Work and Days

Farming and Fighting Again

Drought Blues Update

It is only December and California farmers are starting to panic in the Central Valley over the absence of both snow in the mountains and rain here. It is still nothing quite yet to give up on—I remember many “March miracles” when a deluge of rain and snow stopped a draught, and came so late in the year that the snow pack was with us until mid-June.

BUT the problem is that October-December has not just been dry but really dry and in the daytime warm as well without much of the accustomed and necessary fog and drizzle.

And second, last year was a below average snow-pack, so there are no reserves whatsoever. We could easily repeat the disaster of 1976 when suburbanites spray-painted green their dead lawns, and farmers got on waiting lists for well-drillers to deepen wells, their turbine blades in a race with the sinking water table to go ever deeper—but all to the nth degree given the vast increases in California’s population over the last 30 years.

I went to Huntington Lake recently (7200 feet), and instead of the 5 to 6 feet of snow in driveways there was nothing, and by 2PM you could have sat outside in the sun and tanned.

Houses or Farms or the 19th-Century?

With millions of recent arrivals to the region between Sacramento and Bakersfield, coupled with a general subculture of me presentism, few know anything about farming, or indeed the natural history of the very environment in which they now live. The flat land between the mountain ranges has always been a delicate region, entirely dependent on Sierra run-off and subject to wide variations in rainfall. Until the Sierra dams (which we not only cease building, but also from which we demand more water to be released for restoration of rivers to their 19th-century conditions) were built, the area was essentially a desert.

In theory, it might be nice to have salmon runs in the San Joaquin as millions of acre feet head out to the Delta, but in practice that means less food. The public can’t have it both ways and will soon have to decide between agriculture, house, or environmental romance. Their call.

In The Land Was Everything I wrote that one day we could either farm or build suburbs but probably not both—thinking that day of reckoning was another a lifetime or two away. But I think it may be on us more quickly than we assume.

It is understandable why the new wave of settlers would choose the picturesque region between the Sierra and the 99 freeway, given its patchwork of farmers, once plentiful water, and proximity to the attractions of the Sierra. But it would have been far wiser to locate people on the West Side near the Coast Range. They could have commuted by rail to the Monterey Bay-San Francisco Peninsula hub, built on substandard farm land, and had plenty of imported federal water through the Northern California canals that otherwise has gone to some questionable farming (100,000 acres taken out of production due to drainage problems). West-Side farming interests could have profited by selling their land and water to developers, and the East Side might have been spared some of the horrendous growth that is devouring superior farming ground and once small towns from Auburn to Reedley.


Democratic fever

I have been asked in recent weeks to speak to various moderate to conservative Democratic legislators and groups, among them some prominent past Democratic luminaries. But what once was moderate it now doctrinaire liberal, given that liberal has become radical. It’s a real time-warp I’m afraid—to be lectured that we must talk with Hamas, that the Cold War ended only through dialogue, that the present polarized political climate started with Newt Gingrich, that Bill Clinton knew how to be “tough” and “fight” the right-wing attack machine, that nativism and racism explain the current “Dobbesian” paranoia with open borders and 11-18 million illegal aliens, and so on.

With that thinking, and Iraq off the front pages, otherwise friendly and sincere people may find a way to lose yet. The oddest thing? They think they need more of what is killing them—shrill liberal confrontation—and less of what might save them (Henry Jackson tough-minded security).

Please Don’t Shake My Hand

The non-news story that at Annapolis none of the Arab ministers would shake the hand of a Jewish-female Israel foreign minister Tzipi Livni should have been page one.

It summarizes the Orwellian nature of the entire “peace process” and Arab disconnect with reality. I suggest that we take a time out and try to solve instead the Cyprus problem or occupied Tibet or the territorial claims over the Kurile Islands, or compensation for the half-million Jewish refugees expelled from Arab capitals, or any of the pressing issues that could just as likely threaten world peace.

The problem of course is that the Greeks or the Jews or the Japanese or the Tibetans don’t have oil, or terrorists, or are part of a billion-person religion that manifests scary things like the spectacle in the Sudan.

And in that regard I posted at NRO this on the Sudanese craziness as well:

Boo-hoo

Same old, same old-whether a teddy bear, a cartoon, or a papal sermon, whether in Khartoum or Islamabad.

They take offense, we understand, or rationalize, or equivocate — either out of condescension or fear of terrorism or worries over oil or multicultural guilt or all that and more.

Then the moderate Muslim spokesman is trotted out to condemn the nuttiness, but also to anguish over the media that “sensationalizes” and “inordinately” reports the latest Islamic lunacy.

We usually then get the silly Timothy McVeigh or IRA comparison, and forget the entire absurdity — until the next opera, film, or novel brings out the fist-shaking, swords, and death threats.

The only dramas seem to be our infighting over whether this reflects Islam itself, or the reaction of radical Islamists angry at the modern world — or whether at this point that really matters any longer anyway.

‘Still Crazy After All These Years…’

In past postings I suggested that Democrats either take credit for the surge, or suggest that while successful the war wasn’t worth the blood and treasure. But apparently some in influence are insanely sticking to the notion that the surge hasn’t worked. Thus Harry Reid’s most recent announcement of US failure.

And at some point, Rep. Murtha should apologize directly to those he accused and convicted once upon a time with the following:

“There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

Not so a court of law.

The Iranian non-bomb?

I also posted this at the NRO corner this week:

Revisionism and The Iranian Non-Bomb

The latest news from Iran about the supposed abandonment in 2003 of the effort to produce a Bomb—if even remotely accurate—presents somewhat of a dilemma for liberal Democrats.

Are they now to suggest that Republicans have been warmongering over a nonexistent threat for partisan purposes? But to advance that belief is also to concede that, Iran, like Libya, likely came to a conjecture around (say early spring 2003?) that it was not wise for regimes to conceal WMD programs, given the unpredictable, but lethal American military reaction.

After all, what critic would wish now to grant that one result of the 2003 war—aside from the real chance that Iraq can stabilize and function under the only consensual government in the region—might have been the elimination for some time of two growing and potentially nuclear threats to American security, quite apart from Saddam Hussein?

War is unpredictable and instead of “no blood for oil” (oil went from $20 something to $90 something a barrel after the war, enriching Iraq and the Arab Gulf region at our expense), perhaps the cry, post facto, should have been “no blood for the elimination of nukes.”

In the meantime, expect a variety of rebuttals to this assurance that for 4 years the Iranians haven’t gotten much closer to producing weapons grade materials.

Can’t Let it Alone?

The latest shout from Bateman:

“Last month people were telling me about how Victor Davis Hanson was calling me a liberal extremist performing a “hit job” for the “left wing site” Media Matters while in the pay of George Soros.”

One again, almost all LTC Bateman writes must be verified, since it is usually suspect. I never called Bateman a “liberal extremist”. Nor did I say he was writing as an employee of George Soros.

What I did write was that Media Matters received some of its funding, indirectly or not, from George Soros’s variously funded groups, and that Media Matters is a left-wing site and that it had used Bateman to do a hit piece, rather than a scholarly review (book reviews usually don’t include invectives like “pervert”, “devil” and “feces”). I stand by all of that, and any judicious reader who consults what is posted on Media Matters, or reads the column were Bateman appeared, or reads what Bateman wrote I think would agree.

As for his point that “people were telling”: Unfortunately, it is also true that for the last two months, to paraphrase Bateman, “people were telling me” and writing me endlessly about the long history of—one Robert Bateman. And such unsollicited communications in part help to explain both the poverty and hysteria of his oral and written arguments, whose style and content have been evident in those directed at a variety of others.

But don’t expect this to be the end of the Bateman shouting (note the mysterious and rather sad puff-piece entry about himself inserted in the Wikipedia biography of me that suddenly appeared and then just as suddenly vanished!). In the same manner that a supposed review of Carnage and Culture devolved into ad hominem attacks that ranged from “feces” to accusastions about the draft, so too the fora went from Media Matters to Wikipedia–and who knows where next.