Water, water everywhere.

A couple of you mentioned the flooding here yesterday and the day before, brought on by the sort of torrential rains you don’t see every day. Several inches fell over the course of the day, and the freeways, which around here were built in that urban-canyon style, turned into rivers. It was truly remarkable — some had enough water pooled in underpasses to safely hold a diving competition.

We came through it bone-dry. Don’t know how. We just did.

So my head was thinking water when I heard this NPR story Tuesday morning. It touches on some geography most of us know, Arizona, which is having an unusually wet year, and where farmers are growing so much alfalfa they are, I shit you not, shipping it to China to feed cows in that country’s burgeoning dairy industry.

Not far away, California cooks like bacon in a skillet, but that can’t be shipped there, and Arizona farmers must use their entire allotment or risk losing it. It’s an insane situation, summed up by one dim-bulb farmer trying to argue it’s better to ship hay to China than fill Hollywood swimming pools so movie stars can sit around them and “drink hot toddies.” (Yep.)

Why is anyone growing alfalfa in goddamn Arizona? It makes less sense than a golf course.

Glennon says, exporting more and more alfalfa is unsustainable – a classic example of an economic dilemma known as the tragedy of the commons. Centuries ago, farmers in Europe grazed their cows on common ground. Each farmer acted rationally in their own self-interest, but together they depleted the common resource -grass. In this case, self-interest is a record high price for alfalfa. The common resource is water.

…Agriculture uses 80 percent of Colorado River water. Cities want more of it. But there’s no incentive for farmers to conserve water. Under the Byzantine law of the river, farmers like Dave Sharp don’t even have the option to use less water. If he doesn’t use his allotment, he loses it.

We in the wet regions of Michigan can make no sense of this. At all.

Back to the office tomorrow for a big staff meeting, so I’m going to bed early. Just a little bloggage:

You gotta love a woman willing to build in, and live in, a place like this.

The photos coming out of the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., are shocking. Why isn’t this a bigger story?

Happy hump day, all. However you spend it.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

44 responses to “Water, water everywhere.”

  1. Dexter said on August 13, 2014 at 3:37 am

    My great-uncle Morrie had a huge dairy farm outside of Coolidge, Arizona. In 1934 Dad went out there from Indiana to stay and milk cows. I suppose Morrie’s farmhands went through a lot of alfalfa hay bales . After a few months of teat-pulling (electric automatic milking machines weren’t used by Morrie even though milking machines were much used on most farms beginning around 1930 or so.) Dad developed what sounded like carpal tunnel and had to go back home to Indiana.

    A hot toddy sounds good…it’s breezy and 57 degrees right now, yes, in the middle part of the phantom hottest month.
    I think I have had two hot toddies in my entire life…once when I was very young and I suppose my parents wanted to knock me out, and one time I made one for myself to fight the flu…must have been 40 years ago. I don’t even keep booze around here for friends and I am still dry as The Sahara, and a cuppa old-fashioned cocoa made with that bitter powder, whole milk, and pure cane sugar is my ticket.

    For years I have enjoyed the Bogart estate’s Facebook page, with lots of Bogart photos and many current and past pics of Lauren Bacall. R.I.P. 89.

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  2. Alan Stamm said on August 13, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., and the daily protests it sparked are being covered prominently by all news networks and major papers. The Detroit News has 19 paragraphs today; the Freep has 17.

    It *is* a big story drawing national attention.

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  3. Alan Stamm said on August 13, 2014 at 7:22 am

    [Cont.] . . . And The New York Times has an eight-paragraph editorial in addition to staff coverage.

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  4. Wim said on August 13, 2014 at 7:33 am

    You’ve mentioned having been born in St. Louis,* but I wonder how much time you spent there. I was born there and lived there some years as a child and some time as a young adult, and I still have family there–my sister lives in Florissant, immediately north of Ferguson. In my youth, pretty much everyone referred to north St. Louis as ‘Niggertown,’ and while terms may have changed, attitudes really have not. Greater St. Louis remains a rigidly segregated society and Ferguson has had a white flight problem the last twenty or more years. It was majority white in the 2000 census, and now it is majority black, yet the political and economic power remains in white hands. The police are mostly white and see themselves cast in the role of a rear guard, a thin blue line between civilization and the thuggish horde. Racism magnifies fear, and fear leads to brutal overreactions like an unarmed teenager being shot in the back and militarized police pelting helpless protesters with rubber bullets and wooden pucks. The more the police brutalize the community, the more their fears of disorder and anarchy are realized and reinforced. Riot comes as a self-fulfilled prophecy.

    I think it is not more of a story simply because no one has yet succeeded in crafting an easy, lazy narrative to assign to it, one that allows our pundits to proclaim yet again that ours is a post-racial society, that our cops are all heroes, and that the victim was the villain. It is not more of a story because it is not comfortable. It is not more of a story because it comes dangerously close to eliciting sympathy for those oppressed.

    *In my experience, nearly everyone I’ve met who claims to be from St. Louis actually isn’t. They’re usually from someplace in West County.

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  5. Jeff Borden said on August 13, 2014 at 7:53 am

    The actions of the police in Ferguson remind me of an old T-shirt slogan, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” This incredible show of force. . .the paramilitary gear. . .the gas and the wooden bullets. It almost guarantees continuing trouble.

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  6. Alan Stamm said on August 13, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Good points, Wim.

    “There is no large city in America more burdened by racial tension and mutual suspicion than St. Louis. The racial and economic problems that have beset America’s cities are particularly intense in my hometown,” Landon Jones writes Tuesday in The Atlantic. “Then, and now, the root cause of the violence was segregation.”

    He’s a former managing editor of People and Money magazines. His essay is a pagetop feature: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/08/how-an-integrated-swimming-pool-incited-race-riots-in-st-louis/375943/

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  7. basset said on August 13, 2014 at 8:03 am

    I don’t understand that house at all, looks like a big concrete culvert to me. Forwarded it to some of our designers for their perspective, we’ll see if they can enlighten me.

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  8. alex said on August 13, 2014 at 8:05 am

    That concrete bunker in Birmingham isn’t half bad, although a whole lot more extreme than Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission, the William Winslow house, built in 1894 for the publisher of House Beautiful magazine. I’ve read in the past that Mr. Winslow was nearly run out of town by his neighbors because the house was so controversial (and I was hoping to find a corroborating source to link, but no luck this morning).

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  9. Deborah said on August 13, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I lived in St. Louis from 1980 until 2003 when we moved to Chicago. I lived in the city, in the central west end. I found St L to be incredibly segregated, the north was black, the south white. The central west end was kinda mixed. Racially, the city always seemed more like a city in the deep south.

    The link to the story about the stark modern house was interesting but I found it lacking photos, I really wanted to see pictures of the interiors. The writer described it as “post-modern” which I think was erroneous. Post-modernism was that short era in the eighties when architecture borrowed earlier forms and incorporated them into dreadful compositions, epitomized by Michael Graves in those Disney hotel monstrosities.

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  10. coozledad said on August 13, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Well, the Bush Administration militarized our police, and now they just gotta to use that stuff. There are hundreds of little Gazas just waiting to be razed across this country, and we’ve got the paramilitaries all dressed up and ready to go.

    The theory that you reduce crime by putting the worst of the criminal element in uniform will continue to result in these hideous displays until we start to recognize that insecure feral blowhard is not a skills set.

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  11. coozledad said on August 13, 2014 at 8:32 am

    If these same cops gunned down some open carry white trash, all the major networks would be screaming for those cops’ heads.

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  12. Jolene said on August 13, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Deborah, the second photo in the article re the house is, in fact, the beginning of a photo gallery showing the interior. Did you catch that? It’s easy to miss, as it has the same kind of button as the “enlarge” button on the first photo.

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  13. alex said on August 13, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Post-modernism was that short era in the eighties when architecture borrowed earlier forms and incorporated them into dreadful compositions, epitomized by Michael Graves in those Disney hotel monstrosities.

    That’s what I thought. I think, though, that it can be applied to the “contemporary” fad of tacking superficial ersatz Craftsman detail wrought in vinyl onto suburban tract houses.

    I see reporters (and Realtors) making glaring errors all the time when it comes to architecture, and I’m no expert, but I’d say that the bunker in Birmingham resembles what was known as International Style more than anything, no?

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  14. Deborah said on August 13, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Thanks Jolene, I was using my iPhone and the slide show didn’t show up at all. I’ve switched to my laptop.

    I don’t know if I’d call that International style, Alex, more like Lux Bunker (made up). Quite an eclectic mix of stuff, more like a museum than a home, but more power to her.

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  15. coozledad said on August 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Christ, Maureen Dowd is one no-writing bitch. If you haven’t shaken off alliteration by the time you’re in junior high school, you’ve self-selected for selling cars.

    As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly’s idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you’d have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.

    That she gets paid more than the features editor for a Womack paper is nothing short of criminal.


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  16. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Regarding St Louis –

    there is a (relatively) new race track (Gateway) just across the river (Collins, IL? AKA – “East St Louis”*) – and that place is the end of the world; has the ‘dystopian’ vibe going, big time.

    As you approach the track, you go through an area that has endless small houses, and you cross LOTS of railroad tracks.

    It was like a scene out of a Chevy Chase movie – we’d stop for a train, and then there would be a train behind us, too! And, many of the houses had those lit signs on trailers in their front yards, with plastic letters arranged to spell out messages like “TOTAL NUDITY” and/or “OPEN 24 HOURS”….and there would be little kids outside playing, and mostly all the folks I saw were white.

    By way of saying, that place needed some serious zoning laws!

    *I recall reading that, indeed, a major problem is all the small jurisdictions thereabouts, wherein you drive a mile or two in any direction, and all the rules/ordinances (if any) are different – or non-existent. This is one reason that Rand Paul-style ‘libertarianism’ has no charms for me

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  17. Jeff Borden said on August 13, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Cooz, I don’t know if it means the end of her op-ed pieces –please, god, do something nice for me and make it go away– but she is going to be a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine.

    The Times is important to me and I pay dearly for daily home delivery, but lord, the columnists are just almost universally horrible. I enjoy the musings of Gail Collins, who is funnier on her worst day than Dowd on her best, and am a fan of Paul Krugman, who seems correct far more often than he’s wrong. But Dowd, Douthat, Brooks, Friedman, Kristof? Please. Here is the most powerful newspaper in the country, a publication that sets the agenda for many news organizations, and this is the best they can offer up? Every Sunday, I shed a tear for the missing Frank Rich, who decamped for New York magazine. He was simply the best.

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  18. Deborah said on August 13, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Brian, East St. Louis is the decimated place across the river from the arch. I think you’re referring to Sauget, IL, not Collinsville either.

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  19. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Deborah – upon further reflection, the hotel we stayed in was on a big hill-side, and this is where Collinsville comes into the story

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  20. Sue said on August 13, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I’m still afraid everyone’s coming after *my* Great Lakes water, and they’re going to get it in spite of international protections. Because corporations are people and politicians are owned, and water is becoming both oil and gold more quickly than I anticipated.
    Last winter people in WI were paying spiked prices for propane when a shortage developed. Absolutely nothing to do with the 20% exportation rate for US propane, the reason is some pipeline broke and also they had to use a lot to dry wet corn, or something.

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  21. Sue said on August 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I’ve been seeing the Ferguson story everywhere, but that’s because I read liberal leftist propaganda. Like, you know, Deadspin.
    Also, I thought this response to the automatic ‘the victim is a thug’ narrative was excellent:

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  22. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Sue – excellent link, indeed

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  23. Sherri said on August 13, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Deadspin does have a very good story today on the shooting: http://deadspin.com/america-is-not-for-black-people-1620169913

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  24. beb said on August 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Was that a diving competition under the freeways or the State Police looking for bodies in cars trapped under water? According the the newspaper, metro Airport record 4.57 inches of rain the second highest since records have been kept. People who were out on the roads when the rains came tell horrific stories of trying to get home. And they were the lucky ones who made it. We had a berm collapse on one of the freeways, some of the problems is attributed to scrappers telling the pipes from the pump houses. And ever two days after there are still freeway closures because they haven’t been pumped out as yet.

    Meanwhile Both Arizona and California grow a lot of alfalfa much of which is exported overseas. At some point someone is going to have to point out there there isn’t enough water for agriculture and civilization there. Either we deport people back to where they came — the midwest, or we will have to tell farmers that there’s no farming in stinky deserts. I see massive desalinization works before either of those happen.

    Like Sue, I knew of Fergeson because I read lefty blogs. It probably will never get major media coverage because the police have so obviously over-acted here, killed an innocent man, and are hunkering down to protect the killer. Everything that has happened to our country since 9-11 proves that Bin Laden has won. We are being destroyed by our own fears.

    I object to Landon Jones’ contention that no city is more troubled by racism and suspicion than St. Louis. I think Detroit still holds that (dis)honor.

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  25. coozledad said on August 13, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    We helped beat this fake Democrat stalking horse (funded through the state Republican party) in the May primaries. If he had been black, this is the photo they would have used in the newspapers.

    As it was, the only people who picked this up were the local liberal blogs. If they hadn’t, he would have won.

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  26. Bob (not Greene) said on August 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Alex, by the way the William Winslow House is for sale — and the price has been reduced!


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  27. Bob (not Greene) said on August 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Oh, well, I guess you knew that. Didn’t click the link. Sorry.

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  28. Charlotte said on August 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I knew I’d become a westerner when I asked my aunt what her water rights were on our farm south of DeKalb. She looked at me like I was nuts. “Um? The creek runs through the pasture?” Western Water rights are incredibly complicated and are bought and sold along with property, or can be split off and sold separately –the late Mark Reisner’s Cadillac Desert is quite good, as is Charles Wilkinson’s Crossing the Next Meridian. Wilkinson teaches at UC Boulder — water rights and native American studies. Deborah — you’re in Santa Fe — what’s the ancient water system down there called? John Nichols wrote about it in the New Mexico Trilogy?

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  29. LAMary said on August 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm


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  30. MarkH said on August 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    “It probably will never get major media coverage”?

    Are you kidding? By what calculation? Alan Stamm is correct. You can’t open a paper, online or traditional, or turn on the tube, without knowing what’s going on. And not just from “liberal leftist propaganda”. The coverage and analysis may not suit everyone’s political sentiments, but it’s there. Plenty of evidence that it’s news by anyone’s judgment.

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  31. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Charlotte – don’t forget mineral rights! (oil)

    That’s a biggie – including when a neighbor has drilling going on and you don’t. (They might drill on an angle, y’know)

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  32. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Cooz – that guy is young and stupid enough to say what lots of folks already think.

    I heard Uncle Rush attacking President Obama for sending 130 advisors into Iraq – “See!! See!!” – etc, as if this retroactively justifies everything Cheney & Co ever did.

    Invincible Ignorance + Jumbo Big Lies = the Republican Party’s Guiding Light – 2014

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  33. Dexter said on August 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    NBC Nightly’s first segment was detailing the Ferguson story…the last few “top of the hour” radio news breaks have been leading with Ferguson…even the old racist curmudgeon Frank Beckmann (760 WJR-AM Detroit was all about Ferguson much of today’s show.

    As Tom Waits sang years ago…”when you’re east of East St.Louis…”

    Wim said on August 13, 2014 at 7:33 am…thread winner….

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  34. Sherri said on August 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I’ve started listening to the Backstory podcast, which takes stories in the news and explores their roots in American history. They did a recent episode on water rights that talked about the differences in water rights in the eastern US and the western US, and also about acequias.

    The GIF in this article about the California drought is pretty amazing: http://io9.com/just-how-bad-is-californias-drought-heres-a-scary-10-1618712607

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  35. Sue said on August 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    MarkH, the ‘liberal leftist propaganda’ site I used as an example is a sports site. Go reread my comment. Think you read me wrong there, pal.

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  36. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    And, further to the point, I see no reason at all why this member of the police force gets to be anonymous.

    The shooting should be publically reviewed, and then the officer is either good to go, or else turned over to the prosecutor.

    That whatever is being done, is being done secretly and behind the curtain helps nothing at all, least of all the credibility of their police department

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  37. coozledad said on August 13, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Good stuff:

    The Gawker commentariat is nauseating, as usual. If they represent a cross section of this country, then it should be sacked and its earth salted.

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  38. brian stouder said on August 13, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Here’s a pallet cleanser – which has me all Pharrell Williamsy (Oh I’m Happy!)


    Doris Kearns Goodwin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Garrison Keillor…all for free! (well, “free” if you don’t count the exorbitant tuition we’re paying for Grant to IPFW…but still!)

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  39. MarkH said on August 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Sue – checked out Deadspin further, and I did not misread you there, pal. I saw your tongue in your cheek with the ‘propaganda’ line. Let’s just say it’s significantly sports oriented and enjoyable as well. But, as a Gawker-owned site (no?), much of what’s there supports what you said. Thanks for pointing me in that direction. Worth anyone’s time.

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  40. ROGirl said on August 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I drove home in the deluge on Monday. The amount of rain that fell was staggering, it didn’t let up for hours. My house made it without any flooding or power outages, but I saw a lot of houses in the area with many plastic bags on the lawn, rolls of water-logged carpeting and ruined furniture. Like nothing I have ever seen around here.

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  41. Suzanne said on August 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Well, that concrete house would be easy to clean since it is so minimalist. Not much to dust around, although that Calder piece might be tough. I know mine is hard to clean! (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

    Anyone want to give me a few million? That Wright house is stunning. I’d live there in a heartbeat.

    I’m sad there are so few Omnibus Lectures now, but what a lineup for Fort Wayne! I hope to see all of them.

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  42. LAMary said on August 13, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    If anyone is looking for a growing industry, I suggest the fake pee business. I’ve just rescinded a job offer for the fourth time in two weeks because someone used fake pee in the drug test.

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  43. LAMary said on August 13, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Here’s a booming business:


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  44. Deborah said on August 13, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Yes acequias are all around Abiquiu. They’re really cool to watch in operation. They have to be cleaned out periodically and it’s a huge community event. John Nichols is a local Taos guy, see him a lot.

    Little Bird and I are working on 2 major gardening projects, very labor intensive but also very satisfying. We’re driving to Abiquiu tomorrow with Little Bird’s friend. We hooked her up with a friend out there who needs someone to exercise a horse. Little Bird’s friend has been riding since she was 5 years old and is super excited to get this opportunity with our neighbor out there. These neighbors are serious horse people.

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