Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Worst argument of the year

If you repeat it enough, maybe people will think it's true.

That must be the impetus behind columns like this, which continue to erroneously describe the story of drought in California as a matter of People vs. the Delta smelt.

But William Busse (and Fox News' Sean Hannity, whom I observed heading a misguided protest during his Thursday night broadcast while at the local In-Shape) continue to prepetuate the canard.

A brief corrective:

The smelt is a stand-in for the Delta as a whole. The Delta has been dammed, diverted, polluted and exported to the point it's no longer a stable ecosystem. The smelt — and the lawsuits and water pumping restrictions that surround it — is merely a legal placeholder for that crumbling ecosystem and the people who depend upon its health.

Just one of the many results of the overuse and abuse of the Delta — Delta salmon populations have crashed, contributing to a two-year idling of the commercial salmon fleet. (However, you won't see farmers who rely on subsidized Delta water say that this is a battle against farmers vs. fishers, because that simply doesn't have the impact of saying farmers vs. fish. Nor will you hear them concede that having water flow through the Delta to the ocean is useful, even though even fifth-grade ecology says so.)

The truth is, it's mostly those on the valley's West Side — the people whose existence would be impossible without the Delta-Mendota Canal and California Aqueduct — who are seriously being hurt by the pumping restrictions. The drought, though it is indeed causing fallow fields and failed orchards, is not being evenly felt by all farmers. In fact, for many farmers and crops, this is sizing up to be a record year.

Now, I think it would be great to have a very serious discussion about the impact of pumping restrictions on these farmers, the possible solutions and those ramifications.

But as long as the "Fish are more important than people" big lie is peddled by the likes of Hannity and Busse, it's a futile exercise.

UPDATE: Mike Fitzgerald, The Record's worthy columnist, also apparently saw the Hannity episode. He has this to say. If there's a more perfect description of the Fish vs. People insanity, I don't know where to find it.

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