|A robber and his properly labeled bag of loot.|
National Guard Troops Patrol California City, Conduct New Jersey "Homeland Response Drill" (Zero Hedge link): Late last week, when we covered the various signs that "something big" may be coming, we discussed the one "exercise that people have really been buzzing about" - operation "Jade Helm", an “unconventional warfare exercise” during which the states Texas and Utah will be designated as hostile territory.
As previously profiled, "Jade Helm is a challenging eight-week joint military and Interagency (IA) Unconventional Warfare (UW) exercise conducted throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado,” according to an unclassified military document announcing the training drill, which runs from July 15 through September 15.
Multiple branches of the US military, including Green Berets, Navy Seals, and the 82nd Airborne Division, will participate in the 8-week long exercise, which may result in “increased aircraft in the area at night.”
Troops will be tasked with honing advanced skills in “large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities,” and will work alongside “civilians to gain their trust and an understanding of the issues.”
The exercise, in which some participants will be “wearing civilian clothes and driving civilian vehicles,” lists Texas and Utah as “hostile" territory.
(Mod: You do have to wonder what they're getting ready for, though the Texas thing is believable.)
Huge California Water Supplier Slashes Summer Deliveries (ABC News link): Cities and water districts serving 19 million people in Southern California face smaller water deliveries this summer under a plan approved by the region's water wholesaler in response to ongoing dry conditions.
The Metropolitan Water District, which sells imported water to more than two dozen local agencies, voted Tuesday to slash regional deliveries by 15 percent as California grapples with a fourth year of drought.
The cutbacks, which take effect in July, were expected to spur communities to step up their conservation efforts to avoid paying for high-priced water beyond the allotted amount.
The effect of the cuts would vary between local water districts depending on their supplies and how much water they have saved so far.
Metropolitan officials have said limiting water deliveries was necessary to stretch dwindling storage supplies as summer approaches and could help cities meet Gov. Jerry Brown's order to reduce urban water use by 25 percent compared with 2013 levels — a first in state history.
California is in the grips of a multiyear drought that has dried up wells and forced farmers to leave land idle. Earlier this month, state surveyors found the lowest snow level in the Sierra Nevada snowpack in more than a half century of record keeping.
(Mod: When do we get to the point where water is shut off completely for several hours a day? If you're looking to do this in the true Third World style you'll need to have times when there is no water to be pumped.)
Man Gets Prison Sentence For Collecting Rainwater On His Own Property (Washington Times link): His story quickly went viral after a rural Oregon man was slapped with fines for collecting rain water on his own property. But now, as of last Wednesday, Gary Harrington of Eagle Point, has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and more than $1,500 in fines, all because he had three reservoirs on his own property, that he used to collect and use rainwater.
Harrington says he plans to appeal the conviction in the Jackson County Circuit Court. That conviction revolved around nine misdemeanor charges that come from a 1925 law. That archaic ordinance bans what state water managers called “illegal reservoirs.”
“The government is bullying,” Harrington said in an CNS News, last Thursday.
“They’ve just gotten to be big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes them bigger bullies. So, we as Americans, we need to stand on our constitutional rights, on our rights as citizens and hang tough. This is a good country, we’ll prevail,” he added.
It all started back in 2002, when Harrington was attacked for having three “reservoirs” – ponds – on his large 170 acres of land.
But the state claims that collecting water requires a permit from the state. One of these “reservoirs” – ponds – had been on his land for 37 years. He applied for the permit, which he saw as ridiculous. But the state first approved him in 2003, then denied him – reversing the previous decision.
(Mod: You can only wonder what went into that decision. But here is a question. Has anyone ever attempted to drill their own water well in Sierra Madre?)
Drought-Stricken California’s Wealthy Pay Up to Keep Lawns Lush (Bloomberg.com link): Mandatory water rationing struck California’s celebrity-filled enclave of Montecito last year and, within weeks, residents created a market based on avoidance.
Gardens stayed lush and lawns verdant as citizens paid tanker trucks to deliver thousands of gallons to homes in the seaside suburb of Santa Barbara. They drilled in back yards, driving the county’s tally of new wells to a record. Some simply paid fines for exceeding allocations, padding the water district’s budget by more than $2 million.
“People feel strongly about their landscaping and want to keep their homes beautiful,” said Patrick Nesbitt, who drilled a well to hydrate parts of his 70-acre estate but let his polo field go dry. “Why should anybody object?”
As drought drags into a fourth year, Californians statewide will confront similar choices thanks to unprecedented consumption cuts mandated by Governor Jerry Brown. Rationing in the Montecito water district, where the typical house sells for more than $2 million and where Oprah Winfrey, Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. vice chairman Charlie Munger live, shows how the ability to stop one’s property from baking brown depends on a steady flow of green.
The state’s Water Resources Control Board last week outlined its plan for mandatory cuts, which range from 10 percent to 35 percent. Communities with above-average consumption, which are often wealthier, must conserve most.
(Mod: At last. A way to pay off the Sierra Madre Water Department's vast water bond debt.)
Pasadena cancels its Earth Day festival (San Gabriel Valley Tribune link): A yearly, city-sponsored Earth Day festival enjoyed by thousands for the past 12 years has been canceled because of a lack of leadership in the Department of Public Works, city officials and former participants said Friday.
Instead of the annual Pasadena Earth and Arts Festival at Memorial Park, the city will host a much smaller, scaled-down “Earth Day Celebration” workshop on Saturday at Villa-Parke Community Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. That event will teach people about “recycling, composting, container gardening” and other hands-on skills, but it is not the full-on festival held in years past.
Day One, a community organization that participated in the festival last year, said they learned from a third party the city did not have enough staff nor time to plan this year’s event.
“They couldn’t do it, even though they had set aside a budget for it,” said Vesley Reutimann, environmental prevention director for Day One, a nonprofit in the city working on youth empowerment, public health and environmental issues.
One reason for the cancellation mentioned by nonprofit groups is the firing of Public Works Director Siobhan Foster in January, the result of an alleged embezzlement of $6.4 million from the city’s fund generated by a surcharge on residents’ electricity bills. Assistant City Manager Julie Gutierrez became interim head of Public Works as well as the Finance Department.
(Mod: You'd think that a city with a nearly quarter of a billion dollar payroll would be able to find someone to run an Earth Day commemoration.)
Calpers raises pension contribution rates in California by 6 percent (Reuters link): The largest U.S. public pension fund announced on Tuesday that the state of California and its schools will increase their contributions to employee pension funds by 6 percent starting July 1.
The California Public Employees' Retirement System, or Calpers, said the increases were driven by payroll growth, salary increases and retirees living longer.
The state of California must increase its contribution by $487 million to $4.7 billion. Schools must increase their contributions by $111 million to $1.3 billion.
The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"As the fund matures, and the retired population grows, it's important that the rates reflect the changing demographics of our members," Richard Costigan, chair of the finance and administration committee, said in a statement.
The growing cost of public pensions is a key issue for state and local governments across the nation as guaranteed payments to retired employees have often forced cuts in spending on public services.
In California, where the city of San Bernardino is in municipal bankruptcy and the city of Stockton recently emerged from Chapter 9 protection, the issue of pension contributions has been particularly contentious. Both cities proposed to keep contributions to Calpers untouched while cutting debts to bondholders.
(Mod: So is it enjoy your services, or enjoy servicing government employee retirement fund debt?)
Cops: Robber Carried Bag With Dollar Sign (The Smoking Gun link): When David Eli Lingafelter was arrested Wednesday for the robbery of a Subway restaurant in Olympia, Washington, he was carrying a white canvas bag with a large, handwritten dollar sign on it, police report.
The bag--not unlike those seen in the hands of crooks in comics and cartoons--was tied to the front of Lingafelter’s pants when police nabbed the 20-year-old shortly after the sandwich shop heist.
Police allege that Lingafelter entered the Subway wearing a white hat and a red bandana over his face, adding that he “reached into his pocket as if he had a weapon.” After directing a female employee to open the cash register and place her hands on her head, Lingafelter swiped $100 and the worker’s cell phone.
While committing the robbery, Lingafelter warned the Subway employee not to “do anything funny,” police reported.
Lingafelter was later apprehended hiding behind a dumpster at a nearby shopping center. A police search of the suspect turned up a knife, $100 in cash, and a phone matching the description of the one stolen from the Subway worker.
Additionally, investigators noted, Lingafelter “also had a white canvas bag tied to the front of his pants that had a dollar sign printed on it.”
(Mod: I posted a picture of that guy at the top of today's post. Maybe he thought there was a rule somewhere that says you had to identify the loot you get through robbery by putting it into a white bag with a dollar sign on it? I'm not sure that $100 would make much of a dent in so large a money bag, though.)