The Hazardous Truth wins 2nd Best Investigative Reporting in CA for 2015

Yours truly is not going to win a state-wide award, or second place, too often, so please let me say that the Ventura County Reporter and I won a Best Investigative Reporting in California, 2nd Prize, for 2015.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association only gives out two such awards in each category (in our case, for weekly papers of about 30k subscribers) so it’s pretty meaningful methinks. Here’s what the announcement looked like from my editor Michael Sullivan on fb a week ago.

CNPAawardtoKitStolz

What did I learn from the experience of trying to report on the disaster at Santa Clara Waste Water? In which over fifty people were sent to the hospital by exposure to an explosion, fire, or a toxic plume of chlorine dioxide gas? In which the entire upper management of the company is on trial on 71 felony counts?

It takes an obsession. In my case, six months worth of obsession. Here’s the story, if you haven’t seen it.

And below take a look at a picture of the disaster the morning of November 18, 2014, from county records:

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A Matter of Dignity: Bill of Rights for Farmworkers

Really like the cover that the Ventura County Reporter found for my story on farmwork in Ventura County:

amatterofdignity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That in one image and a handful of words expresses the plight of tens of thousands of hard-working people in the this part of the world. These are people who — as a progressive Christian named Erynn Smith, of The Abundant Table pointed out — are the people who go unseen in this county, the people Christ admired, the overlooked. The people amongst who most need better conditions, better lives.

Arsenio Lopez, who leads an organization called MiCOP, put it eloquently at the conclusion of the story:

“We have seen a lot of studies on farmworkers. Always those studies show that there are problems. … We cannot keep our eyes and our ears always closed to the suffering of the farmworkers.”
— Arsenio Lopez, Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project of Oxnard

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Ventura County opposes backyard bee-keeping: Ojai fights back

Sorry I’ve been quiet: too many deadlines. Good news is that I have a number of stories to post, big and small, and so let me catch up please.

Here’s a story about a surprising fact. Ventura County, which annually grosses two billion dollars in agricultural revenue, discourages backyard bee-keeping.

Even though nationally bees and other pollinators are in decline. By over 20% nationally, according to a study cited by the National Wildlife Federation. From a story in the Ojai Valley News. We begin midstream:

The policy of the Agricultural Commissioner of Ventura County currently prevents beekeeping except in areas designated for agriculture or open space, according to Interim Ojai City Manager Steve McClary. “The property size and ownership qualifications prevents beekeeping on most residential properties,” McClary wrote in the item prepared for the Council discussion.c

The proposed ordinance will allow beekeeping on residential properties within city limits provided owners register their hive with the Agricultural Commissioner, have lots of at least 5,000 square feet, keep a source of water at all times for the hive, and maintain adequate space in the hive for the bee population to grow safely.

Mayor Paul Blatz asked if encouraging homeowners to keep bees in their backyards might mean more bees and possible problems for residents. [Glenn] Perry, [president of the Ojai Valley Bee Club] replied that actually a number of gardeners and farmers in Ojai, notably Steve Sprinkel of The Farmer and The Cook, had noticed that the bees in the area were in decline.

“I see a decrease in the number of bees around here that’s a little shocking in just the five years I’ve been here,” Perry said. “We’re not talking about an increase, but we are talking about making sure they don’t decline further.”

Councilman Randy Haney wondered if homeowners wishing to keep bees who live near schools could inform administrators about any plans to add hives to their backyards. Perry said his group would be willing to consider the idea.

“Our proposal is intended to be as reasonable and as responsible as possible,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Weirick pointed out that the National Federation of Wildlife just released a plan to support bees, calling for a “Million Pollinator Gardens” by the end of this year. The organization pointed to a national study that found a 23 percent decline in bee populations between 2008 and 2013.

Took kind of a fun picture of Weirick after the meeting, which the paper charmed me by running:

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Wait — is that a Half Dome in your beard?

Happy Birthday John Muir!

JohnMuirbyJeremyCollins

 

 

 

Taken wholesale for Jer Collins, a fascinating artist and adventurer, highly recommended, for his care in drawing, and for his imagination. On Instagram. Affiliated with National Geographic.

 

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What I Wanted (was winter)

That’s my interpretation of the basic meaning in a poem from Tracy Herd via Poetry Daily:

What I Wanted


was such a plump, bountiful
landscape of snow, more
than I’d ever dared wish for.
That was back when we had
proper winters, long ago,
when lawns and driveways
vanished: there were
no boundaries. Fences, walls,
gardens and homes dropped off
the edge of the world.
There was a muffled
silence each night when
darkness married with snow
to wake me from dreams
that began and ended
with the snow. I was hidden
from view behind a tree
whose branches were
perilously bent and laden
with snow, watching
a dark figure disappear;
then I would slip out fearlessly,
sure-footed and fleet,
with my magnifying glass
and pocket torch to follow
the tracks that led off as far
as a child’s eye could see,
and then a little further.

Tracey Herd

Not in This World
Bloodaxe Books / Dufour Editions

Reached into the upper 80’s today in Southern California. Hotter tomorrow. We have not had a “proper winter” yet and it seems that spring is on the way out already here in early April.

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Blame the media: the national political sport

Sarah does it — blame the media — although her attacks have become so reflexive and removed from reality  that the insults have lost their sting, methinks:

Hey Gobsmacked Lamestream Media

Bernie does it:

And I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump, talking about Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, a party which with few exceptions, doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it, a party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity, a party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system, I think, to be honest with you — and I just don’t, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party.  It is a fringe party.  Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.

Barack does it:

A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone.  It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more.  The electorate would be better served if that happened.  It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.  (Applause.)  And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them.  I know that’s a shocking concept that politicians would do that.  But without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word.  When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism.

And the afore-unmentioned candidate unmentioned by the Prez, Trump of course, has turned blaming the media into a post-modern form of national bullying. The Donadld’s attacks have become extraordinarily personal and vicious, and the candidate for the most powerful position on earth leads a frightening virtual mob of supporters against members of the press, as shown in this Vocativ graphic.

Megyn Kelly’s crime? She was to be a question of The Donald and other GOP candidagtes in a debate. For doing her job his followers used these words in tweets and messages to her accounts, Fox News said:

megyn-kelly-slurs196088529

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly Hillary has not attacked the press, to my knowledge, perhaps because she’s more aware than male candidates of how unfair these attacks can be.

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Americans too smart to fall for Trump (right?)

From the great Self-Styled Siren, who I have not yet had the wisdom to quote previously in this blog’s twelve or so years, meaning that I have been greatly remiss. If you like movies, you should read the somewhat mysterious but all-knowing Siren, and maybe learn something, especially about thirties movies.

Anyhow!

Here’s a post from Self-Styled Siren, imported wholesale without shame, and credited fully from February 25, 2016.

Perhaps I should add that the Siren all but never writes about politics, giving this post of hers extra energy:

What I Think About When They Say Donald Trump Cannot Possibly Become President

… From The Past Is Myself, the memoir of an Englishwoman named Christabel Bielenberg. In the early 1930s she fell in love with a German law student named Peter Bielenberg, married him in 1934, and stayed with him in Germany throughout the war, even as he was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck for involvement in the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler.

The year is 1932, and Christabel is trying to understand German politics.

Hitler was himself was to speak to an open-air rally, and the venue was — not inappropriately as Peter did not fail to point out — Hagenbeck’s Zoo. A huge area had been cordoned off, and rows of burly Storm-troopers wedged the milling crows into orderly rectangles. Peter survived the community singing, the rolling of the drums, the National and the Party anthems, but his reaction to the usual reverberating start was unequivocal. My ears were hardly attuned to the Leader’s Austrian accent, before I found myself being marched out of the enclosure. Up against the giraffe house, well within earshot of and successfully silencing some Party stalwarts in brown pillbox hats who were rattling collection boxes under the noses of luckless late-comers, Peter delivered himself of one of his rare political pronouncements.
“You may think that Germans are political idiots, Chris,” he said very loudly and very firmly, “and you may be right, but of one thing I can assure you, they won’t be so stupid as to fall for that clown.”

(More about Christabel here.)

One of the commentators on her site adds a quote from comedian Gilbert Gottfried:
“Trump is just like Hitler — without the warmth.”

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A country Nirvana song via Sturgill Simpson

NPR and Rolling Stone today both note the arrival of new country star Sturgill Simpson’s version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” The second song on the epochal Nevermind album, universally agreed to be the band’s masterpiece, and as well Country Love’s fave song on the record, Sturgill completely upends it. Sez me.

The Nirvana version is as hard as rock can be; with massively crunchy guitars, Cobain at full yowl, and an abiding sense of discovery and self-loathing — or so it seemed to me. Of course I found out the song was an ode to a close friend of Cobain’s who loved to shoot guns but didn’t seem to understand what that could mean, which in retrospect makes the song darker than its prideful roar might indicate. Perhaps Cobain envied his oblivious friend.

To Sturgill, who was in middle school when the song came out, it sounded much different, as he discussed with Rolling Stone:

The Kentucky singer-songwriter penned every track on A Sailor’s Guide to Earth except one — a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” off Nevermind. The tortured Kurt Cobain, and that seminal 1991 grunge album in particular, were an inspiration to the junior-high Simpson.

“I remember in seventh or eighth grade when that album dropped, it was like a bomb went off in my bedroom. For me, that song has always summed up what it means to be a teenager, and I think it tells a young boy that he can be sensitive and compassionate — he doesn’t have to be tough or cold to be a man,” explains Simpson. “I wanted to make a very beautiful and pure homage to Kurt.”

I love what Simpson has done with this song, even though to me it’s as different as it can be. Adding “love” to the chorus changes everything. Or does it? Love the gentleness, the sorrow, the deep understanding.

Must confess I don’t get the video at all, but oh well — I rarely do understand music videos these days.

More Sturgill? Sure — how about a Tiny Desk Concert? Man can that guy pick a guitar. Jeez.

 

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Rockefeller charity calls Exxon “morally reprehensible,” disinvests

Today a fifty-year-old charity founded by the descendants of John Rockefeller, of Standard Oil wealth, disinvested their funds from Exxon Mobil and accused the company of misleading the public to enable the company to damage the climate. In a statement the Rockefeller Family Fund called the company morally reprehensible and said:

“Evidence appears to suggest that the company worked since the 1980s to confuse the public about climate change’s march, while simultaneously spending millions to fortify its own infrastructure against climate change’s destructive consequences and track new exploration opportunities as the Arctic’s ice receded,” the Rockefeller family wrote.

Where did they get this idea? From what was probably the best environmental story/expose published last year, in which Inside Climate News blew the lid off Exxon’s climate distortions and destruction, fact by fact, document by document, drawn from company files donated to a university, combed through by a team of students from Columbia University. Plus interviews statements pictures follow-ups and more. It’s greatness in journalism.

This has led to multiple investigations, as detailed in an RT story:

In November of 2015, the state of New York launched an investigation into whether the largest US gas and oil company had misled the public and investors about the risks of climate change. A similar inquiry has been opened in California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

 

Exxon: The Road Not Taken. Read it. Please.

But here’s the twist. Before turning on Exxon, the $130 million Rockefeller Family Fund turns out to have been a funder of Inside Climate News, and apparently assisted in the investigation!

Or so Exxon alleges:

“It’s not surprising that they’re divesting,” the company told CNBC. “The Rockefeller Family Fund provided financial support to InsideClimate News and Columbia University Journalism School which produced inaccurate and deliberately misleading stories about ExxonMobil’s history of climate research.”

!!!

Story there — somewhere.

exxon-to-start-15-billion-lng-project-18055_1

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When will we start to see ice sheet disintegration?

James Hansen has published hundreds of scientific papers in his long and distinguished career as “the father of climate change awareness,” as described in The Guardian. With a team he published another one this morning, but this one is different.

For one, although Hansen organized the effort, he is one of a team of 18 experts from around the world, signaling a global consensus around a central scientific idea.

For another, Hansen gave up his tenured post in a government-backed research post in order to lead the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to be able to stand outside the government critically.

The idea is that the little-controlled experiment that humanity is conducting on its home planet resembles a period of 120,000 years ago called the Eemian, which was much much warmer than it is today.

The Washington Post reported:

The research invokes collapsing ice sheets, violent megastorms and even the hurling of boulders by giant waves in its quest to suggest that even 2 degrees Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels would be far too much. Hansen has called it the most important work he has ever done.

The sweeping paper, 52 pages in length and with 19 authors, draws on evidence from ancient climate change or “paleo-climatology,” as well as climate experiments using computer models and some modern observations. Calling it a “paper” really isn’t quite right — it’s actually a synthesis of a wide range of old, and new, evidence.

“I think almost everybody who’s really familiar with both paleo and modern is now very concerned that we are approaching, if we have not passed, the points at which we have locked in really big changes for young people and future generations,” Hansen said in an interview.

As reporter Chris Mooney noted, to call the warning a “paper” is not quite right. It’s scientific, but it’s also an argument. Hansen argues as he has since at least 1988 in a famous warning delivered to Congress that our present almost uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases is “highly dangerous” to civilization as we know it.

Hansen and team write in an open source European journal called Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics:

If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable. We suggest that a strategic approach relying on adaptation to such consequences is unacceptable to most of humanity, so it is important to understand this threat as soon as possible.
In the words of the New York Times:
The paper by Dr. Hansen and 18 co-authors dwells on the last time the Earth warmed naturally, about 120,000 years ago, when the temperature reached a level estimated to have been only slightly higher than today. Much of the polar ice disintegrated then, and scientists have established that the sea level rose 20 to 30 feet.
Hansen and colleagues say the world was only about 1 degree Celsius warmer then than it is now. The paper has been controversial, because it was published before undergoing the traditional mostly secret peer review process, and because it posits a mechanism that could bring catastrophic warming in decades, not centuries, which has been the usual view, even among scientists most concerned about risks such as sea level rise.
But as Chris Mooney points out for Wa-Po, the mechanism of ice sheet melting and cold water pooling described by the team of the Eemian era looks quite a bit like what NOAA just found in recent datasets:.

Indeed, shortly before the new paper’s publication, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released new recent data on the globe’s temperature that certainly bears a resemblance to what Hansen is talking about. For not only was the globe at a record warmth overall over the last three months, but it also showed anomalous cool patches in regions that Hansen suspects are being caused by ice melt – below Greenland, and also off the tip of the Antarctic peninsula.

“My interpretation is that this is the beginning,” Hansen says of these cool patches in curious parts of the global ocean. “And it’s one or two decades sooner than in our model.”

Hansen has been sounding the alarm in public since l988 — but he’s been right more often than not. That’s the problem. What if the climate is changing much faster than our ability to bring down greenhouse gas emissions?

After all, it’s been 66,000,000 million years since the earth saw greenhouse gases released as rapidly as they are now — ten times faster than at any point in the planet’s history — according to the World Meteorological Organization.

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