The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

American support for legalizing marijuana reaches new highs — Har!

❝ A new Gallup poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of American adults now say that marijuana should be legal, the highest level of support in nearly a half-century of polling on the question…The Gallup poll tracks closely with numbers from the Pew Research Center released last week showing 57 percent support for legalization…

❝ …Support for legalization has soared in the past decade among nearly every demographic group. Close to 80 percent of 18-to-34 year olds now favor legal weed, up from 44 percent in 2003 and 2005. Gallup finds that Americans age 55 and older are now the only age group with less than majority support for legalization.

❝ Support for legalization has more than doubled among Republicans in the past decade, to 42 percent today. With 70 percent support, independents are the political group most likely to favor legalization, just edging out Democrats at 67 percent.

❝ This fall, five states will decide whether to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and DC in legalizing marijuana for personal use…The outcome of the November measures could have a transformative effect on the marijuana policy conversation going forward: “The percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5 percent to as much as 25 percent if all of these ballot measures pass.”

…The real prize for legalization proponents is California: “If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the ‘Golden State’ often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S.”

The latest polling out of California suggest that the legalization measure is leading by a two-to-one margin.

Who wants to be the last state to board the train to the 21st Century?

Here’s what a diligent, professional copper gets done “with a bit of free time”

Larry Don Patterson and William Lloyd Harbour

❝ An investigator “with a bit of free time” decided to send for testing DNA samples from a long-dormant cold case, which led authorities to arrest a pair of men linked to the 1973 shotgun slayings of two young girls, authorities said.

Police in Oklahoma and California arrested the two 65-year-old suspects Tuesday morning for the murders of Valerie Janice Lane, 12, and Doris Karen Derryberry, 13.

❝ The seventh grade classmates told their mothers they were going to a mall shopping near their homes about 40 miles north of Sacramento on Nov. 12, 1973. Witnesses saw them in their neighborhood that night, but neither girl returned home. Both suspects were living in Olivehurst at that time, investigators said.

Two boys were target shooting and found the girl’s bodies about 20 hours later, according to news accounts at the time. Investigators say the girls were driven to a wooded area and shot at close range.

Authorities then and now said a large-scale investigation was immediately launched and some 60 people interviewed over a three-year period before the case went cold for a lack of solid leads and was shelved in 1976.

❝ In March 2014, an investigator doing a routine look through cold cases decided to send semen samples found on Derryberry’s body and preserved for 43 years to the state Department of Justice forensics lab for analysis. Seven months later, state DOJ technicians reported that the DNA in the semen matched the genetic profiles of cousins Larry Don Patterson and William Lloyd Harbour, who each committed serious enough crimes since 1973 to have their DNA samples collected and placed in law enforcement computer systems.

“Over time, anyone that’s been assigned to our investigations unit for any length of time looks into some of the unsolved cases that we have,” Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor said. “And this was one in particular that one of our investigators had a bit of free time and really looked very closely at this case and identified that we should send some things off and see what it might yield for us.”

❝ Patterson was arrested Tuesday morning in Oklahoma. Harbour was arrested after a traffic stop two hours later near his home in Olivehurst, where the two victims also lived.

Both are now charged with murder. Overdue, for sure. But, the cases move towards completion because folks in the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department lived up to standards that should define all police departments. Coppers who really deserve medals.

California Governor signs historic legislation granting expanded overtime pay to farmworkers

Arturo Rodriguez, Anthony Rendon, Lorena GonzalezRich Pedroncelli/AP

❝ With little fanfare, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed historic legislation that would expand overtime pay for California farmworkers.

❝ Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzalez (D-San Diego), calls for a phase-in of new overtime rules over four years beginning in 2019.

It would lower the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. It also would phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time. The governor would be able to suspend any part of the process for a year depending on economic conditions.

❝ The decision followed intense showdowns on the floor of the state Assembly, where a similar proposal died in June a few votes short of the majority it needed to pass.

“We are letting the signature speak for itself,” said a spokesperson for Brown.

❝ The United Farm Workers of America, which sponsored the bill, says it addresses an injustice first inflicted on farmworkers nearly eight decades ago.

Overdue. Way overdue.

Tesla building massive electricity storage unit for Los Angeles substation

Click to enlarge

❝ Tesla has been chosen by the Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California to build an 80MWh battery plant that will be able to provide power to 2,500 homes for a full day. California Governor Jerry Brown indirectly initiated the action by mandating the California Public Utilities Commission to stabilize grid power following the gas leak at Aliso Canyon last October, when 100,000 tons of methane leaked into the atmosphere.

❝ Power storage is a fast-growing business, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. He says this market has a “super-exponential growth rate” that is “several times that of what the car business is per year.” Tesla did not reveal pricing and other details, but did say that the power storage facility would be ready by the end of the year.

The plan for storing power in batteries for peak time usage is actually years old, but has been accelerated since the Aliso Canyon incident, which forced more than 4,500 households to move into temporary quarters…

❝ Tesla and several of its competitors in the power storage industry will come together to create a system that will essentially “time shift” grid power from off-peak hours to peak hours, theoretically eliminating the need for conventional power stations to come online during high load times.

The base plan for the CPUC is to have 1,325 megawatts of power storage facilities by the year 2020. This will ideally be sufficient to power more than 41,000 homes for a day.

This is an example of how and why we’re changing the goal for solar electricity at our compound here in La Cieneguilla, New Mexico. Our confidence is way up about getting entirely off the grid. Not only are large economy-size grid backups like this becoming possible [and cheaper], firms like Tesla and their domestic and global competitors are doing the same for home-size solar panel systems.

California is about to institute a radical climate policy — will they succeed and lead?

❝ California has long prided itself on being a world leader on climate change — and with good reason…Within the United States, California is No. 1 in solar power and No. 3 in wind power. It boasts the third-lowest carbon dioxide emissions per capita behind New York and Vermont. Since 2000, the state has managed to shrink its overall carbon footprint slightly even as its population grew and economy boomed:

But now California is taking on a far, far more audacious task: trying to prove to the world that it’s possible — desirable, even — to pursue the really drastic emission cuts needed to stave off severe global warming.

❝ The state is already on track to nudge its greenhouse-gas emissions back down to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Then last week, after much fierce debate, the California Assembly and Senate passed a new bill, known as SB 32, that would go much further, mandating an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030…

The stakes are enormous: Policymakers everywhere will be watching to see if California can pull this off. Getting a 40 percent cut will require more than bucking up wind and solar and putting more electric cars on the road. It will mean reshaping virtually every facet of the state’s economy, from buildings to transportation to farming and beyond…

❝ So far, these programs have worked reasonably well. California is on pace to push its emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020 — and the economy has thrived…

Anyone can put lofty climate goals on paper. The real question is whether California can undertake the specific actions needed to actually cut emissions.

California is essentially offering itself as a guinea pig in the world’s most important policy experiment. Everyone else will be watching and learning from the state’s successes and failures — whether it can develop the needed clean tech, whether it can spur innovation, whether it can control costs and navigate political opposition, whether it can rejigger the grid to accommodate enormous quantities of renewable power. No pressure!

Watch this space.

California got enough signatures to allow referendum on legalization of marijuana

Californians are set to decide whether to make recreational marijuana use legal, as other Western states have done, after the California Secretary of State’s office said on Tuesday the issue could be put to voters in the November ballot.

The proposed so-called “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” which is supported by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom among others, would allow people aged 21 and older to possess as much as an ounce of marijuana for private recreational use and permit personal cultivation of as many as six marijuana plants…

The measure would also establish a system to license, regulate and tax sales of marijuana, while allowing city governments to exercise local control over or disallow commercial distribution within their borders…

Opinion polls show attitudes have shifted more in favor of liberalized marijuana laws since California voters defeated a recreational cannabis initiative in 2010.

California led the way in legalizing marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, with 22 other states and the District of Columbia following suit, although cannabis remains classified as an illegal narcotic under U.S. law.

Voters in four states – Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska – plus the District of Columbia, have gone a step further since 2012 in permitting recreational use for adults. Voters in several more states will consider similar legislation in November as well.

We’ll have to see if the range of stodgy to backwards politicians here in New Mexico will allow such an opportunity. There are few places where hypocrisy so thoroughly rules a question like smoking or otherwise consuming weed. I’ve witnessed coppers chasing a suspect where neither vehicle was going faster than 25 mph! 🙂

California weed smells more like real business every day

After decades of thriving in legally hazy backyards and basements, California’s most notorious crop, marijuana, is emerging from the underground into a decidedly capitalist era.

Under a new state law, marijuana businesses will be allowed to turn a profit — which has been forbidden since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis — and limits on the number of plants farmers can grow will be eliminated.

The opening of the marijuana industry here to corporate dollars has caused a mad scramble, with out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers and financially struggling municipalities all racing to grab a piece of what is effectively a new industry in California: legalized, large-scale marijuana farming.

And with voters widely expected to approve recreational marijuana use in November, California, already the world’s largest legal market for marijuana, gleams with the promise of profits far beyond what pot shops and growers have seen in Washington or Colorado, the first states to approve recreational use…

Twenty-three states allow some form of legal marijuana, and up to 20 will consider ballot measures this year to further ease restrictions.

California is now making the largest effort in the country’s history to pull marijuana out of the black market. Medical marijuana sales in California hit $2.7 billion last year, accounting for nearly half of all legal marijuana sales in the country…Approval of recreational marijuana use in November could double the market here by 2020, experts said.

Legalization brings jobs and tax revenue to a state. I’m not surprised when some states with an old dope-smoking culture still drag their feet. Face it. Even stoner politicians from either of the two old parties are chickenhearted when it comes to challenging the folkways of church and 14th Century morality – no matter how out-of-date and useless.

But, as the wave of good sense sweeps across a nation sparked by a couple new generations of education and backbone – encouraged by a Great Recession the old politicians rolled over for – change has to come to social behavior whether Liberals approve or Conservatives whine.

RTFA for lots of detail. Some of it silly and irrelevant, of course.

New invasive tumbleweed species rapidly expanding range

Click for a bonus musical interlude

Lead author of the study, Shana Welles, brought this sample to her lab for study

Two invasive species of tumbleweed have hybridized to create a new species of tumbleweed that University of California, Riverside researchers found has dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

The UC Riverside researchers believe Salsola ryanii is likely to become an important invasive species that could spread beyond California to other states…

The new species of tumbleweed…was first documented by California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists in 2002. Surveying throughout California, those scientists found the species in two areas of the state’s Central Valley in 2002. It was also documented by a wider group of scientists in a third area of the Central Valley in 2009.

The UC Riverside researchers did their field work in 2012, collecting tumbleweed from 53 sites throughout California. They found the new species at 15 of those sites. They found it throughout the Central Valley, but also in coastal areas around San Francisco and as far south as the Ventura area.

The results strongly contradict predictions in earlier studies that Salsola ryanii would not likely become invasive…

The researchers believe the population expansion of the Salsola ryanii species is due to two reasons: dispersal of seeds from individual plants due in large part to the “tumbling” phenomenon and multiple independent hybridizations of the two original tumbleweed species…

You have to be especially careful if you try to take out a big specimen of tumbleweed, say, with your pickup truck on a country road. If you only injure it, you may be at risk of attack.