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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Judgment Entered in Favor of Raptor, POW and Citizens Group in RMP suit

Submitted: Jun 20, 2008

MERCED, CA (June 20, 2008) --Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Humphreys signed this week the judgment for the lawsuit between San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources (petitioners), against the County of Merced and real party of interest Riverside Motorsports Park (respondents).

Judge Humphreys ordered in favor of petitioners that the following approvals of the Merced County Board of Supervisors on the RMP project be voided and vacated:

Resolution No. 2006-219;
Ordinance No. 1800;
Zone Change No. 03-007;
General Plan Amendment No. 03-005
Removal of project site from the Williamson Act Agricultural Preserve;
Amendment to the Merced County General Plan to redesignate the project site from "Agricultural" to "Castle Specific Urban Development Plan Industrial";
Rezone of the project from "A-1" and "A-2" to "Planned Development";
Approval of the project master plan;
Text Amendment to Merced County General Plan to modify policies in the Circulation Chapter that would exempt the project from traffic Level of Service standards for feature and major events.

The Court also ordered the County of Merced to refrain from further approvals on this project until the County and RMP undertakes further environmental review "to correct the deficiencies in the EIR and as otherwise required under the California Environmental Quality Act."

"We have nothing but the highest praise for our legal team," said San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center President Lydia Miller. "Gregory Maxim, Julie Garcia, Marsha Burch and their law firms, Sproul Trost LLP of Roseville and the Law Offices of Don B. Mooney in Davis."

"This judgment is a tremendous victory for the citizens of Merced County," said Gregory Maxim. "This lawsuit was brought for the purpose of ensuring that the citizens were provided with a full and fair opportunity to review and comment on all project impacts. This judgment, and the voiding of nine of the project's prior approvals, will provide the citizens with this opportunity."

"We are overjoyed at this positive outcome for the Raptor Center and Protect Our Water," Miller continued. "But we were particularly pleased with the strong support we received throughout the process of this lawsuit from the Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources, led by Suzy Hultgren, Paul van Warmerdam and Stacey Machado."

For further information contact:

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center Attorney at Law
Protect Our Water Sproul Trost LLP
(209) 723-9283, ph. (916) 783-6262 tel

Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources

Suzy Hultgren-(209) 358-2339 ph, (cell) 209-769-8583
Paul van Wamerdam- (209) 678-2251 ph,(cell) 209-678-2251
Stacey Machado-(209) 564-8361 ph,

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You just can't make our Bud

Submitted: Jun 14, 2008

You just can't make our Bud
By T-bone Gristle, Oakdale CA

In honor of Utah Phillips and the InBev bid to buy Anheuser-Busch

You can take our lathes and drills
and tractor factories
You can take our flour mills
and auto factories

You just can't make our Bud

You can make our blue jeans
You can make our toys and dolls
and all our I-beams
Until every working family falls

You just can't make our Bud

You can grow our avocados
and send us mad cows
You can grow our red tomatoes
Buy all the bellies of our sows

You just can't make our Bud

Foreclose on all our real estate
Take all our timber, too
Take every buck that's here to make
And leave us with the blues

You just can't make our Bud

You can have our whole damn future
and all derivatives
We don't care to be mature
You can have our heritage

You just can't make our Bud

You can make our bombs and missiles
We'll pay you for your oil
Take all our bells and whistles
Buy up our sacred soil

You just can't make our Bud.

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High Praise for Commissioner Lashbrook

Submitted: Jun 04, 2008

A letter to the editor of Loose Cheeks

Chairman of the Merced County Planning Commission Steve Sloan, at the last Commission meeting on May 28, took time to commend his fellow commissioners on their teamwork in approving four land-use projects. Surprising? It shouldn’t be.

As many of you are aware, Commissioner Sloan is very clear on where his interests lie – his votes have been consistently at odds with organizations committed to protecting the environment – whether air, land, habitat/species, or water. This consistency has also made an enemy of our local Farm Bureau, which doesn’t view the Chair as a friend of agriculture. So, one might wonder, how did Commissioner Lashbrook drift so far afield from her role as sage of the watershed, sage of the river, and sage of all things organic, green and agricultural?

As some of you may be aware, Commissioner Lashbrook often complains that one vote lacks power. With two commissioners absent on May 28th, the stars were in alignment: one vote could wield real power. In essence, a unanimous vote was required to take action on any item on the agenda. If any one of the three commissioners present had voted against any one of these projects, that project would have been denied.

Accordingly, students of the ways and means of the Merced County Planning Commission hearings can certainly appreciate Mr. Sloan’s need to shower Ms. Lashbrook with praise for how she handled herself throughout this hearing (in stark contrast to her role on May 14, 2008 – see in particular minutes 30:00-37:00 from the audio/video tape).

On May 28th, Commissioner Lashbrook’s performance was bold and decisive. In considering the Jaxon Enterprise Mining project in eastern Merced County, she declared in a loud and confident voice, “I like this project.” According to Ms. Lashbrook: “This was in the right place for a mine.” Seemingly, for Lashbrook, this was “somewhere out there.”

Her reasoning seemed to go something like this:

This was not on the river, ergo, this was not a pristine location, ergo, this is grazing land, ergo – this is perfect for a mining project. According to Commissioner Lashbrook’s logic, this was certainly not in an area that supported habitat –“like the [Merced] river bed.”

Evidently, to Ms. Lashbrook’s thinking, Eastern Merced County is a barren, worthless landscape. As members of Et Al, listened, they were astounded. Was this dismissal all they could count on from a self –professed agrarian progressive? The answer was becoming painfully obvious: Yes, this was all. With the public hearing safely over, the public simply had to endure the insult embedded in the assumptions Ms. Lashbrook eschewed and the ultimate hypocrisy being practiced in her other life – “outreach and education” in the name of our watershed.

Had Commissioner Lashbrook forgotten her fellow Mariposans and fellow Merced River Allies – some of whom are within just a few miles of this “great project” – or simply sold them down the river? One might have thought that she did not understand the “Watershed model” and “Groundwater model” she fashioned out of a munificent public grant to educate 5th graders.

Yet, Ms. Lashbrook, in her capacity as staff for the EMRCD, was all too willing to take credit for the event by piling brochures on a table at the Cattlemen’s Spring Tour in April, 2008. This event featured experts on the value of grazing land – just minutes away from the Jaxon site. In her rush to judge those in attendance, she may have forgotten to listen to the ranchers and members of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, who succinctly explained why this very same (pristine) land is valuable for livestock, habitat, and as recharge for our water supply. Some locals had even advised Merced County elected officials to drive out on White Rock Road so that they could truly appreciate the impacts of the mine.

Or, maybe she simply forgot what MID staff, hydrologist consultants, and local farmers on the east side of the county have been stating emphatically in front of Lashbrook at every recent MAGPI meeting -- the aquifer in this region of the county was/is in overdraft. However, there was nary a representative from Farm Bureau, Sierra Club, MARG, CWA, or Valley Land Alliance to jog Ms. Lashbrook’s memory on the lack of water in this region – just Et Al and one local farming family.

But fear not, this was not the only contradiction in this “affairs of the mine.”
May 14th, 2008, provided a substantial audience for Ms. Lashbrook’s fishing for a position to take. In front of a full house of investors, all in town to advance their project, Ms. Lashbrook showed her stuff.

She began with a correction to a letter she had not read. She was wrong.
She asked great questions; then retreated. Ms. Lashbook then came up with a new possibility. Then she retreated again. Then after all of this time, she went ahead and voted for this mining project – on the river.

“I do live down river of this and have not noticed any effect of it – even in its illegal state – and I CARE A LOT ABOUT HABITAT. I am not sure what is happening here, but I certainly have not noticed any changes over the last few years”…. and then… moments later.

“Would it be possible to continue this? --to get a site visit?”

“The Taco Truck” precedent was raised as a model by Deputy County Counsel Robert Gabriele. Out-of-town investors snickered, wondering if this suggestion was for real. It was: The Taco Truck merited enough concern to be continued at the November 5, 2007, hearing.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Thoreson mining operation should be continued. Commissioner Sloan asked her directly if she wished to make a motion to continue. Commissioner Lashbrook, demurred or perhaps, deferred – one can never quite tell.

Commissioner Sloan asked again. Would you like to make a motion? Lashbrook came up with new idea. Could we hold a public hearing on the site?

To the Rescue: Deputy Counsel – more legal advice… and “help” offered by the Applicant.

Ms. Lashbrook deftly deflected attention away from Mr. Sloan’s question and encouraged Des Johnston to approach the podium – ostensibly to advise if the applicants would permit a site visit.

Consultant and a former member of both the Merced County and City of Gustine planning staff, Des Johnston changed the subject: This is not a CVC issue…. We have a good negative dec here…. And then …

A motion was made – not from Ms. Lashbrook, but Commissioner Tanner -- to approve the project. Head down, muffled voice, Ms. Lashbrook allowed an almost inaudible “ohhhhh kay.” The audience let out a collective gasp of stale air. Someone asked: Did she just vote to approve? Yes. UHHHHG. The audience was rendered speechless in pondering the affairs of the mine.

Postscript: This was a River Project and this was a “yes” vote by Ms. Lashbrook. Along with the Schmidt Mining Project this made the third yes vote for aggregate by Ms. Lashbrook – with two of these three projects on the Merced River. Ms. Lashbrook may want to study the audio tapes of previous hearings before proceeding to her next vote.

Finally, don’t take our word, we encourage you to enjoy the show(s) – tune in and watch the Planning Commission video or listen to the audio – at press time it was not yet posted on the County website, but stay tuned.

Suzzy Q. Buckheart

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