Friday, August 1, 2014

First of August Weekend Links

Beautiful weather in the middle of the Dog Days gives you a chance to check out these pieces on the front porch:

A Portrait of Priests and Nuns, Watching the Decline of Catholic Culture - Wired.  As my faith has been slipping away, stories like this have less pull on me than in the recent past.  I can't decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it seems kind of sad.

 A punter on Ray Guy finally making the Hall of Fame - SBNation.  First punter ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

36 Hours in Green Bay, Wis. - New York Times.  If you squeeze baseball into this sentence, I think this describes most of what I think of when I consider vacation: "Perhaps not surprisingly, given the ready access to fine dairy, fish, beer and produce, eating and drinking figure prominently among pastimes."

Reanimating Bertha, a Mechanical Behemoth Slumbering Under Seattle - New York Times

The Man Who Delayed D-Day - Nautilus

UCLA flood from water line rupture is a red flag for L.A. infrastructure - LA Times.  Get used to this:  "Officials have long known that hundreds of miles of city water lines have deteriorated and need replacement, with many past the century mark. But in recent years, L.A.'s elected leaders have been unwilling to hike water rates enough to fix them more rapidly. As it stands, the city-owned Department of Water and Power is on track to replace main water lines only once every 300 years....Councilman Paul Koretz said he had been informed that replacing the lines more quickly — every 100 years instead of every 300 — would cost roughly $4 billion. It would take a decade to accomplish, and require a 4% water rate increase every year, he said." We have more infrastructure than we can afford, and that will hurt us badly going forward.

The Great Forgetting: Where Do Childrens' Earliest Memories Go? - Aeon

 How California Could Power Itself Using Nothing but Renewables - Pacific Standard

Beyond Energy Efficiency - Slate

A Republican Victory By a Nose, Not a Wave - The Upshot.  It's still way too early to tell, but it sure feels like the Republicans have come really close to jumping the shark.  They are so far out there that this may be their last hurrah.  They won a lot of races in 2010, and took maximum advantage when it came to attacking government workers and gerrymandering state legislatures and Congress.  If they can't win big this year, they will have to change or die.

Florida legislators have two weeks to redraw the state's gerrymandered districts.  Here's how that might play out - Wonkblog.  Geez, compared to district 5, district 10 looks pretty reasonable.


Alaska's endless summer day:

Solstice from STURGEFILM on Vimeo.

Groundwater Irrigation in the Crosshairs

Eric Holthaus fires a warning shot before the coming drought-caused California water war:
Exceptional drought now covers a majority of California, from Los Angeles to Mount Shasta, including the whole of the vast Central Valley, where America grows the bulk of dozens of agricultural commodities.
According to Brad Rippey, author of this week’s Drought Monitor report, the drought is creating lasting consequences. “California is short more than one year’s worth of reservoir water, or 11.6 million acre-feet, for this time of year.” For perspective, 11.6 million acre-feet of water is equivalent to 3.8 trillion gallons—enough to provide eight glasses of drinking water per day for everyone on Earth for three years. That’s a lot of water....
 Last week, a separate study by NASA and the University of California-Irvine found that more than 75 percent of Western water loss over the last 10 years came from excessive groundwater pumping. California is the only state that doesn’t restrict groundwater use, though state lawmakers are proposing legislation motivated by the worsening drought to change that. In my Thirsty West trip through the state earlier this year, it was clear that the continued expansion of politically powerful industrial agriculture is worsening the state’s water woes.
Should the drought get even worse over the coming months—which it may, now that a super strong El NiƱo is off the table—there isn’t any room left to upgrade it now that the official drought scales are maxed out. The painful phase of this drought has begun. It’s time for sacrifices.
Farmers: You’ve had your chance. It’s time to submit to restrictions on groundwater pumping, if only to ensure your future survival in the state. Cities: Prepare to pay more for food as a result. It’s a best-case tradeoff in a worst-case scenario.
 Barring a miraculous burst of precipitation, this drought may change California agriculture forever.  The status quo is entirely unsustainable, and big changes are going to be on the way.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The High Five

The latest 30 for 30 short covers the origin of the high five.  Not only was Dusty Baker an underrated manager, he (maybe) participated in the original high five:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vin Scully To Return for 66th Season in 2015

Legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully will still be in the booth next season:
Vin Scully is staying in the booth for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 86-year-old Hall of Fame announcer will return for his record 66th season with the team in 2015. The announcement was made by in Korean, Spanish and English by players Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner on the Dodger Stadium video board in the second inning of Tuesday night's game against Atlanta.
The news was greeted with loud cheers and a prolonged standing ovation for Scully, who stood and waved to fans from his booth, where he hugged his wife, Sandi.
A decision about Scully's future has become an annual rite of passage in recent years as he evaluates his health and his family's wishes in considering whether he wants to continue.
''God willing, I will be back next year,'' he said in a statement released by the team. ''Naturally there will come a time when I have to say goodbye, but I've soul-searched and this is not the time.''
Scully's consecutive years of service make him the longest-tenured broadcaster with one team in sports history. He calls all nine innings of the team's home games and road games in California and Arizona for the Dodgers' new television home on SportsNet LA, while the first three innings of his games are simulcast on the radio.
SBNation (source of above chart) has a tremendous profile of the man who redefined baseball broadcasting here.  I do like seeing Marty and Joe back-to-back on that chart.  Nothing is more appropriate than that.

Central Valley Water Mining Is a Race to the Bottom of the Aquifer

LA Times:
California's three-year drought has sparked a surge in demand for wells in the state's agricultural heartland. With federal and state allocations of surface water reduced to a trickle, growers are searching deeper underground for sources of water to keep their farms from ruin.
The clamor has overwhelmed California drillers and pump installers, forcing some farms to hire contractors from neighboring states.
It's also setting the stage for more problems later as groundwater supplies are shrinking faster than they can be replenished. In parts of the Central Valley, the water table has plummeted, drying up old wells and sinking the land above, a phenomenon called subsidence.
That's resulted in even deeper wells that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and require more energy to pump water to the surface. As recently as two decades ago, a well several hundred feet would suffice. Today, large farms are drilling to depths of 2,000 feet in anticipation of falling water levels.
"We're going bigger horsepower every year," said Charles Barber, president of Caruthers Pump south of Fresno, who has customers on a three-month waiting list. "We've lost 30 feet of groundwater in a year in some places. We keep that up for 10 years and we won't be farming like this anymore."
At the end of June, the state's top agricultural producing county, Tulare, had issued 874 well permits, 44 more than all of last year. Fresno County, the second-biggest farm producer in California, issued 601 well permits over the same period, about 100 short of matching its total for 2013...
By the end of 2014 alone, groundwater is expected to replace three-quarters of the 6.6 million acre-feet of surface water lost to drought this year — raising groundwater's share of the state's agricultural water supply from 31% to 53%, the UC Davis report said.
That won't end well.  Unsustainable is unsustainable, no matter how you look at it.

End of July Mid-week Links

A few interesting stories:

Crime Fiction - The New Yorker. Did police coercion to finger the wrong man let a serial killer stay free?

Could Silicon Valley Become the Next Camden? - The Atlantic

Break up the states! The case for the United Statelets of America - Salon

The Gold Standard Was an Accident of History- Macro and Other Musings

The black hole of US  government contracting - Le Monde diplomatique

How bird flocks are like liquid helium - Science

Under Water: The EPA's Ongoing Struggle to Combat Pollution - Pacific Standard.  More on the farm lobby freaking out gullible farmers.

How Dodge Packed 707 Horsepower Into the Hellcat Without Destroying It - Wired.  Because 707 Hp makes sense in a street car.

The Original Tea Partiers: How GOP Insurgents Invented Progressivism - The Atlantic.  "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, the original all-or-nothing insurgent.  Not a Tea Party nutjob.

Where the biggest beer, wine and liquor drinkers live in the U.S. - Washington Post

Monday, July 28, 2014

EPA Chief to Farmers: Don't Be Stupid

National Journal:
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who is under fire in rural America for a "Waters of the United States" rule that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed in April, has been making the effort, with a trip to Missouri early in July and a meeting last week with Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee who have been asking for a sit-down since May.
The outreach hasn't stopped the criticism, but McCarthy told me in an interview Thursday that she feels the effort has been worth it. McCarthy said the trip to Missouri was "a signal that this rule is very important to EPA." On Capitol Hill she said she learned that "EPA speaks with a lot of technical language and science. It is not readily translated into what is clear on the ground for the farm community."
WOTUS, as the rule is being called in environmental and agricultural circles, would define the scope of waters protected under the 1972 Clean Water Act following two Supreme Court decisions that said the feds had to come up with a more scientific basis for deciding what water bodies come under their jurisdiction. The point of the rule is to make sure that the nation's drinking water is safe from discharges of pollution. The biggest point of contention is a provision that says EPA and the Army Corps would be allowed to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to regulate wetlands and other waters that are not directly connected to running streams and rivers but have "a significant nexus to a traditional navigable water, interstate water, or the territorial seas."
Farm and ranch leaders who examined the rule immediately said they feared the provision could require them to obtain government permits for activities in which they have long engaged as a regular part of their businesses—and that because the determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, the proposal creates a great deal of uncertainty about their future operations. EPA also issued an "interpretative rule" that tried to define farm practices that would be exempt from regulation, but that only made farmers think about what practices were not included and worry they would come under regulation.
The ensuing battle can be summed up in one word: ditches. Farmers and ranchers say EPA wants to regulate all their ditches that may fill up with water at some point during the year. The Republican-leaning American Farm Bureau Federation has called on McCarthy to "ditch the rule."
On the trip to a farm in Missouri and in a speech to the Kansas City Agribusiness Council, McCarthy said she wanted to "ditch the myths" about the rule, but her critics weren't satisfied. The farm federation reacted to her Missouri trip by sending Congress a document "decoding" point-by-point an EPA blog post that attempted to explain the rule. The Republican senators she met with issued a series of news releases saying they appreciated her visit but EPA should still withdraw the rule.
Bills have been introduced in Congress to require EPA to withdraw the rule, but they are unlikely to go anywhere, at least as long as Democrats control the Senate and President Obama backs the rule. In any case EPA and the Army Corps are under pressure from the courts to define their jurisdiction. That means EPA is likely to proceed with the rule, although McCarthy said she won't finish it until next year after her staff has analyzed all the comments due by October and received a study from a scientific advisory panel.
Farmers need to calm down a bit.  If they don't do anything stupid, like drain a wetland they haven't farmed for 20 years, or channelize a stream that runs through their farm, almost everything they do will be covered under nationwide permits or anti-degradation.  Ditch maintenance should be able to be completed without too much issue if BMPs are followed.  Plus, EPA has many more things to worry about than farmers' tillage practices (like manure over-application in lake watersheds).  EPA is going to focus on urban and suburban development first and foremost under these rules, not what Johnny Seedcap is doing in the back forty.  But farmers are useful idiot if lobbyists like Farm Bureau or the Cahmber of Commerce come along and tell them that EPA is trying to regulate every grass waterway on their farms.  Then farmers will scream at Congress and Congress can beat on EPA to make it easier for Wal-Mart to bulldoze the creek running through some suburban neighborhood.  I work with EPA all the time, but every farmer I know will tell me what's going to happen if a draft rule is approved.  They never know what they are talking about.