Economy

Conservation groups' letter to the Governor in defense of CEQA

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Contacts:
Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity
bnowicki@biologicaldiversity.org, 520-449-3898
Others

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Conservation Groups Call on Governor Schwarzenegger to Stand Up for Global Warming Law:
Senate Republicans Hold State Budget Hostage to Favors for Development and Fossil-Fuels Lobby

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Conservation groups called on Governor Schwarzenegger today to publicly oppose efforts by the Republican minority in the California State Senate to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“California’s budget bill is currently being held hostage by a small minority of senators trying to force the majority into accepting a measure to exempt new projects from CEQA’s requirement to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that you speak out publicly against this and any future attempts to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming,” read the letter.

The California Environmental Quality Act, a bedrock state environmental law, requires all state and local agencies to assess and reduce significant environmental impacts from new developments and other projects. The California Attorney General and many conservation organizations have sought to hold agencies and project applicants accountable for compliance with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

On June 21, 2007, the California Building Industry Association, Western States Petroleum Association, and other fossil-fuel interest groups sent a letter to the governor and the state legislature seeking an “administrative or legislative remedy” to exempt the greenhouse gas emissions of developments and other projects from review under the Act.

On Friday, July 20, after the state assembly passed a budget bill and sent it to the Senate, Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman halted passage of the bill and set out a number of demands, including a provision to exempt developments and other projects from review of greenhouse gases. Such a measure is completely inappropriate for the budget bill and being introduced in an insidious, back-door fashion to forestall public outcry and legislative debate.

After an all-night session through Saturday morning, Senate President Pro-Tem Don Perata adjourned the Senate until Wednesday, with instructions to Senate Republicans to provide a unified list of demands for the passage of the budget. It is uncertain whether the California Environmental Quality Act exemption for greenhouse gases will be part of this list of demands.

California is a national leader in efforts to fight global warming, and the California Environmental Quality Act is prominent among the laws and policies that are addressing greenhouse gas pollution. Other critically important laws and policies include the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires California to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and Executive Order S-3-05, which sets a goal of reaching emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The groups’ letter to the governor is attached.

July 24, 2007
Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor
State of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

We ask that you issue a public statement of opposition to the current minority attempt in the California state Senate to eliminate the California Environmental Quality Act process to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The State of California has long been a champion of environmental protection and is the undisputed leader in climate change policy nationally. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state’s flagship environmental law, is a key component of the suite of laws and policies already on the books to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state. CEQA provides an established system with a proven track record of assessing and reducing the significant adverse environmental impacts of new projects. Greenhouse gas emissions are among the most important of such impacts that CEQA addresses.

California’s budget bill is currently being held hostage by a small minority of Senators trying to force the majority into accepting a measure to exempt new projects from CEQA’s requirement to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that you speak out publicly against this outrageous demand and any other attempt to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming.

CEQA requires all state and local agencies to assess and reduce, to the extent feasible, all significant environmental impacts from new project approvals. The CEQAenvironmental review process is fully established throughout the state, with a proventrack record of ameliorating impacts relating to air pollution, water quality andavailability, land use, endangered species, and many other aspects of California’s
environment. This process represents a wonderful opportunity, and also a legal mandate, for cities, counties, and other agencies to consider the greenhouse gas emissions from new projects they approve and then to adopt the many measures readily available to reduce those emissions. While the passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act certainly heightens the urgency of ensuring CEQA compliance, state and local
agencies’ legal obligations under CEQA with regard to greenhouse gas emissions predate and are separate from and complementary to the new mandates.

The California Attorney General, many of our organizations, and others have sought to hold agencies and project proponents accountable for compliance with this bedrock environmental law with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Faced with the irrefutable argument that agencies must assess and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent feasible in the CEQA process, a number of special interests are now seeking to eliminate CEQA’s requirements with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.

The June 21, 2007 letter you received from the California Building Industry Association, Western States Petroleum Association, and other industry groups completely misrepresented efforts to enforce CEQA as efforts “to implement AB 32 (The Global Warming Solutions Act) and Gubernatorial Executive Order S-3-05,” and sought an “administrative or legislative remedy” to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from CEQA.

To suggest that efforts to implement and enforce an existing law such as CEQA, constitute premature enforcement of the Global Warming Solutions Act is disingenuous. While the Global Warming Solutions Act is a critical component of the state’s efforts to address greenhouse gas pollution, the statute states repeatedly that it does not excuse compliance with any existing law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect the
environment. See, e.g., Cal. Health and Safety Code §§ 38592(b), 38598.

Scientists tell us that greenhouse gas pollution must be slashed eighty percent or more by mid-century to avoid disastrous climate change. Your Executive Order to reduce California emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 is consistent with this mandate. But actually reaching the targets identified by scientists, your Executive Order and the California Global Warming Solutions Act will be challenging. To succeed we
must get started immediately and pursue all possible avenues. To this end, California is fortunate to have CEQA, which provides one of the most promising and important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new development and other projects. With California’s population projected to approximately double by mid century, we must improve the way we grow in order to actually achieve the pollution reductions we need to preserve the environment and our quality of life.

During the budget bill crisis of the past few days, special interests opposed to regulation of greenhouse gases attempted to insert a provision into the budget bill to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from new development and other projects from CEQA review. It is possible that this item will be presented once again when the Senate reconvenes this Wednesday.

We ask that you publicly oppose this bald attempt to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming. As governor, you have demonstrated leadership in fighting global warming, including the issuance of Executive Order S-3-05. We ask that you continue that commitment now by releasing a public statement of opposition to this and any legislative efforts to undermine efforts like Executive Order S-03-05, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, and CEQA, to induce real actions and changes in the fight against global warming. A statement from you would help clarify that attacks against these efforts are working against the interests of the state of California, and against the commitment the state has made to fighting global warming.

Considering the growing impacts and risks of global warming to the environment, the economy, and public health, the benefits existing law can provide to California and the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new projects are tremendous. Full CEQA enforcement with respect to greenhouse gas emissions deserves your full support and enthusiastic endorsement.

We thank you for your leadership in addressing the climate crisis, and look forward to working with you and your staff on this critically important issue.

Sincerely,

Adrienne Bloch
Senior Attorney
Communities for a Better Environment

Michael E. Boyd
President
Californians for Renewable Energy, Inc. (CARE)

Ingrid Brostrom
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

Stuart Cohen
Executive Director
Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC)

Kim Delfino
California Program Director
Defenders of Wildlife

Drew Feldman
San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society

Susan Frank
President & CEO
Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation

Garry George
Executive Director
Los Angeles Audubon

David Gordon
Executive Director
Pacific Environment

Ralph Salisbury, Chair
Sierra Club, San Gorgonio Chapter

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

Tam Hunt
Energy Program Director / Attorney
Community Environmental Council

Dan Jacobson
Legislative Director
Environment California

Linda Krop
Chief Counsel
Environmental Defense Center

Paul Mason
Sierra Club California

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity

Gary A. Patton
Executive Director
Planning and Conservation League

Michelle Passero
Director of Policy Initiatives
The Pacific Forest Trust

Nancy Rader
Executive Director
California Wind Energy Association

Robert Ryland
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
(CVSEN)

Scott Smithline
Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs
Californians Against Waste

Ms. Gabriel Solmer, Esq.
Legal Director
San Diego Coastkeeper

V. John White
Clean Power Campaign

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Let them eat subsidized blueberries!

Submitted: Jul 14, 2007
"We are looking for a niche," said (Merced County Planning Commissioner) Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way." -- Merced Sun-Star, July 12, 2007

Happy Bastille Day.

If it hadn't been for Dan Morgan's article in the Washington Post today, noting that hundreds of lobbying groups have been going to Washington to state their case for the Farm Bill, we would not have had a clue what was going on in a July 12 story from McClatchy on a group of local organic growers in Washington. Whatever coherence the story may have had was ruined by the quote from Commissioner Lashbrook. But UC/Great Valley Center leadership training doesn't stress coherence. Self-dealing self-promotion is highly prized, however. In passing Morgan's book, The Great Grain Robbery, is an unforgettable classic in agricultural investigative reporting.

Why are organic growers "desperate" if their segment of the market is the fastest growing in the land? Perhaps, these days, land prices and debt prohibit farming in California.

We need to traipse through a little recent history to try to understand what this story is could be about. We won't get beyond tentative suggestions.

In November 2006, the reign of the Pomboza (representatives RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced) ended when Democrats regained a majority in Congress. The Pomboza was unable to gut the Endangered Species Act (although the Bush administration has attempted to do it by fiat since), the House Resources Committee, on which they served (Pombo as chairman) was restored to its former title, House Natural Resources Committee, and Cardoza was assigned a seat on the House Rules Committee. This committee is an exclusive committee. According to Democratic Party House rules, members who serve on exclusive committees cannot serve on other committees. However, Cardoza was given a waiver to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture because of his district and because it is a Farm Bill year that will define federal support for agriculture for the next five years.

Cardoza is a member of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, which makes sense because his district includes the center of the California poultry industry, the administrative center of the dairy industry and because Merced is the second largest dairy county in the nation. Cardoza's top individual contributor is Gallo Cattle Co., owner of the largest dairy in the US.

However, Cardoza is also chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. Although his name does not appear in this story it is rumored that Cardoza is one of the leaders of the opposition to a Farm Bill favoring the large commodities -- rice, cotton, corn and milk -- and we think that somehow his office was involved in this little piece of fluff, which reminds us of the aluminum foil designed to confuse incoming missiles.

What's missing from the story is any mention of commercial rather than organic fruit, nut, vegetable and grape grower groups. Merced is the top producer of almonds in the world. The centers of organic production in California are in coastal counties.

Cardoza represents the largest wine company in the world, the largest dairy in the nation, the largest cheese factory in the world and the largest commercial almond area in the world.

However, all is not well in these giant agribusiness concerns. The largest cheese factory in the world, having polluted its area's groundwater to the point that even the regional water board dared to fine it, is building a new plant in Texas and will soon be gone, taking dairies with it. A French-owned gourmet cheese plant recently relocated from Turlock to Wisconsin. The Totally Illegal 42-inch Ranchwood Sewer Line from Livingston runs through the middle of property owned by the largest dairy in the nation and is headed toward the headquarters of this dairy, whose owner is planning an entire new town, having recently finished a strip mall and a truck stop on Highway 99. The largest dairy in the world is also planning a large residential subdivision near UC Merced. The almond industry is facing an uncertain future due to crashing populations of Honey Bees, required for pollination. Finally, the word in the real estate markets is that one viable sector left is farm swaps, by which developers wishing to buy farmers' land locate comparable acreage in other states for them to move to.

So, although the chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture must appear to support the themes of his subcommittee, cotton, poultry, dairy and wine interests will control his voting on the next Farm Bill as they have controlled his agricultural votes throughout his political career. However, the theme of real estate is dearest to Cardoza's heart since he began his political career. No state legislator or House representative did more to promote the speculative real estate boom in his districts in the north San Joaquin Valley, for which reason his present congressional district contains the highest per capita rate of mortgage foreclosure in the nation.

Farmers are landowners. In periods of real estate speculation as reckless as what recently occurred in Cardoza's congressional district, farmers are more landowners than production agriculturalists. Any news, even about organic agriculture, is preferable to more news about the financial hemorrhage going on in the 18th Congressional District of California.

Nevertheless, the public has limits on the amount of inanity it will accept from the press at the behest of congressmen. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook transgresses these limits by making the absurd connection between legitimacy and a subsidy of public funds. While Lashbrook is probably sincere in her belief (she has declared war to acquire public funds for self-dealing and self-promotion despite public opposition), many of the Valley's better farmers have always resisted growing subsidized crops in the belief it is not really as legitimate as Lashbrook suggests. They will do it, but it isn't their first choice. The media from the local to the international level have been increasingly critical of farm subsidies, particularly in cotton. In fact, Lashbrook was the moderator of a meeting kicking off a campaign for an anti-growth initiative, which featured author Mark Arax, who signed and sold copies of his expose of the Boswell subsidized cotton kingdom. Would she have felt differently if Boswell had been growing subsidized blueberries in the Tulare Lake all these years? The whole thing is ridiculous and makes you think of Joseph Heller's great entrepreneur, Milo Minderbender, feeding chocolate covered Egyptian cotton to the troops. We aren't dealing with rational thought processes here. We are dealing with public-funds grubbing.

At least until the most recent speculative real estate boom, organic farming has been about the only sector of California agriculture where entry without a fortune has still been possible and its market has steadily grown on the hard work of its farmers, steady improvement of soil quality, and the quality of its produce, for which consumers have been willing to pay a premium. If Lashbrook is still looking for a niche in organic agriculture, one imagines she will never find it because the niche has been there and growing for 30 years and has had recognized USDA federal standards for about a decade. USDA market reporters even report organic produce prices these days. If she hasn't found it yet, her chances are slim at this point.

The present problem in organic agriculture is corporatism -- perhaps a business response to land values. For example, the e-coli outbreak from San Benito County last year was produced not by family organic growers on small, orderly plots, but by a rapidly growing organic produce corporation, which clearly lost control of its quality and safety systems. Corporatism will be the death of organic agriculture, because organics is founded on small farming, greater attention to quality and safety, and modest lifestyles that do not include cruising the halls of Congress. In fact, organic farming is more accurately called organic gardening, because all if its significant techniques emerged from very small plots, few achieving the size of truck gardens, using styles of horticulture begun in ancient Rome and perfected by Parisian market gardeners during the Napoleonic period. These techniques were brought to California in the 1970s by Alan Chadwick of Covelo and UC Santa Cruz and popularized in this country and others by John Jeavons of Willits and J. Mogodor Griffith of Chicago. Nationally, the books of Garden Way Publishing, Rodale Press, and magazines like Prevention and New Farm, from Pennsylvania, for decades have formed the background and underpinnings of the organic movement in the US.

It is not about subsidies to agribusiness corporations that poison people with mass-market produce labeled "organic." Sales, marketing and distribution started small. Organic produce has been the backbone of the growing farmers' market and community supported agriculture movements throughout the nation. Next came regional cooperative markets, a few wholesale stands in places like Jerrold Street, SF and the LA Terminal Market, and companies like Veritable Vegetable and Mountain People Warehouse that frequently grew out of regional cooperatives.

One Badlands staffer has spent decades in and around organic agriculture. In the long complaint that he has heard from organic growers about weather, bugs, water, labor and markets, he has never ever heard an organic gardener or farmer complain to the government about "legitimacy," in any way at all. He’s never known an organic grower with a legitimacy problem. He reasons that organic agriculture would only develop a legitimacy problem when corporations overwhelmed the cooperative roots of the organic movement.

The idea of organic growers whining to Cardoza for legitimacy is unwholesome and against the tradition of organic production and distribution. Once again, Commissioner Lashbrook is ripping off a tradition of great integrity and history for self-dealing and self-promotion or else has been absorbed by an organo-agribusiness campaign for subsidies. But, beyond noticing that that is what is apparently going on, what can you say? Perhaps, one can say that "organic agriculture" as presented by Lashbrook and Cardoza, has cut itself off from its roots so far that it is now lost in the halls of Congress, where all the decent things go to die.

Badlands editorial staff
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7-12-07
Merced Sun-Star
Merced second in nation in foreclosures...J.N. Sbranti, Modest Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13780283p-14360785c.html

About $925 million worth of mortgages have been foreclosed on since January in the northern San Joaquin Valley, and 2,575 homes have been auctioned off on courthouse steps in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties. Sean O'Toole, who owns ForeclosureRadar, a research firm based in Discovery Bay has been tracking the rapid rise in foreclosures throughout California. "Foreclosure sales now represent about 16 percent of all home sales in California,"..."Lenders are building a significant inventory (of repossessed homes),"..."Since Jan. 1, 2007, a total of 29,696 California properties have been returned to the lender for an astonishing total loan value of $12 billion. This is unprecedented." The situation may get worse before it gets better. RealtyTrac, another foreclosure property research firm...northern San Joaquin Valley leads the nation when it comes to mortgage defaults...calculated that San Joaquin County had the highest rate of homes in the process of being foreclosed — 1 in 103. Merced County ranked second-worst, with 1 in 121 homes in the foreclosure process. And Stanislaus County ranked fourth-worst, with 1 in 131 homes. For California as a whole, 1 in 315 homes were in the foreclosure process. The nationwide rate was 1 in 704 homes. Traditionally, most homeowners who receive notices of default have been able to refinance their mortgages, catch up on payments or sell their houses before lenders force a foreclose auction. But as home prices fall, mortgage lending requirements tighten and loan interest rates rise, avoiding foreclosure has become more difficult.

Local growers in Washington to push farm bill...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13780293p-14360810c.html

WASHINGTON...on Capitol Hill, the House Agriculture Committee is poised in coming days to divvy up billions of dollars in a new farm bill... With the House panel planning to write its farm bill over the course of three days next week, Teixeira and several dozen other organic farmers are taking a desperate stab at changing the course of federal agricultural policy. So far, success is elusive. Existing cotton, rice, wheat and corn subsidies would stay essentially the same, under the current bill written by the agriculture committee chairman, Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn. Federal crop subsidies totaled about $17 billion last year. The politically vocal American Farm Bureau Federation likewise supports Peterson's stay-the-course approach to traditional subsidies, as does the National Milk Producers Federation. California at Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner allies himself with California's fruit and vegetable growers, who seek a bigger share of the farm bill. The bill coming before the House committee next Tuesday does boost some specialty crop funding. Even so, specialty crop advocates — and organic growers in particular — complain the current House bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture. "We are looking for a niche," said Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way."
Hear an audio interview with Merced County farmer Cindy Lashbrook about the proposed Farm Bill.

7-13-07
Houston Chronicle
July 13, 2007, 11:55PM
Public support for Congress at lowest in a year By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/nation/4967558.html

WASHINGTON — Too much bickering and not enough legislating.
That, in just a few words, explains why public approval of Congress' job performance has fallen 11 points since May, to 24 percent, its lowest level in a year, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds.
That's lower than for President Bush, who isn't exactly "Mr. Popularity," either ...

7-14-07
Washington Post
Democrats divided over Farm Bill changes...Dan Morgan
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/13/AR2007071301930_pf.html

When freshman Ohio Democrat Zack Space replaced veteran Republican Rep. Robert W. Ney after the 2006 elections, groups lobbying for a major revamping of farm subsidy programs were elated. House Democrats, with their base in urban areas and coastal regions, were not beholden to programs weighted toward large commercial farmers in the grain and cotton belts. And Space's eastern Ohio district of small and medium-size farms was far down the list of those receiving government farm payments. But, as the House Agriculture Committee prepares to take up a new five-year farm bill on Tuesday, Space, one of nine freshmen Democrats on the panel, is opposing major changes in the traditional price and income support programs that in 2006 paid farmers $19 billion. Space's resistance to change highlights the struggle within the Democratic Party as the farm bill moves to center stage on Congress's legislative agenda. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) have told Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) that they will not support a "status quo" bill. A coalition of Democratic-leaning environmental organizations, anti-poverty groups and church organizations are pushing to redirect some subsidies to conservation, wetlands preservation, rural development and nutrition. But top Democrats are reluctant to push too hard for changes that could put at risk Democratic freshmen from "red" states, which backed President Bush's reelection in 2004 and where the farm vote is still a factor in close elections. At stake in the new farm bill are billions of dollars affecting the fortunes of farmers, as well as groups that include soft-drink manufacturers using corn sweeteners and poor families relying on food stamps. In 2006, more than 475 organizations reported lobbying on agricultural issues, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Peterson, whose northwest Minnesota district grows wheat, corn, soybeans and sugar beets, has vowed to protect the traditional programs... Peterson's draft has been criticized by fellow House Democrats representing farming interests that receive little direct help. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, complained that the bill would provide $465 million in new money over five years to support fruit and vegetable growers. "That's not even a crumb," he told reporters, adding that unless improvements are made the bill will face a battle on the House floor. The debate over subsidies is coming in the midst of nearly unprecedented prosperity in U.S. farming. Farm income and the value of farmland and farm assets have been rising, spurred by strong exports and a boom in the demand for corn, which is used to make ethanol.

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Financial hemorrhaging continues

Submitted: Jul 08, 2007
“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” So declared F.D.R. in 1937 ... Paul Krugman, New York Times, July 9, 2007

The public of the north San Joaquin Valley remembers being told by its elected officials, planning staff with advanced degrees in urban planning, lending institutions, insurance companies and realtors (even those not elected to local land-use authorities), that our growth boom was all planned, it would pay for itself, and prosperity was right around the corner.

Today, the region is an open financial wound of unknown consequences. What does this really say about the quality of our business and political leadership? Land-use policy based on unprincipled greed is the only possible policy "in the real world"?

Badlands editorial staff
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7-8-07
Modesto Bee
Bidders beware...J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13768548p-14349914c.html

Another home foreclosure auction is headed to Modesto, and it's got potential bidders hankering for a bargain. Bidding rules will be different for the next big auction, scheduled by Hudson & Marshall for July 19 at Modesto Centre Plaza. And more auctions are expected to be held later this summer and fall. That's because lending institutions have repossessed thousands of Northern San Joaquin Valley homes, and they're eager to sell them any way they can.\

7-7-07
Sellers asking too much...Robert Bauer...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13765764p-14347322c.html

"Homes out of Reach"...I would have thought that the article that followed would interview people priced out of the Merced-Atwater housing market, with a few decent data points to relate National City's "overpriced index" to local incomes and housing affordability...the sum of the presentation consisted of two parts: a local couple lamenting their inability to sell their home at a price above the area average...while at the same time complaining that the cost of living in Merced is "outrageous," and a local Realtor repeating the line, "It's a great time to buy,"... while at the same time complaining that the cost of living in Merced is "outrageous," and a local Realtor repeating the line, "It's a great time to buy,"while at the same time complaining that the cost of living in Merced is "outrageous," and a local Realtor repeating the line, "It's a great time to buy,"... While reporter Leslie Albrecht has written a number of times on the impact of excessive home prices, the real stories behind the headlines are only now becoming evident — of the thousands of local residents priced out of a home of their own, of recent homebuyers stuck with overpriced homes and abusive mortgage loans in a falling market, and the lender-mortgage broker-Realtor complex that has shamelessly promoted ever-higher housing prices for their own profit.

Modesto Bee
Realty market hasn't hit bottom yet, experts say...Ben van der Meer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13765796p-14347331c.html

The Northern San Joaquin Valley's real estate market could turn around early next year, but probably not before sales numbers fall further. Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, made that prediction at Friday's gathering of the Central Valley Association of Realtors at the River Mill. Median home prices statewide have continued to edge up...sales of homes at the lower end of the market have slowed dramatically...because first-time home buyers are having a tougher time getting financing. That has created an oversupply and further depressed prices...first-time buyers have difficulty getting loans because of the fallout in subprime loans. Appleton-Young said that in the long term, the valley and the state's real estate could rebound because jobs and population are rising. She specifically noted that Merced County is outpacing state job growth while San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are adding nonfarm jobs at a more modest rate. Mike Kelly, a Realtor with ReMax Executive in Modesto..."The one thing sellers are very quick to do during a boom is adjust upward,"..."They're not so quick to do that when prices are falling."

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People with passion and people who babble about it

Submitted: Jul 03, 2007
Mr. Carter will give us the BIG picture on the Merced River - where it comes from and where it goes - as well as the importance of the river to our communities. Lloyd Carter is very knowledgeable about water issues and will also be speaking at the later in the day...Lloyd Carter continues his exploration of water and river issues in the San Joaquin Valley context. 1.5 hour talk at Heartland Festival/River Fair, Riverdance Farm, 2007.

At the public meeting of the East Merced Resources Conservation District on June 20, held at the Golden Bi-Product Tire Recycling Co. offices, Glenn Anderson, a district director, made an interesting comment about a speaker at the recent Heartland Festival/River Fair, held at the farm of another director, Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook. The EMRCD was the main sponsor of the River Fair.

Anderson described Lloyd Carter, the best natural resources journalist the San Joaquin Valley has ever had, as "not positive or forward-looking." Anderson, not really attending the speech but overhearing it while waiting for a ride to another part of the farm, said Carter sounded like he was on a "rant."

Lashbrook noted that Carter's talk was the best attended of the day, and that a little controversy is OK. The term she used was a "pepper of controversy." Perhaps a small slice of jalapeno in a salad of old green jeans in what she meant. One is never sure.

These are the sort of people who use the word "passion" like the T shirt they bought at their last workshop on "organics and global warming."

Lloyd Carter's passion for the truth about agribusiness, subsidized water, the death of the San Joaquin River, the wildlife tragedy of the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge and in Boswell's Tulare Lake, selenium and other heavy metals, crooked Valley politicians, state and federal water policy and US Fish and Wildlife Service whistleblowers was stronger than his desire for a steady job in the newspaper business. And so he does something else now for a living instead of the journalism at which he excelled magnificently, and we only get to read him rarely in opinion pieces and letters to the editor, mostly in the Fresno Bee.

Researching an article on another topic that Carter knows a lot about, we found this following piece written by him in 1999 for a national audience. Readers will learn and enjoy this fine writer on the beat he has paid dearly to cover because, unlike the T-shirt passion set, Lloyd Carter speaks the truth to the most powerful people in our Valley -- with real passion.

Badlands editorial staff
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The destruction of the American West -- starring big agribusiness and the government that supports it
By L. G. Carter
Penthouse Magazine, January 1999
Reprinted without permission
http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~rakerman/articles/ph-Destruct_USA_West.html

Way out West the big farmers fly Lear jets, have private airstrips on gargantuan factory farms, control politicians in both major parties, and harvest barrelfuls of taxpayer subsidy money. They also dry up rivers, pollute aquifers, and conscript an army of Third World families to bring in the crops at below-povertyline wages. Grotesque deformities in ducks and geese, poisoned national wildlife refuges, massive fish kills, and pesticide-sprayed fields littered with thousands of dead birds are common, and unpunished, depredations in California's agricultural heartland, despite numerous state and federal wildlife-protection laws.

Meanwhile, the small farmers, whom Thomas Jefferson called the backbone of democracy, continue to disappear from the American landscape at a rate of more than 100,000 a year as a result of governmental and banking policies and the greed of food processors and exporters.

By 1989 only 1.9 percent of Americans lived on farms (compared to 90 percent in 1900), and the 1989 figure is misleading at that because the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists as a "farm" anyplace selling as little as $1,000 worth of agricultural products.

The capital of America's Agropolis is California's San Joaquin Valley, a cornucopia of more than 200 crops that generates $14 billion a year in gross farm income. And the uncrowned king of Agropolis is J. G. Boswell II, a reclusive, unassuming man who calls himself a simple cowboy. In fact he grows more cotton than any other individual in the world. No one knows how rich he is, but his power is vividly illustrated by some of his "accomplishments" during the past half century:

Along with a handful of other big growers, he got the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (funded, of course, by the American taxpayer) to build four "flood control" dams on rivers flowing out of the Sierra Nevada so Boswell et al. could safely farm the bottom of what was once the biggest body of water west of the Mississippi River, the legendary Tulare Lake. Boswell now controls rights to public water that could well be worth nearly $1 billion. His property in California alone is estimated at 250,000 acres.
When big-rainfall winters reflood the old Tulare Lake Basin, Boswell collects millions of dollars in federal subsidies for not growing crops on the bottom of a natural lake bed.
Boswell persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to let the richest grower with the most land in a California water district--namely, himself--control district water policy, creating what Justice William 0. Douglas called a "corporate kingdom undreamed of by those who wrote our Constitution."
Boswell got his lawyers to set up a trust for his employees in 1989 to evade federal acreage limitations for cheap federal irrigation supplies in the Westlands Water District, reaping an extra $2 million a year in water subsidies, according to a General Accounting Office study.
In 1982 Boswell was instrumental in blocking a "peripheral canal" to shunt fresh northern California water around the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region in order to retain possible future access to north-coast California rivers.
As the U.S. Justice Department looks the other way, his 3,000-acre Tulare Basin evaporation ponds for toxic farm drainage water are triggering deformities in migratory ducks and shore birds supposedly protected by federal law.
Boswell has so far not taken any responsibility for a massive fish and wildlife kill on a 25 mile stretch of canal in h is cotton kingdom that in the late summer of 1997 destroyed 100 million fish and thousands of birds.
This sad spectacle is what is known as agribusiness.

Boswell has plenty of company in irrigation country out West, where growers have industrialized the fields and gained control of entire rivers. These corporate farmers usually don't live down on the farm. In California they often live in mansions in the city. One zip code in an exclusive neighborhood in Fresno--the nation's farm capital--receives more farm-subsidy checks than anywhere else. Fresno was the top farm-subsidy city in America between 1985 and 1995, with area residents receiving 22,419 checks totaling $103.4 million in taxpayer farm subsidies.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just six percent of our farms--the so-called megafarms--produce 59 percent of the crops in America. Eighty percent of the beef slaughter in America is controlled by just four meatpacking conglomerates, which more than doubled their market share in the past 18 years.

Boswell's domain is the Tulare Lake Basin, comprising parts of Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties in central California. His water rights are a real gusher, all granted from the public: They are equivalent to the needs of a city of three million people and are worth nearly $1 billion, more than twice the value of the land, according to a 1989 article in Forbes magazine, thus placing Boswell in the billionaire club. He also has extensive cotton lands in Arizona, pioneered the cotton industry in Australia, and has long been involved in urban development and real estate in Southern California and Arizona.

Boswell, who helped launch the political careers of three governors--Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Ronald Reagan, and Pete Wilson--is legendary for his behind-the-scenes ability to avoid legal problems or get water laws either interpreted liberally or simply rewritten.

In 1969, when heavy rains hit California and the old Tulare Lake bed began to fill up, Boswell, as the largest landowner in the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, shunted floodwater away from a planned district overflow area because he wanted to plant that area to cotton. Instead the water flowed into the lake, flooding his land and that of other nearby landowners, including the Salyer brothers, the second-largest growers in the lake basin. The Salyer Corporation sued the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District over an existing California water-code section that allowed one vote for every acre--in other words, giving the largest landowner the most votes and control of district policy and elections. Boswell simply used his acreage-based votes to direct the water-district board to flood out his neighbors' fields and keep the planned floodwater storage basin dry.

The Salyer suit finally worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1973 a young Nixon High Court appointee named William Rehnquist, fresh from a law firm in Phoenix, wrote the majority decision, which in effect ruled for the Boswell corporation, arguing that even though water districts were political subdivisions of the state of California, the one-man, one-vote rule should not apply because the largest landholders had the most at stake during flood situations. Constitutional-law textbooks now refer to this decision as an "anomaly" in the American franchise system based upon the hallowed democratic tradition that corporations do not get to vote--and one person, no matter how rich, gets only one vote.

Justice Douglas castigated the Rehnquist ruling in a strongly worded dissent: "It is indeed grotesque to think of corporations voting within the framework of political representation of people," he wrote. "One corporation can outvote 77 individuals in this district."

Boswell, who has escaped major media attention for decades despite his enormous wealth and influence in agriculture, is famous for reaping government windfalls while decrying government support programs. When the rivers of the Southern Sierra flooded the Tulare Lake Basin, as they had done from time immemorial, Boswell collected more than $10 million in federal flood-relief money because his canals and water-delivery systems and cotton fields--located on the lake bed--had been flooded out or damaged. In addition, according to the Washington Post, Boswell got $3.7 million worth of grain from the controversial payment-in-kind program "for idling land that was under floodwater and could not have been planted."

In 1982 Congress, prodded by Western-state lawmakers, "reformed" the 1902 Reclamation Law, which President Theodore Roosevelt had pushed through Congress to put "family farmers" onto the Western deserts. The 1982 bill (1) eliminated the residency requirement, which had never been enforced (so the big growers can continue living in their mansions in town) and (2) raised the acreage limitation for receiving cheap federally subsidized water from 160 acres (which was routinely circumvented) to 960 acres. Even 960 acres wasn't enough for Big Ag. The loopholes in the 1982 "reform" law were large enough to drive John Deere tractors through, and Boswell and the other big Western growers promptly found ways to evade the 960-acre limitation, primarily through leasing arrangements and complex trusts.

In 1989 the U.S. General Accounting Office said Boswell had set up a trust for 326 salaried employees to evade the 960-acre cheap-water cap on his 23,238 acres in the Westlands. Those acres continued to be farmed as one unit by Boswell, who has managed to reap $2 million a year in water subsidies alone from the trust arrangement.

Boswell doesn't have to worry about wildlife laws either. Routine botulism outbreaks in the Tulare Basin, which can kill tens of thousands of migratory birds at a time, are usually attributable to agricultural and irrigation activities, yet enforcement actions are rarely undertaken by the California Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In September 1997 an estimated 100 million fish and 2,300 federally protected birds died in an unexplained disaster along a 25-mile canal on the Boswell holdings. Local game wardens said they could not remember a bigger wildlife die-off in the valley. Crime investigators from the federal and state wildlife agencies were quoted in local newspapers as saying they would uncover the source of the deaths (one potential cause was pesticides) and prosecute those responsible. Nearly a year later no action had been taken.

Boswell has now retired to Ketchum, Idaho, and his son James runs the cotton empire from his home in suburban Los Angeles, although it is believed the elder Boswell still holds the reins.

While Boswell has escaped media scrutiny, he and his cohorts face an ominous threat, which, fittingly enough, they brought upon themselves. Irrigated agriculture on millions of acres of unsuitable soils in the American West is destroying aquifers, salting up land, and poisoning wildlife that once filled the rivers and wetlands west of the Mississippi.

A trace element called selenium, leached from the soil by flood irrigation and dissolved in drainage water flowing from the big irrigation projects, is moving into downstream food chains and causing deformities in migratory birds at--of all places--national wildlife refuges throughout the West. And selenium isn't the only problem. Depending on the soils being drained, the drainwater can also contain dangerous levels of dissolved boron, molybdenum, mercury, arsenic, lead, vanadium, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, sulfates, and even uranium.

Drainage water from irrigated agriculture is created because searing summertime temperatures in California and Western desert lands bring salts, trace elements, and heavy metals to the surface on ancient-seabed shale soils. This witch's brew of chemicals slowly rises into the root zone of crops, threatening productivity. Irrigation waters imported from other areas carry more salts. Flood irrigation in areas with subterranean clay layers further exacerbates the problem of shallow salty groundwater. Agricultural scientists have known for decades that the only way to keep crop production up is to lower the water table below the root zone by pumping the toxic wastewaters out of the ground and sending them somewhere else.

"Since the 1930s an army of government scientists has provided a plethora of disturbing hard facts about selenium," says Joe Skorupa, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who investigated the bird deformities at Boswell's pond. "Unlike other major pollution problems, however, such as acid rain, oil spills, or smog, the government has not only failed to move an inch toward protecting the American public and a wide diversity of public-trust resources, but, incomprehensibly, actually continues to completely exempt agricultural pollution from the Clean Water Act. In the San Joaquin Valley alone, every year of inaction adds the equivalent of about 13,000 Exxon Valdez spills of selenium-tainted wastewater to the legacy of runaway pollution that our children and grandchildren one day will despise today's spineless federal government for."

Skorupa, a fierce critic of the Department of the Interior's alleged selenium policy, adds, "The truly tragic public-policy aspect of all this is that most of the selenium pollution is as economically senseless as it is environmentally senseless, and those facts have been documented in excruciating detail by the federal government's own General Accounting Office. What may amount to America's biggest dirty little secret has been impervious to rational policymaking for more than 60 years, and counting."

The West's selenium trouble, like many problems in irrigated agriculture, is magnified in the western San Joaquin Valley, where Boswell and other growers in the Westlands have successfully evaded any serious federal efforts at a cleanup or prosecution under wildlife laws.

For more than a decade, attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department, under pressure from elected officials who are under pressure from their agribusiness patrons, have simply refused to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a tough bird-protection law with penalties that include both prison time and stiff fines. The treaty has been invoked only once, in 1985, against the federal government itself, to close down farm-drainwater evaporation ponds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in central California, scene of the first confirmed bird deformities from selenium, discovered in 1983.

Boswell and the other big growers have also managed to avoid paying for the mess their drainage water created. In 1995 the Interior Department's Inspector General's Office also reported that Westlands Water District growers (Boswell has 23,000 acres in the Westlands) had managed to evade the $110 million tab for the Kesterson cleanup and related drainage studies. The $110 million bill was accumulating interest at the rate of $7 million a year, with the taxpayers picking up the tab.

But the Kesterson cleanup tab pales in comparison to the boondoggle desalinization plant in Yuma, Arizona, where Reclamation Bureau engineers have tried without success for decades to pull the farm-pollution toxins and salts from the Colorado River, which is tainted by agricultural return flow. Another Interior Inspector General's report, issued in 1993, said $660 million had been spent on the Yuma desalting plant with no success, and the bureau planned to spend another $1.5 billion by the year 2010, with no guarantee of any success.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been impotent to stop the farm-drainage pollution of rivers and wetlands because farm runoff was exempted from the Clean Water Act in 1977, including the highly toxic end-of-the-pipe subsurface drainage loaded with selenium as well as surface runoff. Indeed, as the Stockton (California) Record reported on June 19, 1998, the E.P.A.--siding with agribusiness--now wants to set standards for selenium and other trace elements and heavy metals in California that officials of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service contend will not protect many species of fish in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and his four immediate predecessors--Manuel Lujan, Donald Hodel, William Clark, and James Watt--have tried to cover up the Western drainage problem (Watt), to exercise benign neglect (Clark and Hodel), to claim ignorance (Lujan), or just to leave it for the next guy (Babbitt), because the only economically viable solution seems to be to retire the badlands being irrigated. And that solution is political suicide in farm country.

Only Hodel, who, ironically, is an oilman, tried to do the right thing in 1985 when he ordered Kesterson closed because his attorneys told him that Reclamation Bureau officials might be breaking criminal laws operating the Kesterson ponds. But even Hodel quickly experienced an agribusiness backlash and soon fell silent, allowing Kesterson to stay open another 18 months.

No wildlife refuge receiving toxic farm-drainage water in the West has been closed to the inflow of poisons since the Kesterson debacle 15 years ago, although selenium levels high enough to cause deformities have been confirmed at numerous wildlife refuges in several Western states and at a number of evaporation facilities operated by either local water districts (like Boswell's) or private corporations.

Interior Secretary Lujan, in an August 1991 visit to Yosemite National Park, claimed he was unaware of the bird killings and deformities, which by then had been documented for eight years and were confirmed in several states. Lujan said he did not know why aides would not keep him informed.

Environmentalists say the continued bird deformities and government paralysis or inability to halt the aquatic and avian food-chain poisoning demonstrates the still-potent clout of California agribusiness, which produced some $24.5 billion worth of food and fiber in 1996, but today represents less than three percent of the trillion-dollar annual California economy, which is nowadays primarily fueled by computers and electronics, defense, banking, and tourism.

Marc Reisner explained the Alice in Wonderland quality of California agribusiness this way in a 1993 revised version of his book Cadillac Desert: "Enough water for greater Los Angeles was still being used, in 1986, to raise irrigated pasture for livestock. A roughly equal amount--enough for 20 million people at home, at play, and at work--was used that year to raise alfalfa, also for horses, sheep, and (mainly) cows.... In 1985, however, the pasture crop was worth about $100 million, while Southern California's economy was worth $300 billion, but irrigated pasture used more water than Los Angeles and San Diego combined. When you added cotton (a price-supported crop worth about $900 million that year) to alfalfa and pasture, you had a livestock industry and a cotton industry consuming much more water than everyone in urban California--and producing [only] as much wealth in a year as the urban economy rings up in three or four days."

Not only are huge tonnages of California's river water required to grow cotton and food for dairy and beef cows raised in the central California desert, a 1997 Pacific Gas & Electric Company report on the 450-mile-long Central Valley (Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys combined) estimated that agricultural groundwater overdraft (extracting more than can be replenished annually) totals 15 percent of the entire state's annual net groundwater use. At current agricultural extraction rates, the San Joaquin Valley's groundwater supply will disappear in the next few decades.

To make matters worse, the Central Valley now has 1,600 dairies, the vast majority in the San Joaquin Valley, and the 850,000 cows on those dairies create as much natural waste as a city of 21 million people. There are only three state regulators to oversee disposal of this mountain of manure and river of cow urine, which is either kept in leaky lagoons that pollute the aquifer with nitrates or dumped into the San Joaquin River, which runs down the center of the valley The San Joaquin River is often called the most-abused river in the U.S., and in 1997 was named one of the nation's ten most-endangered rivers by American Rivers, a Washington-based advocacy group.

A May 1998 U.S. Geological Survey Report on San Joaquin Valley groundwater supplies, serving more than 2.5 million valley residents, said San Joaquin groundwater is among the poorest in quality in the U.S. The report said 25 percent of valley wells had nitrate levels--probably from fertilizers--that violated national drinking-water standards, and more than half the wells tested positive for pesticides, many of which don't have drinking-water standards.

While ripping off the liquid gold of California's rivers has been an agribusiness specialty for decades, scientists say current methods of disposing of farm drainage may be the final environmental insult that ruins not only aquifers and rivers, and destroys wildlife, but also ruins the very farms that are creating the toxic effluent.

A February 1998 federal-state study of the drainage problem in the western San Joaquin Valley noted 869,000 acres would have a shallow-groundwater problem by the year 2000, and more than 410,000 acres would have salinity and boron problems "sufficiently high to limit agriculture."

To combat the salty-groundwater problem, California growers in the past four decades have installed 33,000 miles of subsurface drainpipes to collect these shallow saline groundwaters and pump them somewhere else--to the nearest river, a public or private evaporation pond, or a low-lying national wildlife wetlands refuge. This "solution" has been bad for the receiving waters and fish and wildlife in every case.

Although estimates of present and future "problem water" are hard to nail down in an atmosphere of nonregulation, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Theresa Presser, who has been studying the selenium problem in California for nearly two decades, estimates that 150 billion gallons of toxic farm subsurface drainage water is generated annually in the Golden State. While the farm wastewater from the San Joaquin Valley flows north into the San Joaquin River or festers in evaporation ponds, the drainage from the Coachella and Imperial valleys at the southern end of the state enters the polluted Salton Sea. Huge fish and bird die-offs are a regular occurrence there, and biologists say the Salton could become utterly lifeless in the near future as the continued influx of salts and toxins in the drainage overwhelms all aquatic species.

While birds were dying by the thousands at Kesterson, Boswell had the audacity in the summer of 1984 to send California Water Commission members on a tour of his 3,165-acre evaporation pond complex and have his drainage district manager, Steve Hall, claim that selenium had not been found in the Tulare Basin soils or evaporation ponds. This, of course, could not have been true, as the bird deformities at the Boswell ponds (first tested and confirmed in 1987) turned out to be far worse than at Kesterson. Hall could only have meant there hadn't been any selenium tests yet of Boswell's drainage. In the manner of other Boswell employees who have moved on to bigger and better things in Water World, Hall is now executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, where he continues to espouse western San Joaquin Valley agriculture's views on water issues.

Throughout 1984 the Kesterson problem continued to worsen. By early 1985 neighboring cattle ranchers Jim and Karen Claus had won a State Water Resources Control Board cleanup order for Kesterson. A CBS "60 Minutes" segment aired on March 10, 1985, showing the ugly ducklings at Kesterson and embarrassed Reclamation officials fumbling to explain the debacle.

Interior Secretary Hodel had enough when advisers told him local Bureau of Reclamation officials might be violating the criminal provisions of the Migratory Treaty Act by keeping Kesterson open. On the Ides of March 1985 he announced that he was closing Kesterson. The announcement sent shock waves through irrigated agriculture that are still felt to this day.

By 1986 the Kesterson ponds had been dried out and Interior scientists looking around the West were discovering selenium contamination in Boswell's local water-district drainwater evaporation ponds in the Tulare Basin, at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California, at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada (in combination with mercury), and at dozens of other national wildlife refuges around the West. While federal officials began the process of endless studies, no action was taken to halt the selenium poisoning of the wildlife-refuge system, which continues to this day.

A national blue-ribbon 26-member panel of wildlife experts issued a scathing report in August 1991, charging directors of the nation's premier wildlife research center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, with harassing field-level biologists and attempting to downplay the threat of the growing selenium pollution problem. The report, obviously referring to federal biologist Harry Ohlendorf (who'd discovered the deformities at Kesterson), pesticide researchers Chuck Henny and Larry Blus, and Joe Skorupa (who had investigated the bird deformities at the Boswell ponds), said government scientists "had paid a personal price for upholding good science in the face of heavy political, bureaucratic, and social pressures." Felix Smith, the federal biologist who first blew the whistle at the Kesterson refuge, was named in news reports as being hounded into early retirement for trying to protect migratory birds.

In a 1994 Audubon magazine article reporter Ted Williams discussed harassment of field-level federal biologists and quoted Felix Smith as saying that the day Fish and Wildlife Service officials agreed to take drainage at Kesterson "was the day we made a bargain with the devil."

When Kesterson erupted in the news in the summer of 1984, President Reagan's old California friend Bill Clark had just taken over as secretary of the Interior; he promised that a solution to the drainage disposal problem was near, adopting the time-honored political tactic of ordering a lengthy state-federal study. His ploy worked. A $50-million state-federal study commenced in 1985 with much fanfare, and ended in 1990 with a whimper. It was full of good recommendations, including one for retiring hundreds of thousands of acres of bad land. It was also promptly shelved.

The Reclamation Bureau has finally launched a modest program to retire the first 12,000 acres of high-selenium soils in the Westlands. At that pace it will take 200 years to retire all the bad land just in the 600,000-acre Westlands. No one even talks about the millions of acres of high-selenium farmland all around the West that should be taken out of production.

Congress passed another reclamation reform bill in 1992 to put more federal irrigation water back into California's depleted rivers and the San Francisco Bay-Delta to help revive the moribund salmon runs, but Westland growers, backed by valley politicians, have been working ceaselessly to rescind or weaken that law.

Fish and Wildlife's Skorupa complained in the Audubon article that he took a solid case for criminal acts at the Boswell killing ponds to Justice Department attorneys just before the 1992 election but that the federal prosecutors got cold feet and weak spines.

"We were told we had an excellent case," Skorupa told Audubon's Williams, "that they had every confidence that it was winnable, but that until we went and got someone at least at the secretarial level in Interior to give a clear policy directive, the Justice Department would not pursue it."

Skorupa says that about half of 161 federal irrigation-project drainage sites in the West studied between 1986 and 1993 have selenium levels high enough to trigger embryotoxicity, which can include deformities. What is more depressing is that federal irrigation projects make up only about a quarter of all irrigated agriculture in the Western United States. The other 75 percent of the irrigated land in the West has not even been looked at for selenium poisoning.

Eleven years after the first confirmed selenium-caused bird deformities at the Boswell ponds, the Department of Justice, with Janet Reno presently at the helm, still has taken no action against Boswell, and any possible prosecutions for the bird deaths Skorupa painstakingly documented beginning in 1987 are falling prey to the statute of limitations. An angry Skorupa can only shake his head.

Although the government has had serious warnings about selenium problems in the West for more than 50 years, the Department of the Interior was still claiming in 1997 that selenium had been an "unforeseen consequence of irrigation drainage. That '97 report from the National Irrigation Water Quality Program also claimed that "because complete investigation of every irrigated area in the Western United States is impractical, managers need to be able to predict where selenium contamination is likely."

But it's not impractical at all, insists Theresa Presser, who was one of the first to document the widespread selenium contamination in the western San Joaquin Valley. According to Presser, selenium contamination is also likely not only where soils have selenium ejected from ancient volcanoes during the Cretaceous age, but also where ancient seabed soils have been uplifted by geologic activity over eons, such as California's Coast Range. In other words, human irrigation and export of the resulting drainage water into evaporation ponds or wetlands is doing in a few years what nature took millions of years to do.

It's clear that no one in the Clinton administration is going to make the hard decisions about getting the toxic soils in the West out of production. In late May 1998 the E.P.A. held a conference in Washington, D.C., that was attended almost entirely by big selenium polluters--oil companies, mining companies, major agribusiness, coal-burning utilities. They all argued against any E.P.A. review of the current standards for selenium in rivers, lakes, and marshes, which scientists say is at least twice as high as it should be and which may lead to the extinction of at least 20 species of fish and wildlife.

Boswell and the other agribusiness lords are determined not to become extinct themselves. Last March a consortium of state and federal agencies that dances to the tune of agribusiness announced a new plan to build a peripheral canal around the Delta and import yet more northern California river water to the selenium fields of the western San Joaquin Valley.

In July the Western Water Policy Review Commission, created by Congress in 1992, issued its report, three years behind schedule. The report identified agricultural wastewater as the single largest source of pollution in the West, recommended phasing out federal water subsidies, and specifically suggested that subsurface drainage water, which triggers the bird deformities, be brought under the Clean Water Act and regulated because it is an end-of-the-pipe type of pollution.

The response of the growers was typical. "The sooner this report gets put on a shelf and starts gathering dust the better," said Jason Peltier, manager of the Central Valley Project Water Association.

Dinosaurs swing big tails going down.

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Red Menace over Merced

Submitted: Jun 26, 2007

A rouge pall, like the Delta peat fires of old at twilight, hangs over Merced County.

According to Supervisor Mike Nelson, the "socialists" were out this morning at the supervisors' meeting. A group advocating agricultural preservation were arguing against parcel splits for ranchettes between Gustine and Santa Nella.

And I thought I saw Eugene Debs highballing down the Santa Fe tracks last night.

The Badlands editorial staff investigated, and found at least one ringleader of the agland preservationists has a long history of affiliation with red front groups: the Merced County Chamber of Commerce; American Farmland Trust; the Merced County Farm Bureau; and California Women for Agriculture.

By contrast, Nelson was a union Atwater City fireman for nine years and now draws a public salary from Merced County of over $65,000 a year plus thousands a month in perks, benefits and retirement, beside what the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board pays him to defend special interests from the peril of regulating the worst air pollution in the US. Nelson's wife is a union public school teacher, drawing a public salary, health and retirement benefits.

We suggest Nelson look again at the red menace hanging over the county. If he can see through the merciless rightwing hypocrisy, he will find it is red ink caused by the reckless, uncontrolled growth approved by majorities of the indemnified supervisors and city councils beholden and in some cases directly benefitting from their ties to finance, insurance and real estate special interests that now control local government in Merced lock, stock and barrel.

Badlands editorial staff

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The Hun chastises air board

Submitted: Jun 26, 2007

The Valley seems frozen at the moment, although its credit is leaking from subprime loan foreclosures and the milk price is up so people are buying replacement heifers. Perhaps, the leaders have been shaken somewhat by the consequences of their rapacious land-use decisions, by which local lenders, developers, realtors and landowners gained enormously to the detriment of larger financial institutions that bought so much locally generated bad debt. And to the detriment of so many others, closer by, hung out to dry by the big swindle.

There is no doubt that our Valley is rich in shrewd business people. However, other than making money for themselves, these shrewd business people seem totally useless to their communities.

The recent decisions by the Valley air board are ridiculous abrogations of political responsibility. By extending the deadline to clean up the air and lying about its poor quality, they appear to be betting that Bush-appointed judges will eventually make their problem go away before they will have to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, Valley congressmen voted for a Farm Bill just like the one before it, raising the question of how many more years of this kind of farm policy national agriculture can stand. Costa and Cardoza also cast votes -- we're not sure if they considered these votes "independent," "moderate" or "conservative" -- in favor of keeping the doors of the School of the Americas open. This demonstrates that these two and their 38 fellow real macho Democrats have a Latin American policy frozen in the time. "Launch the dirty wars again! The Arabs whupped us by By God we can still kick ass down South and git their oil!" You bet.

But the Valley isn't actually frozen. Dissent is brewing and every day confidence in government is weakening because the public has found that these local, state and federal officials are dishonest and face their constituents with brazen arrogance, daring the public to get organized to vote them out. Merced County supervisors, fully indemnified against legal costs, passed the Riverside Motorsparts Pork project in December. Fully indemnified, the Merced City Council will likely pass the WalMart distribution center project about a year later -- both in complete contempt for public health and safety, natural resources and agriculture. These are the jobs they promised us for UC Merced? Not one voice among them spoke out loud enough for the public to carry over the din of the flak from UC, and finance, insurance and real estate special interests, endlessly bleated by Sonny Star, the local gigolo press.

The same air board set up a public meeting last week about Site 300 in Tracy but did not properly notice it, so promised another one mid-July, to hear public comment against the UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plan to increase detonation of depleted uranium and other radioactivity there by eightfold. Meanwhile, the rumor is that Site 300 has already made a short list of four finalists to put a biodanger level-4 biowarfare lab on the site. But the Lab has made no public announcement, no doubt for "national security" reasons. Congressman McNerney, in whose district Site 300 is located, has not been able to bring himself to say a word against this atrocity of pollution and danger to people within a 60-mile radius, however has been busy in complex intra-Party dialectics involving his alleged integrity and the purity of the campaign funds he will accept from whose hands.

Government in the Valley is in the hands of a bunch of merciless hypocrites. However, judgment belongs to the Lord, who said to Jonah:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" Jonah 4:11.

Bill Hatch
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6-23-07
California Progress Report
California Air Board Chastised Over Weak Approach on Clean Air by Schwarzenegger and Garamendi; Mixed Reviews on Implementing Global Warming Requirements of AB 32
Frank Russo
http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2007/06/california_air_2.html

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

...I was deeply disappointed, however, that the California Air Resources Board voted last week to seek an 11-year delay in enforcement of federal air quality standards in the San Joaquin Valley. Regardless of whether the US EPA's failure to grant California the authority to implement aggressive emissions standards is partly to blame for our inability to meet federal standards, the Air Board let the federal government off the hook by seeking delay.

There are few environmental issues facing Californians that are more important to our children's health, our quality of life, and our economic security than air quality. When one out of six residents in the San Joaquin Valley has been diagnosed with asthma and one in five children carry an inhaler to school, it is a call to action.

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Denny the Mechanic speaks

Submitted: Jun 20, 2007

"It's tough to get any particular issue dealt with in a very rapid fashion short of declaring war on somebody," Cardoza told CBS 5 on May 31st. "We don't move that fast in Congress." -- CBS5.com, June 19, 2007

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, entered public life during a period of extreme political corruption in America. Furthermore, as demonstrated by his district's top position in the rate of mortgage foreclosures in the nation, he has seen major pressure applied locally by finance, insurance and real estate special interests with splendid results for us all. His first job, for these same special interests, in the state Assembly was to get UC Merced through its regulatory hurdles. He succeeded to the extent that UC built a portion of its campus without getting through its regulatory hurdles and the state paid millions of dollars for mitigation easements that are essentially largely as mitigation. He led the successful drive to bring the Williamson Act to Merced County, "as mitigation for UC Merced," something the Act was neither written to do or in any legal way could do. However, it was a boon for developers holding large tracts of farm and ranchland. In Congress, as the rear end of the Pomboza (together with former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy), Cardoza authored and co-authored three bills to gut sections of the Endangered Species Act that were obstacles to the special interests of finance, insurance and real estate in his and Pombo's districts.

Upon Pombo's defeat and the Democratic Party takeover of Congress, it has been reported that the new chairman of the renamed House Natural Resources Committee, known when Pombo was chairman as the Resources Committee, demanded Cardoza's removal from the committee. He was given a subcommittee chairmanship on the House Agriculture Committee during a new Farm Bill year.

It is legitimate and frequently the case that professional campaign politicians don't understand issues. They are nuts and bolts mechanics of politics and are not expected to understand issues except in terms of immediate advantage or disadvantage in campaigns. It is not legitimate although also frequently the case the elected officials don't understand issues either. Since his days in the state Assembly, Cardoza has been regaling reporters with the inside skinny on the mechanics of legislation. This pablum is duly published and his constituents are none the wiser about where he stands on the issues.

We have found Cardoza to be of average intelligence although of unusual ambition. As outlined above, we have also found him to be as corrupt as his district, politically economically speaking a national disgrace. Putting the average intelligence together with the corrupt background, we conclude that Cardoza is neither intellectually equipped or morally inclined to understand an issue.

In the case of the section in the Farm Bill that would terminate local and state government efforts to defend their borders against genetic pollution from genetically modified organisms, we have no doubt that the University of California, the nation's top academic plunger into biotechnology, has told Denny the Mechanic that it favors this bill as it is.

In Cardoza's mind, probably it would be tantamount to a declaration of war actually to do the homework to take a responsible position on GMO crops. Although "troubled" (suitably modified by adverbs chosen by his current flak), Cardoza votes to send young Americans to kill and be killed in Iraq.

"We don't move that fast in Congress,"

says Denny the Mechanic.

In the first place, Congress doesn't declare war anymore. In the second place, the US will have lost two wars in Western Asia and killed over a million people before it speaks criticism of a lobby as rich as the biotechnology industry.

Cardoza is wrong on this section of the Farm Bill. He was wrong on the ESA in three bills. He was wrong pushing so hard for a UC campus whose only tangible academic asset is its memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of weapons of mass destruction. He was wrong on UC-induced development that has created the present financial, insurance and real estate whirlpool in his district.

Badlands editorial staff
-------------------------

6-19-07
cbs5.com
Congress may end ban on genetically modified crops...John Lobertini...6-19-07
http://cbs5.com/topstories/local_story_170220149.html

(CBS 5) SACRAMENTO Congress is now considering a bill that would eliminate bans on genetically modified crops. Four California counties have such bans in place. It used to be organic farmers only worried about pesticides and chemicals. But now they argue that genetically engineered crops threaten the purity of fruits and vegetables and the products they make. In California, Marin, Mendocino, Santa Cruz and Trinity counties have already taken a stand and have passed their own bans. The conflict is between those who think it's okay to genetically alter plants and animals and those who don't. The ban was slipped into the farm bill late in the process. Central Valley Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) is concerned it won't receive the proper debate. "It's tough to get any particular issue dealt with in a very rapid fashion short of declaring war on somebody," Cardoza told CBS 5 on May 31st. "We don't move that fast in Congress."
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6-20-07
GM WATCH daily list
http://www.gmwatch.org

Farm Bill Could Cripple State Food Safety Agencies, Preempt Laws on GE Crops‎
From: owner-GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org
Sent: Wed 6/20/07 9:41 PM
To: GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org
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1.TAKE ACTION: Farm Bill Could Cripple State Food Safety Agencies, Preempt Laws on GE Crops
2.Groups say bill voids local bans on altered food
3.Michael Pollan on the potentially corosive power of the farm bill

EXTRACT: The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America... The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill. (item 3)
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1.Farm Bill Could Cripple State Food Safety Agencies, Preempt Laws on GE Crops

House Agriculture Committee to Consider Language in the Farm Bill that Would Deny State's Rights to Protect Citizens from Risky Foods

Please take action by June 25, 2007. Thank you.

Dear Food Safety Friends,

I thought you might be interested in this Center for Food Safety e-activism campaign. The House Agriculture Committee is currently considering language in the House version of the 2007 Farm Bill that would pre-empt state's rights to protect its citizens from experimental GE crops and foods, and could eliminate a state's authority to take action in cases of food contamination.

It only takes a minute, please send an email today! This language will be considered by the House Agriculture Committee as early as June 26th.

http://ga3.org/campaign/House_Ag?rk=md_JbDY1L2b9W
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2.Groups say bill voids local bans on altered food
By Steve Johnson
Mercury News, 20 June 2007
http://www.mercurynews.com/businessheadlines/ci_6183783

A coalition of 40 consumer, environmental and other groups Tuesday petitioned Congress to delete a provision in a proposed farm bill that they claim would nullify California and other state laws governing food safety and genetically engineered crops.

At issue is a section in the bill before the House Agriculture Committee that "prevents a state or locality from prohibiting an article the secretary of agriculture has inspected and passed."

The advocacy groups - including Consumers Union, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety and Californians for GE-Free Agriculture - said the provision was quietly slipped into the bill a few weeks ago. The House Agriculture Committee is expected to consider the bill shortly after the July 4 holiday.

If the measure passes, the groups argued, it could render ineffective county laws dealing with biologically manipulated crops once the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reviewed and OK'd the crops.

The groups also claimed the measure could bar county health inspectors from condemning contaminated or otherwise substandard supermarket meat if the USDA had approved the product. But an aide to the House Agriculture Committee said that was not the provision's intent, adding that the bill probably would be amended to make it clear that local inspectors could reject bad food.

In California, four of the state's 58 counties - Santa Cruz, Marin, Mendocino and Trinity - have approved bans or other restrictions on genetically ngineered crops. At least 16 other counties have rejected such measures or passed resolutions supporting such crops.

Contact Steve Johnson at sjohnson@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5043.
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3.The Way We Live Now
You Are What You Grow
By MICHAEL POLLAN
The New York Times, April 22 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/magazine/22wwlnlede.t.html

EXTRACTS ONLY

. . To speak of the farm bill's influence on the American food system does not begin to describe its full impact - on theenvironment, on global poverty, even on immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities - or to the United States. The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since Nafta is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s. (More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico's eaters as well as its farmers.) You can't fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico.

And though we don't ordinarily think of the farm bill in these terms, few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the American landscape and environment. Americans may tell themselves they don't have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that's not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America: whether it will be farmed or left wild, whether it will be managed to maximize productivity (and therefore doused with chemicals) or to promote environmental stewardship. The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.

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Dude, Denny's got his cliches down!

Submitted: Jun 17, 2007

"In exchange for having a seat at the table, you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page..."That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." --Rep. Dennis "I'm No Nancy Boy" Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced.

It would be funny if this was a script for a baseball comedy film called "Bull Durham." Unfortunately, this guy is our US congressman during the most corrupt moment of political history since the McKinley administration. But Madame McClatchy's dutiful stenographer, Mike Doyle, takes it all down, word for meaningless word.

The Shrimp Slayer (Not A Nancy Boy) is babbling about as coherently today as he was two years ago, when he emerged from a developer luncheon hosted by Fritz Grupe and splitting $50,000 with former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, the man he called "Mr. Chairman." These two crooks went back to Washington to write a bill to kill the Endangered Species Act -- earning the dual sobriquet, the Pomboza, from local farmers who sensed that whatever Pombo and Cardoza were up to, it did not bode well for the future of agriculture in the north San Joaquin Valley.

We don't have to ask Cardoza where he sits on San Joaquin Valley air quality or species crashes in the Delta or on the newly proposed peripheral canal. At the end of the day, he'll be sitting at the table on the same page with finance, insurance and real estate special interests, which does not bode well for the health and safety of humanity or any other species caught in those plans on that page at that table at the end of that day.

We don't mind crooks in the 18th congressional district of the great state of California. Nobody of any integrity could get the money to get elected to represent this district. We know that. But still, within the squalid limits of character permitted an elected official in this region, we still have our standards, however debased they have become by our dismal political experience. And a stone hypocrite, hiding behind the emptiest cliches in the business, is beyond the pale of even our deformed political taste.

Cardoza, our highest elected official, keeps a district office on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. It is evident among the elected officials that decide local land-use planning in the county and its cities, that these cliches are running downhill. This has resulted in a local government culture that is no more than one large hypocritical cliche to hide the fact it has become a financial vortex.

To make matters worse, members of the public intent on conflict-free dialogue continue to meet with the local decision-makers within the context of this large hypocritical cliche, adding to it as they invent grand fables about their political efficacy. Meanwhile, the 18th CD leads the nation in mortgage foreclosures and Valley air quality achieves its own unique designation -- worst of the worst.

When political language ceases to have any meaning at all, politicians are hiding something dangerous. These are times when government regards the public as its top enemy.

Badlands editorial staff
---------------------

6-17-07
Fresno Bee
Cardoza's ties divide voters. Democratic congressman often walks a fine line with conservative district....Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/61656.html

Dennis Cardoza wanted a seat at the table, and he got it...the third-term Democratic congressman from Merced is a Capitol insider, setting the rules for House debate. But in a political twist, the very position that grants Cardoza clout could also estrange some San Joaquin Valley voters. A moderate, Cardoza is nonetheless a lieutenant to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has her ear. She, in turn, often has his vote. The result is a fine line to walk for a congressman representing an often-conservative district. "In exchange for having a seat at the table," Cardoza said, "you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page." Cardoza and other members of the House Rules Committee decide how legislation is debated and what amendments can be offered...the 13-member panel shapes every bill considered by the House of Representatives. Rules Committee members have extra leverage with their colleagues, because they have their hands on every bill. Cardoza said the position gives him an opportunity to offer more amendments of his own. On the House floor, Cardoza and other Blue Dogs are generally the Democrats most likely to dissent from the party. But in the confines of the House Rules Committee, which meets on the third floor of the Capitol, Cardoza's voting is uniformly Democratic. Behind the scenes, moreover, Cardoza said the story is even more complex. "If you're on the Rules Committee, you vote with your party," Cardoza said. "That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." Cardoza likened his role to a "canary in a coal mine." In essence, he is a designated liaison to the Democrats' moderate wing. He lets House leaders know what might cause trouble for centrists. In turn, he gives the 47-member Blue Dog caucus an early heads-up on bills.

"Bull Durham" (1988)

Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

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Results coming in on government by FIRE

Submitted: Jun 04, 2007

The decisions that have created the enormous mess in real estate in the north San Joaquin Valley were made by corrupt local land-use authorities, corrupt state and federal regulatory agencies, with state and federal politicians working the backrooms, all for the benefit of finance, insurance and real estate.

“This year, we’re going to see prices drop in every market across the country for the first time since the Great Depression,” said Steven Smith, a property appraiser and consultant from San Bernardino. -- Modesto Bee, June 3, 2007.

This is the result of all those "win-win, public-private partnerships." This is the result of "One Voice" lobbying delegations. This is the result of public officials making the "hard, right decisions." This is the result of the wholesale demonization of common sense by rightwing radicals at all levels of government. This is the result of "shrinking government to where it can be drowned in a bathtub."

This is the result of a nationwide betrayal of the meaning of public service.

This is the result of American citizens total abdication of the responsibilities of that citizenship.

The possibility of economic depression creates the possibility of real fascism, real resistance, and real social unrest. Nice going, FIRE.

We here in the north San Joaquin Valley have been recently bedazzled by the illusion of "higher learning," as the great American economist, Thorstein Veblen called university education, in the form of UC Merced, the most compelling anchor tenant for reckless urbanization to hit the Valley since the Southern Pacific Octopus.

But, what of the "lower learning"? Those of us of a certain age remember the riverbanks crowded with the campfires of migrant farmworkers whose native language was English. We remember hoboes on our creeks and under our bridges. We remember working tramps passing by on railroad gondolas and in boxcars.

The Great Depression lasted a long time in the San Joaquin Valley and I believe it haunts us even now. And for the fear of it, we may have contributed -- given the interlocking nature of finance, insurance and real estate -- to its return.

The only thing to fear is fear itself, FDR said. Will we be lucky enough to find another such leader, to lead us into world war? Because, when the newspapers say the economy is bad, it is much, much worse than we or the newspaper want to admit.

The "lower learning" is what Roosevelt called the "mother sense" good politicians had in the depths of the Depression, regardless of gender. It was a sense of care and protection for their constituents, which would be about the exact opposite of the economic rape and pillage our politicians have aided and abetted in our communities in the Valley. It would have been the sense that dominated Huey Long, FDR's greatest rival on the left. One of the greatest, most contradictory examples in American history of "mother sense" was Lyndon Johnson, who could never really decide between his heroes Long and Roosevelt and who did so much to complete the New Deal in the midst of the Vietnam War. The greatest of all in our livespan was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us turn to song, as they did on the banks of the Tuolumne across from the Modesto Reds ballpark in the Fifties, where I heard them singing every evening during the gigantic Cling Peach Harvest-- so many guitars, so much chat and the sounds of forks and spoons hitting plates, the sounds of children -- the sounds of the human camp in the Great Depression still going on then, for those of us fortunate in our lower learning opportunities.

When I ask memory to speak, I turn to Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel.

Questions of 1934

The tearing up
and moving out
bothered little kids
quite a bit
especially Jody Penshaw
he would ask
every night
Mama,
where will we sleep
tomorrow night
and who could blame him
that question was on
the mind of every
mother
and father too
though the men pretended
it didn't upset them
they had to concentrate
on that Road 66
that was running
through their minds

--Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, A prince Albert Wind, A Mother Road Production, 1994.

Buy it!

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

6-3-07
Modesto Bee
Realty red flags...J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13651010p-14244449c.html

A bleak picture was painted of the region’s housing market at a recent conference for real estate appraisers...Appraisal Institute’s Northern California Chapter focused on housing trends and the slumping real estate market throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Statistics released recently by building and real estate associations also show a troubled market:
• Home prices falling: The worst of the housing price slump may not be over...home values throughout the country will fall 25 percent to 50 percent below what they were at their peak...the median-priced new home in Merced County was $310,990, which was nearly 22 percent below March 2006...
• Slow home sales: It’s taking much longer for homeowners to sell their property compared with last year, according to the Central Valley Association of Realtors. New home sales also are very sluggish.
• Why home buyers commute: ...prices drop $6,000 per mile
• Investors gone: Many of the homes purchased during the region’s real estate boom years were bought by investors and second-home buyers, but such buyers have disappeared...
• Exotic mortgages: untradi- tional loan terms...“These buyers took shortcuts to homeownership with ‘stated income loan.’ Today they’re called ‘liar loans,’"...“The ‘toxic’ mortgages taken out in 2004, 2005 and 2006 are resetting, causing problems for many who gambled on continued appreciation,” Race said. “They were playing ‘house poker,’ and many are ‘all in’ right now.”
• Subprime loans in trouble: About 18 percent of mortgages in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are subprime loans...
• Foreclosure homes for sale: Homeowners at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure often try to sell before it’s too late...there were 1,733 homes for sale in the Northern San Joaquin Valley that were in process of foreclosure or already had been taken back by the lender
• Loans tougher to get: Rising foreclosure rates on subprime loans are expected to make mortgages harder to get...
• Building permits decline: The Northern San Joaquin Valley building boom is over. Merced County building permits fell 64.6 percent during the first four months of 2007, compared with the first four months of 2006.
• Realtors quitting: Membership is shrinking in the Central Valley Association of Realtors... a drop of 800, or 24 percent.
• Time to buy: “The best time to buy anything is when nobody else wants it,” Zagaris said. “Next year we’re still going to be in this real estate correction.”

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Dementia Bobcatflax

Submitted: May 10, 2007

"The region has come alive. It's awakened," said Carol Whiteside, the Modesto-based center's founder and outgoing president. "We are no longer isolated and invisible." ...Other speakers said the valley still faces an uphill climb in many troubling areas. Laurie Primavera of CSU Fresno noted that rates of teen pregnancy, uninsured people and substance abuse continue to outpace those elsewhere. "We have a lot to do in health care," Primavera said. "We rank as badly as third-world countries." Swearingen said the number of valley workers denied jobs because they can't pass drug tests is appallingly high. "The vast preponderance of evidence suggests that jobs are available; we don't have people to fill them," she said. "Our challenges are not economic development — they are people development." -- Modesto Bee, May 10, 2007

Let us endeavor to interpret Whitesidespeak for the wider audience, or even for the audience of citizens of the Valley who weren't designated "leaders" by the Great Valley Center.

There was a speculative housing boom. That's what she means by "alive." Having retired and turned over GVC to UC Merced, she won't be around for the consequences of predatory mortgage lending practices that created the Great Valley Boomdoggle. In fact, since we live in a purely speculative economy, 8-to-5 will get you a bet Whiteside doesn't stay in the Valley any longer than she has to.

But nothing -- absolutely nothing -- happened in the Valley before Carol Whiteside arrived. That must be understood. And, presumably, now that she's leaving, nothing will happen again.

The Valley has been connected to national and international agricultural markets for more decades than the founder of UC/GVC could count on both hands. The Valley has been connect by canal water to San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley and Southern California. And, lest we forget, the Valley is now connected to a lot of off-shore bank accounts through Valley finance, insurance and real estate lending practices. Then, there's the $236 million in farm subsidies between 1995-2005.

There is nothing outstanding about this year's grants to the Valley. In many cases, these are entitlements going with the poverty of the region. Valley politicians remain out of step with the larger trend in both Congress and the state Legislature because our elected officials slavishly represent a handful of special economic interests whose wealth proves the point that, however dysfunctional a situation may be, it always benefits somebody. If those somebodies are rich enough, they can politically perpetuate the situation that harms the rest of the society for quite awhile.

We haven't heard the phrase, "vast preponderance of evidence" in several decades, but it's good to see it back, doing yeoman service on the side of fallacy, as usual. We think of those 550 Hershey workers in Oakdale recently laid off. The firm was clearly so appalled by drug use that they decided to relocate on the other side of the Mexican border to escape the pernicious influence of drug cartels.

"It gets brighter each day in the valley," beamed UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang. He has been at the helm less than three months; UC Merced absorbed the Great Valley Center in October 2005.

Actually, Stevo, the days are getting every so slightly dimmer in the Valley, thanks to growth induced by your blue-and-gilded junior college. But, as another member of the Badlands editorial staff pointed out, it is getting warmer.

"Water, wealth, contentment, health — who could ask for more?" Channing, 86, crooned a cappella. "Modesto is my hometown!"

It's not the asking, Ms. Channing, it's the doing. For at least 14 years, some Modesto residents have wished to hang a sign under the arch and its blithering 19th-century slogan, saying, "NOT!"

Now that UC has absorbed the Great Valley Center, Valley residents will endure periodic "reports" from the McClatchy Chain about the progress of Dementia Bobcatflax. The mere reality of the Valley was never the least bit attractive to UC or GVC. In their collective overreaching, they failed to grasp it.

The idea, which will be endlessly repeated by UC/GVC, that the Valley will only be "alive" in the act of destroying its natural resources for the benefit of a few plutocratic special interests, is a pathetic excuse for political, economic, social and educational "leadership."

Badlands editorial staff
------------------

5-10-07
Modesto Bee
Valley 'no longer isolated'...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13569344p-14170499c.html

Conference touts the turnabouts in education, transportation, planning...The Great Valley Center's 10th annual two-day conference took on an upbeat tone Wednesday, with dignitaries and entertainers insisting the valley has a bright place in California's future. "The region has come alive. It's awakened," said Carol Whiteside, the Modesto-based center's founder and outgoing president. "We are no longer isolated and invisible." Wednesday, presenters had much to crow about as they pointed to recent turnabouts in the 19-county valley's fortune: Eight counties, including Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced, are exploring combined planning efforts in the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process, and six counties to the north have formed a similar partnership.

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