Biotech fails again in state Legislature

Submitted: Sep 04, 2006

SB 1056, a bill to amend the California Seed Law to deny local authority over seeds and plants failed to pass the state Senate last week, according to one official state Legislature website and several environmental groups.

The environmental groups said the bill was strongly backed by Monsanto and other biotech corporations.

There are two strong arguments against this legislation. First, it would preempt local authority, inviting state consitutional challenge. Secondly, the state has no policy on the poltential health and economic hazards of genetically modified organisms.

This bill, authored by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, originally

required the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District to submit on or before July 1, 2006, a report to the Legislature regarding the feasibility of adopting concrete and easily administered incentives to reduce agricultural air pollution.

This is called to "gut-and-amend" one bill with entirely new language.

The first time Florez tried to get this bill and do the bidding of the Biotech Industry Organization, he used the identical technique in an Assembly committee, not even providing written language for it. But, at that time, he had not refined it to grandfather in the counties who already had already passed anti-GMO measures. This time, he did grandfather them in.

No one doubts the bill will be back next year. Only the bill to be gutted and amended remains in question.


1. www.leginfo.ca.gov

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Greek Orthodox Archbishop Chrisodoulos warns Israel

Submitted: Aug 01, 2006


Last update - 23:50 23/07/2006

U.K. minister warns Israel of consequences of IDF assault

By The Associated Press

... Greek Orthodox Church warns Israel: 'Fear God's wrath'

The leader of Greece's Orthodox Church, Archbishop Christodoulos, accused Israel on Sunday of "sacrificing innocent civilians" in its bombardment of Lebanon.

"Israel's actions within its right to self defense have long exceeded any rational limit," Christodoulos said on Sunday.

"[They are] sacrificing innocent civilians by the hundreds, and creating refugees by the thousands," he added, telling the Israeli authorities, "Do not provoke our consciences. Do not feed the world condemnation against you. It is not in your interest...Fear God's wrath."

The church has played a lead role in sheltering Greek evacuees from Lebanon who have no home or close relatives in Greece.

Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis also repeated her criticism of the Israeli attacks.

"The developments in the Middle East are the epitome of senselessness," Bakoyannis wrote in an article published in Sunday's Eleftherotypia newspaper.

"Children are being killed, families torn apart, towns are being destroyed and the infrastructure of a country razed," she wrote. "It's the civilian population that is being attacked in both countries - Lebanon and Israel."


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel Targets Milk, Medicine Factories
Hizbullah Kills One in Nahariyah

Israeli troops invaded Lebanon again early Wednesday morning, on what Israeli spokesmen called a limited search and destroy mission.

Hizbullah sent more rockets on northern Israel, killing one person at Nahariyah.

The death toll late Tuesday stood at 235 people killed in Lebanon and 25 in Israeli. About half of the Israeli deaths were military personnel. Only a handful of the Lebanese deaths have been military, and only a fraction of those have been Hizbullah fighters. In fact, have even ten Hizbullah guerrillas been killed by the Israelis since this fight began? They say it is a fight with Hizbullah. But then they bomb Greek Orthodox churches and milk factories far from Shiite areas. Hmmmm.

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War and the environment on the coast of Lebanon

Submitted: Aug 01, 2006


Lebanon oil spill crisis

Saturday 29 July 2006, 0:43 Makka Time, 21:43 GMT

The Lebanese coastline has been badly affected

The Lebanese government has appealed for help to clean up a huge oil spill along its coastline created after Israel bombed a power plant.

The environment ministry says up to 30,000 tonnes of oil flooded into the sea after Israeli jets attacked storage tanks at the Jiyyeh power plant south of Beirut on July 13 and 15.

The spill has affected more than 100 kilometres of the Lebanese coast.

Yacoub al-Sarraf, the Lebanese environment minister, said: "We have never seen a spill like this in the history of Lebanon. It is a major catastrophe.

"The equipment we have is for minor spills. We use it once in a blue moon to clean a small spill of 50 tonnes or so. To clean this whole thing up we would need an armada."

The EU commission said the Lebanese authorities had asked for "urgent" assistance to clean up the oil.

Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, said: "Wars do cause enormous human suffering as we are witnessing now in Lebanon. But another aspect is also the significant environmental destruction caused by it.

"[The spill] could affect the livelihood and health of the Lebanese and people in neighbouring countries as well as the status of the marine environment in the region."

The government has also asked the UN environmental protection agency to assist in the clean-up operation.

Al-Sarraf said the cost of removing the oil could reach $40-50million.


An Israeli warship damaged by a Hezbollah missile on July 15 may also have spilled oil into the sea, according to the environment ministry.

One of the main problems is that an Israeli air and sea blockade of Lebanon, in place since the war began on July 12, is hampering both the clean-up and the delivery of equipment.

Sarraf said: "To really clean it up we need access to the sea, which we don't have.

"We need more equipment and mobilisation but for that we need the hostilities to end."

Local environmentalists say the marine ecosystem could take years to recover.

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Sixteen thousand signatures is a good beginning

Submitted: Jul 22, 2006

The obstruction of an initiative to stop residential growth in unincorporated Stanislaus County appears to mean that the power of developers and rural landowners trumps the legitimate initiative process. Letters from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce (the developers) and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau (landowners), which represent a small fraction of the number of the 16,000 people who signed petitions to support the initiative, were enough to send the county Board of Supervisors down devious legalistic paths to frustrate the public voice.

The board does not seem to want to hear from the public on this issue, possibly because too much money is at stake, some of which will somehow find its way into the pockets of the supervisors, their families, business associates and political contributors.

Denying the initiative a place on the ballot also relieves the supervisors of the political burden of having to speak out against it and it relieves the special interests of the financial burden of having to mount a campaign against it, which might risk the possibility of actual dialogue on this issue that has not been totally controlled by special interests.

California progressives, it should be noted, invented the recall process and employed the initiative and referendum as grassroots tools to remove their government from total domination by Southern Pacific Railroad. No single interest since the railroad has dominated the state's government as development dominates it from city councils to Congress today.

If the board does not take the opportunity next week to vote to allow the initiative on the November ballot in Stanislaus County, the group behind the initiative -- after filing a lawsuit on the matter -- might consider turning its political energies to defeating the county's growth-inducing measure to increase sales taxes to create a local matching fund for more transportation projects. This might indicate to the board, CalTrans, and the Federal Highway Administration that public in this part of the world have had it with bought-and-sold officeholders and regulatory agencies constantly selling out the Public Trust and the environment to a miniscule number of special interests -- from the Pomboza of representatives RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy and Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, through career hacks in the state Legislature like Kathleen Galgiani, to the apparently clueless state Sen. Jeff Denham, to his plutocrat challenger, Wiley Nickel, to the wretchedly corrupt and hypocritical supervisors in the north San Joaquin Valley and local, state and federal resource agencies who behave like pawns.

When cities explode over prime farmland, destroying the open space that absorbs groundwater and contributes to better air quality for all, creating a politically mindless "community" of commuters, ruining the economic possibility of the county to evolve into anything but a bedroom community, and rewarding the few at the expense of the constantly increasing many under the false rhetoric of "planning," the public needs to take what political action it can to defend their environment, what is left of its communities and quality of life, against the deals its elected officials make and call policy.

The hard, simple task for the people is to figure out how to make the officials they elect accountable to them, not to special interests whose sole concern is making profits.

Sixteen thousand signatures is a good beginning.

Bill Hatch

Modesto Bee
Growth limits to miss fall ballot...Tim Moran
The initiative to stop residential growth in unincorporated areas of Stanislaus County won't make the November ballot...more than 16,000 signatures supporting the initiative on June 26...petition certified by County Clerk Lee Lundrigan on Tuesday night...Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ordered a report on the ramifications of the proposed ordinance. That will delay the matter beyond the Aug. 11 deadline to put the initiative on the November ballot. "The proponents turned this in a month too late," Krausnick said...he expected board to get the report on Aug. 15. Jackman said the report
is unnecessary...may be a tactic by the board to frustrate initiative proponents. The Board of Supervisors could have started the report when the initiative petitions started to circulate months ago. "We got it to the Board of Supervisors with plenty of time to look at this." The Board of Supervisors received letters from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau urging them to study the effects of the initiative. The letters, dated Monday, suggested several topics the report should cover, including whether the initiative would lead to more loss of prime farmland through annexation by cities for growth.

From: Denny Jackman
To: dennyj@clearwire.net
Sent: Saturday, July 22, 2006 11:35 AM
Subject: BOS action on the Stamp Out Sprawl (SOS) Initiative

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) of Stanislaus County on Tuesday 7/25 at 9am will have a second meeting opportunity to place the SOS Initiative on the November 2006 ballot. They again have three choices. 1. Enact it into law. 2. Place it on the ballot. 3. Request a study, which may delay the vote until the next general election, June 2008. Per the election code, the BOS and/or the Chief Executive Officer of the County, could have requested this study since May 6, 2006 when the petition drive began. The study may be done at any time and does not require the BOS to not take actions 1 or 2 above. The outcome of the study cannot block the placement of the citizens' initiative on the ballot in June 2008. Thus, the BOS is solely responsible to give the voters the right to vote up
or down on the SOS Initiative in November. Because of the way the initiative was written, the impacts of it are in effect now. The only way to stop the restrictions now is by a no vote of the public at a general countywide election. Thus, any delay of the vote assures that the SOS Initiative is in force until the public votes.

Given the above, it is unclear that the BOS has any legitimate reason to deny a public vote this November.

The Modesto Bee has planned an editorial on this subject for Sunday.

Please join the Stamp Out Sprawl Executive Committee on Tuesday at 9am, 1010 10th St.,

Basement Chambers, and demonstrate your support for doing the right thing.

Thank you.
SOS Executive Committee

Denny Jackman, Committee Media Consultant

Walton E. Bean, California: An Interpretive History, p. 319.

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Memoirs of a combat biologist

Submitted: Jul 06, 2006

This is an excellent review of a book on a very important topic. How government resource agency biologists choose to look at their work -- as conservation vocation or as agency career -- does determine, daily, how the war to conserve and protect the environment and the laws enacted to conserve and protect it is conducted.

The review, however, cannot be read without reference to another book, Tom Harris' Death in the Marsh (Island Press, 1991), about Felix Smith, the reviewer, and his his defense of the honor of the biologist in the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge War of the 1980s.

“Choosing a Conservation Vocation or a Bureaucratic Career; Personal Choices and the Environmental Consequences” by Richard “Dick” Kroger—Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada–2005. Reviewed by Felix Smith.

This book should be a must read by all those contemplating or studying for a career with most any resource conservation and environmental agency. It also should be read by the working professional in those same organizations. Mr. Kroger postulates the general lack of strong conservation ethic and poor choices made by career conservationists have caused more needless environmental and resource degradation than any other single factor, especially at the level of state and federal agencies.

Mr. Kroger coins the term “Conservation Vocationist” to identify those who are dedicated to the proper natural resource management from “Bureaucratic Careerist” who work in the field of conservation but instead are motivated by their own selfish personal interests.

The “Conservation Vocationist” has a strong conservation ethic. His or her choices / decisions are based on what is best for natural resource renewability and the perpetuation of a sustainable society. Choices / decisions by “Bureaucratic Careerists” all to frequently are guided by questions like -- what is the best plan of action to enhance or at least not jeopardize my career goals?

Those who have spent or who are spending their career in a state or federal conservation or environmental agency will quickly recognize some of the examples and situations Mr. Kroger describes based on his nearly 40 year career as a fish and wildlife biologist and project leader with federal agencies and a resource person with a non-governmental conservation organization. Mr. Kroger discusses his experiences with several agencies as he moved around the country. He spent a 5 plus year stint in Sacramento, California with the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service. His many moves helped strengthen his “Conservation Vocationist” ethic, broadened his background and sharpened his skills under variety of natural resource management situations.

Mr. Kroger’s presentation is straightforward. Each experience added to his solid science background. He was quick to realize that solid science and recommendations frequently get lost when a presentation was poorly conducted or the looks of the presenter were less than professional. He recommends that conservation and environmental biologists and project leaders must have a strong Conservation Vocationist ethic. This ethic is not an 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week thing. It is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year for the dedicated career Conservation Vocationist. It is life long, it is challenging, and frequently can be a life altering pursuit.

Mr. Kroger makes a great effort to explain the primary reasons why government conservation and environmental agencies do such a poor job managing and protecting our natural resources. I am sure there will be Bureaucratic Careerists who will vocally joust with Mr. Kroger. However these folks have not written a book on how to choose the best natural resource decisions to assure perpetual resource sustainability that is compatible with the spiritual and economic needs of all the people including those of future generations. While capitalistic greed and political influence is a fact of life in our democratic system of government, the truth must be told to those in political power and to the people who actually own the air and water; and the fish and wildlife and to a great extent the habitat upon which such renewal resources depend. Mr. Kroger gives the Conservation Vocationist outside of government a better understanding of some of the underlying reasons behind what alternative the Bureaucratic Careerist chooses, and how to better combat or correct them to effect better decisions in natural resource management. Non-government Conservation Vocationist and others may start seeking those reports and manuscripts gathering dust on agency shelves and away from public view.

Mr. Kroger gives an honest glimpse into his life, his Conservation Vocationist career choices and his passion for the fish and wildlife and ecosystem sustainability. He can be justly proud of his many accomplishments, both big and small. His book “Choosing a Conservation Vocation or a Bureaucratic Career; Personal Choices and the Environmental Consequences”, is a must read by aspiring Conservation Vocationists as well as the career professional in resource conservation and environmental agencies. I would also recommend the book to any one who is seeking a career with any agency or bureaucratic system, be it conservation and environmental, law enforcement, forensic science, teaching, law, and engineering to name just a few.

Mr. Kroger, to this day, carries his passion for fish and wildlife resources and the associated experiences up front. He has his own restoration effort well underway which consists of restoring 160 acres of burned out corn and soybean land to a tall grass prairie and wetlands in southwestern Minnesota.

To California Readers.

Mr. Kroger was a “combat biologist” during his stay in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento Field Office, - Division of Ecological Services (1974 to 1979) and I was his supervisor. Dick Kroger was a point person with a passion to do what he could to protect and conserve California’s fish and wildlife resources and their dependent habitats. He was instrumental in developing Habitat Evaluation Procedures for California. This was especially important for protecting shoreline / wetland habitats. He was active writing grant proposals to fund biological evaluation studies for both San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento / San Joaquin Delta and was the biologist providing guidance and oversight for these activities. He was the key biologist behind developing the Service letter report –Fish and Wildlife – Problems, Opportunities and Solutions as a part of the Central Valley Project reanalysis effort. Much of this information was incorporated into the basic support package for the development and passage of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

Dick carries his passion for fish and wildlife resources and the associated experiences up front. When I talked to him recently, he was sitting on his porch over looking his prairie – wetland restoration area, he interrupted the conversation with “I just saw a hen wood duck fly into a nesting box” and “there goes a white-tailed deer about 100 yards out”.

Mr. Kroger can be reached at 1-507-768-3608


2067- 530th Street
Wood Lake MN 56297-1421

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Comments on Del Webb Fox Hills

Submitted: Jun 27, 2006

This morning, unsurprisingly, the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved a Del Webb/Pulte Homes new town nestled between I-5 and the San Luis Canal near Los Banos. The project required an amendment of the county's outdated General Plan and, according to testimony, the first cancellation of a Williamson Act contract since 2000, when the board enacted the act.

Fox Hills will make a perfect upscale yuppie labor camp for "active seniors" our canny developers know will not be retiring any sooner than they will be retiring. The Merced public was invited to imagine the scene of active seniors wheeling off to the executive 9-hole golf course in electric golf carts, and in the magic moment of an entirely separate project description offered by its proponents during the public comment period, we were invited to believe in blue, unpolluted skies, happy seniors all wired fiber-optically to stay at home rather than commute, protected by berms from the deafening noise of the freeway, and to imagine the gentle, extremely endangered San Joaquin Valley Kit Fox ambling along the canal in a narrow "corridor" unmolested by the residents' dogs, walked along the corridor's intertwined "nature trails." It's all the latest "new" California style. Our landscapes will be watered by reconditioned sewage and our endangered species wildlife corridors will be "mixed use" and if some actively senior resident's German Shepherd bags a kit fox -- why, that's great sport! Perhaps Fox Hills of Merced County residents will form a fox club and pursue kit foxes on mountain bikes behind a baying pack of pedigreed poodles.

Faced with the high-powered consultants from the coast and the executive crew from Del Webb/Pulte Homes, who presented a final environmental impact review that was little more than a set of plans to make plans, and whose answer to every query was a smooth reply that they were in constant contact with the relevant state and federal resource regulatory agencies (safely out of public view), the supervisors were made just giddy with fabulous misstatement and joined in the fun themselves, denying that the enactment of the Williamson Act in Merced County had anything to do with mitigating the impact of UC Merced.

In fact, the Merced County General Plan is like an aging extra waitress at a Los Banos duck club. She still looks good in the right shadow, she still knows her business, and she's on the house to out-of-state developers. In the pleasant world of big money, land and extra waitresses, it is considered impolite to name the pimp. So call us impolite if we name the pimp as the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

Recently, a mysterious group called the General Plan Review Steering Committee, who claims its authority to guide a process of updating the General Plan from some board resolution in the late 1980s, made several proposals to curtail to some extent the pace of development in Merced County while the extra waitress got some medical attention. Planning consultants are now hovered over the old girl trying to figure out how to rehabilitate a working girl that has been "amended" too fast, too much, for too long. The University of California, the brute, knocked all her teeth out. Her pimp pulled all her hair out. So the consultants are working on her legs, still in good condition.

"She's still got legs!" they report ecstatically. "It's amazing considering the life she's led."

Learned and tax-paid surgeons have been summoned at the direction of the supervisors, her collective pimp, to do the nip-and-tuck magic of their plastic art. She'll soon look like a recent high school grad.

The great debate going on among consultants and the pimp is whether the hair implants should be brunette or blond. Which do nationwide developers want the most: brunette or blond extra waitresses? Perhaps this is the most important question in county economic development theory at the moment.

The old girl herself lies comatose on the table, suicidally stoned on a concoction of mind-altering substances and lies known only to duck club extra waitresses. To her, the Merced County General Plan Update Process is just another emergency ward.

Bill Hatch


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

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water
3105 Yorkshire Lane
Modesto, CA 95350


Merced County Board of Supervisors Sent via email

Dee Tatum Sent via email
Chief Administrative Officer

Robert Lewis Sent via email
Director of Planning and Economic Development

Ruben Castillo Sent via email
County Counsel
Merced County 2222 M St.
Merced CA 95340

June 27, 2006

Re: General Plan Amendment No. 05005, Zone Change Application No. 05006, Major Subdivision Application Nos. 06002, 06003 and 06004, and Administrative Permit Application No. 06040 - To amend the General Plan and the Zoning Code by adopting an updated Fox Hills Community Specific Plan and expanding the boundaries by 850 acres, approval of three major subdivision application proposing the creation of 2,600 residential building lots and approval of an administrative permit application for community-supporting commercial development; action related to the Williamson Act are also necessary including removal from the Agricultural Preserve and a tentative contract cancellation
Proposed Ordinance: An Ordinance of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Merced amending the Merced County Code Title 18, Zoning to include Section 18.57.01, Fox Hills Specific Plan District, per Zone Change Application No. 05006

Members of the Board of Supervisors,

We oppose this project because:

1) The General Plan is so out of date and out of shape that to amend it again is irresponsible. To continue to approve projects of this size that require amendments, while the General Plan update process is on-going, undermines that process and adds to the general public distrust and cynicism toward this county administration and board of supervisors.

2) The environmental review documents on this project fail to analyze its growth inducing and cumulative impacts. The County must consider each of the proposed subdivisions in the context of all the other proposed subdivisions and face the entire effect on the environment, agriculture, air quality, traffic, water supply, public health and safety and quality of life for the Merced public and the natural resources.

3) Beyond stating there will be losses of natural resources, wildlife and agriculture, there is no quantitative analysis of the magnitude of these losses in the environmental review documents.

4) At this point in the growth of Merced County and the deteriorization of the San Joaquin Valley air basin, it is absolutely irresponsible not to carefully consider the cumulative impacts of projects to the air quality of the county.

5) Failing a county water supply plan, therefore there is no assurance that the water plan for this project will not have serious impacts on existing water supplies.

6) This project overlaps state and federal resource-agency jurisdictions and requires a National Environmental Protection Act environmental impact statement.

7) The County is deferring regulatory compliance to a later date, against the intent of the California Environmental Quality Act. Plans to make plans to have consultations with state and federal resource agencies about regulatory compliance at some point in the future, risks several possible bad outcomes: 1) the consultation doesn't take place; 2) the impacts become more narrowly defined and the mitigation diminishes. The place to address the environmental impacts and to produce the plan is in the environmental review process.

8) This project will impact the Diablo Ridgelands protection plan.

9) The Fox Hills Community Specific Plan Update (or Plan) cannot provide its promised planning guidance without an updated county General Plan or Community Plans. This document cannot be used for regulatory guidance for the prior Fox Hills project or its current expanded version. The point is that there is no planning guidance in Merced County guidance packages. We refer you back to our request for information about what Merced County means by a "guidance package." We will resubmit our request because to date, we've received no answer from the county Planning Department.

10) The land-use goals of the plan update are unrealistic and flawed because a land-use authority cannot claim these goals, policies and implementation without analysis of cumulative impacts and piecemealing, and with the routine practice of deference of mitigation -- at least under the California Environmental Quality Act.

11) There are no provisions for state mandated 10-percent affordable and low-income housing. There are no provisions for migrant farmworker housing in this project.

12) A will-serve letter from a water district receiving a federal water allotment on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is no guarantee of a full water supply. However, it should trigger automatic federal resource agency review, both as to supply and to the potential contaminating effects of this project on the vast irrigation and drinking water conveyance system (Delta Mendota/San Luis Canal Water Authority) that flows adjacent to this project.

13) The project is employing as aesthetic amenities energy-saving technologies that ought to be mandatory, such as the subsidized California "Million solar roofs" plan.

14) The biological resource inventory project consultants totally relied on, CDFG Natural Diversity Data Bank, is a flawed research resource because it is not comprehensive. The data from this bank focuses solely on endangered species, without reference to other indigenous species in the same ecosystem. These consultants did no ground-truthing.

15) This project proves the point that the tardy adoption of the Williamson Act in Merced County was a cynical property-tax dodge by developers and a perversion of the intent of both the act and its underlying agricultural preserve.

16) The Draft Community Plan Update, the Draft Environmental Impact Report appendices, the DEIR, the Final Environmental Impact Report, the project findings and conditions, the May 24 staff recommendations to the county Planning Commission, and the June 14 addendum, taken together, present significant changes that warrant recirculation.

17) The "hold harmless agreement" shows once again provides the county board of supervisors license to behave recklessly, giving the public the perception that county government is corrupt.

18) Without Measure A funds, this project cannot guarantee the necessary transportation infrastructure to support the project.

19) The San Joaquin Partnership and the Regional Blueprint are merely more demonstrations of orchestration and fast-track streamlining -- in which Merced County Board of Supervisors, also sitting as the dominant clique on the board of Merced County Association of Governments -- is taking the lead in mass residential development in the Valley, proceeding in total denial of the environmental and agricultural devastation it is creating. This project, with significant backing from Pulte/Del Webb, is classic example of the sort of exploitive "growth" the county is approving: outside developers, outside financing, and profits flowing outside the county. There is no assurance than any local interests, beyond a few realtors and landowners, will realize any gain from this project. And there is every assurance that the public at large will be stuck for the bill on the infrastructure, will receive no mitigation for the impact on the resources, and will experience an obvious, demonstrable reduction of their quality of life as a direct result of this project.

20) Once again, the county Board of Supervisors is pandering to developers, aided every step of the way by indemnification. This county cannot enforce aggregate compliance, dairy and agricultural compliance, and has the vapors when confronted by the local bad boy developer. Nor will this county enforce any of its codes.

Therefore, this project should be denied because this county has neither the will nor the capacity to enforce government regulations nor -- being continuously held harmless through legal indemnification -- does it have any incentive to enforce any regulations.


Lydia M Miller Steve Burke



Letter from CVSEN

David Butcher study on Williamson Act, UC Davis, 2005.

Anti-Measure A fliers, June, 2006.

VOTE NO on Measure A Tax

Here is a partial list of residential developments ALREADY planned for Merced County
Atwater - 1,584 units, Atwater Ranch, Florsheim Homes 21 Units, John Gallagher, 25.2 acres.
Delhi - 1,100 units, Matthews Homes, 2,000 acres.
Fox Hills - 907 units, Fox Hills Estates north 337 units, Fox Hills Estates, central- 1,356 units.
Hilmar-JKB Homes, over 3,000 units.
Livingston - 1,200 units, Ranchwood Homes 420 acres. Del Valle, Gallo Ranchwood, 1,000acres,
Los Banos -, Ranchwood, 932 acres 323 units, Pinn Brothers, 34 units, Court of Fountains, 2.7 acres 95 units, Woodside Homes,
City of Merced - 11,616 units, UC Merced Community Plan 1,560 acres; 7,800 units,
Ranchwood Homes, 2,355 acres, 7,000 units, Bellevue Ranch, 1,400 acres,
Vista Del Lago, 442 units, Weaver Development, 920 units, Fahrens Creek II, -1,282 units,
Fahrens Creek North, 1,093 units, Hunt Family Annexation,
Planada - 4,400 units, Village of Geneva at Planada, Hostetler 1,390 acres.
Felix Torres Migrant Megaplex 127 units, Park Street Estates, 31.8 acres, 200 units.
San Luis Creek 629 units, F & S Investments, 180 acres.
San Luis Ranch - 544 units, 237 acres.
Santa Nella - 8,250 units - Santa Nella Village west 881 units, 350 acres,
The Parkway, phase III, 146 acres - 138 units, Santa Nella Village, 40.7 acres - 544 units,
San Luis Ranch, phase II - 232 units, 312 acres - 182 acres, Arnaudo 1 &2
Stevinson - 3,500 units, Stevinson Ranch/Gallo Lakes Development - 1,700 units, 3,740 acres.
Winton - 50 units, 17 acres- Gertrude Estates, Mike Raymond, 18 acres - 142 units, Winn Ranch
Commercial Development
WalMart Distribution Center, Riverside Motorsports Park and a growing number of Strip Malls ….and the list goes on!


"Del Webb Brand Sweeping Across America" -- phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=147717& p=irol-newsArticle&ID=823998&highlight



Diablo Ridge Conservation Plan -- www.openspacecouncil.org/projects/ landscape/baosc_drwg_2002.07.16_conservation_plan.pdf

Coalition Statement on the Merced County Planning Process

We call for a moratorium on County General Plan amendments, variances, minor sub-divisions changes to existing projects, zoning changes, and annexations of unincorporated county land by municipal jurisdictions, MOU’s and developments with private interests and state agencies, until a new County general Plan is formulated by a fully authorized public process – and approved locally and by the appropriate state and federal agencies.

The continual process of piecemealing development through amendments, willfully ignoring the cumulative impacts to infrastructure and resources, for the benefit of a small cabal of public and private special interests, is illegal and reprehensible conduct by elected and appointed officials of local land-use authorities.
We also call for a permanent moratorium on indemnification of all local land-use jurisdictions by private and public-funded developers.

Indemnification is the widespread, corrupt practice in which developers agree to pay for all legal costs arising from lawsuits that may be brought against their projects approved by the land-use authority — city or county. Without having to answer to the public for the financial consequences of decisions made on behalf of special interests, local land-use authorities can be counted on to continue unimpeded their real policy: unmitigated sprawl, agricultural land and natural resource destruction, constant increases in utility rates, layering of school and transportation bonds on top of property taxes, and the steady erosion of the county’s infrastructure.

Adopted 2006

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers

Houses sit on market longer than last year...J.N. Sbranti
Homes are taking longer to sell, but sales prices held fairly steady in May in most parts of the Northern San Joaquin Valley... Price drop in Merced County but rise in surrounding areas. In Merced County, median-priced homes sold for $364,500 in May, which was $13,500 less than April but 16.1 percent more than last year. The record of $380,750 was set in January.

If built, Villages of Laguna San Luis homes could generate more students than already in district

By Minerva Perez
Los Banos Enterprise -- June 23, 2006

A proposed development on the outskirts of Los Baños is more than just a few homes.
It is a large-scale community project that could generate more students than the school district currently has enrolled.

Trustees from the Los Baños Unified School District got a first-hand look at the actual scope and size of the proposed Villages of Laguna San Luis during a tour of the site on Wednesday.

"I've looked at the maps of the plan but when you see it and how big it actually is... we want to make sure that schools will be available," said school district Superintendent Paul Alderete.

The proposed community located west of Interstate 5 near Highway 152 and Highway 33 has about 3,600 acres of development that will include houses and neighborhood retail stores. The entire project is within the boundaries of the Los Baños school district.

"We are envisioning a rural residential community. We want to have it (an elementary school) as a focus of the community." said Brian Vail of River West Investments, the Sacramento-based real estate management and investment company preparing the project.

Alderete said he and Vail have been in contact for the past few months and are eager to mitigate the full impact of the project on school facilities.

Since the development is still in the planning stages, Vail couldn't say exactly how many homes will be in the community but he said the environmental impact report being prepared for the project doesn't allow more than 15,000.

Alderete said that many homes could generate about 12,000 students.

The proposed community will also include plenty of open space and scenic highway setbacks.

Currently, part of the project site is sprinkled with a handful of homes, truck stops and power lines, but Vail envisions a diverse community that will attainable to all socio-economic backgrounds.

He estimated home prices would range from $250,000 to $1 million.

"We pride ourselves on the diversity we offer. Our goal is not to create an exclusive gated community, so a lower priced home will be next to a more expensive one," he said.

School district trustee Colleen Menefee said she believed people would flock to the Villages because of the project's competitive home prices and given the average price of a new home in Los Baños.

"At first I was surprised that houses were built next to power lines," she said as they drove around the handful of development near power lines. "But they [sold] like crazy - people were here overnight."

She and trustee Mario Gonzalez said they were concerned the proposed development would cement Los Baños as a bedroom community for the Bay Area.

Gonzalez said although job creation is always welcomed, the (retail) jobs the proposed community will generate is not the type of employment needed in Los Baños.

"If we are going to change from an agricultural community to a more urban one we have to have jobs that are compatible with what is over the hill," he said.

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Hate Week

Submitted: May 15, 2006

The Party of "God" is desperate. Its occupation of Iraq is unravelling. Gasoline prices are rising above $3 per gallon. Its foreign debt is beyond reckoning. The Almighty Dollar has fallen a cent a week against the Euro for the last six weeks. Norway just announced plans to pull out of the London oil market and form one of its own, based on the Euro, following Iraq's plan (squelched by the invasion) and Iran's plan. The famous "trickle-down" economic theory of the Party of "God," the main tactic of which is to continue obscene taxbreaks to the richest 1 percent of the nation, has resulted in more corporate investment in offshore manufacturing, with an estimated loss of 800,000 more American jobs this year (with some growth in bartender and waitress work). Rumors are reported that Karl Rove will be indicted for perjury and possibly obstruction of justice this week. Other reports suggest the evidence trail is leading to the vice president. The president's polls have fallen below 30 percent, and Americans don't like to be spied on by their own government (in fact, it's illegal). Then there's Hookergate.

People are saying something rarely said about Nixon: Bush, they say, is incompetent and too stupid for the job. Since Bush has been known to claim he rules by the word of the biblical "God," theological mysteries surround his administration.

The coalition of oil men, debt finance institutions and the Dixie-based religious right that produced the presidency of George W. Bush, having ruled since 9/11 on fear and hatred of Muslims, now turns these passions on Mexicans. The cynicism behind this move, in people who understand the border and particularly the machinations of border banks to get NAFTA passed, would be staggering if we, the people, were not reassured that the Lord "God" told Bush to do it.

"Just like them damn Philistines!" may have been His exact words to the Great Decider.

"Stomp 'em, David – er, I mean George."

One characteristic of totalitarian propaganda is its abstraction and appeal to racist theories, in this case how Mexican immigrants are the cause of all our employment woes, because, in the words of a bygone US Senator from California, they are "built lower to the ground," and are therefore better fit for stoop labor with a short-handled hoe. From the standpoint of propaganda, the more absurd it is the better, because the aim is to get the individual (soon to join the mob) to deny his concrete experience in the world, choose the ideology the promises membership in the great new vision of the future of the Homeland rather than that "insignificant" experience and memory of it one inconveniently happens to have. This memory, sealed away in direct experience rather than ideology, suggests that Mexican immigrants cross that dangerous zone because they too have no work. Another heterodoxical opinion might be that NAFTA was as bad for Mexico as it was for the US. An even more heretical notion from experience and research is that it was very good for border banks from Los Angeles to Brownsville TX, home of Senator Lloyd Bentzen, who served in the Clinton administration as secretary of Treasury until at least a day after NAFTA was signed.

Hate stunt

From the standpoint of effective policy (actually stopping illegal immigration), this rises to the level of a jay in a tree squawking at a cat on a sidewalk. It's a hate stunt, not policy at all. At some point the rabid "base" of the Party of "God" might even step back, scratch its head, and realize the extent to which the Party of "God" has betrayed it, every step of the way. Since "vision" is very popular today, one might imagine the betrayed Christians stepping up to organize Christian labor unions on the principle that "Jesus" wants working people to organize for decent jobs and benefits.

Cross cultural identifications

Texas oil men, it was said 30 years ago, perhaps had more in common with Arab oil sheiks than they did with Houston construction workers. Aside from certain matters of dress and native language, they seemed to share a lot of common values: hatred of democracy; love of autocracy; adoration of hereditary monarchies; price rigging; expensive horses; religious fundamentalism; etc. So, even before 9/11, like-minded potentates' thoughts naturally drifted toward regime change in an oil-rich country ruled by a secular dictator.

Now, on the US/Mexican border, another cultural motif of the American Southwest plays out: our Latin tin-pot dictator side. The state will come down on the most vulnerable, worst exploited group available with the full violence of military force (if they can muster up enough National Guard troops not already otherwise occupied). The people will rebel, hold demonstrations, the police will attack. Arrests, beatings, deaths and deportations will probably follow as the Party of "God" attempts to draw the whole nation into its sordid South-of-the-Border racial hate stunt. Racial profiling will run rampant, always denied in the mainstream press, which dutifully and accurately copies official lies, only.

Mexican President Vincente Fox and his conservative party, PAN, and the old-line PRI, so long so cozy with the US, will point out futilely that the US is giving the election to the leftwing PRD, led by Luis Obrador. Perhaps the Party of "God" will send them some money to stem this leftward movement in Mexico, resembling movements in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. In any event, there will be US troops on the border, in numbers perhaps not seen since President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized his nation's oil production in 1940. Perhaps "God" whispers to the leader of His Party that it is time to conquer Mexico once and for all, as the Southern slave states desired in 1846.

Perhaps the Party of "God" will withdraw its troops from Iraq, assuming of course it won't just leave them there to be massacred, and invade Mexico, which also has oil. The Party of "God" is looking for a quick victory. Surely it can defeat Mexico.


Far be it from a mere American citizen, especially one from the humble San Joaquin Valley (Appalachia del Oeste), to suggest his president change his bedtime readings. But, in lieu of trying to interpret the events of this world through a literal interpretation of whatever translation of the Bible the president uses, I might suggest he read Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism as a means of reflecting on his actions. (Just substitute Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Hitler or Stalin for "God" and you'll get the drift.) George Orwell, of course, wrote an earlier, novelized version, called 1984, if the president prefers bedtime stories. (In that one substitute Big Brother for "God" and you can interpret the story's meaning.)

One suggests these readings because it finally seems as if the Party of "God, "seeking to establish a theocracy on the foundations of a republican democracy one of whose firmest principles is strict separation of church and state, is just spinning in circles. Oh, the will to subvert the Constitution -- that liberal document -- is strong enough among leadership, at least. But this whirling motion, particularly in a state so lethally armed, is a global health and public welfare crisis. Other people -- not just "God" -- begin to talk when you invade nations on false pretenses, Mr. President.

The Party of "God" is wrong. I will leave it to theologians to explain how wrong it is about "God. " But, concerning policy, I am a member of the two-thirds of the American people who think George Bush may be doing some job, but not the job of president of the United States. Lashing out at Mexican immigrants is just one more example of the bully-boy, racist principle of stomping the weak to show strength. It failed in Iraq and the first bullet fired on the border will signal the beginning of another massive failure and source of shame for the American people, currently captured by a government bent on the destruction of its Constitution, economy and society for the sake of imperialism.

And perhaps the voices the president is hearing are not from "God" at all.

Bill Hatch


Bush to Deploy Guard at Border
By Peter Baker
The Washington Post

Monday 15 May 2006

President Bush tried to ease the worries of his Mexican counterpart yesterday as he prepared for a nationally televised address tonight unveiling a plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to help seal the nation's southern border against illegal immigrants.

Mexican President Vicente Fox called to express concern over the prospect of
militarization of the border and Bush reassured him that it would only be a temporary measure to bolster overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, the White House said.

"The president made clear that the United States considers Mexico a friend and that what is being considered is not militarization of the border but support of Border Patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel," said White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri.

Yet the idea has further stirred an already volatile debate about immigration on both sides of the border even before the president makes his primetime speech from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. A number of Democrats and even a few key Republicans voiced skepticism or outright opposition to the reported plan yesterday, calling it a politically motivated move that will only further strain units already stretched by duty in Iraq without solving the underlying problem of illegal immigration ...

Published on Sunday, May 14, 2006 by the Seattle Times (Washington)
God's Own Party
by Kevin Phillips

Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before — in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.

Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country's domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion's new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.

The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S.
preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

The political corollary — fascinating but appalling — is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil/national-security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.

President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.

Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests — a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless, credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics.

On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860.

I have a personal concern over what has become of the Republican coalition. Forty years ago, I began a book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," which I finished in 1967 and took to the 1968 Republican presidential campaign, for which I became the chief political and voting-patterns analyst. Published in 1969, while I was still in the fledgling Nixon administration, the volume was identified by Newsweek as the "political bible of the Nixon Era."

In that book I coined the term "Sun Belt" to describe the oil, military, aerospace and retirement country stretching from Florida to California, but debate concentrated on the argument — since fulfilled and then some — that the South was on its way into the national Republican Party. Four decades later, this framework has produced the alliance of oil, fundamentalism and debt.

Some of that evolution was always implicit. If any region of the United States had the potential to produce a high-powered, crusading fundamentalism, it was Dixie. If any new alignment had the potential to nurture a fusion of oil interests and the military-industrial complex, it was the Sun Belt, which helped draw them into commercial and political proximity and collaboration.

Wall Street, of course, has long been part of the GOP coalition. But members of the Downtown Association and the Links Club were never enthusiastic about "Joe Sixpack" and middle America, to say nothing of preachers such as Oral Roberts or the Tupelo, Miss., Assemblies of God. The new cohabitation is an unnatural one.

While studying economic geography and history in Britain, I had been intrigued by the Eurasian "heartland" theory of Sir Halford Mackinder, a prominent geographer of the early 20th century. Control of that heartland, Mackinder argued, would determine control of the world. In North America, I thought, the coming together of a heartland — across fading Civil War lines — would determine control of Washington.

This was the prelude to today's "red states." The American heartland, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to Ohio and the Appalachian coal states, has become (along with the onetime Confederacy) an electoral hydrocarbon coalition. It cherishes sport-utility vehicles and easy carbon-dioxide emissions policy, and applauds preemptive U.S. air strikes on uncooperative, terrorist-coddling Persian Gulf countries fortuitously blessed with huge reserves of oil.

Because the United States is beginning to run out of its own oil sources, a military
solution to an energy crisis is hardly lunacy. Neither Caesar nor Napoleon would have flinched. What Caesar and Napoleon did not face, but less able American presidents do, is that bungled overseas military embroilments could also boomerang economically.

The United States, some $4 trillion in hock internationally, has become the world's leading debtor, increasingly nagged by worry that some nations will sell dollars in their reserves and switch their holdings to rival currencies. Washington prints bonds and dollar-green IOUs, which European and Asian bankers accumulate until for some reason they lose patience. This is the debt Achilles' heel, which stands alongside the oil Achilles' heel.

Unfortunately, more danger lurks in the responsiveness of the new GOP coalition to Christian evangelicals, fundamentalists and Pentecostals, who muster some 40 percent of the party electorate. Many millions believe that the Armageddon described in the Bible is coming soon. Chaos in the explosive Middle East, far from being a threat, actually heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oil-price spikes, murderous hurricanes, deadly tsunamis and melting polar ice caps lend further credence.

The potential interaction between the end-times electorate, inept pursuit of Persian Gulf oil, Washington's multiple deceptions and the financial crisis that could follow a substantial liquidation by foreign holders of U.S. bonds is the stuff of nightmares. To watch U.S. voters enable such policies — the GOP coalition is unlikely to turn back — is depressing to someone who spent many years researching, watching and cheering those grass roots.

Four decades ago, the new GOP coalition seemed certain to enjoy a major infusion of conservative Northern Catholics and Southern Protestants. This troubled me not at all. I agreed with the predominating Republican argument at the time that "secular" liberals, by badly misjudging the depth and importance of religion in the United States, had given conservatives a powerful and legitimate electoral opportunity.

Since then, my appreciation of the intensity of religion in the United States has deepened. When religion was trod upon in the 1960s and thereafter by secular advocates determined to push Christianity out of the public square, the move unleashed an evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal counterreformation, with strong theocratic pressures becoming visible in the Republican national coalition and its leadership.

Besides providing critical support for invading Iraq — widely anathematized by preachers as a second Babylon — the Republican coalition has also seeded half a dozen controversies in the realm of science. These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women's rights and opposition to stem-cell research.

This suggests that U.S. society and politics may again be heading for a defining
controversy such as the Scopes trial of 1925. That embarrassment chastened fundamentalism for a generation, but the outcome of the eventual 21st century test is hardly assured.

These developments have warped the Republican Party and its electoral coalition, muted Democratic voices and become a gathering threat to America's future. No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system.

Conservative true believers will scoff at such concerns. The United States is a unique and chosen nation, they say; what did or did not happen to Rome, imperial Spain, the Dutch Republic and Britain is irrelevant. The catch here, alas, is that these nations also thought they were unique and that God was on their side. The revelation that he apparently was not added a further debilitating note to the late stages of each national decline.

Over the past 25 years, I have warned frequently of these political, economic and
historical (but not religious) precedents. The concentration of wealth that developed in the United States in the bull market of 1982 to 2000 was also typical of the zeniths of previous world economic powers as their elites pursued surfeit in Mediterranean villas or in the country-house splendor of Edwardian England. In a nation's early years, debt is a vital and creative collaborator in economic expansion; in late stages, it becomes what Mr. Hyde was to Dr. Jekyll: an increasingly dominant mood and facial distortion. The United States of the early 21st century is well into this debt-driven climax, with some analysts
arguing — all too plausibly — that an unsustainable credit bubble has replaced the stock bubble that burst in 2000.

Unfortunately, three of the preeminent weaknesses displayed in these past declines have been religious excess, a declining energy and industrial base, and debt often linked to foreign and military overstretch. Politics in the United States — and especially the evolution of the governing Republican coalition — deserves much of the blame for the fatal convergence of these forces in America today.

Kevin Phillips is the author of "American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" (Viking).
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 14 May 2006

When America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.

This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret "black site" Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.

President Bush, himself a sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a "shameful act" that is "helping the enemy." Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.

We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.

Well before Dana Priest of The Post uncovered the secret prisons last November, the C.I.A. had failed to keep its detention "secrets" secret. Having obtained flight logs, The Sunday Times of London first reported in November 2004 that the United States was flying detainees "to countries that routinely use torture." Six months later, The New York Times added many details, noting that "plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements." These articles, capped by
Ms. Priest's, do not impede our ability to detain terrorists. But they do show how the administration, by condoning torture, has surrendered the moral high ground to anti-American jihadists and botched the war of ideas that we can't afford to lose.

The N.S.A. eavesdropping exposed in December by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The Times is another American debacle. Hoping to suggest otherwise and cast the paper as treasonous, Dick Cheney immediately claimed that the program had saved "thousands of lives." The White House's journalistic mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote that the Times exposŽ "may have ruined one of our most effective anti-Al Qaeda
surveillance programs."

Surely they jest. If this is one of our "most effective" programs, we're in worse
trouble than we thought. Our enemy is smart enough to figure out on its own that its phone calls are monitored 24/7, since even under existing law the government can eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant (which is almost always granted). As The Times subsequently reported, the N.S.A. program was worse than ineffective; it was counterproductive. Its gusher of data wasted F.B.I. time and manpower on wild-goose chases and minor leads while uncovering no new active Qaeda plots in the United States. Like the N.S.A. database on 200 million American phone customers that was described last week by USA Today, this program may have more to do with monitoring "traitors" like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists.

Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent.

Even before he went to the C.I.A., he was a drag on national security. In "Breakdown," a book about intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the conservative journalist Bill Gertz delineates how Mr. Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, played a major role in abdicating Congressional oversight of the C.I.A., trying to cover up its poor performance while terrorists plotted with impunity. After 9/11, his committee's "investigation" of what went wrong was notoriously toothless.

Once he ascended to the C.I.A. in 2004, Mr. Goss behaved like most other Bush
appointees: he put politics ahead of the national interest, and stashed cronies and partisan hacks in crucial positions. On Friday, the F.B.I. searched the home and office of one of them, Dusty Foggo, the No. 3 agency official in the Goss regime. Mr. Foggo is being investigated by four federal agencies pursuing the bribery scandal that has already landed former Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham in jail. Though Washington is titillated by gossip about prostitutes and Watergate "poker parties" swirling around this Warren Harding-like tale, at least the grafters of Teapot Dome didn't play games with the nation's defense during wartime.

Besides driving out career employees, underperforming on Iran intelligence and scaling back a daily cross-agency meeting on terrorism, Mr. Goss's only other apparent accomplishment at the C.I.A. was his war on those traitorous leakers. Intriguingly, this was a new cause for him. "There's a leak every day in the paper," he told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune when the identity of the officer Valerie Wilson was exposed in 2003. He argued then that there was no point in tracking leaks down because "that's all we'd do."

What prompted Mr. Goss's about-face was revealed in his early memo instructing C.I.A. employees to "support the administration and its policies in our work." His mission was not to protect our country but to prevent the airing of administration dirty laundry, including leaks detailing how the White House ignored accurate C.I.A. intelligence on Iraq before the war. On his watch, C.I.A. lawyers also tried to halt publication of "Jawbreaker," the former clandestine officer Gary Berntsen's account of how the American command let Osama bin Laden escape when Mr. Berntsen's team had him trapped in Tora Bora in December 2001. The one officer fired for alleged leaking during the Goss purge had no access to classified intelligence about secret prisons but was presumably a witness to her boss's management disasters.

Soon to come are the Senate's hearings on Mr. Goss's successor, Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the N.S.A. As Jon Stewart reminded us last week, Mr. Bush endorsed his new C.I.A. choice with the same encomium he had bestowed on Mr. Goss: He's "the right man" to lead the C.I.A. "at this critical moment in our nation's history." That's not exactly reassuring.

This being an election year, Karl Rove hopes the hearings can portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism when they question any national security move. It was this bullying that led so many Democrats to rubber-stamp the Iraq war resolution in the 2002 election season and Mr. Goss's appointment in the autumn of 2004.

Will they fall into the same trap in 2006? Will they be so busy soliloquizing about civil liberties that they'll fail to investigate the nominee's record? It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 - "Tomorrow is zero hour" for one - and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that "some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose," as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and "for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the

same grocery stores."

If Democrats - and, for that matter, Republicans - let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it -- George Santayana, 1905

Submitted: May 08, 2006

The following clipping was discovered May 8th, 2006 pasted inside the back cover of a journal ... belonging to E.D. Kahl of Plainsburg, Merced County, CA

Special Dispatch to The Call – Oakland California

MERCED Jan. 28, 1905 – A tremendous scandal has arisen in Merced County. Seven public officials have been indicted on felony charges, and accusations of bribery and corruption are spread broadcast. The superintendent of construction of the new County Hospital is on trial for alleged wholesale graft, and the Grand Jury is openly declared to have been packed in the interest of certain politicians. Members of the Board of Supervisors are in danger of going to the penitentiary; and the District Attorney has been committed to jail. The people of the county are all agog over the exposures, and there may be bloodshed before the trouble is ended.

The difficulties have arisen over the building of a county hospital. The expense of construction has been so great and the results so incommensurate that charges of theft have been bruited about for weeks. Superintendent of Construction F. W. Robinson was the first one called upon to explain when it was discovered that the county was purchasing iron and stone for about their weight in gold. Robinson was placed under arrest to render further explanations to a jury.

Then it was rumored that some of the Supervisors were in on the alleged theft. Four of them were indicted. The accused said that the Grand Jury was packed for political purposes and nine members of the inquisitorial body were summoned as witnesses for the prosecution. A new venire was demanded and then the fight was on in earnest.

Robinson was placed on trial and District Attorney Hoar partly, it is said, showed his hand to the defense and was immediately placed on the witness stand himself by the defendant’s lawyers to show that an illegal conspiracy had been formed between public officials for the purpose of sending the indicted men to the penitentiary.

Attorney Ostrander for the defense put the question openly to Hoar in court and he refused to answer. After much argument the District Attorney was ordered to jail for contempt.

Hoar’s lawyers immediately went to San Francisco and applied to the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. An alternative writ was granted, returnable Monday morning. The court at that time will hear what reasons the prisoner has for thinking he should be released. Attorney Ostrander has also gone to San Francisco to be present at the hearing and to attempt to have Hoar kept in jail until he chooses to answer the important question. Meanwhile the county is on tiptoe with expectancy.

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John Kenneth Galbraith 1909-2006

Submitted: May 02, 2006

From John Nichols' obituary, "Galbraith for President," in The Nation, May 1, 2006:

With Galbraith's passing, we are left with one less counter to his observation that, "Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." Thankfully, we are left, as well, with John Kenneth Galbraith's wisest piece of political advice; his suggestion that: "In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong."

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“I'm not OK., you're not OK., and that's OK.!” -- William Sloan Coffin, 1924-2006

Submitted: Apr 22, 2006

One of the nation's greatestest Christians, William Sloan Coffin, died a week ago and the eulogies have been coming, one by one, from the great people whose lives he touched. We're thankful for the blogs of conscience -- CommonDreams, Truthout, Counterpunch, and others -- for making them so easily and generally available.

Even in death Coffin reminds us, through these eulogies, of real Christian spirit, which is no fantasy of purity. They have the effect of urging us to remember William Sloan Coffin and go forth. Coffin's favorite prophet, several eulogists remark, was Amos. A number of Mercedians have heard Rev. Robert Ryland speak on the subject of Amos, whom he calls the "farmworker prophet." I don't remember Coffin having as large a presence in the West as he did in the East and the South, but everything he said was suffused with the spirit of "Si, se puede!" the farmworkers' battle cry for justice.

What I remembered most clearly about Coffin during the 1960's was that his very name would change the tone of any conversation on a university campus. He spoke for your own conscience. He defended your conscience against the empire of lies about you. He had a reference book you could find in any motel room in America.

My favorite eulogy to William Sloan Coffin so far is the following remarks by Bill Moyers at the funeral at Coffin's church, Riverside Memorial Church in New York City.

Bill Hatch

Published on Friday, April 21, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Remembering Bill Coffin
by Bill Moyers

The following remarks were delivered by Bill Moyers at the funeral service for William Sloan Coffin on Thursday, April 20, at Riverside Memorial Church in New York City.

There are so many of you out there who should be up here instead of me. You rode with Bill through the Deep South chasing Jim Crow from long impregnable barriers imposed on freedom.

You rose with Bill against the Vietnam War, were arrested with him, shared jail with him, and at night in your cells joined in singing the Hallelujah Chorus with him You rallied with him against the horrors of nuclear weapons. You sang with him, laughed with him, drank with him, prayed with him, grieved with him, worshipped and wept with him. Even at this moment when your hearts are breaking at the loss of him, you must be comforted by the balm of those memories. I envy your life-long membership in his beloved community, and I am honored that Randy, his wife, asked me to speak today about the Bill Coffin I knew.

I saw little of him personally until late in his life. We met once in the early 60s when he was an adviser to the Peace Corps which I had helped to organize and run. He spoke to the staff, inspired us to think of what we were doing as the moral equivalent of war, and told us the story of how as a young captain in the infantry following military orders at the end of World War II. he had been charged with sending back to the Soviet Union thousands of Russian refugees made prisoners by the Germans. Some of them he had deceived into boarding trains that carried them home to sure death at the hands of Stalin. That burden of guilt sat heavily on Bill’s heart for the rest of his life. He wrote about it in his autobiography, and raised it forty years later when we met in the waiting room of the television studio where I was about to interview him. That’s the moment we bonded, two old men by now, sharing our grief that both in different ways had once confused duty with loyalty, and confessing to each other our gratitude that we had lived long enough to atone -- somewhat.

“Well,” said Bill, “we needed a lot of time. We had a lot to atone for.”

I had called him for the interview after learning the doctors had told him his time was now running out. When he came down from Vermont to the studio here in New York, I qreeted him with the question, “How you doing?” . He threw back his head, his eyes flashed, and with that slurred (from a stroke) but still vibrant voice, he answered: “Well, I am praying the prayer of St. Augustine: Give me chastity and self-restraint….but not yet.”

He taught me more about being a Christian than I learned at seminary. His witness taught me – he preached what he practiced. But his writings taught me, too –Once to Every Man, Living the Truth in a World of Illusion, The Heart is a Little to the Left, Credo, Letters to a Young Doubter, and of course that unforgettable eulogy to his drowned son, Alex, when he called on us to “improve the quality of our suffering.”

During my interview with him on PBS I asked him how he had summoned the strength for so powerful a message of suffering and love. He said, “Well, we all do what we know how to do. I went right away to the piano. And I played all the hymns. And I wept and I wept, and I read the poems, like A.E. Houseman – ‘To an Athlete Dying Young.’ Then I realized the folks in Riverside Church had to know whether or not they still had a pastor. So I wrote the sermon. I wanted them to know.”

They knew, Bill, they knew. This will surprise some of you: Not too long ago Bill told Terry Gross that he would rather not be known as a social activist. The happiest moments of my life, he said, were less in social activism than in the intimate settings of the pastor’s calling – “the moments when you’re doing marriage counseling…or baptizing a baby…or accompanying people who have suffered loss – the moments when people tend to be most human – when they are most vulnerable.”

So he had the pastor’s heart but he he heeded the prophet’s calling. There burned in his soul a sacred rage – that volatile mix of grief and anger and love that produced what his friend, the artist and writer Robert Shetterly, described as “a holy flame.” During my interview with him he said, “When you see uncaring people in high places, everybody should be mad as hell.”

If you lessen your anger at the structures of power, he said, you lower your love for the victims of power. I once heard Lyndon Johnson urge Martin Luther King to hold off on his marching in the south to give the President time to neutralize the old guard in Congress and create a consensus for finally ending institutionalized racism in America. Martin Luther King listened, and then he answered (I paraphrase): Mr. President, the gods of the South will never be appeased. They will never have a change of heart. They will never repent of their sins and come to the altar seeking forgiveness. The time has passed for consensus, the time has come to break the grip of history and change the course of America.” When the discussion was over Dr. King had carried the day. The President of the United States put a long arm on his shoulder and said, “Martin, you go on out there now and make it possible for me to do the right thing.” Lyndon Johnson had seen the light: For him to do the right thing someone had to subpoena the conscience of America and send it marching from the ground up against the citadels of power and privilege.

Like Martin Luther King, Bill Coffin also knew the heart of power is hard; knew it arranged the rules for its own advantage, knew that before justice could roll down like water and righteousness like a flowing river, the dam of oppression, deception and corruption had first to be broken, cracked open by the moral power of people aroused to demand that the right thing be done.

“In times of oppression,” he said, “if you don’t translate choices of faith into political choices, you run the danger of washing your hands, like Pilate.”

So he aimed his indignation at root causes.

“Many of us are eager to respond to injustice,” he said, “without having to confront the causes of it…and that’s why so many business and governmental leaders today are promoting charity. It is desperately needed in an economy whose prosperity is based on growing inequality. First these leaders proclaim themselves experts on matters economic, and prove it by taking the most out of the economy. Then they promote charity as if it were the work of the church, finally telling troubled clergy to shut up and bless the economy as once we blessed the battleship.”

When he came down from Vermont two years ago for that final interview, we talked about how democracy had reached a fork in the road – what Tony Kushner calls one of those moments in history when the fabric of everyday life unravels and there is this unstable dynamism that allows for incredible change in short period of time – when people and the world they are living in can be utterly transformed for good or bad.

Take one fork and the road leads to an America where military power serves empire rather than freedom; where we lose from within what we are trying to defend from without; where fundamentalism and the state scheme to write the rules and regulations; where true believers in the gods of the market turn the law of the jungle into the law of the land; where in the name of patriotism we keep our hand over our heart pledging allegiance to the flag while our leaders pick our pockets and plunder our trust; where elites insulate themselves from the consequences of their own actions; where ”the strong take what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”

Take the other fork and the road leads to the America whose promise is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all Bill Coffin spent his life pointing us down that road. in that direction. There is nothing utopian about it, Bill said; he was an idealist but he was not an ideologue. He said in our interview that we have to keep pressing the socialist questions because they are the questions of justice, but we must be dubious about the socialist answers because while Amos may call for justice to roll down as waters, figuring out the irrigation system is damned hard!

He believed in democracy. There is no simpler way to put it. He believed democracy was the only way to assure that the rewards of a free society would be shared with everyone, and not just elites at the top. That last time we talked he told me how much he had liked the story he had heard Joseph Campbell tell me in our series on “The Power of Myth” – the story of the fellow who turns the corner and sees a brawl in the middle of the block. He runs right for it, shouting: “Is this a private fight, or can anyone get in it?”

Bill saw democracy as everyone’s fight. He’d be in the middle of the fork in the road right now, his coat off, his sleeves rolled up, his hand raised – pointing us to the action. And his message would be the same today as then: Sign up, jump in, fight on.”

Someone sidled up to me the other night at another gathering where Bill’s death was discussed. This person said, “He was no saint, you know.” I wanted to answer: “You’re kidding?” We knew, alright. Saints flourish in a mythic world. Bill Coffin flourished here, in the cracked common clay of an earthly and earthy life. He liked it here. Even as he was trying to cooperate gracefully with the inevitability of death, he was also coaching Paul Newman to play the preacher in the film version of Marilynn Robinson’s novel Gilead. He enjoyed nothing more than wine and song at his home with Randy and friends. And he never lost his conviction that a better world is possible if we fight hard enough. At a dinner in his honor in Washington he had reminded us that “the world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.” But as we left he winked at me and said, “Give’em hell.”

Faith, he once said, “is being seized by love.” Seized he was, in everlasting arms.

“You know,” he told me in that interview, “I lost a son. And people will say, ‘Well, when you die, Bill, Alex will come forth and bring you through the pearly gates.’ Well, that’s a nice thought, and I welcome it. But I don’t need to believe that. All I need to know is, God will be there. And our lives go from God, in God, to God again. Hallelujah, you know? That should be enough.”

Well, he’s there now. But we are still here. I hear his voice in my heart: “Don’t tarry long in mourning. Organize.”
Coffin quotes:

“Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.”

“The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.”

“The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverance can restrain violence - reverance for human life and the environment.”

“It's too bad that one has to conceive of sports as being the only arena where risks are, [for] all of life is risk exercise. That's the only way to live more freely, and more interestingly.”

“I'm not OK., you're not OK., and that's OK.!”

Published on Sunday, April 16, 2006 by The Nation
In Pursuit of Justice, In Search of Peace
by John Nichols

The Nazarene whose resurrection is celebrated Sunday preached a gospel of justice and peace. His sincere followers recognize him as a man of action, who chased the money changers from the temple. But they recall, as well, that he rejected the violence of emperors and their militaries and he abhorred harm done to innocents.

Some years ago, in an effort to promote moral values, Christians of a particular persuasion began wearing wristbands imprinted with "WWJD?" -- the acronym for the question, "What Would Jesus Do?"

After George W. Bush -- who once identified the prophet as his favorite philosopher -- initiated a preemptive attack on Iraq, killing tens of thousands of civilians, critics of the president and his war offered a variation on wristband slogan. They printed bumper stickers that asked: "Who Would Jesus Bomb?"

The absurdity of the notion that the Nazarene would sympathize in any way with the violent invasion and occupation of Iraq was not lost on one of the greatest Christian spokesmen of our time, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin. The longtime chaplain of Yale University and pastor of New York City's Riverside Church, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the early days of the civil rights movement and came to national prominence as one of the most outspoken moral critics of the war in Vietnam, died last week at the age of 81.

Active to the end, Coffin explained in one of his last interviews that, "There are two major biblical imperatives: pursue justice and seek peace." Honoring those imperatives, he campaigned consistently and loudly – even as his own health failed -- for the quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq ...

Published on Saturday, April 15, 2006 by the Boston Globe
The Legacy of William Sloane Coffin
by Scotty McLennan

There was a great biblical prophet holding forth on campus, it seemed, when I arrived at Yale in 1966. The Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., who died this week, was a giant of a man -- physically, intellectually, and spiritually. It was impossible not to notice him and be affected by him.

I took a life-changing ''Seminar for Friendly Disbelievers" with him in my freshman year, learned about deep religious confrontation with racism and war in my sophomore and junior years, and by senior year was a student deacon of Battell Chapel at Yale and on my way to divinity school. ''Justice, not charity," was one of Coffin's constant refrains, which I now try to teach to a community service-oriented college generation that often seems politically unaware and inactive.

Coffin's contention was: ''Many of us are eager to respond to injustice, as long as we can do so without having to confront the causes of it. There's the great pitfall of charity. Handouts to needy individuals are genuine, necessary responses to injustice, but they do not necessarily face the reason for injustice. And that is why so many business and governmental leaders today are promoting charity; it is desperately needed in an economy whose prosperity is based on growing inequality. First these leaders proclaim themselves experts on matters economic, and prove it by taking the most out of the economy! Then they promote charity as if it were the work of the church, finally telling us troubled clergy to shut up and bless the economy as once we blessed the battleships" ...

Weekend Edition
April 15 / 16, 2006

"With Him, We Were Changed Forever"

Remembering Rev. William Sloane Coffin


One of his Yale students, famed cartoonist Garry Trudeau, said of Yale University Chaplain, Williams Sloane Coffin, during those heady years in the Sixties; "Without him, the very air would have lost its charge. With him, we were changed forever."

Who was this former Army Captain, ex-C.I.A. agent, talented musician, linguist and motorcycle rider? How did he become one of the most influential clergymen of his time by focusing public attention on the essential moral questions so often avoided in times of war, strife over civil rights and the perilous nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union? Most clergy do not roam so far from their Church.

When challenged to stick with his ministerial duties, this great speaker of sweeping vision and public virtue replied:

Every minister is given two roles: the priestly and the prophetic. The prophetic role is the disturber of the peace, to bring the minister himself, the congregation and entire social order under some judgment. If one plays a prophetic role, it's going to mitigate against his priestly role. There are going to be those who will hate him.

And with that definition, the Rev. Coffin became the outspoken activist and doer of nonviolent civil disobedience directly from the principles of his Christian faith. He wrote, spoke, organized, marched, protested, was arrested, jailed and prosecuted. He inspired the struggles against the Vietnam war, Jim Crow laws, the military draft, poverty here and abroad, and the planet-threatening atomic arms race. He did all this with an historical frame of reference, biblical wisdom, and humor which was almost always witty and informative...

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