Friday, February 27, 2015

Farmers brace for another zero allocation for ag

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's initial allocations of Central Valley Project water will be formally announced within the hour, but farm groups are anticipating another zero allocation and are already starting to release statements.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Continued drought and problems in water management combine to extend the suffering in rural communities, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation. CFBF President Paul Wenger said today’s announcement that the federal Central Valley Project will likely deliver no water to most of its agricultural customers—for a second straight year—reinforces the need to move quickly on water projects authorized by the Proposition 1 water bond and on congressional reform of environmental laws.

“The CVP announcement is both saddening and maddening,” Wenger said. “It’s saddening because the continued cutoff of water will prolong the impact of water shortages on farmers, their employees and rural communities. It’s maddening because California still struggles to manage water wisely and flexibly, especially in dry years.”

Wenger noted ongoing conflicts in water management, specifically about how much water is repeatedly dedicated to protection of fish and wildlife at the expense of jobs and food production for people.

“In a year like this, when every drop of water is more precious than ever, we must improve our ability to store storm flows when we can,” he said. “People have real frustration about bureaucratic decisions that send excess water out to sea beyond what’s needed for the ecosystem and delta water quality, when that water could be stored for later use, both by people and in the environment.”

Wenger said the continued drought lends urgency to the current process of allocating money to be invested from the water bond approved by California voters last November.

“Farm Bureau and other organizations will continue to work with the California Water Commission to ensure that bond money for surface-water storage projects is apportioned as rapidly and as effectively as possible,” Wenger said. “We are suffering now from our past failure to improve our water system. We shouldn’t compound the suffering by studying projects to death. It’s time to invest the money that Californians voted to invest.”

He also called on Congress to move quickly “to provide relief from rigid environmental laws that have failed to balance species protections with human needs.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 57,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.
California Citrus Mutual president Joel Nelsen told me this morning the expected announcement is "flawed."

"We think the state and federal agencies and administrations have a policy that essentially destroys the food supply," he said. "We've got to be the only state and nation on earth setting policies that do that."

Watch for updates soon.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

LaMalfa, Garamendi introduce Sites Reservoir bill

From the office of Rep. John Garamendi:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-01) and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-03) today announced the introduction of HR 1060, which will accelerate the completion of a feasibility study of Sites Reservoir and authorize the project should it be found feasible. Located in Colusa and Glenn counties, Sites Reservoir is a proposed off-stream reservoir that would store as much as 1.8 million acre feet of water for cities, agriculture and the environment.

“Californians have spoken strongly in support of investing in new surface storage, with over two-thirds voting to invest in projects like Sites Reservoir,” said Rep. LaMalfa (CA-01). “Sites provides more storage per dollar invested than any other proposed project, ensuring that California has water available for cities, farms and the environment during future droughts. It’s time to fulfill the promises made to voters, move forward on Sites, and build the infrastructure that will allow our state’s economy to continue growing for generations to come.”

“California is famous for bouncing back from adversity and emerging stronger. Sites Reservoir will play a key role in making our state drought resilient by expanding our water reserves. The Sites project would help meet the water needs of our communities, farms, and environment. It has galvanized bipartisan support across California. The water bond, which provides significant funding for storage, was passed by an overwhelming majority of California voters. Let’s continue this momentum, pass this bill, and start building California’s water future,” said Congressman Garamendi (D-CA-03).

David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association, urged support for the measure, stating, “This bi-partisan effort promoting progressive water management is a step forward for California. The dry years in California have shown the importance of surface storage for all beneficial purposes--water needed for cities and rural communities, farms, fish, birds and recreation. An off-stream regulating reservoir on the west-side of the Sacramento Valley (Sites) is critical for all these beneficial purposes in the Sacramento Valley, as well as providing state-wide water system operational improvements.”

Fritz Durst, Chairman of the Sites Joint Powers Authority (Sites JPA), supported the Congressmen’s action, stating, “Once again, our representatives, Congressmen LaMalfa and Garamendi, have exercised leadership by advancing this legislation and project. Sites Reservoir will improve statewide water reliability so desperately needed in drought years to protect and enhance the lifeblood of our economy, while also providing the necessary water to conserve our rich wildlife and natural resources."

Sites JPA Vice Chair Leigh McDaniel highlighted the importance of expeditious Congressional consideration of this measure, saying, “With the eyes of the country focused on California's historic drought, it is vital that we work jointly to seize this opportunity to develop the infrastructure needed to store additional water at Sites Reservoir and beyond. Doing so will go a long way toward enhancing operational efficiency of the Central Valley Project and serve to mitigate the impacts of similar droughts going forward.”

The California Department of Water Resources recently reported that Sites Reservoir would generate an additional 900,000 acre feet of water during droughts, enough water to supply over seven million Californians for an entire year.

The California Alliance for Jobs has also examined Sites Reservoir and released a video detailing the project’s benefits to cities, farms and the environment. As an off-stream reservoir, Sites has the ability to recapture water released upstream, allowing improved conditions for salmon and reuse of water for urban and agriculture use.

The Northern California Water Agency produced an infographic on Sites Reservoir.

State to conduct next snow survey on Tuesday

The state will conduct its third snow survey of the season on Tuesday, the Department of Water Resources has announced.

From the DWR:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct this winter’s third manual snow survey on March 3 just off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento. [...]

Recent electronic readings have revealed a trend of declining water content in the snowpack this winter. Today, the statewide water content is just 19 percent of the historical average for the date. The season’s first two manual surveys on December 30 and January 29 found a below-normal snowpack. The statewide water equivalent was just 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively, of the historical averages on those dates.

Most of the state’s precipitation normally falls in the north and is collected there for distribution throughout California. The north has had only two storm series this wet season, in mid- December and early February; both were warm storms and did not produce significant snowfall. The northern Sierra snowpack’s water equivalent today is only 17 percent of the February 26 historical average.
Fortunately there's a storm coming in this weekend that will include snow as low as 3,500 feet, so at least the ground will be white on Tuesday.

Check here for updates, and keep watch at CapitalPress.com for our ongoing coverage of the drought.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bureau to announce CVP water allocation this week

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation expects to announce its initial allocation to Central Valley Project water users by Friday, the agency's Sacramento press office is telling me this morning.

Last year's initial allocation was announced Feb. 21, when the agency said it would have no water available for farms without senior water rights. Exchange contractors along the Sacramento River -- including the Anderson Cottonwood Irrigation District -- ended up getting about 65 percent of their normal allocations while other users still got none.

This year's allocation may not be much better despite improving reservoir levels and near-normal rainfall in many areas, because the state's snowpack water content is still just 19 percent of normal. As I've reported, the snowpack situation is a big deal.

I'll post the numbers on Facebook as soon as I get them. Any pertinent news releases will be posted here, and you can watch for my story with reaction from the ag sector at CapitalPress.com.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Runner calls gas tax cut 'good news' for Californians

From the office of George Runner, the north state's representative on the state Board of Equalization:
George Runner today issued the following statement after a 5-0 Board of Equalization vote to reduce the state’s gasoline excise tax rate by 6 cents, from 36 cents to 30 cents, effective July 1 of this year:

“This gas tax cut, although less than originally proposed, is still good news for overtaxed Californians, who currently pay both higher gas prices and higher taxes than residents of other states.

“Today’s vote stems from a confusing and complicated formula known as the ‘gas tax swap.’ The Legislature enacted the formula a few years ago in order to redirect more than a billion dollars of transportation funding elsewhere. Under the gas tax swap law, the Board must annually adjust the gas tax rate to guard against over collection of tax.

“State revenues from fuel taxes reached a record $8.7 billion last fiscal year. Today’s vote will help correct the over collection of tax that is resulting from lower gas prices.

“But even after this tax cut takes effect July 1, Californians will continue to pay more gas taxes and fees than residents in nearly every other state. In fact, the Board’s cut won’t even fully offset the cost of a new ‘hidden gas tax’ that took effect January 1 to help fund high speed rail and other so-called anti-global warming efforts.

“Instead of raising taxes, lawmakers ought to use all of the dollars California drivers already pay at the pump, including the new hidden tax dollars, to improve our roads and eliminate congestion. In addition, we ought to invest more General Fund dollars in transportation as well.”

Elected in November 2010 and re-elected in 2014, George Runner represents more than nine million Californians as a member of the State Board of Equalization. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Runner.

Should the Red Bluff fair switch back to summer?

The Tehama District Fair is polling vendors and fairgoers to see if they want the fair to return to the summer -- perhaps the second weekend in July -- after 15 years of operating in September.

The fair board is considering the move at the behest of Lynn Strom, the county's 4-H coordinator, who could list any number of reasons she thinks it would be a positive move. For one thing, the fall fair competes with schools' fall sports, including Friday night Red Bluff High School football games, she told me this morning.

For my story on the potential move and the larger issue of what happens when fairs switch dates, check CapitalPress.com soon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cold, wet weather to come by week's end

After Southern California got a spritz of rain and snow over the weekend, a chilly and wet system is due to arrive in the northern part of the state by week's end, perhaps ushering in what at least one National Weather Service forecaster predicts will be a wet March.

From the weather service:
Cold and Wet System for the End of the Week

Impacts

Frost may harm sensitive vegetation Tuesday morning
Snow down to as low as 3500 feet may cause mountain travel difficulties Fri into the weekend
Locally heavy rain from thunderstorms Friday and Saturday afternoons may cause travel delays

Forecast Confidence
Medium for patchy frost late tonight into early Tuesday
Medium for lowering snow levels and moderate snow accumulations
Medium for thunderstorms Friday and Saturday afternoons

Timing and Strength
Freezing temperatures and frost possible in the Valley and lower foothills late Monday night into early Tuesday morning
Wet weather Friday through the weekend. Heaviest rain/snow late Friday through Saturday
Snow levels ~5500 feet Friday, lowering to as low as 3500 feet for the weekend, with the possibility of moderate snow accumulations above 5500 feet
Afternoon thunderstorms in the Valley and Foothills possible Friday and Saturday

Weather Summary
Breezy winds will decrease tonight allowing temperatures around freezing temperatures and frost to develop in portions of the Valley and lower foothills. Milder low temperatures expected for mid week, with dry weather. A wet and cold system will begin spreading into the area Thursday night, with precipitation becoming widespread on Friday. Snow levels will start around 5500 feet, then lower Saturday into Sunday. Moderate accumulations snow may impact weekend travel in the mountains. Details on exact timing/amounts still uncertain this far out so stay tuned for further updates as the week progresses. Generally light rainfall amounts expected for the Valley, though locally heavy rain is possible with thunderstorms.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Shippers pleased as port dispute likely to end

A major trade organization is pleased with the likely end to a crippling labor dispute at West Coast ports, which was announced last night.

From the U.S. Meat Export Federation:
"The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) was very pleased to learn of the tentative agreement on a new West Coast port labor contract that was reached Friday evening. Since we began to see increasing congestion in the West Coast ports several months ago, the global customer base that the U.S. meat industry has spent decades building has been put at risk by shipping delays and by the uncertainty surrounding these contract negotiations. With nearly 80 percent or our waterborne red meat exports utilizing West Coast ports, this situation had become very damaging not only for exporters, but also for farmers, ranchers, processors and everyone in the supply chain. We are hopeful that the parties will ratify the new contract agreement as soon as possible and clear the backlog that currently exists in several major ports, so that U.S. industries can once again serve our international customers with the confidence and reliability they deserve."

-- Philip M. Seng, President and CEO U.S. Meat Export Federation
As I've reported, the work slowdown at the ports was causing no shortage of headaches for many California commodities, including north state-grown almonds and walnuts. Watch for our complete and ongoing coverage of the developments at CapitalPress.com.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Annual career fair held at Chico State farm

Today was the 12th annual career and internship fair at the Chico State farm, at which ag students from the university as well as Shasta College and other area community colleges were able to meet face to face with prospective employers.

In the photos, from the top: Tyler Bramble, a Fresno-based regional manager for the Alltech feed additive company, Maria Vieyra, a human resources representative for the Driscoll's berry company, and Jeff DeClue, a Driscoll's recruiter, all talk to students about internships and job opportunities; and College of Agriculture dean Dave Daley (left) talks with Shasta College alum Garrett Wallis, the student herdsman for the beef unit at Chico State, about herd management.

That last photo was part of a shoot I did with Daley after interviewing him for a major report on the latest developments in the somewhat controversial use of antibiotics in livestock, including a council of scientists' recent report to President Obama and continuing efforts to pass state legislation restricting the practice. Daley is a rancher and vice chair of the California Cattlemen's Association, and he's been working on the antibiotics issue on a national level for several years.

Watch for my coverage of the career fair soon at CapitalPress.com, where you'll find my piece on antibiotics later next week. In the meantime, blog posts should pick up again after I send my project to my editors.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

LaMalfa, others call for end to ports slowdown

The north state's Rep. Doug LaMalfa was among more than a dozen federal lawmakers today who called for an end to the slowdown at West Coast ports that is putting many agricultural commodities at financial risk.

From LaMalfa:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) today attended a bipartisan press conference urging a swift resolution to the slowdown occurring at the West Coast Port due to ongoing negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshoreman Warehouse Union (ILWU).

“The slowing down of these ports impacts our entire country—it is a bipartisan, multi-regional issue,” LaMalfa stated. “We have to battle to get market share. When we lose market share, it is really difficult to get it back in a global economy especially with agricultural prices being so competitive. As you have heard from my colleagues today, the impact stretches beyond the west coast, and across our nation. The lack of conclusive negotiations hurts not only the agricultural community, it hurts all our neighbors down the street. Ask yourselves: Do you really want the President and Congress to have to get involved? No. Now is the time to resolve this disagreement.”

At a hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture earlier this week, LaMalfa discussed the labor dispute with Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, highlighting the devastating impacts it is having on rural economies across the nation and urged the Secretary to encourage both parties to find a quick resolution to the ongoing negotiations.

Video of LaMalfa speaking at the press conference may be found here.
Rep. David Valadao, a Hanford dairyman, said this:
“Agriculture is the backbone of our community and the ability to import and export our goods is critical to both our local and national economies. As time passes without a resolution, our farmers, businesses, and manufacturers will continue to face increased production costs and lost sales while massive quantities of produce and goods go to waste. Employees have been laid off, and thousands of more jobs remain at risk. The ongoing drought has already had catastrophic consequences on our communities. The last thing the Valley needs is another obstacle preventing our farmers and ranchers from doing what they do best and limiting the economic success of our communities.”
As Valadao's office points out:
California’s Central Valley is one of the world’s most product agricultural regions. The Central Valley produces over 230 different types of crops and accounts for 6.1 billion in agriculture sales. However, these agriculture industries rely on the efficient movement of goods as well as stable access to international markets, both of which have been impacted by ongoing negotiations between the International Longshoreman Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state said this:
“For months, the livelihoods of thousands of men and women across the West Coast have been at risk. Exports and imports are at a near standstill. Drivers are losing work. Growers can’t ship their products to loyal customers in a timely fashion and are in jeopardy of losing their long time markets. And businesses are suffering. Because for months, negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoreman Warehouse Union have jeopardized jobs and threatened our economy. And last weekend’s shutdown of nearly 30 West Coast ports is unacceptable, and this continued slowdown is unacceptable. Together, we urge for a swift resolution.

“This is not about politics – it’s about protecting family farmers, small businesses, manufacturers, and America’s economy. A lockout of West Coast ports would cost us over two billion dollars per day – and that is just the beginning. Washington is the most trade dependent state in the country – and if this dispute does not resolve quickly, our state will suffer the consequences. We need to come together and focus our efforts on an Opportunity Economy. An economy that prioritizes people. An economy that fosters an environment replete with trade possibilities. And an economy the supports access to these important markets.

“I join my colleagues – from both sides of the aisle – in urging an expedited agreement on behalf of people in Eastern Washington and people all across this country. I applaud the leadership of Congressman Reichert and Congressman Schrader on this important issue. I also want to recognize my colleague from Washington – newly elected Congressman Dan Newhouse – for his leadership at the state level, as well as newly elected Representative Rod Blum for his leadership. I know that they will be tremendous assets at the federal level as well – and I know that together we will continue to work to protect the livelihoods of countless Americans.”
Watch for our continuing coverage of the shipping crisis at CapitalPress.com.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Western lawmakers laud Keystone bill's passage

Western lawmakers are hailing today's passage in the House of Representatives of a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline. From the Congressional Western Caucus:
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act with a bipartisan vote of 270-152. This bill would at long last approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill, passed by the Senate on January 29th, will now move to the President’s desk for his signature.

Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At Large) and Western Caucus member Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND-At Large) released the following statements in response to the passage of the bill:

“This bill is bipartisan, has passed both chambers of Congress, is supported by many labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, and a large majority of the American people, and simply does what President Obama’s own State Department approved over a year ago after already extensive delay: it approves the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Chairman Lummis. “An energy-secure America is within our grasp if we only seize opportunities like Keystone XL. No more needless delays. It’s time for President Obama to make a decision. I call on President Obama to reconsider his veto threat and join this bi-partisan push for an infrastructure project that is a slam dunk for our economy.”

“I hope the President will reconsider his veto threat on this important bipartisan jobs bill, and sign it when it comes to his desk so we can get people back to work, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil from across the sea, and become more interdependent with our neighbors in Canada,” said Rep. Cramer.
California Rep. David Valadao, a dairyman who's on the House Appropriations Committee's agriculture subcommittee, had this to say at a press briefing after the House vote:
“The Keystone XL Pipeline would create over 42,000 jobs nationwide and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by hundreds of thousands of barrels. This project will also grow our GDP and generate tax revenue throughout the country.

“Families right here in the Central Valley will directly benefit from the creation of the pipeline which will reduce energy costs for households throughout our region. Unemployment in California, especially in the Central Valley is extremely high. This pipeline will create much needed jobs, ensure energy security, and strengthen our economy.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Calif. court ruling a victory for recreational fishing

From the Pacific Legal Foundation:
The California Third District Court of Appeal has struck down the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s illegally drafted permitting requirements on recreational freshwater fishing — regulations that threatened to decimate the $2.4 billion industry by driving fishing lakes, private hatcheries, and fish farms out of business.

The ruling came in a lawsuit against the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), by Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), representing the California Association for Recreational Fishing (CARF), a grass-roots organization of freshwater recreational fishermen and businesses that serve them. PLF represents CARF — as with all clients — free of charge.

Even though the state’s freshwater fish population is historically healthy, DFW devised a radical new mandate on hatcheries and stocking ponds. Before they could stock or raise any fish, DFW would have to determine there would be no effect on dozens of arbitrarily-selected species — including species that are abundant and thriving in California.

This process would be so cumbersome and drawn out that it could effectively block many stocking ponds and hatcheries from continuing to operate.

Heavy-handed regulations adopted without public input

PLF challenged the new requirements because they were drafted without public input, as mandated by the California Administrative Procedure Act (CAPA). In ruling for PLF and striking them down, the Third District agreed they are illegal ‘underground regulations’ — i.e. the bureaucracy did not comply with CAPA’s requirements for public review and comments.

PLF statement: A win for accountability in government

“This court ruling is a powerful victory for everyone who values recreational fishing opportunities, and for everyone who values openness and accountability in government,” said PLF Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Thompson. “The DFW concocted these radical regulations all on its own, without any request from the Legislature and without seeking public review and comment as state law requires. This court victory saves recreational fishing from out-of-control regulators and protects everyone’s rights by reminding bureaucrats they aren’t above the law.”

The controversial new regulations are rooted in a 2010 Fish and Wildlife Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that claims the stocking of lakes and ponds with hatchery bred fish puts indigenous fish and habitat in danger. The report also radically changed the permitting process for stocking private fishing lakes and ponds without any public review or input, and without direction from the State Legislature.

The state agency changed its fish stocking permitting process in the EIR by prohibiting all stocking which would have an adverse effect on "decision species." More than half of these so-called "decision species" are not listed under any statute or regulation, but were included by agency whim, stated Thompson. The EIR also required private hatcheries to engage in continuous and expensive monitoring for invasive species, the results of which must be reported to the Department for use in its investigations and permitting decisions.

The regulations would also have required environmental reports for California fishing lakes, at costs potentially exceeding $100,000 every 1-5 years, threatening the ability of fishing lakes to remain in operation and provide an affordable form of outdoor recreation.

Under CAPA, agencies must follow notice and comment procedures before adopting regulations. These procedures not only protect the people who will be subject to the regulation, but benefit everyone by ensuring that agencies only adopt regulations once the consequences have been brought to light. As the Third District affirmed in striking down the new permitting requirements, any regulation that is adopted without following these procedures is an “underground regulation” and void.

CARF president: A win for families who love freshwater fishing

“We could not be more pleased with the Appellate Court’s rejection of the Department’s illegal regulations,” said Craig Elliott, President of CARF and a recreational fishing lakes operator and fish farmer. “This ruling ensures that freshwater fishing will continue to be an affordable and accessible form of recreation for California families and a source of jobs. California anglers owe a debt of gratitude to PLF for championing our cause.”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Round 2 of big storm set to arrive Sunday

There's more wind and rain where the past two days' ferocious storm came from. From the National Weather Service:
Impacts
Urban and small stream flooding possible
Localized power outages & downed trees
Winter road conditions expected Sunday Night into Monday below pass levels
Thunderstorms possible

Forecast Confidence
High for wet pattern Sun-Mon
Medium for snow above 7000 ft then dropping to around 5000 ft Monday
High for gusty winds Sunday afternoon and evening
Medium for precipitation amounts, amounts will be variable with convection
Medium for Thunderstorms- low for isolated tornado

Timing and Strength
Precipitation expected through Monday, it will become more widespread with the majority of precipitation expected on Sunday
Snow levels near or above 7000 ft then dropping to around 5000 ft on Monday as precipitation tapers off
Strongest winds expected Sunday with gusts to 45 mph in the valley and 60+ mph in the mountains
Isolated thunderstorms through Monday (mainly valley today and Monday, more widespread Sunday) mainly afternoon and evenings. Isolated tornadoes possible Sunday

Weather Summary
The atmospheric river (AR) is impacting Northern California with showers today and another wave Sunday into Monday. This should be a significant rain event for much of NorCal. Highest confidence of heavy rainfall is north of Interstate 80. Rainfall amounts will be variable due to the showers and thunderstorms in afternoon and evening Sunday. Rainfall amounts expected to generally taper off on Sunday night into Monday. Snow will fall below pass levels Sunday night into Monday with generally 6 to 18 inches possible above 7500 ft.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Lyin' Brian and the fall of the news media mask

Every so often in the world of the major news media, there's a moment in which the mask completely falls off, and we see people for exactly who they are. Or to borrow from the Wizard of Oz, we catch a glimpse behind the curtain. The downfall of CBS' Dan Rather, when he aired faked letters impugning then-President George W. Bush's service in the National Guard at the height of the 2004 presidential campaign, was one such moment. And this week's revelation that NBC anchor Brian Williams apparently lied about being shot at while in a helicopter in Iraq -- and his subsequent disingenuous apology -- was another.

Of all that's been written in the past few days regarding the Williams controversy, PowerLine's John Hinderaker's piece Thursday does the best job of any I've read at explaining why we should all care. Here's the money quote, which I posted on Facebook yesterday.
Ponder that for a moment: if my speculation is right, and liberal guilt caused Williams to make up a story about his own experience that he told, over and over for twelve years, until it finally brought him down, how else has it influenced him? How has liberal guilt shaped stories that he has written and delivered on the economy; on taxes; on wages; on corporate profits; on fiscal policy; on race relations; on affirmative action; and on many other subjects NBC News has addressed over the years? If Williams would make up bald-faced lies in one context to assuage his own liberal guilt, is it unreasonable to think that he and his NBC colleagues have passed off misrepresentations, misleading data, errors of omission and, yes, outright falsehoods in service of the liberal cause on other topics, for the same reason?
Hinderaker posits that Williams somehow knows deep down that he's grossly overpaid in relation to the troops in the field, and he wants people to know (or at least think) that he's faced combat too. I've never put much stock in the notion of "liberal guilt" because feeling guilty about something requires a certain degree of moral compunction, and my experience with many people on the committed left has been they don't really feel guilty about anything because they're so morally superior. They want you to feel guilty so you'll accept their utopian society.

Since everyone seems to be psychoanalyzing Williams and suggesting ideas of why he did it, here's my guess. He wanted to tell a harrowing, emotionally charged story about how he was almost killed in Iraq so people would ask, "What the heck are we doing over there?" What makes me say this? For starters, he used the fake story as a bullwhip against Gen. David Patraeus -- over the mission in Iraq. And his bosses? They've known for years the story was a lie, yet they kept him on the air. As of this writing, he's still employed as NBC's evening news anchor, and according to one report, the network has no plans to suspend or even reprimand him.

More so I believe than any of the other networks, NBC exists for one purpose: to promote a political agenda in America. It's what the "Green Weeks" are all about. It's why you get hit over the head with lectures about gun control in the middle of football games. It's why figure skater and self-professed gay activist Johnny Weir was featured as an NBC analyst at the Kentucky Derby and at the Super Bowl. It's why MSNBC -- which is part of the news operation in which Williams works as a managing editor -- is the way it is.

The last time I watched NBC's nightly newscast was in September of 2000, when Brian Williams was still the weekend anchor. We were camping on the coast, and Eureka's NBC affiliate was the only station that would come in on my little portable TV. Williams aired a segment on how the Boy Scouts were (supposedly) offending a growing number of Americans because of their stance on gay members/scoutmasters. There were no representatives from the Scouts answering the charges, nor did Williams mention any attempt to contact any. There had been no news about the Scouts and gays that week; it was just a gratuitous slam. A couple of years later I also quit watching "Dateline NBC" when they sought out the mother of a missionary who was held captive in Afghanistan and coaxed her to blast her own daughter on national television -- the same daughter that had been held prisoner by the Taliban. They are who they are.

Hinderaker writes that he doesn't "take any pleasure" in the thought that Williams might resign or be fired. I can't say I'd mourn his departure, if it indeed comes to that. I once knew a reporter who was fired for claiming to be at a school board meeting he was covering when he really wasn't. I've had two coworkers lose their jobs because of plagiarism, including one at the Capital Press. I had a night editor who was let go because he wrote in a brief that someone "was unavailable for comment," when in fact he hadn't tried to reach them. A former coworker who went to another paper botched a county story so badly that she made the officials look corrupt, and she was forced to resign. It's understood in this business that deliberate dishonesty in the course of one's work is an automatic death sentence to one's career. To see Williams sit there and read the news as if nothing has happened seems a bit of a travesty.

But there's at least a modicum of integrity at local and community news outlets where you meet your audience face to face and are thus reminded of your own accountability. From what we've seen at NBC and from its chorus of major-media apologists, there is none. The jig is up. The mask is off.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

50th Colusa Farm Show: A photo essay

Thousands of people showed up for this week's 50th annual Colusa Farm Show, which concludes today.

In the photos, from the top: A shuttle displayed by Yuba City-based Orchard Machinery Corp. and used for harvesting nuts and prunes is decorated with American flags and patriotic designs to honor veterans and troops overseas; OMC vice president Greg Kriss (right) talks to customers; and people look at a tree pruner and hedger displayed by Erick Nielsen Enterprises of Orland.

As I reported yesterday, large ag equipment sales in California are doing well despite the drought and a nationwide slowdown in heavy machinery sales. My story on the patriotic shuttle should be up at CapitalPress.com soon.

Today the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference kicks into high gear, and I'll be covering several of the workshops. Watch for my stories on what timber companies are doing to stay fire-safe and on how the manufacturing of wooden crates for citrus fruit has impacted the timber industry.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gallup: 5.6 percent unemployment a 'big lie'

The chief of arguably the most respected polling firm in the country is calling out the Labor Department -- and by extension, the administration's media and Wall Street accomplices -- for advancing the "big lie" that unemployment is only at 5.6 percent.

From Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton, on the organization's website:
Right now, we're hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is "down" to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job -- if you are so hopelessly out of work that you've stopped looking over the past four weeks -- the Department of Labor doesn't count you as unemployed. That's right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news -- currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren't throwing parties to toast "falling" unemployment.

There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
He goes on to give a few more facts about the way the unemployment figure is deceptively concocted, and notes that the number of full-time jobs compared to the able-bodied adult population is at a staggeringly low 44 percent. Why aren't Americans told this? Because it doesn't fit the agenda.

Keep this in mind the next time you see that screaming headline on the front page or the homepage. You're being lied to. Deliberately.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Are the 'historic' Super Bowl ratings for real?

I've learned in the course of my career to be skeptical about everything where the media is concerned. And right now these breathless reports of record-high viewership of the Super Bowl are at the top of my skepticism list. in fact, I call BS -- you know, bull sale. I just don't believe it.

At the risk of sounding like that New York columnist who famously didn't know anybody who voted for Nixon, I didn't see the level of excitement that would generate a record audience. I look at the several churches in the area that used to hold Super Bowl parties but no longer do, either because of the offensive commercials and halftime entertainment or because they've been threatened by the league. Our health club, which did a big social gathering for the college football championship game, did nothing for the Super Bowl. And rarely has there been a year when people have been less excited about the matchup. In short, a lot of people really disliked both teams, and for good reason.

But my skepticism goes beyond my personal realm. The fact is that the company making the record-viewership claim is NBC, which invested billions of dollars in showing the game and collected more billions from advertisers. Do you think the media companies that have so much money invested in that product would tell us if fewer people watched? Secondly, as far as I understand ratings, they're more a barometer of how many televisions are tuned to a certain program than how many eyes are on the TVs. So if the Super Bowl isn't as big a social event as it used to be (my hunch), there may have been a few more people watching at home, but that doesn't mean there were more people watching.

For my part, I only saw a small portion of the game as I spent most of my afternoon watching a scintillating winter league baseball playoff contest between teams from Colombia and Panama. A guy took a no-hitter into the ninth. There were arguments over bad calls and was even a brawl when a baserunner barreled into the catcher a little too violently. And there was a walk-off hit. It was televised by several networks and probably generated a sizable TV audience of its own -- in Central America.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Rainy pattern to return to NorCal late in week

After more than a month of virtually no rain, a wet pattern will return to Northern California late this week, the National Weather Service forecasts.

From an NWS bulletin:
Impacts
Potentially localized urban and small stream flooding
Limited road problems as snow levels will likely be at or above Sierra pass levels
Occasional power outages over higher terrain due to strong south to southwest winds

Forecast Confidence
High for wetter pattern change by Friday
Medium for snow at or above Sierra pass levels
Medium for strong winds
Low for precipitation amounts as moisture plume tries to shift southward over north-central California

Timing and Strength
Rain begins Thursday over northwest California and spreads southward of Interstate 80 by early Friday and into the weekend
Most of moisture plume is forecast to stream across extreme northern California and into Oregon with potential shift southward late in the weekend.
The greatest rainfall could remain northward of the Glenn-Sierra county area.

Weather Summary
Weak disturbances break down the ridge tonight through Tuesday with some light rain remaining near extreme northern Sacramento Valley and surrounding mountains. Then the broad eastern Pacific trough pushes the ridge into the inter-mountain west, allowing for an atmospheric river (concentrated swath of subtropical-like moisture) to set up and potentially move over the Pacific Northwest to include northern California. The brunt of the moisture plume is forecast to be over Oregon and extreme northern California. Models are hinting at shifting the jet stream into northern California late in the weekend, which would bring more precipitation. Unfortunately, snow level appear to remain at or just above Sierra pass levels.