Paul Rodriguez wants water - and he's angry enough to get some
One wouldn't immediately associate comedian and actor Paul Rodriguez
with a serious issue such as water. But, as Mark Twain said: "Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over."
Rodriguez is so concerned about water that he helped create the California Latino Water Coalition
, led marches with several thousand people
in recent weeks, and spoke Saturday night to a convention of the conservative California Republican Assembly
in Bakersfield. I addressed the convention goers about my U.S. Senate run against Barbara Boxer
just before Rodriguez' turn at the podium.
What has Rodriguez' concerned to spark political action is the shutdown of water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These pumps move water from California's wet north to the agricultural Central Valley and urban Southern California. A judge's ruling switched the pumps off over a controversial U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that declared a fish, the delta smelt, threatened. No one really knows if turning the pumps off will help the fish, but most can agree that California's agricultural industry will take a big hit this year due to lack of water.
Rodriguez and his family own farmland in the Central Valley where, as the comedian said Saturday night, "We grow the sweetest oranges and sourest lemons." But now, because of a judge's ruling, the most fertile land on "this blue marble" will lie fallow. People will be out of work. Less food will be grown. And farmer and farm worker alike will be hurt.
Rodriguez had notes at the podium but didn't refer to them as he spoke for 40 minutes, presenting a potent alternating mix of passion, humor, and fact. He recalled using his talent to help many prominent Democrats raise money only to have every one of them turn him a deaf ear when he asked them for assistance over the water issue. "What are they afraid of," he asked, "fish can't vote."
He said many environmentalists are earnest people who are concerned that the delta smelt are "the canary in the coal mine" of the delta's environmental health. Rodriguez said he asked his uncle who mined coal in Chihuahua about canaries and coal mines. The uncle said, "Yes, we used canaries. When the canary dies, you run like hell out of the mine!" The canary dies and the coal miners live. In the case of the delta though, "The fish lives and the farmers die," Rodriguez observed.
Rodriguez is in the middle of a steep learning curve regarding the vast political power of the environmental lobby. Soon enough he'll discover their main motivation: control - the fatal conceit that all elitists feel towards the masses who, they think, need their intelligent direction and guidance.
The California Latino Water Coalition seeks to pressure lawmakers for more water as unemployment rates in some California rural communities have topped 40%. Easing the rules of the Endangered Species Act to allow more water to reach Central Valley farms is the lynchpin.
Rodriguez certainly stands out from the usual assortment of self-absorbed Hollywood glitterati. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force posted to chilly Iceland and chillier Duluth, Minnesota of all places, he remarked that he enjoyed it when the USO
came to call. So, it was only natural that he would return the favor, traveling to Iraq three times to entertain the troops.
Paul Rodriguez is one of America's top standup comedians. His ease in front of large crowds and his motivation to bring relief to the Central Valley's besieged farmers make him a formidable force. As he said recently before a rally in the Central Valley, "Right now, people need something to lift their spirits. It's good to see people laugh. Besides, Jay Leno did it for the auto workers, and I'm a lot funnier."