Friday, September 20, 2013

Trust no media report on pope's interview

From commentator and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt:
Here is the link to the complete text of the Pope’s remarkable interview.

Really, read it for yourself. Do not trust any media report as to what he says or how he says it.

LaMalfa votes for resolution defunding Obamacare

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa voted with the majority in favor of a resolution that would keep the federal government running through December but strip funding for Obamacare.

“The House acted today to put the brakes on the president’s health care takeover and ensure that the government continues to meet its financial obligations," LaMalfa said. "With just days left before the president’s plan kicks in, it’s clear that his health care takeover doesn’t pencil out. In my district, we’ll see skyrocketing premiums, drastically fewer coverage choices and higher out-of-pocket expenses. It’s time the Senate takes a stand and does what’s right for the American people by putting a stop to the train wreck the president’s health care takeover has become.”

LaMalfa said the bill prevents the government from defaulting on the nation’s debt, which has grown by $6 trillion since President Obama took office.

Goals of Klamath task force proving unrealistic

In the photos, taken yesterday: The Klamath Basin Task Force gathers in a meeting room at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls; Oregon natural resources advisor Richard Whitman (left) talks with Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum before the meeting; and Tom Paul of the Oregon Department of Water Resources gives an update on drought conditions in the Upper Klamath Basin. Note the irony in that last photo, with Paul talking about drought as any of about five pitchers of water are within his reach.

The task force is already well past its deadline for coming up with recommendations for improving water supplies and access to affordable power in the Upper Basin, and from what I saw yesterday, its members seem to be far from reaching a consensus on some pretty key issues. Facilitator Whitman has set a date of Oct. 10 for the group's next meeting, and it'll be interesting to see if they can come up with recommendations by then.

It seems to me that this committee is trying to do in three months what it took the parties to the original Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement five years to accomplish, which was to get folks who are diametrically opposed to one another to forge working relationships and come up with compromises that suit everyone's needs. As the immediate crisis has to do with water shutoffs in the Upper Basin, perhaps the committee's charge should have been simply to address that in the short-term first, then proceed with resolving electricity issues in time for the February deadline.

I don't know what this new committee is doing discussing the KBRA's budget when there's already a Klamath Basin Coordinating Council that's supposed to be dealing with that sort of thing.

Another seat-of-the-pants observation: The layout of the room yesterday was a perfect illustration of how government relates to the people in today's America. Panel members appointed by Oregon's Sen. Ron Wyden and Gov. John Kitzhaber sat facing each other at tables arranged as an enclosed square as the public sat in the back of the room, outside of the loop and struggling to hear and understand what was going on. Self-government, indeed.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CCA: Urge Brown to veto gun ban bill

The California Cattlemen's Association is urging its members to send letters to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to veto a bill that would ban certain types of guns in the state.

From the CCA's "action alert":
During the last week of the legislative session, the legislature passed SB 374 a bill by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) that would effectively ban all semiautomatic rifles that accept a detachable magazine or feeding device by labeling them as assault weapons. SB 374 would expand California's assault weapons ban passed in 2000 to now include rifles such as the Ruger Mini 14© "Ranch Rifle" and historic M-1 Garand. Rifles that are currently owned will remain legal however the rifles will need to be registered with the Department of Justice and will no longer be eligible for purchase or sale.

CCA worked with the National Rifle Association and other 2nd Amendment organizations to defeat SB 374 and other harmful gun legislation. Both Republicans and Democrats voted against SB 374 but after a narrow vote in the Assembly, it unfortunately passed in the Senate by just one vote. Please write Governor Brown and request he immediately veto SB 374. CCA has drafted a template letter which is available here for your use in addressing the governor. Please tailor the letter for your use and provide any personal stories you believe are compelling to support the veto request. Time is short and the governor will likely make a decision to sign or veto SB 374 within the next week so please do not delay.

Fortunately, several other bills involving gun control did not make it out of the legislature last week. Specifically, SB 53 by Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) which would have required anyone seeking to purchase ammunition to obtain a state permit failed in the Assembly. Another bill, SB 396 (Hancock), which would have required anyone legally possessing a magazine with the capacity to hold more than 10 rounds to turn the magazine over to law enforcement or destroy it also failed in the Assembly.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Photo gallery: Dairy and livestock in Sacramento

Last week I spent a couple of days in Sacramento, mainly to cover the highly contentious marathon hearing at the California Department of Food and Agriculture over milk pricing. In the top photo, University of California-Davis ag economist Richard Sexton prepares to give a presentation. In the others, the administrative panel hears from witnesses as people in the audience listen and take notes.

While there, I also visited the offices of the California Cattlemen's Association, whose officials talked about the legislative session that has just ended. In the photos below, Executive Vice President Billy Gatlin (left) and Vice President of Government Relations Justin Oldfield talk strategy, and Oldfield and Gatlin are seen working in their offices. A special thanks goes to Stevie Ipsen at the CCA for arranging the meet-up on short notice.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Judge denies injunction on meat labeling law

From the U.S. Cattlemen's Association:
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today denied plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction that, if granted, would have blocked the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing and enforcing its revised country of origin labeling (COOL) regulations until a lawsuit filed July 8 is concluded. The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA), along with National Farmers Union (NFU), American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the Consumer Federation of America, became intervenors in the lawsuit on August 19 when the court entered an order granting their motion to intervene in full, permitting the groups to participate in the preliminary injunction hearing as well as the remainder of the litigation.

The following statement can be attributed to Jon Wooster, USCA President, San Lucas, Calif.

"We, of course, are pleased with the court's decision to deny the preliminary injunction requested by the plaintiffs. If the injunction had been granted it would have ensured that the United States would be in violation of its trade obligations under the WTO and also would have further delayed consumers having the type of information Congress has long intended them to have. The revised USDA regulations announced on May 23 of this year will certainly reduce consumer confusion and will allow cattle producers the ability to differentiate their product from foreign beef.”

"USCA, NFU, ASI and CFA are committed to a strong defense of COOL and, on behalf of all four organizations, I want to extend our gratitude to all those who are contributing to the U.S. COOL Defense Fund. This is an expensive undertaking but it is a necessary one if we are to ensure the most effective defense. “

USDA's final rule modified certain provisions in COOL regulations after a WTO Appellate Body affirmed an earlier WTO Dispute Panel decision finding aspects of the regulations violated U.S. trade obligations. USDA released its modified regulations on May 23, 2013 and notified the WTO that the U.S. had come into compliance with the WTO ruling. On July 8, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Canadian Pork Council, North American Meat Association, American Association of Meat Processors, National Pork Producers Council, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico's National Confederation of Livestock Organizations filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking the court to vacate and set aside USDA's revised regulations. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction. On July 26, USCA announced that it would lead an intervention in the lawsuit and was quickly joined by NFU, ASI and CFA.

Shasta Lake down to 45 percent of capacity

In the photos, taken last week, people launch their boats from the exposed bed of Shasta Lake on a warm afternoon. As I reported in my story on California's persistent drought, the lake is down to 45 percent of capacity, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The lake is holding 70 percent of its normal amount of water for this time of year.

I'm headed to Sacramento for the next couple of days to meet with California Cattlemen's Association folks and cover a state hearing regarding the ongoing plight of dairymen seeking a better price for their milk used for making cheese. I'll update the Journal as time and circumstances warrant.

Did Obama really call Putin a jackass?

A blogger at the New Yorker had a little fun over the weekend with the G20 summit. Andy Borowitz "reported":
ST. PETERSBURG (The Borowitz Report)—Hopes for a positive G20 summit crumbled today as President Obama blurted to Russia’s Vladimir Putin at a joint press appearance, “Everyone here thinks you’re a jackass.”

The press corps appeared stunned by the uncharacteristic outburst from Mr. Obama, who then unleashed a ten-minute tirade at the stone-faced Russian President.

“Look, I’m not just talking about Snowden and Syria,” Mr. Obama said. “What about Pussy Riot? What about your anti-gay laws? Total jackass moves, my friend.”

As Mr. Putin narrowed his eyes in frosty silence, Mr. Obama seemed to warm to his topic.

“If you think I’m the only one who feels this way, you’re kidding yourself,” Mr. Obama said, jabbing his finger in the direction of the Russian President’s face. “Ask Angela Merkel. Ask David Cameron. Ask the Turkish guy. Every last one of them thinks you’re a [jerk].”
It goes on. Unfortunately, however, Putin wasn't the one who came away from the G20 summit looking like a jackass.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From Russia with love: the U.S. foreign policy

As President Obama prepares his much-anticipated speech for tonight, the person who's come out smelling like a rose -- if you'll pardon the expression -- is Vladimir Putin.

It's really interesting -- and a real eye-opener as to where we've come as a country -- that the leader of Russia has managed to achieve the moral high ground over the United States on several major issues of our time. He has rightfully called into question the veracity of Obama and Kerry with regard to Syria and Libya. He has provided asylum to a man who believed was in grave danger of assassination because he revealed the extent to which our administration is spying and gathering information on average Americans. And even the law barring gay propaganda to minors -- which has many of us in the West up in arms -- is widely supported around the world.

It's like i heard on a radio show the other night. At any time in the last 100 years, if the leader of Russia had accused the president of the United States of lying, it would be seen as a joke. It's not anymore.

Now we have this supposed "deal" crafted by Putin in which the Assad regime will supposedly hand over its weapons of mass destruction. Heaven knows what this supposed "deal" actually means, but Putin comes off looking like a peacemaker, and everyone in the world knows he is extricating Obama's rump from a sling of his own making. The guy that comes out of this a loser is Kerry, the lifelong peacenik-who-served who made a fool of himself trying to sell a war that nobody wanted.

Mark me, I'm not necessarily a fan of Putin and I wouldn't live in Russia. But there's no denying his global stock has gone up this summer. Big-time, as our old pal W. would say.

Policies worry farmers more than climate change

They're holding a seminar for journalists in Seattle to discuss the supposed perils of climate change. But in the minds of California farmers, government policies present a bigger threat, according to a survey by the University of California-Davis.

From the university:
California farmers feel more threatened by climate policy than they do by climate change, according to a new study from the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, found that the greatest climate risk Yolo County farmers believe they face in the future is not drought, water shortages, or temperature changes, but government regulations. [...]

Yolo County is a north Central Valley community that is home to UC Davis and a diverse mix of crops and livestock systems. More than 80 percent of land in Yolo County is devoted to agriculture.

UC Davis researchers analyzed 162 surveys returned by farmers and ranchers in 2011, and they conducted interviews with 11 farmers and two cooperative extension agents in 2010.

In Yolo County, 54 percent of farmers responding to the survey accepted that climate change was occurring. Of these, only 35 percent believed humans play a role in climate change.

Farmers were asked about their attitudes toward four specific environmental policies: pesticide use reporting (implemented in 1990), rice straw burning regulations (1991), a water quality conditional waiver program (2003), and stationary diesel engine emission regulations (2007). Farmers who had negative past experiences with environmental policies — viewing them as too costly or time-consuming, for example — showed less belief in climate change.

Farmers also tended to view policies that had been around the longest more positively, indicating that perceptions can become more favorable over time.

Several farmers viewed climate change as something in the far distant future, rather than as an immediate threat. They viewed the need to adapt to changing weather as a centuries-old, inherent part of farming.
[The photo is of rootstocks for almonds and stone fruits near Parlier, courtesy of UC-Davis.]

Monday, September 9, 2013

Clover Fire cuts swath southwest of Redding

Here is the latest, according to CalFire's fire information website:
Last Updated: September 9, 2013 6:30 pm
Date/Time Started: September 9, 2013 12:32 pm
Administrative Unit: CAL FIRE Shasta-Trinity Unit
County: Shasta County
Location: off Cloverdale Road, Happy Valley
Acres Burned - Containment: 2,500 acres
Evacuations: Evacuations:
Clear Creek and Cloverdale
Everything sw to Gas Point, Small Farms and Marsha Way
Small Farms track south to Black Pine Rd
Cloverdale from Clear Creek to Oak
Oak to Palm
Road Closures : See attached fact sheet under news releases
Cause: Under investigation
Total Fire Engines: 32
Total Airtankers: 6
Total Helicopters: 10
Total Dozers: 5
Total Water Tenders: 9
Conditions: Please use caution when driving in the vicinity of the fire area. Always use headlights in smokey conditions and watch out for firefighters and fire equipment.
Phone Numbers (530) 225-2510 (Clover Fire Information)
I've found the best place to turn during the course of the day when events like these occur is Q97, which offers constant updates about acreage, street closures, evacuation centers, etc. (and the music isn't bad, either). Their wildfire information page is here. Also, keep an eye on the news feeds on this page for updates.

Expert: Columnist 'knows zero' about pollination

Randy Oliver, the Grass Valley beekeeper and biologist quoted in my story today
about whether stress from servicing the almond blossom contributes to bee die-offs, emailed me this afternoon to add to his remarks.

Oliver said that Daily Caller columnist Steve Milloy "misrepresented" what he wrote in this essay on the causes of colony collapse disorder, adding that Milloy "obviously knows zero about either bees or almond pollination. You can quote me on that!"

Specifically, Oliver took to task Milloy's assertion that almond pollen is nutritionally inferior as a food source for bees.
In fact, almond pollen is one of the most nutritious pollens for bees, and they thrive on it once the bloom starts. Most beekeepers don't move their bees in until just prior to bloom, so the bees can start foraging within days, unless cold delays the start of bloom, as it did last season.

The fact is that the bees are generally moved in from somewhere where there is nothing in bloom anyway--almonds are one of the first plants to flower in the year (it's not even "spring" yet when they bloom).

California beekeepers have always moved hives to almond pollination in order to help their bees to build up early in the season.

As I said before, there are certain logistical problems associated with very large-scale transportation and holding of colonies prior to pollination, and the potential transmission of disease within the orchards, but these are very different issues than saying that almond pollination is the cause of bee health problems.
For his part, Palo Cedro's Shannon Wooten also told me the almond pollination brings the "first big growth spirt" for bees, which are invigorated by the food source.

[In the photo, bees fly around in a holding box during a bee beard demonstration Saturday at the annual Honeybee Festival in Palo Cedro]

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Palo Cedro's Honeybee Festival draws thousands

Big crowds enjoyed today's annual Honeybee Festival in Palo Cedro, where a bee beard demonstration was the hit of the morning.

In the photos, American Honey Queen Caroline Adams, a beekeeper from Plano, Texas, holds the microphone and answers questions from the crowd as the bee beard demonstration proceeds. In the bottom photo, 5-year-old Evyn Russell spots the queen in a glass-enclosed hive.

Two problems always seem to bedevil the beefest each year -- heat and parking. As this is one of the only outdoor events to be held in the Redding area during the height of summer, organizers really should think about moving at least some of the vendor booths indoors. We'd have stayed longer to shop if it wasn't so dang hot.

And please, people -- you really don't need 30-some-odd parking attendants blocking rows and waving flags. This isn't a 49er game, for gosh sake. Just take the people's money at the gate and let them go find a place to park.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

LaMalfa on secession: Don't look at me

Rep. Doug LaMalfa won't officially get behind the latest state of Jefferson secession movement, his press secretary told me today.

"We do not have an official office position on that resolution," Kevin Eastman said of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors' vote Tuesday to break from the rest of California.

"He can certainly appreciate the frustration that Siskiyou and other rural counties have in living with the legislation coming out of Sacramento that is authored by big-city, urban Democrats," Eastman said.

The resolution "could help draw attention to a lot of the issues that rural counties are facing, including ranching, timber and fire issues," Eastman said. "Drawing attention to those problems is important."

However, LaMalfa appears content to let this be a local push and not get involved himself.

For my story, check soon.

I haven't spoken to Erin Ryan this week, but I wonder if the first thing she said when reporters approached her Tuesday was that she was there as a Redding Tea Party representative and not in any way speaking for LaMalfa, for whom she is a legislative aide. I say this because it is often what Erin says to me before I quote her on anything. It's fair game to mention that she works for LaMalfa, but if she drew a distinction and it was omitted, that would be misleading at best.