Administrator's blog

Development in stupid places

Submitted: Feb 02, 2006

Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The sensationalism over the death of Mr. Gomez is remarkably misguided. The accident in question or one of its kind, was predicted as a safety hazard in the development and review of the Environmental Impact Report for the University of California Merced, and has been reiterated ad nauseum in the county’s University Community Plan Environmental Impact Report as well as in public comments on the Yosemite Lake Estates project, and Vista Del Lago. This situation is one of the more obvious dangers in approving uncoordinated approval of multiple sources of traffic impacts on the same rural roads.

Who keeps on approving these clearly identified safety hazards? The County Supervisors! Who is ultimately responsible for putting lighting along those rural roads that must bear the burden of handling this traffic? The County Board of Supervisors!

The Merced County Association of Governments is channeling all available state and federal transportation funding into bypass roadways from the Mission Ave Hwy 99 exchange to the Atwater-Merced Parkway. That plan will eventually get people from out of town to and from the UC faster and safer, but will do nothing for safety on surface roads such as the one on which Mr. Gomez was struck.

No one is naïve enough to believe the every person moving into the residential real estate springing up around UC wont be using the surface roads as well as the bypasses, so where are the road safety improvements going to come from and who’s responsibility is it to upgrade the existing roads to make pedestrian traffic safe in the area now? No one seems to have any idea! Is the liability simply going to fall to the citizens of Merced County? Especially those intrepid pedestrians who take their lives in their hands by walking home drunk instead of driving!

How soon will a UC student be killed on a bicycle trying to cross Yosemite Avenue and Lake Road in the fog? Who will be liable in that event? Just another unavoidable Act of God? I think it unlikely that the Merced County Board of Supervisors would acknowledge their culpability in such a situation, nor would the Merced City Council. Possibly the UC Regents would step up to the plate, but I won’t hold my breath?

Your own editorial today on the Assembly’s vote regarding residential development in floodplains in the central valley had a pertinent gem of truth within, which I would like to reiterate loosely: All elected leaders, including the governor, should know that state taxpayers face massive liabilities when locals approve development in stupid places.

It is not too late to pull the plug on the whole UC Merced real estate debacle, and wouldn’t that have a remarkable effect on Merced County’s supply of affordable housing all of a sudden?

Lynne Ackerman- Catheys Valley (209) 966-8104

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Planada needs an EIR

Submitted: Feb 02, 2006

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water (POW)
(209) 523-1391, ph. & fax
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350

Bryant Owens – Planada Association and
Planada Community Development Corporation
2683 South Plainsburg Road
Merced CA 95340-9550
(209) 769-0832
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Robert Lewis
Director of Planning and Economic Development
Merced County
2222 M Street
Merced CA 95340
(209) 385-7654
via Fax (209) 726-1710

Thomas R. Pinkos, Executive Officer
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board
11020 Sun Center Drive. #200
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
via fax 1-888-454-5310;

Tam M. Doduc, Chairman
State Water Resources Control Board
1001 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
P.O. Box 100
Sacramento, CA 95812
(916) 341-5250
fax (916) 341-5252

RE: Planada Community Services District proposal to drill test wells in association with an expanded WWTF- CEQA requirements

It is our understanding that Merced County Planning is the land use authority with regard to environmental review of ‘projects’ in the unincorporated sections of Merced County. Planada falls within that category. So does the proposed expansion of the Planada SUDP north of Hwy 140 and east of North Plainsburg Rd.

We feel that a number of individual projects (including relocation of migrant housing near Planada, the proposed expansion of the WWTF, the Compliance Project mandated by RWQCB, expansion of the Planada community SUDP and a proposed Merced County General Plan Update) which should be under the aegis of a single environmental review, are being addressed in a piecemeal and uncoordinated fashion with regard to larger overall needs of this unincorporated predominantly farmworker village.

We therefore request your assistance in determining precisely who has the statutory responsibility for identifying, evaluating and mitigating the potentially significant cumulative environmental effects represented by these various individually identified components of what is clearly a larger picture.

While we clearly understand the need for Planada Community Services District to comply with the regional water board’s cease and desist order for past discharge violations, we are unclear as to what nexus of authority gives the Planada CSD latitude to propose an expansion doubling the capacity of the current WWTF in combination with a land use change to handle effluent discharge without triggering significant and coordinated environmental review by the local land use authority, the county of Merced.

In the county’s presentation of the proposed SUDP expansion referenced above, at the Planada Town Hall Meeting Thursday Jan 26th, 2006 the ‘SUDP expansion project’ was correlated with and described in terms of the number of new homes the expanded WWTF would be able to serve. This may have represented convenient numbers for audience members to recall, however it does not take into account the needs of any potential new commerce or industry, which would seem to be a necessary component of what Supervisor Pedrozo described as the need for ‘smarter growth’ in Planada.

We don’t believe this was an unintentional oversight in Thursday night’s presentation, insofar as residential development pressure seems to be the sole driving force behind this expanded SUDP proposal, and given the glaring lack of any proposed new business or industry in the vicinity over the last 3 years.

County Planning Department’s collaboration with this effort to expand the SUDP, against the wishes of the community and in spite of the ongoing litigation over the previous Community Specific Plan Update, challenged in Merced Superior Court Jan 2004 and currently before the 5th Appellate Court in Fresno is particularly puzzling when this proposal is viewed in light of the current jobs/housing imbalance that already exists in Planada.

Business Housing and Transportation subsidiary organizations are all mandated to incorporate environmental justice sensitive evaluation into approval of the various policies and programs they oversee and enforce.

Planada is predominantly inhabited by a clearly identifiable target population, yet the policies of the State Water Resources Control Board to assist this target population seem to be being hijacked for the direct benefit of speculative residential developers with designs on the community; with the willing assistance of sympathetic county administrators and local elected officials.

We would like some clarification and demonstration as to how the proposed funding stream ($2million grant from SWRCB) for the Planada CSD WWTF expansion will not in fact cause financial detriment to the target population currently living in Planada. This grant is by no means sufficient to fully fund the proposed expansion, by at least several million dollars. The current community can ill afford to service additional tax burden to make up the difference.

This SUDP expansion ‘project’ was reportedly connected to a proposed Merced County General Plan update, which would, according to the county representative, necessarily supercede the various components of the 2003 Planada Community Plan Update, in which Planada’s sewer and water needs were inadequately studied/estimated, and remain points of contention in the ongoing litigation.

Planada CSD was faced with a mandate to cease sewage effluent discharge into Miles Creek, and was given time to achieve a compliance project to bring the needs of the current community into compliance with the regional and state water boards’ discharge requirements.

An increase in the SUDP of this magnitude was not envisioned as part of the mandated compliance project for the WWTF and cannot be environmentally justified in light of the Community Service District’s decision to forego tertiary treatment, to remain with secondary treatment and to change to a land based discharge process.

In fact the funding source for a majority of the mandated compliance project is being pursued through a program funded through the State Water Resources Board chiefly because Planada qualified as a ‘small community with financial hardship’.

The decision, to switch to land based dispersal of effluent and disking of dried biosolids into the soil around Planada, was reached in order to avoid continued pollution of waters that are tributary to the San Joaquin River, which describes Miles Creek, and can only have been reached based on balancing the environmental impacts of allowing Planada to continue to discharge with a more costly tertiary treatment of Planada’s current .5 mgd average effluent load, against the relative environmental impacts of land based dispersal of that same amount of effluent (But certainly not more!) at the current level of treatment.

The county must not be allowed to avoid timely CEQA consideration of the potential significant effects of a WWTF expansion in anticipation of further development by hiding within the mantle of the RWQCB’s mandate to the Planada CDS to cease and desist pollutant discharges.

The State and Regional Water Board were clearly not intent on encouraging what will be essentially another 4000 homes connected to an elaborate leach field on what was once productive agricultural land and which will no longer be capable of growing food for human consumption.

The environmental review under CEQA of the significant effects of this decision to expand the WWTF is clearly the responsibility of the Planning Department of Merced County. The mandate to abate identified discharge violations may trump the county’s responsibility for environmental review of the abatement activities, as an emergency situation exists; that is not in question. The pollution that has occurred must stop.

However, the decision to expand the capacity of the WWTF is a project completely separable from the Regional Water Board’s sanction against the Planada Community Services District, and we maintain that it is the Merced County Planning Department’s ultimate responsibility to identify and evaluate potential significant impacts of the LARGER ‘project’, and to do so at the earliest point in the process in order to ensure that decisions are made based on the best and most thorough information available.

We request that you help us identify which authority has jurisdiction, and require that you collaborate in identifying who exactly has the duty to the public to require an environmental impact report regarding the potential impacts of expanding the capacity of the Planada WWTF and that such agency be directed to comply with the requirement of CEQA regarding the environmental impact report that must be prepared before any other irreversible commitment of the Planada Community’s assets are ‘permitted’ by the County, or allowed to proceed beyond completion of the mandatory aspects of the compliance project.

Drilling of test wells to monitor for potential groundwater contamination from the proposed land based dispersal of effluent creates potential hazards in and of themselves, and threaten direct ground water contamination for a significant number of residents in the areas surrounding the Thiaroff property adjacent to the current Planada WWTF where these test wells are proposed. These affected citizens as well as the public in general, are entitled to the protections of the CEQA insofar as a portion of this ‘project’ is elective and not mandatory.

The CEQA requirement for review at the earliest point in the process must not be circumvented simply because it suits the interests of residential developers who have expressed interest in building homes in the area. In fact it is that very interest that requires the early review of these potential environmental impacts.

At the very least we request that the appropriate permits for drilling wells in unincorporated areas of Merced County be made requisite to the Planada Community Services District Plans, and that copies of those permits be made available for inspection by the public when they are completed and approved, and then incorporated into the administrative record of this ‘project’ when such is officially identified and recorded with the State Clearinghouse of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

Thank you for your timely consideration of these concerns and we look forward to your written response.


Lydia M. Miller

Steve Burke

Bryant Owens

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Deep-injection loopholes for Big Cheese?

Submitted: Feb 01, 2006

We had some problems with this letter from Hilmar Cheese CEO, John Jeter, printed in the
Modesto Bee, Jan. 29, 2006, Salty waste water a tricky dilemma...John Jeter, chief executive
officer of Hilmar Cheese Co.

First, the fundamental dilemma the plant finds itself in is not mentioned: it is the "largest
cheese plant in the world." The assumption that largest is best is never challenged, yet
obviously, it is the amount of the waste it generates that causes the dilemma.

Secondly, we find Jeter representing the conclusions of a federal Environmental Protection
Agency study on 500 "Class I wells in 14 states." The 1996 EPA study we found on the Internet
by that title did not support the conclusion Jeter reached and included information that
aquifer studies had been done in the Southeast, Texas and Kansas, but not in California. It
does not appear that "underground injection of brines" is old news to California, just
because hundreds of deep injection wells exist already in other parts of the nation. There
are a number of lawsuits mentioned on the Internet, available to all in a 30-second study, in
Florida, Texas and Michigan, that challenge Jeter's claims the wells don't leak and don't

A foreign suit against deep injection wells that jumped out at us was in Siberia, against the
deep injection of nuclear wastes.

Reading the 1996 EPA study, we learned that "leadership" in this technology has been provided
by US chemical companies. It made us wonder how much cummulative contamination of deep
aquifers in the US has already taken place.

Third, without adequate studies of the underground aquifers in Merced County, we wonder how
any valid tests can be made of the effects of the proposed well on the aquifer. It is in the
nature of this technology, apparently, that the damage is only noticed years after deep
injection begins.

Last, we challenge Jeter's conclusions. Hilmar's salt management problem is the problem of
the producer of the salt. It becomes the public's problem when it pollutes. The public's
problem is to protect itself from Hilmar's salt. The public's solution is government
regulation. It is fair, I think to say, that Hilmar Cheese became the largest cheese factory
in the world in part as the result of the regional water quality board for years "relaxing"
its pollution regulation of Hilmar. After Hilmar had become the largest cheese factory in the
world, the press (Sacramento Bee) exposed the pattern of corruption of the water board. The
board responded by getting tough on Hilmar, after which about half its members resigned or

Hilmar successfully used the "black box" strategy to avoid regulation by the state. This
strategy works on the principle that "new technology" will always solve pollution problems.
Therefore, while the company is investing in new technologies -- whether they work or not --
the company keeps growing and the regulator "cooperates" with the company in experiments with
environmental pollution. The public is asked to accept the damage in the cause of the
progress of technology. Meanwhile, whether the technology works or not, everybody gets paid
and the environment gets more polluted and the regulating agency can justify its relaxation
on the basis of "black-box development."

The figure of $15 million is constantly repeated in connection with Hilmar's investment in a
black box that failed to remove salt from its wastewater as the company kept growing. We'll
just take a wild guess they invested much less in state and federal legislators and got a lot
bigger bang for the buck. For example, how much Hilmar political largesse flows into the third floor of the Merced County Administrative Building? At one end of the hall are the pockets and offices of of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced; at the other end are those local land-use decision-makers, the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

As for the principle of "cooperation" the Hilmar infomercial calls for, it looks suspiciously
like the corporation is asking the public to uncritically accept yet another backroom deal
between this polluter and another regulator for the purpose of the corporation's profits and
so, presumably, it won't have to move to Dalhart TX, where, according to corporate
propaganda, the public would be more "cooperative" in allowing its environment to be

Corporations like Hilmar, politically connected in powerfully lobbying industries, have been able to politically bargain to get regulators to "relax" regulations the government has placed on huge (polluting) corporations to defend the public against pollution. In this piece, which we suggest might have been written by a PR firm (the Dolphin Group, for example) rather than by Jeter himself, we have the regulated
corporation complaining against the state regulation and representing or misrepresenting
itself as spokesman for the federal regulator. In Hilmar's case, it has had the lobbying
power of the dairy industry (or some portion of it) behind it all the way.

However, as far as we know, Hilmar Cheese does not yet own even one department in the federal
EPA. At least theoretically, even in this administration, EPA is a public, not a private
agency, with its own spokespersons and officials, capable of expressing EPA policies without
the help of Hilmar's PR firm.

The public would like to know if the EPA now allows and encourages regulated corporations to
speak for it.

Jeter's concluding remark --"Hilmar Cheese Co. wants to be a part of the solution and protect
our land and water, and conserve energy resources for future generations" -- is just off the
wall in light of its record. As for conserving energy resources, is Jeter sending a message
to the Bush administration about the Enron trial? Or is Hilmar drilling for oil and gas?

However, a fundamental problem remains. No agency appears to have jurisdiction over either
the supply or quality of groundwater. The moment Hilmar's surface wastewater is injected
into wells, it appears to escape any government regulation beyond monitoring of the well
itself. Perhaps these wells should be called "deep-injection loopholes."

Bill Hatch

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Badlands energy policy

Submitted: Feb 01, 2006


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Petrodollar warfare

Submitted: Feb 01, 2006

Published on 3 Aug 2005 by Media Monitors Network. Archived on 9 Aug 2005.

Petrodollar Warfare: Dollars, Euros and the Upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse
by William Clark

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous...Having said that, all options are on the table.”
– President George W. Bush, February 2005

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade.

Similar to the Iraq war, military operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of ‘petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam’s long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting International terrorism than it has to do with gaining strategic control over Iraq’s hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market. Throughout 2004 information provided by former administration insiders revealed the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam Hussein.[1][2]

Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of global Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency (i.e. “petroeuro”).[3] However, subsequent geopolitical events have exposed neoconservative strategy as fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia evaluates this option with the European Union.

In 2003 the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the world’s governments – especially the E.U., Russia and China – were not amused – and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed inside a hostile Iraq. In 2002 I wrote an award-winning online essay that asserted Saddam Hussein sealed his fate when he announced in September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept dollars for oil being sold under the UN’s Oil-for-Food program, and decided to switch to the euro as Iraq’s oil export currency.[4]

Indeed, my original pre-war hypothesis was validated in a Financial Times article dated June 5, 2003, which confirmed Iraqi oil sales returning to the international markets were once again denominated in U.S. dollars – not euros.

The tender, for which bids are due by June 10, switches the transaction back to dollars -- the international currency of oil sales - despite the greenback's recent fall in value. Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq's oil be sold for euros, a political move, but one that improved Iraq's recent earnings thanks to the rise in the value of the euro against the dollar [5]

The Bush administration implemented this currency transition despite the adverse impact on profits from Iraqi’s export oil sales.[6] (In mid-2003 the euro was valued approx. 13% higher than the dollar, and thus significantly impacted the ability of future oil proceeds to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure). Not surprisingly, this detail has never been mentioned in the five U.S. major media conglomerates who control 90% of information flow in the U.S., but confirmation of this vital fact provides insight into one of the crucial – yet overlooked – rationales for 2003 the Iraq war.

Concerning Iran, recent articles have revealed active Pentagon planning for operations against its suspected nuclear facilities. While the publicly stated reasons for any such overt action will be premised as a consequence of Iran's nuclear ambitions, there are again unspoken macroeconomic drivers underlying the second stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran's upcoming oil bourse. (The word bourse refers to a stock exchange for securities trading, and is derived from the French stock exchange in Paris, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs.)

In essence, Iran is about to commit a far greater “offense” than Saddam Hussein's conversion to the euro for Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Beginning in March 2006, the Tehran government has plans to begin competing with New York's NYMEX and London's IPE with respect to international oil trades – using a euro-based international oil-trading mechanism.[7]

The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of U.S. global domination, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.

From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly – but actively – planning for a possible attack against Iran. In September 2004 Newsweek reported:

Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is “busier than ever,” an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries…’

…administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran – by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled "draft" or "working draft" to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration's abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime's promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there's no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level.[8]

Indeed, there are good reasons for U.S. military commanders to be ‘horrified’ at the prospects of attacking Iran. In the December 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows reported that numerous high-level war-gaming sessions had recently been completed by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has run war games at the National War College for the past two decades.[9] Col. Gardiner summarized the outcome of these war games with this statement, “After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.” Despite Col. Gardiner’s warnings, yet another story appeared in early 2005 that reiterated this administration’s intentions towards Iran. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s article in The New Yorker included interviews with various high-level U.S. intelligence sources. Hersh wrote:

In my interviews [with former high-level intelligence officials], I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’ the former [CIA] intelligence official told me. But the [Bush administration officials] say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned – not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there.[10]

The most recent, and by far the most troubling, was an article in The American Conservative by intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi. His article, “In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran,” suggested the resurrection of active U.S. military planning against Iran – but with the shocking disclosure that in the event of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office wants the Pentagon to be prepared to launch a potential tactical nuclear attack on Iran – even if the Iranian government was not involved with any such terrorist attack against the U.S.:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing – that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack – but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.[11]

Why would the Vice President instruct the U.S. military to prepare plans for what could likely be an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran? Setting aside the grave moral implications for a moment, it is remarkable to note that during the same week this “nuke Iran” article appeared, the Washington Post reported that the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Iran’s nuclear program revealed that, “Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years.”[12]

This article carefully noted this assessment was a “consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, [and in] contrast with forceful public statements by the White House.” The question remains, Why would the Vice President advocate a possible tactical nuclear attack against Iran in the event of another major terrorist attack against the U.S. – even if Tehran was innocent of involvement?

Perhaps one of the answers relates to the same obfuscated reasons why the U.S. launched an unprovoked invasion to topple the Iraq government – macroeconomics and the desperate desire to maintain U.S. economic supremacy. In essence, petrodollar hegemoy is eroding, which will ultimately force the U.S. to significantly change its current tax, debt, trade, and energy policies, all of which are severely unbalanced. World oil production is reportedly “flat out,” and yet the neoconservatives are apparently willing to undertake huge strategic and tactical risks in the Persian Gulf. Why? Quite simply – their stated goal is U.S. global domination – at any cost.

To date, one of the more difficult technical obstacles concerning a euro-based oil transaction trading system is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil ‘marker’ as it is referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are U.S. dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. However, since the summer of 2003 Iran has required payments in the euro currency for its European and Asian/ACU exports – although the oil pricing of these trades was still denominated in the dollar.[13]

Therefore a potentially significant news story was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran’s intentions to create of an Iranian oil bourse. This announcement portended competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). [Both the IPE and NYMEX are owned by a U.S. consortium, and operated by an Atlanta-based corporation, IntercontinentalExchange, Inc.]

The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian bourse are noteworthy. Considering that in mid-2003 Iran switched its oil payments from E.U. and ACU customers to the euro, and thus it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker – denominated in the euro currency. This event would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro system for international oil trades. From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the U.S., and the E.U. accounted for 45% of exports sold to the Middle East. (Following the May 2004 enlargement, this percentage likely increased).

Despite the complete absence of coverage from the five U.S. corporate media conglomerates, these foreign news stories suggest one of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may begin to unfold in the spring of 2006, when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $60 dollars on the NYMEX and IPE - or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 - €50 euros via the Iranian Bourse. This assumes the euro maintains its current 20-25% appreciated value relative to the dollar – and assumes that some sort of US "intervention" is not launched against Iran.

The upcoming bourse will introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world - global oil and gas trades. In essence, the U.S. will no longer be able to effortlessly expand its debt-financing via issuance of U.S. Treasury bills, and the dollar’s international demand/liquidity value will fall.

It is unclear at the time of writing if this project will be successful, or could it prompt overt or covert U.S. interventions – thereby signaling the second phase of petrodollar warfare in the Middle East. Regardless of the potential U.S. response to an Iranian petroeuro system, the emergence of an oil exchange market in the Middle East is not entirely surprising given the domestic peaking and decline of oil exports in the U.S. and U.K, in comparison to the remaining oil reserves in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

What we are witnessing is a battle for oil currency supremacy. If Iran’s oil bourse becomes a successful alternative for international oil trades, it would challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London (IPE) and New York (NYMEX), a factor not overlooked in the following (UK) Guardian article:

Iran is to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and Opec producers that could threaten the supremacy of London's International Petroleum Exchange.

…Some industry experts have warned the Iranians and other OPEC producers that western exchanges are controlled by big financial and oil corporations, which have a vested interest in market volatility.

The IPE, bought in 2001 by a consortium that includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, was unwilling to discuss the Iranian move yesterday. “We would not have any comment to make on it at this stage,” said an IPE spokeswoman. [14]

During an important speech in April 2002, Mr. Javad Yarjani, an OPEC executive, described three pivotal events that would facilitate an OPEC transition to euros.[15] He stated this would be based on (1) if and when Norway's Brent crude is re-dominated in euros, (2) if and when the U.K. adopts the euro, and (3) whether or not the euro gains parity valuation relative to the dollar, and the EU’s proposed expansion plans were successful.

Notably, both of the later two criteria have transpired: the euro’s valuation has been above the dollar since late 2002, and the euro-based E.U. enlarged in May 2004 from 12 to 22 countries. Despite recent “no” votes by French and Dutch voters regarding a common E.U. Constitution, from a macroeconomic perspective, these domestic disagreements do no reduce the euro currency’s trajectory in the global financial markets – and from Russia and OPEC’s perspective – do not adversely impact momentum towards a petroeuro. In the meantime, the U.K. remains uncomfortably juxtaposed between the financial interests of the U.S. banking nexus (New York/Washington) and the E.U. financial centers (Paris/Frankfurt).

The most recent news reports indicate the oil bourse will start trading on March 20, 2006, coinciding with the Iranian New Year.[16] The implementation of the proposed Iranian oil Bourse – if successful in utilizing the euro as its oil transaction currency standard – essentially negates the previous two criteria as described by Mr. Yarjani regarding the solidification of a petroeuro system for international oil trades. It should also be noted that throughout 2003-2004 both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second World Reserve Currency. [17] [18]

China’s announcement in July 2005 that it was re-valuing the yuan/RNB was not nearly as important as its decision to divorce itself from a U.S. dollar peg by moving towards a “basket of currencies” – likely to include the yen, euro, and dollar.[19] Additionally, the Chinese re-valuation immediately lowered their monthly imported “oil bill” by 2%, given that oil trades are still priced in dollars, but it is unclear how much longer this monopoly arrangement will last.

Furthermore, the geopolitical stakes for the Bush administration were raised dramatically on October 28, 2004, when Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between $70 - $100 billion dollars.) [20] It should also be noted that China currently receives 13% of its oil imports from Iran. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the U.S.-administered Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) nullified previous oil lease contracts from 1997-2002 that France, Russia, China and other nations had established under the Saddam regime. The nullification of these contracts worth a reported $1.1 trillion created political tensions between the U.S and the European Union, Russia and China.

The Chinese government may fear the same fate awaits their oil investments in Iran if the U.S. were able to attack and topple the Tehran government. Despite U.S. desires to enforce petrodollar hegemony, the geopolitical risks of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.

It is increasingly clear that a confrontation and possible war with Iran may transpire during the second Bush term. Clearly, there are numerous tactical risks regarding neoconservative strategy towards Iran. First, unlike Iraq, Iran has a robust military capability. Secondly, a repeat of any “Shock and Awe” tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz – where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass.[21]

The immediate question for Americans? Will the neoconservatives attempt to intervene covertly and/or overtly in Iran during 2005 or 2006 in a desperate effort to prevent the initiation of euro-denominated international crude oil sales? Commentators in India are quite correct in their assessment that a U.S. intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to the mention potential effects on the U.S. economy.

…If it [U.S.] intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation…There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown...Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear programme, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all.[22]

A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar's hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations. Multilateral compromise with the EU and OPEC regarding oil currency is certainly preferable to an ‘Operation Iranian Freedom,’ or perhaps another CIA-backed coup such as operation "Ajax” from 1953. Despite the impressive power of the U.S. military, and the ability of our intelligence agencies to facilitate ‘interventions,’ it would be perilous and possibly ruinous for the U.S. to intervene in Iran given the dire situation in Iraq. The Monterey Institute of International Studies warned of the possible consequences of a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities:

An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities…could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world. Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran's international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran.[23]

It is not yet clear if a U.S. military expedition will occur in a desperate attempt to maintain petrodollar supremacy. Regardless of the recent National Intelligence Estimate that down-graded Iran’s potential nuclear weapons program, it appears increasingly likely the Bush administration may use the specter of nuclear weapon proliferation as a pretext for an intervention, similar to the fears invoked in the previous WMD campaign regarding Iraq.

If recent stories are correct regarding Cheney’s plan to possibly use another 9/11 terrorist attack as the pretext or casus belli for a U.S. aerial attack against Iran, this would confirm the Bush administration is prepared to undertake a desperate military strategy to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades.

However, as members of the U.N. Security Council; China, Russia and E.U. nations such as France and Germany would likely veto any U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Resolution calling the use of force without solid proof of Iranian culpability regarding a terrorist attack in the U.S. A unilateral military strike on Iran would isolate the U.S. government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse.

Indeed, such an event would create pressure for OPEC and Russia to move towards a monopoly petroeuro system in an effort to cripple the U.S. dollar and thwart the U.S. global military presence. I refer to this in my book as the “rogue nation hypothesis.” (A similar tactic was used by the U.S. to end the 1956 Suez crisis.)

While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to ‘dump the dollar,’ the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their government’s perspective – the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf.

Hence, industrialized nations would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world’s largest hydrocarbon energy supply. Any such efforts that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken – not to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the American people per se – but rather to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf.

Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran’s euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March 2006. Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes...known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
– James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

[1] Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’ Neill, Simon & Schuster publishers (2004)
[2] Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, Free Press (2004)
[3] William Clark, “Revisited - The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth,” January 2003 (updated January 2004)

[4] Peter Philips, Censored 2004, The Top 25 Censored News Stories, Seven Stories Press, (2003) General website for Project Censored:
Story #19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq

[5] Carol Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, "Iraq returns to the international oil market," Financial Times, June 5, 2003
[6] Faisal Islam, “Iraq nets handsome profit by dumping dollar for euro,” [UK] Guardian, February 16, 2003,12239,896344,00.html
[7] “Oil bourse closer to reality,”, December 28, 2004. Also see: “Iran oil bourse wins authorization,” Tehran Times, July 26, 2005

[8] “War-Gaming the Mullahs: The U.S. weighs the price of a pre-emptive strike,” Newsweek, September 27 issue, 2004. Online:

[9] James Fallows, “Will Iran be Next?,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pgs. 97 – 110

[10] Seymour Hersh, “The Coming Wars,” The New Yorker, January 24th – 31st issue, 2005, pgs. 40-47
Posted online January 17, 2005. Online:

[11] Philip Giraldi, “In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran,” American Conservative, August 1, 2005

[12] Dafina Linzer, “Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements,” Washington Post, August 2, 2005; Page A01

[13] C. Shivkumar, “Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms,” The Hindu Business Line (June 16, 2003).

[14] Terry Macalister, “Iran takes on west's control of oil trading,” The [UK] Guardian, June 16, 2004,3604,1239644,00.html

[15] “The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill," Speech given by Javad Yarjani, Head of OPEC's Petroleum Market Analysis Dept, on The International Role of the Euro (Invited by the Spanish Minister of Economic Affairs during Spain's Presidency of the EU) (April 14, 2002, Oviedo, Spain)

[16] “Iran's oil bourse expects to start by early 2006,” Reuters, October 5, 2004

[17] “Russia shifts to euro as foreign currency reserves soar,” AFP, June 9, 2003

[18] “China to diversify foreign exchange reserves,” China Business Weekly, May 8, 2004

[19] Richard S. Appel, “The Repercussions from the Yuan’s Revaluation,”, July 27, 2005

[20] “China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal,” China Daily, October 31, 2004. Online:

[21] Analysis of Abu Musa Island,

[22] “Terror & regime change: Any US invasion of Iran will have terrible consequences,” News Insight: Public Affairs Magazine, June 11, 2004

[23] Sammy Salama and Karen Ruster, “A Preemptive Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences,” Monterry Institute of International Studies, August 12, 2004 (updated September 9, 2004)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

William Clark has recently published, via New Society publishers, Petrodollar Warfare - Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar.

The invasion of Iraq may well be remembered as the first oil currency war. Far from being a response to 9-11 terrorism or Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, Petrodollar Warfare argues that the invasion was precipitated by two converging phenomena: the imminent peak in global oil production, and the ascendance of the euro currency.

Energy analysts agree that world oil supplies are about to peak, after which there will be a steady decline in supplies of oil. Iraq, possessing the world’s second largest oil reserves, was therefore already a target of U.S. geostrategic interests. Together with the fact that Iraq had switched its oil currency trade to euros — rather than U.S. dollars — the Bush administration’s unreported aim was to prevent further OPEC momentum in favor of the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency standard.

Meticulously researched, Petrodollar Warfare examines U.S. dollar hegemony and the unsustainable macroeconomics of ‘petrodollar recycling,’ pointing out that the issues underlying the Iraq War also apply to geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and other countries including the member states of the European Union (EU), Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. The author warns that without changing course, the American Experiment will end the way all empires end – with military over-extension and subsequent economic decline. He recommends the multilateral pursuit of both energy and monetary reforms within a United Nations framework to create a more balanced global energy and monetary system – thereby reducing the possibility of future oil depletion and oil currency-related warfare.

A sober call for an end to aggressive U.S. unilateralism, Petrodollar Warfare is a unique contribution to the debate about the future global political economy.

About the Author: William Clark has received two Project Censored awards for his research on oil currency conflict, and has recently published a book, Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar (New Society Publishers, 2005). He is an Information Security Analyst, and holds a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Information and Telecommunication Systems from Johns Hopkins University. He lives near Bethesda, Maryland.
Copyright © 2003-2005 William Clark
Reprinted for Fair Use Only

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Unlikely McCloskey?

Submitted: Jan 30, 2006

McCloskey an unlikely opponent for Pombo

Fresno Bee

I was momentarily confused by the radio snippet I heard the other day about a Republican challenging Rep. Richard Pombo, the Tracy, Calif., Republican who has raised the ire of some for his conservative positions on the environment and property rights. Did the newscaster really say that former Congressman Paul M. "Pete" McCloskey would run against Pombo?

It was time to do the math because I covered McCloskey's last campaign, an unsuccessful U.S. Senate race 24 years ago. My first thoughts: How old is McCloskey now, and can he really be serious about winning a campaign against a Republican power broker?

The answer to those questions came quickly when I heard that familiar voice a few days later in a telephone interview: "Yes, I'm serious," McCloskey said. "At 78, you don't give up five months of your life to lose an election."

His determination aside, the odds are against the one-time Marine who served 15 years in
Congress. Pombo has $555,000 in the bank, and could spend $5 million on a re-election
campaign. Pombo also has a solid GOP base, although he faces criticism over ties to admitted felon Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist.

But few think Pombo is in serious trouble unless further revelations surface. For McCloskey to win the June primary, he will have to persuade Republicans in a Northern California congressional district that he's a better party nominee than the incumbent.

That's where it gets a bit tricky for McCloskey, who has been called a maverick Republican for most of his career. Some think that means he's not really a Republican.

Wayne Johnson, Pombo's political consultant, said the more voters learn about McCloskey, the less enthusiasm there will be for him. He really should be running in the Democratic primary, Johnson said.

If McCloskey's campaign takes hold, Pombo undoubtedly will point out that his opponent has often gone against his party, starting with McCloskey's 1972 challenge of President Richard Nixon over the Vietnam War, and then supporting Democrat John Kerry over President Bush in 2004.

That isn't a record that you'd expect to be a roadmap for success in a rock-solid Republican district that covers parts of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

But McCloskey says 11th District voters want someone they can trust, adding that Pombo caters to the powerful and ignores his constituents.

"This is going to be a fun campaign," McCloskey said in a telephone interview from Lodi, Calif. "Pombo has a hotshot campaign consultant who says Pombo won't debate me, which is an interesting position for someone who is part of Congress, which is a debating society."

McCloskey began his political career amid much applause. He defeated Shirley Temple Black, whose career as a child actress made her a household name. That began a congressional career that saw him making news often because of his direct talk.

Among his accomplishments in Congress was co-authoring the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo is trying to dismantle. Now that has made this personal.

McCloskey understands that he may not be taken seriously by the political establishment or the media. But he said he's committed to changing the minds of doubters.

"You are entitled to view with skepticism why a 78-year-old retired farmer and attorney from Yolo County would move 90 miles to San Joaquin County in order to challenge incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy," he said last week during his campaign announcement.

McCloskey looked for other Republicans to challenge Pombo, and decided to get into the race when he couldn't find a serious candidate. Despite his age, he said he is willing to take a stand.He said Republicans in Congress have strayed from party principles of smaller government, less intrusion into citizens' lives and a commitment to the environment.

"It was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who gave us a strong environmental policy to protect parklands, wildlife preserves and wilderness, as well as anti-trust laws to control business excesses," McCloskey said.

It's a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, he said.

We'll see whether Republican voters in California's 11th Congressional District see it that way. McCloskey, at least, will give them a choice in the GOP primary. At a time when gerrymandered districts have sucked the interest out of congressional elections in California, this one might be fun to watch.

(Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service,

I was sorry to read that the McClatchy Co. has decided to bury Pete McCloskey's challenge to Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, in the rhetoric of the horse-race. For the corporate media, whenever political values threaten the tranquil flow of business (the real estate business in California), it instantly resorts to handicapping as a form of political coverage.

The headline is dismissive: "McCloskey an unlikely opponent for Pombo."

We assume McCloskey had something to say after his comment, "You are entitled to view with skepticism why a 78-year-old retired farmer and attorney from Yolo County would move 90 miles to San Joaquin County in order to challenge incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy," -- and Boren just forgot to mention what McCloskey had to say in the next sentence.

I don't know what airy heights Boren now inhabits in what Scripps-Howard office building or where in the country is it. But I have registered voters in recent years in front of supermarkets in Tracy, Manteca and Stockton, in the 11th congressional district. From my observations, those people are no less deserving than any other Americans to honest, decent political representation in the House of Representatives. At present, they are represented by the political front man for Pombo Real Estate Farms, a man who cannot remember how many times he met Jack Abramoff and would be happy to forget he received about $55,000 from him, if other organizations had not reminded him of the fact. To local dairymen, he is the front half of the Pomboza, a duet of congressmen so committed to the real estate development of their districts they cannot be counted
on to represent the dairy interests in the upcoming Farm Bill.

We welcome McCloskey to the San Joaquin Valley, as should the newspapers. He's a strong guy and a straight shooter.

"It's a battle for the soul of the Republican Party," Boren quotes him saying. "This one
might to fun to watch," he concludes.

The message to the readers: Even though you have a political system stacked against all you fools that read our papers trying to get information about important public affairs; even though that political system favors all our wonderful advertisers whose fraudulent messages are, if only by convention, so far beyond the truth they have to pay us handsomely to have them printed, don't you be losers now; don't you imagine for a minute there might be someone running against a crook for a decent reason. The system would crumble tomorrow if that notion were allowed to escape in public. Don't you dare dream of possibly cleaning up this corrupt system, congressional seat by congressional seat. Don't you dare dream you have that kind of power as individual voters. Uh-huh. No, no.

Boren is so obscure, who knows what he's trying to say? Who cares? What, for example, is so wrong with a battle for the soul of the Republican Party? Republicans have souls just like Democrats. All God’s chillun got souls. When Pombo's campaign manager repeats the ancient charge McCloskey should run as a Democrat, we're just talking two-bit power talk c. 1970. (I am always suspicious of so-called “journalists” when they think like back-alley political hacks. If they want that life in its uncertainties, why don’t they have the guts to live it?) This campaign is actually about the soul of both parties, because Democrats should vote for McCloskey on behalf of the general public in the district. That's because, somewhere, sometime, working politicians must step out of their respective machines and begin to think about the public instead of their damned places in the machine. One of the secrets of political campaigns is that it never made much difference which party working politicians worked for, they were and remain essentially the same kind of human animal -- neither the worst nor the best, but one of America's very first inventions, before the steam engine or the cotton gin, and their value remains when it ain't all bought up by the corporations.

The problem we are facing today with both working politicians and the political press is a
complex process of destruction. Maybe it could be accurately said that Republican politics traditionally centered in the soda fountain or the barber shop on Main Street, while Democratic politics centered in the tavern near the mill where the workers cashed their checks. It had to begin in some kind of concrete community because if America had been suburban from the beginning we would never have had any politics. We would have had the monarchy now so rapidly reaching fruition.

We are having a hell of a problem trying to conceive what politics means, now. The high-tech, suburban geniuses say history has fulfilled its purpose in themselves. Not in us,
necessarily; in them. They will manage it all by their perfect numbers from hereon out. So, you don't need to worry about politics anymore. That's nostalgic. America is a technocracy now; it's not even trying to be a democracy anymore. Forget that. That's oldthink. Yes, it is true that once we were based on political principles that were expressed in words complete with logic and argument oldamericans were willing to fight and die for. But the irrepressible forces of American business genius have led us to the newtime in which we live, here and now. Follow the numbers. They change frequently, providing endless variation.

Oldthink was so primitive that the nation had two parties: the Donkeys and the Elephants. The Donkeys and the Elephants lived in the belief that by the strength of their argument alone, after the Civil War, they would protect liberty and justice for all. It was said in public schools every day, little hands placed on growing hearts, as if it weren't a prayer but a pledge of allegiance -- "liberty and justice for all."

What terror awaits the voters of the 11th CD. They have been given a choice denied most Americans. And all the risk of voting for a possible loser, an honest man running against a man who does not have the truth in him. A terrible, terrible thing. Maybe they vote wrong.

Oh, terrible, terrible thing. Not to pick the winner.

Politics is not a horse race. It is really much, much more important than any horse race.

Before you believe your newspapers, realize they make their money from the crap on their advertising pages, not from you. The only reason you exist in their world is that the more there are of you trying to get some decent information on public affairs, the higher the rates they can charge to the advertisers.

As for Boren, oh well. What do you do about one more wannabe politician with a mortgage and an office with a view of somewhere high above the 11th congressional district? One may lack the authority to speak about this district if he hasn’t stood in front of the south Stockton Kmart watching cars being boosted in broad daylight whilst registering the odd Democrat. The sneer from airy heights doesn’t erase for me the fine local coverage of news the Stockton Record has delivered, especially on the incredible complexities of the Delta, through the years. Nobody in their right mind loves Fat City – which in a nutshell is the problem with right minds. Stockton is love at first sight or a heart attack. Take it or leave it. Fat City could care less.

Bill Hatch

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Have we reached a "teachable moment" yet?

Submitted: Jan 30, 2006

January 28 / 29, 2006

The Impeachable Mr. Bush
An Aggregation of High Crimes and Misdemeanors

What will it take for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to be held responsible for a multitude of political crimes, recklessness, prevarications and just plain massive ongoing mismanagement of the taxpayers government?

The first step is to aggregate these travesties so they add up to a more comprehensive judgment. Then, together they confront us with an awful truth -- that our present system of constitution, law and checks and balances have failed to be invoked by the elected and appointed officials of our Congress and our Courts. This is happening even though the polls have been dropping on the Bush regime for over a year and are now quite negative on many important questions.

Consider the following sample of irresponsibility and flouting of the law and then ask yourself how much more will it take to start holding the Bush/Cheney crowd of serial fibbers and dictacrats accountable? Is there ever to be a tipping point in the Washington world of spineless Democrats and supine Congressional Republicans worried about Bush losing the 2006 elections?

1. The drug benefit boondoggle, starting January 1, 2006, has been by all reports maelstrom of confusion, deprivation, gouging and misadministration, leaving many sick people in a frightening limbo. That is Bushland messing up big time while giving the gouging, long-subsidized profit-glutted drug companies hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade paid by the taxpayer.

2. Katrina! The breaching of the levees was predicted at least over a year before and warned about just before the Hurricane hit by federal officials but ignored by the Administration. Bush's godliness complex let him give the public the impression that the destruction was an unavoidable Act of God, when it was an avoidable disaster of Bush. The White House earlier had cut the Army Corps of Engineers budget designed for hurricane defense in the New Orleans area. The Corps itself is not blameless, but its commander in chief is, after all, George W. Bush.

3. Bush-Cheney plunged our country into an endless war-quagmire in Iraq on an often repeated platform of falsehoods, cover-ups and deliberate distractions from the ignored necessities here at home. Tens of thousands of American have lost their lives, their limbs or their health over there and casualties of innocent Iraqi adults and children are much more numerous. Already costing hundreds of billions of dollars, the mismanagement of this war of choice is the material of hundreds of Pentagon audits, Congressional reports, official admissions, firsthand press reports and Congressional condemnations by the respected Government Accountability Office (GAO).

"Iraq Rebuilding Badly Hobbled", U.S. Report finds, "is a recent front page headline in The New York Times-- one of many such headlines in recent months. The corporate contractors, such ass Halliburton, will set records for waste and worse as the facts spill out to the people.

4. The impeachable George W. Bush imperiously asserts that he will continue to violate federal law and place the American people under any surveillance that he chooses to impose without ever using a Congressionally approved procedure which requiresfor a quick and secret court warrant that is even permitted to be retroactive.

He and his pitchmen claim that they are pursuing terrorists. But the National Security Agency's (NSA) electronic dragnets are enveloping millions of people, flooding the FBI with what that agency says is mountains of indiscriminate undigested data that are useless.

Besides, as of the end of 2004, Bush and John Ashcroft, his then Attorney General had arrested 5000 people on suspicion of terrorism, jailed them, most without charges, and then proceeded to strike out. Two were convicted and the convictions were overturned in Michigan. The Bush scorecard, according to Georgetown Law professor David Cole was 0 for 5000! Does this record qualify for chronic abuse of legal process or is it just sloppy law enforcement designed to produce political press releases?

5. Bush pumps "the ownership society" and opposes attempts to give investors the power that should accrue to them as owners over the self-enriching managers of the giant corporations. As a result, big time corporate executives keep vastly overpaying themselves, through their rubber-stamp Boards of Directors (starting at $7200 an hour in 2002 and upward for the CEOs of the top 300 corporations). Warren Buffet called runaway executive compensation and stock options a central cause of cooking corporate books and undermining jobs and their own companies' financial stability.

6. Cutting life-sustaining programs for needy children, sick adults and regulatory health-safety protections for most Americans while reducing the taxes of the richest one percent, including his own and Cheney's taxes, invites Biblical condemnation. He has left many Americans defenseless from preventable hazards here at home, while he plays the providential Viceroy of Iraq. At the same time, Bush's forked tongue touts "the safety of the American people" as his highest responsibility.

7. He encumbers young children with taxes (who will have to pay the debt) through massive federal deficits brought about significantly by huge numbers of corporate handouts, giveaways, subsidies and tax escapism. That's one way of leaving children behind.

8. Mismangement and underfunding implode his educational distraction called No Child Left Behind. Just ask the Republican state of Utah or millions of teachers beset with constant, vapid standardized multiple choice tests created by corporate consultants.

9. He huffs and puffs about spreading democracies around the world while condoning and encouraging the shipment of whole American industries and jobs to the communist Chinese dictatorship, and other dictatorships on which he continues to lavish such globalized policies.

However, his boomeranging foreign policy may yet turn him into an unintended patron saint of elected Islamic theocracies.

These and many other documentations of his tortured tenure can demonstrate what their aggregation can contribute to motivate the American people toward holding him and Cheney accountable to them under the rule of law. But don't count on the Democrats leading. They blew another election -- Congressional and Presidentially -- against the worst Republicans in American history.

Aggregation, my fellow citizens, is up to your independent minds and judgments to absorb and act upon.

Have we reached a moment when from our observations we have come again to basic doubts and questions? The doubts and the questions are no more than the normal course of history for any nation; in a democracy they must become public or we cease to be a democracy. Have we reached a point where we are able to turn to those we know have acted and thought on principle for decades and yet are still, fortunately, among us, thinking publicly, sober, hard-working, thinking men, like Ralph Nader?

To put it plainly, the nation is again bought and sold by a cabal of special interests with no agenda but the corruption of the government's defense against them on behalf of the public. The definition of patriotism is at stake. Is it to be blind loyalty to lying leaders whose wars impoverish us, kill our children,destroy our land, air and water, and sow seeds of hatred against us for generations, just for the enrichment of the friends of the regime in power? Or is it to be a defense of the land of our fathers against the financial, political and cultural manipulations of their fathers?

Unity in stupidity is bound to fail. We have land to repair, industry to rebuild, employment and education to regain against this latest regime of the most selfish businessmen, plundering the national treasury for lack of invention.

Why should the federal government bail out another American automobile manufacturer? These are ruined, idiot corporations, going the way of the railroads 30 years ago. They have no heart, soul or genius -- all that remains is the numb-nut knuckle-headed greed of executives. An instructive trial in Houston begins tomorrow on Enron.

In the seething anger and anxiety overtaking us there is gold if resentment can become a question, a legitimate political question, the sort of question that formed and united the nation and has saved it from time to time in its history. This is one of those times to sober up and remember moral, political roots. No god can help us but we pray sincerely on our knees, not parading in some damn Washington cathedral. No king or dictator can do anything but harm us.

"These are the times that try men's souls." -- Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (1783)

American souls have been tried, tested and found sound in crisis. We have known great pain, suffering and compassion for one another in times of crisis -- even when gripped by the most profound disagreement. The political ground we walk on was made of this. It is solid, rocky and steep. There is no other way but passive reception of despotism and the death of liberty.

Can we come to realize again that Nature is neither friend, enemy, or laboratory victim? Can we come to realize again that Nature, including the human nature that demands liberty, is simply stronger, even than George W. Bush's "Amer'ca" ? Can we come to realize that the incredible achievement of our industrial, financial and military power is our weakness? Can we turn our back on imperial hubris before that Armageddon Day University of California scientists labor so diligently to make ready while Bush's kept preachers spread religious terror wherever they go? Can we turn our back on the illusion of fusion and The Rapture? Do we have the courage to face the damage we have done and begin to support the genius to cooperate with Nature, including repairing and restoring the human nature run riot in our current political economy? And, maybe that way, find our way back to God?

For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War semi-conscious, we never doubted Richard Nixon's patriotism or his intelligence, however much we disagreed with his murderous policies and came to believe, patriotic and bright as he was, he'd been driven mad by that thing. He spied on us. Dark, dirty city alleys could look like sanctuaries in those days. But you knew the man. Basically, he was one of us in his particular, brilliant, twisted way.

This Bush is a spoiled, silly boy, playing with WMDs. He is not one of us. Arab tribes outwit him and outfight him as easily as Indian casino managers outwit Pombo. This boy is way above us. He has lived in a world of privilege and protection unavailable to any but the richest, most vulgar Americans. We don't know him; he don't know us, and that's the way he likes to keep it. How many people did he have executed in Texas? This boy don't know nothing but sick games.

To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ass for a lion. -- Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

Americans have inspired friends like Paine throughout our history. We have been loved for our fortune and that great, initial moment of wisdom. De Toqueville loved us and bent the best of his critical mind to warn us against ourselves. Really, it was only Dickens, and a century later D.H. Lawrence, who felt the need to puncture us. Lawrence saw in our greatest writers a tendency to hate humanity. Dickens found our frumpery. We have had to defend ourselves and have produced able defenders and formed a literature unique in its affectionate criticism. We sympathize with Captain Vere when Billy walks the plank. This is not Stendhal or Flaubert or Dickens. In Melville we meet the agonizing torment of a new kind of individual, radical enough and not quite European. It took the Algerian Camus to properly introduce him to my generation. Stephen Crane described the worst war in history to that time in Red Badge of Courage. Our first real love story, forbidden naturally in our Cotton Mather-dominated, official culture, was The Scarlet Letter, retold recently in cowboy by Annie Proulx, "Brokeback Mountain."

My favorite of all American characters remains little Wall Street Snopes, age 10 or so, staring through the knothole when the dry corn hit the feed trough and the spotted ponies exploded the barn in Faulkner's Hamlet. Little Wall Street stood there through it all, left with nothing but a disappeared knothole.

Nobody in the world described the universal moment of anxiety at twilight in a cityu as well as James Baldwin. And it's beautiful magic when the bass player brings Sonny back into the music.

It took the Czech, Milan Kundera, to put it so succinctly: the Tom Paines of the world describe our individual rights but our novelists create individuals, filling in the sillouettes -- the people that walk that steep, rocky trail. There are people -- a lot of them in America today --that more badly than they realize need to read Sherwood Anderson just to get a glimmer of where they came from. Have the questions about American society posed by the novels of John Dos Passos or John Steinbeck really been answered? We need to read Charles Olson and William Carlos Williams again -- it's a lot cheaper and saner than nuclear war.

But you can begin by just reading the poet down the street. You could fall in love with your own soul without really understanding what happened that made it such a good day again.

Bill Hatch

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The politics of death in Merced

Submitted: Jan 29, 2006

The newspaper coverage of the tragic death of Greg Gomez, 20, of Merced, has from the beginning raised more questions than it has answered. With each succeeding article, the story gets more obscene.

A Badlands reader suggested that without putting all the official reports of the matter together, end-to-end, it is impossible to tell what actually happened. However, in politically sensitive matters including large private or public institutions, police reports do not always make things clearer.

The best we can do it put the timeline of newspaper coverage of the event in some kind of order and raise questions we believe ought to be asked.

The Modesto Bee reported at 4:15 a.m. on Dec. 20 that Gomez was hit by a car driven by UC Merced student, Antony Jay Ducray, 18, of Los Angeles, about 11:30 p.m., according to a California Highway Patrol report. He was taken to Mercy Medical Center Merced.

CHP Sgt. Sam Samra said the accident happened about 2,500 feet west of Lake Road, near the UC Merced campus. Gomez was wearing dark clothes and walking in the road; there are no streetlights in the area, according to the CHP. Though it wasn't raining, it was cloudy and the streets were wet, Samra said.

Ducray, who was driving about 50 miles per hour, did not see Gomez walking in the road before his car struck him, the CHP reported.

Gomez was thrown into Ducray's windshield, and suffered major injuries. Ducray was not hurt, and a passenger in his car, 18-year-old Daniel Joseph Wilson of Rancho Bernardo, suffered minor cuts to his left hand, the CHP reported.
No one was arrested and the CHP said speeding and alcohol do not appear to have been factors in the accident. The collision remains under investigation.

On Dec. 21, Merced Sun-Star writer Rosalio Ahumada reported that Gomez died about 23 hours after he was struck by Ducray’s car. We got more details of the case.

The UC Merced student was not arrested.

Speeding and driving under the influence do not appear to be factors, the report stated, but the car accident is still under investigation, Ahumada wrote.

Evidently Ducray was tested clean for alcohol and drugs.

Ducray, a UC Merced student from Los Angeles, was driving a 2000 Toyota Corolla westbound on Bellevue Road at an approximate speed of 50 mph when the car struck Gomez.

Gomez was reported to have been wearing dark clothing and walking “on a small paved portion of the shoulder of the road. The road has a larger dirt and gravel portion of the road shoulder.” There are no streetlights on that country road.

Samra, the CHP officer on the scene, told Ahumada, “the road was wet and it was cloudy, but officers reported it was not raining when the accident occurred and there was not any fog or other visual impairments.”

The coroner’s office said it would do an autopsy to establish the cause of death on Thursday of that week. We saw no follow-up on that story but the Christmas weekend was coming and the cause of death could not have been more than the listing of injuries sustained from being hit by a car.

The first question that arises is why isn’t this story being covered by the Sun-Star’s veteran police reporter, Mike De La Cruz? The first report from the Modesto Bee has no byline. The second story was covered by the reporter on the UC Merced beat, at least until shortly after this story. Since January 16, another reporter seems to have taken over UC Merced coverage.

How could the CHP officer know the students were driving about 50 miles an hour? Was he on the scene before the accident? Were there witnesses? Is there electronic speed monitoring equipment on that stretch of road?

The story disappeared for a month only to return this week.

On Tuesday, Ahumada’s apparent successor on the UC Merced beat, Janet Pak, informed us:

University of California, Merced, students who want to stay downtown or enjoy a movie late at night won't have to worry about transportation.

A new shuttle service called "Nite Cat" will run every hour from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, said UC Merced spokeswoman Ana Nelson Shaw.

"It helps them be more connected with the community," she said. "A lot of students don't have a car.

"It provides them with a new option to go see a movie that ends late at night or to go eat out at one of the dining locations or see friends who live off campus."

Riggs Ambulance Service, presumably the same ambulance service that took Gomez to the hospital (there is no other in Merced), sponsored the shuttle, “paying $20,000 for the van, fuel and labor costs.” Sounds pretty cheap to me. I wondered if a farm labor contractor could get a van, driver, fuel and maintenance at that price for eight, 20-mile roundtrips a week.

Nite Cat would also prevent people from driving back in poor weather conditions.

"It's not exactly a great drive," he said. "It's dark, narrow and foggy."

There is no evidence Pak even asked if the shuttle might also be connected to Gomez’ death, which would have raised the issue protecting the public against UC Merced students rather than simply protecting UC Merced students from themselves.

At this point, the Badlands editorial board began to study a few UC Merced police reports.

Police Calls...UC Merced calls...Last Updated: January 27, 2006, 07:45:32 AM PST
The UC Merced Police Department responded to three calls on Wednesday.
12:35 a.m. -- Officer took student report of a possible burglary.
12:34 a.m. -- Officer checked a suspicious vehicle parked in the staff parking lot.
5:20 a.m. -- Driver verbally warned at a traffic stop at Bellevue and Lake roads.

Police Calls...UC Merced calls
Last Updated: January 24, 2006, 08:05:33 AM PST

11:05 p.m. -- Driver issued a citation for failing to stop at a crosswalk in the student parking lot by Tulare Hall
10:08 p.m. -- Driver given a verbal warning for failing to stop at a crosswalk on Scholars Lane and Emigrant Pass.
12:49 a.m. -- Driver given a verbal warning for failure to stop at a crossing walk on Scholars Lane and Mammoth Lakes Road.

10:34 p.m. -- Citation issued for failure to stop at crosswalk on Lake Road south of main entrance.
10:08 p.m. -- Citation issued for failure to stop at crosswalk on Scholars Road.

Last Updated: January 10, 2006, 06:45:36 AM PST

3:33 p.m. --Verbal warning issued for failure to stop at a posted stop sign at Scholars and Emigrants Pass.

The UC Merced Police Department responded to 9 calls Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

1:22 p.m. -- Driver issued a verbal warning near front entrance to Lake Yosemite.
11:42 a.m. -- Officers assist two male adults stuck in an elevator.

11:50 p.m. -- Driver of a suspicious vehicle parked in the residential parking lot given a verbal warning.
3:33 p.m. --Verbal warning issued for failure to stop at a posted stop sign at Scholars and Emigrants Pass.
3:01 p.m. --Driver issued a verbal warning during a traffic stop at Bellevue and Lake roads.
2:31 p.m. -- Driver issued a verbal warning during a traffic stop on Scholars Lane at the dining hall.
Driver issued a verbal warning during a traffic stop at Lane and Trovare roads.

7:37 p.m. -- An electrical fire smell in the east wing of the library determined no fire risk.
8:16 a.m. -- Driver of a vehicle blocking the emergency exit found and vehicle removed.

Last Updated: December 10, 2005, 07:21:14 AM PST

The UC Merced Police Department responded to 6 calls Thursday and Wednesday

5:08 p.m. -- Report of a noninjury hit-and-run accident that occurred sometime in the day in the Lake parking lot.

6:33 p.m. -- Assisted a disabled motorist with a flat tire.
5:08 p.m. -- Report of a noninjury hit-and-run accident that occurred sometime in the day in the Lake parking lot.

11:32 p.m. -- Two students in the construction area given a verbal warning.
9:53 p.m. -- Assisted a UC resident assistant in student housing.
6:29 p.m. -- Escorted a staff member to the parking lot.
6:27 p.m. -- Conducted a student welfare check at the request of a family member.

Last Updated: November 24, 2005, 06:50:36 AM PST

5:08 p.m. -- Report of a noninjury hit-and-run accident that occurred sometime in the day in the Lake parking lot.


The UC Merced Police Department responded to 3 calls on Tuesday.
10:53 a.m. -- Traffic stop on Lake Road at Bellevue Road. Driver was warned.
4:53 p.m. -- Noninjury accident reported at Ranchers and Lake Road.
4:18 p.m. -- Reports of students barbecuing on campus next to dining commons.

Last Updated: October 20, 2005, 06:45:34 AM PDT

9 a.m. -- A hit-and-run accident reported in the Lake parking lot. The responsible party returned to the scene.

Badlands editors, after daring to post this police description of the vehicular situation out at the UC Merced campus, got their money down on the question of whether the public would ever see another UC Merced police log.

Lulu from the Badlands Religion desk, who tipples, complained that UC Merced had never offered to pick her up and take her downtown for Blues night and bring her back home all safe and sound, soul full of throbbing bass guitar.

D.A. May Have Served Alcohol to Underage Drinker Who Died
The Novel and The Tape

Saturday Sun-Star readers encountered a novel of 3,288 words in their newspapers and an accompanying audiotape on the newspaper’s website, concerning a political tangent associated with this tragedy. The story would not have suffered at all if a regular police reporter had done it in a few hundred words, something like:

Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer served drinks at the Merced Country Club for an employee Christmas party attended by Greg Gomez. Gomez, 20, later died as the result of being hit by a car driven by UC Merced student Antony Jay Ducray, 18, of Los Angeles. Three hours after Gomez was admitted to Mercy Medical Center, a test revealed a .245 blood alcohol content, about three times the legal limit for driving a car. Gomez was on foot when Ducray’s vehicle hit him.

Spencer said he tended bar at the party for about an hour until the employee-guests went to dinner. He added that he left the party four hours before Gomez was struck by the UC Merced student’s car as he was walking on the side of Bellevue Road .

Spencer explained he had an agreement with three managers at the country club that they were responsible for checking IDs. He said it is possible he served Gomez but did not serve anyone as drunk as Gomez was reported to have been three hours after he was hit.

Chris Collins, one of the Sun-Star’s political reporters, wrote the 3,288-word novel. Collins appears to believe that good district attorneys grow on grape vines or almond trees (the same place they grow good cops) or are as rapidly multiplying in Merced County as his celebrity-of-the-week Greg Hostetler’s housing products. This indescribable travesty of journalism, complete with tape selections, is available at It comes off, whether intentionally or not, as one of the most blatant political hatchet jobs in the paper’s dismal history of political coverage. But it is also, fundamentally, something else: a distraction from who killed whom.

UC bobcatflaksters must have danced on their monitors when this novel was published. People will be thinking about Spencer for days, weeks, forgetting who killed whom, all those fraudulent pay packages for top UC administrators and the new generation of nuclear weapons to be built at UC’s two national laboratories of WMDs.

Other evidence that it was some kind of political hatchet job or a PR diversion is that Collins never shares with his readers who it was who told him Spencer was serving drinks at a private country club employees' party. Nor, in the midst of nothing but a political story around manslaughter, does he ever mention that Spencer has announced his retirement. Nor does he ever list, in this political story about manslaughter, either Spencer’s political friends or his enemies.

Jonathan Arons, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in legal ethics, said Spencer had entered a "very gray" area ethically., Collins wrote, 2,500 words into his masterpiece.

Who might the deep, terribly obscure Arons be?

The only guy in the Badlands organization who took the bet Gomez v. Spencer would be studied in Torts courses by future law students pondering the mysteries of causality was Bobo. Bobo’s in sports.

Compared to the fact of his death, did it matter at all that Gomez was 20 instead of 21? If a 90-year-old senile escapee from a rest home in a dark housecoat on a black walker had been in that place at that time, would she have fared any better than Gomez or a Labrador Retriever? Did it matter that the district attorney, doing a volunteer stint as a bartender for his club’s employee Christmas party, said he wouldn’t deny he might have served Gomez a drink four hours before he was struck by the UC Merced student’s car?


Spencer’s suggestion that there was something called personal responsibility poured gasoline on Collins’ passion to play the political blame game with a tragic mystery that could not be reduced to gotcha without violating common decency.

Why was Gomez, drunk, on foot, two miles from the country club at 11:30 p.m.? It must have been the DA’s fault.


There is another, grimmer possibility that would not have come to light without Collins’ reckless novel. With perhaps better information than the public has, Spencer seemed to suggest at one point on the tape that Gomez had thrown himself into the car. If Collins had not been so intent on lynching Spencer, he might have heard that warning. Having done this stupid thing, he raised the issue of suicide – more doubt and misery for the family he describes with such saccharine bathos in the last several hundred words of his opus. Adn what of the misery of the driver and his passenger?

Forget them: we must have the novel of blame, which will soothe all wounds.


Do Collins’ editors have a shred of common sense?

Bill Hatch

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Peckerwood award

Submitted: Jan 26, 2006

Film shouldn't show here - Letter to the Editor of the Merced Sun-Star, Published 01/26/06

...There are too many people here like myself who want to preserve the sacred symbol of the cowboy and everything he has meant for the past 200 years in America. The cowboy is chivalrous and masculine. John Wayne and Roy Rogers wouldn't have left their wives for a love affair with the Lone Ranger. This movie ("Brokeback Mountain") is a twisted distortion of a classic and traditional film genre made with a political agenda at its core. I feel safe in saying that the minority who want to see movies such as this showcased in Merced will have to wait for a long time. There are too many in Merced who want to take back the cowboy from Hollywood and are applauding the fact that the movie theaters have chosen not to show it.

In closing, I will leave you with the words my good friend heard spoken recently by an old leathery skinned cowboy in west Texas: "In all my years, I ain't never seen or heard of a gay cowboy!"



When rightwing kooks start calling cowboys sacred symbols the culture is showing signs of mid-flight from the edge of the cliff. People who idolize cowboys this much should be watched very carefully in bars on Rodeo Day for signs that perhaps they too, like those cruising cowgirls, "go nuts for Wrangler butts."

The flap over the movie reminded me of the founder of the American conservative movement, Barry Goldwater. Goldwater, who had some homosexual relatives, campaigned for gay rights in the same way he championed the cause of many other oppressed minority groups through his long, honorable political career.

"You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight," he wrote in a 1993 letter to an editor.

"Brokeback Mountain" is based on a short story by Annie Proulx, so right off you know the writing behind the film is good and set in a beautiful place. "The Shipping News" (2001), based on her second novel, was a great movie and set on on the shores of Nova Scotia. And Larry McMurtry was involved with the script. Has any contemporary writer written better about cowboys and been a better mentor of Western writers than anyone since Wallace Stegner, his mentor? Leslie Marmon Silko credited McMurtry with helping her through the ordeal of writing Almanac of the Dead, the darkest anti-mythological novel ever written about the West.

"Brokeback Mountain" is directed by Ang Lee. He directed the spectacular "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) and came back three years later with "Hulk."

The 80 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association that give out the Golden Globes gave "Brokeback Mountain" four awards, setting it up as the leading contender for Oscars.

This is probably a good movie.

Mr. Anderson's values are as phony as a carpetbag full of three-dollar bills and as lowdown mean as the ayatollahs who put the fatwah out on Salman Rushdie for Satanic Verses. Like bigots the world over, he's so in love with himself he just can't get enough of his own intolerant image in his own mirror, so he projects his antidiluvian political agenda on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Perhaps he has anxieties about his precious bodily fluids or something.

Lest this criticism of Anderson seem too severe: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" -- Barry Goldwater.

"Brokeback Mountain" is the top box office attraction in the UK this week. Last week it was number two in France, tops in Paris.

Locations and showtimes for "Brokeback Mountain" in the north San Joaquin Valley and Foothills.

Clovis - UA Sierra Vista
(12:15 PM) (3:15) 7:00 10:00 PM

Fresno - Edwards Fresno Stadium
Large Screen Format (10:20 AM) (1:20) (4:20) 7:20 10:20 PM

Fresno - Manchester Stadium 16
(12:05 PM) (3:15) 6:40 10:00 PM

Lodi - Lodi Stadium 12 Cinemas
Stadium Seating (11:55 AM) (2:40) 7:05 9:50 PM

Modesto - Signature Stadium 10 - Modesto
(12:40 PM) (3:50) 7:05 10:15 PM

Modesto - Brenden Modesto 18
(3:40 PM) 6:50 10:00 PM

Riverbank - Galaxy Theatre - Riverbank
12:05 PM 3:30 7:05 10:15 PM

Sonora - Signature Stadium 10
(12:20 PM) (3:25) 6:30 PM

Merced - WTC-Mainplace Stadium Cinemas
(2:15 PM) (5:15) 8:15 PM

Stockton - Signature Theatres City Centre Cinemas
(12:45 PM) (3:55) 7:35 10:30 PM

Tracy - Cinemark Tracy Movies 14
(1:00 PM) (4:00) 7:00 10:00 PM

Turlock - Signature Theatres Turlock Stadium 14
(3:25 PM) 6:30 PM

Cattle and Beef Production in the United States and California

The beef industry is the largest segment of American agriculture and in 2003, U.S. cash receipts from livestock and livestock product marketing was approximately $98.3 billion.There are approximately 1.4 million jobs attributed to the U.S. cattle industry. In California,cash receipts for cattle and calves was $1.56 billion.

There are approximately 800,000 beef cattle producers in the United States, conducting business in all 50 states and contributing economically to nearly every county in the nation. In California, there are approximately 14,000 beef cattle operations and 2,500 dairy farms. On January 1, 2005 there were 95.8 million cattle in the United States and in California 5.4 million head. There are 720,000 beef cows and 1.74 dairy cows in California.


Dr. Strangelove (1964)

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Jack-hammering Castle walls

Submitted: Jan 25, 2006

More than a decade ago, Castle Air Force Base was closed and consigned to the absurdities of a local joint-use authority, composed of Merced County and the cities of Merced and Atwater (which adjoins the former base) and some representatives from other entities, like Rep. Gary Condit's office.

The “authority” dissolved in anarchy, leaving the county in control, by default. Reporters forced to cover the former committee developed physical symptoms of illness from the sheer stress of trying to cover week after week of raving lunacy about a site that has seemed, through the years, to be a dumping ground for a steady stream of business fraud and corruption.

As former Merced Sun-Star reporter, Gary Jones, Castle redevelopment’s finest poet, put it once concerning one of these projects: “Ring, ring, ring goes the bell. Bounce, bounce, bounce goes the check.”

The present redevelopment plan discussed below is basically the work of John Fowler, an able county bureaucrat who has for many years displayed an unusual knowledge and concern for the thorny problem of employment in the county. Yet, in the mysteries of the Castle, all the public ever sees is an occasional dark figure darting past a castle window, shrouded in impenetrable mists of redevelopment funding, state and federal grants, and the Stygian blackness of the Pentagon. One hopes Fowler darts well, but it probable the public will never know.

He unveiled the Castle Redevelopment Plan before the county supervisors yesterday. The plan came with a request to delay environmental review. Two members of the Planada public wrote a comment letter that triggered an automatic delay in the plan’s approval.

Why Planada, an unincorporated village of farmworkers on the eastern edge of the county, separated from the former base by fast-growing Atwater and Merced? Bearing in mind we look through these castle windows most darkly, there is apparently some continuing effort to employ the county’s seasonal or unemployed workforce on Castle grounds. The Castle is to become a “free trade zone,” which seems to permit the finishing of partially assembled import goods, bestowing the “Made in America” label, with some mysterious tax savings to manufacturers. Somehow, through a financial vehicle called “Champion Cities grants,” villages with high unemployment like Planada might send their unemployed to work at these assembly plants. This will be in much the same way as John Condren, CEO of Riverside Motorsports, who hopes to put his NASCAR-level racetrack next to the Castle, says he will partially employ mothers during school hours at menial jobs.

Bearing in mind it is not given to the public to see through stone walls or correctly interpret the movements of bureaucrats darting past dark, medieval windows, part of this redevelopment plan seems to involve an experiment in domestic maquiladora enterprise. This is basically what Mexico did in its border towns, to draw the unemployed from its central states north to assembly factories. The owners pay few if any taxes, employment and health rules are relaxed or extinguished there are few if any benefits, but the plants employ hundreds of thousands of people, mainly young women migrants from the interior. Labor organization is not encouraged.

Fowler would undoubtedly discount any public speculations on his redevelopment plan, saying the public lacked the information to form an intelligent decision.

John Fowler, the top county official at Castle, said Owens' letter was based on bad information and that it didn't raise any serious concerns. – Merced Sun-Star, Jan. 24, 2006.

But the comment letter that forced a delay in the project approval wasn’t “based on bad information.” It was based on little or no information; and that, we suggest reluctantly, is exactly how Mr. Fowler likes it. Nevertheless, Owens and Kathleen Lopez jack-hammered the Castle walls with questions the public needs to ask regardless of the chances of getting any answers out of the Castle, Fowler, or the supervisors, who we feel sure haven’t read as much of the voluminous Castle documents as Owens has.


Bryant Owens
2683 South Plainsburg Road
Merced CA 95340-9550 (209) 769-0832


Bryant Owens
2683 South Plainsburg Road
Merced CA 95340-9550 (209) 769-0832

Monday, January 23, 2006

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced CA 95340 ` Via fax (209) 726-7977
And via email

RE: Public Hearing 1-24-06 et seq/ Establishment of Ordinance of the County of Merced approving and adopting the redevelopment Plan for the Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center Redevelopment Project

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for the opportunity of comment on, and object to this proposed ordinance.

In reviewing the Report to the Board of Supervisors produced by the consulting firm of Kayser Marsten in Oct. of 2005, many concerns became manifest to which we would like to direct your attention:

Notably the report of the county financial officer was incomplete: i.e.. The consultant was left to extrapolate tax benefits and/ or expected disbursals from and to the nine taxing agencies that have jurisdiction over the various portions of the project area.

Notwithstanding the guesswork in the consultants report to the board, what exactly prevents that information from being gathered and presented for your and our consideration in a timely fashion, and prior to making this decision?

The County is receiving a windfall from the USAF represented by the transfer of title (whether fee simple, or with restrictions) to the former Castle Air force Base to the County. According to the Redevelopment Plan the County will subsequently/simultaneously “?” transfer that same title to the Merced County Castle Airport Redevelopment Agency.

Beside the nine taxing agencies previously mentioned, what mechanism exists to spread this potential windfall economic boon around to the rest of the unincorporated areas of the County of Merced?

Why does the decision to invest housing set aside funding from this project, into areas outside the boundaries of the project area represent a benefit to those other unincorporated areas without a similar dedication of a corresponding percentage of the accruing rental/lease/sale or tax base funds gradually accruing over the life of the Castle Airport reuse project?

If low and very low income housing is to be built or fostered through Agency programs in other areas of the county how do the other blight alleviating benefits of the Castle Redevelopment Ordinance flow along with this redirection of low income housing into other areas of the county?

How will ALL of the additional infrastructure requirements necessary to support this redirected low income housing, be met or enhanced in areas outside the boundaries of the Castle Airport Redevelopment Plan?

What economic benefits /incentives does the Castle Redevelopment plan provide to offset the enhanced negative impacts on other blighted communities in the county which according to this proposed ordinance, must now absorb this proposed low and very low income housing?

What mechanism exists to more proportionately benefit the other unincorporated communities in Merced County in which blight is already endemic?

What mechanism exists to prevent that very blight from being fostered and further exploited, simply to allow the proposed economic development at the Castle Site?

Under California Community Redevelopment Law the Agency is authorized to enact tax increment financing as a possible funding scheme, and the referenced Report to the Board of Supervisors goes into great detail as to both the need for this financing scheme, as well as the relative potential for success and failure.

The Consultants Report to the Board of Supervisors of Oct 2005 is quite clear as to the crucial importance of securing an Cargo Transport Company as the anchor tenant of the Castle Reuse Plan, yet the bulk, of the proposed redevelopment activities are cosmetic in nature and seem tailored to the needs of the tenants and users of the current facilities. Why does this make sense?

In so far as the Board of Supervisors and the Members of the Redevelopment Agency are the same persons wearing different hats, what mechanism exists for public oversight with regard to the expenditure of County funds, as opposed to Agency funds in furtherance of this redevelopment?

What compels the Redevelopment Agency to be cautious with public funds if there is no enforceable indebtedness incurred by the Agency under the aegis of this ordinance? How does this plan interconnect with the existing Foreign Trade Zone?

If the Agency transfers title to portions of the project area to the County, how does the County avoid becoming liable (indebted) for Agency approved redevelopment activities in the execution of any of the improvement projects associated with this redevelopment? The public remains uncertain as to how the proposed Redevelopment Agency may incur indebtedness that is not ‘debt’ under the US or California Constitutions.

What prevents that indebtedness from becoming a liability of the County if and when (as the Agency is authorize to do) the Agency transfers a portion or portions of the redevelopment area to the County Board of Supervisors?

If that potential indebtedness does become a liability of the county at that point, at what point does the public have any say about the imposition of that additional collective tax liability and about servicing such debt?

What mechanism exists to compel the County to spread any of the potential economic benefits of the Castle Redevelopment to the other unincorporated areas of the county? Why shouldn’t areas, where the ‘residential beneficiaries’ of this proposed redevelopment are being directed, also receive a portion of the anticipated economic benefits of redevelopment?

To be more specific, and in the mode of comparing oranges with oranges, be reminded that the statistics referenced in the supporting documentation referred to Merced County’s losses, as a whole, when the US government stopped providing payroll for Castle AFB personnel and their families. Those statistics represent comparisons with the county’s then current employment statistics, available jobs, and available housing.

How do the redevelopment and the reduction of blight at Castle translate into countywide availability of jobs, when the new jobs will be concentrated within the project area and the new housing will be outside the project area?

How are other areas of the unincorporated Merced County to be protected from over-development of residential housing if the consultant-mandated Cargo Transport Facility is not realized in the end?

Beside the 10 year report required under the various sections of the California Health and Safety Code, pertaining to the housing set aside funding generated by this proposed redevelopment plan, what other ‘canaries’ (monitoring mechanisms) will assure the public that this infrastructure redevelopment plan is working financially for the county?

What mechanism ties the activities of the Merced Housing Authority to the Castle Redevelopment Agency, in terms of Merced County’s state obligation to provide low and very low income affordable housing, as required by (for example) RTIP grant funding from the state?

What is the date certain by which time an anchor tenant (described in the Report by Kayser Marsten as a Cargo Transport Company) must be contractually secured in order to assure the public that this redevelopment remains financially in the best interests of the county as a whole?

How are the planned and proposed infrastructure improvements in projects in close proximity to the Redevelopment Plan Area such as the RMP Motor Sport Park proposal, integrated with the proposed redevelopment project at points where those several project intersect, or in instances when the infrastructure in question is in common use by all county residents?

In making findings of consistency with the Housing Element of the County General Plan, what effort has been made to incorporate the statistics for housing development projects under County jurisdiction in the unincorporated areas of Merced County, to show that the county has met or exceeded its state mandated quotas for the various levels of available housing, and on which continued funding of other county revenue streams depend such as the Community Development Block Grant Program.

Have the impacts to the housing market from the County Supervisor’s prior approval of the University Community Plan, Vista del Lago, Yosemite Lake Estates, and any other similar SUDP expansions (i.e. internally inconsistent General Plan text amendments), and the Merced Housing Authority’s decision to demolish the Felix Torres Migrant Camp in Planada (also a severely blighted unincorporated community in Merced County) been incorporated into the estimations on which the report to the Board of Supervisors consultant makes its cautiously optimistic recommendations as to the probable success of this venture?

We feel that making any such findings of consistency with the County General Plan would be an abuse of your discretion in this matter and urge you to delay making such findings until such time as the county general plan is both internally consistent and up to date.

In making the determination to delay CEQA analysis of this project for 18 months the public is curious to know what the County has been doing over the last 5 years that Castle AFB has been under their jurisdiction that has prevented an environmental analysis of this project heretofore? Is there any legitimate reason for the delay? Castle AFB has been the subject of extensive environmental review as a superfund site, and the County has most certainly been involved with earlier environmental assessments of the designated areas during the existence of the Castle Joint Powers Authority.

We appreciate your consideration of these concerns and look forward to your timely written response to these and any other questions you may receive during public testimony on this matter on Jan 24th 2006, and what ever subsequent date you may consider this item.


Bryant Owens and Kathleen Lopez

Planada Community Development Corporation

2683 South Plainsburg Road

Merced CA 95340 Cc: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water

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