"Washington is an island surrounded by reality," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, likes to say.
As our children head back to school and the fall harvest begins, the rivers coming into our reservoirs slow and they empty out. Unfortunately, this past winter and spring failed to bring us the amount of water we need, and the water supply situation for the Central Valley is shaping up to be a dire one. As a community, we face great uncertainty for next year.
While pretty much everybody agrees that the U.S. tax code is a mess, nobody does anything about it. Oh, politicians talk about doing something, but mainly what they do is make it worse.
If House Republicans had somehow erased chunks of the Affordable Care Act - the employer mandate, the ability to screen who gets subsidies and the annual cap on out-of-pocket costs for a year - the Democrats would have blasted those moves as unconscionable acts of sabotage. But the GOP didn't sneak in those changes. President Barack Obama did.
After delivering a number of "economic growth" speeches this summer, President Obama has failed to inspire any confidence, falling all the way back to square one in a recent Gallup poll. Actually, make that less than square one. Gallup reported that Obama's approval rating on the economy has sunk to 35 percent in August, from 42 percent in early June.
There are numerous issues that should be labeled a national epidemic, but few are as important as the ridiculous and onerous laws on the books on the federal and state level that have led to a massive incarceration problem in the United States.
It was big news Monday when Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association in San Francisco, "Certain low-level nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences."
"Sire, clear the square with gunfire or abdicate."
These days, almost every political conversation ends up with a little Hillary at the end.
The culture war has gone global.
Forbes Magazine is at it again. This time it lists Stockton on its "Dirtiest Cities in America" list. Not playing favorites, Fresno and Modesto are also included on the list.
Eric Holder, America's first African-American attorney general, and his boss, Barack Obama, the first black president, haven't been shy about pointing out racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Racial profiling? It's real, they say. State "stand your ground" laws? Obama says they don't work for minorities. Yet both have been conspicuously absent when it comes to redressing racial disparities in their own home turf, the federal government's ill-conceived war on drugs.
DEAR DIDI: I was stopped by a Lathrop police officer the other day and he proceeded to lecture me about having my dog in the back of the pickup truck. I tried to explain that I am a rancher and my dog loves being back there but he threatened to give me a ticket if I didn't listen to his lecture. My dog is my buddy and he goes everywhere with me. He would never jump out of the truck so what, exactly, is the big deal?
The Washington Post is a legend in the minds of the Washington elite, so its financial decline has caused quiet panic. As NPR media reporter David Folkenflik put it, "You think of stories like the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, these are all stories where The Washington Post led the nation's understanding, the world's understanding of some major issues."
"There have been times when they slip back into Cold War thinking," said President Obama in his tutorial with Jay Leno.
Welcome to Hollywood, where dreams become real - and where logic, reason and economics 101 become dreams.
Radical activists in the gay community have put pedal to the metal to force gay acceptance from Christians - making not only their position but also their tactics anti-Christian. They are deliberately targeting the Christian wedding industry - the cakemakers, the caterers, the quaint bed-and-breakfast owners, and the like. They are headhunting Christians who refuse their business on moral grounds by slapping them with lawsuits or "human rights" complaints.
While Hillary Clinton hates doing Sunday shows - as we remember from the weekend after Benghazi - she did allow her close friend Gov. Terry McAuliffe to appear on "Meet the Press" on April 19. Jaws dropped when NBC host Chuck Todd threw him a real Russert-like hardball, quoting from his 2007 memoir "What A Party!"
This tax season, America's billionaires are toasting you, the ordinary taxpayer.
San Francisco is foodie heaven. If you want to eat out, you will never lack for options. That's the plus side. On the downside, Ess Eff menus are getting so precious they take the fun out of eating.
The economy has been in a tepid, soft, slow recovery for the past five-and-a-half years. It's the weakest rebound in generations. The Commerce Department's revision of fourth-quarter GDP shows that nothing much has changed. Over the past year, real economic growth registered 2.4 percent, slightly higher than the recovery average. It ain't much.
The Republican rout in the Battle of Indianapolis provides us with a snapshot of the correlation of forces in the culture wars.
My friend Julia died as we knew she would. Cancer had ravaged her body for a decade. She no longer could breathe. She was at home, under hospice care, when she asked for a dose of morphine that she knew would kill her but also keep her final moments free of pain.
The assisted-suicide movement is the rare self-proclaimed civil rights movement that exists to cater to the wishes of affluent Americans. Last week, the California Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 128, a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the state. (Proponents don't like the word suicide, so they call the measure the "End of Life Option Act.") Supporters talk of their fear of medical personnel's prolonging their lives, of pain and lack of autonomy; opponents fear that the bill's passage would represent a callous act of cultural abandonment of the sick and disabled.
More than 30 years ago, conservatives managed to defeat the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which would have added "sex" to the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, by frightening women into believing that it would outlaw separate bathrooms for men and women. In the years since, the courts have effectively done what Congress couldn't, prohibiting discrimination in virtually every aspect of American life - except, of course, bathrooms, which never were really at issue.
Rand Paul's entry into the 2016 Republican presidential primary is good for the GOP. I won't proclaim that Paul, 52, has the gravitas or character to occupy the Oval Office - that remains to be seen - but I do believe that all the other Republican hopefuls should watch and learn from Kentucky's junior senator. His take on issues could make independents and Democrats take a second look at a party where they have not felt welcome.
Just last month, Apple chief executive Tim Cook made headlines when he wrote a piece in The Washington Post, panning Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act as "very dangerous." Apple, Cook wrote, does not believe in discrimination and strives to "do business in a way that is just and fair." This month, the San Francisco Chronicle's Wendy Lee reported, Apple fired some construction workers at Apple Campus 2 in January because they had been convicted of felonies or face felony charges. Just and fair? Hardly.
The debate about a "religious freedom" law being considered in Indiana has been making national news. The issue is whether the law would allow discrimination against gays. There has been a storm of protest both from inside and outside the state - with leading businesses threatening and threatened by a proposed boycott of the state; Silicon Valley, for the first time I can remember, taking effective political action; and Indiana legislators tripping over themselves to make sure everyone understands that the law is in no way intended to immunize or condone discrimination.
Imagine a government energy program that is such a disaster that the Environmental Working Group and the American Petroleum Institute both oppose it. The anti-poverty group ActionAid USA wants to get rid of it, as does the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wants to end it. So does Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. They're both sponsors of the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015.
Don't pick your nose (at least in public). The other day while I was walking down the street, I saw a guy doing just that. He had the index finger of his right hand up his right nostril, and he was really digging in like he was searching for gold. As I walked past, he turned to face the other way, even though I could still clearly see him as he proceeded to pop the treasure he had found right into his mouth. Super gross.