all, and there is no requirement to keep track of the money that has been spent.”

“During this period of complete unaccountability, some multi-million dollar organizations discovered the Act, and began to twist it into subsidy for repeated procedural lawsuits.”

“While the original intent of Congress was for the Equal Access to Justice Act to assist people with a once-in-a-lifetime need, these groups have hijacked the program into a means to perpetually fund a cottage industry based on suing the federal government over and over again.”

“It [Government Litigation Savings Act] ends the tax-payer subsidy for repeated procedural lawsuits, while protecting the original intent of EAJA to serve social security recipients, veterans and small businesses.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

Talking turkey in this week's podcast

In the photo, taken this morning, Corning farmer Ross Shoop carries a turkey over to a holding bin to be slaughtered as Josh Morey watches.

My story this week outlining how fresh turkeys in California are expected to sell out before Thanksgiving is among the subjects being discussed in our latest podcast, which can be heard here.

Our podcasts can be found each week on the Capital Press' flagship blog, Blogriculture.

Klamath dam removal comment period extended

Until Friday, Dec. 30. From Matt Baun at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

The following statement was issued today by Dennis Lynch, Program Manager for the Secretarial Determination on Klamath River dam removal, regarding the extension of the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR):

“The decision to remove or retain four Klamath River dams is of immense importance to the many Klamath Basin communities. In addition to the peer reviewed science and the environmental analysis, public comments on the Draft EIS/EIR is also an important and critical component in shaping this decision. The Department of the Interior and the California Department of Fish and Game listened to the numerous requests to extend the comment period on this lengthy Draft EIS/EIR and determined that it is in the best interest of the public to give additional time to review and comment. Therefore, we have extended the comment period through Friday, December 30, 2011.”

Information about submitting comments on the Draft EIS/EIR can be found at KlamathRestoration.gov.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'More needs to be done' to fix budget

From Assemblyman Jim Nielsen:

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), Vice Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, issued the following statement following a new revenue forecast issued [Wednesday] by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO). The LAO said the deficit for the year beginning July 1, 2012 would be nearly $13 billion. Based on previous budget deals California would impose a $2 billion in mid-year "trigger" cuts next month, mostly through K-12 school reductions.

"The Legislative Analyst's Office report indicates, as predicted, that the budget passed by Democrats with only a majority vote was overly optimistic and based on shaky assumptions," said Nielsen. "In this budget, state spending is predicted to increase by 12 percent by 2012-2013. It is clear that state spending has not been brought under control, and that's not even factoring in the enormous cost of the federal healthcare mandates."

"It indicates that a lot more needs to be done to get California's budget under control, and that does not happen through tax increases," said Nielsen. "Government has changed very little in how it conducts its business in the last three years."

The analyst's report is not the only determinant of whether the state will impose the "trigger" cuts, but it is one of two measurements the Department of Finance must rely upon before deciding whether to reduce spending. The Department of Finance will issue its own forecast in December.

'Locally grown' food a $4.8 billion business

Attention "local food" advocates: Your movement has become big business.

The California Farm Bureau Federation reports:

Those of us who live on the West Coast are more likely to purchase locally grown food than people in most other parts of the country, according to a study that tracks the growth of local food sales. The report says the marketing of local foods grossed nearly $4.8 billion a year nationwide. Farms on the West Coast accounted for nearly one-quarter of the nation's local-food sales. Consumers in metropolitan areas and in the Northeast also bought local food at a higher-than average rate.

The Capital Press offers more details (via AP) here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The true 1 percent

Floating around on the Internet.

Chico State plants olives for oil

From California State University-Chico's College of Agriculture, which provided the photo:

With the help of a coalition of industry supporters, the California State University, Chico University Farm added to its diverse educational opportunities by planting a 10-acre high-density olive orchard.

October 7 marked the completion of planting two of the varieties, Arbequina and Arbosana, with Chiquitita still in progress. Chiquitita is a new variety of olive, and planting stock is still being acquired.

All the young trees and the resources necessary to plant them, such as the irrigation system, trellis system, land development and labor, were donated to the University Farm. Contributing partners include Matt Lohse, Nurstech, Durham Pump, Matt Anchordoguy Co., A&J Vineyards and California Olive Ranch.

The University Farm is expecting its first harvest in approximately two to three years, and the olives will be made into olive oil and marketed through the CSU, Chico Farm. “It will also provide an opportunity for students interested in marketing and processing practices to apply business and manufacturing principles in the production and sale of a boutique olive oil product,” said Plant Science Professor Rich Rosecrance.

The trees will serve as research subjects for the relatively new system of high-density olive production in California. The oldest-high density olive orchard is in Gridley, Calif., and is only about 15 years old. “The North State is the center of high-density olive oil production in California. Thus, planting this orchard could provide real benefits to this fledgling industry,” said Rosecrance. “The research possibilities are numerous, including not only production but irrigation, fertilization, orchard longevity, and marketing opportunities as well.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

LaMalfa to discuss redistricting, taxes

Passed along by Brenda Haynes in Sen. Doug LaMalfa's office:

What's going on in Sacramento? Will we lose Doug LaMalfa to the new Re-Districting Lines? What chance do we have to get the Dream Act Repeal on the ballot in November? What new TAXES is Sacramento hoping to pass?

Come find out Monday, Nov. 14 Starts at 6:00pm
Redding Tea Party Patriots
Destiny Fellowship Church
2570 So. Bonnyview, Redding

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pace: Don't fall for 'misleading' data

Well-known north coast environmentalist Felice Pace offers some advice for Western newspapers (presumably including ours) when it comes to proposed changes in the Equal Access to Justice Act.

In a recent e-mail to editors and reporters, Pace included this "fact sheet" refuting what he calls "myths" circulated by Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen and other proponents of a reform bill in Congress.

Myths and Facts about the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA)

The Equal Access to Justice Act is one of the country’s most important laws for preserving citizens’
ability to hold the government accountable. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, the Act
allows court fees to be awarded to citizens and nonprofits that win lawsuits challenging a
government action and show that the government’s position was not “substantially justified.” EAJA
has been integral to leveling the playing field for citizens and nonprofits that typically can’t afford
high‐priced lawyers and lobbyists. Over the last three decades, EAJA has successfully allowed court
access for a wide range of groups and interests, including those advocating for farmers, veterans,
free speech, religious freedom and the environment.

Those opposing environmental protections have launched a campaign to demonize EAJA, claiming
that environmental groups are getting rich by filing frivolous lawsuits and using fees collected
under the Act to substantially fund their operations.

Myth: Environmental organizations are abusing EAJA.
Fact: Signed into law in 1981, EAJA makes it possible for everyday citizens, small businesses and
nonprofit organizations to challenge arbitrary and unlawful government decisions. Environmental
groups have been awarded attorney fees only when they have proven in court that the government
wasn’t following laws that protect endangered species, clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat or
public health or in court‐approved settlements. A study published in the Journal of Forestry in 2011
found that barely half of attorney fee payments from EAJA cases involving the U.S. Forest Service
went to environmental groups over a seven‐year study period. (Others getting attorney fee awards
were commodity groups, law firms, attorneys and individuals.) The study indicates that the Forest
Service paid, on average, about $32,000 per year to each of the prevailing environmental groups, a
tiny fraction of the total incomes reported by these groups.

Myth: EAJA is only used by environmental organizations.
Fact: EAJA is used by citizens and groups across the political spectrum in a range of actions,
including those aimed at protecting religious freedom, free speech, reverse discrimination, gun rights
and the environment. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2011 found that
businesses and trade groups—not environmentalists—file the most lawsuits against the
Environmental Protection Agency. Examining more than 2,000 cases filed against the EPA from 1995
to 2010, the GAO found that 48 percent were filed by corporate interests (25 percent by trade
associations, 23 percent by private companies), while environmental groups filed only 30 percent (16
percent by local groups, 14 percent by national groups). States, municipalities, and regional
governments and territories filed 12 percent.
Individual citizens also rely on the Equal Access to Justice Act. In FY 2010, for example, 2,627 disabled
veterans successfully used EAJA to recover their attorney fees in cases in which they successfully
appealed a Department of Veterans Affairs decision denying them disability benefits. Without EAJA,
these veterans would have had a difficult time securing representation against the VA lawyers, who
are paid by the federal government. Public interest suits made possible by EAJA play an important
role in protecting your rights no matter your political preference.

Myth: Those who collect fees under EAJA are trying to hide those fees from the public.
Fact: The original version of EAJA included several provisions providing public tracking of fee awards.
Those tracking mechanisms, however, were eliminated by the Republican‐led Congress in 1995. Some
members of Congress have rightly called for more transparency in EAJA fee awards.

Myth: EAJA does not contain sufficient safeguards to prevent abuse and overuse.
Fact: EAJA sets a very high threshold for recovering attorneys’ fees and costs. Winning the case is
not enough. Under EAJA, a party may recover fees from the government only if the plaintiff is the
prevailing party AND can prove that the government’s position was not “substantially justified.” 28
U.S.C. § 2412 (d)(1)(B). Because this is not an easy standard to satisfy, many plaintiffs do not recover
attorney’s fees even when they win their cases. Further, EAJA does not allow large businesses and
certain other entities, which the Act defines as having a net worth of over $7 million, to recover legal
fees since they would have no trouble paying them on their own. EAJA levels the playing field by
helping the “little guy.”

Myth: In some cases, EAJA allows plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees even when they lose their case.
Fact: In order to recover legal fees under EAJA, plaintiffs must prevail in their case. If plaintiffs lose,
they must pay their legal fees out of their own pocket. There are NO exceptions to this rule.
Additionally, as noted above, even when plaintiffs prevail, they cannot always recover legal costs.

Myth: In passing EAJA, Congress intended to provide attorney’s fees only to small businesses,
veterans, and social security beneficiaries.
Fact: While EAJA certainly was enacted, in part, to help small businesses, veterans, and social
security beneficiaries, it was also intended to codify the judicially‐created “common benefit” theory
of attorney’s fees, which states that private parties litigating in order to vindicate public interests
should be compensated. See H.R. Rep. No. 96‐1418, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. at 9. As the Senate explained
when enacting EAJA: “In bringing legitimate actions under this section citizens [are] performing a
public service and in such instances the courts should award costs of litigation to such a party.”

Myth: Nonprofits are funding themselves primarily through fees obtained through EAJA.
Fact: Most nonprofit legal groups, including environmental organizations, fund themselves mainly
through private donations and grants, with EAJA fees making up an extremely small percentage of
their funds. Over the last nine years, for instance, the Center for Biological Diversity received less
than one half of 1 percent of its total income from attorney fees recovered through the Act.

Sources:
• U.S. Government Accountability Office, Environmental Litigation: Cases against EPA and
Associated Costs Over Time. Publication No. GAO‐11‐650). (August 2011).
• 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(2)(B)
• S. Rep. No 91‐1196, 91st Cong., 2d Sess. 38 (1970).

For what it's worth.

Podcasting solar panels, Christmas trees

My story about the California Farm Bureau Federation's lawsuit against Fresno County over proposed solar panels on prime farmland is one of the subjects of our latest podcast.

Also on the agenda is Mateusz Perkowski's story on the fallout over the Christmas tree tax-that-isn't-a-tax.

You can find our weekly podcasts on the Capital Press' flagship blog, Blogriculture.

'Armed civil disobedience' in context

Today's Record Searchlight editorial on the north state sheriff's involvement in the Siskiyou County water conflicts makes mention of the meeting that was cancelled in May 2010 because a top Department of Fish and Game official was worried about "armed civil disobedience."

Since the Capital Press was about the only newspaper other than perhaps the Siskiyou Daily News that covered this development at the time (and seeing as I linked to the story four days ago), I thought it best to revisit what actually happened. We reported:

Mark Stopher, the department's acting regional manager, canceled a workshop in Etna, Calif., on May 27 because he couldn't be there and didn't want to expose subordinates to what he heard would be a vocal protest, he said.

"I've stood up in front of angry crowds," said Stopher, who is based in Redding, Calif. "I'm a little hesitant to put some of my biologists out there who haven't had the same experience. ... It became likely that we were not going to be able to achieve the purpose of our meeting."

Stopher said he received several calls about people discussing armed rebellion and that "I tend to discount that," but "there's a possibility that somebody would do something to get arrested."

The explanation was seen by many of the ranchers in the two valleys as a slur against rural folks.

When told of Stopher's remarks, Etna rancher Jeff Fowle said ranchers in the Scott and Shasta valleys have always acted civilly and professionally with Fish and Game officials but were bothered by the way the agency was approaching the permits.

"I know there are a multitude of people and families who are upset with this entire process and upset with the way that Fish and Game has gone about informing the public," Fowle said. "They have been very bold and distasteful in the process and I know that that has negatively influenced probably the majority of the residents of this valley."

For the record, in the 18 months that I've been reporting on these issues for 36 published articles, the only person who ever brought up the notion of potential violence to me was Mark Stopher (who promptly added he didn't really believe it would happen).

Also for the record, Mr. Stopher is no longer the DFG's acting regional manager but is now working on the Klamath River dam removal project. The word I've heard is that practically everyone involved was happy with the switch, probably including Mr. Stopher.

'Ceding the questions ... is the biggest failure'

Amid his handicap of the GOP presidential race thus far, blogger/radio talker/consummate thinker Hugh Hewitt offered this spot-on (albeit politically slanted) critique of the season's debates:

The debates will go on and that is a good thing IF the GOP finally insists on allowing some serious questioning to come from journalists who at least are aware that Iran's assault on the world, Syria's massacre of its citizens, loose weapons in Libya and the Sarkozy-Obama slams on Netanyahu are crucial topics, as are Solyndra, Fast & Furious and the refusal of the president to lead on any entitlement reform whatsoever. Ceding the questions to a near uniform group of Manhattan-Beltway media elites with all the prejudices and knowledge gaps of that class is the biggest failure of the campaign to date. While there is still time to do so, Chairman Reince Priebus and the candidates' campaigns should oblige the remaining debate organizers to knock off the absurd time limits and arrange for at least a few questions from serious-minded conservatives ware of the president's disastrous record and willing to ask the candidates the sort of general election questions that should have dominated these debates from the start.

In this day and age, it amazes me that Republican candidates for president still bow at the altars of old-media hacks who scarcely bother to hide their contempt for them. Political junkie that I am, I watch these debates for the entertainment value more than anything, but I'm done. I doubt I'll really hear anything new at this point, and I'm through dignifying these statist jackasses by watching their networks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

'More lies' about Klamath project

The folks at Pie N Politics in Siskiyou County have a bone to pick with the AP version of the Klamath dam removal authorization bill story. They write.

Once again, Jeff Barnard forwards the lies surrounding dam removal. In truth, there will NOT be an increase of salmon habitat by 300 miles! This is an outrageous statement. There are natural barriers at Keno rim and Moonlight falls that naturally stop salmon — about 25 miles up from the J.C. Boyle dam, which is the last of the four dams to be removed.

ALSO, the fish kill in 2002 was in the lower stretch of the Klamath and killed all the fish. From the information I received at that time, I still allege that it was a meth dump, because it killed everything. And when I spoke with a U.S. Fish and Wildlilfe Service official based in NEARBY Eureka, he said it was 10 days BEFORE they drove to the area and tested the water. Then, he said there wasn’t any toxic chemicals in the water. Duh, all of the toxins had flowed out to the ocean by then !

FOLLOW the MONEY: The tax payers will be paying millions of dollars to Tribes, NGOs and districts who do NOT live here.

Hoopa Valley Tribe decries Klamath bill

As we are keenly aware, not everyone favors the bill to authorize the Klamath Basin agreements. From the Hoopa Valley Tribe:

“The Hoopa Valley Tribe is dismayed and outraged,” said Chairman Leonard E. Masten, Jr., “that the so-called Klamath Basin Economic Restoration Act, introduced today, would terminate water and fishing rights of California tribes. This is wrong and unnecessary legislation.”

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and California Congressman Mike Thompson introduced the bill to ratify a pair of Agreements signed in 2010 by a power company (PacifiCorp), farmers, some federal agencies, and three tribes. The 290-page Agreements, called the KBRA and KHSA, postpone a decision whether to decommission four obsolete hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp unless Congress provides new federal appropriations of $800 million and changes water rights to the Klamath River.

“It is tragic that these congressmen feel Indian water rights must be surrendered in order to remove the dams. We know the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC) licensing process leads to dam removal in situations like this, as proven by the demolition of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River just two weeks ago,” Masten said. “If it costs $800 million to ‘create more than 4,600 jobs’, that equates to over $170,000 per job, a poor deal in the best of times.” Sen. Merkley’s press release puts the bill’s federal cost at $536 million but the bill itself points to a section of the KBRA (App. C-2) which requires $798,500,000 in federal funds, plus $549.6 million in other funds, principally from a California bond measure.

Masten pointed to Section 106(f) of the bill, under which “the United States, as trustee” for Indian Tribes of the Klamath Basin who rejected the Agreements, agrees not to protect tribal water or fishing rights that would interfere with water demands of the Klamath Irrigation District in Oregon.

“This means that the U.S., instead of protecting tribal resources as our trustee, will protect the irrigators’ rights to 378,000 acre-feet of water each year,” Hoopa Councilmember, Hayley Hutt said. “When the U.S. gets comfortable with the sort of Indian rights termination language that’s in this bill, it’s terrifying and sets a dangerous precedent for tribes throughout the nation.”

“Proponents say compromises had to be made to see the dams come down, but the only people compromising are the Indians,” Hutt said. “There won’t be enough clean water under this deal to support salmon survival let alone salmon recovery.”

“Fish need water, and the water that will remain after the irrigators collect on these promises will place in jeopardy Coho salmon of the Klamath River and prevent restoration of the fish we depend upon,” Masten said.

For more than twenty years, the Hoopa Valley Tribe has worked to restore salmon of the Trinity River, the Klamath’s largest tributary, and in 1992 legislation mandated that the restoration work be completed. “That restoration work is jeopardized by the Klamath Agreements and the proposed legislation,” Tribal Fisheries Department Director, Michael Orcutt, said. “We are optimistic that Congress will refuse to approve this corporate bailout deal for PacifiCorp and let the federal licensing agency, FERC, do its job,” Orcutt said.

Bill would authorize Klamath agreements

From proponents of the Klamath River dam removal and restoration projects:

A Klamath Economic Restoration Act introduced today in the US Senate by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and in the House by California Congressman Mike Thompson deserves prompt Congressional action, said a growing group of bi-partisan supporters. A growing and diverse coalition representing tens of thousands of people including, ranchers, fishermen, Tribes, business owners, and conservationists say the Act’s collaborative solutions will end the ongoing water crises hurting Klamath communities that still have double digit unemployment figures (see partial list of Agreement supporters below).

Klamath Economic Recovery Act supporters stress that many livelihoods are at stake and now is the time to settle long-standing water rights disputes and avoiding catastrophes such as the 2001 water shut-off, 2002 fish kill, and the 2006 commercial salmon fishing closure.

“When disaster hit and litigation got drawn out, we were challenged by elected officials to develop our own solutions to the water crises that have devastated our communities,” said Steve Kandra, Klamath Basin farmer. “Together we did it and we’re part of a strong and growing constituency that expects our elected officials to seize this opportunity to end the Klamath Crisis.”

The legislation’s bi-partisan recommendations are based on the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Agreements, companion documents that were developed by farming, fishing, tribal and environmental groups with support from both the Bush and Obama administrations as well as Governors Brown, Schwarzenegger, Kitzhaber, and Kulongoski. Jeff Mitchell, lead negotiator for the Klamath Tribes noted, “This bill is a marked departure from past attempts by one interest group to strong arm one another. Instead we’ve set aside ideological debates and focused on protecting everyone’s interests collectively. It’s exactly the type of win-win policy Congress should embrace.”

The legislation authorizes the Administration to carry out economic development and restoration activities laid out in the Klamath Settlement Agreements. It also provides the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to determine whether four aging dams should be removed. The Agreements are designed to provide security to commercial fishing and agricultural economies that when healthy are worth more than $750 million a year to the region, and employ thousands of people in rural areas suffering from high unemployment.

“This Congress has the opportunity to solve the Klamath Crisis. Failure to act will mean more lost jobs and a continuation of the economic insecurity that is destroying our rural communities,” said Becky Hyde, an Upper Basin rancher.

Reflecting on the challenges of working with Congress, Glen Spain, representing the commercial fishing industry emphasized: “Our rural communities simply can’t afford to do nothing. That’s a recipe for another round of catastrophes like the fish kill and irrigation shut-off. We desperately need Congress to act now.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Your taxes will necessarily skyrocket

(Along with your energy bills, of course.)

Author and CPA Bob Jennings offers a sobering look at what will happen with taxes in the next couple of years if Congress does nothing. Here is his list:

Major Individual Income Tax Benefits Expiring 12/31/2011:

•Personal tax credits applied against income tax no longer apply

Higher alternative minimum tax exemptions revert back to extraordinarily-low thresholds

•$250 school teacher expense deduction ends

•Mortgage insurance premium deduction expires

•State and local sales tax deductions expire

•Tuition and related fees deduction end

•IRA to charity tax-free transfers stop

•2% Social Security tax reduction ends

Major Individual Income Tax Benefits Expiring 12/31/2012:

•Marriage penalty equalization ends

•Dividends taxed at capital gains rates removed, taxed at regular rates now

•Capital gains low tax rates expires

•Removal of itemized deduction phase out for higher income Americans

•Removal of personal exemption phase out for higher income Americans

•Child care deduction limit of $3,000 reverts to $2,400

•Child credit reduces from $1,000 per child to $500 per child

•Low 10% tax bracket for low income Americans is eliminated

•Lower income tax rates and smaller brackets expires

•Refundable adoption credit and reduced deduction

•American Opportunity college education credit expires

•Major reduction in earned income credits and refunds

•Income tax exemption for debt forgiven on home foreclosures and repossessions

•Deduction for student loan interest ends

•Education IRA limit drops from $2,000 to $500

Former Reagan and Bush I aide Peter Ferrera has predicted that this "tax tsunami" and cap-and-trade will cause the economy to collapse in 2013.

To borrow a phrase I read somewhere recently, buckle your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A conservative case for Romney

Author and former UPI editor Martin Sieff makes it on Fox News' opinion page, at the expense of columnist George Will.

Mitt Romney, in striking contrast to Rick Perry, reads his briefing books and takes his ability to debate and handle sound-bites in public seriously. He is not a “natural” at that like Ronald Reagan. But like both President Bush’s, Romney righty takes these abilities seriously and he has learned well. You cannot coast on complacent bromides and hope to win the presidency. Perry thought you could. That is why he has crashed and burned.

Romney will also be his own man on foreign policy. Alone among the three leading Republican candidates, he has dared to buck the High Priests of Free Trade orthodoxy and stand up to China on the vital issue of defending American industry. He has shown the brains, the character and the courage to big liberal orthodoxy in this crucial area.

George Will has always happily endorsed the reckless outsourcing of American manufacturing and wealth to China, so of course he hates Romney. Liberals from Bill Clinton and Thomas Friedman to Barack Obama love to outsource jobs and let American industry and business collapse at China’s expense. Just like George Will.

Sieff says his "dream ticket" is Romney-Cain. Of course, if that ever had a chance of happening, it won't now.

California Christmas tree headed to U.S. Capitol

[Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service via AP.]

A 65-foot white fir destined to be the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was harvested last weekend in the Stanislaus National Forest in the central Sierra Nevada mountains.

The tree was to tour the state before heading to Washington, D.C., stopping in communities and at schools representing California's forests, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Once it is in the nation's capital, it will be decorated with 5,000 ornaments created by Californians, the Farm Bureau reports.

The tree was chosen based on shape and fulness, color and the condition of its foliage. Ted Bechtol, supervisor of the U.S. Capitol Grounds Division, toured the forest in July to make his selection from a group whittled to 15.

The tradition of “The People's Tree” began in 1964, and the job of providing it rotates among national forests. This year, the Stanislaus National Forest was chosen, marking the fourth time the Capitol tree will be from California, the Associated Press reported.

(Fortunately they're willing to call it what it is -- a Christmas tree, much to the chagrin of a few miserable and misguided souls.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

The tea party vs. the newspaper

Tea party members and organizers of the recent Defend Rural America rally in Yreka are blasting the Record Searchlight over its package of stories Sunday (here, here and here) on the Siskiyou County water wars.

Event organizer Liz Bowen complained in a blog post that the "biased" articles "danced all around the real issues" while relying heavily on Erica Terence, executive director of the environmental group Klamath Riverkeeper. The Redding Tea Party's Erin Ryan also criticized the paper on the Sunday morning radio program, "We The People," and sent out e-mails encouraging like-minded folks to contact the paper.

Erin's ire was directed in particular at some of the online comments, including this curious one from a commenter nicknamed boondockman:

All sheriffs must undergo intense fisheries biology training in the academy.

Sit down, stop riling the people up and let the scientists and educated folk do their jobs. Why are Sheriffs involved anyways??
Hmm. Read your Constitution much, Mr. boondockman?

In fairness to Ryan Sabalow, he's from up there, so he's certainly well versed in the history and issues surrounding Siskiyou County. He's done a good job in some of his stories of capturing the human elements of the conflict there, and he professes to acknowledge that people on both sides make articulate and valid points.

It just strikes me how some of these media organizations will fall all over themselves to report the daily saga of a few dozen Occupy protesters, but gather 700-plus farmers and tea partiers together and it's either not covered or covered begrudgingly, with its speakers made to sound as if they're about to start a Second Civil War. But that's a trend that's hardly confined to the Record Searchlight, for reasons that have previously been discussed.

In my view, Siskiyou County is today where folks in the Klamath Basin were a few years ago, with tempers frayed and both sides in fear of losing their way of life. I've often wondered if the county couldn't benefit from its own version of the Klamath Basin agreement, which certainly has its detractors on both sides but seems to offer at least the possibility of a way out of a century-old conflict. To be sure, opinions are still strong in the Basin, but one doesn't get the impression that the two sides are going to (figuratively) go for each other's throats at the drop of a pin.

All of that said, any suggestion by government officials, activists (on either side) or the media that these landowners are somehow about to run for their guns and start shooting is inflammatory at best, and it offends the ranchers up there. Whatever the merits of their argument, these folks are engaging in the political process. They're writing e-mails, they're circulating petitions, they're holding rallies and they're electing local officials who are willing to speak out publicly against what they see as overreaching on the part of state and federal agents. To call them "revolutionary" or make comparisons to a "sagebrush rebellion" is neither helpful nor terribly accurate.

Rice growers reserve land for birds


In the photos, Willows rice grower Gary Enos (left) talks with conservationist Rob Vlach of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service about his efforts to draw down post-harvest flood irrigation in one of his fields to provide habitat for migratory birds.

Enos is one of about 70 rice farmers in Glenn and Colusa counties taking part in a federal bird habitat program. The NRCS explains:

In the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), rice farmers will engage in a number of practices strategically targeted to benefit the birds' migratory and breeding needs. Under MBHI, for example, rice farmers will flood their fields earlier or maintain the water longer in the season-and at the depth specifically needed at critical points in the season.

"In general shorebirds and many waterfowl require shallowly flooded habitat, 2-6 inches deep," says Alan Forkey, Assistant State Conservationist for NRCS. "Rice fields are often deeper than that. Also, rice farmers often pull the water off their land in January but under MBHI they will keep it on longer and withdraw the water more gradually." Forkey says.

Additionally, rice farmers will be shaping the levees between the fields to better accommodate the birds' nesting and resting needs. Sloped levees will be flattened providing a better nesting surface and shoulders that make it easier for chicks to navigate from nests to water. Some farmers will also provide artificial nesting structures. [...]

Some practices are clear win-wins for farmers and waterbirds. For example, the longer flooding of the fields also degrades the post-harvest rice stubble. Additionally, some farmers will manage small portions of their fields as wetland habitat which will allow intake water to warm a bit-a practice that both the birds and the tender rice plants appreciate.

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weather, Feinstein bill in latest podcast

My stories this week on California weather and on Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill to beef up protections against invasive agricultural pests coming into the country are among the topics discussed in our latest podcast, which is on the Capital Press' flagship blog, Blogriculture.

Listen here.

Rural rebellion the topic of radio show

Steven Greenhut, an author and columnist for the Orange County Register who leads the Pacific Research Institute's Journalism Center, will be the guest on the "We The People" radio program from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday morning on KCNR 1460 AM in Redding.

No doubt Greenhut will discuss his recent visit to Siskiyou County, where he attended the Defend Rural America rally on Oct. 22 and made some interesting observations in his column published Monday.

He wrote:

These rural folks, living in the shadow of the majestic Mount Shasta, believe that they are being driven away so that their communities can essentially go back to the wild, to conform to a modern environmentalist ethos that puts wildlands above humanity. As the locals told it during the Defend Rural America conference Oct. 22 at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds, environmental officials are treading on their liberties, traipsing unannounced on their properties, confronting ranchers with guns drawn to enforce arcane regulatory rules and destroying their livelihoods in the process. [...]

Sheriff Dean Wilson of Del Norte County said he was "ignorant and na├»ve about the terrible condition our state was in." He came to believe that people were being assaulted by their own government. "I spent a good part of my life enforcing the penal code but not understanding my oath." Wilson and other sheriffs said it is their role to defend the liberties of the people against any encroachments – even if those encroachments come from other branches of government.

As someone who has covered law-enforcement issues in urban Southern California, it's refreshing to hear peace officers enunciate the proper relationship between themselves and the people. Increasingly, law enforcement is based on an authoritarian model, whereby police have nearly unlimited power, and citizens must obey, period. It's rare to hear peace officers who are willing to stand up against more powerful arms of the government in service to their oath to their state and county and who affirm that their job is to protect their citizens' inherent rights. It's even rarer to hear sheriffs complain about the excessive use of force by fellow officers, which was a theme on the panel when referencing federal agents.

Greenhut also took a jab at Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko, who has praised the Obama administration for cracking down on medical marijuana clinics.

One's either for state control or not. I'm tired of conservatives who claim to be for states' rights when it suits them, but against states' rights on issues such as the drug war.

Greenhut opines that urban legislators will ignore California's "sagebrush rebellion" at their peril. Maybe, although at this point I still can't envision these folks going all Occupy Oakland on the feds. I've spent some time with many of them and it's just not in their makeup. What I do see them doing is being steadfast on the one hand and all the more hyper-politically active on the other, which at least appears to be having a little bit of an effect.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Palo Cedro producer: Bees doing well

Shannon Wooten, co-owner of Wooten's Golden Queens in Palo Cedro, writes for the California Farm Bureau Federation:

The honeybees are starting to drift back from summer pastures. We are putting on the final round of treatments for the different pathogens of mites and hopefully it will be good. The bees look very good this year. The bees did very well in the northern part of the state this year, so I think nutritionally they are in better shape than they have been in awhile. The numbers are good at this point in time, but it is in winter that we lose the bees. We are hoping that it won't happen because we think they are nutritionally better this year than they have been in awhile.


So things look pretty darn good in the bee world. There are lots of early orders for queens next spring, so we are getting geared up for that. But we have to address what's on hand now, and that's winter. We sell throughout the United States and Canada and historically into other countries, but not recently. Canada's demand is quite high, but it is difficult to ship up there because of the regulations and there are very few beekeepers up there who are willing to do it. I figure if I can sell everything I can produce right here in the states, then why would you work with another country?

We are weaning heifers right now. The first round of feeder sales are pretty much through. The steers are sold. The heifers are selling. We are picking replacement heifers right now and getting them fattened up. We have quite a few to look at and quite a few to pick. It just takes a little while to pick the best.

We will start moving the cows home from summer pasture shortly. Some have already come home and within the next 30 days we will have all of them home.

We are going to build our herd up. The numbers got down a little bit in the last couple years. But we've got feed now so we are going to start building the numbers back up.

The photo is courtesy of Ag Alert.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shasta Farm Bureau wins national award

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Three county Farm Bureaus in California have earned national recognition for creative programs that support local agriculture and invite people not familiar with farming and ranching to learn more about the bounty of California. The Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and Shasta County Farm Bureau won County Activities of Excellence Awards, presented by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The county Farm Bureaus from California will be among 25 from throughout the nation to be showcased during the AFBF Annual Meeting next January in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau saw a need in its community and set to work filling it. Farm Bureau leaders noticed that because of financial challenges, many high school students were wearing borrowed Future Farmers of America jackets. That resulted in what the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau called the Blue Jacket Bonanza program, through which students can earn their jackets.

Blue Jacket Bonanza is the first program of its kind in the nation. Students with financial need submit applications that include a description of what earning a blue FFA jacket would mean to them. The Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau says inspirational stories from the students have reinvigorated its work and helped energize the next generation of farmers and ranchers, who feel as though they belong to a supportive community that recognizes their hard work. At Farm Bureau fundraisers, members of the community donated $17,000 for the program.

This marks the second consecutive year the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau earned an activity of excellence award for one of its educational programs. Its 10-minute "Local Agriculture" DVD highlights Santa Cruz County's variety of commodities and resulted from efforts by members of the county Farm Bureau and the local Young Farmers and Ranchers group. The video debuted in a movie premiere atmosphere featuring characters in fruit and vegetable costumes and farmers and ranchers on hand to autograph DVD cases.

Through the DVD, the county Farm Bureau said urban residents learn about a vital aspect of their county, legislators show off a thriving sector of their district, and visitors see that there is much more to Santa Cruz County than redwoods and beaches.

The Shasta County Farm Bureau earned recognition for organizing a successful event in the eastern portion of the county that had often been geographically removed from past Farm Bureau activities. The county Farm Bureau created an Intermountain Ranch Rodeo that drew upon the county's ranching heritage and welcomed participants and spectators who may not have been familiar with the Shasta County Farm Bureau.

At the three-day rodeo, 16 teams competed in seven different events. The weekend also included a ranch horse competition, children's rodeo and a Western Cattle Dog Association dog trial. The rodeo helped the county Farm Bureau reach many people who had not interacted with the organization before, while raising funds at the same time.

"These three programs exemplify the great things our county Farm Bureaus do on behalf of their members and the residents of California," said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. "They will represent our state well at the American Farm Bureau meeting in Hawaii, and we congratulate them on their success."

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of 76,500 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The difference between the Tea Party and Occupy

Well, there are many, starting perhaps with the idea that one group wants to get back to constitutional principles and the other wants to completely obliterate them. But among the most stark differences between the two movements is the way they're covered in what we used to think of as the mainstream media, as author Bernie Goldberg explained on last night's "O'Reilly Factor."

He said to guest host Monica Crowley:

I think there's a handy rule of thumb that if we understand, it explains a whole bunch of things the so-called mainstream media do. And the rule of thumb is this. If they share your values, you will get basically an easy ride. If they don't share your values, fasten your seatbelt because it's going to be a real bumpy ride.

Now, they treat the Tea Party, to use an easy example, one way because they see conservatives as people who aren't very nice and, frankly, who are racist. So if there is one sign at a Tea Party rally that is, in fact, racist, it's not only going to get on the air, it's going to be made to be typical of the movement.

On the other hand, they see these demonstrators as young idealists, sort of the American version of the Arab Spring. As a matter of fact, a number of reporters have made that very comparison, which is superficial at best and insane at worst because the Arab Spring was about people who were trying to overthrow dictators who often tortured people with whom they disagreed. And in this country we have elections every two years. So what in the world is the comparison between the two?

That's where the rule of thumb comes in. If they like you, they treat you one way. If they don't share your values, they're going to see you in a totally different way.

Of course, no one is surprised by this disparity, he said.

We shouldn't be surprised at all. We should be troubled by it, but not surprised. The storyline has been written in stone, and we have seen it. These are the good guys. The Tea Party people were, well, we will say the bad guys to keep it simple. [...]

Listen Monica, I have met people who sell Slurpees and cigarettes to insomniacs at 7-Eleven on the overnight shift who have more introspection than journalists who cover important events in our country. They will never look inward. They will never see their biases.

I don't want to -- I don't want to end this part of the segment on a bad note, but there is no hope, there is no hope for them ever coming around and doing the right thing. They are not -- they are not introspective people when it comes to their own profession.

Of course, one doesn't have to look far to see examples of this -- of the same news organization tempering its Tea Party coverage with voices of opposition, while at the same time including nary a whisper of skepticism in pieces about the Occupy movement (except in their online comments). But fortunately people have seen through these organizations' facade for years now, as evidenced by their declining readership and viewership.

October rainfall by the numbers

In the photo, cattle at the Shasta College farm graze on a rainy afternoon in early October.

Here's where things ended up in terms of rainfall for the month, according to the National Weather Service:

Redding: Month to date 3.05 inches (normal 2.1 inches); season to date 3.33 inches (normal 3.01 inches)
Eureka: Month to date 4.21 inches (normal 2.24 inches); season to date 4.79 inches (normal 3.32 inches)
Sacramento: Month to date 1.33 inches (normal 0.95 inches); season to date 1.34 inches (normal 1.29 inches)
Modesto: Month to date 1 inch (normal 0.68 inches); season to date 1 inch (normal 0.96 inches)
Salinas: Month to date 1.47 inches (normal 0.58 inches); season to date 1.52 inches (normal 0.78 inches)
Fresno: Month to date 0.9 inches (normal 0.63 inches); season to date 0.9 inches (normal 0.82 inches)

The weather in October did its best impersonation of March, coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb. But we're likely in for a wetter November and a cold December, NWS warning coordinator Kathy Hoxsie told me this morning.

“We look like we're shifting into a more typical fall pattern, so these nice, warm, Indian summer-type days look to be coming to a close,” she said. “People will need to make sure they have their gutters cleaned out and their jackets out of the back of their closets.”

For my story on how the mild weather in recent weeks has aided crop development, check CapitalPress.com soon.