Thursday, September 17, 2009
The San Joaquin Valley Crisis
I have been following the crisis in California's San Joaquin Valley lately. The basic issue is that this valley, once America's breadbasket, has been thrown into a condition of draught and unemployment for the past several months due to the federal government's decision (Dept. of Interior) to shut off the water supply to the valley. Reason? To protect a tiny minnow fish called the Delta Smelt. As a result, tens of thousands of farmers have been thrown out of work, many are now on food lines, and the fields are barren. Appeals to the Dept. of Interior have fallen on deaf ears.
In addition, California politicians in Washington, Nancy Pelosi and George Miller, both Democrats, have acted to block any bills that would save the farmers from their plight. They need the water turned back on, but the environmentalist lobby is prevailing.
Tonight, Sean Hannity devoted his show on Fox to the issue broadcasting from the San Joaquin Valley with a large crowd of farmers as backdrop. He pointed out that unemployment among the local farmers is now around 40%. Three sympathetic local politicians, two Republicans and one Democrat were interviewed. Also interviewed via video live was Governor Schwarzenegger, who apparently has no decision-making power in this issue. (He received a very mixed reception from the crowd.) Schwarzenegger appealed to President Obama to act to get the water turned back on. Also interviewed was actor Paul Rodriguez, who has been involved in this issue, and if I am not mistaken, hails from the area. (I have previously heard Rodriguez lobbying for this issue on radio.)
This is an issue of farmers' jobs vs the Delta Smelt-and the Delta Smelt is winning due to the influence of the environmentalists, activist judges and a hostile Interior Dept (to the farmers) under Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It represents a serious issue of tens of thousands of farmers being thrown into poverty-and Washington doesn't care, apparently.
Meanwhile, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, ironically, also devoted a segment to the Interior Department, not about the San Joaquin Valley issue, but to George W. Bush Administration Interior Secretary Gail Norton. The bit implied a conflict of interest on Norton's part over a decision she made that was favorable to Shell oil, who is now Norton's employer. Maddow added that Norton is now being investigated and pointed out that this would make Norton the first Bush cabinet secretary to come under investigation.
Very interesting. I'd say that's a pretty good record for the Bush Administration considering that about half of Bill Clinton's cabinet had special prosecutors assigned to them-while they were in office.
But I digress.