Growth

Some reasons that could explain the Modesto Bee endorsement of Pombo (if stupidity is not the whole answer)

Submitted: May 31, 2006

In a quiet little editorial on May 18, the Modesto Bee endorsed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, against Republican challenger, former Rep. Pete McCloskey.

The Bee says that although Pombo is a (as yet unindicted) crook, he "has been effective in many ways."
McCloskey, is described as a quixotic, 78-year-old renegade, an author of the Endangered Species Act angry over Pombo's attacks.

Pombo's gut-the ESA bills are co-authored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, who represents most of the Modesto Bee distribution area. A practical political consideration not mentioned by the editorialists is that without Pombo's hip pocket to ride in, Cardoza would lose influence in the one-party rightwing House. Rather than register as a Republican, Cardoza is a rightwing Democrat, of use to the House rightwing leadership as "bipartisan" cover for Pombo's radical rightwing legislation and decisions in the Resource Committee.

The Bee notes that Pombo was elevated over more senior House Republicans to the chairmanship of the Resources Committee. The Bee fails to mention that Pombo was also elevated several months ago over more senior Republicans to become vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

These important offices, once earned through years of service to the still untermed House, are now doled out by the radically rightwing Republican leadership to bolster its strengths here, fight off a challenge there and especially to reward loyalty to their radical rightwing policies. Once, even under periods of Republican control, the Congress chose its committee leaders on the basis of seniority, encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric subjects like dairy pricing, cotton and rice subsidies (especially at the beginning of a new Farm Bill debate), ability to compromise and negotiate across the aisle, and perhaps, from time to time, even a for little integrity, civility and authenticity.

In Pombo's case, the radical rightwing Republican leadership of the House, whose guidance the Modesto Bee has followed slavishly, has made Pombo as powerful as it could have in two areas -- resources policy and farm policy -- at a time when north San Joaquin Valley special interests are intent on liquidating both natural resources and agricultural land for a huge speculative housing boom.

It is a moment when the Bee editorial board should have stood for a principle. In fact, the "should" word was used:

It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

The Bee editorialists give no reason why 11th congressional district Republicans "should" choose Pombo, but here are a few I imagine might have persuaded the editorialists:

Get rid of the ESA so developers can build from the Altamont to Bakersfield without any interference from environmental law and regulation, despite the air quality disaster unfolding in the San Joaquin Valley;

Let the government buy up agricultural land at development prices;

Get rid of that 3-cent per hundredweight dairy tax proposed for the new Farm Bill;

Continue strong subsidy support for cotton and rice;

Keep the cabal of Pombo, Cardoza and Valley congressmen Radanovich, Nunes and Costa in control for continued pro-growth, anti-environmental, agribusiness-subsidy and racist policies;

Keep out McCloskey, an independent candidate with a proven record for courageous, principled political positions, who would be no tool for regional special interests;

If necessary (if Pombo is indicted before November), elect one of the Democratic candidates who are vying with each other to see who can be the biggest tool of special interests;

Neither Pombo or the Democrats would be votes to impeach the president; McCloskey has shown he has the courage to take that position if he decided it was the right thing to do.

The Modesto Bee sold its readers down the River of Stupid with this endorsement. It was cowardly, corrupt and dumb -- a combination of components in political policies we are finding more common by the day whenever our leaders speak.

Bill Hatch
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Pombo best among GOP options, but he'll have explaining to do later

Last Updated: May 18, 2006, 04:23:03 AM PDT

With his close ties to disgraced Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, contributions from clients of admitted criminal Jack Abramoff, and his off-the-wall plan to sell national parks, Richard Pombo looks to be ripe for defeat in the 11th Congressional District.
We don't think so; not this time. None of Pombo's problems will matter to the majority of Republican voters in a district that includes most of San Joaquin and parts of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. In this primary, the district's Republican voters are unlikely to vote against their seven-term representative. After all, he is the same big business-friendly, hardball playing, conservative Republican they've been electing since 1992.

As a protegé of DeLay, Pombo was elevated over more senior members to the chair of the House Resources Committee. From that position, he has forged a valley coalition that includes Democrats and Republicans. While we often disagree with the direction he has taken the committee, he has been effective in many ways.

In the primary, Republicans must choose between Pombo and 78-year-old renegade Pete McCloskey (retired Tracy rancher Tom Benigno is a nonfactor). It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

Angry over Pombo's attacks on the Endangered Species Act, of which McCloskey was co-author, Pombo's opponent moved into the district last year to give GOP voters an alternative. This has provided a loud and healthy airing of issues and a real campaign instead of the proforma exercise Pombo usually goes through to win re-election.

We admire McCloskey's quixotic quest, but we doubt that the district's Republicans are interested in an alternative. Besides, even a deeply flawed Pombo has more to offer the district than McCloskey.

It could be a different story in November. Then, a well-financed Democrat with distinctly differing views will present a clearer alternative. Then, Pombo will have to explain why 15 American Indian tribes, all with business before his House committee and some represented by Abramoff, have been so generous to him; why he has voted to protect oil companies' royalties and increase their profits; why he worked so hard to protect DeLay's power, and why he wanted to sell off pieces of15 national parks.

Republican voters should stick with Pombo — at least until they have a better alternative.

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Merced public meets a WalMart empty T-shirt

Submitted: May 26, 2006

Last week WalMart staff joined three local chambers of commerce to hold a public meeting on the company’s proposed 1.2-million square-foot distribution center, to be located at the Mission Interchange of Highway 99. The Mission Interchange will join the highway to UC Merced, via the Campus Parkway, the southern leg of a beltway road around Merced that will convey traffic to the campus and the growth it is inducing north of the city.

The WalMart distribution center will bring about 1,000 trucks in and out of Merced per day.

The meeting host was the Merced Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, flanked by the two other local chambers. The hosting chamber’s representative informed the public that speakers would be allowed no more than two minutes to speak, otherwise security guards would escort them out of the meeting room.

After the tone of antagonism to the public was set, a WalMart representative wearing a black suit and a white T-shirt began the presentation. He explained that the two-minute rule was because the meeting room in the Merced Multi-Cultural Center was only rented until 9 p.m. (WalMart didn’t get rich by renting halls for public outreach until 10 p.m., presumably).

The T-shirt began by saying that the area was zoned industrial, in “University Industrial Park,” and was a good fit for WalMart. Since WalMart didn’t get to be the largest corporation in the world by wasting money on fancy power point presentations, the T-shirt presented his on a projector and screen primitive enough for the public school system.

“There’s a good deal of misinformation out there,” T-shirt began, promising to clarify everything. He began by explaining that the City of Merced had just put out requests for proposals for consultants to do the environmental impact report required for the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“We didn’t think the city should pay,” he said, so WalMart will be paying for the EIR.

One imagined WalMart’s view of who should pay for the EIR was probably shared by city staff and council members. Members of the Merced public familiar with EIRs and the consultants who write them are of the conviction – not challenged by anyone else familiar with the EIR/consultant process – that science for hire produces remarkable perversions of CEQA. The WalMart Distribution Center EIR for the Mission Ave. Interchange promises to be a tour de force of the environmental consultants’ art. We are aquiver with anticipation.

Several weeks ago, the federal government announced that the San Joaquin Valley is now the worst air pollution basin in the nation – worse than Los Angeles over a period of five years – although you cannot get a local Valley official to recognize it. It’s a tricky time for our pro-growth Valley politicians, because federal highway funds have been known to cease (in Atlanta, for example) when air quality becomes a genuine health and safety issue called “severe non-attainment.” So, Valley politicians, enthusiastic create the next San Fernando Valley, are very busy trying to gut CEQA as congressmen Pombo and Cardoza have been busy trying to gut the Endangered Species Act in Washington.

“We don’t understand CEQA in Bentonville,” the empty T-shirt explained. Of course, how could they? They don’t have any stores or other distribution centers anywhere else in California and have never, ever had to produce an EIR.

Zooming through his power point presentation, correcting public misapprehension of the project as he went, T-shirt closed by saying WalMart has nothing to hide and just wants to get “on the same page” with the public on information about the project. He expressed dismay about where people were getting their information, suggesting darkly perhaps some of it came from the Internet. He counseled the audience to verify all information they got from the Internet, presumably with WalMart, city officials, council members and environmental consultants. Nice little chats with these authorities are always more pleasant than following the paper trail, and a great deal less taxing on the mind.

A representative for a local responsible growth group noted there were five schools within a mile of the proposed distribution center. The company’s distribution centers are most typically located away from population centers, he said. Where will truckers park after they have finished their 8-hour shifts, he wondered.

WalMart knows there is an air pollution problem, T-shirt said, but WalMart is only a piece of the whole picture. The company will know how to mitigate for air pollution after the EIR is finished. He failed to deal with the issue of parked trucks, a major problem in Merced, a city with draconian anti-truck-parking ordinances.

A woman with family in New Mexico said WalMart promised good jobs for local workers where her family lived but imported workers instead. She asked if WalMart would guarantee it would hire Merced workers and the amount of the wages.

T-shirt was ready for that one, too, correcting her to say the New Mexico facility was a super center, not a distribution center.

But the woman was also ready: “If you lie about wages in a super center, why won’t you lie about wages in a distribution center,” she asked.

T-shirt replied that WalMart would import a management and training team but that after six months, they whould leave. The EIR will make these wages and jobs commitments, he said.

A young fellow, about 12 or 13 years old, told T-shirt he had asthma and wondered if WalMart would pay his medical bills for making his air quality worse.

T-shirt said WalMart could not agree to that, admitted the distribution center could have some impact to air quality, and reiterated that WalMart will not be choosing the environmental consultants. (WalMart will just pay them.)

A gentleman who said he frequently drives through the Midwest said people there blame WalMart for the decline in local businesses.

“That’s a fair question,” the empty T-shirt said. “We’ll have a philosophical difference of opinion,” he added, noting Merced’s vibrant downtown. Downtown business people one talks to, however, must be blind as bats not to see what T-shirt sees, as the area fills up with antique franchises. Even the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, co-sponsors of the event, recently moved its offices from downtown to north Merced, where strip malls are sprouting like weeds in the sun of UC Merced.

The description of the event could go on, but readers would soon become bored with the simple puppet show between The Corporation and The People. On the other hand, let us continue to give the full flavor of this moment.

Next came a man from Planada, an unincoporated community composed largely of Mexican farmworker immigrants. This local leader was somewhat disingenuous about his position in the community, announcing himself as a simple utility company employee when, actually, he was a prominent community leader who holds several appointed positions. He wanted 1 percent of his constituency to get jobs at the distribution center. “I want that center to help my people,” he said.

A neighbor of the proposed site told the T-shirt she didn’t believe either the local government (because a low-income housing project the government said would be for locals turned out to be for out-of-towners) or WalMart. What guarantee do we get from these job promises, she asked. What guarantee is there we will get only the newest, most environmentally advanced trucks? What written guarantees will we get from either WalMart or the City of Merced?

The empty T-shirt replied that all that would be handled in the EIR, adding that he himself, the T-shirt, didn’t make guarantees.

The neighbor replied that environmental review documents have exactly nothing to do with jobs and wages for local citizens. The crowd began to mutter darkly, a voice from the pro-WalMart faction told her to sit down and shut up and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce representative invoked the 2-minute rule again (and the implied security guards behind it).

The Empty T-Shirt replied after the muttering that the WalMart CEO had recently decreed that the company’s truck fleet would be green by 2007.

A local activist, also involved in trying to stop the proposed NASCAR race track on the other side of town (another boon to regional air quality), asked why Merced should welcome a corporation with a record for exploiting workers on overtime (off-the-clock work, proven in a $117-million class action award, denies meal breaks, is the object of a class action gender-discrimination suit, degrades the environment, and buys enormous quantities of goods from sweatshops in China.

“Why is this enhancing Merced?” he asked.

The empty T-shirt said those questions were philosophical. “Anyone can file a lawsuit,” he commented, adding that WalMart imported goods worth $18 billion from China but bought $137 billion worth of goods in the US. WalMart is a global company, he asserted. It sells US goods overseas. “We embrace the global economy,” he concluded.

A local teacher raised the issue of why the distribution center would be located within the city, when most are located in the middle of nowhere. T-shirt replied that the “University Industrial Zone” was zoned properly and the EIR will tell the full story. Another neighbor of the proposed distribution center noted there are three public schools within a mile of the project and a new subdivision within 500 feet of it. She also challenged WalMart representatives to describe how they would spend some portion of $12 million in Merced that they claimed WalMart had donated to worthy causes in California.

T-shirt’s fellow apologist, the WalMart Real Estate Department Suit, replied that at the very time the public was complaining about this project, WalMart was giving out two scholarships to high school graduates in Merced. He added that the company would be improving and expanding three roads near the distribution center site.

A member of the public with some experience in the trucking industry remarked that the new, “green” trucks WalMart claims it will be using by 2007 would be cycled into their fleet slowly, at a rate of 14 percent per year. He added that the distribution center would not be built if WalMart weren’t planning to build super centers throughout the Valley, including grocery stores, and that the grocery elements of those centers were gutting local economies. He also commented that the reason WalMart would be widening those nearby roads would be to provide space for idling trucks to wait all night in line for the docks.

T-shirt asserted that all WalMart trucks would be green by 2007 and the Real Estate Suit said there would be no food handled at this distribution center.

Why not, we wondered, since it’s located in the middle of one of the most prolific food-production and processing zones in the world.

A former City of Merced department director belligerently announced he was thankful to WalMart for coming to Merced and accused opponents of the project of being outsiders.

An opponent of the project said everyone speaking in opposition was from Merced. “The reason WalMart is under a microscope,” he said, “is because of a long history of exploitation of workers, including three lawsuits against you brought by your own employees.”

He added that for WalMart, full-time employment means 28 hours a week, not 40. Although the company touts its benefits, he asked what employees could afford these benefits.

T-shirt explained there would be three full-time shifts at the distribution center and that full-time employment meant a minimum of 34 hours, with 40 hours “expected.” Medical/dental benefits require only an $11/month payment, he said, while a union charges $30/month for medical/dental coverage and dues.

T-shirt left the issue of the size of the medical/dental co-payment in the WalMart plan unexplored, but claimed 60-percent of WalMart employees have medical insurance.

A member of public asked if WalMart would put in writing that it was not receiving state subsidies for locating its project in a state enterprise zone, in view of the fact Merced citizens were being asked for two tax increases.

“No, we won’t pay for your potholes!” she said. “We want high-paying jobs here and a decent quality of life!”

As T-shirt began to argue about the state enterprise zone, she said: “You should be honest!”

T-shirt continued talking about how WalMart would spend millions in fees and $400,000 for schools.

“We want it in writing,” the critic said.

At this point, an outside agitator from one of Atwater’s famed political donut shops arose to say that Merced County had the highest unemployment in the Central Valley. “The Lord is guiding WalMart to Merced! How are we going to get these empty houses filled without jobs?”

A neighbor of the project site told the panel he thought the fellow from Atwater would be a good WalMart greeter, adding that there is nothing on the CalTrans website indicating the Mission Ave. Interchange overpass would be completed by 2007, that the overpass could not be completed until Highway 99 is widened, and that there is no indication on the website of any plans for landscaping. Meanwhile, traffic at the intersections is already congested, nearby Highway 140 cannot refuse truck traffic, and he thought WalMart had agreed to repair one of the peripheral roads as a feeder route to 140.

T-shirt said WalMart could not speak for the state of California. A member of the audience thought is was likely WalMart had talked to the Merced Council of Area Governments, who does speak about regional traffic plans to CalTrans.

A Merced resident expressed issues with WalMart’s corporate culture. The state’s chambers of commerce and the governor having already shot down the last attempt to get a minimum wage hike in California, he wanted to know if WalMart had a policy about denying benefits to employees who join unions.

T-shirt replied that that was not WalMart’s practice. “We don’t currently have any unions in our stores,” he said, “but there is a lot of opportunity at WalMart.”

“Including for women and minorities?” the citizen asked.

“Yes,” T-shirt replied.

Another resident wanted to know if WalMart did background checks on job applicants and was told it did, on criminal records and drug use.

Earlier, T-shirt had said that part of WalMart’s plan to renovate its truck fleet involved using single tires to replace sets of double tires on its trailers. The resident wanted to know if this practice would cause more wear on the roads. T-shirt replied that would be discussed in the EIR.

A Merced city councilman supplied some facts: that the city’s enterprise zone expired in 2006 but the Mission Interchange project would not be completed by CalTrans by 2007.

Another resident noted that 34-hour weeks at $13.50 would not pay for any of the houses for sale in Merced. Her slogan was: “Let the hiree beware!”

A UC Merced faculty wife, leader of a group called the “Valley Hopefuls,” which she characterizes as “progressives,” and a group called “Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth (MARG),” asked WalMart for a binding contract on issues beyond the scope of the environmental impact report. She asked for a commitment to a certain percentage of profits to come back to the community and 500 of the 600 proposed jobs to go to local residents.

“We are on the same side,” T-shirt said. The location is zoned industrial; that is responsible growth, and the project will aid the parkway to UC Merced.

The faculty wife/organizer, who will leave Merced to return to Palo Alto this summer, curtsied and asked T-shirt if he would like to join MARG.

Some in the audience wondered at this point what the hopeful Valley "progressives," led by the UC faculty wife had expected would happen after UC Merced came to town. Perhaps "progressive," according to UC, means deaf, dumb, asthmatic and blind.

A resident of Planada, a Hispanic who said he was a fifth generation American citizen, said he liked this country “because it allows us to sue you.” He wanted WalMart to hire 100-percent of Planada, suggesting that surely local politicians could work out some kind of deal like that.

A sophomore from the high school near the proposed site said, “We don’t need a 1.2-million square-foot tumor.”

T-shirt again referred to the coming EIR.

The student asked if an EIR were really needed to show that the distribution center would cause a great deal of light, noise and air pollution and traffic congestion.

A local realtor commented that the project was a good one because, “We need something to get this economy going.” (And here we thought the real estate industry was going gangbusters.)

A UC Merced student complained that UC would be paying for part of the parkway and that WalMart should be paying some of it. T-shirt said WalMart would be contributing taxes.

How much, members of the audience wondered, if WalMart is not registering its trucks in California?

T-shirt concluded by saying that double-digit unemployment in Merced was a “huge benefit to WalMart.”

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The Blockhead Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley

Submitted: May 23, 2006

The newest “vision” for the San Joaquin Valley, according to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, which graced us with its prestigious presence last week in Merced, is composed of four elements:

· rapid urbanization;
· destruction of local, state and federal environmental law, regulation and resource-agency enforcement;
· demand for state and federal public funds to pay for the infrastructure caused by the on-going speculative housing boom;
· demand for a “business-friendly regulatory climate” (including maintaining low wages) to entice state, national and global corporate investment in a new “economic engine” for the San Joaquin Valley.

The last element is urged with all the sincerity and passion middle-aged bureaucrats are capable of, because, of course, the Valley is incapable of creating its own economic engine from its own enormous capital from its own state, national and global corporations, built on low wages, a large pool of unemployed, illegal immigration, as well as an enormous amount of hard work, savvy business management, superb marketing campaigns, total control of elected officials, and basic agricultural and engineering ingenuity (the best of it without academic credentials).

In short, the Valley “vision” remains what it has always been: nostalgia for the funding of federal and state water projects that made it great. When you add subsidized water to a huge alluvial fan, hard working, intelligent farmers and ranchers from Europe, the Midwest and the Middle East, low-paid seasonal workers from Oklahoma to Okinawa to Michoacan to the Punjab and elsewhere, Presto! You get the best agricultural economy in the world, which just naturally attracts every business and political force in the nation to try to suck it dry and bleed it to death, currently represented by cartels that monopolize pesticides, fertilizers and seeds, coupled with foreign trade policies that expose Valley agricultural production to competition from every lower wage agricultural economy in the world, including some, like Texas, right here at home. Chinese cotton and genetically modified organisms are perhaps the two most pressing issues, but there are others. The incredible ability of Valley farmers to produce has been the source of great prosperity (for some producers) but also a source of great economic pain. Excellent economic arguments exist that the Valley’s curse is overproduction. A corollary to that, in political circles, given the volume of production and its dependency on foreign markets, trade policies and subsidies, is that the Valley has never been adequately represented in Congress. Our 250 crops fare badly in Congress against the basic grains of the Mississippi Valley states. Our creativity, our diversity and our ingenuity are our curse. Yet, even there, in an odd, backhanded way, we benefit, for surely the dumping of Midwest corn in Mexico since NAFTA (1993) has driven hundreds of thousands of able Mexican farmers off their land and flung many of them against the border walls and fences.

The Valley agricultural economy has never been stable. The kind of dynamism and genius that created it is, frankly, not stable. It’s quirky. It’s a boom and bust deal. After a season of plenty, disaster. Within living memory the Boswell Corporation gave its workers a year’s paid vacation when Tulare Lake flooded. Although it is hard to imagine that the Miller-Lux Company would have been beneficent, it is harder to get a descendant of its employees to speak ill of it. In the years before the UFW went bankrupt economically and organizationally, how many farmers that did their own tractor work and sprayed their own crops denied their businesses were built on the backs of their Mexican workers? How many who could not abide the union hiring hall paid union wages to non-union workers? How many workers who could not abide the hiring hall worked out of some loyalty to the grower as well as the wages? The thing between workers and growers only becomes that abstract concept, Labor, when some people work in the field and others don't.

But now, there is a new “vision” for the Valley: the developer’s vision of the Valley as real estate upstream in the state’s water supply system. It’s a classic business con game, built on floating investment looking for a home, and it is growing increasingly more tenuous as the national economy sours. Perhaps this spring the assault on every natural resource, including the agricultural, in the Valley, by developers and their bureaucratic lackeys appears merely ridiculous; by next year it will be so absurd we might not get another Partnership dog-and-pony show, trotting out local and state leadership whose glamour is fading by the week, along with the Hun’s chances for reelection.

Local officials came whining before the Partnership panel, crying poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, domestic violence (Rep. Dennis Cardoza’s staffer’s arrest on that charge was politely not mentioned), immigrant populations, the unfairness of government to the San Joaquin Valley, our wretched state – so much worse than Appalachia, how the Valley groans under the impact of cruel, heartless environmental law employed by demons in human form who aim, devilishly, only to harm the half dozen or so big developers in the region and to humiliate their army of bought and sold elected officials and sycophantic staff, who engineer the destruction of law and regulation.

Fact – to refute the plaintive wanderings of the former UC Merced planning director: UC railroaded the process of state and federal environmental review. The deal was run out of Gov. Gray Davis’ office, an honest political payoff for an honest political service – delivery of the Valley vote in 1998, principally as a result of the brilliant staff work out of former Rep. Gary Condit’s office. Condit was the first California congressman to back Davis in the primary. Together they developed a Valley strategy to pick up the necessary votes to win the General Election. Condit’s price was UC Merced (in his district). Davis delivered. Straight political deal. The only problem was that it ran roughshod over a number of environmental laws, regulations and the agencies charged with enforcing them. Smith echoed with perfect pitch the huge Merced Whine about these laws, regulations and agencies. Only Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, can do it better, when he is in full cry about the Anguish of His Contributors.

How dare members of the local community sue the University of California, this glorious project with such widespread public support! Perhaps we are having a senior moment, but we cannot remember when the public was ever asked to vote on UC Merced.

Normally, we would have expected the Shrimp Slayer to have been at the Partnership event. But the vice chair of the Partnership is San Joaquin County’s largest developer, who last year threw a joint fundraiser for the Shrimp Slayer and Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, shortly before the demented duo introduced their “bipartisan” bill to gut the Endangered Species Act. Rather than face this political awkwardness among his constituency, aware of the beating Pombo is currently taking from Pete McCloskey, Cardoza is in hiding south of his district. He is probably holed up in the Fresno offices of Westlands Water District, planning how to wreck the settlement negotiations between the Friant Water Users Authority and the Natural Resources Defense Council over the thorny problem of how much water can continue to flow to eastern Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties after a federal judge has mandated that the San Joaquin River must actually have water in it – even in the middle of Fresno County, where it hasn’t had water in it for 50 years.

The Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the current governor's pale attempt to replicate the pale Valley Economic Summit Gov. Davis tried (once), had no new ideas. State leadership and its stakeholding panel -- the chairwoman was secretary of CalTrans and some other agencies, the secretary of food and agriculture, various representatives of “the private sector,” and assorted local elected officials – had no new ideas. They had a few new words for business as usual, including “partnership” and “blueprint,” for unregulated urban growth.

That, coupled with the local "one-voice" whining for more political power and the disgusting begging for public funds, made this event a milestone in the political grotesque, perhaps the last milestone before the cliff is reached.

Or else.

Or else the agricultural economy of the Valley – universally vilified by the local whiners and the panel (except the secretary of food and agriculture, who noted that the agricultural economy is still – miraculously and most inconveniently – GROWING) – will continue to limp along, feeding us, housing us somewhat, providing the taxes that will support what education exists, and may, in some way utterly unknown to the political classes and their developer funders hungry for farms and ranches to turn into subdivisions, may just get us through the concocted economic crisis portrayed by the whining local bureaucrats to the sympathetic hearts of the state bureaucrats so deeply buried in the pockets of developers that the spare change in those pockets seems like manna from Heaven.

The plight of Valley public education is truly horrible, if only one lacks any historical perspective on the problem. Valley public education has always been what it is, moreorless the same as public education anywhere, and often better than in most places. I would still rather have a child of mine in public schools in Merced than in any major California city. There is a quality about our helplessly diverse immigrant population of children here in the Central Valley that has always inspired the best kind of teaching, the most quixotic commitments among the core of real teachers that ever make a difference, because these kids manage complex acts of peace, hope and harmony so far beyond the so-called adults who allegedly lead us.

The city will always outscore the Valley on city-designed academic tests. But, until recently at least, its entry-level jobs have provided youth and immigrants a chance to learn through work that has far out-stripped the learning possibilities of urban youth. We should build on that experience, not constantly run it down.

Yes, educational administrators are correct to ask for more money. That is their job, but only because they refuse to stand up and openly, consistently denounce state policies, encrypted in SB 50, that despoil public education in rapidly urbanizing regions like this one. Better than begging, our school administrators should openly, consistently, and simply, denounce SB 50, the filthy deal between the developers and the Legislature behind it, and the local deals between developers and politicians here and now. On behalf of our children, we should stand without equivocation, as so many Central Valley teachers stand, without equivocation, before pupils they need to teach and often do teach. Begging and wheedling before a blockheaded panel, whose formation is nothing but a political stunt, doesn't represent the tradition of Valley public education its administrators seem to have forgotten how to be proud of.

We have a good tradition of public education in the Valley. To see it on its knees, as the local superintendent presented it, was the ugliest thing about this ridiculous hearing. But that ugliness goes to the fundamental point at stake in the spring assault on Valley resources, human, agricultural and environmental: a century of unexamined pro-growth-at-any-cost state policies has impoverished us all. It is ruining our water supply and quality; it has already ruined our air quality; and it seeks with all the zeal of bought and sold politicians and their appointed staffs, to destroy our environmental law, regulation and resource agency enforcement of those laws and regulations.

This is wrong and contrary to the spirit of Valley public education and the families and neighborhoods behind it.

UC Merced was mentioned frequently as the savior of absolutely everything. Yet, other reports indicate not so many college applicants want to come to UC Merced.

A suggestion (from a comment made by the Los Banos city manager): close UC Merced. It was never anything but a boondoggle for a few land owners, financial institutions and real estate speculators anyway. Convert its facilities into a first class vocational training institute, on the model of the one in Klamath Falls, OR. Train students in the skills of manufacturing. If they can’t get jobs in the US due to continuing corrupt, off-shoring policies, they will probably be able to do well in Korea, Taiwan, Mexico or elsewhere. These skills will produce stable incomes. Perhaps, if the Valley “leadership” awakes from its dreams of quick bucks from real estate, it may even see the potential in such a course, if for no other reason because it is within the culture and tradition of the Valley – AS IT IS – to educate people in practical industries.

The core of any industrial economy and the means by which that economy transcends its last generation lies in an educated industrial workforce. Something has gone terribly wrong with the institutional culture of the University of California. Perhaps one too many win-win, public-private partnerships has erased from its institutional memory the idea that it is a "public research" institution, that its purpose is to serve the California public's higher educational needs rather than exploit the medical research opportunities provided by its being the "engine of growth" in the worst polluted air basin in the nation. The Valley doesn't want to be the UC laboratory for lung disease anymore than we want our politicians to solve air pollution by suspending air quality law to allow for more UC-stimulated urban growth.

So, we propose that, rather than UC Merced educating some class of technologists better developed at any of its other campuses, we close its campus and reopen it as the best vocational training center in the nation, producing the top machinists, tool and die makers, mold makers, auto and farm equipment engineers – in general, a class of brilliant, forward looking people who can build very complex, useful things with their hands and help California catch up with the rest of the industrialized world in building cleaner industrial processes. Sometimes, academic engineers and scientists are required in this process, but without the people who can build the new equipment, giving constant feedback in the process of invention, innovation does not occur.

I make this suggestion because it is harmonious with the genius of the Valley. This is the training that will build the next best post-harvest handling shed. Someone from this school will build a thresher that will not kill every ground-nesting bird in its path. Here, a student will be presented with the challenge of how to make local streams both habitable to wildlife and adequate to carry increasing flows and she will solve the puzzle.

Here, invention will occur because the Valley, as always, will attract devoted teachers and eager students. The Valley itself – socially, economically, environmentally – remains a huge, beautiful puzzle, an enormous challenge for people with the right kind of education, stressing the practical, hands-on solutions to concrete puzzles.

UC, lamentably, is not that institution. UC Merced was and remains a land deal. Of course, the Regents and the chancellor, could never ever admit they were taken for such a wild political railroad ride. This, too, is our genius. We have always had to be better at politics than our urban cousins and we have always risen to the challenge.

Why?

Because agriculture is always more complex than urban reality. Political leaders from agricultural areas must always both know their own economy and the urban economy. Urban politicians indulge themselves in the illusion that they do not have to know agricultural economics.

It’s complicated.

What the Partnership and every other developer-driven economic model coming at us says is that reducing farmland to its real estate value is simple and the complexity of a living agricultural system -- however mangled by agribusiness conglomeration it is – is messy and dys-economic.

To this, if you are a Valley person, you can only reply with deleted expletives. We will stand behind our rich, incredibly diverse population and our incredibly rich, diverse agricultural production. We will say NO to local and state leadership bought and sold by developers wishing to make the Central Valley the next, upstream, San Fernando Valley. We will oppose a "new" economy based on selling the most productive agricultural land in the world to outside real estate speculators. That isn't economics; that is just ruin.

Statistically, our immigrants look poor. In their hearts they aren’t poor. In their hearts they know what real poverty is – learning takraw in a Thai refugee camp, running for your life from a federale, a government that sold your village, the sheer stagnation of island living.

We have here in the Valley a unique population composed of some of the strongest, most adventuresome people in the world, people who stood up, escaped, lived, thrived, carried on, survived miseries and oppressions our begging bureaucrats will never understand and so will never realize is the only real source of capital there ever was.

The entire panel of the Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley should have adjorned, after their dismal hearing, to Applegate Park to observe Hmongs throw spinning tops. Although they would not have understood the language or how to play the game, those with some residual sensitivity could not have failed to catch the feeling.

The top spinners have no money to pay blockhead partnership. Only the developers can really support partners in the style to which they have become accustomed. A pity. The Hmong top spinners could have reminded the partners of human dignity, a nice palate cleanser after a morning listening to local officials begging for sewer funds to accommodate irresponsible growth. But the partners chose to dine by invitation to their own kind only.

"What are the top 3 priorities for action that will improve the future economic prosperity and quality of life for the San Joaquin Valley?" the Partnership asked.

The public, invited for short comments at the end of the session, replied in part, as follows:

Our "leaders" are dimwits. Don't listen to them. We don't. They have no ideas but urban growth. Their minds are like salad oil slipping off the lip of a plate, as oily as the latest "balancing" of antagonistic, mutually exclusive goals, greased up in new terms every fresh funding season. Our leaders want everything but to make real choices. The public, not our bought and sold empty suits, should have been first, not last, to speak at this hearing. But, the manage that would have required real political leadership on the part of the panel, which has none.

There should be a moritorium on growth until general plans are updated.

There should be a permanent outlawing of the corrupt practice of developers indemnifying land-use authorities against legal challenges arising from their irresponsible, bought and sold land-use decisions.

We should preserve agriculture and wildlife habitat to allow agriculture and wildlife the opportunity to reach their next stages of evolution.

We should develop our enormous human capital rather than allow UC to use it for its public-private, win-win research projects.

We are sick and tired of the "one voice" of local shills for outside speculators. Why is the second point on their agenda always keeping wages low if they wish to develop the Valley? When will they ever awaken from the dream of the fast real estate deal and stand up for their own people, the agricultural productivity of this land, policies that will improve rather than worsen our air and water? When will they quit automatically selling our environment and our workforce on the cheap? When will they find within themselves some other value than simple money greed?

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Below the tipping point

Submitted: May 17, 2006

This year’s Great Valley Center conference was unusually duplicitous, even by the Center’s relaxed standards. Its title, “At the tipping point,” contrasted to the presentations throughout the two days, creating a sense of cognitive dissonance attributable, no doubt, to the Center’s recent merger with the University of California.

The conference poster invited its viewers to look upward at a map of mid-California projected on the sky above a tightrope walker the soles of whose shoes were also above us. I found no one at the conference willing to think about what this poster might mean.

The conference covered every aspect of urban growth but how to slow it down. One participant mentioned the term, “carrying capacity,” once, but the panel thought he was speaking in a Native American language and forgave him for it in the interest of multi-cultural harmony.

The only two resource agencies visible at the conference were the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the state Department of Water Resources. The San Joaquin Valley was recently designated the worst polluted air basin in the US, but not one session addressed this issue, however there were sessions on mass transit, integrating land use and transportation decision making, bikes and walks, and “Greenstop: California’s first sustainable highway rest area”. (Caltrans, not a resource agency, was one of the conference’s “Silver Sponsors.”)

Water was a big topic at the conference and Tim Quinn, vice president of Metropolitan Water District, was a featured speaker and session presenter. Quinn filled the Valley audience with a sense of trust and confidence that Southern California was not interested in Valley water. Session topics included how water will shape the Valley’s future, water transfers (the debate between North and South), water quality, and prioritizing agricultural conservation easements (a UCB report, using cutting edge mapping technology to show that ag easements should be put on flood plains near levees to prevent more subdivisions – because the state has to pay if the homes are flooded).

Growth sessions included:

· Challenges and opportunities for master-planned communities
· Growing rural economies with entrepreneurial community colleges
· What every planner should know about air quality
· After the flush: Reclaimed water strategies
· Sustainable housing
· Green building: A chance for the Valley
· Timber! Modern forestry policy, practices and wildlife
· Green energy powerhouse
· Affordability in today’s housing market
· The man from Brazil, Jaime Lerner (a feature speaker, mayor of a large Brazilian city, who spoke on lower-tech mass transit)
· Land use and planning for dummies
· The Valley blueprint project: A regional approach
· Population challenges
· Wow! Look at Valley downtowns
· Wireless for rural communities
· A featured speech by former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros

Agriculture was also considered:

· Gardens as the center of a community
· Sustainable food moves beyond a niche market
· Alternative fuels: What is the opportunity?

There was also, as always with the Center, an emphasis on how to co-opt local leaders who might pop up here and there to disturb the smooth transition from San Joaquin to San Fernando:

· Grassroots lobbying – how, who, when?
· Promatoras: More than community health workers
· Strategies for engaging rural community leaders
· E Pluribus Unum: Multi-ethnic collaboration for community action

The water discussion, while at times pretending broader perspectives, was continually dragged down into the whirlpool of the Friant lawsuit. On the second morning, a group of state Assembly members – Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), Nicole Parra (D-Hanford), Roger Neillo (R-Sacramento) and Juan Arambula (D-Fresno) – gave a spirited performance of the point of view of Fresno (City and County) and eastern Tulare and Kern counties’ farmers. The Friant Water Users Authority point of view was also ably represented in every session on water during the conference. When one participant of the session on transfers asked if some of the Friant-Kern water eventually ends up “going over the hill,” he was directly contradicted by Quinn, the representative of DWR and several Tulare farmers. Quinn also said that water would not be a constraint on future Southern California growth. An urbane, sophisticated man, he also mentioned global warming, noting, however, that Metropolitan lacked adequate data on it.

This GVC conference was notable in the experience of frequent attendees of these conferences over the years for its embrace of the principle, Growth Is Inevitable and an Exciting Challenge, and its evident amnesia about agriculture – Valley Farmers Are Large Landowners. Gone was any lip service to agriculture or any awareness or wildlife species and habitat. A few sessions on medical topics substituted for any sense of environmentally caused diseases. The conference seemed to some of us to be part and parcel of what we are calling the Springtime Assault on Valley Natural Resources.

The most offensive aspect of the conference from a social and economic justice perspective was the recognition that two cultures – Anglo and Hispanic – dominate, and that the Anglo culture will get rich off development while the Hispanic is encouraged to develop Third World methods of dealing with political disenfranchisement, educational disadvantage, and health problems arising from environmental degradation. If the Hispanic leaders do not challenge development, the Center will do its best to see that some funding trickles down to local Hispanic leaders. This strategy displays the decades of partisan political experience among top executives at the Center and a heavy dose of UC flak.

The best session was E Pluribus Unum: Multi-ethnic collaboration for community action, an interesting dog-and-pony show, led by Dr. Isao Fujimoto of UCD, displaying a new generation of Valley urban minority youth, discussing strategies for dealing with ethnic gang conflicts, cultural respect, poverty, school, housing and organizing, using tools established in many cases decades ago by a long list of organizations – from Alinksy’s to the Friends Service Committee’s – to help Appalachia del Oeste. Notably missing was any sense of union organizing.

Those of us impressed by UC Merced’s drive to establish a research medical school in the Valley look forward soon to studies like: Differential Rates of Asthma among Children of Anglo-Saxon, African-American, Native American, Hmong, Laotian, Miao, Cambodian, North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Mestizo and Mixteco Descent. We think, if GVC continues its superb work in minority communities, that it will be longer before we see an E Pluribus Unum Workers’ Alliance Against Air Pollution That Is Killing Our Children and Grandparents.

Finally, noting the food served at this GVC conference from an historical perspective, frequent attendees wondered whether the Center was losing funds or just losing interest in holding conferences.

The conference’s top sponsors included: The California Endowment, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Gerry N. Kamilos, LLC, AT&T, SJVAPCD, Caltrans, Castle & Cooke, Citibank, Comcast, P G & E, Sierra Health Foundation, Pacific Union Homes, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, KVIE, and UC Merced.

Event sponsors included a number of development consultants, Chevron, Western States Petroleum Association, Caltrans, Diesel Technology Forum, Kaiser Permanente, USDA Rural Development, HUD, several utilities, CSU Chico, some green energy companies, and others.

Perhaps sponsors such as these don’t want the Valley public to gather together and break good bread anymore. So many of them, particularly developers and their consultants (with lenders, realtors and landowners standing behind them) maintain a uniformly hostile attitude to public participation in the environmental, health and safety reviews of their projects that grossly affect the quality of life of the Valley public. But, as we learned again at the conference, experts hired by special interests always know what is best for unspecial us. Some of the Center’s top sponsors are grand philanthropists of the planning process – sincerely contributing to the campaigns of elected officials that make local land-use decisions approving the philanthropists’ own projects. This charity even extends to legal indemnification funds that protect the municipalities and counties in case members of the public sue the officials for land-use decisions that might have been influenced more by developer philanthropy than by thoughts of the Public Trust or the common good.

Nevertheless, some resourceful members of the Valley public repaired to a nearby eatery for a lively “breakout session” of their own over good food and wine on the evening of the first day of the conference.

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Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process

Submitted: May 14, 2006

The following letter was submitted by attorneys for the Grassland Water District and Grassland Resource Conservation District to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2 hearing on General Plan Amendment policies and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The letter has been transcribed from a facsimile. – Bill Hatch

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo
Attorneys at Law
1225 8th Street, Suite 550
Sacramento, California 95814-4810
Telephone: (916) 444-6201
Facsimile: (916) 444-6209
E-mail: omeserve@adamsbroadwell.com

May 1, 2006

VIA FACSIMILE AND U.S. MAIL

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: General Plan Amendment Policies and Procedures During General Plan Update Process

Dear Chairperson Nelson and Members of the Board:

This firm represents the Grassland Water District and the Grassland Resource Conservation District (collectively, “GWD”). GWD has been following the County’s progress toward updating its General Plan, and the issue of how land use planning should proceed during the General Plan update process. At the Board’s April 11, 2006 meeting, a detailed discussion occurred regarding possible approaches to new project applications submitted during the General Plan Update process. Additional options for the Board’s consideration are included in the staff report for Item 55 on the Board’s April 2, 2006 agenda.

Generally, GWD supports actions by the Board that slow or halt the conversion of agricultural or open space lands located in the vicinity of GWD’s service are to urban and other uses. GWD supports a temporary moratorium on Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) adoptions during the General Plan Update process with respect to the Community of Volta, in particular (Option 3A). GWD also supports reasonable measures to slow or stop conversion of agricultural land during the General Plan update process (Option 3B). GWD also believes that the Board should not allow agricultural subdivision applications to be approved during the General Plan Update process. Such temporary measures are appropriate and would protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the County while the important planning processes are completed. (See Gov. Code, Sec. 65858.)

Background Information

GWD contains over 60,000 acres of privately-owned and managed wetlands located in Merced County. GWD lands, in combination with state and federal refuges and other privately-held wetlands, comprise the approximately 230,000 acre Grassland Ecological Area (“GEA”) designated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). These lands are managed as habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife.

The wetlands of western Merced County are a critical component of the remaining Central Valley wetlands and constitute the most important waterfowl wintering area on the pacific Flyway. These wetlands are acknowledged by the Merced County General Plan to be highly valuable wildlife and vegetation habitats, and international treaties have recognized the habitat as a resource of international significance. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) recently designated the GEA as a “Wetland of International Importance”. The GEA is one of only four such sites in California, and twenty-two sites in the country.

A study commissioned by the Packard Foundation, the Great Valley Center and GWD in 2001 found that wetlands within the GEA provide substantial direct economic contributions to the local and regional economies. The GEA receives over 300,000 user visits per year for hunting, fishing and non-consumptive wildlife recreation. Recreational and other activities related to habitat values within the GEA contribute $41 million per year to the Merced County economy, and account for approximately 800 jobs. Agricultural lands within the GEA also account for approximately five percent (5%) of Merced County’s $1.45 billion agricultural economy.

Community Plans Should Not Be Adopted or Updated During the General Plan Update Process

GWD’s concerns relating to adoption and updates of CSPs stem primarily from a long-term concern about the small, unincorporated community of Volta. Located about four miles northwest of Los Banos, Volta is adjacent to GEA, the Volta Wildlife Management Area, and other agricultural lands that provide a buffer to these sensitive wetland areas. Encroachment of incompatible uses associated with CSPs into areas near protected wetland habitats undermines both the long-term viability of the GEA and the core habitat values GWD and other entities are working to protect.

In the 1970’s, Volta was designated by the County as a Specific Urban Development Plan (“SUDP”) area. (General Plan, at p. I-7.) As a small SUDP area, the limited residential and service commercial land uses are oriented toward meeting the needs of the local rural population. (General Plan, at p. I – 11.) No Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) has ever been adopted.

Volta has been the subject of numerous proposals for large-scale residential subdivisions and has long been of concern to state and federal resource management agencies, wetland and waterfowl advisory organizations, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the City of Los Banos, GWD and other public and private entities. GWD has submitted numerous comments on other proposed projects in and near Volta, including Wilkinson Ranch, Volterra, and most recently, the Areias subdivision. These projects, had they been implemented, would have been incompatible with the long-term protection of nearby ecologically sensitive areas and the existing rural character of the Volta community.

Given that it is adjacent to GEA resources, GWD supports the redesignation of Volta to an Agricultural Service Center (“ASC”), as suggested by the current General Plan. (General Plan, at pp. I-11, VII-27.) Primarily, this is because further development of Volta would create conflicts with existing agricultural and open space uses. (General Plan, at p. I-11.) According to the General Plan, redesignation to ASC is appropriate for areas with the following characteristics: (1) lacking a full range of services; (2) stable or declining populations; (3) isolated location; and (4) agricultural service orientation to existing land uses. (General Plan, at pp. VII-27 to 28.) Volta meets all of these criteria; thus, ASC is a more appropriate designation for this rural area.

The current SUDP designation for Volta is inappropriate and will lead to encroachment of incompatible land uses into a sensitive area not suited for urban development. Therefore, GWD believes that adoption of a temporary moratorium on CSP adoptions and updates during the General Plan Update process is appropriate.

Agricultural Subdivisions Should Not Proceed During the General Plan Update Process

GWD also recommends deferring General Plan amendments that facilitate conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses in and near the GEA. None of the current options under consideration by the Board directly address subdivision of agricultural land (“ag subdivisions”). While Option 3B would limit approval of General Plan amendments from agricultural to non-agricultural uses (which GWD generally supports where such subdivisions would impact GEA resources), it is not applicable to ag subdivisions, which do not typically involve a change in land use designation.

Converting land currently in use for farming or grazing to ranchettes is incompatible with the long-term viability of the biological resources of the GEA. Furthermore, agricultural activities around the GEA help buffer the area for incompatible urban uses. According to a recently released report by the American Farmland Trust, nineteen percent (19%) of all developed land in Merced County is outside of city spheres of influence.
(http://www.farmland.org/reports/futureisnow/merced3.html)
Additionally, fifty-nine percent (59%) of all development within the 1990 to 2000 time period occurred in High Quality Farmland. (Ibid.)

GWD has commented on numerous ag subdivisions over the years because of the grave danger fragmentation of viable farmland and grazing land poses to the GEA and other natural resource values. Though the “parcelization of large holdings is discouraged: under the current General Plan, numerous ag subdivisions continue to be approved. (Agricultural Chapter, Objective 2. B.) GWD encourages the Board to also include provisions in its General Plan update procedures to limit approval of ag subdivisions and to ultimately adopt long-term policies that would effectively prevent further fragmentation of farmland and open space in and around the GEA.

Conclusion

GWD is participating in an ad hoc advisory group formed to advise local entities on Grassland-related issues. This group is called the Grasslands Resources Regional Working Group (“GRRWG”), and includes representatives from GWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fish and Game and Ducks Unlimited. Through the GRRWG and individually, GWD will be participating in the General Plan update process to ensure that appropriate protections are implemented to protect the incredibly valuable wetland resources within the Merced County Grasslands. We look forward to participating in the County’s planned focus groups in the near future.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the information presented in this letter. Thank you for considering GWD’s perspective on these important land use planning issues.

Very truly yours,

Osha R. Meserve

cc: Robert Lewis
William Nicholson
Grassland Water District Board of Directors
Grassland Resource Conservation District Board of Directors
Don Marciochi

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Pomboza seen splitting apart

Submitted: May 13, 2006

People in the 18th congressional district, represented by Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, ought to wake up and take notice of what is happening in the adjacent 11th congressional district, represented by RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy.

Defenders of Wildlife, a national environmental group, commissioned a poll of 402 likely voters in the 11th CD. The pollster found that 52 percent would prefer to vote for someone other than Pombo in the fall general election. "Someone else" is about all the Democrats have to offer, but it may be enough, if Pombo survives the primary.

The damage to the front end of the Pomboza is being done by former Rep. Pete McCloskey, 78, a co-author of the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo and Cardoza have been trying to destroy for the benefit of local developers, landowners, financial institutions, realtors and their relatives and friends.

The idea that two of the most obvious tools of rampant growth ever to hit Congress should have the power to change a widely respected and necessary federal law on behalf of a crowd of regional contributors (and, of course, UC Merced) proved to be a bit much for state and national environmental organizations, now busily canvassing precincts in Pombo's district.

Learned academic authority suggests that the poll might not be accurate because, after all, Defenders did it. This misses the point entirely: Defenders is there and willing to do the poll; that environmental groups have identified Pombo as the top political target in the nation.

What is policy for the groups is more personal for McCloskey, who at times says he is fighting for the "soul" of the Republican Party -- to rid it of greedy, stupid, rightwing, corrupt, environment destroying, House-rules destroying knuckleheads. He's fighting against a wing of the Republican Party who came to believe, like officials in dictatorships believe, that their personal wealth is the meaning of politics. While environmentalists have been knocking on doors and passing out leaflets, McCloskey has been attacking Pombo at every intersection in the district where he can raise a grassroots audience. His campaign has lit a thousand fires in hundreds of places. We'll see how the wildfire spread on primary Election Day, in the only poll that counts.

Pombo already knows he's in the worst fight of his life and has called on Vice President Dick Cheney to come raise money for him. But the rounds still last 3 minutes and nobody can help him in the ring with McCloskey. The people always enjoy the spectacle of a bully getting whupped. And people keep disappearing from Pombo’s corner: Libby, DeLay, Abramoff, and now, reportedly, Karl Rove, the best political cut man in the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the rear end of the Pomboza, like the well known rodeo clown act in which two clowns play the part of one ass, is turning around and running in the opposite direction -- down to Fresno to hobnob with Westlands Water District and three other south Valley congressmen interested in throwing a monkey wrench in the confidential settlement negotiations between the Friant Water Users Authority and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Federal court has ruled that the San Joaquin River must flow; therefore the Friant-Kern Canal cannot flow as much as it has.

Shrimp Slayer claims he had no "direct jurisdiction" to intervene on behalf of the Oseguera family of Le Grand, carried off to the Bakersfield deportation holding tank and held for three weeks until their lawyer could explain they were in the process of naturalization and raise $20,000 bail. Evidently he believes he has direct jurisdiction over the amount of water that flows through 40 miles of dry river in Fresno County and into the farming districts of eastern Tulare and Kern counties and that his good offices would be beneficial to Westlands Water District.

From Shrimp Slayer's point of view, however, we could speculate that his meddling doesn't matter at all, as long as it is a far away from Pombo as possible. That's the great think about Shrimp Slayer, you may not agree with him on the issues, but you always know who he is and where he stands -- the rear end of the Pomboza running away as fast as he can.

Shrimp Slayer's behavior is said to be "smart politics," which, like "smart growth" is constantly advertised as wise and admirable decision making by influential people and those who want to be influential people now that the full violence of lawless, stupid growth has come to the 18th congressional district, which is rapidly becoming just another Tracy, with, of course, a UC campus.

Bill Hatch
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Poll says Pombo support waning

Hank Shaw
Capitol Bureau Chief
Stockton Record
Published Thursday, May 11, 2006
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060511/NEWS01/605110337&SearchID=73244256515633

SACRAMENTO - Voters may not know much about the Democrats opposing Tracy's Rep. Richard Pombo, but it might not matter, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

A survey of 402 likely general election voters in Pombo's 11th District taken last week by a well-known Democratic pollster found that 52 percent would rather vote for someone other than the Republican incumbent this fall.

Republican political oddsmaker Allan Hoffenblum, co-editor of a guide to legislative and congressional elections, was impressed by the numbers even though pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner's survey was conducted on behalf of the activist group Defenders of Wildlife.

"It's a sign of deep, deep trouble," Hoffenblum, of California Target Book, said. "It's not easy to get a voter to say they'd fire an incumbent."

Pombo consultant Wayne Johnson said the campaign's internal polling does not match the Greenberg poll, but he did acknowledge that voters are sour on Congress in general.

"The atmospherics are depressing for any incumbent in Congress right now," Johnson said. Still, he said the order of questions in the Greenberg poll could have skewed the results.

"You get people in a hanging mood and it can dramatically affect the result," he said.

Pombo's position as House Resources Committee chairman has placed him at the center of the Republicans' ethical issues in Congress.

He was among the strongest allies of indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Pombo also has come under fire for misusing the congressional mail service and for spending $5,000 in taxpayer money to take his family on an RV tour of the West's national parks.

He received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And though he repeatedly denies that his votes are influenced by campaign contributions, he is seen as being fast friends with oil, logging, energy and mining interests. Just over a week ago, Pombo benefited from a campaign fund-raiser in Houston hosted by several leading energy industry lobbyists.

All of this is impacting his image among the voters, the poll found. Less than one in three likely voters has a favorable view of the incumbent, who is seeking an eighth congressional term. And he's losing in test heats to both his Democratic opponents, Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and Steve Filson of Danville.

A recent poll by the McNerney campaign showed that only 40 percent of primary voters recognized him while less than 20 percent recognized Filson.

"These guys are nobodies, and they're beating him," Pollster Ben Turchin said. "That's unheard of. I'm not saying by any stretch of the imagination that this race is over, but he's in a deep hole."

"Richard Pombo has turned the House Resource Committee into a grand bazaar where special interests ... all get favored treatment in return for campaign cash and luxury trips. The voters have finally noticed," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

Hoffenblum downplayed any strength Filson and McNerney showed in the survey because the 11th District is still GOP turf.

"If Pombo loses, the voters will be throwing him out - not putting Democrats in," he said.

Sacramento State University political scientist Barbara O'Connor noted that Defenders of Wildlife paid for the poll - which can run $20,000 or more - largely to help raise the millions they expect to spend this year trying to defeat Pombo.

Pombo's career-long effort to overhaul the federal Endangered Species Act has made him enemy No. 1 within the environmental movement.

That said, O'Connor said she suspects Pombo is in peril.

"I don't think these numbers are necessarily out in orbit from what I've seen, but they are a little high," O'Connor said.

Hoffenblum, who had downplayed the potential competitiveness of the race before, said he might have to change his mind.

"This could really be a horse race," he said.

View details of the poll are at www.defendersactionfund.org/releases/GreenbergPollMemoMay.pdf

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or sacto@recordnet.com
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Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Saturday 13 May 2006

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said. However, the day and time is unknown. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special prosecutor was unavailable for comment. In the past, Samborn said he could not comment on the case …
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Friends rally for jailed teen

Petition delivered to congressman's office

By Leslie Albrecht
Merced Sun-Star -- April 14, 2006

... In a statement released Thursday, Cardoza responded to the students' letter.

"The Congressman understands that this is a difficult situation for this family. He appreciates the concern the students of Le Grand Union High School have expressed for their fellow classmate. As a member of Congress, Representative Cardoza does not have direct jurisdiction over this case. However, he believes that everyone who enters the United States must comply with the law."
------------------

Regrouping after near-deportation...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12178706p-12922563c.html
LE GRAND - To the United States government, the Osegueras are criminals -- immigration absconders who were arrested along with 45 other Merced County residents during a two-day immigration sweep in late March. Gloria and her children entered the U.S. illegally in 1992...applied for asylum, but application was denied. They obtained work permits through a lawyer, started the process of gaining legal status. In 2000, a judge issued a deportation order, their lawyer filed an appeal and told them not to leave the country. The motion has been pending before the Immigration Board of Appeals since 2003. At 4:20 a.m. Friday, March 30 seven ICE agents knocked on the front door of their apartment; they would be sent to an immigration processing center in Fresno, then back to Mexico. Gloria explained that the family had a lawyer and that their case was under appeal; agents said the deportation order was final. When they got to Fresno, they called their lawyer, who filed for an emergency stay of appeal. Alma's classmates rallied to support her...collected signatures on petitions asking for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, to help the family and hand-delivered them to Cardoza's office. Finally on Cinco de Mayo, their lawyer called...bail had been set; they could leave jail... Alma will graduate from Le Grand High School.
-----------------------

At the Tipping Point, A Great Valley Center Event, May 10-11, 2006, Sacramento.
Oral comments on south San Joaquin Valley water politics by different participants.

| »

Latest on Peak Oil

Submitted: May 11, 2006

Writing from one of the hottest real estate markets in America, where we are now hearing a giant popping sound, some are asking questions, most aren't.

Now that our leaders have planted UC Merced as the anchor tenant for Growth, what's next? We've got an university among us under daily more intense scrutiny from the Legislature for misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance with respect to the public purse -- a university with one shining "victory," its retention of shared control of Los Alamos National Laboratory for the research and development of weapons of mass destruction. We have local developers, in cahoots with local politicians, breaking every public process, land-use and environmental law to build unsightly, resource-gobbling, air-polluting subdivisions. We've got landowners who may still farm but are no longer farmers. The sheer quantity of money flowing around town is mind-boggling, but it means wealth for very few along with the destruction of old business districts in favor of new strip malls.

None of this development had anything to do with creating job places. UC Merced and what followed were nothing but a land deal. Merced may have been transformed into the last, dumbest bedroom community in California by a public university maddened by an edifice complex, and by a gaggle of enabling Valley politicians, developers, landowners and financial institutions.

Our leaders and those with access to them, throughout this process, shared common obsessions: greed and hatred of environmental law, regulation and our environment itself, which they saw as standing in their way. At this point, it is fair to speculate that greed and hatred blinded them.

The problem of what to do with blind leaders is unimportant compared to what to do to survive them and their colleagues.

Text from: http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/042706_paradigm_speech.shtml

THE PARADIGM IS THE ENEMY: The State of the Peak Oil Movement at the Cusp of Collapse

A Speech by Michael C. Ruppert for the Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference
April 27-29, New York City, at Cooper Union

[This is the most important speech of my life. If you read anything I've written this year, read this - MCR]

April 28, 2006 1630 PST - (FTW) - NEW YORK -

As a matter of necessity, in the course of a turbulent and often very difficult life, I have developed a pretty warped sense of humor. As most police officers,
nurses, ER doctors, paramedics, and military combat veterans know, the
best time to find humor is when things are at their worst. Sometimes the
humor that emerges from these situations is strange, to say the least.
And yet sometimes it remains the most memorable humor of a
lifetime-humor that can actually sustain you in tough times. Humor is
energy.

Too often Peak Oil activism reminds me of a statement that I found a
long time ago in a book of famous quotations. In the section containing
the last recorded words of famous people I found a quote that has stayed
with me ever since.

The quote was simply, "We've got them now."

The person who wrote those last "recorded" words on a dispatch to his
commanding officer, General George Crook, was George Armstrong Custer.
During the course of this conference I have heard precious little
attention paid to events in the world around us indicating that Peak Oil
is about to have its global "coming out party" and what that might mean.
In almost every nook, cranny and corner of the planet, stress points are
beginning to fracture. For the past five years I have argued,
emphasized, and repeated endlessly that perhaps the biggest mistake of
all time was made on September 11th 2001, when the only real global
operational plan to deal with Peak Oil was put into effect. On September
11th we began a war, now infamously known as "the war which will not end
in our lifetimes," to decide who will control the last remaining oil and
gas reserves on the planet.

In Crossing the Rubicon I wrote, "Events in the five-year period that
began on September 11th, 2001 will determine the course of human history
for several centuries to come." We are just months away from the end of
that five-year period. What has been accomplished?

The painful answer is: not enough.

Where are we in the real world and how do we judge our current
activities in light of real-world events? To sum it up in the words of
one of the most senior members of the Peak Oil movement I know, Jay
Hanson, "I see my worst fears unfolding right in front of my face." Jay
wrote those words just about a week ago.

Jay started the first Peak Oil website in the 1980s, almost even before
there was a web. We should listen to Jay, and I could not agree more
with his assessment; my worst fears are unfolding right in front of my
face.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the Peak Oil movement's current operating
paradigm is that, a part of the movement at least, instead of building
lifeboats in the face of an immediate disaster, is delusionally focused
on trying to build alternative-powered luxury liners that operate just
like the paradigm we as a species need to be abandoning. Not only is
this a futile effort, it may well be responsible for killing or
destroying the lives of people who at least partially understand Peak
Oil and who are trying to find the best courses of immediate action for
themselves and their families.

Some parts of this movement however-and tonight I intend to honor two
men who are leading the way-have seen the writing on the wall and are
independently taking appropriate courses of action that demonstrate both
the kind of incisive thinking and leadership that will be needed in very
short order.

Before I tell you about these men I think it's a good idea to stop for a
minute and take an inventory of the world in which we live today-right
now.

THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S ENERGY

I have observed that almost every Peak Oil conference, whether this one,
or the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, or ASPO-USA, makes only
the most superficial attempt to evaluate geopolitical and economic
conditions. These conditions, more than the rate at which supplies are
depleted, will determine how Peak Oil and collapse manifest in our
lives.

The Times of London on April 8th ran a story that should have
pre-empted every other major story that day. Headlined "World 'cannot
meet oil demand'". The story's first sentence read, "The world lacks the
means to produce enough oil to meet rising projections for demand for
fuel, according to Cristophe de Margerie, head of exploration for
Total." Later the story quoted Margerie as saying, "'Numbers like 120
million barrels per day will never be reached, never' he said."

In the last year we have seen the collapse of Kuwait 's
super-giant field Burgan; accelerated decline in the world's
second-largest field, Mexico 's Cantarell; and an overall global decline
rate approaching 8%. We have seen Saudi Arabia fail to increase
production while at the same time finding it more difficult to hide
deteriorating reservoir conditions in all of its mature fields,
including Ghawar. As of tonight, more than 30 of the world's largest
producing nations have entered steep decline.

Discoveries continue to fall off a cliff. Over the last four
years the world has been consuming 6 barrels of oil for every new one
found. Publicity stunts, such as the recent attempt to reclassify
Venezuelan tar as oil - even when applauded by dilettantes like Gregg
Palast - are having no impact on markets, prices or public policy. I
think we can safely say at this point that we will soon see an end to
the influence of charlatans and schemers like Daniel Yergin of Cambridge
Energy. (Now there's at least one bright note.) At this point, the Peak
Oil movement should avoid expending needless energy on any arguments
about whether Peak Oil is real or not. That precious energy is needed
elsewhere. We have won that debate.

Soaring commodity prices for everything from copper, to uranium,
to cement and steel are not only hampering needed infrastructure
investment, they are also making it almost impossible to build new
drilling rigs, especially deep water rigs. Commodity scarcities are the
result of overpopulation, hoarding, over consumption and nothing else.
Drilling rigs themselves are in extremely short supply around the world
and I believe we should also stay away from any debates about whether
new oil supply will even make a difference. It will not and we need only
continue to breathe in and out to see this position vindicated also.

The US government continues an unwinnable war in Iraq while
building massive permanent bases and the largest embassy compound ever
built. Not only does the US have no intention of leaving Iraq , it has
committed-whether under Republican or Democratic leadership-to staying
forever-whatever that means. The Empire's position is clear, not as a
result of what it says, but as a result of what it has done. America 's
primary plan to deal with Peak Oil is to fight or intimidate for energy
supplies wherever it deems necessary. That, of course, has forced the
rest of the world-with a few notable exceptions like Norway and Brazil
-to dance to the same sheet music. As a result, I would estimate that of
every ten units of energy (or money) expended preparing for Peak Oil
today, nine are spent preparing for war while only one is spent building
lifeboats and teaching people how to survive. This is sheer insanity.

The US government is playing a bluff hand over an attack against
Iran , which in spite of being both unlikely and risking a global
nuclear holocaust, has resulted in massive increases in military
spending all around the planet. A global arms race is now using up
energy and commodities that should be used rebuilding railroads,
enhancing mass transportation, and building renewable infrastructure to
soften the coming blows.

In the face of this, the entire world, and especially China ,
Russia , India , Germany and Japan are pouring hundreds of billions of
dollars of investment into Iran . This is one of many sure signs that
the American Empire's weaknesses are becoming visible. There is blood in
the water and blood in the water usually leads to a fight. The world, at
least as far as its pocketbook is concerned, is betting on Iran .

Russia is selling Iran lots of Tor M1 anti-aircraft missile
systems and cruise missile and high-speed torpedo technologies. China
also is flooding Iran with advanced military systems.

The US has stepped up deliveries of weapons systems and military
advisors to oil-producing regions around the world. This has been
matched by similar deliveries to the same regions by Russia , China ,
Pakistan , Saudi Arabia , Venezuela , France , Britain , India and many
other countries. A best-selling novel in China , The Battle in
Protecting Key Oil Routes, has the Chinese navy destroying a US carrier
battle group. The popular book documents a bloody contest over control
of the Straits of Malacca, that narrow channel through which most of
China 's, Japan 's, and Korea 's energy passes.

China 's Hu Jintao, clearly one of the world's only major
leaders with both plans and choices, is making direct calls on Saudi
Arabia and Nigeria as George W. Bush haplessly points to hydrogen fuel
cell cars as a solution. Don't worry about how many American people will
buy into such Bush nonsense. Worry about how many world leaders are
watching these same clips and asking, "Is that the best he can do?
America is in deep shit."

In Nigeria-the US's fifth largest oil supplier and the world's
eighth-groups of well-organized and supplied rebels are using high-tech
email, bombs, bullets and kidnapping to terrorize major oil companies.
Production is threatened on a daily basis. In a world where there is no
place else to go to replace even 50,000 barrels a day-out of the 84
million needed-the totally corrupt regime of Olusegun Obasanjo is
besieged by rebel and dissident groups on many fronts. I have no doubt
that several of these groups are being financed, trained, led and
supplied through covert arms of the US, Chinese, Russian, British,
Saudi, Pakistani and/or Indian governments.

In nearby Chad-which is the source-country for the Chad-Cameroon
pipeline delivering 160,000 barrels a day into the global mouth-as he
attempts to ward off an aggressively hungry World Bank, President Idriss
Deby is literally holding oil hostage. Knowing full well that to shut
down the pipeline would cause an estimated $10 jump in the price of oil,
he is literally telling the west, "Come any closer and I'll shoot the
oil."

At the same time, Chad is beset by rebel insurgents from
neighboring Sudan , which is China 's fifth-largest oil supplier. Both
the US and China are hip-deep in covert operations in Sudan.

On April 18, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with one of
Africa's most brutal dictators, Teodoro Nguema of Equatorial Guinea
-Africa's third-largest oil exporter, calling him a good friend of the
US . With institutional memories as short as they are, few remember that
Sir Mark Thatcher, son of Britain 's Margaret Thatcher, was nabbed last
year in the middle of a coup intended to oust Nguema.

All of Africa, especially West Africa-exactly as I predicted in
2003 ,
in Crossing the
Rubicon and
in last year's lecture series which became our newest DVD Denial Stops
Here-is
exploding with armed insurrections from the Western Sahara region to
Angola . It is West Africa where I believe we will see proxy wars likely
intensifying this year, which could trigger a global nuclear exchange in
very short order.

But murder, far more callous, is about to be perpetrated by the
Democratic Party as it enters the 2006 midterm campaigns with what is
surely-barring a miracle-going to be one of its major planks in 2008:
"Don't worry," they will promise, "the Democrats will restore cheap
gasoline for all and find a no-pain answer to all of our energy woes.
High prices are the fault of greedy oil companies and price gougers, not
a lack of supply." I can promise you now, Hillary Clinton, that if the
Democratic Party adopts this approach it will find in me an enemy that
will make FTW's editorial posture towards the Bush administration over
the last five years look like abject friendship.

American mainstream media has become absolutely and certifiably
schizophrenic on the issue of Peak Oil. Within the space of an hour, one
can watch segments acknowledging Peak Oil and Gas and the insoluble
problems they bring, and segments assuring us that there is no problem
at all if we just fix a few little things.

On April 11th The Financial Times reported that Russian
production is falling and expected to decrease-rather than
increase-rapidly over the next four years.

On April 21, Russia 's giant, Gazprom-for the second time in less
than a year-threatened to shut off Europe's only major source of natural
gas. Just a month previously, a desperate and hobbled Britain
surrendered its energy sovereignty to the European Union in the hopes of
getting better energy prices at the end of Russia 's long natural gas
supply line.

On April 24th, just a few days ago, during his state visit to
Saudi Arabia , Chinese President Hu Jintao signed a series of accords in
which China , in exchange for a larger portion of Saudi oil exports,
agreed to transfer high-tech weapons and other technologies to the Saudi
monarchy in exchange.

At the same moment that George W. Bush has announced that he will
stop refilling the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an ill-conceived
attempt to lower pump prices-a completely shortsighted and self-serving
gesture-China is in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to begin filling a
new one.

Climate Change and hurricanes not only continue apace but have
accelerated. Now that we are just weeks away from a new hurricane
season, fully 23% of Gulf of Mexico production remains shut-in after
last year's hurricanes. Recently the Department of Energy acknowledged
that most of that would never be rebuilt due to high investment costs at
mature and post-mature reservoirs. Aside from the fact that it's not
cost effective, this is also because of rig shortages. This is what FTW
warned you about almost a year ago. When and if we ever have a chance to
look back we will historically mark Katrina and Rita as the singular
moment in time when a true US economic and military resurgence became
impossible; the moment when the Empire began it's collapse. In other
words, that was the moment when the Empire passed from decline to
terminal status.

On April 4th, Dow Jones' MarketWatch reported that $6 to $7
gasoline might be coming this summer. Is there anyone in this room
tonight who does not believe that $6-$7 gasoline would be an
unmistakable sign of collapse?

And let me add an observation here. I think a good part of this
unseasonable spike in American oil prices is both caused by the switch
out from MTBE to ethanol and a classic political strategy which is to
create a bad problem and then appear to solve it so that people will
accept an otherwise unacceptable solution. This is an election year. The
elections are not for seven months. I for one do NOT think we will see
$6 or $7 gasoline this summer. I think gas prices may reach $4 or even
$5 for a short period, after which the Bush administration (say sometime
between July and September) will again tap the Strategic Petroleum
Reserve and his oil industry base will-they hope-be able to find a few
million barrels to temporarily drive prices down, give Republicans a
desperately-needed electoral boost, and feed another dose of valium to
the increasingly worn out American consumer.

But to assume that the current high prices are solely caused by
the MTBE/Ethanol switchover is to miss the fact that Britain is now
experiencing it's highest-ever gasoline prices averaging more than $8
per gallon or that Japan-according to the news agency Chugoku-has now
reached it's highest-ever price for diesel fuel at almost $4.00 per
gallon. These countries do not have MTBE rules to be concerned with.
Peak Oil is here.

There is an enormous risk lurking in all this. I mean a potentially
deadly risk.

As the effects of Peak Oil intensify there is less and less wiggle room
on the planet for any miscalculation. Worse, there is less and less room
to recover from or adjust to any "surprises" that might come along.

SURPRISES

What are some of these possible surprises?

Just one more major hurricane

A major earthquake in any oil producing region or pipeline
corridor from Russia 's far east, to Iran , to Alberta

Any one of a dozen possible side effects from global warming,
whether from melting tundra that might sink pipelines, to rising sea
levels that might endanger offshore production

Civil unrest in any oil-producing region that gets out of control
and damages more infrastructure than can be quickly repaired

A decision by Venezuela 's Hugo Chavez to redirect just 10 or 15%
of his US exports to other customers

A successful attack on Saudi Arabia 's Abqaiq terminal

Political unrest in our second-largest oil supplier, Mexico

Major unrest in the Caspian basin - another region where covert
operations are now probably the second- or third-largest GDP component
for several nations.

As I speak tonight, India is moving to supply MiG 29s to Tajikistan at
the same time that Kyrgyzstan is threatening to revoke permission for US
bases. This is a building vacuum that China , India , Russia and
Pakistan (all nuclear powers) are eager to fill. Add Iran to the list of
nations seeking increased influence in the Caspian Basin.
Another one of many reasons why the US cannot and will not attack Iran
is that-unreported by the major media-the US military has undertaken
quiet but significant military build ups in both West Africa and in the
Caspian. US military personnel have been dispatched to Nigeria and NATO
and the US Navy have begun moving into to the Gulf of Guinea. This is
pulling ever tighter on the already over-stretched rubber band holding
the US military together as it experiences a continuing, unmitigated and
unprecedented defeat in Iraq .

There are many more possible precipitating events that could push the
first dominoes in the chain of collapse. Any one of them could trigger a
massive and sudden descent into chaos that would catch all of us by
surprise. My position is that we cannot afford to be unprepared for
surprises. And it's probably an event we haven't thought of that will
ultimately do it. These are only a few possibilities.

THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN AND WORLD ECONOMIES

General Motors, as it stands on the brink of bankruptcy, has
announced that it lost $106 billion last year.

Ford and Daimler Chrysler are teetering not far behind GM as
Toyota is poised to become the largest auto maker in the world, bigger
in terms of sales than America 's Big Three combined.

As US News told us last December 19th, 800,000 jobs were going to
be cut last winter. The final numbers aren't in yet, but it looks like
that happened.

According to an MS-NBC story dated April 24, "The Housing Bubble
Has Popped" as inventories swell, sales decline, prices soften, lenders
are raising rates and the first signs of panic start to appear. For
those who have followed the housing bubble closely, you know that this
is a global housing bubble and that these trends have become apparent
from the UK, to Australia, to Japan. Along with falling house prices and
a drying up of credit, over-stretched consumers now face very difficult
choices as they are forced to decide between driving, eating, paying
their bills, or having a place to live. This particular collapse is just
beginning and the world economy must follow its lead.

New stories are reporting that some Americans are pawning
precious objects for gas money.

Consumer debt continues to skyrocket as the US trade deficit
continues to explode.

Bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

As Reuters told us on April 22, the Finance Ministers of the G7
nations have just announced after their recent meeting in Washington
that the dollar is going into decline.

On April 24th, Qatar announced that it will begin diversifying
out of dollars and into Euros.

On April 4th, according to Reuters, the Vice Chair of the Chinese
parliament urged that China reduce its holdings of US debt.

On February 22, the director of Norway 's stock exchange
recommended that Norway drop out of the London Petroleum Exchange
(priced in dollars) and open an oil trading bourse priced in Euros.

On January 12, Britain 's Independent announced that Norway had
begun preparations for a global environmental and economic collapse. The
story reported that " Norway has revealed a plan to build a 'doomsday
vault' hewn out of an Arctic mountain to store two million crop seeds in
the event of a global disaster. The store is designed to hold all the
seeds representing the world's crops and is being built to safeguard
future food supplies in the event of widespread environmental collapse.

In a sign of pending inflation, the Federal Reserve last month
stopped telling us what the M3 money supply was in a surefire indication
that inflation is on the way. This came conveniently after further
inflationary indicators were hidden by removing the cost of gasoline and
food from the Consumer Price Index.

On March 28, Al Jazeera warned that Asia must be prepared for an
imminent dollar collapse.

On March 26, India moved to relax all currency controls for the
Rupee. This suggests that India knows a dollar crash is coming and hopes
that the Rupee will enjoy the bounce.

China has made another adjustment re-evaluating the Yuan,
accelerating the dollar's decline.

The Asian Development Bank has announced plans to develop a
regional currency index as a preliminary step in the creation of a
Euro-like currency for Asia.

The dollar has lost six cents against the Euro in the last six
weeks.

Gold, which I have and still devotedly endorse as a safe haven
for either rich or poor, has broken through to highs not seen in 18
years. I had not expected gold to break $600 an ounce until at least
this fall. It happened weeks ago. Notwithstanding the predictable price
corrections that we will see, as a failed and broken system of gold
price suppression loses control, I think the path is now fairly clear to
$800 gold within two years or less. When Peak Oil becomes aggressive,
within the next five years, I think $1,000 gold is a certainty. As
always, I encourage FTW subscribers and anyone who will pay attention to
continue to invest in gold. To be precise, I encourage them to invest in
physical, tangible, gold bullion or bullion coins like the Maple Leaf or
Krugerand that can be kept close to home and hearth. Small gold
purchases can be made for as little as a few hundred dollars. All of the
struggling FTW subscribers who have made even tiny purchases have
benefited by seeing even their meager investments double in four years
and increase by 50% in value in just the last 18 months.

Morgan Stanley's Stephen Roach - who last year warned of an
economic Armageddon is now warning, "I continue to believe that the
American consumer is the weak link in the global daisy chain. The
combination of rising long-term interest rates and higher oil prices
puts an unmistakable squeeze on discretionary income - the last thing
overly indebted, savings-short US consumers need."

So why then has the Dow recently reached six-year highs? It's simple,
and I know that my good friend and colleague, Catherine Austin Fitts
will agree, that the DOW Jones Industrial Average has absolutely nothing
to do with measuring the quality of American life. I am reminded of one
of the most important quotes I have ever obtained for a story, that of
Dutch economist Martin Van Mourik who told the Paris ASPO Conference in
2003, "It may not be profitable to slow decline."

Indeed ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the point where every
increase in the Dow will mean that life has actually gotten worse for
Americans and riskier for the world as a whole. I described the endgame
of this irony in one of my favorite essays of all time Globalcorp
. As
M. King Hubbert wrote, and as Catherine Austin Fitts teaches, and as I
have said for so long, "Until you change the way money works, you change
nothing."

It is a shame that much of the Peak Oil movement that understands this
problem is foolishly trying to change the way money works systemically,
instead of trying to change it in the only way that time and
circumstance now permit-individually, locally and regionally. The first
and primary requirement for that to occur is for people to disengage
from the global paradigm ...

| »

Moratorium v. Developer guided and subsidized planning in Merced County for foreseeable future

Submitted: Apr 29, 2006

PL49-GP Update Polices
May 2, 2006

Merced County Board of Supervisors’ Agenda Item # 55
(Transcribed from Board Agenda for May 2, 2006 – BH, April 29, 2006)

TO: BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
THROUGH: DEMITRIOS O. TATUM, COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICER
FROM: ROBERT A. LEWIS, DEVELOPMENT SERVICES DIRECTOR

SUBJECT: General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures during the General Plan Update

SUMMARY: On February 14, 2006, the Planning and Community Development Department made a presentation to the Board of supervisors, at the request of the General Plan Review Steering Committee, to seek direction for handling developer initiated Guidance packages for major project submittals during the General Plan Update process.

On April 11, 2006, Staff presented four modified options with one alternative to Option 3 for the Board to consider. During discussion, an additional alternative to Option 3 was presented as well. These modified options are:

1. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 1 (Allow All).
Allow any property owner to submit a General Plan amendment whether or not it involves a new or updated Community Plan. Applicants would proceed at own risk and indemnify the County. For Option 1, Staff recommends that applicants pay all staff impact costs for the effort required to process their application or provide contract services for in-house staff sufficient to complete the project.

(Continued on the next page.)

STAFFING IMPACT: The level of staff support required for property owner sponsored Community Plan efforts is minimal if the applicants pay all staff impact costs and positions are filled as required to process their application or provide contract services for in-house staff sufficient to complete the project.

FISCAL IMPACT: No fiscal impact from actions the Board takes regarding property owner sponsored Community Plan projects. The applicant is required to provide for full County costs.

CONTRACT/RESOLUTION/ABSTRACT SUBMITTED: No.

REQUEST REVIEWED BY: County Counsel __________________

ADMINISTRATION RECOMMENDATION/COMMENT: ______________________

REQUEST/RECOMMENDATION/ACTION NEEDED: Staff recommends Option 1, allowing any property owner to submit a General Plan Amendment whether or not it involves a new or updated Community Plan. Applicants shall proceed at own risk and indemnify the County. Applicants shall pay all staff impact costs for the effort required to process applications or provide contract services for in-house staff sufficient to complete the project.

Page 2.

2. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 2 (limit by Date).

Consider holding in abeyance as of May 2, 2006 any new General Plan Amendment application that requires preparation or revision to a Community Plan (generally those applications which require approval of a Guidance Package for processing). For Option 2, Staff recommends that applicants pay all staff impact costs as stated in Option 1. this does NOT include guidance packages previously adopted by the Board or those prospective projects in the works as of May 2, 2006.

3A. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 3A (Agricultural Land).

Consider processing applications for Community Plans and Community Plan updates only where the area is located on non-productive farmland (soil quality is rated lower than Prime, Farmlands of Statewide Importance and Unique Farmland as identified on the State Important Farmlands Map of the Department of Conservation). For Option 3A, Staff recommends that applicants pay all staff impact costs as stated in Option 1.

3B. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 3B (Agricultural Land).

During the time period prior to the completion and final adoption of the updated County General Plan and effective at the signing of a resolution, applications intended as preliminary steps to change the general plan designation from agricultural to non-agricultural or urban uses shall NOT be accepted unless:

· It can be demonstrated that the application will not result in a “leap-frog” development pattern.
· Will not result in a significant change to surrounding existing land uses.
· Will utilize, if granted the existing services of a full service municipal water and sewer treatment facility, and as such could be considered an infill project, causing minimal environmental impacts.

3C. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 3C (Presented 4/11/06 during Board discussion)

Applications previously accepted for processing shall continue and are eligible for amendment as needed or otherwise shall proceed unimpeded during the general plan update process; and those:

· Applications which provide infill opportunity on existing sewer and water shall be accepted, and,
· Applications which provide a timely, clear economic benefit to the county which could otherwise be lost during the ensuing time necessary for the general plan update shall be accepted for consideration.

4. General Plan Amendment Policy Option 4 (Moratorium)

Consider holding in abeyance any and all General Plan Amendment applications by adopting a resolution to hold applications until the General Plan Update is completed and approved.

After Staff’s presentation, the Board Chair opened the discussion to the public and received numerous comments and suggestions. These comments can be grouped into three main recommendations: 1) impose a moratorium on General Plan Amendment applications during the General Plan Update; 2) do not impose a moratorium on General Plan Amendments and allow all applications to be processed; and 3) those who asked the County to take all interests into account during the General Plan update and support sound development and agricultural resource protection.

After a lengthy discussion by the Board, Supervisor O’Banion made a motion to support Option No. 1, Seconded by Supervisor Nelson. Due to the absence of Supervisor Crookham, the Board decided to continue the discussion and the Second to the motion was rescinded. The Board acknowledged that public comment would again be accepted and continued the item to May 2, 2006.
---------------------------------

CVSEN NOTES: The April 11 Board Agenda Item #53 shows that neither Policy Options 3B or 3C were written down prior to the meeting. Supervisor Kelsey orally presented Option 3B at that meeting. Option 3C is yet another, fresh creation of the General Plan Review Steering Committee at some point after April 11.

It is apparent, at least at this stage of General Plan Amendment Policy and Procedures during the General Plan Update, that the Planning Department has forgotten everything about planning except the costs to its office of developer driven projects, and that the County has made sure it will be financially recompensed for its rubber stamping and indemnified against any lawsuits brought against it by the public for violations of environmental law, public process or land-use authority.

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You’d like to believe him

Submitted: Apr 21, 2006

… but you can’t.

Yes, you’d like to believe a prominent local businessman whose opinions are almost professionally written and with great authority and the appearance of logic and reason.

But, I think it would be unwise to take a recent letter in the Merced Sun-Star, “Keep to linear plan,” (April 12) at face value.

It begins, as we often do begin our analyses in the Valley, with a mythical Golden Age of universal harmony:

Editor: The city of Merced has begun its general plan update. In the 1980s the community consensus was to only allow growth north of the city. This was known as the linear city plan.

Like most such conjured moments, the myth doesn’t hold up very well under scrutiny.
The population has grown 20% from 1980-2004 . – about half of that between 2000-2006. (www.consrv.ca.gov/DLRP/fmmp/time_series_img/merced.htm - 24k - Cached -
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/0646898.html).
Half the growth in 20 years, half in six. In other words, the planning horizon of the City of Merced in the 1980’s resembles Merced today about as much as it resembled north Modesto then.

The land on which the city was planning to expand – whether farm, ranch or wetland bog – was in county jurisdiction. While the city began some planning in the 1980’s, the county had to be sued to write its first general plan, in 1990, and has fought tooth-and-nail ever since against revisions, despite remarkable changes in the velocity of its growth, especially around the City of Merced. We don’t mention Los Banos. Generations of wide-eyed idealists who have asked questions – any questions – about the West Side, are told the Stories. The Big Story is how they will end up in their wretched investigative journalist car, at the bottom of either the California Aqueduct or the Delta-Mendota Canal, their skeletons waving ambiguously at the fish that ate their flesh away.

Those Westside Boys really lay it on. They get vivid on you, excite your imagination and such.

Nevertheless, let us give the businessman his sweet moment in the past: there was agreement about a direction for planning and people in Merced were a great deal more civil to one another than they are today. That’s a good enough Golden Age for me. Actually, they were a great deal more civil eight years ago than they are today. But, then, 10-percent growth in six years will irritate a lot of people, while enriching remarkably few.

With the advent of the University of California campus it (the city’s general plan) was amended to include just that land east of Lake Road, but north of Yosemite Avenue.

Perhaps, as the county found, trying to “amend” the University of California into a general plan made in and for Merced city and county is like a garter snake trying to swallow a Holstein on growth hormones. The city later broke its own ordinance about not providing sewer and water services outside its corporate limits to UC Merced. When sued, its defense boiled down to, “We’ve done it before, we can do it again, it’s UC.” Both superior and state appellate courts bought this reasoning, which amounting to the garter snake saying, “I’ve got the hoof, now I’m going for the knee.”

Apparently, the current City Council has completely abandoned the linear city plan without any public debate. The study area they designated encompasses 40,000 acres of farmland, which does not even consider developing to the north of Merced.

The reason for the linear city is to allow development on the least productive ground, which in Merced's cases lies north of town. Most cities grow in all directions like an expanding balloon. By directing growth in a responsible way, we avoid eroding the agricultural industry, which is our economic base.

Yessir, you’re undoubtedly correct on that. The shortest way between two points for a 7-member city council, four of whom are realtors, is straight out in all directions at once. But at least some of that prime farmland you are talking about is on the city-side of the Campus Parkway, anchored at the academic end by UC Merced, anchored at the financial end by Wal-Mart’s proposed distribution center, which the same council shows no political inclination to reject. Merced air quality! Love it or leave it (if you can). If you can’t, well, you really don’t amount to much, do you.

Going north of town there are eventually vernal pools. Unfortunately an unbalanced importance has been placed on protecting them. There are 1.7 million acres full of them in California so by definition, how threatened can they be? There are 30,000 acres of easements protecting them adjacent to UC Merced, which should be enough mitigation to allow development north of town.

Now, we’re getting into it. It reminds me of interviews I used to have to do of deeply ideologically twisted public officials for their local newspapers. You could get a few minutes of fairly rational conversation out of a congressman like John Doolittle or a state Senator like Dick Monteith before it was “message time,” whereupon, with nary a blink of eye, off they went into a never-never land that could make a person feel guilty for trying to think at all.

In this instance, our code words are brought to us care of the Ol’ Shrimp Slayer himself, Rep. Dennis Cardoza. In Merced political discourse, whenever that word “balance” or its negative appears, the Slayer is nigh. Then, here comes that 1.7 million acres full of vernal pools.

Folks, guys that make a living in propaganda make a good living off figures like that. However, that old reality, like the pool-table team of Old Age and Treachery against Youth and Beauty (the bull rider and his bar tenderness), is gonna beat you in 8-ball and political history, pal.

As a result of a lawsuit brought against the US Fish & Wildlife Service by the Butte Environmental Center, Defenders of Wildlife and other groups, the Service declared a critical habitat designation of 1.4 million acres in California and southern Oregon for 15 endangered and threatened species residing in vernal pools.

The Pomboza, with whom we feel our local businessman communes, was outraged because you just can’t have the federal resource agencies poking their noses into development on rangeland containing vernal pools, particularly in eastern Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

The Pomboza, for readers new to Badlands, is a one-headed beast with four outstretched, cash-grasping claws, whose domain runs contiguously from Merced County west and north through Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties to San Benito and parts of Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

It is a proud and pompous Pomboza, at once rubbing elbows and shaking down the special interests in its districts (the 11th and 18th congressional districts of California). Although mythical figures – Pombo the Buffalo Slayer (for potting a grazing buffalo in South Dakota while attending a casino shakedown to fund Democrat Tom Dacshle’s opponent), and Cardoza the Shrimp Slayer (who vows eternal vigilance for private property rights against creatures most of which don’t live more than two months a year or go more than an inch long) – they came in on the stinking wind of special interests that brings subdivisions to farmland, not harmony, not soil fertility or economic stability.

As for the famous 30,000 acres protected by easement in Merced County, 148,000 (down from 194,000 acres) are presently under the jurisdiction of the federal critical habitat designation of the Endangered Species Act. But this was no gift from the government.

When Merced received its designation of 194,000, all hell broke loose and political pressure was applied to the Fish & Wildlife Service. The Shrimp Slayer, successor to Condit (Gary, wannabe first president from Ceres), rallied eastern Merced County landowners, with a lot of help from county Supervisor Kathleen Crookham, an eastern Merced County ranch landowner, into a real foam-mouthed moment on private property rights. This hate rally in the chambers of the county Board of Supervisors was interrupted by the critical comments of one Bryant Owens of Plainsburg, in a display of courage that is honored in the underground annals of county history.

The political pressure in Washington produced fabulous results: Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties were relieved of their burden to consult with federal resource agencies regarding the tedious subject of vernal pools if projects to wipe them out involved federal funding.

The Butte Environmental Council, Defenders of Wildlife and the California Native Plant Society, however, struck again in court. While the case lurched along, Cardoza the Shrimp Slayer, introduced two bills to strike down the critical habitat designation of the ESA. Failing twice, about the time of the ruling on the case, the Pomboza introduced the Gut-the-ESA bill, now languishing in the US Senate. One of that bill’s strongest parts is the utter destruction of the critical habitat designation for endangered and threatened wildlife species. The federal court decision restored 148,000 of the entirely lost 194,000 acres of vernal pools in Merced County that require federal resource agency oversight if federal funds are involved in projects to develop it. At least that is apparently what the designation and the ruling imply for the regulatory agencies, which would probably function more efficiently without a rightwing radical one-party House of Representatives harassing them constantly.

By not developing onto the foothills and off of the Valley floor, precious farmland will
continue to be paved over until there isn't enough left for packing sheds and processors to
stay in business. We need to be able to feed our own people. Depending on other countries for our food is suicide. Being at the mercy of the Middle East for our oil is bearable; going without food is impossible.

Lord, I love a pitch for agriculture in the spring around Easter, when rains and mists still bathe the fecund soil. But I have this strange, perverse tic in my mind: the rains and mists I see are extending the season of the dry pasture land on both edges of the Valley. I see all those calves and their mamas out there in that high, rich grass, and I wonder what the hell a cattleman has to do to qualify as an agriculturalist in this Valley. Presumably, the prominent local businessman is concerned primarily with vegetarians who take dairy products and has momentarily forgotten beefeaters. Ah, Swami Businessman, such purity! You are a credit to the Ashram of the Invisible Hand.

By not developing onto the foothills and off of the Valley floor, precious farmland will
continue to be paved over until there isn't enough left for packing sheds and processors to
stay in business. We need to be able to feed our own people. Depending on other countries for our food is suicide. Being at the mercy of the Middle East for our oil is bearable; going without food is impossible.

Also, California has the safest food in the world because it is the most regulated. With the
world's population growing exponentially, taking the best farmland out of production is
irresponsible.

It makes better business sense to retain our market share in the state's number one industry than to keep eroding it. The San Joaquin Valley's farmland should be preserved because it is the main source for the world's food supply; it should not be used simply for cheap housing.

As a great swami of the invisible hand of the free, free, free market, you give us beautifully consistent mythology, for which we, the bewildered, should be eternally grateful.

Ah, precious farmland! Yes! I believe! I see The Way!

But,Swami, I have doubts. May I discuss them?

(Hearing no answer, I will express them.)

We are so at the mercy from the Middle East for our oil, I don’t know how it can possibly end. Could we, with Israeli help, do unto Arabs as we did unto Native Americans and they are experimenting with doing unto the Palestinians, and call it something else but genocide? We are rich in propaganda resources. We can surely find new language to describe what it is we are doing to the ragheads and camel jockeys. Surely we can find a story so powerful, so good, that it will forever obliterate our conscience about, well, all those dead people over there, lying “on top of a pool of oil,” as a Catholic priest from Baghdad said just before the invasion, on pretenses that, frankly, Swami my Swami, look thinner by the day).

But, Swami, I have doubts. I used to live on an Indian reservation. They weren’t all dead. If you don’t kill every one of them, they keep talking, you see.

Also, California has the safest food in the world because it is the most regulated.

Now, Swami, I know that as your humble student of reality that you just throw that out for me to object to and that -- even if you don’t show it in your cruel, Swami way -- you will be proud of your humble student for his doubts.

The Shrimp Slayer just got finished voting for the National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005. From a people’s point of view, this thing was a real meadow muffin, brought to us by a combination of special interests irresistible (at least to the Shrimp Slayer) including the biotechnology industry, the pesticide industry, your public research universities and agribusiness, to wipe out local and states’ rights on food labeling.

It’s what you call a “pro-active special interest” bill (lots of money to be made on it by an enterprising young shrimp slayer).

But our Shrimp Slayer, the One and Only, distinguished himself even further as a moderate, “balanced” proponent of the measure. He introduced an amendment, the Shrimp Slayer’s amendment to the National Uniformity of Food Act of 2005.

Beginning with the humility that is his calling card, the Slayer said on the floor of the House:

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to offer my amendment to H.R. 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act.

The vagueness of the time element was to be the key to the amendment. Ostensibly, an amendment that would allow states to petition to the Federal Drug Administration sooner than the bill’s leisurely time frame of four months, if a food danger were immanent, our Slayer suggested language that would allow states to petition the FDA to approve a national standard for new food labeling requirements, or to exempt a State from certain requirements of national uniformity – in a timely manner.

Yet, under questions from the floor, the timeliness of the manner disappeared up the spout of Pombozoism.

Ms. ESHOO. So maximum is 120 days?

Mr. CARDOZA. And this allows the FDA to act even quicker; in fact, mandates it.

Ms. ESHOO. But they have up to 4 months?

Mr. CARDOZA. In the underlying bill.

Ms. ESHOO. But that is your amendment, not the underlying bill.

Mr. CARDOZA. No, the underlying bill is 120 days.

Ms. ESHOO. And what does your amendment do?

Mr. CARDOZA. It says that it must be the quickest possible.

Ms. ESHOO. But without any specificity?

Mr. CARDOZA. Correct.

Oh, Shrimp Slayer, my Shrimp Slayer, pompous though you be, surely you are such a creep you embarrass the continuing if oppressed intelligence of your district.

Swami, you really shouldn’t listen to the Slayer. You should not borrow his lingo for letters to the editor. He is bad for your mind and for ours. But, many times, we have seen the like of the Shrimp Slayer, although usually at county fairs, down there with the games of chance, the bearded ladies and the drunken, two-fisted carnies.

It’s quaint, but is it real politics?

These are the questions you must answer, my Swami. These are my doubts. You are my teacher. Help me in my bewilderment.

It makes better business sense to retain our market share in the state's number one industry than to keep eroding it. The San Joaquin Valley's farmland should be preserved because it is the main source for the world's food supply; it should not be used simply for cheap housing.

The highest and best use for farmland is for producing food. The situation that vernal pool areas cannot be developed on must be challenged. This confines development to farmland on the Valley floor. Our starving descendants won't understand how our generation made such shortsighted idiotic choices as to pave over their safe dependable food supply in order to protect a minute percentage of the fairy shrimp.

There are dire long-term consequences to our decisions. I strongly encourage you to immediately contact the City Council and convince them to adhere to the linear city plan, which was adopted by a consensus of the community.

DANIEL F. MCNAMARA

“Our starving descendants won’t understand ….”?

Help me with my doubts, oh my Swami of economics, my main reality man.

So, the Bank of America gets into 20-25-percent loans in Latin America and Eastern Europe. They start pulling the plug on San Joaquin Valley packers. The bank – oh well – the bank is now owned by something in North Carolina. The growers? Some went to Latin America.

Where was the loyalty, Swami my economic guru? Where was the solidarity when the bank figured it could make back its principal in five years on 20-percent interest in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina or Poland, when a lowly Valley packer couldn’t pay anything like that?

Where was the sanity in the bank when they dispatched MBAs wet behind the ears but full of serious, malevolent intent, to the Pink House in Las Lomas in Mexico City, back then, in the moment when it all mattered very much, and you were selling Major League baseball caps and not thinking about much else at all, and even the shrimp slayer, was as yet unmanifested then in that long-gone Golden Age, at the time a mere impresario of lady mud-wrestling at a low-life bowling alley.

Do you know Las Lomas and Pedrigal, Swami, my Swami? Do you know the mountains of Michocan, Swami my Swami? Do you know Coahilla? Do you know the border towns? Have you ever seen the wall or the fence? Entiendes Jaripo o Rancho San Miguel?

I look left, oh my Swami. I look right. Wherever I look, I cannot find any economic system – especially in agriculture – that had any stability. But this is because of my doubt, Swami, my Swami, of which I hope you can relieve me.

Swami, my Almond-Cotton-Vegetable Munchkin Swami, save me from my doubt!

I keep thinking – it must have been some old book I once read in an unguarded moment – that economic systems require that justice run through the relations of the participants or else they collapse some day. And on that day, it doesn’t matter how good the land is. It is definitely in the wrong hands. I know that you, my Swami, never read old books in unguarded moments, so you must know the truth.

Teach me. I have doubts.

Bill Hatch
----------------

Notes:

Your Views: Letters to the Editor: Keep to linear plan
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12045268p-12801495c.html
Last Updated: April 12, 2006, 02:01:03 AM PDT

4-18-06
Merced Sun-Star
Merced leaders look at possibly updating the city's charter...David Chircop
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12067545p-12822084c.html
City charter, Merced's guiding document...29-page charter was established in 1949, and has been amended several times. Changes include the direct election of mayor (the council used to appoint the mayor) and term limits (two four-year terms for council members and two two-year terms for the mayor)... it can establish unique criteria for city office, doesn't face salary ceilings, can establish its own election dates and is not required to comply with competitive bidding statutes, gives city leaders more authority over land use. City Council discussed the need to revise the charter, and to include the public in the review process

http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/r1/455D1EAE-2FD6-4048-850C7613CBF17849.html

Service Designates Critical Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Vernal Pool Species News Releases Home Page Search the News ReleasesU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Home

ContactsJim Nickles, Sacramento FWO (916) 414-6572 The U.S. Fish and

http://www.becnet.org/nodes/issues/vernalpools/en_2005_critical_habitat_designated.htm
Home : Issues and Activism : Vernal Pools : Critical Habitat Designated
Critical Habitat Designated
Editor’s Note: This important story has received incredible press across the state.

The Interior Department (Interior) released their second, final Vernal Pool Critical Habitat (VPCH) Rule for 15 vernal pool species found in California and southern Oregon. This Rule (www.becnet.org) is a result of litigation filed by Butte Environmental Council, the California Native Plant Society, and Defenders of Wildlife over the elimination of more than one million acres of VPCH in 2003 for the 15 endangered and threatened vernal pool plants and animals.

In this Rule, some acreage was restored to counties indiscriminately omitted in the 2003 rule. For example:
“We are pleased that Interior was able to include some lands in counties previously excluded in the 2003 rule, yet their analysis leaves them vulnerable to further legal challenges,” stated Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director of Butte Environmental Council.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/14341553.htm
Today in the Times
Posted on Fri, Apr. 14, 2006email thisprint this
White House reduces size of habitat set aside for frog
By Michael Doyle
McCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration on Thursday dramatically shrunk the land deemed crucial for survival of the California red-legged frog, a threatened amphibian paddling at the center of a national debate.

City sued over homes approval...Loretta Kalb
http://www.sacbee.com/content/community_news/elk_grove_laguna/v-print/story/14245198p-15063462c.html
A group of Elk Grove homeowners and a state agency each have sued the city of Elk Grove over its approval of a 670-home project that one lawsuit claims will "pave over.. vernal pools and wetlands." One suit, filed March 24 by a group of homeowners at Quail Ranch Estates, adjacent to the planned Vintara Park project, says the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it declared that an environmental impact report was not needed for the site...the city declared that the environmental effects of the project by Centex Homes would not be significant. The lawsuit filed by the Quail Ranch Homeowners Association said the effects of the project would be significant, and that the project "will pave over significant areas of vernal pools and wetlands." The other suit was filed by the California Department of Transportation on March 27 and contends the city violated CEQA by failing to study the project's impacts on the state highway system. The Quail Ranch suit cited Centex Homes and Sacramento County Sanitation District 1, which owns the land and has as one of its board members City Councilwoman Sophia Scherman, as having a stake in the issue. The homeowners' attorney, Donald B. Mooney of Davis, said the next step is a mandatory settlement meeting, which should be scheduled later this month or in early May.

Bill would block housing inside 200-year floodplains...Jim Sanders
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/v-print/story/14245560p-15063711c.html
Assembly Bill 1899..."It asks local governments to make responsible decisions when approving new homes behind levees in the Central Valley," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who crafted the measure...bill would require cities and counties, before approving new subdivisions, to receive clearance from the state Reclamation Board that the houses would be outside the 200-year floodplain within five years of approval. "We think it's an anti-growth bill," said Michael Webb of the California Building Industry Association. Valerie Nera, representing the California Chamber of Commerce, said AB 1899 could slow construction of much-needed affordable housing. Countered Wolk: "I believe that affordable housing that's under 10 feet of water no longer is affordable." AB 1899's next stop is the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Democrats, GOP at odds over proposed food safety bill...Dogen Hannah
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/14385396.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
At issue is a bill the House passed last month that opponents contend would do away with stringent food safety standards that many states, including legislative trend-setter California, have had in place for years...bill would pre-empt much of California's 20-year-old Proposition 65, which requires food containing chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects to bear warning labels, contend opponents. Feinstein. If the bill becomes law, "the precautions that now exist in California and dozens of other states would be dumbed-down." Opponents counter that states' attempt to set their own standards or to push for tougher national standards would be subject to a Byzantine and open-ended approval process. The bill's proponents, including Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, contend that uniform, national standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would protect people in every state and bolster consumer confidence."He believes that consumer protection throughout the country is paramount," said Pombo spokeswoman Nicole Philbin. "This law is important because it protects citizens equally."

http://www.vote-smart.org/speech_detail.php?speech_id=158791&keyword=&phrase=&contain=

Public Statements

Speaker: Representative Dennis A. Cardoza (CA)
Title: National Uniformity for Food Act of 2005
Location: Washington, DC
Date: 03/08/2006

NATIONAL UNIFORMITY FOR FOOD ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 08, 2006)

Bill would block housing inside 200-year floodplains; Assembly panel clears proposal that critics say will stifle Valley growth
Sacramento Bee – 4/20/06
By Jim Sanders, staff writer

Large swaths of Central Valley floodplain could be barred from future housing construction under a proposed state law that cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
Assembly Bill 1899 would not allow new Central Valley subdivisions on levee-protected lands likely to be inundated by a severe flood with a one-in-200 chance of occurring in any given year.

"It asks local governments to make responsible decisions when approving new homes behind levees in the Central Valley," said Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who crafted the measure.

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The Lagoon

Submitted: Apr 16, 2006

Representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa, are proposing a National Agricultural Science Center for Modesto and have introduced a bill in Congress for funding. They argue that because Modesto has produced more ag politicians since World War II than any other city in the US, Modesto deserves this national center.

In order to shore up his political standing, the one-party, rightwing House of Representatives leadership recently appointed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, vice-chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Congress is debating a new, 5-year Farm Bill, Pete McCloskey is nailing Pombo’s corrupt hide to every Grange Hall and political club wall in the 11th Congressional District, and Pombo’s handlers have moved the cattle trailer that used to sit one field west of Tracy’s last subdivision that announced “Pombo’s Real Estate Farms.”

Pombo and Cardoza, known collectively by local farmers as the Pomboza, have made a career for themselves whipping up private property-rights rage against the federal Endangered Species Act. Cardoza and the rest of Merced County’s farm-loving political leadership graciously bestowed the Williamson Act on all unincorporated Merced County, claiming deceitfully that it was to be “mitigation for UC Merced.” Merced is the last major agricultural county in the state to get the Williamson Act, which is proving to be a boon for developers buying up ag land at reduced property taxes all over the county.

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, so highly praised for being pioneers in Valley irrigation in the early years of the last century, every year convert their historic mission more and more to water and electric utilities to slurb development. The smaller Merced Irrigation District dreams the same dream.

The hypocrisy and greed for prestige, credit and honorifics displayed in this proposal is preposterous. Developers, aided every step of the way by local political leadership, are paving over north San Joaquin Valley agriculture as fast as the next “guidance package,” “programmatic EIR,” and quicker than a county planner can say “mitigated negative declaration.” In the process, they are creating an air pollution disaster that is already costing millions in lost production on the remaining agricultural land.

Yet, as a world-class laboratory for everything wrong with agribusiness, no place could be better suited than Modesto (if the former site of the Shell ag chemical lab in Ripon is not a contender). Here is a farming region with no more farms. There is no sense of distinct place left in this farming region. Nobody who farms this land can afford to love this land anymore. Although estates and mansions rise from some of these fields, there is little evidence of real care for real place left. Essentially, there are no more farms, only acreage. In this region you can’t hear the cows moo on the mega-dairy factories, the meadowlarks warble, or the sounds of tractors or crop dusters for the constant background roar of commuter traffic and the real estate adding machine in town, dinning the air with the Great Kah-Ching as it calculates the development value of each acre of farm and ranch land for future slurb.

What the Shrimp Slayer and the Bankrupt Winemaker are proposing is a science museum that will obscure the truth of the disaster of agribusiness even when it is all slurbed over. The McClatchy Chain is enthusiastic.

But the real reason Modesto deserves the center is because of the leadership roles county residents have had in state and national agriculture, Wenger said.

Richard Lyng and Anne Veneman served as U.S. agriculture secretaries as well as state agriculture secretaries, Wenger noted. Henry Voss, Clare Berryhill and Bill Lyons all served as state agriculture secretaries.

"No other county in the country has had that kind of leadership," Wenger said.

You bet. And if any other county had that kind of leadership, they might not have been quite as quick to brag about it. Lyng wasn’t a farmer, he was a rich, politically connected seed dealer. Veneman, daughter of a state legislator, gained the nickname “Mad Cow Annie” when, during her tenure as secretary of the USDA she managed almost to completely bury the mad cow disease story and any serious investigation of it, probably with health consequences it will take many years to realize. Voss and Berryhill were farmers, and -- if memory serves --gentlemen of proto-Pombo political orientation. Lyons failed to get the UC campus on the Mapes Ranch, which he inherited. So he bought 530 acres in the path of development of UC Merced. Asking for annexation to the City of Merced, he appeared before the city council in jeans and plaid shirt as a simple family farmer; but he had his suits handle the deal at the county Local Agency Formation Commission. Lyons is a developer, not a rancher, who bought his state ag secretary post fair and square with a huge fund-raising effort on behalf of Gray Davis’ campaign.

About the only thing the Badlands editorial staff could contribute to this monument to agricultural ruin in the San Joaquin Valley would be to suggest that outside the national center there should be a statue of a Holstein cow about two stories high. “Annie,” the blurb might read. “She lived one year. She made much milk and fast food. Before she died, she wasn’t quite herself.”

Talking it over further, the Badlands editorial staff came up with a counter proposal, a wax museum dedicated to the superb San Joaquin Valley agricultural political leadership from which agriculture has so greatly benefited. Although there are many possible names, the staff decided that, in the vernacular at least, it probably would be called simply, “The Lagoon.”

Pombo’s recently disappeared cattle trailer would be parked outside, proclaiming again, “Pombo Real Estate Farms.” (There is no more completely sound bitten mind in the Valley than the ol’ Buffalo Slayer’s.)

In the lobby, we see a superhuman sized figure -- one hand outstretched to receive, the other full of cash to bestow – a wax likeness of Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho.

Entering the darkened hall, at the first exhibit, backlit behind glass, the visitor would encounter the Mr. and Ms. UC Merced Gallery and would be plunged into the Science Motif, but in a folksy style. This would be an old-timey musical scene, as befits our agricultural heritage, subtitled, “One Voice for The Great Kah-Ching.” At the center of the ensemble would be a barbershop quartet labeled “The Bobbies” (Ayers, Carpenter, Rucker and Smith). The conductor would again be ol’ Honest Graft himself. Musicians would include former Rep. Gary Condit, Lover-Ceres, on fiddle, the Shrimp Slayer on bass, and former state Sen. Dick Monteith, Halfback-Modesto on guitar, conducted by Mike Lynch, with a buggy whip.

Motion-activated, the Bobbies would break into an original song in four-part harmony with one word: “Kah-Ching,” sung to the tune of Abba’s 1960’s hit, “Money.”

Beside them would be an all-woman choir, dressed in white robes, each with a golden halo. Although the wax here would be melted into an angelic blob, a few faces would shine out with holy grace: Supervisor Kathleen Crookham would be the most distinguishable, one hand tastefully strangling a fairy shrimp.

They would be accompanied on harp by Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor herself. Her hat would be of that very, very special shade of royal blue issued to UC administration officials in lieu of the indictments for fraud and corruption they should receive. Her blouse would be of royal blue and golden stripes. Her authentic cowgirl vest would be made of bobcat fur. Her square-dance skirt of royal blue would be decorated with golden dollar signs interspersed with medical cadeusises. Her boots would be made of black bear-cub hide.

The landscape painted on the curved wall behind them would be filled with depictions of subdivisions completed and under construction with Phase One of the UC Merced campus, radioactively glowing on a low hill, like a Ronald Reagan holy city for all the right Americans and none of the rest of us. There would also be artistically rendered swollen creeks and our Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds would be standing knee deep in dirty water.

In the corner would be only a sign but no wax figure – “Our Governor, the Hun, Who Didn’t Come to the UC Merced Opening.”

The next exhibit would be strobe lit and flickering, but there would be enough intermittent light to make out the figure of former Gov. Gray Davis, an electrical plug in hand.

The third exhibit would be nothing but glass enclosed smoke. The sign would read, “Air Quality.” There would be a black box with a button on it, marked “High-Tech Fix.” When visitors push the button, they would hear the sound of a hospital ward of children coughing, but the smoke would not disappear. Sponsors of this exhibit would be the Gentlemen Start Your Engines Association, the Arkansas/China Trading Hong, the International Foundation for the Preservation of Dirty Diesel Engines, the Make Me SuperRich Developers Association, the Maybe Someday UC Merced Medical Institute for the Study of Childhood Respiratory Disease, the Alliance of Fully Indemnified San Joaquin Valley Local Land-Use Authorities, and the huge membership of the San Joaquin Valley We Don't Give and Damn and Can't Do Anything About It Anyway Society.

Another exhibit would be labeled “FALFA – We Are Always on the Winning Side.” This would be a single, monumental, lumpy piece of wax from which the faces of our prominent spokeswomen for agriculture and smart growth would vaguely emerge – Carol Whiteside, Holly King, Merced County Supervisor Diedre Kelsey, Diana Westmoreland Pedroza, etc.

Yet another exhibit, labeled “Almost the First President from Ceres and Family,” would show the interior of an ice cream franchise in an Arizona strip mall and the Condit family, capped and aproned, scooping ice cream to a group of unemployed construction workers.

The “42-Inch Sewer Trunk Line from Livingston” would be an artist’s rendering of a long line of Ranchwood earth-moving equipment digging and covering a ditch from the Livingston sewer plant to Stevinson, across county roads and a Merced Irrigation District canal. When visitors push a red button, marked “Merced County Planning Process,” the following message is played:

Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you!

“Village of Geneva Meets Planada Natives” would depict a touching scene in contemporary rural class relations. The above-mentioned Hostetler, top dog in the Geneva deal, in US Calvary officer drag, surrounded by assorted lesser developers in golf clothes, is seen presenting a snow-cone machine (marked “$600 or more”) to local officials of the unincorporated town of Planada, attired in buckskin and feathers with smiles painted on their faces.

Visitors seeking more information on this exhibit would push a button and hear a short dialogue.

Question: What do you get when you cross a school board with a sewer district board?

Answer: A piss poor receptacle for slush fund contributions! Or as Robert Frost might have opined: Something there is that doesn’t love a snow cone machine that sends a chilling public records act request through frozen coils and spills its donors’ check stubs in the sun, exposing accounting gaps big enough to squeeze through the whole ball of wax.

In “DC Does Deacons of Merced,” visitors observe a wax phallus representing male members of the Merced County unregistered, tax paid lobbyists of the “One Whine” crowd in Washington. After a hard day of pimping for federal highway funds for the UC Campus Parkway, they are artistically rendered priapic while ogling strippers, getting the real feel of Beltway politics.

“The Milking String Shakedown” abstractly represents the Valley dairy industry as a doleful, huge-headed Giant garter snake, its mouth full of money, coiled at the feet of the Pomboza, a one-headed creature with four hands reaching down to grab the cash. The huge head is composed of suits decorated with brands – United Western Dairymen, Hilmar Cheese, Gallo and assorted other mega-dairycrats. As the visitors’ eyes follow the snake back toward the tip of its tail, rubber boots begin faintly to emerge in the design, as back-to-front the entire industry is neatly packed and arranged according to the sizes of dairy herds. Pushing the informational button, visitors hear a simple statement: “No 3-cent per hundredweight tax!”

“The Lagoon: A Wax Museum of San Joaquin Valley Leadership” is a work in wax and in progress. However, we think our concept is sound and already more fully realized than its competitors, and we humbly petition the Pomboza for federal funding for this public, grassroots project.

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

Ground broken on ag center bill...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12041403p-12797891c.html
The bill is in the hopper to authorize spending federal money for the proposed National Agricultural Science Center in Modesto. Cardoza, D-Merced is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa... ag center is proposed as an interactive, high-technology exhibit designed to explain to people of all ages where food comes from, and agriculture's relationship to the environment and to technology. "I believe it is important for the community to invest in this," Cardoza said. As for when federal money might become available, "It will take a little while," Cardoza said. Allocating new federal money for the center probably isn't realistic, he said. "We are going to have to find an existing pot of money," Cardoza said.

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