Fake News & Abraham Lincoln

Republicans are talking a lot about Fake News these days and it is interesting to note that the founder of the Republican Party, President Abraham Lincoln, also had to deal with it during his campaign for president, as Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in her great book, Team of Rivals:

“Although increasingly infuriated by Southern misrepresentation of his positions, Lincoln confined expression of his anger to private letters. Upon hearing from the New York Time’s Henry Raymond that one of his correspondents, a wealthy Mississippi gentleman named William Smedes, had justified the state’s “blaze of passion” for secession on the grounds that Lincoln was “pledged to the ultimate extinction of slavery, holds the black man to be the equal of the white, & stigmatizes our whole people as immoral & unchristian,” Lincoln issued a blistering reply. As evidence Smedes had cited an “infamous” speech Lincoln had purportedly given on the occasion when Chase was presented with his silver pitcher by the free blacks of Cincinnati. For such a speech, Smedes proclaimed, he would “regard death by a stroke of lightning to Mr. Lincoln as but a just punishment from an offended deity.”

“What a very mad-man your correspondent, Smedes is,” Lincoln replied, countering that he “was never in a meeting of negroes in [his] life; and never saw a pitcher presented by anybody to anybody.” Moreover, he went on. “Mr. Lincoln is not pledged to the ultimate extinction of slavery; does not hold the black man to be the equal of the white, unqualifiedly as Mr. S. states it; and never did stigmatize their white people as immoral & unchristian.” (p. 295). Doris Kearns Goodwin. (2005). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Posted in History

The Parkway’s Skid Row

Skid Rows develop largely as the result of inaction–or wanting to contain a problem–by public leadership allowing a public area of a city, or in this case, of a park, to sink into degradation by not appropriating the proper resources, including leadership, to ensure it remains safe and welcoming for residents and other visitors.

That this has happened to the Parkway from Discovery Park to Cal Expo and the long period of time that public leadership has allowed illegal camping on the Parkway is why it has—sadly and tragically for the adjacent neighborhoods and the homeless—become the Parkway’s Skid Row.

According to this April 21, 2017 article from the New York Times, this allowance is a status that has existed for many years.

An excerpt.

SACRAMENTO — For Robert Friend, home was a tent pitched down by the American River off 12th Street. It was quiet, secluded in the bushes, a respite from life on the pavement downtown.

Or at least it was until the storms came.

“I got flooded out,” said Mr. Friend, 48, looking weary on a recent afternoon as he stood on the sidewalk he had escaped to a few blocks from the river. “This is the worst winter I’ve known in the 10 years I’ve been here. Last night and the night before I was just under a tarp, waiting it out. It was freezing-raining all night long.”

The rains that lashed California this year, continuing with yet another wave of downpours through last weekend, have pulled this state out of a historic drought. But they also exposed the extent and agony of homeless women and men who have long made homes along the banks of the now-swollen rivers across California, and particularly in Sacramento, a city of 480,000 where a largely hidden community has lived on the outskirts since the Great Depression. According to city and state officials, about 2,700 of the 118,000 homeless people in California live here.

The rains — the most during California’s rainy season since the state started keeping precipitation records nearly a century ago — overwhelmed the two rivers that converge on the northwest side of the city, the Sacramento and the American. They ripped away the cloak of shrubbery along the rivers’ banks, forcing people camped there to move to more exposed ground. Cold, soaked and stranded, they used makeshift rafts to float to safety, or waited for rescue by the Fire Department from their camps two miles from the State Capitol and within walking distance of the Governor’s Mansion.

“The rivers rise, and people are flushed out of where they are staying,” said Joan Burke, the advocacy director for Sacramento Loaves and Fishes, which provides food and other services for people living on the street. “All of a sudden they are visible to the rest of us.”

Homelessness draws more attention in big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where tents and sleeping bags crowd downtown sidewalks. But it has increasingly become a fact of life in suburbs and moderate-size cities like this one, places that often do not have the resources to manage it, and where the backlash to what was once seen as uniquely urban problems can be particularly intense.

Two people died within a week just outside City Hall this winter, as they sought refuge from the rain and the cold. It was the kind of tragedy that might barely be noticed in a big city numb to people living on its streets, but was deeply unsettling for this community.

“It was a terrible thing for the people who were displaced,” Ms. Burke said. “But the beneficial effect was the rest of us saw there are these huge number of homeless people in Sacramento who were suffering in this weather. And it just sort of crystallized for a lot of people that this is not O.K.”

“Knock, knock.”

Cale Traylor stood a few feet from a blue tent close to the American River, a dog barking in the background, late last month. The people who live here call themselves the River Dwellers, Mr. Traylor said, and he was once one himself.

Mr. Traylor, 37, slept not far from this spot during a five-year binge of alcoholism, drug abuse, petty crime and homelessness. He knows how to navigate this world that was once his own: Keep a respectful distance when approaching; carry a bone to distract an unleashed pit bull that might come bounding out of the brush.

There was a rustle inside the tent, and James Guidi, a Vietnam War veteran, emerged, a dazed look on his face.

Mr. Guidi, 65, said the riverbanks had been his home for eight years, and he is one of the few who has stayed here through the winter. The night before, he slept in a tent left behind by someone who had wandered on. But earlier in the week he had to sleep on the ground as the storms blew through, tearing away the tarp that provided him scant protection.

“I slept in a puddle,” Mr. Guidi said. “It was more terrible than any time I had in Vietnam. I can compare it to over there.”

Mr. Traylor’s struggle with homelessness began when his father committed suicide in 2010, when he was 30, and continued until he was sent to the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi in 2015 for stealing a car and trying to outrace the police. When he disappeared after his father’s death, his family wrote him off as a lost cause.

Mr. Traylor said he was sober now, studying electronic automation at Sacramento City College. He sees his mother and sisters regularly.

“There used to be a ton of cover,” he said, pointing to a spot along the river. “It was an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. If the police can’t see you, then they typically leave you alone. When the water went up, it washed away all their coverage.”

Mr. Guidi said he didn’t care that his campsite was largely deserted as people fled the rains. “I’ve been living by the river here and there, off and on, for eight years,” he said. “People get along.”

Posted in ARPPS, Government, Homelessness

California Should do Better

That is the message from this article in Fox & Hounds about water policy.

An excerpt.

No matter the crisis, the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB), Governor Brown and the Democratic super-majority-controlled Legislature — despite their best efforts — are no match for nature itself as has been demonstrated during six years of drought and now three and a half months of flooding and massive infrastructure failures.

While species continue to evolve and adapt to survive, it seems our elected and appointed water policy makers and managers do not. Continuously throwing good water after bad for nearly thirty years in flawed programs has resulted in a record of failure: Threatened and endangered species dwindle and die, water quality continues to decline (especially in rural and impoverished communities) and ignored and aging infrastructure crumbles alarmingly.

Take for example the case of the unimpaired flows proposal by the SWRCB: The state would demand releasing water from key reservoirs in both wet and drought years and take 40–70 percent of the water flowing in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers. The new flow increases would be on top of nearly 30 percent already required to “aid” endangered Chinook salmon migration.

SWRCB’s sister state agency at Cal-EPA, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), testified in January that the board’s SED proposal was “without evidence, [contained] incomplete scientific information, [was] ill-suited for real-time operations, and [based on] unverified assumptions.”

DWR’s findings were backed up in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, a biosciences journal that published an internationally recognized and independently peer-reviewed 12-year study finding that the SWRCB’s SED proposal would provide no significant overall increase to fish populations and would actually kill or hobble migrating fish from reaching their spawning grounds or the ocean.

Despite strongly contradicting science and expert opinion, together with thousands of critical comments from other authorities and the public, the SWRCB stands poised to approve its flawed and dangerous plan.

The SWRCB — along with elected officials who put them there — appear to deny true science whenever it fails to fit their narrative, choosing instead [Alt]-science. They hand pick, even finance science of convenience to support their doubling down on restrictions and management schemes that fail, all in an attempt to try to bend nature to their will or force potential partners into submission. In so doing they play political games with our lives, property, health, public safety and our environment.

Governor Jerry Brown is right. There is no going back to the way things were.

Despite Brown’s clear vision statement, he and his appointees stubbornly cling to their dated, obsolete and draconian water policies. To truly move forward, Brown and the SWRCB must stop insisting on using a 1970’s outlook, 1980’s solutions, and 1990’s science, laws and regulatory muscle to address 21st century problems before they condemn those who will live in the 22nd century to living with their mistakes.

Posted in Politics, Water

Two Good Articles on Illegal Camping from SARA

A very welcome bit of support from Save the American River Association noting the great danger and degradation occurring in the Parkway’s Skid Row—Discovery Park to Cal/Expo—and hopefully other Parkway advocates will get on board with regular focus on this problem, which our organization believes is the most serious problem facing the Parkway.

Read the latest SARA article on page 1 through page 3 of their Winter/Spring 2017 Newsletter (Vol. 56, Issue 1)

SARA also had another good article—focusing on the Parkway Rangers—in their Fall 2016 issue (Vol. 55 Issue 4) starting on page 4.

Good job SARA; the Woodlake & North Sacramento neighborhoods need all the help they can get to create a safe and welcoming Parkway in their community.

Posted in Homelessness, Public Safety

Folsom’s Area of the Parkway

It is good to see the city of Folsom focusing more on their area of the Parkway, a particularly beautiful part that can even become more so, as is noted in their Parks & Recreation section of their January Draft of their 2035 General Plan.

An excerpt.

PR 4.1.5 Waterway Recreation and Access

Coordinate with Federal agencies, State agencies, Sacramento County Regional Parks, private landowners, and developers to manage, preserve, and enhance the American River Parkway, urban waterways, and riparian corridors to increase public access for active and passive recreation. (page PR 8)

Posted in Government, Parks, River Development

Water Policy in California

It is misguided, as this article from the California Water Alliance makes clear.

An excerpt.

No one questions the need for Californians to avoid wasting water and conserving our precious water resources. Water we need for our people, cities, environment, wildlife, fish and food producers is wasted primarily because California lacks the necessary storage facilities to capture and hold the water during the summer and drought years.

California’s Mediterranean Climate means that most of its precipitation — rain and snow — falls during a few short months of winter and spring, from October to May. The rest of the year is dry. Much of that water — with the most flowing in wet years like 2017 —  just dumps into the Pacific Ocean to be lost forever.

While California’s population is now at 39 million, its dams and other water storage systems were built 40-60 years ago to serve less than 25 million people. The introduction of a new water user began in the late 1980s and grew in less than 25 years to consume over half of all the developed water we capture and store in California.

While our cities, businesses and people use 10 percent of all developed water used, and 40 percent is used for food production, the new water user created through state and federal environmental regulations and by court decisions now accounts for 50 percent.

When water supplies are insufficient and we experience drought, underground water reservoirs are drawn down, causing land subsidence and increasing the cost and depth of water supply wells. Wet years allow those aquifers to refill, so providing surface water deliveries to avoid more pumping is essential to good management of the state’s underground water resources.

Water conservation by Californians also helps extend our existing water supply, but it cannot make up for strategic shortfalls due to insufficient storage infrastructure. The total water consumers save — even when it’s 25 percent or more of their use — makes up a very tiny portion of the total water used throughout the state. The conserved amount is also dwarfed by all the water that California does not capture and store, water that flows unchecked to the sea at all times of the year, but especially during our wet season. In all, during the peak drought years of 2015–2017, conservation measures extended the water supply about five percent compared to the amount of fresh drinking water the state allowed to flow into the ocean.

California must do a better job of managing its water for people, business, industry, farmers and the environment. A 20th Century water supply system cannot meet our 21st Century needs.


Posted in Politics, Water

Policy Caused Drought

Great article from the California Water Alliance.

An excerpt.

“After a two-month delay and with a snowpack that is 200 percent above normal, in at time of brimming-full reservoirs, statewide flooding not seen since the 1890’s and with receding memories of six years of drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) has set its initial water allocation for Central Valley rural communities and farmers at 65 percent and California’s largest cities at 90 percent,” Bettencourt said.

“USBR’s allocations for the past three years were Zero, Zero, 5 and now 65 percent.” Bettencourt continued. “This is at a time when the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) literally  has no more room to store water and is managing the system for flood prevention.”

“USBR’s decision and actions prove that excessive regulations and flawed management philosophies are causing California’s water shortages — both in times of drought and in years when rain is plentiful — not hydrographic conditions of the state,” she said.

“USBR has confused its role with that of a policy maker rather than perform its true function as manager and operator of the nation’s largest man-made water delivery system in a predictable, safe and reliable manner. ”

“Whether in drought or flood, regulators dictate whether there will be a water shortage in California,” Bettencourt continued.

“The state’s water system is out of date, undersized and overburdened with regulatory requirements. Federal and state regulations — despite their intent —  have failed to protect our environment, wildlife, waterfowl and fish, water quality, nor have they secured reliability of our water supply. Rather, the regulators have precipitated further declines in endangered species and devastated groundwater aquifers statewide by depriving them of the surface water necessary for their habitats and recharge.”

Bettencourt described the impacts farmers expect as a result of another year of low surface water deliveries:

“The Bureau of Reclamation’s setting of another low surface-water delivery allocation will aggregate groundwater overdraft and cause more land subsidence in aquifers of the state, precipitating a continuing environmental catastrophe.”

“This isn’t about ‘wanting more water,’” she continued. “It’s about doing what’s right and scientifically proven. Apparently no amount of rain will make a difference in California. Our state is destined to wither in a perpetual state of drought — natural and regulatory.”

Posted in Environmentalism, Government, Politics, Water