500 times on the blackboard

Submitted: May 26, 2009
Badlands Journal editorial board

Members of the Badlands Journal editorial board wish to apologize to our readers for the spelling in yesterday's post, originally titled, "Socery." As soon as we discovered it, we changed it to try to restore our dignity. The offending, spelling-disadvantaged editor is currently halfway through his assignment, writing the word, "Sorcery," 500 times on the Badlands blackboard.

"You make fun of somebody misspelling a really complicated word like "Chihuahua" (spelled "Chiewahwah" on a sign observed in town) and those young scientists out at UC Merced for spelling "spirit" "sprit," and you can't spell a perfectly ordinary three-syllable English word!" said the outraged board to the offender. "Judge not, if you cannot spell it! Your membership on the editorial board is hanging by a thread."

The offender offered no explanation, hung his head, accepted his punishment and is now covering the blackboard with "sorcery." We hope that this exercise will exorcise the Misspelling Demon running free in town from Badlands and we urge local journalists and PR practitioners to take prophylactic action. Remain calm but hang dictionaries in every doorway.

Badlands Journal editorial board


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The dogs bark but the caravan moves on

Submitted: May 18, 2009
Badlands Journal editorial board

As Badlands pointed out recently, there is a new young couple among the Valley's witless Democratic congressmen, the Costoza, replacing the Pomboza, which met a timely demise with the dis-election of former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, in 2006. The swing man in both duos is Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Annapolis MD, who still claims to represent the 18th Congressional District of California, which includes three cities with some of the worst foreclosure rates in America, Merced, Modesto and Stockton and one county, Merced, with the second highest unemployment rate in the nation this month.

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Education to Elegance with a Sprit of Tradition

Submitted: May 03, 2009
Badlands Journal editorial board


The now famous UC Merced Valentine campaign to invite First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at the May 16 commencement exercises featured the following legend, found at this link:


Education to Elegance with a Sprit of Tradition
UC Merced Commencment May 16, 2009

Since, as we say in the press, this message had pass through many sets of eyes, we wondered if "sprit" had an academic meaning that has escaped us all these years. However, the only definition we could find was:

sprit: a spar that crosses a fore-and-aft sail diagonally. (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

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Education to Elegance with a Sprit of Tradition

Submitted: May 03, 2009
Badlands Journal editorial board


The now famous UC Merced Valentine campaign to invite First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at the May 16 commencement exercises featured the following legend, found at this link:


Education to Elegance with a Sprit of Tradition
UC Merced Commencment May 16, 2009

Since, as we say in the press, this message had pass through many sets of eyes, we wondered if "sprit" had an academic meaning that has escaped us all these years. However, the only definition we could find was:

sprit: a spar that crosses a fore-and-aft sail diagonally. (Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

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Influence of UC Merced in town

Submitted: Apr 29, 2009
Badlands Journal editorial board

"It ain't even skin deep." Badlands Journal editorial board member

Sign seen outside a G Street market: "Chiewawas for sale."

We find this sign is evidence of the continuing vitality of the authentic culture of the San Joaquin Valley, despite a decade of pretentious university Bobcatflak. Why should we spell the name of the little dog with megalomanic aspiration like some state in Mexico? Spelling, as our Founding Fathers frequently taught us, ought to be a matter of individual choice and an expression of personal character.

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Blago the Terrible and other stories

Submitted: Dec 13, 2008
Bill Hatch

Blago the Terrible and other stories

“I got this thing, and it’s (bleeping) golden. … You just don’t give it away for nothing,” (Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich) said, according to a criminal complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

“Then he (Obama) just laid out an economic analysis (for his 2004 US Senate campaign). It becomes about money, because he knew that if people knew his story they would view him as a better candidate than anybody else he thought might be in the field. And so he said, ‘Therefore, if you raise five million dollars, I have a fifty-per-cent chance of winning. If you raise seven million dollars, I have a seventy-per-cent chance of winning. If you raise ten million dollars, I guarantee victory.” (New Yorker, July 21, 2008)

Blagojevich is correct: the bleeping Senate-seat appointment is worth quite a bit more than any of the recorded or suspected offers for it. Even shaving Obama's $10 million down to $9 million, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s alleged offer of $1 million for the last two years of Obama's Senate term is a clear savings to plutocrat investors in politicians of $2 million in the middle of a bad recession. Later, the incumbent advantage might be worth as much as $3 or $4 million more. It just makes sense.

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Cardboard babble on the outskirts

Submitted: Aug 11, 2008

(who moved his family to Washington DC, taking a physician from the famously medically underserved Valley with him, leaving a whole rooftop of solar panels behind)

Loose Lips: …Friday, Mar. 14, 2008
Is Cardoza abandoning the Valley?

Loose Lips readers, your congressman has left the zip code.
Lips has learned that the long-rumored move of Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Packing Up) is now a reality. Cardoza announced earlier this week that his family is moving from Atwater to Maryland.
“This was not an easy decision, but many members of Congress with young families move them to Washington,” said Cardoza’s wife, Kathy McLoughlin, in a written statement released Monday. “With Joey and Brittany entering high school in the fall, we believe this is the right time to have the family join Dennis in the Washington area. Even though he travels home each weekend, we miss him during the week and look forward to being together more.”

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Sunshine on RMP

Submitted: Jul 18, 2008

Badlands is declaring the coming days a Sunshine Week to post a number of documents submitted to Merced County government in the last few months. Some of these documents have been included in the official packets of information for Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meetings. Others have been suppressed.
This material is best understood by reference to the audio or video archives of supervisors’ and planning commission meetings and we encourage readers seriously interested in understanding their local government to go to the Merced County webpage, http://www.co.merced.ca.us/CountyWeb/, to seek out these hearings, particularly the two board of supervisors meetings on July 1 and July 8.

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Governmental activity

Submitted: Jul 06, 2008

At the end of Joseph Kanon's The Good German (Picador, 2001), there is an interview with the author. The interviewer asks Kanon, whose novel superbly depicts the labyrith of bureaucracies among Allied Armed Forces in the first weeks of the occupation of Berlin at the end of WWII:

As a writer whose work often centers on shrouded governmental activity, do you consider yourself prone to conspiracy theories?

Kanon. No. Conspiracies exist largely in the world of melodrama. In the real world of government, we're more likely to find the less exciting mix of incompetence, special interests, political expediency, and plain, dumb carelessness.

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Loose Cheeks, June 24, 2008

Submitted: Jun 24, 2008


Loose Cheeks: Hot Tips
By Lucas Smithereen
Loose Cheeks Senior Editor

Got a hot tip for Loose Cheeks? Call the Loose Cheeks hot-tip line: (000) CHE-EEKS. We’ll get back to you whenever.

Item #1


The other day in a federal building in Merced a member of the board of directors of the
East Merced Resource Conservation District, in the middle of a gripping report on the
district's budget, arose from his chair at the end of the meeting table that faced
certain pictures on the opposite wall, walked to the pictures, removed the photograph of
the president from the wall, pulled out a cabinet, put the picture behind it, pushed the
cabinet back, and returned to his seat.

A. J. Gangle got the story third-hand from an informant journalist sitting beside the
cabinet, who was so engrossed in the riveting budget narratives that he did not see the
event, but was told about it by members of the public at the meeting, one of whom said:

"I could have jumped up and kissed him. But I didn't think it would have been

Although jaws around the room dropped to belt level, nobody said anything and the
exhilarating budget song-and-dance continued without a pause, Gangle's informant
scribbling madly so that he would not miss describing even one small shuck or a fragment of jive.

It was only later, in reporting the story to Gangle, that members of the public realized
that Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, a member of John McCain's California campaign committee, appointed the board of the EMRCD. This led to speculations about the motive for this act of revolt too dark to speak. Will punishment stop at dismissal from the board or will the director end up in Gitmo?

Loose Cheeks stands ready to support the director wherever he goes.

Item #2

Elephant in the patio

A.J. Gangle was mighty impressed with last month's column by Merced County Farm Bureau President Peter "Skal!" Koch in the farm bureau's newsletter.

So finally an elected official has come out to say we are facing the real possibility of
water shortages and mandatory rationing this summer--Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Good for him. But what can he do? We have the elephant sitting in our living room and the bigger it gets the louder one would yell or at least so you would think. As we take our daily showers, water the lawn or laze about in the pool, let's look at this water situation from the field view and not from the grandstands. What can we really do?

Gangle thought that the least he could do was get his ultralite out of the shop and take
his annual flight over the Merced River just to check things out and feel like he too was
participating in the fight against drought. Riding the thermals above the
Amsterdam-Hopeton area, Gangle got bumped off course a bit and found himself over ol' Skal! Koch's place. Gangle noticed a deep hole on the estate grounds and wondered if Koch was possibly burying an elephant next to his castle. Circling again, Gangle thought it looked more like President Skal! was building a swimming pool to laze about during the drought.

Item #3

Gangle dreams of a blog, like the bigshot reporters have

A.J. Gangle occasionally asks himself why he can't have a blog like all the reporters in the mainstream press, where he could explore political tidbits like the bigshot reporters do.

If I had one, he told Mr. Smithereen, I'd post something like: It appears that the political effect in the recent 4th district supervisor race of the Raptor Center's praise of the incumbent's family for donations to its causes helped the incumbent Kelsey retain her seat. This also insured continuance of the null voice of Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook, a Kelsey appointee. Between Commissioner Tanner making the motions and Lashbrook missing the points, Planning Commissioner Sloan, developers and parcel-splitting agriculturalists are sitting pretty for the foreseeable future in Merced County.

Item #4

Atta Girl to Rochelle Koch

Rochelle Koch, wife of ol' Skal, president of the local Farm Bureau chapter, and a
founder of the famous Valley Land Alliance, is aiming to replace Bryant Owens as the top letter writer to the Sonny Star, the McClatchy Chain's Merced gigolo press outlet.

Judging from the high quality of her commentary on the Felix Torres Camp situation, the
public anticipates some serious land-use activism from the famous Valley Land Alliance.

Item #5

Atta It to Great Valley Center

Gangle attended the graduation of the UC/Great Valley Center's Institute for Development of Emerging Area Leaders Class of 2008 last weekend. The presentation was fine and the star of the show was Maureen McCorry, leader of San Joaquin Valley Et Al, emerging by the day.

Gangle, however, felt sorry for sponsors Paramount, Citi and Bank of America because of the 66 typos in the brochure. Transnational corporations are constantly abused these
days, he thought. Untypically for a cynical journalist, Gangle came up with an idea for
the corporate sponsors of UC/GVC: why not start an Emerging Valley Printers Institute

While Gangle understands the hardcore Invisible-Middle-Finger-of-the-Market attitude of UC/GVC, he found himself wondering if the quality of the brochure might have been
improved if people who affix union bugs on their productions had been involved in
printing it. However, he doubts a union bug and competence behind it will ever grace any
production of the Great Valley Center now that it has been absorbed by the University of
California. An institution that hires John Yoo to teach law dwells in regions far beyond
competence, skill and knowledge.

Item #6

Ahhhhh, Karma!

Local environmental groups, Gangle reports, having sent out news of a momentary setback, received from a planning commissioner no less, this message: "Ahhhh, Karma!" Presumably, the commissioner wishes that the environmentalists would be reborn as endangered species -- fairy shrimp, kit fox, Orcutt grass, or such.

It is rarely possible for the public to understand the gnomic utterances of this
particular commissioner, either in the midst of her public duties or anywhere else.
However, at a recent silent auction for some worthy cause, the commissioner bid the price of a bus trip to Yosemite well above its stated worth, but ultimately lost the bid to
someone bidding even higher. When asked why she'd bid above the stated price of the item, the commissioner is reported to have said it didn't matter because it wasn't her own

It must have been public funds from one of the grants the commissioner controls. What
price "outreach"? And here we thought the idea with public funds was to try to get the
best price for goods and services.

Gangle was unable to learn if the winning bid was also public funds.

Item #7

"Outside agendas' invade Yolo Co. Environmental Health Department

A successful petitioner in the lawsuit between Merced environmental groups backed by
citizens and Merced County and Riverside Motorsports Park received an irate phone call
Monday morning from one J. Bruce Sarazin, REHS, director fo the Yolo County Environmental Health Department (environmental.health@yolocounty.org). This official was offended that somehow his department had received a copy of a Friday press release announcing the judgment on the RMP case signed by Superior Court judge. In fact, Sarazin seemed a little paranoid about it, accusing "people like you of having agendas," complaining that the release had gone to every member of his staff and that he couldn't get it out of his "system" (his computer system, that is) before his staff read it. "I want to know your agenda," Sarazin insisted. The petitioner advised the director that it was unknown how the press release reached his office. It was suggested that, regardless of how it reached his office, he could erase it and put a block on future emails from the offending address. The director said it was a public office and he couldn't do that and that this was taking away valuable staff time from his office's service to the people of Yolo
County. The petitioner suggested that the director was wasting more valuable time and
money calling twice to discover the "agenda" behind the release but that the suit had
upheld both the California Environmental Quality Act and the laws of public process and
that the director should see that as a public benefit, even in Yolo County.

Petitioners in the suit learned later in the morning that Sarazin had been harassing
at least one attorney on the suit, using the Yolo County's public funds to continue his private investigation into why he had received that press release and trying to root out the
"agendas you people have."

"You can't make this stuff up," thought Gangle;

Item #8

The terrible crush of work down at the supervisors' office

On Fridays, members of the public visit the office the Merced County Board of Supervisors to pick up the board agenda. After examining the agenda, they frequently request copies of the paperwork behind items of interest to them. These packages include things like staff reports and agency comments on the projects.

None of this information is released until the supervisors pick up their packages, and at times, like one Friday this month, the information is not available until after office hours due to one thing or another. On this particular Friday, the information was made available to the public a few minutes after 5 p.m. One member of the public waited until nearly 6 p.m. for the information one Friday last winter.

Usually, board staff is quite accommodating, and copy the requested material for the public members, who often ask for several copies to be distributed to other members of the public, who wish to read it and possibly comment on it during public hearings at the board meetings.

This Friday, however, was a little different. The board clerk told two members of the public that they could not have three copies of the material, that too many members of the public were requesting this information and that the County would have to begin charging for it. Then she produced two copies of the material.

When supervisors' staff or planning staff talk about charging, it's 50 cents a page accompanied by a lecture on the number of trees sacrificed to produce the paper. Then, typically, at the public hearings on the items, supervisors lecture the public on the tardiness of their comments, which frequently come in the day of the hearing. In the County Mind, public comments should be made in ignorance of staff reports, preferably hand-written in pencil, because in that way the supervisors can say the staff reports covered all the questions raised by the ignorant public.

About the best that can happen in these circumstances is that the board or the planning commission, upon advise from County Counsel that they may be entering the realm of “significant exposure to possible litigation,” takes a collective break during which the county’s lawyers explain the dangers.

Active members of the public assure Gangle that they aren’t actually criticizing supervisors, who receive board packets that can run a foot high, from which the public may choose one or two projects, rarely more, on which to comment. But the public has read the staff report on the project, while the supervisors may for good public policy reasons be more concerned with the mental health department or a police and fire matter that Tuesday than another development, sand mine or parcel split. For these excellent reasons, supervisors generally accept planning staff’s recommendations, almost invariably to approve the project.

This, the public members assure Gangle, is not always a good idea. It puts staff in a policy position by sole virtue of the weight of the paperwork. Rather than welcome the volunteer energy of the public in reviewing the documents behind these projects, the supervisors get grumpy when the public comments on them.

Go figure.

Just to advocate on behalf of the Merced public for a moment: for the $90,000 plus $100,000 in discretionary funds plus expenses and perks the public pays its county supervisors, the public could expect its supervisors to read and understand the issues and the laws of process that govern the public's business.

But, no. Down in Merced County, if misfeasance or malfeasance don't git the job done, nonfeasance will.

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