26 Jan 2016

Water data

Glad to see that California is making its data more accessible. Keep track of precip (chart below), snowpack (looking good) and reservoirs (still way low) as the rainy season progresses.



Oh, and don't forget that dry year(s) will come back (El Niño is visiting, not moving in), so it's still important to raise water tariffs (to clean water, reduce leaks, etc.), monitor and limit groundwater use, restore the environment and so on.

Bottom Line: Data are necessary for knowing your situation and making good decisions, but they are not sufficient. Water managers in California (and many other places in the world) need more data to make better decisions, but they also need to avoid making bad decisions in the absence of data!
Here's a fresh paper on California water managers' attitudes towards (open) data!

21 Jan 2016

Regulatory training course (March, Budapest)

Last year, I was pleased to participate in ERRA's first regulatory training course,* which they are holding this year from 7-11 March in Budapest. (I can't make it.)

I asked them for some "goodies" to help you readers see what's going on, and they sent these:
Here's the description:
The course features 5 days dedicated to the core responsibilities and activities of water utility regulatory authorities with regard to the oversight of the regulated utilities, principles and practices of tariff setting, performance benchmarking, and new developments in the regulation of the sector.

The level of the course is introductory: it aims to provide basic, but comprehensive training to the personnel of water regulatory authorities and water utilities. Participants will gain knowledge on key economic concepts guiding the operation of the sector, the challenges faced by sector participants including the wider problems of water management, and the role of the regulator and regulatory models including best practices. A core theme of the course is tariff setting and approval by the regulator: theoretical lessons will be supplemented by case study examples and a tariff setting exercise. Sufficient time will also be dedicated to the role of performance benchmarking in regulation.
Bottom Line I recomend that regulators from Europe and the Middle East who are looking for interesting and innovative ideas (Portugal's regulator has an app that delivers data on water quality data, for example) attend this workshop!

* My talks:
  • "Hot topics: Q and A with regulators" (PPS and 1h 24m MP3)
  • "Fiscally and environmentally sustainable tariff designs from across the world" (PDF slides and 1h 35m MP3)

20 Jan 2016

Flint, Detroit

Someone asked my opinion on the situation in Flint* on twitter. Here's my longer response.

The problem can be traced to a combination of:
Now it seems that the people there face a future of bottled water while waiting for $1.5-$2 billion of spending to replace all the cities pipes.

This is a farce in one of America's most poor and violent cities (thanks for pointing that out, Mr. Moore)

I thus suggest that the people of Flint be paid $50,000/household (that's about $2 billion) to move to the neighboring city Detroit, where property is cheap, it's possible to move neighborhoods "intact"** and the water department is desperately seeking customers.

Bottom Line: Let's make lemonade! Move the people from Flint to Detroit so they can drink the water, communities intact, and strengthen a "better" city.

* My understanding: The city switched supplies from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which had lower quality and -- more important -- interacted with pipes, to destabilize them and increase lead leeching. This "could have been prevented" by spending $100 on additives, but that was not done. Now, after switching back to lake water, the pipes are still destabilized, thereby calling into question the entire system's function. One solution -- replacing the city's pipes -- is projected to cost $1.5-$2 billion.
** NB: Some people benefitted from their flight from dysfunctional neighborhoods in New Orleans, so it may not be the best idea to keep "violent poor" neighborhoods intact, but you can see the political drawbacks of such an opinion.

Addendum (Sep 2016): Excellent background article/graphic on the slow train wreck that finally developed into a national scandal.

19 Jan 2016

McMafia -- the review

This extraordinary book by Misha Glenny is like catnip to someone like me -- a lover of black markets, arbitrage and other forms of "living in cracks." Nearly 10 years ago, I went to a summer school on organized crime. There, I learned that mafias exist because the state is too incompetent (or corrupt). I also learned that corruption -- "the abuse of public office for private gain" -- exists en formations grands et petits. In their petit form, corruptions involve police, bureaucrats or irrigation managers taking a payoff to break a law, and so on. In their grand form, corruptions mean diverting state resources to private benefits, e.g., awarding oil concessions or diplomatic recognition. In either case, one can argue that corruption reflects the laissez faire "efficiency" of a market, but there is a much stronger argument for its inherent evil, given the different priorities of collectives over markets when it comes to allocations of human and natural resources. All of this brings me to my point: I enjoy the skill of the mafia even as I deplore the government failure that enables them.

This book offers a tour of mafia activities around the world, across many "business opportunities." Glenny goes from Bulgaria (where he served as a journalist) to ex-Yugoslavia, to Russia and Israel, to Dubai, India, Nigeria and S Africa. He ends by crossing from Canada to S America (perhaps via the US) and going to Japan and China. The book was published in 2008, but it still seems rather fresh, especially when considering the variety of scams, crimes, sins and incompetence on display around the world.

Here are a few sample ideas:
  • "There are two basic types of criminal syndicate: the commodity traders and protection racketeers."
  • The end of the Cold War meant an end of idealistic patrons: rebels thus started to make money with conflict diamonds, oil, etc.
  • Mafia growth in China has built on opportunities opened by Bejing's acceptance of provincial "experimentation"
....and this final paragraph:
It is not globalization in itself that has spurred the spectacular growth of organized crime in recent years, but global markets there either insufficiently regulated, especially in the financial sector, or to closely regulated, as in the labor and agricultural sectors. In the 1990s, we witnessed the beginnings of a global regulatory regime of the financial markets that held out a hope: there was a chance that we might establish a grip both on the partially regulated licit economy and on the entirely unregulated shadow economy. Since the millennium, however, a hostile United States, an incompetent European Union, a cynical Russia and an indifferent Japan have combined with the unstoppable ambition of China and India to usher in a vigorous springtime both for global corporations and transnational organize crime -- p.394
Don't forget the definition I mentioned above: "the abuse of public office for private gain." This exploitation is only possible with the connivance of government officials.

Bottom Line I give this book FIVE STARS for its incredible examples illustrating and explaining how the mafia steps in to exploit citizens when (incompetent or corrupt) government steps out.

18 Jan 2016

Monday funnies

I'm continuously intrigued by the variety of spam I get... (is yours different?)


14 Jan 2016

Dolan's Microeconomics -- the review

I ordered Ed Dolan's textbook, Introduction to Microeconomics, because I really enjoyed his perspective in his book on environmental economics. I just used this book for teaching undergraduates at LUC, and I plan to use it again.

This review will be rather short, as there's not a lot of "original insight" in textbooks, but I want to put it out there for anyone looking for alternatives to the "mathy" doorstoppers that cost a fortune.

What do I like about this book?
  • The writing is excellent -- descriptive, clear and intuitive.
  • The book covers all the main topics, offering insights from demand to supply to uncertainty.
  • The cost is reasonable -- $40 -- and the book can be bought in ebook, paper or hardcover.
The drawbacks to the book are:
  • The difficulty in buying it from overseas (the publisher only takes US credit cards).
  • Its over-emphasis on US-centric examples. It's not like demand doesn't exist in China.
  • Its use of Imperial, rather than Standard International (metric), measures.
These latter two drawbacks may seem trivial to American readers, but I'd say the opposite: American ignorance of the world's activities and units are one reason for so many business, political and social weaknesses in the US.[1] Those weaknesses explain why it is so difficult for Americans to learn from better examples abroad.[2]

In using the book, my students complained that the material was not hard enough, so I'm adding one academic article per week (e.g., Akerlof's "Market for Lemons") so we can build on Dolan's solid foundations.

Bottom Line A textbook doesn't need to cost $200, especially when this one clearly explains necessary concepts. I give this book FOUR STARS for getting the economics right in words... but not as much in publication.

  1. A lack of foreign languages and travel experience are other huge drags.
  2. The Dutch gasoline tax -- a quasi carbon tax -- is extremely effective in raising money and getting people out of cars and onto public transportation, but most Americans cannot compare €1.80/liter gas to $2.00/gallon, which works out to about 25 percent of the Dutch price (!). Wow, I'm just amazed that the government has not taken the opportunity from 15-year low oil prices to raise gas taxes. Almost as sad as America's appaling waste of money on medical care -- paying double the cost of other countries for worse results.

13 Jan 2016

HappiApp or AdKiller?

  1. Researchers often publish articles whose "significant" results cannot be reproduced or acted on. The results sometimes reflect the influence of missing variables or ideosyncratic data.
  2. Governments want to ensure that people are as happy as possible (by their own definition), if only to reduce spending on crime or depression or increase productivity.
  3. Most people would agree with me, that the bias in advertising taxes social efficiency.
What do these three statements share in common? They all point to an idea of mine (and perhaps others), namely, to make an app that tracks and improves happiness.

Feel free to implement this idea if you're that type (my "source fee" is one beer.)

How does the app work? I've copied the proposal below, but here's a step-by-step guide:
  1. Ask a bunch of researchers to give you a list of "activities that make people happy"
  2. Add those to the app as a list to choose, along with "[not on this list]"
  3. Release the app.
  4. It will ask people a few times per day what they are doing and how happy they are
  5. These results will be stored for the user and also -- via machine learning -- generalized
  6. They will also falsify earlier reseach that may have found spurious correlations with happiness
  7. Updates to the app will update questions and the algorithm, to "improve" but not "maximize" moods
  8. The biggest target is the needy fear of advertisements and other propaganda.

Proposal

Working name: HappiApp
Audience: People interested in tracking their mood and activities
Cost: Free (no advertising)
Interface: Users supply basic demographic and geographic data
Process: Users choose 1-20 “prompts” per day. On each prompt, the app asks how happy they are (1-5 scale) and what they are doing (drop down)
Backend:
  1. Pairs (happiness, activity) are matched against academic literature to see if existing correlations are (not) falsified.
  2. “Learning algorithm” can suggest “happier” activities based on (a) user history and/or (b) activities pursued by similar users (in terms of other patterns)
Funding sources:
  • Research organizations interested in data (correlations)
  • National organizations interested in results (happier people)
  • Fremium model that includes more information on options and/or greater detail to data
Privacy concerns: None. Opt-in model. No personal information (name, address, credit card) collected.
Motivation: Give people more feedback on how to improve their lives from source outside advertising/commerical industry.
Competition: Existing Apps are more likely to provide “dumb” check list of things to do, without learning and/or cross check with other users.

12 Jan 2016

How to GET to my solution to climate change

I -- like many economists -- think that a carbon tax GHG-fee would do more to reduce GHG-emissions than all other programs combined, but there's a well-known barrier to such a great idea: GHG-emitting companies that stand to lose sales, assets, etc.

How do we get them to stop bribing politicians who thus refuse to implement GHG-fees?

Give them money!

Yes, it sounds crazy, but here's how to make it work:
  1. All (domestic) emissions of GHGs attract a fee of F$.
  2. Divide R(evenue) = Q(antity) * F(ee) into two buckets, in proportion to p(percent)
  3. One bucket is distributed to citizens evenly.
  4. The other bucket is distributed to GHG-producers in proportion to their share of average, 2012-14 GHG emissions.
Politicians will have to find the right p that keeps citizens and GHG-emitters happy, but that share does not matter, as emitters will have an incentive to emit less while collecting the same share of revenues according to the 2012-14 baseline.

Bottom Line: A direct bribe to help the public is better than hidden brides that harm everyone.

9 Jan 2016

SoS: 4-17 Jan 2015

These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

6 Jan 2016

Please comment on my new paper on desalination!

The editors of A Multidisciplinary Introduction to Desalination (River Publishers) asked me to write a chapter on "Society, Politics and Desalination."

The audience for the book is probably going to come from technology or engineering backgrounds, so it is supposed to be clear enough for any educated reader.

I'd love to get your feedback and suggestions for improvement.

You can download the PDF here.

Please feel free to mark up or comment on that PDF, email me comments or leave them on this post.
This chapter discusses how existing conditions a ect the decision to increase desalinated water supplies and the resulting social and political impacts of that decision. On the one hand, desalination can strengthen the bonds within or between communities. On the other, it can damage these bonds, weakening relations with local and global neighbors.

Success or failure will arrive on two margins. On the intensive margin of relations within a community, desalination will be helpful when costs are allocated in proportion to bene ts and harmful when they are not. On the extensive margin of relations between neighboring communities, desalination will be helpful when shared, collective goods are augmented or strengthened and harmful if they are weakened.

We will explore these themes in this chapter by sketching a basic theory of how to manage goods, outlining the role of political mechanisms in classifying and managing waters as di erent types of goods, and evaluating the social impacts of allocating the costs and bene ts of water. These three sections form a framework for discussing good (fair, e cient, sustainable) water management by clarifying where political decisions create the rights and responsibilities that social groups must claim or bear. Once this framework is in place, we will consider whether technology can be "innocent" of its impacts before exploring a few case studies in which desalination brings a mix of helpful and harmful social, political and economic impacts. The chapter will conclude with some suggestions for "no regrets" desalination.

5 Jan 2016

Water for poor farmworkers or millionaire farmers?

Patricia Schifferle, retired Cal Legislative policy analyst and Director of Pacific Advocates, a resource consulting group, sends this guest post from California.[1]

The recent SF Chronicle article on the farm worker shanty town on WWD property raises some serious questions that were not addressed in the article. The reporter followed the public relations spin of Westlands Water District (WWD), i.e., give us more water, and it implies it will trickle down to benefit farmworkers. Readers are left in the dark about the inherent reasoning presented in the article: WWD's fallacious claim that weaker government protections and more water will benefit farmworkers.

Westlands has been making this pitch for about 50 years. Unfortunately the Chronicle reporter fell for the story without looking behind the numbers. Westlands is arguing that sending the largest federal irrigation district in the nation even more water and wealth this will help the farmworkers. The subsidies and water have enriched about 350 industrial irrigators in Westlands, but the employment figures for Mendota—during droughts and flush water times—has persistently stayed high. Sending more water to WWD has not brought prosperity to farmworkers and the poor in Mendota.

The timing surrounding Westlands’ eviction of the farm workers from the camp on their property is curious. And the eviction raises some serious questions.

For some background, in 2010, Michael Hiltzik from The LA Times reported, “Deceptive arguments are being made in California's water wars.” His reporting still hits the mark today:
Mendota's truly tragic level of unemployment has been attracting news reporters (including Hannity's) like alfalfa attracts bees, but they almost never point out that this condition is chronic, not novel. Mendota's annual unemployment rate has dipped below 25% only twice in the last 10 years, according to state statistics; in 2003, when the federal deliveries were better than 75% of contract supply, Mendota unemployment still approached 32%.
Here are some observations about The SF Chronicle and Westlands’ latest attempt to exploit farm workers to gain more water and to enrich themselves stepping on the backs of poor farm workers:

1. The SF Chronicle story is short on context and once again spins WWD's PR -- that “the environmental protections and the government failure to do Westlands’ bidding are causing chronic unemployment and shanty towns in the City of Mendota."

For example: The SF Chronicle reports, “Less water means fewer crops. And fewer crops means fewer jobs.” Yes, the drought is an undeniable factor with unemployment especially in various areas though out the state, but WWD carefully omits the fact that they have shifted to almonds and permanent crops where there is more mechanization and thus fewer jobs. The switch in crops has reduced jobs, increased profits and increased water demand. The PR effort of funding farmer workers to rally for more water for Westlands’ benefit, does not benefit the farm workers. The trickle down pitch has not worked for over 30 years. And the poverty in the City of Mendota with or without water has remained largely constant. Unemployment figures for the City of Mendota do not support the notion that more water for Westlands results in greater prosperity for farm workers in Mendota or the poor and homeless in that city. Does WWD share their profits with the farm workers?
“Westlands officials said it was the government’s fault: If Washington had “held up their end of the deal” and allocated water to the region, Amaral said, the jobs wouldn’t have dried up; these people could still be working. If only there were water, he said, they wouldn’t have to live like this.”
“These types of things will happen if you starve an area of water,” Amaral said. “That’s what’s happened out here.” Even when there is no water is the Federal Government under Westlands interim contract obligated to provide it? This public statement turns the Westlands’ interim federal water contract on its head. WWD is making a public claim that USBR signed a contract that requires delivery of water when water does not exist!

2. The article has a collection of the Westlands half truths. A symphony of deceptions. Westlands has long sought to socialize the costs so they can take the cream off the top—and line their pockets with profits.
  • Yes, WWD has fallowed 212,000 acres, but the taxpayers have paid for some 100,000 acres to be fallowed because these lands were contaminating groundwater and the polluted runoff was contaminating nearby farms and wells.
  • WWD crop reports document about 100,000 acres are fallowed each year except in 2011, an extremely wet year, when a Westlands farmer dry farmed about 44,000 acres with wheat. 
  • If you look at the crop reports for Kings, Tulare, Kern, Fresno and Merced reported in November 2015—the reports indicate record incomes despite the drought.
  • If you look at WWD 2014-15 financial reports [pdf], they also report record incomes. 
Westlands has used the “shanty” town on their property as a flag waving PR campaign with Members of Congress to get more water and relax protections, despite record incomes (see these 2014 emails [pdf] between Tom Birmingham of WWD and Senator Feinstein's office[2,3]). The trickle down prosperity always promised by Westlands has not trickled down and using mechanization to harvest almonds and other permanent crops has exacerbated unemployment figures. The Fresno Bee reports the shanty town has been there for 7 years.

Some questions need answers: Why all the action now right before Thanksgiving and Christmas? After reportedly some 7 years of this shanty town's existence! Is Westlands using this public eviction to garner more water gifts for themselves? Did someone get the county to act? I wonder how many evictions the county conducted right before Thanksgiving? How many other evictions were publicized in the press and TV? The timing looks suspicious. Is Fresno County really the scrooge of 2015? Did the county come up with this or was this eviction politically motivated? Does the County have a policy about evictions around Thanksgiving and Christmas? Does the county send out notices to the press and conduct a press conference with the owner each time they embark on an eviction? Of the millions in drought relief made available to date in and for Westlands, how much was shared with the farm workers?

  1. Interested readers may want to look back on this post about Westland's "original (subsidized) sin", this one on corportate control, this one on how Westlands paid for "Latino protestors" asking for water, WWD's small economic contribution, and this 5 hour interview I did with Tom Birmingham, General Manager of Westlands, which is, btw, a State of California public corporation without any ongoing legislative oversight.
  2. Also see this 2010 post
  3. The NY Times has an execllent article on how Westlands "farms Congress."

4 Jan 2016

Monday funnies!

These Nigerians are getting good!

U.S AMBASSADOR TO NIGERIA
PLOT 1075 DIPLOMATIC DRIVE
CENTRAL DISTRICT AREA, ABUJA

DEAR: SIR/ MADAM,

AFTER AN OFFICIAL MEETING HELD WITH THE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA AND MINISTER OF FINANCE CONCERNING UNPAID AND UNCLAIMED FUNDS TO FOREIGN BENEFICIARIES,JUST LIKE YOU.I WAS VERY MUCH ANNOYED WHEN I FOUND OUT THAT YOU PAID MUCH MONEY YET YOU NEVER RECEIVE YOUR FUNDS.THAT IS WHY I DECIDED TO HELP YOU.

I SHALL BE COMING TO YOUR COUNTRY FOR AN OFFICIAL MEETING AND I WILL BE BRINGING YOUR FUNDS OF $2.7milion USD. ALONG WITH ME THROUGH UNITED STATES DIPLOMATIC MISSION TO YOUR COUNTRY.BUT THIS TIME I WILL NOT GO THROUGH CUSTOMS BECAUSE AS AN USA AMBASSADOR TO NIGERIA, I AM A USA GOVERNMENT AGENT AND I HAVE THE VOTE POWER TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS.JUST LIKE I HELPED R. BLACKWALL IN ERLANGER, KY USA AND OTHERS RECEIVED HIS FUNDS THROUGH FEDEX DELIVERY SERVICE THIS YEAR 2015. TRACK THE BELOW AND SEE IT YOURSELF:

1.)FedEx.com Tracking No: 628702131974 [DZ: This goes from NE to MT in the US, not quite from Nigeria :)]

2.FedEx.com Tracking No: 626836538338

3)FedEx.com Tracking No: 618255167286

4.)FedEx.com Tracking No: 805745115302

MAKE SURE YOU TRACK IT FIRST.AND AS SOON AS I AM THROUGH WITH THE MEETING I SHALL THEN PROCEED TO YOUR HOME..(SEND YOUR INFORMATION:

1. YOUR FULL NAME
2. CELL PHONE NUMBER
3. ADDRESS WHERE YOU WANT ME TO BRING THE PACKAGE).

YOU HAVE REALLY PAID SO MUCH IN THAT TRANSACTION THAT MAKES ME WONDER. YOU ARE A VERY LUCKY PERSON BECAUSE I SHALL BE BRINGING IT MYSELF AND THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT.YOUR PACKAGE ($2.7milion USD,) MUST BE REGISTERED AS AN AMBASSADORIAL PACKAGE FOR ME TO DEFEAT ALL ODDS AND THE COST OF REGISTERING IT IS $175.THE FEE MUST BE PAID IN THE NEXT 50 HOURS VIA WESTERN UNION SO THAT ALL NECESSARY ARRANGEMENT CAN BE MADE BEFORE TIME WILL BE AGAINST US.

SEND THE FEE VIA MONEY GRAM OR WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER AND THROUGH THE CASHIER MR IHEANACHO CHIBUZ.

1.RECEIVER'S NAME: IHEANACHO CHIBUZO
2.ADDRESS: LAGOS / NIGERIA
3.TEXT QUESTION: IN GOD?
4.ANSWER: WE TRUST?
5.AMOUNT: $175

AS SOON AS YOU SEND THE FEE MAKE SURE YOU SEND ME THE PAYMENT INFORMATION.I SHALL MOVE MY FLIGHT SCHEDULE TO YOU.PLEASE GO THROUGH MY WEBSITE AND READ
BIOGRAPHY:

http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/biography.html

MY FLIGHT IS THURSDAY AND I EXPECT YOU TO COMPLY BEFORE THEN SO THAT THE DELIVERY CAN BE COMPLETED. IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY, THEN IT WILL NOT BE MY FAULT IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE YOUR PACKAGE EMAIL ME AT:
( jamesf199962@yahoo.co.uk )

U.S AMBASSADOR TO NIGERIA
AMBASSADOR JAMES F. ENTWISTLE

Poor (farmworkers) will always be among us?

California farmworker in 1936
A guest post from Bill K:*

The Chronicle’s reporter Marissa Lang and photographer Leah Mills have provided readers with an excellent, unvarnished, disturbing look at how too many in California’s farm labor force survive in an agricultural economy that strives, like every other sector, to squeeze out human labor.

The difference between the San Joaquin Valley cycles of grinding farm work followed by winters – or even years – of poverty, compared to the recent meltdown of jobs in other industries, is that they have been going on, as the article notes, for generations, ever since large-scale reservoir development enabled the shift from well- and local ditch dependent family farms to ‘factory’ farms. Lest readers think the current drought brought on the suffering reported by the Chronicle team I’d refer them to Lloyd Carter’s excellent 2009 Golden Gate University Law Journal article ‘Reaping Riches in a Wretched Region: Subsidized Industrial Farming and Its Link to Perpetual Poverty’.

Before becoming a lawyer Mr. Carter was a longtime Fresno-based newsman descended from an eastside San Joaquin Valley farming family. Mr. Carter’s journal article demonstrates that the grinding poverty of western Fresno County, including the community of Mendota featured in this week’s Chronicle story, is some of the worst found anywhere in the U.S.

Bottom Line The account of Westlands Water District bulldozing the farmworkers’ shanties captured in this week’s story is one of hundreds of such stories I have encountered in my long life in California. It’s high time to get the misery in which these farmworkers live out in the open and to shape a more responsible future for them as large-scale agribusiness steadily replaces traditional farming in the western San Joaquin Valley.

DZ: Read this for more of California's history of agribusiness and this for background on Westland's subsidized existence.

* This (published) letter to the editor came from another in Bill's correspondent list:
Marissa Lang’s Dec. 20 story (“Without water, work or homes”) on the dire state of Mendota’s farmworkers eloquently illuminates their dilemma, but it mischaracterizes the root causes of their plight.

A central theme of Lang’s story is that “less water means fewer crops. And fewer crops mean fewer jobs.” Lang cited reduced government water project deliveries to the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the nation and an agribusiness bulwark of the western San Joaquin Valley, as a primary factor in farmworker impoverishment. The drought, however, is not the prime mover in Mendota’s high unemployment. Indeed, the Fresno County community’s jobless rate has remained consistently high for decades: Between 2000 and 2010, unemployment dipped below 25 percent only twice. In 2003, when government project water deliveries were more than 75 percent of contracted amounts, Mendota’s unemployment figures still exceeded 30 percent.

The main driver for Mendota’s economic misery isn’t a dearth of water; it’s an operational shift by Westlands’ corporate farms. The district is leading the state’s almond boom, converting thousands of acres of land once used for vegetables to nut orchards. Almonds require both far more water and far less labor than row crops.

It’s true that the shanty towns on the district’s property and the abject poverty manifested in “Westside” communities such as Huron and Firebaugh are a disgrace. But rather than succor these hard-pressed workers, Westlands exploits them for public relations gains. The district is reaping extravagant profits, in large part due to the federal water it receives at subsidized rates. But instead of investing even minimally in its workers, Westlands allows them to live in utter squalor, using their holiday season eviction as a wedge to demand more water.

Tom Stokely, director
California Water Impact Network, Mount Shasta

1 Jan 2016

Gratuitous government goofs?

Every year, twice a year, I swear at the government for enforcing useless counterproductive "daylight savings".

That feeling leads me to wonder what other programs we could do without. Perhaps:
...and for the Americans:
It's 2016!

What do you think?!?