Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ken Burns Knows America

He has a new series on our national parks, as reported by the Washington Times,

I’ve only seen part of one episode so far, but based on that, and the consistency of his past productions, this should be a great one

It is also very important during a period when all parks—and our Parkway—are having a difficult time finding funding support.

An excerpt.

“The Brooklyn-born documentarian has made the history and culture of this country his life's work. In films airing on PBS — often hours long — he's explored "The Congress" and "The Civil War," "Baseball" and "Jazz." He's traced the lives of Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Frank Lloyd Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

“He's never used a superlative quite like this before, though: His latest work has the grand title "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." The 12-hour series premieres on PBS on Sunday at 8 p.m.; a two-hour episode airs each night until Oct. 2.

“With a Constitution admired the world over and a musical genre just as widely influential, the United States has been the birthplace of a lot of great ideas. Is Mr. Burns really serious in suggesting that none has been greater than setting aside land for national parks, a system that officially began with Yellowstone in 1872?

"We deliberately were provocative," Mr. Burns says with a twinkle in his voice, speaking by telephone from New York.

“Historian Clay Jenkinson says in the film that Jefferson's idea to found a country in which all men — or at least almost all — would be free and equal was probably America's best idea. "But right up there is the idea of national parks," he says.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Registered Sex Offenders Illegally Camping

It seems the issue of registered sex offenders illegally camping out near communities—though our local media haven’t yet covered those camping out in the Parkway we posted on recently—is also an issue in Georgia, as this article from the Washington Post notes.

An excerpt.

“MARIETTA, Ga. -- A small group of homeless sex offenders have set up camp in a densely wooded area behind a suburban Atlanta office park, directed there by probation officers who say it's a place of last resort for those with nowhere else to go.

“Nine sex offenders live in tents surrounding a makeshift fire pit in the trees behind a towering "no trespassing" sign, waiting out their probation sentences as they face numerous living restrictions under one of the nation's toughest sex offender policies.

"It's kind of like a mind-game, it's like 'Survivor,'" said William Hawkins, a 34-year-old who said he was directed to the campsite two weeks ago after being released from prison for violating probation by failing to register as a sex offender in Georgia.

“The muddy camp on the outskirts of prosperous Cobb County is an unintended consequence of Georgia law, which bans the state's 16,000 sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, parks and other spots where children gather.

“It's not the only place in Cobb County where offenders can live - there are hundreds of other sex offenders throughout the county living in compliance with the law. But Ahmed Holt, manager of the state's sex offender administration unit, calls the camp a "last resort" for homeless offenders who can't find another place to live that complies with the law.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

Salmon Return Big at Bonneville

Once again, nature defines our best-laid plans to predict what happens out there, as this article notes.

An excerpt,

“A mystery that began in the spring has resumed this fall in the Columbia River.

“In mid-June, when the counting at Bonneville Dam shifted from spring chinook to summer chinook, the total was a record-busting 81,782 jack spring chinook.

“That is almost four times the old high of 24,363 jacks in 2000, a jack return that foreshadowed the huge run of 416,000 adult spring chinook in 2001.

“Jacks are 3-year-old spring chinook salmon. They return to spawn a year earlier than their siblings, the 4-year-olds which make up the bulk of the spring chinook run annually in the middle and upper Columbia and Snake rivers.

“Using the historical relationship between jacks and 4-year-olds, next year's spring chinook run would be the range of 1.2 million to 1.5 million.

“No one expects that, particularly given the fact that Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee, composed of state, tribal and federal biologists, has hugely overpredicted the spring chinook for the past two years.”

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Global Warming Proof in Five Years?

According to this story in the New York Times, if the current ten year trend of temperature stabilization—with some cooling—continues for another five years, the odds of the accuracy of models being used to predict global warming will drop significantly.

An excerpt.

“The world leaders who met at the United Nations to discuss climate change on Tuesday are faced with an intricate challenge: building momentum for an international climate treaty at a time when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.

“The plateau in temperatures has been seized upon by skeptics as evidence that the threat of global warming is overblown. And some climate experts worry that it could hamper treaty negotiations and slow the progress of legislation to curb carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

“Scientists say the pattern of the last decade — after a precipitous rise in average global temperatures in the 1990s — is a result of cyclical variations in ocean conditions and has no bearing on the long-term warming effects of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere….

“A clearer view of whether the recent temperature plateau undermines arguments for dangerous climate change in the long run should come in a few years, as the predictions made by the British climate researchers are tested. Their paper appeared in a supplement to an August issue of The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

“While the authors concluded that there was a 1 in 8 chance of having a decade-long pause in warming like the current plateau, even with rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, the odds of a 15-year pause, they wrote, are only 5 in 100. As a result, the next few years of observations could tip the balance toward further concern or greater optimism.”

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Improve Parkway Environment & Reduce Crime

For several years criminal justice professionals have realized that improving the user friendly environment of an area reduces crime.

The tactic has become formalized and one international association provides resources.

The majority of crimes on the Parkway happen in the Lower Reach area from Discovery Park to Cal Expo.

A large part of what drives the crime rate in the Lower Reach is the inaccessibility of the overgrown area sheltering the illegal camping sites whose inhabitants often prey on Parkway users and the surrounding community.

One dramatic example of potential criminal danger is the Parkway ranger report of 20 registered sex offenders camping there which we blogged on recently.

An aspect of any future management strategy to reduce crime in that area would have to include a more vigorous cultivation of the undergrowth to provide complete visual and pedestrian access to the area which would help reduce criminal danger by encouraging greater public access.

An article from the Charlotte Observer points out the benefits of environmental design.

“People getting off the bus at Arrowhead Drive were easy targets, especially on payday.

“The enclosed bus stop was dark, half a football field away from the nearest home and surrounded by trees.

“Robbers would hide in the shadows leading to nearby apartments or pretend to be waiting for the bus themselves, then pull out a gun when unsuspecting passengers got off.

“Increased police patrols didn't work. Officers couldn't be at the stop 24-7, and when they weren't, the robbers would strike.

"So officers in the North Tryon Division made a proposal to the Charlotte Area Transit System earlier this year: move the bus stop.

“Today, the stop is less than a block away, but it's under a street light, and people inside nearby apartments - potential witnesses - can easily see if something is amiss.

“And, police say, there hasn't been a robbery there since the move.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Global Warming, Doing Nothing?

Sometimes it is better to do nothing, and as the scientific opinions regarding global warming vary so widely, the costs to address it so exorbitant, and the unwillingness of the major polluting countries like China and India to do much of anything, perhaps that is the best policy.

Few accept the overblown projections of the deep ecology inspired environmentalists that the world as we know it will end tomorrow, and government’s record in efficiently managing the economic ramifications of their policy initiatives, do not lead one to a level of confidence in whatever response they might settle on regarding global warming, so perhaps the best response is to do very little, as this article from the Wall Street Journal suggests.

An excerpt.

“Will government solutions to global warming be worse than global warming itself? Remember that man-made global warming is a negative externality that occurs when burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Economists define negative externality as a spillover from an economic transaction that harms parties not directly involved in the transaction. In this case, the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is thought to be boosting temperatures, raising sea levels, and having other effects on the climate that people must involuntarily pay to adapt to (more air conditioning, switching crops, and so forth). Thus, goes the argument, the price of fossil fuels does not reflect the full cost of consuming them.

“Ideally, once the full costs of man-made global warming are calculated, consumers, businesses, governments, and international agencies can adopt policies to take such costs into account. The two policy options generally discussed in this light are cap-and-trade carbon markets and carbon taxes. The idea behind carbon markets is that governments ration how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases may be emitted by setting an overall limit on emissions. Emitters are then required to have a government-issued permit for each ton of carbon dioxide they release into the air. The total amount of permits cannot exceed the cap. Emitters that need to increase their emission allowance must buy permits from those who emit less, creating a market for carbon dioxide emissions permits. The goal of such a rationing scheme is to create a market that sets a price on the negative externalities imposed by burning fossil fuels.

“Similarly, imposing a tax on emissions aims to correct the negative climate externalities produced by burning fossil fuels. A carbon tax is a Pigouvian tax (after the economist Arthur Pigou) levied on a market activity to take into account the negative externalities of that activity. In Pigou's formulation, negative externalities occur when the social cost of a market activity exceeds the private cost of the activity, which is another way of saying that the activities of some people are imposing uncompensated harms on other people. The result is that markets over-supply a good—in this case, the energy produced from fossil fuels. The goal is to set a tax equal to the cost of the negative externality, thus nudging markets to produce efficient amounts of a good.

“The laudable goal of both carbon markets and carbon taxes is basically the same: make polluters pay for the costs they involuntarily impose on others. So all that remains is to calculate the costs and let policy makers impose either the appropriate markets or taxes. The problem is that in the real world things are never as simple as economic theory would have it. Estimates of the potential damage caused by global warming range widely, depending on estimates of how the climate is likely to react to extra carbon dioxide, future economic growth, and, most crucially, the discount rate.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Father of Parkway

William Pond, a wonderful public servant who accomplished great things for our region has died and his obituary in the Sacramento Bee is very moving.

Our condolences to his family.

An excerpt.

“If the American River Parkway is the crown jewel of the Sacramento region, then William Pond was the visionary jewel maker.

“Pond was Sacramento County's first parks director and is often referred to as the father of the 23-mile recreation area along the American River.

“Pond died Sunday after a protracted battle with a number of ailments. He was 91.

"Anyone that enjoys the American River Parkway – the kayaking, the hiking, bike riding – owes a debt of gratitude to Bill Pond," said former Sacramento County Supervisor Illa Collin. "Every time I think of the parkway, I think of Bill."

“The county hired Pond in 1959 after a national search for a director of its newly formed Department of Parks and Recreation. There wasn't much to the department at that time, said his son Steve Pond.

"It was pretty much a (title) and a bare office," said Pond's son. "I don't even think there was a budget."

“Over the next several years, Pond used the strength of his personality and his ability to build relationships to generate the funds needed to acquire the land – from the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers to Folsom – from private landowners.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tent City Site Close to Parkway?

As the campground on the city lot closes, the other site being discussed for a legal tent city—if the city chooses, tragically, to go that route—is closer to the Parkway, ensuring the continued degradation and increasing the already unsafe conditions in that area of the Parkway for families from the adjacent communities and other Parkway users venturing into it.

An excerpt from the article from the Sacramento Bee.

“As quickly as it sprang up on a midtown Sacramento lot, a small but controversial homeless encampment was swept away over the weekend.

“But the issue likely won't be out of sight for long.

“City officials and homeless advocates said Monday that they were moving forward on a proposal to construct a larger "safe ground" homeless camp than the one near 13th and C streets that had become a symbol of the debate over whether a sanctioned campground should be permitted. The site of that proposed safe ground is still being debated, but it appears a lot near the Volunteers of America facility on Bannon Street, north of downtown, tops the list. A proposal for that site includes a privately funded campground of cabana-style sheds for up to 60 people.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Camp Closed, Homeless Return to Parkway

Which is the bottom line of this story from the Sacramento Bee, that the ongoing preferred camping site for illegal camping by the homeless is the American River Parkway, and it has virtually ruined the lower third of the Parkway for safe use by adjacent communities.

We are certainly happy that the neighbors of the camp site on the vacant lot will now be able to sleep nights, but the Parkway continues to be degraded, and one hopes public leadership soon realizes that the Parkway is a resource too valuable to allow that degradation to continue.

An excerpt.

“Since then, a core group of about 30 homeless people have camped at various vacant lots in Sacramento, in violation of a city ordinance that prohibits camping out for more than 24 hours.

“Police have responded to complaints from neighbors about the campsite nearly every day, said Sgt. Norm Leong, spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department. Police have rousted campers and confiscated their tents on three occasions since they moved onto the C Street lot about four weeks ago.

"We've been breaking up camps for many years," Leong said, adding that having many people camped out in one spot created more problems.

“Advocates from Loaves & Fishes and other groups have argued that a campsite provides a safer, more hygienic alternative for homeless people who can't find a shelter bed or who prefer to sleep outside.

“The campers caught a glimpse of what a legal campsite might be like.

"People don't realize how much a toilet can improve the quality of life," Henry Harris said, pointing to the portable toilets advocates had installed on the property.

“Harris, 46, and most others said they planned to break into smaller groups, and many would head to spots along the city's river banks….

"Tonight I'll end up back at the river," Scott David, 46, said. "I think it's a bad thing, but to not get anyone in trouble, we'll go back where we came from."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sacramento’s Tent City

This Sunday column from the Sacramento Bee on the homelessness situation in Sacramento seems pretty close to what is apparently happening, and that would be a sad day for the continued lack of public safety in the Lower Reach region of the Parkway which is probably where the tent city will be located.

One hopes that our public leadership discovers the wherewithal to realize that legalizing and institutionalizing homelessness only intensifies the problem locally, rather than solving it.

We have provided some ideas for solutions in our research report from 2005, The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area: A Corroded Crown Jewel, Restoring the Luster.(pages 25-49); and in our 2008 report, The American River Parkway: Recreation, Education & Sanctuary, (pages 35-36).

An excerpt from the Sunday Sacramento Bee column.

“The smell of urine may be coming to a corner near you.

“Sacramento seems on its way to becoming a city where homeless charity is an entrenched institution.

“The pieces are in place. Homeless advocates have legal backing. They are ruthless and motivated.

“They are poised to take advantage of a leadership vacuum at City Hall.

“And high-profile members of Sacramento's faith community are disengaged or supportive of a legalized tent city downtown.

“On Tuesday, a judge will hear arguments on a temporary restraining order to stop the homeless from illegally camping at 13th and C streets.”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Parkway Crime

The latest criminal attack in the American River Parkway in the Lower Reach area, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, reminds us once again, that without vigorous enforcement of the illegal camping ordinance and the corresponding broken windows policing approach to that area of the Parkway, crime will continue rendering that area of the Parkway unsafe as it has been for years.

In our annual organizational report from last year we itemized the more dramatic crimes connected to the lack of enforcement of the illegal camping ordinance occurring on or near the Parkway, see pages 37-38.

The formation of our organization in 2003 was to provide advocacy for the entire Parkway, including the Lower Reach area which even then was suffering from wide-spread illegal camping and the subsequent criminal behavior that engendered.

Our first research report in 2005: The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area, A Corroded Crown Jewel: Restoring the Luster, was written to address the unsafe conditions then existing in the Lower Reach of the Parkway and offered suggestions for addressing the issue.

We cannot claim the Parkway as the crown jewel of our region when the lower third of it is crime-ridden and unsafe to venture into.

An excerpt.

“Bicyclist Tom Ward is as elated as a man with a fractured pelvis can be.

“Three weeks ago, the 64-year-old Land Park resident was attacked while bicycling on the bike trail near Northgate Boulevard, in the American River Parkway just north of downtown.

“A youth threw a bike in Ward's path, sending him flying. As Ward sprawled on the ground, his hip broken, the assailant hit him with a pole and threatened to kill him.

"This was just a stunning, vicious attack for no reason other than they wanted to kill me," Ward said.

“Ward doesn't know why he was singled out. But to his delight, he may get an answer soon.

“On Friday, Sacramento police said they had arrested a 14-year-old resident of Del Paso Heights in the attack.

“The teenager was taken to juvenile hall on Thursday.

“Police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said investigators believe the attack was a random robbery attempt.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Working Together

Any major efforts from the science community to tackle social problems on a commensurate scale will require the collaboration of many scientific disciplines, which already happens in many areas, NASA being one.

This approach from the National Research Council looks at biology and offers some collaborative efforts that show some promise.

An excerpt from the news release.

“WASHINGTON -- A report released today by the National Research Council calls on the United States to launch a new multiagency, multiyear, and multidisciplinary initiative to capitalize on the extraordinary advances recently made in biology and to accelerate new breakthroughs that could solve some of society's most pressing problems -- particularly in the areas of food, environment, energy, and health.

“The report was requested by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Department of Energy, which asked the committee that wrote the report to look at how best to build upon recent scientific developments such as the Human Genome Project.

“Advances in many technologies have allowed biologists to observe life at levels of detail that were once thought impossible. Interpreting the vast amounts of data being generated by these innovations and developing practical solutions to major challenges will require collaboration among scientists and engineers from many disciplines. And despite the potential of these recent advancements, the committee said that the design, manipulation, and prediction of complex biological systems needed for practical applications are "well beyond current capabilities."

"The committee used the term "new biology" to describe an approach to research where physicists, chemists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and other scientists are integrated into the field of biology to create the type of research community that can tackle society's big problems. "'The new biologist' is not a scientist who knows a little bit about all disciplines, but a scientist with deep knowledge in one discipline and a 'working fluency' in several," the report says. To be sure, biologists are already working successfully in many instances with other scientists and engineers. But for collaborations to take advantage of advances in imaging, high-throughput technologies, computational science and technology, and others, a major new initiative is needed, the committee concluded.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Homeless Camping

The concept of creating legal campgrounds for the homeless often creates serious problems for the community adjacent to the designated camping areas, and the local problems allegedly suffered by the family next door to the campground (whose legality is yet to be determined) in this article from the Sacramento Bee are, if found to be true, truly a tragic consequence of trying to help resolve the tragedy of homelessness in Sacramento.

The solution we support is the Housing First concept, which we addressed in our 2005 report The American River Parkway Lower Reach Area, A Corroded Crown Jewel: Restoring the Luster. (pp. 25-49)

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“An elderly Sacramento man is suffering health issues because of a downtown homeless camp that has sprung up next to his home, his lawyer told a judge Thursday.

“Pedro Hernandez, 71, is seeking a temporary restraining order that would drive away 15 to 30 men and women who have been allowed to live on the property at 13th and C streets for the past month.

"He has health problems that are deteriorating by the minute, hour and day," Aldon Bolanos told Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang. Bolanos said he has medical reports showing that Hernandez's heart condition, high blood pressure and diabetes have worsened since the encampment sprung up.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

City Parks

A nice article about the infusion of funds into city parks over the past several years, and with the potential for the American Rive Parkway, which can be both city and suburban park, the ideas for revitalizing it from several years of decay that have left its lower third a veritable magnet for illegal camping and crime, are out there.

What is still needed is the political will and creativity to look at new forms of governance and fund raising, which we discuss in a recent press release.

An excerpt from the city parks article.

"ST. LOUIS — City sponsors were so nervous about the unveiling of their new downtown park this summer that they arranged for an ice cream truck to park at the site on opening day, just to attract passerbys.

"They needn’t have bothered. Citygarden, just west of the famed Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River, has drawn crowds of people–a cross-section of the city and region’s population–from its opening hour onward.

"The attractions include a cornucopia of trees, contemporary sculpture, an 180-foot rectangular basin with a six-foot waterfall, a state-of-the-art “spray plaza,” a state-of-the-art LED video wall displaying art and movies, plus a high-quality cafe overlooking the combined attractions.

"What this new park doesn’t have are any formal entrances or barriers to separate its manicured paths and quiet spaces from the surrounding city streets. Richard C.D. Fleming, president of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, suggests it’s an “intimate version of Millennium Park,” the Chicago lakeside extravaganza opened in 2004.

"For St. Louis, for years so forsaken its downtown had the feel of a big and mostly empty living room, the public’s warm embrace of Citygarden caps a remarkable comeback decade which has seen the center city draw 5,000 residents and more than $4 billion in new investment.

"But there’s no single formula for new parks. Just climb up a short flight of stairs to the newly-opened “High Line” park on Manhattan’s West Side. You’ll find clusters of families and couples strolling, chatting, sipping lemonade and nibbling on waffles or sandwiches along what for years constituted a desolate and weed-choked stretch of abandoned elevated freight railroad track."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Green Founder

This article from the Wall Street Journal is a richer tribute than the one I noted a couple days ago about the man who founded the Green Revolution and was frantically resisted by environmentalists for his use of agricultural technology to help the poor of the world grow enough food to sustain their families.

Norman Borlaug is a wonderful testament to the truth that human intelligence can—if allowed to—successfully address virtually all of the problems connected to a limited base of natural resources.

An excerpt.

“Norman Borlaug arguably the greatest American of the 20th century died late Saturday after 95 richly accomplished years. The very personification of human goodness, Borlaug saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived. He was America's Albert Schweitzer: a brilliant man who forsook privilege and riches in order to help the dispossessed of distant lands. That this great man and benefactor to humanity died little-known in his own country speaks volumes about the superficiality of modern American culture.

“Born in 1914 in rural Cresco, Iowa, where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work ending the India-Pakistan food shortage of the mid-1960s. He spent most of his life in impoverished nations, patiently teaching poor farmers in India, Mexico, South America, Africa and elsewhere the Green Revolution agricultural techniques that have prevented the global famines widely predicted when the world population began to skyrocket following World War II.

“In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated that Borlaug's efforts combined with those of the many developing-world agriculture-extension agents he trained and the crop-research facilities he founded in poor nations saved the lives of one billion human beings.

“As a young agronomist, Borlaug helped develop some of the principles of Green Revolution agriculture on which the world now relies including hybrid crops selectively bred for vigor, and "shuttle breeding," a technique for accelerating the movement of disease immunity between strains of crops. He also helped develop cereals that were insensitive to the number of hours of light in a day, and could therefore be grown in many climates.

“Green Revolution techniques caused both reliable harvests, and spectacular output. From the Civil War through the Dust Bowl, the typical American farm produced about 24 bushels of corn per acre; by 2006, the figure was about 155 bushels per acre.

“Hoping to spread high-yield agriculture to the world's poor, in 1943 Borlaug moved to rural Mexico to establish an agricultural research station, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Borlaug's little research station became the International Maize and Wheat Center, known by its Spanish abbreviation CIMMYT, that is now one of the globe's most important agricultural study facilities. At CIMMYT, Borlaug developed the high-yield, low-pesticide "dwarf" wheat upon which a substantial portion of the world's population now depends for sustenance.

“In 1950, as Borlaug began his work in earnest, the world produced 692 million tons of grain for 2.2 billion people. By 1992, with Borlaug's concepts common, production was 1.9 billion tons of grain for 5.6 billion men and women: 2.8 times the food for 2.2 times the people. Global grain yields more than doubled during the period, from half a ton per acre to 1.1 tons; yields of rice and other foodstuffs improved similarly. Hunger declined in sync: From 1965 to 2005, global per capita food consumption rose to 2,798 calories daily from 2,063, with most of the increase in developing nations. In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared that malnutrition stands "at the lowest level in human history," despite the global population having trebled in a single century.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peripheral Canal

This article by R.V. Scheide from the Sacramento News & Review is just about one of the best articles I have read in a long time about California water and the canal; which makes sense, as it is from someone who grew up around dams, understanding their utility, and only later came to doubt the whole process of changing the California desert into the world’s breadbasket after reading Cadillac Desert, which changed a lot of otherwise entirely sensible people’s opinions, though The Great Thirst, Californians and Water: A History, is a much better resource.

But the talk goes on and one hopes public leadership soon realizes that we really do need that canal.

The author’s dad is right.

An excerpt.

“Two-thirds of the state’s population, 25 million people, depends on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for at least some of their water supply. Water from the Delta irrigates 3 million agricultural acres. California’s economic growth depends upon its ability to provide water for future population growth. But the Delta’s levees and ecosystem are rapidly deteriorating, threatening to completely cut off the Bay Area and Southern California’s water supply, crashing the economy and potentially endangering millions of people.

“Right this minute, legislators are working feverishly to address the crisis before the end of the session. One proposed solution: a peripheral canal bypassing the Delta.

“Yes, one of California’s longest-simmering water feuds has once again attained full boil. For more than a half century, skirmishes over the peripheral canal have pitted Northern Californians against Southern Californians, farmers against developers, environmentalists against politicians.

“The divisions go further than that; internecine politics and unlikely bedfellows have always played a role in California’s water wars. The debate can get ugly, and has even been known to divide father and son.

“Trust me on that one. I know from personal experience.

“According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, approximately one-third of the Delta’s inflows are siphoned off by upstream, downstream and in-Delta water users. From Redding to Los Angeles, everyone’s got a straw in this thing.

“It’s one big suck.

“But the task force says we need even more water from the Delta if California’s economy is to continue to grow. That’s problematic because we’ve turned the largest
estuary on the West Coast into our own personal toilet.

“The Delta is in an ecological tailspin,” the task force reports. “Invasive species, water pumping facilities, urban growth and urban and agricultural pollution are degrading water quality and threatening multiple fish species with extinction.”

“Throw in global warming, sea-level rise, increasingly brackish water, crumbling levees, frequent droughts and the occasional earthquake, and it’s not so hard to understand the panel’s sense of urgency.

“The proposed canal would draw water directly from the Sacramento River near Freeport and “convey” it 50 miles south, around the eastern edge of the battered ecosystem to the massive state and federal pumping stations near Tracy.

“Think of it as open heart surgery, only on a grander scale.

“That’s kind of the way engineers look at it. But opponents of the long-sought-after peripheral canal see things differently. To them, it’s a knife that stabs deep into the heart of the Delta.

“I grew up on dams and water projects. My father is a retired power-plant operator. Dad got out of the Navy when I was 9, and we moved to Idaho, my mom’s home state. He quickly gained a job with Idaho Power in American Falls, where for the next several years we lived right next to the power plant downstream from the dam that backs the Snake River into the 30-mile-long American Falls Reservoir."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feeding the World

One of the pioneers who understood that human technology could improve on the ability of nature to feed human beings, has died.

An excerpt from an eulogy in New Scientist.

“They don't make 'em like Norm Borlaug anymore. The father of the green revolution finally lost his long battle with cancer over the weekend at the age of 95. I wasn't surprised: he was looking frail when I saw him last year in Ciudad Obreg√≥n, Mexico, where he had launched the revolution.

“That afternoon he managed a spirited speech, in fluent Mexican Spanish, to local farmers. But later, when I was allowed to ask him questions, he was flagging. He complained that using crops for biofuel was pushing up world food prices and hurting the poor. "We had other kinds of alternative energy but we stopped developing it," he fumed. "But now I don't have enough energy to keep talking."

“He was a giant of the scientific and technological revolution of the 20th century. He probably saved more lives than the more famous names behind polio vaccines or DNA: Norm Borlaug ended famine in much of the world.

“What an epitaph. "I personally cannot live comfortably in the midst of abject hunger and poverty and human misery," Borlaug famously said. Some people go into science thinking they might help save the world. Norm's your proof that it's possible.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Registered Sex Offenders Camping in the Parkway ?

While watching the rerun of the September 8, 2009 Sacramento County board meeting on the Parkway funding problems yesterday, I heard a startling comment from Parkway Ranger Tim McElheney, who is assigned to the illegal camping detail in the lower end of the Parkway.

This is the area which we have been advocating be cleaned up for years as the illegal camping there has been a real public safety issue for those families in the adjacent communities.

Ranger Tim said that there were about 20 registered sex offenders camping in the Parkway and he talked to one of them who said his probation officer told him to camp there "Until the rangers kick you out".

The ranger said he got the impression, after talking to probation officers, that there is no other place to send them.

For the video of this exchange go here and find the September 8, 2009 agenda item and click on view video and the exchange with Ranger Tim starts at 2:17 pm.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Who Killed California?

Is the title of a devastating article from the inaugural issue of the new magazine National Affairs.

An excerpt.

“The story of California has always been a great American tale of triumph over long odds. Since its entry into the Union, in the aftermath of war and the midst of gold fever, the state has seemed an improbable colossus. But again and again, California has made its way through hours of challenge – not only surviving intact, but emerging as a model for the rest of the nation.

“In the 19th century, despite immense geographic, ethnic, political, and social differences, Californians managed to form a cohesive identity, resisting numerous efforts to divide the state. They overcame the "curse of natural resources" that so long afflicted other commodity-rich states (and still afflicts some, like Alaska), laying the groundwork for a thriving and diverse economy that now dwarfs those of many developed countries. In the 20th century, through one of the greatest feats of engineering in human history, they turned the semi-arid desolation of southern California into a booming megalopolis and home to the second-largest metropolitan area in America. California ranked 20th among the states in population in 1900, but by 1963 it was first, where it has remained.

“And through a series of social, political, and economic experiments, California has acted as America's foremost laboratory of innovation, trying out ideas the country as a whole would go on to adopt. In the 1960s under Governor Pat Brown, the state offered a model of modernization, building the most advanced education and transportation infrastructures in the nation. Under Brown's successor, Ronald Reagan, it offered a model of conservative governance that would go on to transform American politics. Hollywood has made California a crucial part of America's cultural identity, and Silicon Valley has put it at the heart of our vision of the future. For many decades now, Americans have seen California as a harbinger of promising things to come.

“Today, however, California has become a warning sign. Beset by economic disaster and political paralysis, the state is in the midst of a systemic crisis. And while the meltdown has certainly been accelerated by the recession of the past two years, its causes involve two decades of poor judgment, reckless mismanagement, and irresponsibility. How California got into this mess has a lot to teach the rest of the country; how it gets out will say a great deal about America's prospects.


“It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of California's troubles. In economic terms, the state is simply broke: issuing IOUs as payments for goods and services, begging the federal government to back state debt (a request the Obama administration denied), and watching its credit rating plummet. To address a $42 billion shortfall in February of this year, the legislature enacted a package that included the largest state tax increases in American history, leaving California with the highest sales and personal income-tax rates in the country (though Hawaii would supplant its lead in the latter category in May). When another $26 billion shortfall emerged by summer, lawmakers — chastened by the 2-1 rejection of further tax hikes in a May 19 special election — agreed on another package that featured more than $16 billion in spending reductions, including deep cuts to education, health, and social services.

“That's not even the worst of it. For all of the high drama that has accompanied 2009's fiscal travails (a stunning populist backlash against high taxes, widespread public-employee protests over spending cuts), California's lawmakers let the crisis go to waste — failing to use the moment to improve the state's financial outlook. As the San Diego Union-Tribune's John Marelius noted:

“[California projects] a deficit of between $7 billion and $8 billion for the next budget cycle. Plus, federal stimulus money, $5 billion of which was used to backfill education cuts this year, may not be available. And about the time the next governor takes office, $16 billion in temporary tax increases that were included in [the] February budget deal will expire.

“As if that weren't apocalyptic enough, California's short-term ¬financial difficulties pale in comparison to its long-term obligations. In the most recent fiscal year, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the state's two largest pension plans, lost a combined total of nearly $100 ¬billion — about a quarter of their value — in the market downturn. If legislators thought tackling a $60 billion deficit was trying, they are sure to love the challenge of making good on California's fixed pension obligations — which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has estimated are $300 billion in the red.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tent City

One of ARPPS e-letters was published in the Rancho Cordova Post recently.

An excerpt.

“Even though our economy is going through a very rough period right now, and at first glance it may appear that our economic troubles justify allowing the legal creation of a tent city encampment that will congregate crimogenic populations, at the same time we are reducing public safety expenditures; we should resist that urge, and do what we can to strengthen public safety on and near the Parkway rather than reducing it.

“Our community is currently involved in a very serious policy debate about whether to legalize a homeless encampment, and the issue is one of major concern to our The American River Parkway Preservation Society, as it is quite possible, that if this policy is approved, the encampment will be close to the American River Parkway, continuing the Parkway camping by the homeless that has had a degrading impact on adjacent communities to use their part of the Parkway safely for several years.

“It will also render moot—in Sacramento—the concept underlying the hugely successful policy of broken windows policing by legalizing the very conditions broken windows references in its policing focus.

“We have referred to the broken windows form of policing where even minor infractions like panhandling, illegal camping, (or broken windows) are vigorously policed because a disorderly environment creates more disorder; in respect to the long-term policy in our area of essentially allowing illegal camping by the homeless in the Parkway, increasing crime and reducing public safety in the Parkway and surrounding neighborhoods.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Global Cooling Before Global Warming?

That’s what this article from New Scientist Magazine reports one climate modeler—also an author at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—who indicates there may be a global cooling period of 20 years or so before we start warming again.

That is the kind of news that should cause even more restraint around initiating large expenditures—especially during tough economic times—to fight a problem that continues to witness evidence that it is not such a problem after all.

An excerpt.

“Forecasts of climate change are about to go seriously out of kilter. One of the world's top climate modelers said Thursday we could be about to enter one or even two decades during which temperatures cool.

"People will say this is global warming disappearing," he told more than 1500 of the world's top climate scientists gathering in Geneva at the UN's World Climate Conference.

"I am not one of the sceptics," insisted Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University, Germany. "However, we have to ask the nasty questions ourselves or other people will do it."

“Few climate scientists go as far as Latif, an author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But more and more agree that the short-term prognosis for climate change is much less certain than once thought….

“Latif predicted that in the next few years a natural cooling trend would dominate over warming caused by humans. The cooling would be down to cyclical changes to ocean currents and temperatures in the North Atlantic, a feature known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

“Breaking with climate-change orthodoxy, he said NAO cycles were probably responsible for some of the strong global warming seen in the past three decades. "But how much? The jury is still out," he told the conference. The NAO is now moving into a colder phase.

“Latif said NAO cycles also explained the recent recovery of the Sahel region of Africa from the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s. James Murphy, head of climate prediction at the Met Office, agreed and linked the NAO to Indian monsoons, Atlantic hurricanes and sea ice in the Arctic. "The oceans are key to decadal natural variability," he said.

“Another favourite climate nostrum was upturned when Pope warned that the dramatic Arctic ice loss in recent summers was partly a product of natural cycles rather than global warming. Preliminary reports suggest there has been much less melting this year than in 2007 or 2008.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Birds & Windmills

This story from the Wall Street Journal continues the ongoing revelations of deep partisan political involvement in the environmental movement that has led to the mounting degradation of its public credibility.

An excerpt.

“On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.

“ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.

“Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

“A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

“Altamont's turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon's tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

“The number of birds killed by wind turbines is highly variable. And biologists believe Altamont, which uses older turbine technology, may be the worst example. But that said, the carnage there likely represents only a fraction of the number of birds killed by windmills. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that U.S. wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. Yet the Justice Department is not bringing cases against wind companies.”

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Water & Dams

A story from the Sacramento Bee on the proposed new reservoir north of Sacramento—with a mention of other dams being considered—that will, if approved, provide vitally needed water storage for our state.

An excerpt.

“Different kind of reservoir

“Sites would be an "off-stream" reservoir. That means it would not block a river, which for environmentalists is the chief strike against most dams.

“Instead, the V-shaped valley would be turned into a bowl by building two large earthen dams on its east side and nine smaller dams on its north end.

“This bowl would be filled by pumping Sacramento River water from three different sources: the existing Tehama-Colusa and Glenn-Colusa canals, and a new pipeline running due west from the Sacramento River.

“This new pipeline would also release water from the reservoir back into the river when it can best alleviate drought and help fisheries. As much as 90 megawatts of electricity could be generated at the same time, though Sites would be a net energy consumer because of the pumping power required to fill it.

“Operated in concert with Shasta, Oroville and Folsom dams, Sites could help share Northern California's water delivery burden, allowing existing reservoirs to provide more water for fish habitat.

“For instance, Sites could meet water demand normally provided by Folsom in summer, allowing Folsom to save its limited cold water supply for fall salmon and steelhead runs in the American River. This could have a side-effect of stretching summer recreation access on Folsom Lake.

"It's not a traditional reservoir, and it irks me when people think of it as a traditional dam," said Stephen Roberts, manager of surface storage investigations at the state Department of Water Resources, which is studying the project with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. "This is really an important tool to provide benefits across California."

“Package of dams studied

“Three other new dams are being studied in California: one to enlarge Shasta Lake on the Sacramento River; another to enlarge Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County; and a new dam on the San Joaquin River above Friant Dam.”

Monday, September 07, 2009

Human-Made Drought?

All of us care about the environment and want clean water to drink and clean air to breathe; and most of us also do not want to see human needs trumped by those of animals, so this current human-made drought in the valley—as reported by the Wall Street Journal—is one that can be resolved by humans who can see beyond the arguments of environmental extremity to the basics of human needs.

An excerpt.

“California has a new endangered species on its hands in the San Joaquin Valley—farmers. Thanks to environmental regulations designed to protect the likes of the three-inch long delta smelt, one of America's premier agricultural regions is suffering in a drought made worse by federal regulations.

“The state's water emergency is unfolding thanks to the latest mishandling of the Endangered Species Act. Last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued what is known as a "biological opinion" imposing water reductions on the San Joaquin Valley and environs to safeguard the federally protected hypomesus transpacificus, a.k.a., the delta smelt. As a result, tens of billions of gallons of water from mountains east and north of Sacramento have been channelled away from farmers and into the ocean, leaving hundreds of thousands of acres of arable land fallow or scorched.

“For this, Californians can thank the usual environmental suspects, er, lawyers. Last year's government ruling was the result of a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other outfits objecting to increased water pumping in the smelt vicinity. In June, things got even dustier when the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that local salmon and steelhead also needed to be defended from the valley's water pumps. Those additional restrictions will begin to effect pumping operations next year.

“The result has already been devastating for the state's farm economy. In the inland areas affected by the court-ordered water restrictions, the jobless rate has hit 14.3%, with some farming towns like Mendota seeing unemployment numbers near 40%. Statewide, the rate reached 11.6% in July, higher than it has been in 30 years. In August, 50 mayors from the San Joaquin Valley signed a letter asking President Obama to observe the impact of the draconian water rules firsthand.

“Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that he "doesn't have the authority to turn on the pumps" that would supply the delta with water, or "otherwise, they would be on." He did, however, have the ability to request intervention from the Department of Interior. Under a provision added to the Endangered Species Act in 1978 after the snail darter fiasco, a panel of seven cabinet officials known as a "God Squad" is able to intercede in economic emergencies, such as the one now parching California farmers. Despite a petition with more than 12,000 signers, Mr. Schwarzenegger has refused that remedy.”

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mission, Purpose, Focus

The reason that social or business entrepreneurs get up in the morning is to change the world, or at least that part of it that they have claimed as their own and to which they bring the skill and passion able to do so.

This article from Harvard Business looks at that.

An excerpt.

“I recently sat down with my BlackBerry voice recorder and Mats Lederhausen to ask him to share his philosophy of "purpose bigger than product." Mats is a great entrepreneur and also had one of the most successful careers at McDonald's where he was a driving force for its turnaround. He currently runs his private investment vehicle Be-Cause and is a Special Partner at our firm, Cue Ball.

“What is your philosophy of "purpose bigger than product" all about?

“At its core, it is about being real and idea-driven. Trust is perhaps the most important currency in business, and big ideas may be the only true source of competitive advantage. Lack of trust is a form of tax. And that tax rate has increased in the past number of years. Customers simply don't trust institutions as much today. Particularly large businesses. The main reason is that we now live in an "information everywhere" and more transparent world. Every customer has a camera in their cell phone, a Facebook in their pocket and Twitter at their fingertips. This means we hear and see evidence of businesses not walking their talk. Their products don't match their promise. In order to regain this trust you must simply make sure that all your products, your merchandising, your advertising, your people and the totality of your touch points with consumers sing from the same hymn. And that hymn is what I call purpose. Some people call it vision. Others call it focus. It is the same thing. It is source of your promise. It answers the question: Why are you here?

“Talk a little more on the notion of "big ideas."

“I often talk about "altitude creates attitude". When you meet people that have a big idea it is almost impossible to be unaffected. It is like a perfume. You can smell it miles away. I firmly believe that the source of human energy and creativity can be found in the distance between where we are and where we'd like to be. It is that creative dissonance that is the entrepreneurial rocket fuel. If human beings could have walked everywhere on the planet I don't believe we would have invented trains, planes and automobiles. So, if you really want to build great companies you need big ideas.

“Certainly, not all big ideas may be viable in all incarnations. What about the reality of these ideas?

“Of course they have to be believable. They can't be pipedreams. Or as John Naisbitt once said: You can't get so far ahead of the parade that no one knows you're in it.

“From an execution perspective, you have to think big, start small, and scale fast. You can't think big and start big, that's almost impossible. You need miniature versions of your grand idea so you can validate its parts, and then iterate and tweak constantly. There's nothing wrong with having a really big idea and launching only aspects of that idea. Rome wasn't built in a day. Take Chipotle, for example. Steve Ells had a very big idea about food, but he didn't start by executing 100% of his vision; he gradually did what he could towards that theme.

“It is also important to remember that your purpose is not what you "tell" customers, but what you do. The best way to disappoint everyone is to over-promise and under-deliver. Therefore you must be humble AND committed at the same time. In fact, customers are more forgiving when you make mistakes if those mistakes are honest efforts in trying to improve towards a known and worthwhile direction.”

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sunspots Causing Global Warming?

Well, we don’t know for sure, and there is a whole lot we don’t know about climate change, and as this column in the Los Angeles Times notes, maybe we should be somewhat cautious about implementing a whole bunch of very costly policy strategies before we do, know.

An excerpt.

“Assuming there are no sunspots today, a 96-year record will have been broken: 53 days without any solar blemishes, giant magnetic disruptions on the sun's surface that cause solar flares. That would be the fourth-longest stretch of stellar solar complexion since 1849. Wait, it gets even more exciting.

“During what scientist call the Maunder Minimum -- a period of solar inactivity from 1645 to 1715 -- the world experienced the worst of the cold streak dubbed the Little Ice Age. At Christmastime, Londoners ice skated on the Thames, and New Yorkers (then New Amsterdamers) sometimes walked over the Hudson from Manhattan to Staten Island.

“Of course, it could have been a coincidence. The Little Ice Age began before the onset of the Maunder Minimum. Many scientists think volcanic activity was a more likely, or at least a more significant, culprit. Or perhaps the big chill was, in the words of scientist Alan Cutler, writing in the Washington Post in 1997, a "one-two punch from a dimmer sun and a dustier atmosphere."

“Well, we just might find out. A new study in the American Geophysical Union's journal Eos suggests that we may be heading into another quiet phase similar to the Maunder Minimum….

“What does it say that the modeling that guaranteed disastrous increases in global temperatures never predicted the halt in planetary warming since the late 1990s? (MIT's Richard Lindzen says that "there has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995.") What does it say that the modelers have only just now discovered how sunspots make the Earth warmer?

“I don't know what it tells you, but it tells me that maybe we should study a bit more before we spend billions to "solve" a problem we don't understand so well.”

Friday, September 04, 2009

Salmon Festival Canceled

One hopes this is only a one time occurrence, but without a more creative way to raise funding for the American River Parkway, events like this that are connected to it, will continue to suffer.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“The popular American River Salmon Festival has been canceled, and a number of causes are to blame.

“The event, held the past 12 years at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and Lake Natoma, will be on hiatus this year.

"Last year, it cost about $120,000," said Dana Michaels, a public information officer with the state Department of Fish and Game.

“Much of that money was raised by sponsoring organizations, and that kind of giving is down this year, she said.

“Fish and Game employees also staffed booths and oversaw the work of hundreds of volunteers. With budget cuts and furloughs, Michaels said, the department doesn't have the staff to handle the event along with its regular duties.

“The other concern, she said, is "the guest of honor's population is not high enough to show up."

“The two-day festival, held in late September or early October, in recent years drew about 20,000 people eager to see salmon jumping the fish ladder at the hatchery, making their way upstream to spawn. Last year, however, the ladder was closed because of concern over the small salmon run.”

Thursday, September 03, 2009

County Parks Announcement

Some Access Points to American River Parkway Closing to Vehicles

Due to budget reductions, beginning September 14, 2009, several access sites along the Parkway will be closed to vehicles. Signs will be posted, and visitors may still enter the areas on foot and bicycles. For information on specific access points and alternate routes, view Parks Access News Release.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Indians and Their Coal vs Environmentalist's Lawyers

After what happened to the Native Americans during the settlement of this country, we have a historic obligation to do everything possible to see that they are able to rebuild a way of life, of their choice, that is prosperous.

Resistance to their choice, as in the legal action by environmentalist's lawyers against building a coal-fired power plant on their reservation—as reported by the Washington Examiner—is a tragedy.

An excerpt.

“Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the United States, has faced a number of enemies in its long history: Anasazi warriors, Andrew Jackson and now, lawyered-up environmentalists.

“The Navajo homeland, an area that spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, is endowed with abundant coal deposits. That makes it ideal for powering the Southwest.

“Navajo elders are trying to build a new coal-fired power plant to export electricity off the reservation and rev up their ailing economy. For environmentalists, however, coal is unacceptable, no matter the economic consequences, because it comes with a large carbon moccasin print.

“According to Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, the $3 billion, 1,500-megawatt Desert Rock power plant would create more than 1,000 annual jobs during the four-year construction period, 400 permanent jobs, and generate more than $50 million annually in reservation revenues. This would be welcome relief -- the reservation is plagued by unemployment of almost 50 percent.

“A coal power plant may be an economic boon for the Navajos, but it's an eco-sin to green groups. They boast of having stopped the construction of 100 coal plants, as if imposing expensive energy on American consumers is a good thing. Now they have unleashed a phalanx of lawyers to stop the Navajo Nation from helping itself.

“Despite the Navajo Nation's efforts to ensure that the Desert Rock Plant would be up to 10 times cleaner than other regional plants for key particulate pollutants, the Environmental Protection Agency only grudgingly granted an air quality permit last summer, after a six-year delay. Then, in an unprecedented decision this April, the EPA rescinded the permit at the behest of lawyers for environmentalist advocacy groups like EarthJustice.”

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What Depression?

While some areas of the country are certainly suffering more than others; ever since a member of the White House staff remarked that one should never waste the opportunity of a crisis, many have been skeptical of the repeated claims that we, as a nation, are in the worst economic crisis since the depression.

In this Wall Street Journal article, that claim is tested and found wanting.

An excerpt.

“Day after day, economists, politicians and journalists repeat the trope that the current recession is the worst since the Great Depression. Repetition may reinforce belief, but the comparison is greatly overstated and highly misleading. Anyone who knows even a bit about the Great Depression knows that this is false.

“The facts we face today are very different than the grim reality Americans confronted between 1929 and 1932. True, this recession is not over. But it would have to get improbably worse before it came close to the 42-month duration of the Great Depression, or the 25% unemployment rate in 1932. Then, the only safety net was the soup line.

“The current recession is also much less severe than the 1937-38 Depression. A more accurate comparison is to the 1973-75 recession. Today's recession is as deep and most likely won't be much longer than the one we experienced some three decades ago. By pointing this out, I do not intend to minimize the damage that the economic crisis has had on individuals and businesses. But as policy makers make decisions in order to alleviate the recession, they are not helped when economists overstate its severity.”