Thursday, October 27, 2016


Inundation Zone of Proposed Dam: San Joaquin River Gorge

Note: The Fresno Bee coincidentally stopped publishing my letters to the editor around the time I started opposing a dam at Temperance Flat, a dam that the Bee wholeheartedly supports, so unfortunately every now and then I'm going to include what might have been a letter to the editor in this space.

     According to Fred Vanderhoof, chairman of the Fresno County Republican Party, a bully is going to harass farmers, business men and pastors if Hillary Clinton is elected, a bully with two terrifying faces: regulation and socialism. This bully will tear our constitution and all of our cherished rights to pieces.
     I started to wonder what this bully actually looks like. Perhaps Mr. Vanderhoof is referring to the bully who prohibits child labor, sweatshops, job discrimination and exploitation, the bully who puts the breaks on wall-street greed, the bully who stops polluters and corporate malfeasance.
     Could this bully also look like police officers, firemen and teachers? These people, after all, get paid by state and local governments, with hefty support from the federal government. What about the soldier, the postal worker, the social worker, and all the others who labor for the federal government? Bullying socialists all?
     I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Vanderhoof means because Republicans often use a type of doublespeak that contains one level of meaning for insiders and another for those easily frightened by the bogeyman.
     Mr. Vanderhoof wants to get government off our backs, I guess. I'm also guessing that he means that taxpayers should stop propping up farmers with subsidies and businessmen with grants, and that the public should never provide funds to build more dams (which primarily benefit farmers) on public lands. We must stop socialism to make America great again!
     Sadly, one of Mr. Vanderhoof's points is already moot: Water diversions are killing off an offending species of fish—only one delta smelt was found in the wild in a recent scientific survey. I'm sure Mr. Vanderhoof is aware that most of the rivers in the Valley are dead, mainly because the government built numerous dams, and eighty percent of the water is diverted to the farmers. Someone should explain to Mr. Vanderhoof that you can't kill a fish (or a whole species) more than once.
     The government, if Hillary is elected, will even bully our gentle pastors. How is this possible? Mr. Vanderhoff doesn't say, possibly because the separation of church and state effectively keeps religion and government away from each other most of the time. Is this Mr. Vanderhoof's code for the possibility that the "bully" government might allow gay marriage and keep Roe v. Wade, even though this might offend some pastors? Or is he concerned that the government might keep some fanatic pro-lifer with Judeo-Christian beliefs from blowing up Planned Parenthood? Unfortunately, Mr. Vanderhoof's language is incendiary but lacks specificity.

San Joaquin River Gorge: Temperance Flat Dam Inundation Area

     Do industry or business or religion ever intrude into our lives? Wasn't it the unrestrained greed allowed by deregulation that resulted in the recent economic meltdown, which has made it harder for just about all of us? In Mr. Vanderhoof's world, do businessmen ever rip people off or exploit them? Do pastors ever intrude into our bedrooms to tell us how we can love or what to do with our bodies? Haven't water diversions for farmers killed most of the rivers and destroyed our ecosystems? Haven't their chemicals polluted our water and air? Mr. Vanderhoof can't seem to decide whether government is a bully or a cancer: Does he ever see the need to regulate toxic chemicals that cause real cancers and other health problems?
     Mr. Vanderhoof fails to mention that the very people he wants to protect from “bully government” have often created the need for regulation through their criminality, their lack of civic responsibility, or their intrusiveness in our lives. He also fails to mention that socialism has propped up many of these same people in different ways, including subsidies and grants. I hope voters can see through Mr. Vanderhoof''s deceptive, byzantine code and vote for Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, a man who has truly revealed himself to be a bully.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Bush Lupine and Poppies: San Joaquin River Gorge

“Even animals get in on the new victimhood. To build a reservoir in drought-stricken California means oppressing the valley elderberry longhorn beetle or ignoring the feelings of the foothill yellow-legged frog.” Victor Davis Hanson

     Flaws abound in the world of Victor Davis Hanson, so many flaws in other nations and other people, especially liberals. Alas, flaws, known as fallacies of logic, also abound in his own writing.
     Mr. Hanson, like so many right-wing pundits with their sound bites and bullet points, is a master of a fallacy of logic known as oversimplification, an insistence on ignoring inconvenient facts, a flaw of logic common in the English papers of flunking freshmen.
     For example, Mr. Hanson in a recent article goes so far as to suggest that the Endangered Species Act is part of a new sense of “victim-hood” for animals: He implies that sensitive liberals feel so guilty about ignoring the feelings of the foothill yellow-legged frog
Lupine, Goldfields, Popcorn
and about the oppression of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle that these misguided do-gooders insist on protecting the habitat of insignificant critters even while in the real world of profit and loss farmers desperately need more reservoirs. His assertion reveals an ignorance of history and environmental law that I find extremely odd for a representative of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and for someone who professes to be an historian.
     If Mr. Hanson were to drive across the San Joaquin Valley on most days, from Santa Nella to Bakersfield, he would cross one dead river after another yet also find that most of the canals still have water (diverted from the rivers and the delta) in them.
     One primary source reveals how much the Valley has changed in a century and a half. According to John Muir in a letter written in July, 1868, the San Joaquin Valley was the floweriest piece of world he had ever walked upon. Those flowers, as well as the wildlife, comparable even in Muir's time to the abundance of wildlife on the Serengeti Plains in Africa, were wiped out by cultivation and urbanization and the damming and diverting of rivers, which had periodically overflowed to replenish wetlands and aquifers—wetlands that have diminished to four percent of their historical levels and aquifers that are now becoming exhausted due to over-pumping of groundwater, which is causing subsidence of the land.

Owl's Clover: San Joaquin River Gorge

     Now, even though dozens of dams already exist on the San Joaquin River, farmers want to build another huge dam just north of Friant Dam at Temperance Flat, using public funds to wipe public lands, the San Joaquin River Gorge, off the map (as well as the habitat of endangered and threatened species) primarily for their own benefit. All the while this private industry refuses to change unsustainable practices, such as irrigating cotton, rice, almonds, and fodder crops in a desert. Mr. Hanson advocates the taking of public resources, which will result in ecocide once again, for the benefit of the wealthiest top percent in the Valley.
     Even though he is a representative of the Hoover Institution, instead of promoting private enterprise, Mr. Hanson is instead promoting a bizarre form of socialism for the wealthy. How has a classics professor and scholar of ancient warfare turned into a spokesperson for such hogwash? Mr. Hanson is good at stringing together the bullet points of the far-right elites. He excels at liberal-bashing, in other words, not at providing an accurate historical, economic, or political perspective.
     As Mr. Hanson probably knows, a species becomes “endangered” usually when so much of its ecosystem has been
Owl's Clover
destroyed that it is driven to the edge of extinction. It is not, as Mr. Hanson's flip comment implies, a frivolous designation. Yet Mr. Hanson, with a cavalier attitude, promotes the destruction of ecosystems in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the benefit of a private, commercial industry. Mr. Hanson would no doubt consider me a liberal for my views, but I am a conservative in the sense that I am a conservationist, and I am at a loss to explain how any conservative does not have species preservation, and by extension, habitat preservation, at the heart of his philosophy.
     Instead, it's always “jobs vs. the environment,” jobs versus one endangered species or other. Mr. Hanson, as a spokesperson for the right, continues to present a false dilemma, which is another fallacy of logic. A false dilemma rears its ugly head when only two choices are presented yet more choices exist, or when a spectrum of choices exist between two extremes. False dilemmas are usually couched in “either this or that” language, but can also be characterized by the omission of possible choices. Mr. Hanson does not, for instance, entertain the possibilities of water conservation, underground water storage, or the cultivation of sustainable crops as ways to protect both endangered species and jobs. He has to rant about a culture of victim-hood to divert attention away from a land and water grab by elites who wish to maintain business as usual.
     In holding up Victor Davis Hanson as one of the leading voices of the right because of his academic creds, The Fresno Bee and others are doing the public and Mr. Hanson a disservice by indulging in a fallacy of logic known as “false authority,” which is the false belief that a person who is an expert in one field should therefore also be considered an expert in another. Mr. Hanson, in other words, may be a classics professor and a scholar of ancient warfare, but that does not make him an expert on modern U.S. domestic and foreign policy or environmental law. Unfortunately, The Fresno Bee and others keep publishing the right-wing tirades of a person who is merely posing as an expert in order to bash liberals and “soft” Americans.

Bush Lupine by Trail: San Joaquin River Gorge

     In the above-mentioned article, Mr. Hanson suggests that modern Americans don't understand that life is unfair and tragedy falls on good people for no reason. If Mr. Hanson were in touch with the lives of average Americans, he would realize that he does not need to remind the vast majority of us about the lack of fairness or the prevalence of tragedy. Worse, Mr. Hanson fails to recognize that empathy often rises out of tragedy. Empathy can lead to an attempt to lessen the pain of others, to keep bad from getting worse, which is a type of heroism and nobility of spirit. Instead he uses any excuse to bash modern Americans (read “liberals”) for coddling the weak and for providing a voice to defend what has no voice.
     Mr. Hanson has advocated for the show of military force often over the years, deriding liberals for revealing weakness, in other words, for finding alternatives to war—by using the negotiating process for solving problems, for instance. It often seems that Mr. Hanson will not find peace until the United States achieves full-spectrum dominance of the world. Perhaps Mr. Hanson is a hawk 24/7 for another reason: War is a great source of profit. The military received nearly 600 billion dollars from taxpayers in 2015, fifty-four percent of all federal discretionary spending, as opposed to the six percent for education; the three percent for energy and the environment; the three percent for social security, unemployment and labor; the two percent for transportation, and on and on. Military spending is an effective way to channel money from the middle class to the elites. Sound familiar?

Poppies and Lupine: San Joaquin River Gorge

     I doubt that Mr. Hanson would continue to serve as a mouthpiece for the the right-wing elites if he didn't champion their causes, one of which, of course, is accumulating even more wealth.
     Those elites are already outrageously wealthy. Twenty people now own as much wealth as half of all Americans, according to The Nation. And these elites are not in any hurry to trickle their money down to the rest of us. According to the author of the article in The Nation, Joshua Holland, “The U.S. is caught in a vicious cycle, with rising political inequality driving an ever-rising concentration of wealth at the top.” Even with this great income disparity, Mr. Hanson wants the public to stop whining and pay for deadbeat dams and unjustified wars that benefit those at the top. It is up to the reader to decide whether Mr. Hanson is disingenuous or just plain deluded.
     I remember Mr. Hanson beating the drums for the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that continue to create chaos in the middle east, wars that have arguably led to even greater terrorism throughout the world, wars that demand more U.S. military intervention in a progressively more unstable region, wars that are responsible for unnecessary tragedy here and abroad, wars that benefit the wealthiest Americans. The untold misery caused by these wars is in itself a good reason for true liberals and conservatives alike to remain wary of the flaws of logic common in Mr. Hanson's editorials as well as in the bullet points of right-wing pundits in general.