Economy

The other news

Submitted: Apr 15, 2007

During the Easter weekend, the US and UK media were consumed with issues of “free speech.” If English is your language, you were bombarded with the Imus story in the US and the somewhat more complicated story in the UK about the 15 British naval personnel released from Iranian captivity. Both stories compelled high moral drama. Imus had insulted the race and gender of a women’s collegiate basketball team. The British Navy people, after confessions of being in Iranian waters when arrested by Iranian forces, recanted their confessions upon release and some sold their life stories to publishers, exciting yet another controversy.

Given the nervous atmosphere in the Mideast, where Israel went to war with Lebanon last summer over the capture of one Israeli soldier on that border, and the Bush regime’s search for a pretext to bomb Iran, the focus on the UK story made some immediate sense. The Imus story is part of the perennial race pathology of the US. Under pressure, corporate advertisers and two networks abandoned Imus.

Given the global ramifications of a US or Isreali-US attack on Iran and the – at present – global importance of who becomes the next commander-in-chief of the US military colossus (if we don’t get a war czar to replace presidential responsibility for making war), these stories are certainly significant. However, from the point of view of the ordinary American clod, Bush doesn’t actually have to bomb or invade Iran. All he has to do is make the fake and gas prices skyrocket, benefiting his friends and contributors.

Nevertheless, there was another story that came out on Good Friday, a UN report on global climate change, called Working Group II Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability--Summary for Policymakers.

You can read the whole document, as yet uncopyrighted, at:

http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:ZFyJUXeyFZsJ:www.ipcc.ch/SPM6avr07.pdf+UN+climate+change+April+6&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us

When you find it, you may be as exasperated as a friend of mine who found it tedious, bureaucratic and so full of footnotes he could hardly read it.

“It ain’t rocket science!” this veteran net surfing environmentalist shouted.

Actually, global warming is a little bit worse than rocket science, a great deal more complicated, and is not nearly as sexy a story as the pilloring of an American shock-jock or condemnation of British Naval personnel for cowardice and venality (selling their stories). In rocket science, the military contractor, possibly with help from the nearby greatest public research university in the universe, makes a rocket, sells it to the government, and the president or the war czar tells the military to use it on people who live on top of pools of oil. What could be more simple: In the name of Jesus Christ, order our soldiers, sworn to duty, to kill those people with the products of rocket science and take their oil.

But, it is at this point, after the oil is taken, that we cross over to the story of global warming, except in the US, where the Bush regime has gagged government scientists from making the connection between global warming, polar ice-cap melting, and the predicament now facing the polar bears.

Send up UC Merced scientists to study the malign effect of bear farts on the ice cap! Bet there’s grant money in that.

But no, the Imus controversy is much more interesting than a bunch of possibly flatulent, nasty white bears floating around Alaska on melting icebergs. No rapper’s gonna do that song.

Don’t care about no polar bear
Floating to the dock
Of my damn bay
On no ice-cube
No way

Badlands selected portions of the UN-IPCC report, excising numbers referring to charts and graphs supporting the text. The report’s introduction concludes that global climate change is occurring and that people are causing a lot of it. Regional studies foresee bad times ahead for each region, with Africa and Asia being hardest hit. The report concludes with several scenarios, none of them assuming any governmental action on carbon emissions. None of the scenarios are particularly cheerful.

We were struck by a number of things in the IPCC report but, in terms of the local economy, these observations caught our eye:

The most vulnerable industries, settlements and societies are generally those in coastal and river flood plains, those whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources, and those in areas prone to extreme weather events, especially where rapid urbanisation is occurring.

Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies.

Bill Hatch
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Working Group II Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Summary for Policymakers

Drafting Authors:Neil Adger, Pramod Aggarwal, Shardul Agrawala, Joseph Alcamo, Abdelkader Allali, Oleg Anisimov, Nigel Arnell, Michel Boko, Osvaldo Canziani, Timothy Carter, Gino Casassa, Ulisses Confalonieri, Rex Victor Cruz, Edmundo de Alba Alcaraz, William Easterling, Christopher Field, Andreas Fischlin, B. Blair Fitzharris, Carlos Gay García, Clair Hanson, Hideo Harasawa, Kevin Hennessy, Saleemul Huq, Roger Jones, Lucka Kajfež Bogataj, David Karoly, Richard Klein, Zbigniew Kundzewicz, Murari Lal, Rodel Lasco, Geoff Love, Xianfu Lu, Graciela Magrín, Luis José Mata, Roger McLean, Bettina Menne, Guy Midgley, Nobuo Mimura, Monirul Qader Mirza, José Moreno, Linda Mortsch, Isabelle Niang-Diop, Robert Nicholls, Béla Nováky, Leonard Nurse, Anthony Nyong, Michael Oppenheimer, Jean Palutikof, Martin Parry, Anand Patwardhan, Patricia Romero Lankao, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Stephen Schneider, Serguei Semenov, Joel Smith, John Stone, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, David Vaughan, Coleen Vogel, Thomas Wilbanks, Poh Poh Wong, Shaohong Wu, Gary Yohe

Introduction

This Summary sets out the key policy-relevant findings of the Fourth Assessment of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Assessment is of current scientific understanding of impacts of climate change on natural, managed and human systems, the capacity of these systems to adapt and their vulnerability1. It builds upon past IPCC assessments and incorporates new knowledge gained since the Third Assessment. Statements in this Summary are based on chapters in the Assessment and principal sources are given at the end of each paragraph2.

B. Current knowledge about observed impacts of climate change on the natural and human environment … B. Current knowledge about observed impacts of climate change on the natural and human environment A full consideration of observed climate change is provided in the IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment. This part of the Summary concerns the relationship between observed climate change and recent observed changes in the natural and human environment. The statements presented here are based largely on data sets that cover the period since 1970. The number of studies of observed trends in the physical and biological environment and their relationship to regional climate changes has increased greatly since the Third Assessment in 2001. The quality of the data sets has also improved. There is, however, a notable lack of geographic balance in data and literature on observed changes, with marked scarcity in developing countries. These studies have allowed a broader and more confident assessment of the relationship between observed warming and impacts than was made in the Third Assessment. That Assessment concluded that “there is high confidence3that recent regional changes in temperature have had discernible impacts on many physical and biological systems”. From the current Assessment we conclude the following. Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularlytemperature increases. With regard to changes in snow, ice and frozen ground (including permafrost)4, there is high confidence that natural systems are affected. Examples are: • enlargement and increased numbers of glacial lakes increasing ground instability in permafrost regions, and rock avalanches in mountain regions changes in some Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems, including those in sea-ice biomes, and alsopredators high in the food chain

3. Based on growing evidence, there is high confidence that the following types of hydrological systems are being affected around the world:

• increased run-off and earlier spring peak discharge in many glacier- and snow-fed rivers, warming of lakes and rivers in many regions, with effects on thermal structure and water quality.There is very high confidence, based on more evidence from a wider range of species, that recent warming is strongly affecting terrestrial biological systems, including such changes as:

• earlier timing of spring events, such as leaf-unfolding, bird migration and egg-laying, poleward and upward shifts in ranges in plant and animal species.

Based on satellite observations since the early 1980s, there is high confidence that there has been a trend in many regions towards earlier ‘greening’5of vegetation in the spring linked to longer thermal growing seasons due to recent warming .There is high confidence, based on substantial new evidence, that observed changes in marine and freshwater biological systems are associated with rising water temperatures, as well as related changes in ice cover, salinity, oxygen levels and circulation. These include:

• shifts in ranges and changes in algal, plankton and fish abundance in high-latitude oceans;

• increases in algal and zooplankton abundance in high-latitude and high-altitude lakes

;• range changes and earlier migrations of fish in rivers.

The uptake of anthropogenic carbon since 1750 has led to the ocean becoming more acidic with an average decrease in pH of 0.1 units [IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment]. However, the effects of observed ocean acidification on the marine biosphere are as yet undocumented. A global assessment of data since 1970 has shown it is likely6that anthropogenic warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. Much more evidence has accumulated over the past five years to indicate that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to anthropogenic warming. There are four sets of evidence which, taken together, support this conclusion:

The Working Group I Fourth Assessment concluded that most of the observed increase in the globally averaged temperature since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

Of the more than 29,000 observational data series7, from 75 studies, that show significant change in many physical and biological systems, more than 89% are consistent with the direction of change expected as a response to warming… A subset of about 29,000 data series was selected from about 80,000 data series from 577 studies. These met the following criteria: (1) Ending in 1990 or later; (2) spanning a period of at least 20 years; and (3) showing a significant change in either direction, as assessed in individual studies.

A global synthesis of studies in this Assessment strongly demonstrates that the spatial agreement between regions of significant warming across the globe and the locations of significant observed changes in many systems consistent with warming is very unlikely to be due solely to natural variability of temperatures or natural variability of the systems

Finally, there have been several modelling studies that have linked responses in some physical and biological systems to anthropogenic warming by comparing observed responses in these systems with modelled responses in which the natural forcings (solar activity and volcanoes) and anthropogenic forcings (greenhouse gases and aerosols) are explicitly separated. Models with combined natural and anthropogenic forcings simulate observed responses significantly better than models with natural forcing only. [1.4]Limitations and gaps prevent more complete attribution of the causes of observed system responses to anthropogenic warming. First, the available analyses are limited in the number of systems and locations considered. Second, natural temperature variability is larger at the regional than the global scale, thus affecting identification of changes due to external forcing. Finally, at the regional scale other factors (such as land-use change, pollution, and invasive species) are influential. [1.4]Nevertheless, the consistency between observed and modelled changes in several studies and the spatial agreement between significant regional warming and consistent impacts at the global scale is sufficient to conclude with high confidence that anthropogenic warming over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. [1.4]Other effects of regional climate changes on natural and human environments are emerging, although many are difficult to discern due to adaptation and non-climatic drivers. Effects of temperature increases have been documented in the following systems (medium confidence):

• effects on agricultural and forestry management at Northern Hemisphere higher latitudes, such as earlier spring planting of crops, and alterations in disturbance regimes of forests due to fires and pests

• some aspects of human health, such as heat-related mortality in Europe, infectious disease vectors in some areas, and allergenic pollen in Northern Hemisphere high and mid-latitudes

• some human activities in the Arctic (e.g., hunting and travel over snow and ice) and in lower-elevation alpine areas (such as mountain sports).

Recent climate changes and climate variations are beginning to have effects on many other natural and human systems. However, based on the published literature, the impacts have not yet become established trends. Examples include:

• Settlements in mountain regions are at enhanced risk to glacier lake outburst floods caused by melting glaciers. Governmental institutions in some places have begun to respond by building dams and drainage works.

• In the Sahelian region of Africa, warmer and drier conditions have led to a reduced length of growing season with detrimental effects on crops. In southern Africa, longer dry seasons and moreuncertain rainfall are prompting adaptation measures.

• Sea-level rise and human development are together contributing to losses of coastal wetlands and mangroves and increasing damage from coastal flooding in many areas.

…Ecosystems

The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources).

Over the course of this century net carbon uptake by terrestrial ecosystems is likely to peak before mid-century and then weaken or even reverse11, thus amplifying climate change. Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5oC. For increases in global average temperature exceeding 1.5-2.5°C and in concomitant atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, there are projected to be major changes in ecosystem structure and function, species’ecological interactions, and species’ geographic ranges, with predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity, and ecosystem goods and services e.g., water and food supply.

The progressive acidification of oceans due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to have negative impacts on marine shell forming organisms (e.g., corals) and their dependent species.

Food, fibre and forest products

Crop productivity is projected to increase slightly at mid to high latitudes for local mean temperature increases of up to 1-3°C depending on the crop, and then decrease beyond that in some regions.

At lower latitudes, especially seasonally dry and tropical regions, crop productivity is projected to decrease for even small local temperature increases (1-2°C), which would increase risk of hunger.

Globally, the potential for food production is projected to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of 1-3°C, but above this it is projected to decrease.

Adaptations such as altered cultivars and planting times allow low and mid- to high latitude cereal yields to be maintained at or above baseline yields for modest warming.

Increases in the frequency of droughts and floods are projected to affect local production negatively,especially in subsistence sectors at low latitudes.

Globally, commercial timber productivity rises modestly with climate change in the short- to medium-term,with large regional variability around the global trend.

Regional changes in the distribution and production of particular fish species are expected due to continued warming, with adverse effects projected for aquaculture and fisheries. 11Assuming continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates and other global changes including land use changes

Coastal systems and low-lying areas

Coasts are projected to be exposed to increasing risks, including coastal erosion, due to climate change and sea-level rise and the effect will be exacerbated by increasing human-induced pressures on coastal areas.

Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.

Coastal wetlands including salt marshes and mangroves are projected to be negatively affected by sea-level rise especially where they are constrained on their landward side, or starved of sediment.

Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely-populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk. The numbers affected will be largest in the mega-deltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable.

Adaptation for coastal regions will be more challenging in developing countries than developed countries due to constraints on adaptive capacity.

Industry, Settlement and Society

Costs and benefits of climate change for industry, settlement, and society will vary widely by location and scale. In the aggregate, however, net effects will tend to be more negative the larger the change in climate.

The most vulnerable industries, settlements and societies are generally those in coastal and river flood plains, those whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources, and those in areas prone to extreme weather events, especially where rapid urbanisation is occurring.

Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies.

Where extreme weather events become more intense and/or more frequent, the economic and social costs of those events will increase, and these increases will be substantial in the areas most directly affected. Climate change impacts spread from directly impacted areas and sectors to other areas and sectors through extensive and complex linkages.

Health

Projected climate change-related exposures are likely to affect the health status of millions of people, particularly those with low adaptive capacity, through:

• increases in malnutrition and consequent disorders, with implications for child growth and development;

• increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts;

• the increased burden of diarrhoeal disease;

• the increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground level ozone related to climate change; and,

• the altered spatial distribution of some infectious disease vectors.

Climate change is expected to have some mixed effects, such as the decrease or increase of the range and transmission potential of malaria in Africa. Studies in temperate areas have shown that climate change is projected to bring some benefits, such as fewer deaths from cold exposure. Overall it is expected that these benefits will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures world-wide, especially in developing countries.

The balance of positive and negative health impacts will vary from one location to another, and will alter over time as temperatures continue to rise. Critically important will be factors that directly shape the health of populations such as education, health care, public health prevention and infrastructure and economic development.

More specific information is now available across the regions of the world concerning the nature of future impacts, including for some places not covered in previous assessments. AfricaBy 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to an increase of water stress due to climate change. If coupled with increased demand, this will adversely affect livelihoods and exacerbate water-related problems.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries and regions is projected to be severely compromised by climate variability and change. The area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, are expected to decrease. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition in the continent. In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020.

And so, grow biofuel in Africa now!

Local food supplies are projected to be negatively affected by decreasing fisheries resources in large lakes due to rising water temperatures, which may be exacerbated by continued over-fishing.

Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea-level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations. The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5-10% of GDP. Mangroves and coral reefs are projected to be further degraded, with additional consequences for fisheries and tourism.

New studies confirm that Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and changebecause of multiple stresses and low adaptive capacity. Some adaptation to current climate variability is taking place, however, this may be insufficient for future changes in climate.

Asia

Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding, rock avalanches from destabilised slopes, and affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede.

Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia particularly in large river basins is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could adversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s…Studies mainly in industrialised countries.

…11Coastal areas, especially heavily-populated mega-delta regions in South, East and Southeast Asia, will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and in some mega-deltas flooding from the rivers.

Climate change is projected to impinge on sustainable development of most developing countries of Asia as it compounds the pressures on natural resources and the environment associated with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation, and economic development.

It is projected that crop yields could increase up to 20% in East and Southeast Asia while it could decrease up to 30% in Central and South Asia by the mid-21st century. Taken together and considering the influence of rapid population growth and urbanization, the risk of hunger is projected to remain very high in several developing countries.

Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diarrhoeal disease primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise in East, South and Southeast Asia due to projected changes in hydrological cycle associated with global warming. Increases in coastal water temperature would exacerbate the abundance and/or toxicity of cholera in South Asia.

…Europe

For the first time, wide ranging impacts of changes in current climate have been documented: retreating glaciers, longer growing seasons, shift of species ranges, and health impacts due to a heat wave of unprecedented magnitude. The observed changes described above are consistent with those projected for future climate change.

Nearly all European regions are anticipated to be negatively affected by some future impacts of climate change and these will pose challenges to many economic sectors. Climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in Europe’s natural resources and assets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods, and more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea-level rise). The great majority of organisms and ecosystems will have difficulties adapting to climate change. Mountainous areas will face glacier retreat, reduced snow cover and winter tourism, and extensive species losses (in some areas up to 60% under high emission scenarios by 2080).

In Southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism, and in general, crop productivity. It is also projected to increase health risks due to heat waves and the frequency of wildfires.

In Central and Eastern Europe, summer precipitation is projected to decrease, causing higher water stress. Health risks due to heat waves are projected to increase. Forest productivity is expected to decline and the frequency of peatland fires to increase. ** D [1

In Northern Europe, climate change is initially projected to bring mixed effects, including some benefits such as reduced demand for heating, increased crop yields and increased forest growth. However, as climate change continues, its negative impacts (including more frequent winter floods, endangered ecosystems andincreasing ground instability) are likely to outweigh its benefits…

Adaptation to climate change is likely to benefit from experience gained in reaction to extreme climate events, by specifically implementing proactive climate change risk management adaptation plans…

Latin AmericaBy mid-century, increases in temperature and associated decreases in soil water are projected to lead to gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia. Semi-arid vegetation will tend to be replaced by arid-land vegetation. There is a risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction inmany areas of tropical Latin America. …

In drier areas, climate change is expected to lead to salinisation and desertification of agricultural land. Productivity of some important crops are projected to decrease and livestock productivity to decline, with adverse consequences for food security. In temperate zones soybean yields are projected to increase…

Sea-level rise is projected to cause increased risk of flooding in low-lying areas…

Increases in sea surface temperature due to climate change are projected to have adverse effects on Mesoamerican coral reefs, and cause shifts in the location of south-east Pacific fish stocks…

Changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantly affect wateravailability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation…

Some countries have made efforts to adapt, particularly through conservation of key ecosystems, earlywarning systems, risk management in agriculture, strategies for flood drought and coastal management, and disease surveillance systems. However, the effectiveness of these efforts is outweighed by: lack of basic information, observation and monitoring systems; lack of capacity building and appropriate political, institutional and technological frameworks; low income; and settlements in vulnerable areas, among others….

North America

Moderate climate change in the early decades of the century is projected to increase aggregate yields of rain-fed agriculture by 5-20%, but with important variability among regions. Major challenges are projected for crops that are near the warm end of their suitable range or depend on highly utilised water resources…

Warming in western mountains is projected to cause decreased snowpack, more winter flooding, and reduced summer flows, exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources.

…Disturbances from pests, diseases, and fire are projected to have increasing impacts on forests, with an extended period of high fire risk and large increases in area burned…

Cities that currently experience heat waves are expected to be further challenged by an increased number, intensity and duration of heat waves during the course of the century, with potential for adverse health impacts. The growing number of the elderly population is most at risk.

Coastal communities and habitats will be increasingly stressed by climate change impacts interacting with development and pollution. Population growth and the rising value of infrastructure in coastal areas increase vulnerability to climate variability and future climate change, with losses projected to increase if the intensity of tropical storms increases. Current adaptation is uneven and readiness for increased exposure is low.

… The Emission Scenarios of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES)*

A1. The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. The three A1 groups are distinguished by their technological emphasis: fossil intensive (A1FI), non fossil energy sources (A1T), or a balance across all sources (A1B) (where balanced is defined as not relying too heavily on one particular energy source, on the assumption that similar improvement rates apply to all energy supply and end use technologies).

A2. The A2 storyline and scenario family describes a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in continuously increasing population. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.

B1. The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid change in economic structures toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.

B2. The B2 storyline and scenario family describes a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with continuously increasing global population, at a rate lower than A2, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels. An illustrative scenario was chosen for each of the six scenario groups A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1 and B2. All should be considered equally sound. The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that explicitly assume implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol…
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4-10-07
Monbiot.com
The Real Climate Censorship
It’s happening, it’s systematic, and it is precisely the opposite story to the one the papers are telling.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian, 10th April 2007.
http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/04/10/the-real-climate-censorship/

The drafting of reports by the world’s pre-eminent group of climate scientists is an odd process. For many months scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tussle over the evidence. Nothing gets published unless it achieves consensus. This means that the panel’s reports are extremely conservative – even timid. It also means that they are as trustworthy as a scientific document can be.
Then, when all is settled among the scientists, the politicians sweep in and seek to excise from the summaries anything which threatens their interests. While the US government has traditionally been the scientists’ chief opponent, this time the assault was led by Saudi Arabia, supported by China and Russia(1,2).
The scientists fight back, but they always have to make some concessions. The report released on Friday, for example, was shorn of the warning that “North America is expected to experience locally severe economic damage, plus substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from climate change related events”(3). David Wasdell, an accredited reviewer for the panel, claims that the summary of the science the IPCC published in February was purged of most of its references to “positive feedbacks”: climate change accelerating itself(4).
This is the opposite of the story endlessly repeated in the right-wing press: that the IPCC, in collusion with governments, is conspiring to exaggerate the science. No one explains why governments should seek to amplify their own failures. In the wacky world of the climate conspiracists, no explanations are required. The world’s most conservative scientific body has somehow been transformed into a cabal of screaming demagogues.
This is just one aspect of a story which is endlessly told the wrong way around. In the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail, in columns by Dominic Lawson, Tom Utley and Janet Daley the allegation is constantly repeated that climate scientists and environmentalists are trying to “shut down debate”. Those who say that manmade global warming is not taking place, they claim, are being censored.
Something is missing from their accusations: a single valid example...

3-9-07
San Francisco Chronicle
U.S. accused of silencing experts on polar bears, climate change. Scientists told not to speak officially at conferences...Jane Kay
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/09/MNGBQOIBMG1.DTL&hw=endangered+species&sn=001&sc=931

The federal agency responsible for protecting Arctic polar bears has barred two Alaska scientists from speaking about polar bears, climate change or sea ice at international meetings in the next few weeks, a move that environmentalists say is censorship...rule was issued last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but was made public this week. "It's a gag order," said Deborah Williams, a former high-level Interior Department official in Anchorage, Alaska... The documents make the subjects of polar bears, climate change and sea ice off limits to all scientists who haven't been cleared to speak on the topics. The scientists "will not be speaking on or responding to these issues'' of climate change, polar bears and sea ice, the memos say. Before any trip, such a memo must be sent to the administrator of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington. According to the memos, agency scientists must obtain a memorandum designating which official, if any, is allowed to respond to questions, particularly about polar bears, and include "a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the Administration's position on these issues.'' At a news conference, Fish and Wildlife Director H. Dale Hall denied that the memos were a form of censorship. Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity..."That type of memo might be appropriate for the State Department and purely political issues," he said. "What we're dealing with here is science. How many polar bears are there? Why are they going extinct? What is the cause of the ice melting? It's completely inappropriate to ban scientists from talking about science.''

4-15-07
Washington Post
Interior Reviewed Studies Weighing Risks to Polar Bear
Effort Preceded Protection Proposal …By Juliet Eilperin
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/14/AR2007041401449.html

Interior Department officials -- who have maintained for months that they did not analyze how human activities were affecting Arctic warming and endangering polar bears' survival -- completed a review examining studies of this very subject less than a week before proposing that the government list the bears as threatened with extinction, according to the department's own documents.
The "Range-Wide Status Review of the Polar Bear," which is posted on a government Web site, was completed six days before Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed adding polar bears to the endangered species list on Dec. 27. It cites several studies on how greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the Arctic, and how cuts in carbon dioxide could slow the pace of warming there. None of those citations made it into the department's final listing proposal…

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April 12, 2007: Day in the life of the north San Joaquin Valley

Submitted: Apr 12, 2007

A strong, chilly wind is blowing in the north San Joaquin Valley today, stirring up an enormous amount of dust coming in part from graded but unfinished subdivisions, as the financial, insurance and real estate industry hunkers down for an explosion of mortgage default.

But, poetry aside, the news of the day is as gritty as the sight of tons of topsoil blowing away from the county.

The Merced Sun-Star editorialists have returned to wearing their other hats as editors of the UC Daily Bobcat, once again flakking for the institution where one administrator is currently serving 60 days for forgery and theft. In their opinion, we should all go out to the UC Merced to celebrate Bobcat Day and Fairy Shrimp Festival. Last year's UCM Fairy Shrimp Festival was a dud, so the UC bobcatflaksters renamed it, evidently hoping the mammalian charm of cuddly bobcat mascot, Baby Boy, would overwhelm the feckless hauteur of the endangered crustaceans.

When it comes to wildlife, UC believes its right to exploit is above the law. It broke every regulation and practice on the care of wildlife when it appropriated its little mascot, found mysteriously in a paper bag outside the city zoo more than a year ago. He should have gone to a rehabilitation center certified for bobcats in Morgan Hill. Instead, he was stolen by UC Merced in violation of a number of regulations established by the state Department of Fish and Game, which that institution of easy virtue did not enforce. As for the fairy shrimp, even as UC pretends to celebrate vernal pools and the 15 federally endangered species that inhabit them, including the shrimp, in the densest fields of vernal pools in the nation that surround the campus site, UC lawyers are working ceaselessly behind the scenes to undermine the federal Clean Water Act provisions that would prevent UC Merced from expanding and destroying the vernal pools and the fairy shrimp. With that level of propaganda coming out of the UC Merced administration, the public wonders how much truth is taught in the classrooms. To suppose there was no connection between the propaganda and the instruction is naive.

UC Merced administrators expect to submit the medical school's business plan to the UC Office of the President by June,

the UC Daily Bobcat announces, in another article that appears to be news but is just more propaganda. We think the UCM bobcatflaksters have a schedule made up at least a year in advance detailing the release of stories about how UCM administrators are developing this med school. Who can be against a med school? Right? Except, doesn't UC Davis -- also located, despite UC Merced flak, in Central California -- also have a med school? Why would it not expand its own medical services, as it has recently done as far away from Davis as Willits? Isn't the problem with medical services in the Valley the same as it is throughout the nation, rapacious insurance companies, aided and abetted in the latest Medicare "Reform" Act by the Valley's own former Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield? Does the Valley really need another research medical facility, in the announced case of UC Merced, focused on respiratory diseases? UC Merced has precipitated the biggest speculative growth boom in local history, bringing with it immeasurable increases in air pollution. It appropriated the bobcat for sentiment; it wants to appropriate the vernal pools for its ediface complex; and it wants to appropriate our lungs for research grants.

Speaking of our lungs, UC Merced's partner within the UC system, UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, confessed recently that its bomb-testing activities on Site 300 near Tracy will put depleted uranium in the air. Perhaps UC Merced telemedical facilities on the west side will be able to measure how much depleted uranium will travel how far and how deadly its effects are, neatly broken down into ethnic cohorts. This sort of information will be of use to the Pentagon and UC will be able to get grants to study it, no doubt.

Not satisfied with terrorizing the north San Joaquin Valley with depleted uranium bomb drift, the UC Livermore lab is on the short list to locate the most dangerous type of biological warfare lab (Level 4) on the same site . The UC Livermore lab is in court with Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, which sued over establishment in Livermore of a Level 3 lab. In testimony for the court, the U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration provided this useful bit of information:

"it is not possible to accurately predict the probability of intentional attacks at (Livermore) or at other critical facilities, or the nature of these attacks..."

The Level 4 lab UC Livermore wants to establish near Tracy would be called a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, "which would research incurable diseases that harm humans, animals and plants..."

In light of the world health threat posed by Avian Flu, it is an interesting choice of locations because the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds intersects in these counties with the largest concentration of poultry in the state. Assuming the wild, migratory birds to be the vector from Asia, where the virus is florishing, it seems likely, despite excellent bio-security at our modern poultry facilities, infection from the wild to the domestic could take place. Presumably, the proximity of the biolab would help the poultry industry deal more quickly with an epidemic, which in turn might help protect people in the vicinity. On the other hand, in the event of a "catastrophic accident" in the lab, or a terrorist attack on it, Avian Flu would be the least of our worries, down wind from Ebola, etc. We could have a biological Chernobyl on our hands?

We aren't supposed to ask that question because if we get scared, defense experts tell us, they -- the terrorists -- have already won.

But, don't worry: UC medical researchers in space suits would be right there to study your final moments and you would have made your personal contribution to research science. Maybe there will be a plaque over your mass gravesite.

That's just downright cynical, some would say. By not wanting this lab in our backyards, they would go on, we are preventing valuable scientific discovery and defeating our technological edge in this important field. Defense experts would go on to say that biological warfare is in our future and labs like these will have to produce the antidotes to weapons genetically engineered. And they will have do so quickly. And that's all we can know about it because the rest is secret for reasons of national security. We Americans must become "resilient" to terrorist attacks, the experts say. Like we were after 9/11? We were so resilient that in addition to having put our "footprints" on the "arc of instability" (aka Muslim nations with oil) we restricted habeas corpus, the oldest liberty we had -- not the acts of a people resilient either economically or politically. Given our national experience, what can we expect from the combination of universities, corporations and the government in response to more terrorist attacks but more autocracy, militarism and corruption? Given our local experience, can we expect this university to tell the truth about anything?

In other news of the day, Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student-loan sharks, have agreed to quit bribing college administrators in charge of advising students and their parents on where to get the student loans. This is a staggering ethical achievement. Sally Mae began in 1972 as a government program, but, as its website puts it, "The company began privatizing its operations in 1997, a process it completed at the end of 2004 when the company terminated its ties to the federal government." The investigation began in New York. Colleges and universities (UC loudest of all) bray about the personal and national necessity of higher education for one and all, leading the cattle to the financial slaughter while taking kickbacks. We will just have to wait and see which UC administrators were in on the deal. USC has already been hit with a scandal.

Here in Merced, the stink from local law enforcement is still rising, after all these months. A local criminal defense attorney, John Garcia, has filed a civil suit in Merced Superior Court, adding former DA Gordon Spencer to a list of respondents including the DA's office, Merced County and the Merced County Sheriff's Office. The suit alleges conspiracy, assault, false arrest, false imprisonment and civic rights violation arising from what appears to be a drug sting operation. We can find no word on the Richard Byrd v. County of Merced, et. al. case filed in July 2006 in federal district court in Fresno. In that case, Byrd, a former local policeman, alleged that some of the same characters Garcia is suing bilked him out of a valuable piece of property while he was in the county jail on trumped up charges. Either Spencer was a sloppily corrupt public official or the Sun-Star got involved in a (prize-winning) witch hunt that produced no convictions. So far, the jury is still out unless the Byrd suit was settled so quietly the Sun-Star missed it.

The Modesto Bee is up in arms about mortgage foreclosures and beating the drums for federal assistance to homeowners. What McClatchy really means is a federal bailout for finance, insurance and real estate special interests. Mortgage lenders, focusing on areas like Stockton, Modesto and Merced, among other vulnerable locations in the nation (Atlanta and South Texas, for example), went on a feeding frenzy under the banner of "Freedom through Home Ownership," babbled daily in the press and in every other media outlet in the land. The "lending industry," as banks and other financial institutions like hedge funds and derivative ghouls are called these days, bought bundles of these loans, including a lot of bad paper. Now, they are crying to the federal government -- on behalf of the poor homeowners, naturally. The only question here is if the bailout of these obscenely wealthy speculators will be larger than the savings and loan bailout. If the experience of six years of Bush is any indication, the homeowning victims of predatory lending practices will get the shaft.

A desperate bit of flak from the state Department of Water Resources yesterday prefaces our next story:

“The Department of Water Resources has long been committed to balancing water operations with protection of the Delta environment,” said DWR Director Lester Snow. “Today’s court filing underscores the department’s ongoing efforts to protect these resources, our actions to comply with the court’s findings, and the long term strategy to restore Delta ecosystems while ensuring reliable water supplies to the 25 million Californians served by the State Water Project.”

DWR sensitivity to the dying Delta ecosystem is so overwhelming that it filed with the Alameda Superior Court yesterday to do what it can to modify the judge's draft order to fix the environmental disaster caused by the state's systematic overpumping the Delta for the last four years. DWR enlisted the state Department of Fish and Game in its desperate plea. Once the judge issues a final order, DWR has 60 days to fix the problem. As the fish die and water rationing begins, there is bound to be an extraordinary display of sophistry. However, we think the last word has already been spoken by the original petitioner, Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. The state, he said, was "refrying the egg."

Meanwhile, The Bush pulled back another nomination for a top position at the Environmental Protection Agency, sensing it might have some problems in Congress. Nevertheless, the administration and a nation that spent the weekend dithering about Iran and Imus while the UN's report on global warming was ignored, especially that bit about human agency.

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

4-12-07
Merced Sun-Star
Time to mingle with Bobcats...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/ourview/story/13479121p-14088905c.html

Merced area residents will have a golden opportunity this weekend to get to know their recent neighbors to the north...Saturday's Bobcat Day and Fairy Shrimp Festival represent a chance for Mercedians to get to know the almost brand-new UC Merced campus and the people who live and work there, as well as have some fun in the process. For the uninitiated, the Golden Bobcat is the school's mascot and vernal pools surrounding the campus are home to fairy shrimp. Events at the North Lake Road campus are free and open to the public... arts and crafts fair...vendors, live bands, performers and family-oriented presentations...public tours. Can't you visualize a 6-year-old deciding he wants to attend UC Merced when he grows up, based on the fun and inspiration he soaked up while visiting the campus with his mother, father and siblings? That could happen and we hope it does. The once-a-year event will allow UC Merced students and faculty to get to know local residents and people who have never visited the university to learn what it has to offer. Students trying to figure out their future academic direction certainly could gain some insight on programs and options at UC Merced... Let's bridge the distance between UC Merced and the city by enjoying Bobcat Day and the Fairy Shrimp Festival.

UC Merced plans to build high-tech health centers...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13479084p-14088947c.html

UC Merced administrators say plans are in motion to establish a series of health centers in the San Joaquin Valley that would improve access to health care in underserved areas...the school has received a $225,000 state grant to jump-start plans to create four telemedicine centers, also referred to as "eHealth Centers." Telemedicine centers generally use videoconferencing equipment to transmit a patient's medical information and images from relatively remote areas to doctors and specialists in other areas of the state...centers also allow doctors in different areas to have live videoconferencing discussions about their patient's health -- even if they are hundreds of miles apart. University officials have not decided where the centers will be located since the plan is in its preliminary stages... Doctors from UC Davis and UC San Francisco will be providing some of the medical expertise. UC Merced is partnering with administrators at UC Davis to help develop the centers, since UC Davis was one of the first entities to establish its own telemedicine program in 1996. Establishing the telemedicine centers fits with UC Merced's ambitions to eventually establish a medical school at the campus. UC Merced administrators expect to submit the medical school's business plan to the UC Office of the President by June. If the plan is approved by UC regents, the state legislature would then decide whether to fund the medical school.

Stockton Record
Livermore lab says bigger blasts would send depleted uranium into air...Jake Armstrong
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070412/A_NEWS/704120321

Bigger outdoor blasts proposed at an explosives test range southwest of Tracy could release up to 453 pounds of depleted uranium into the air a year, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory officials told air pollution regulators in an application last week. Lab officials did not disclose that information in a November request to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District... The district initially granted the lab permission, but revoked the permit in March after learning the blasts would contain radioactive materials. Depleted uranium is less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium, and when detonated, it would be carried by wind, said Gretchen Gallegos, of the lab's Operations and Regulatory Affairs Division. The lab has not found radiation levels above federal thresholds at its monitoring stations, she said. "All of our activities are well within any health measure, and there's nothing to be concerned about," Gallegos said. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials will tour Site 300 Monday to further evaluate the University of California's proposal to locate there the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, which would research incurable diseases that harm humans, animals and plants. The visit is part of a nationwide tour of 18 sites vying for the federal laboratory. DHS officials will then shorten the list of proposals, conduct environmental reviews of the finalists, and decide on a site in October 2008.

San Francisco Chronicle
Livermore...'Unlikely' attack at lab could release microbes, study says...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/12/BAGDDP78DN1.DTL&hw=livermore+lab&sn=004&sc=1000

U.S. Energy Department draft environmental assessment study concludes that a direct terrorist assault on the facility is "highly unlikely" to succeed. But because it acknowledges local activists' concerns that catastrophic accidents are possible, it is now up the lab critics who have sued to block the opening of the facility to consider whether to pursue further court action, including a possible order to stop the Livermore lab from opening the microbe facility. The Livermore site already has a lower-level lab for investigating microbial diseases, but the proposed new Biosafety Level 3 lab -- dubbed BSL3 for short -- would store microbes of medieval scariness. They include plague, botulism and Q fever, a bacterial disease that in its more virulent form, chronic Q fever, kills up to 65 percent of its victims...proposed lab would also investigate anthrax. In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the Energy Department to conduct the environmental study following a suit by Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. Construction of the facility was finished in 2005, but it hasn't opened pending the completion of litigation. On Wednesday, lab critics responded with scorn to the long-awaited, 80-page environmental study. The study was released by the U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration...environmental study acknowledges that "dramatic human health impacts and economic disruption can result following the release of pathogenic materials...also says "it is not possible to accurately predict the probability of intentional attacks at (Livermore) or at other critical facilities, or the nature of these attacks. The number of scenarios is large, and the likelihood of any type of attack is unknowable."...study does not describe any potential scenarios for terrorist attacks "because disclosure of this information could be exploited by terrorists to plan attacks." Ironically, the report includes a map showing the precise location of the microbe lab, in Building 360 on the Livermore lab site. Public feedback is welcome through May 11. Afterward, the Energy Department will issue a final version of the environmental assessment.

Modesto Bee
Sallie Mae settles, agrees to school-lending ethics...Karen Matthews
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13479198p-14089044c.html

The nation's largest student loan provider will stop offering perks to college employees as part of a settlement announced Wednesday in a widening probe of the student loan industry. SLM Corp., commonly known as Sallie Mae, also agreed to pay $2 million into a fund to educate students and parents about the financial aid industry, and it will adopt a code of conduct created by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is heading the probe. Cuomo said the expanding investigation of the $85 billion student loan industry has found numerous arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. Investigators say lenders have provided all-expense-paid trips to exotic locations for college financial aid officers who then directed students to the lenders. Sallie Mae is the second lender to agree to the code, which is aimed at making the loan process more transparent. Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank, which does business at about 3,000 schools, last week agreed to donate $2 million to the same fund as part of a settlement with the attorney general's office.

Byrd sues on civil rights violations, Badlandsjournal.com, 7-28-07

Former D.A. added to civil rights lawsuit...Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13479083p-14088942c.html

A local criminal defense attorney who said he was the victim of a failed interagency drug sting last year has added former Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer to his civil lawsuit...is accused of working with a state agent and a Merced sheriff's deputy to have a man give lawyer John Garcia, 64, a bag of methamphetamine disguised as tobacco. Drug agents then got a judge to let them search Garcia and his office. No charges were filed in connection with the Feb. 6, 2006, undercover sting operation that Garcia said violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, damaged his reputation and caused him emotional distress. The lawsuit, refiled on April 5 to accuse Spencer, also names Taylor, Cardwood, the District Attorney's Office, Merced County and its sheriff's department, and the city of Merced and its police department. Garcia is seeking an unspecified amount of money in the Merced County Superior Court case that alleges conspiracy, assault, false arrest, false imprisonment and a civil rights violation.

Modesto Bee
Realtors: Housing slump will worsen in 2007...Alan Zibel and Dan Caterinicchia, AP
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13479195p-14089041c.html

Key Senate Democrats issued a report Wednesday detailing the housing market's decline amid calls for federal aid to homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The report from New York Democrat Charles Schumer, chair of the Joint Economic Committee, came on the same day that the nation's trade group for Realtors offered new projections that the housing slump is worsening. The National Association of Realtors said the national median price for existing homes would decline this year for the first time since 1968 on the same day an activist nonprofit called on Wall Street to help homeowners restructure their mortgage loans. Across town, senators called for the government to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to help at-risk homeowners. NAR predicting the median price for existing homes nationwide will drop 0.7 percent...estimated existing home sales will fall 2.2 percent... As 1.8 million adjustable rate mortgages reset to higher rates this year and next, foreclosures are sure to continue rising, the 32-page report from the JEC said. The Federal Housing Administration could be revamped to refinance mortgages in danger of default, the JEC's report said... Lawmakers also are talking up proposals to strengthen federal regulation of mortgages, impose a national ban on predatory lending practices among all lenders and require those lenders to establish a borrower's ability to pay back a mortgage loan through the life of the loan, not just for two or three years. Rising delinquencies and defaults among borrowers have resulted in more than two dozen so-called subprime lenders going out of business, moving into bankruptcy protection or putting themselves up for sale.

Stockton Record
Water officials: Judge's ruling went overboard...Alex Breitler and Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070412/A_NEWS/704120333

The Department of Water Resources filed its official response to a March 22 court ruling that, when finalized, could reduce water supplies for 25 million people from Livermore to Los Angeles. In a series of three dozen objections, the state reasserted its claim that older agreements allow it to kill threatened Delta smelt and salmon at the Banks Pumping Plant, even without an official permit under state law. Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow in a statement said Wednesday's court filing underscores a long-term strategy to restore the Delta while ensuring future water supplies. Bill Jennings, whose California Sportfishing Protection Alliance brought the lawsuit that culminated with Roesch's ruling, said the state was "refrying the egg." "They're trying to reopen the case," Jennings said. "The judge provided a brief period of time to comment on the proposed order, not to reargue the entire case." Among its objections, the state said the word "massive" used by the judge to describe the amount of water shipped south is inaccurate and subject to misinterpretation. And a reference to "significant" numbers of fish killed at the pumps is ambiguous and ignores the state's attempts to save fish and replace those that are killed. Snow's solution presented Monday was to ask the state Department of Fish and Game to determine that the pumps comply with state law, based on federal biological opinions. This "consistency determination" would be the quickest way to obey the judge's order, he said. Fish and Game has 30 days to make that determination. The 60-day pump shutdown clock, meanwhile, would begin ticking when Roesch issues his final ruling, Jennings said. Committee Chairman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, asked the officials why they chose to ask for a consistency determination rather than go through the normal process. Broddrick said this way is far faster and will in effect mirror the rules the federal government relies on to operate its own set of giant water pumps in the area. Steinberg wanted to know why the state would rely on the federal rules. He asked Broddrick if those rules were in dispute. "They certainly are," Broddrick said, referring to an active lawsuit similar to the one that threatens the state pumps. "So how do we reconcile that one?" Steinberg asked. They cannot, Broddrick acknowledged. Essentially, the state is playing double-or-nothing: If the federal lawsuit invalidates the rules governing the federal pumps, and the state's "consistency determination" relies on those federal rules, then the courts could shut down both sets of pumps.

Good to the last drop...Steve Rubenstein
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/12/BAGDDP78EG1.DTL&hw=water&sn=007&sc=996
It must be serious...Rain and snow were so sporadic this winter that water could be scarce this summer. Water districts around the state have begun calling for "voluntary conservation... Unfortunately, many of the water-conservation tricks from past droughts will no longer work. Voluntary conservation is the official term for the step before mandatory conservation, also known as rationing. On Wednesday, San Francisco water officials warned that if things get dire over the summer, rationing is possible...

Reuters
Warming Could Spark N. American Water Scramble: U.N.
by Timothy Gardner
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/12/477/

NEW YORK - Climate change could diminish North American water supplies and trigger disputes between the United States and Canada over water reserves already stressed by industry and agriculture, U.N. experts said on Wednesday.More heat waves like those that killed more than 100 people in the United States in 2006, storms like the killer hurricanes that struck the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 and wildfires are likely in North America as temperatures rise, according to a new report that provided regional details on a U.N. climate panel study on global warming issued in Brussels on April 6...

Washington Post
White House pulls nomination to top EPA air post...Chris Baltimore, Reuters
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/11/AR2007041101710.html

The White House on Wednesday withdrew its choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution office after he ran afoul of key U.S. lawmakers. William Wehrum, nominated to head the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, was the architect of rules to regulate harmful power plant emissions that environmental groups and many Democrats blasted as too lenient. The White House withdrew Wehrum's nomination, along with that of Alex Beehler, its pick to be the EPA's Inspector General, in a routine personnel announcement. Rather than face near-certain rejection from Boxer's committee, the White House withdrew the nominations.

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The barn-door problem

Submitted: Apr 10, 2007

News that the national foreclosure rate is higher than at any time since the Great Depression is obviously not good. But, it has one positive side. It reveals the driving force of the whole finance, insurance and real estate sector of the economy, the "lending industry," as the Fresno Bee put it in the editorial below.

In the growing subprime-load debacle, in which Merced has the dubious distinction of leading all other jurisdictions in California with 22-percent subprime loans (nearly twice as high as the national average), the press sets aside the environmental damage done to Merced and the San Joaquin region by the building boom -- air quality, water quality and quantity, endangered species taken -- the amount of farm land paved over, the failure of elected local land-use authorities to in any way compel development to pay for itself, and the general scoff-law attitude of elected officials and city and county staff toward any laws that stand in the way of development.

Almost every lawsuit filed on these issues in the last seven years has had a provision asking for a county General Plan update. Last year, Merced County agreed to one, guided by a secret steering committee, and the process lumbers along with hand-picked "members of the public" to validate the deal. Meanwhile, the existing General Plan, the document that was supposed to have guided development in the county, was never updated even to account for UC Merced, much less for the development boom the campus caused. It was, instead, constantly "amended," which by statute it must be to accommodate major development projects. The present General Plan is a shapeless mass of amendments documenting chaotic growth.

Even those who have not followed the development process in Merced during the past seven years must see that the present General Plan update process is no more than a pretense of pushing an open barn door toward a closed position long after the horses have left the barn, the corral and the ranch.

Among the many public lies the Merced development boom entailed was that UC Merced was immediately necessary to accommodate the "Tidal Wave II" of UC students. That deception has also been revealed.

A cabal of politicians, developers (some of them UC regents), UC administrators, large local landowners, local insurance interests, the UC/Great Valley Center, and enabled by the "lending industry," local realtors and planning staff, created this unfortunate situation, unprecidented since the Great Depression.

We cannot predict how it will all come out except to say, based on past experience, that the situation will not be faced honestly in Merced. The consequence of the growing need for "leadership" to conceal what it has done. If the past is any guide to the future, this political need will result in a combination of rewriting history, choosing distracting targets and that old favorite, arrogant posturing. It looks like local public discourse will consist of the "haves" blaming the "have-nots" for not having, while the haves await the next speculative boom to get more.

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

Notes:

4-6-07
Subprime meltdown...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/story/40173.html

California should provide stronger mortage protections. What seemed an impending home foreclosure crisis when the Legislature held hearings in January is now a full-blown meltdown.A big part of the problem is the widespread use of subprime loans -- high-cost loans to people with weak credit. The Valley is especially thick with such loans. Almost 22% of home loans in Merced were subprime, highest in the state. Bakersfield, Modesto, Visalia and Fresno were close behind, all with rates above the national average of 14.7%. The result is costly: Three of the five U.S. regions with the highest projected foreclosure rates for subprime loans made last year are in the Valley, including Fresno. California should lead in providing solutions. But it's not... Most borrowers once got their loans directly from a lender; today a majority go through a mortgage broker. Too often, these brokers steer buyers to a higher-rate loan because they get rebates from lenders. So the broker gets a perfectly legal kickback and the lender gets a more profitable loan. But the borrower gets stuck with a higher interest rate.
California should fix this. Legislators also should look at the strong laws in North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey, emulate them and improve upon them.Legislators must have the courage to stand up to the lending industry, which continues to oppose stronger California laws, and protect consumers from reckless, abusive loans. The home mortgage crisis in California is not going to be self-correcting.

Fresno Bee
UC Merced tops in diversity...Farin Montanez
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/40214.html

UC Merced is leading all UC campuses for minority admission rates, university officials said Thursday. Thirty-one percent of students admitted to the freshman class this fall at the University of California at Merced are Hispanic, black or American Indian -- groups considered "underrepresented" by the University of California system. UC Merced may be leading the way in diversity, but it has been struggling to enroll enough students. Officials hope this is the year that the Merced campus, which opened in 2005, hits its enrollment goal of 2,000 students after missing the target for its first two years. Nineteen percent of UC Merced's applicants are from the San Joaquin Valley, Ruiz said, bearing out a major argument for establishment of the campus. University of California total admissions hit a record high...But UC Merced -- now with an enrollment of 1,286 -- has failed to grow as expected. Still, the campus is not a first choice for many...than 12,000 freshmen were offered fall 2006 admission to UC Merced last year, only about 4% -- slightly more than 450 students -- signaled their intent to enroll.

Boston Globe
The Housing Squeeze ... Robert Kuttner
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/07/369/
...the latest financial scandal, the meltdown in sub prime mortgages. This is the private sector’s “solution” to high-priced housing. Offer loans to borrowers who would not ordinarily qualify, based on their incomes and credit histories. Make the mortgages seem affordable by giving low, temporary “teaser” terms — very low interest for the first two years and much higher costs afterward . Not surprisingly, as the teaser period expires and people face the real costs, defaults increase — about 15 percent of all sub prime mortgages at latest count, and rising. Many lenders and borrowers gambled that housing prices would keep rising, allowing borrowers to refinance. But with housing values now in a temporary pause, upwards of a million sub-prime borrowers are likely to lose their homes before this latest financial debacle unwinds...There’s no real money to subsidize new construction, either of rental housing or owner housing. Nor is there federal money to underwrite low-interest mortgages for first-time home buyers, leaving them to the tender mercies of the sub prime loan sharks...And, as Amy Anthony, former Massachusetts secretary of communities and development, testified, upwards of $60 billion of federal money spent between 1965 and 1990 to subsidize private developers to build affordable housing for the elderly, the poor, and the disabled, is now being squandered. Thanks to a loophole in these programs demanded by for-profit developers as a condition of participating, once the initial loan is paid off, they are free to sell or rent the housing to the highest bidder. An entire sector of affordable housing built at taxpayer expense served only one generation of renters and is now being irrevocably lost. There is a common thread here. Affordable housing requires social investment, plus public-minded regulation. The profit motive can sometimes serve public purposes, but most mortgage bankers and most developers are in it to make a buck and will achieve social goals only with careful government rules and monitoring. In many cases, it’s more efficient for government to provide subsidies directly, not through tax gimmicks, not through bribing private developers or expecting private bankers to be do-gooders. This is not just about housing “the poor.” The default of housing and mortgage lending policy makes life harder for much of the working middle class and for the economy...

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La famille du porc

Submitted: Apr 04, 2007

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Chairman of the UC Regents Richard Blum

And, just think, neither of these articles below touched on the Level-4 Biowarfare lab in Tracy under the authority of the UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, or the future of UC Merced, a developer boondoggle from which, one imagines, Richard, Marquis du Porc, managed to make a bit of money, somehow – just because he is that kind of guy. And being that kind of guy, of course, we owe it to him, at least through one or another of his investment interests, right? That would be because he has class. Or is it only style?

Lest the reader accuse the writer of tedious repetition of the details of government of pork, by pork and for pork, and the reader wants to go on to new visions of the amazing political abilities and managerial excellence of Big Shot Americans, the reader ought – we think – to consider, when questions arise about how the nation operates, that the principle of Pork will often provide a key to understanding contemporary events that no other key offers. Without the key of Big Shot Pork, the reader, the writer and the rest of us – we think – wander in error on the problem of cause and effect in local, regional, state and national issues.

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

Notes:

4-4-07
Counterpunch.com
Senator Feinstein's War Profiteering
Democratic Blood Money
By JOSHUA FRANK
http://www.counterpunch.com/frank04042007.html

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California silently resigned from her post on the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) late last week as her ethical limbo with war contracts began to surface in the media, including an excellent investigative report written by Peter Byrne for Metro in January. MILCON has supervised the appropriations of billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts since the Bush wars began.

Feinstein, who served as chairperson for the committee from 2001-2005, came under fire early last year in these pages for profiting by way of her husband Richard Blum who holds large stakes in two defense contracting companies. Both businesses, URS and Perini, have scored lucrative contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years, and Blum has personally pocketed tens of millions of dollars off the deals his wife, along with her colleagues, so graciously approved.

Here's a brief rundown of the Feinstein family's blatant war profiteering. In April 2003, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave $500 million to Perini to provide services for Iraq's Central Command. A month earlier in March 2003, Perini was awarded $25 million to design and construct a facility to support the Afghan National Army near Kabul. And in March 2004, Perini was awarded a hefty contract worth up to $500 million for "electrical power distribution and transmission" in southern Iraq.

But it is not just Perini that has made Feinstein and Blum wealthy. Blum also holds over 111,000 shares of stock in URS Corporation, which is now one of the top defense contractors in the United States. Blum is an acting director of URS, which bought EG&G, a leading provider of technical services and management to the U.S. military, from the neocon packed Carlyle Group back in 2002.

"As part of EG&G's sale price," reports the San Francisco Chronicle, "Carlyle acquired a 21.74 percent stake in URS -- second only to the 23.7 percent of shares controlled by Blum Capital."

URS and Blum have since banked on the war in Iraq, attaining a $600 million contract through EG&G, which Sen. Feinstein permitted. As a result, URS has seen its stock price more than triple since the war began in March of 2003. Blum has cashed in over $2 million on this venture alone and another $100 million for his investment firm.

And it is not just the Feinstein family that has benefited from the war -- so too has the Democratic Party. Since 2000, the Democrats' Daddy Warbucks has donated over $100,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Committee including leading Democrats including John Kerry, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, and even Barbara Boxer.

Feinstein's resignation from MILCON was the least the senator could do to atone for profiting off the spoils of war. But Feinstein wasn't trying to atone, she was trying to cover her tracks. If the Democratic Party had any foresight whatsoever it would return all the Blood Money donated by Blum. From there the Senate ought to hold hearings and examine Feinstein's tenure as the chair and ranking member of MILCON and analyze every single contract she approved which benefited her husband's respective companies.

There is absolutely no question -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein has a plethora of ethics violations she needs to account for at once.

Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush and edits www.BrickBurner.org
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4-4-07
Washington Post
Fox-in-the-Henhouse Government...Ruth Marcus
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/03/AR2007040301576.html

The Bush administration's House of Straw seems to be blowing apart, buffeted by alternating gusts of scandal and incompetence. The tornado of disastrous headlines -- a Pentagon that can't take proper care of its wounded, a Justice Department that can't be trusted to follow the law or tell the truth to Congress, a top White House aide who lied to a grand jury-- has been so overpowering that the day-to-day outrages of life in the Bush administration tend get overlooked. So it's worth pausing to pay attention to some recent events that similarly underscore the failings of this administration and illuminate one of their root causes: a contemptuous attitude toward government itself. These episodes illustrate the administration's fox-guarding-the-henhouse personnel plan, the disdain of its appointees for the laws they are sworn to enforce and their spoils-of-war attitude toward the government they are entrusted with overseeing...Eric Keroack, Michael Baroody, Julie MacDonald, the official who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but who has no academic background in biology, overrode the recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species. MacDonald also shared internal documents with industry officials and groups that lobby for weakened environmental protections, not to mention an online gaming buddy, the IG found. An Interior lawyer called MacDonald's involvement in one endangered species matter "the most brazen case of political meddling" he had seen in more than 20 years in government. Nor, it seems, is such politicization limited to MacDonald. "Policy trumps science within the Assistant Secretary's corridor on many occasions," another department lawyer told the IG, J. Steven Griles, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Lurita Doan

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An unsettling weekend

Submitted: Feb 12, 2007

I was struck by a sense of danger this weekend. I haven't had this sense as strongly for decades. In me, this feeling belongs to the period of the Vietnam War when, suddenly a certain combination of news stories would bring me back from work and daily life to consciousness of deepening crisis.

We who went through that war in our various ways (mine was very protected compared to many others' experiences) cannot help seeing analogies with this war, although we seem to agree widely that history never repeats itself exactly, no matter how similar personal alarm bells from within may sound. There are strong similarities between wars in which imperial powers with vastly superior armament invade foreign nations whose people must defend their lands. This sort of war seems to end up in prolonged, bloody battles with high casualties in the rubble of city streets.

Yet, American politics moves blithely on, as if it were the most important thing. Our latest new voice is Barak Obama, who announced his candidacy for president last weekend, stressing that he "listens" to the people. Those of us old enough to remember the Vietnam War also remember American political party conventions where politicians were forced to listen to the people inside and even outside the convention hall, even if all they heard outside were cries of pain, protest and anger as the people were being beaten and arrested by police. We think Chicagoan Obama is listening to Chicago Mayor Richard Daly, Jr., son of Hizzoner Richard Daly, who unleashed his police force on anti-war demonstrators at the Democratic Party convention in 1968, not long after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. We think Obama is also listening closely to Daly's brother, Bill Daly, chief lobbyist in the campaign to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement. To the extent that Obama is listening to the people as opposed to the party elite, what he is likely to hear?

· Echoes of the same sort of propaganda broadcast through corporate media that deceived the people about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

· Confusion, fear and doubt from the people who do not to believe the Bush propaganda about Iran, but do not know what to believe at a moment in which catastrophic decisions are being made in the name of the listeners.

· Or simply, the pitches of economic special interests benefitting from the present crisis?

"Elect me, I stand for your confusion, fear, doubt, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the world’s largest and most diverse derivatives exchange"?

To look at this bright, eloquent young man from this distance, with this much skepticism, is to admit one is a member of a generation -- largely but not entirely unconcious -- who lived through previous imperial wars, among them Central America.

In Iraq, the famously publicized "surge" is forcing American troops into the high command's original, announced nightmare, an urban, block-by-block street war in Baghdad. Presumably, the cynical Bush administration figures it can now take the higher casualty rate because America has become numb to the war. Or else, coupled with a full-on propaganda campaign, the regime will use it to enrage the American public into supporting war against Iran.

The insurgents have also been knocking down helicopters in increasing numbers, indicating new, better weaponry. As Tom Englehart put it,

Let's not forget that the beginning of the end of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s came when CIA-supplied Stinger missiles began to take down Russian helicopters in significant numbers.

Early reports about how the "surge" on Baghdad will be conducted indicate more American air power will be used, causing Fallujah-level destruction to many neighborhoods. The Bush regime has reached the point where it will destroy Baghdad to save it.

The Vietnam village that engendered that unforgettable phrase, was destroyed and perhaps the US will manage to destroy Baghdad, or at least large portions of it in the coming surge. One of the driving forces in this war is the defense industry, a collection of arms manufacturers who are not in business to minimize their profits and have most excellent lobbyists to persuade the federal government to spend more for their products to kill people and destroy cities. It is beginning to appear that limits of this expenditure might possibly come, not from domestic political resistance to the war, any checks by the government or limitation or greed among defense contractors, but from foreign sources.

The domestic anti-war movement seems weak and fractured at this time and unable to put enough pressure on the Democratic Party in control of Congress to even slow down the escalation, much less stop it. John Ward, an excellent reporter of domestic political dissent, covered the Jan. 29 anti-war protest in Washington. He noted the absence of Ralph Nader, Jason Raimundo, libertarian editor of the great Antiwar.com, and Republican anti-war speakers. Apparently, it was an all-liberal Democrat event. Progressives who think they will wrest control of the Democratic Party from pro-war and empire lobbyists, including the Israeli lobby, are wandering in delusion. The anti-war movement in America this time seemed to bargain away power before they had enough to sell for a decent price. As one US Army Vietnam veteran commented to me recently, “Who would ever have thought the American people would have gone to the ballot box to oppose the war.” Yet, that is what Americans did and the Democrats are now selling them out just as dissidents – most steadily Nader – have been saying they would.

The docile protests against the Iraq War lead an American of middle age to wonder: when do the cracks begin to open, how deep will they be? What sort of fearful future are we headed toward, without benefit of strong political dissent and habeas corpus? What should we do, now? What public strategy and tactics would lead toward peace? Collaboration with the Democratic Party does not top my list.

On the international front, Russian President Vladimir Putin blasted the US policy last weekend:

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin yesterday warned that the United States' increased use of military force is creating a new arms race, with smaller nations turning toward developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking at a conference of the world's top security officials, including Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, Putin said nations "are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations".

He told the audience of 250 officials, including more than 40 defence and foreign ministers: "The US has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is very dangerous, nobody feels secure any more because nobody can hide behind international law.

"This is nourishing an arms race, with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons," he added, without singling out one nation.

Although criticized by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CN, for being "provocative," it seems that Putin had every right to speak as he did, both as president of a nation as experienced as the US was in both nuclear arms races and non-proliferation agreements, and because Russia is not now invading foreign nations. I don't regard Lieberman as a great patriot. I believe he is a reliable spokesman for the neocons and the rightwing contingent in power in Israel. Neither of these interests reflect broad-based American public opinion, Israeli public opinion, or the opinion of American supporters of Israel.

However, aside from the utter immorality of the US invasion of Iraq, we have discovered something that the least acquaintance with history would suggest: Arabs and Afghanis are very good at war in defense of their territory. They hate our guts. I don't think it takes a PhD in international relations to figure that out or some rudimentary reasons for it. If we weren't often awed to silence by the horrendous tragedy of this war, we could see through the hubris and madness of this to its nemesis. In fact, at this moment, Egyptians, Iranians and Syrians might be able to explain to the Bush regime what is happening and could happen . But the Bush regime listens only to the rightwing rulers of Israel and its American clones, the neoconservatives. It took eight centuries to produce a world leader as powerful and stupid as George W. Bush, to start a new crusade. Now, more American troops have died than died in 9/11 and many times more Iraqis and Afghanis. Bush is not conducting foreign policy; he is having a temper tantrum with the most powerful military in the world as his baby rattle.

In the constant barrage of propaganda targeted at the US population, the new demon is Iran. Patrick Cockburn, who has reported from Iraq since long before the war, comments:

The answer to this question is probably that the anti-Iranian tilt of the Bush administration has more to do with American than Iraqi politics. A fresh demon is being presented to the US voter. Iran is portrayed as the hidden hand behind US failure in both Iraq and in Lebanon. The US media, gullible over WMD, is showing itself equally gullible over this exaggerated Iranian threat.

The Bush administration has always shown itself more interested in holding power in Washington than in Baghdad. Whatever its failures on the battlefield, the Republicans were able to retain the presidency and both Houses of Congress in 2004. Confrontation with Iran, diverting attention from the fiasco in Iraq, may be their best chance of holding the White House in 2008.

The Achilles Heel of this glorious war to bring freedom and democracy to the Islamic masses could be economic. Economic columnist for Asia Times, Chan Akya, reflects on China's changing investment policies, involving $1 trillion. His argument is that investment in US Treasury bills, the strategy recommended by the IMF for developing countries, does not produce the income necessary to buy the commodities China needs to continue to grow. Therefore, China must buy oil and mineral resources in commodity markets and through direct purchase around the world. Akya draws a drastic conclusion for both the US and Iran from this:

As for the Islamic powers of the Middle East, they will sell oil to China if only to spite Europe and the US. In doing so, they will also invite more unwanted attention from the US, which is reeling from its lost campaign in Iraq. The main scenario of the US trying to consolidate its hold over the Middle East continues, and argues for getting more desperate in the light of China's growing self-sufficiency in commodities. Thus, to preserve its role, the US has no option but to attack Iran. [4] The consequences will be horrifying for both parties, and push both combatants toward an inexorable decline.

About time,too.

Some of the more forceful domestic anti-war voices come from dissenting Republicans. Former Assistant US Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts' criticism of the Bush regime continues to evolve rapidly along the lines of Kevin Phillips' and Chalmers Johnson's recent historical theses of tragic American decline due to the stupidity of Bush the Lesser’s regime.

But Roberts, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute, is not content to describe the inexorable forces. He has a program for how the world can save itself and us from Bush:

The US is totally dependent upon foreigners to finance its budget and trade deficits. By financing these deficits, foreign governments are complicit in the Bush Regime's military aggressions and war crimes. The Bush Regime's two largest lenders are China and Japan. It is ironic that Japan, the only nation to experience nuclear attack by the US, is banker to the Bush Regime as it prepares a possible nuclear attack on Iran.

If the rest of the world would simply stop purchasing US Treasuries, and instead dump their surplus dollars into the foreign exchange market, the Bush Regime would be overwhelmed with economic crisis and unable to wage war. The arrogant hubris associated with the "sole superpower" myth would burst like the bubble it is.

The collapse of the dollar would also end the US government's ability to subvert other countries by purchasing their leaders to do America's will.

The demise of the US dollar is only a question of time. It would save the world from war and devastation if the dollar is brought to its demise before the Bush Regime launches its planned attack on Iran.

A possible consequence that does not seem to be intended by Roberts' program is that by plunging the US into a great depression, perhaps bringing down the entire world economy along with it, a slowdown of global warming might occur.

Political dissent, rather than alliances with gravediggers like the major American political parties, is a hopeful solution. Massive, unified, inclusive popular, non-violent dissent is a powerful weapon for bringing down tyrants, but only if it is used and refuses to be manipulated for political ambitions. In fact, the future of any American's political ambition may at this moment depend on it being used to preserve the political system in which those ambitions play.

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

Notes:

Tomgram: Schwartz on Surging into Catastrophe in Iraq, Feb. 11, 2007,
http://www.Tomdispatch.com

Putin attacks America over nuclear arms race
David Rising (AP), Feb. 10, 2007
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=223662007

Nader and Libertarians Not Welcome
A Splintered Antiwar Movement
By JOHN WALSH, Feb. 12, 2007
Counterpunch
http://www.counterpunch.com/walsh02122007.html

Scapegoating Iran
It's No Use Blaming Iran for a Lost War
Patrick Cockburn, Feb. 12, 2007
http://www.counterpunch.com/

Sun Tzu's art of investing
By Chan Akya, Feb. 10, 2007
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China_Business/IB10Cb04.html

Dump the Dollar!
How the World Can Stop Bush
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, Feb. 12, 2007
http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts02122007.html

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Some evolutionary considerations

Submitted: Feb 03, 2007
1-24-07
Tracy Press
Supes vote to back bio-lab...John Upton

http://tracypress.com/content/view/7317/2/
Acting on the advice of its agricultural committee, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to support an anti-biological terrorism laboratory that could be built southwest of Tracy to research incurable fatal diseases that affect both animals and people. Superintendent Steven Gutierrez voted against his colleagues, saying it was too early to determine whether the research activities would help safeguard and support the general public. “What research activity” Gutierrez said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do.” The Department of Homeland Security and Lawrence Livermore have not yet announced what types of diseases will be studied at the bio-lab, how the pathogens will be shipped in and out of the bio-lab, or whether accidents will be publicly reported. The Tracy City Council is expected to vote on whether it supports the bio-lab proposal at its meeting Feb. 6. Lawrence Livermore is managed by the University of California. The university’s agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation, said after the meeting that the agricultural industry strongly supports the proposed bio-lab. He said the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms support the bio-lab …

Let us return to ground recently covered. Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, was defeated by a coalition of state and national environmental groups because he and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, collectively known as the Pomboza, tried to gut the Endangered Species Act, one of the most popular laws in America.

Cardoza’s membership in the Pomboza stemmed from his support of the University of California’s attempts to destroy the richest fields of vernal pools, containing 15 endangered plants and animals, in the nation.

UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to win the contract to put a level-4 biowarfare laboratory on Site 300, the Livermore lab’s bomb-testing site, near Tracy. This lab would test the most dangerous biological toxins known to man. And it would get lots of defense grants for UC.

Congressional hearings are currently being held that raise the question: is UC, even with Bechtel at its side, incapable of running Los Alamos National Laboratory competently, or is it just impossible to run a weapons of mass destruction lab securely?

The ordinary person in Northern California has read a number of articles in recent years pointing out that UC security at the Livermore lab is not too hot either.

Maybe, that ordinary citizen, especially if he or she lives downwind from Tracy, does one more step of reasoning. You have to coat a bomb with plutonium and detonate it for its dust to spread around too much and pollute the groundwater, as it has near Tracy. It would seem that all you would have to do with a killer virus would be to drop a bottle of it on the floor and it could be all over the region rather quickly. Isn’t that what they do in a state of nature?

When that sort of thought goes through Joe Sixpack’s head, he rolls his eyes, groans, grabs another beer, turns on the TV and hopes he can really, really get into the football game.

An environmentally oriented person will protest this lab, as hundreds of people who have signed petitions against it have done.

Now, here comes the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms. They support the lab, they told the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors’ agricultural committee to support it, and they did, leaving it up to the Tracy City Council to hold the line on Feb. 6.

Given the nature of the full-court flak press by UC, the federal government is not interested in putting such an incredibly dangerous laboratory near a place where there is real controversy about it. UC tried several years ago to site this same laboratory at UC Davis, the Davis City Council opposed it adamantly, and the biowarfare lab did not go to Davis. So far, UC has had better luck with the Pomboza.

The decision by agribusiness to support the project was made apparently based on some sort of promises by UC Livermore lab to do some work on animal diseases. This will be done by bringing the animal diseases in concentrated form to the bio lab to research them, right in the middle of the densest populations of cattle and poultry in the state. It is not that these industries lack the benefits of modern agricultural science through the UC Cooperative Extension, the USDA and numerous other scientific entities.

Let’s bring Avian Flu here to the Valley to study it. UC has a proven record of security lapses, but agribusiness knows that UC can do no wrong. If the Avian Flu gets out and wipes out the poultry industry, the migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway and some people, agribusiness and UC can blame it on terrorists. Terrorists are an extremely important part of biowarfare research, because without terrorists, there would be no reason for the research because the terrorists are the ones who are going to introduce the deadly toxins into our environment for which the biowarfare lab is going to create antidotes. The terrorists are going to do this because they hate freedom. If they hate freedom enough to sneak past UC’s porous security and liberate a few deadly cattle and poultry viruses from the Tracy level-4 biowarfare lab, who are you going to blame for that? Osama. Boy, will we be mad at Osama then. We’ll get him for sure if that happens. You bet. But, we’ll have all the antidote we need to inoculate millions of cows, chickens, turkeys, migrating ducks and humans by that time. You bet. UC and the federal government together cannot go wrong.

The only possible explanation for this political decision on the part of agribusiness is that it is anti-environmental. By golly, we’re going to stick it to them damn environmentalists this time! However, one lone San Joaquin County supervisor wisely said that nobody really knew what UC would be studying at the level-4 biowarfare lab. It reminded us in Merced of where UC Merced is going to get its water.

What the proposed biowarfare lab will study will depend on the grants it gets. It will depend overwhelmingly on federal government priorities, which returns us in a dismal circle to the terrorists again. I wonder if there is any other way of getting the terrorists not to unleash deadly plagues upon our livestock, migrating ducks and ourselves other than importing them to the neighborhood to experiment on in another leaky UC weapons of mass destruction lab that would seem to be an attraction for freedom-hating terrorists. But it’s never so simple. Because, in addition to your freedom-hating terrorists, you’ve got those terrorists who just hate Americans because Americans killed their relatives. But that gets into the metaphysics of the imperial defense industry, distracting us from the evolutionary facts on the ground.

Looking at agribusiness from an environmental point of view puts us in mind of what happens to endangered species when they lose too much of their habitat.

Scientific advisory c ommittee to Badlands editorial board
----------------------

Notes:

1-24-07
Stockton Record
Pombo in talks to join Oregon-based lobbying firm...Hank Shaw

http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070124/A_NEWS/701240320
The Washington insider paper Roll Call reported Tuesday: "The former House Resources chairman is in talks with Pac/West Communications, an Oregon-based PR and lobbying firm that has a roster of timber and energy clients." ...the company already has signed a deal with Pombo's former staff director, Steve Ding, to open a California office in Sacramento. Pombo, who, despite reports to the contrary, isn't rolling in dough, might very well need the added income - especially now that he'll probably keep his town house in Virginia.

1-31-07
Contra Costa Times
Nuclear security agency at risk...AP, MedialNews staff writer Ian Hoffman contributed to this story
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/16586727.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Fed-up lawmakers on a House oversight committee said Tuesday that they want to strip a federal nuclear-weapons agency of its security responsibilities, and they threatened to shut down Los Alamos National Laboratory, now under new managers from the Bay Area. The lawmakers criticized the lab for its most recent security breach, in which a contract worker walked out with more than 1,500 pages of classified documents. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said that if problems cannot be solved this time, he will ask that Los Alamos lab, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, be shut down. After more than 60 years of operation by the University of California, the lab now is run by former Lawrence Livermore lab director Michael Anastasio and a consortium led by UC and San Francisco-based Bechtel National. Barton, Dingell and others on the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced a measure Tuesday to strip the National Nuclear Security Administration of its primary security responsibilities and turn them back to the Energy Department...expressed concerns that NNSA has not fixed Los Alamos security problems despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on improvements. A new management team was installed at Los Alamos less than a year ago, in part to reverse years of security and safety problems. The embarrassing October incident involving the classified documents resulted in a shake-up in the agency that oversees the lab. Linton Brooks, already reprimanded for an earlier incident, resigned this month as NNSA chief. Tuesday's four-hour hearing, lawmakers asked repeatedly why the lab needs to exist and whether it simply has too much responsibility for too many secret materials. Deputy energy secretary Clay Sell said Los Alamos probably could not be replaced or duplicated...is the only place where plutonium fission cores for weapons can be made...much of what happens at Los Alamos is secret because the lab is responsible for the bulk of the strategic nuclear weapons stockpile. "It has been suggested that we shoot the dog," Sell responded. "I have to reject that suggestion.”

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McClatchy-Merced launches investigation of RMP chief John Condren

Submitted: Jan 29, 2007

McClatchy-Merced is digging up dirt on John Condren, CEO of the Riverside Motorsports Park, whose massive auto-racing project was approved last month by the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

Before going into what meager details the investigation has so far revealed, a little perspective on McClatchy's recent "news" offerings is required.

Big McC- Modesto reported Sunday that "visionaries" see a whole new city growing up in northern Merced County, made of unincorporated Delhi, Hilmar and Stevinson, housing as many as 50,000 people. McClatchy-Modesto goes on to report a big meeting on this subject between Rep. Dennis Cardoza and Turlock Mayor John Lazar. The article presents Riverside Motorsports Park, which claims it will produce 50,000 more people for feature events, as the anchor entertainment tenant for north Merced County growth. Much is said about sewer capacity, but Hostetler's totally illegal, 42-inch sewer trunk line aimed toward Stevinson from Livingston's sewer plant is not mentioned. Supervisor Diedre Kelsey, in whose district most of this growth is envisioned to happen, said:

"We just spent five years and more than a million dollars on the Delhi Community Plan. Then the county waltzes in and throws this out without letting me know about it. "Why do we create these (growth plan) committees, tell them we're going to work with them, then shaft them?" Kelsey continued. "I am not a happy camper. I hate to be a scold, but something has to change. We're going to get San Jose gridlock if we don't think a little smarter."

Elsewhere in the pages of local McClatchy outlets a different story is being told: of a mounting foreclosure rate, of developers walking away from options, of the end of the speculative housing boom. However, this obese media conglomerate tells the story strictly from the point of view of finance, insurance and real estate interests. Faced with real news about the tragedies unfolding throughout the north San Joaquin Valley, they quote predators blaming their victims, who are not interviewed about who qualified them for loans they did not understand, who foreclosed on their mortgages and what these victims of predatory lending and real estate huckstering are going to do now.

McClatchy has made a fortune off real estate and finance advertising, urging everyone to "realize the dream of home ownership" in one of the nation's least affordable housing markets. Thousands of speculators plunged into this market, now renting their properties for a quarter or a third the price of the mortgage.

Rising foreclosure rates are beginning to look a bit like the number of dead rodents observed at the beginning of plague outbreaks. The former Pombozastan, the 11th and 18th congressional districts of the north San Joaquin Valley, nationally famous for its aggression against federal environmental law and regulation, is drowning in red ink.

McClatchy is now reduced to writing stories about visions of growth to show it stands squarely behind the disappearing advertising revenue of the huckster class in a region without the jobs to stimulate the demand for housing. This boom was caused by a surplus of real estate speculation, not by genuine demand for housing that few locals could afford except for awhile through time-bomb loans.

In California, land-use decisions are made predominantly by city councils and county boards of supervisors. Reason and legislative intent would suggest that these elected officials would have some care for the health and welfare of their existing communities and would not fall for each and every vision produced by huckster speculators.

Obviously, that is not how it works. The huckster comes to the local land-use authority with a project. If it is sizeable, the huckster provides planning help and biologists to fashion the environmental documents to suit the needs of their employer. Local land-use officials judge the veracity of these documents by weight: the heavier they are the better their arguments must be.

Meanwhile, the huckster has signed an indemnification agreement with the local land-use authority, stating that if some members of the public sue the land-use authority for its approval of the project's environmental documents, regardless of the merits of the public's case, the huckster will pay all legal costs arising from the lawsuits.

Indemnification allows elected officials to treat public opposition to development projects with complete contempt -- and they do. They don't read comment letters and they frequently insult opponents of development when they testify. They just pass the public comment letters on to the hucksters' lawyers. "Your problem now." As long as it doesn't cost the city or county anything in legal expenses, why not approve it?

The answer to that question lies in the legal briefs of the lawsuits brought against those projects. These briefs are taboo topics for the newspapers. Lawsuits against development projects represent opposition to the hand that fattens McClatchy. The conglomerate media chain considers its own interests and allies itself with special interests rather than the common good. McClatchy's idea of a story on the impending environmental disaster in the north San Joaquin Valley is to support Cardoza-UC/Great Valley's call for wider highways, more parkways and more highway interchanges?

McClatchy-Sacramento has now taken to calling people who defend the laws of public process in California "voyeurs." It is a laughably fake journalism to write a story about the Brown Act, which provides Californians with open meeting laws, while simultaneously calling people who insist on their rights under the act as "voyeurs." This attack includes the unsubtle suggestion that if one is not a Big McC professional journalist, he should not be sticking his nose in public business. We have reached a point in most of Central California that what the McClatchy Co. says is news is the only news.

If members of the public Big McC labels "voyeurs" protest that a land-use authority has violated the Brown Act, the politicians say, "Who cares? We're indemnified."

Rather than face the issues on the Riverside Motorsports Park, now that its environmental review has been approved and two lawsuits have been filed against it, Big McC Merced has launched a terrific personal attack on John F. S. Condren, CEO for RMP.

It seems that McClatchy-Merced rag was provided a big bucket of the well known substance and instructed to throw at at the barn door to see what stuck. This, after it endorsed the project and misled potential litigants about the deadline for filing lawsuits against it. Real investigative reporting would have started by reading the environmental impact reports on the project, the briefs of the suits filed against it, and familiarity with basic environmental law.

A racetrack huckster is accused of having lied about his resume.

This is news?

From the standpoint of public health and safety, are the lies Condren is accused of telling on his resume more important than the environmental impacts of his project? Is the story that he may have bilked some Mormon investors in Nauvoo, IL more important than that his project may finally solidify the San Joaquin Valley's position as the worst air pollution basin in the United States, surpassing Los Angeles at last? Is the story that this man went bankrupt twice more important than what his project would do to traffic congestion on narrow county roads used for farm equipment transport, moving cows on foot, or for moving huge quantities of nuts to local processors during the harvest season?

And what about some sort of perspective on the project? What is the point of bringing an eight-track major stockcar venue, which will attract up to 50,000 spectators on feature event days, at the same time as US military forces are losing one war for oil resources and about to start another? What is the message here? We should worship the automobile, the ultimate cause of our resource wars? Or have we been simply inundated with propaganda through our McClatchy outlets for so long we don't know any better? The University of Calfornia has already contaminated groundwater near Tracy with depleted uranium at its bomb-testing site, and now it wants to build a biowarfare lab there, testing the most dangerous toxins known to man. But for years, our conglomerate media has been selling visions -- the sales pitches of private and public hucksters. From Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor of UC Merced through Condren, we've been fed a steady diet of their greedy dreams, based on the exploitation of our land, water, air, and economy?

The problem McClatchy now faces is that all those greedy visions were profit centers for the newspapers. Now they are disappearing, leaving a foreclosure glut in place of a speculative boom in real estate. People in foreclosure are not good advertisers.

McClatchy also faces a crisis in political access. The Pomboza is defunct, Cardoza failed to gut the Endangered Species Act, UC Merced failed to ram its mitigation through federal agencies and is being sued on its community plan, Cardoza and irrigation districts failed to destroy the San Joaquin River Settlement, and -- through the Riverside Motorsports Park approval -- the Merced County Board of Supervisors has been revealed possibly to have been the marks in a long confidence game, which does not inspire confidence in the veracity of their obligatory quotes.

Didn't anyone remember Anne Eisenhower, the "president's granddaughter"? The blonde with the big hats, the big plans for Castle and the non-existent investors? Didn't anyone at the McClatchy outlet remember the immortal lead of pre-McClatchy reporter, Gary L. Jones, on another scam at Castle: "Ding, ding, ding goes the bell. Bounce, bounce, bounce goes the check"?

The factual situation is that two lawsuits have been filed against the Merced County Board of Supervisors, the elected county land-use authority, and a limited liability company called Riverside Motorsports Park. Petitioners argue that the board's approval of the project was illegal for a number of reasons.

There is always dirt. The hit on Condren raises questions.

Who wants the dirt dug up?

When do they want it dug up? (There is very little in this information that was not available before the board approved the project)

Why do they want it dug up?

Are any members of the Nicholson Co. related to county Assistant Planning Director Bill Nicholson?

Other, more speculative questions include:

If Condren truly is the former Nauvoo bunco artist the paper portrays him to be, is it possible, through a shell game with companies, he has managed to escape the indemnification agreement with the county?

If its indemnification is shaky and Condren is absent, what will the county do?

Could these cases lead to judicial review of the corrupt practice of development-project proponents indemnifying the land-use authorities charged with approving their projects under the California Environmental Quality Act?

If Condren actually did break some serious laws and was indicted, what testimony could he offer about how approval of the racetrack project was obtained?

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

Notes:

1-29-07
Merced Sun-Star
Numbers don't add up for RMP -- never did...Steve Cameron
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/columnists/story/13242383p-13878034c.html
Apparently John Condren, the traveling start-up guru who insists he can plop a $250 million racing complex onto a local almond orchard, fudged a bit on the resume he's been selling. Condren's now had to change several things on his Web site bio and backpeddle on a few other curious tidbits... Imagine how that news might play with his would-be partners at NASCAR... Whatever Condren's background and how much of it might be true, it really isn't going to matter much if we're talking about the future of Riverside Motosports Park -- and more specifically, whether Merced County ever might be home to a massive auto-racing project with a price tag in the neighborhood of a quarter-billion bucks. The thing's never going to happen. ...the super-sized monster that Condren's been pitching to Merced politicians and business leaders doesn't have a chance in hell. Never. ...some good news...ultimately we'll see a racing complex built somewhere in the general vicinity of Castle Air Force Base...whatever turns up won't be anything like Condren's proposed Disneyland-with-engines. And it'll cost less...with a price tag somewhere in the $20 million range is not only feasible, it makes good business sense. But the guy's history suggests ideas involving monstrous amounts of money -- not to mention a couple of bankruptcies -- and he definitely enjoys living large... Nobody in Merced County ever has done any serious checking about this kind of megacomplex and where anyone would find the money to build it, so let me help you out. I've talked to people at NASCAR, to track operators, to investment firms who loan money for such things -- and most of them think I'm joking when they hear the full Riverside proposal. "There is no way -- none -- that you could spend $250 million for any kind of auto racing complex in Merced County unless you're Bill Gates and doing it just for a hobby. "It is totally impossible for a racing facility there -- a place without Nextel dates, on top of it -- to generate a fraction of the revenue necessary to handle the debt service just to build the thing. Consider AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants' sparkling facility that cost well north of $350 million when it was privately financed a few years ago...Principal owner Peter Magowan couldn't find a bank in California to loan the $175 million... If that's a problem for the Giants with their string of sellouts and major advertising deals...imagine where on earth anyone would find that kind of money running a motorsports complex which -- sorry for this -- is still considered in the middle of nowhere? "There just aren't going to be 50,000 people coming to Merced County for what would be middle-tier racing at best," admitted a member of Condren's original investment group. "It won't work the way he's been selling it, and it was never going to work." Nope.

Modesto Bee
Tee up 9 more holes, a town?...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13242325p-13877977c.html
TURLOCK -- The men behind JKB Homes...In fields beyond 60 older homes in two nondescript subdivisions bordering the Turlock Golf & Country Club, the builders envisioned a new town...if allowed by Merced County leaders: Add nine holes around which thousands of homes could be built. Plans covering 1,600 acres also feature a village center with shops, lakes and two sites for future Hilmar Unified School District schools. But the focal point remains the golf course. Built in 1925, it's surrounded mostly by dairies and open farmland. In May, JKB quietly submitted a request to Merced County officials for a "guidance package," or a preliminary development plan and schedule. A response from the county is expected in a few months.

1-28-07
Modesto Bee
Gearing up for Growth...Garth Stapley...EDITOR'S NOTE: First in a two-part series.
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13240230p-13875857c.html
A rural swath straddling two counties south of Turlock could be teeming with new homes and tens of thousands of people in the next couple of decades. If plans materialize, unassuming, unincorporated Stevinson, Delhi and Hilmar, plus a new town proposed between the last two, collectively could produce about 50,000 more people. That's like squeezing what would be Merced County's second-largest community, in terms of population, into a relatively compact, unincorporated patch of north Merced County. Turlock is eyeing a southward growth surge... Visionaries see the area producing one of the state's next cities. That would be Delhi...next door, developers want a new, unincorporated town to spring up around the Turlock Golf & Country Club...down the road in Atwater, plans roll on for an eight-track, $240 million raceway complex... The potential for a significant growth wave came up last week in a Washington, D.C., lunch meeting between Rep. Dennis Cardoza and Turlock Mayor John Lazar... But the very prospect of that many more cars, homes and people demands close attention, said Merced County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, who represents most of the area in the potential growth explosion. "We're going to have to approach growth in a very moderate, phased, well-planned method," Kelsey said, "or we're going to have pandemonium." Holding back the tide for now is a lack of adequate asphalt. Roadway, exit changes needed...Charlie Woods, Turlock's community development director. "The whole key is having a connection to 99." Merced County planners will continue shaping a growth plan for Hilmar that would allow it to double in size...owners of land around the famed Stevinson Ranch golf course will bide their time, hoping someday to see nearly 19,000people where now there are 400...Delhi remains the developers' best hope in the near future. Stores would bring tax revenue...That would change in a big way with new shopping centers along Highway 99...stores, planners say, could provide a tax base needed for Delhi to become a city. The advisory council studies and debates and recommends, but has no real control over Delhi's destiny. That power rests with the Merced County Board of Supervisors, whose five members have only one -- Kelsey -- representing the town. A 3-2 majority last month sold out Delhi, Kelsey said, with a vote favoring the Riverside Motorsports Park. Planners went behind her back, she said, to justify a traffic route to the complex from interchanges in and near Delhi. "I'm fairly well disgusted," Kelsey said. "We just spent five years and more than a million dollars on the Delhi Community Plan. Then the county waltzes in and throws this out without letting me know about it. "Why do we create these (growth plan) committees, tell them we're going to work with them, then shaft them?" Kelsey continued. "I am not a happy camper. I hate to be a scold, but something has to change. We're going to get San Jose gridlock if we don't think a little smarter." Sewage expansion...Supervisors supporting the raceway say it presents a golden opportunity to give Merced County a much-needed economic shot in the arm. Delhi's advisory council members, meanwhile, are preoccupied with a more immediate problem: sewage. Retailers will follow homes...Some growing communities require a certain amount of commercial and industrial development as a condition of approving more homes, to keep from becoming too much of a bedroom community, which Delhi already is. Homes cost the government more in police, park and other services than their property taxes provide. But Delhi movers and shakers are resigned to first welcoming more houses, whose developers -- they hope -- will provide the infrastructure needed to lure retailers. Future Growth Hot Spots...Southeast Turlock, Riverside Motorsports Park, Delhi, 99-165 project, Turlock Golf & Country Club, Hilmar & Stevinson

Sewers plug up the plans for Delhi...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13240225p-13875848c.html
A small water and sewer district with a record of chronic environmental violations appears to stand in the path of this town's hope to become a real city. Incorporation could follow huge shopping centers — with a treasure chest of sales taxes — envisioned in Delhi's recently adopted growth plan. But any new stores, not to mention 5,500 more homes, depend on adequate sewer capacity. Home builders hoping to mine gold from the future growth explosion say they are increasingly irritated with foot dragging by the Delhi County Water District... Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board says Delhi's plant for years has discharged into the earth twice the maximum amount of organic matter allowed by law. 'District has not moved forward'...Bert Van Voris, a supervising engineer with the water quality control board, said the plant also polluted groundwater when nitrates leached from a pile of solids mucked from the plant's storage ponds. And, the plant needs more disposal land for the amount of wastewater it treats... Merced County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, who represents Delhi, described sewer board members as "real old school" and "always complaining." "The water board has the ability to lead the incorporation effort," Kelsey said. "But they're just contrary. They don't want to do anything."

Fresno Bee
Revving up air district. Regulators must become more aggressive in struggle for clean air...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/story/26640.html
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has presided over some improvements in air quality since its inception in the early 1990s, but most of its achievements have been driven by outside influences, usually lawsuits by environmentalists or legislation from Sacramento...for example, new regulations governing pollution from Valley agriculture. A number of them have been put in place, against strong opposition from the ag community. But it wasn't the air district that pushed for those changes, it was state Sen. Dean Florez, who managed to get a package of legislation out of Sacramento that has done a great deal to reduce pollution from ag sources. Part of the air district's problem is structural...makeup of the district's governing board is dominated by politicians who are largely beholden to special interests, many of whom are more interested in protecting a profitable status quo than they are in cleaner air. There have been efforts to alter the makeup of the board by adding scientists and environmental voices to the panel, as well as permanent seats for representatives of the largest cities in the eight-county district. Those efforts have been fought tooth-and-nail by the county supervisors who dominate the governing board. The district's leaders have noted that they have no control over so-called "mobile sources," emissions from vehicles... That's true. Federal and state agencies are charged with regulating those emissions, and they haven't been go-getters themselves - especially the feds under the Bush administration. But the air district has been noticeably reticent when it comes to agitating for changes that might actually help reduce vehicular pollution. The district has a pulpit - why isn't it being used to bully recalcitrant federal and state officials into action? The clock is ticking for hundreds of thousands of Valley residents... Many people are fleeing, and others are not moving here because of the filthy air. The status quo is killing people. It's time for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to shift to a higher gear. If it can't, perhaps we need to trade it in on a newer, more aggressively air-friendly model.

1-27-07
Merced Sun-Star
Is John Condren really who he claims to be?...Corinne Reilly, Leslie Albrecht contributed to this story
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13237439p-13873173c.html
Riverside Motorsports Park CEO John Condren has billed himself as a skilled corporate executive and entrepreneur who has successfully launched, managed and sold companies across the country and around the world. But a Sun-Star investigation into Condren's professional past has revealed another picture of the businessman who has promised to build a quarter-billion-dollar racetrack complex that could change the face of Merced County. It's marked by bankruptcies, failed businesses and unpaid debts. Some of the claims Condren has made about his professional past, as posted in a profile that appeared on RMP's Web site, are either embellished or false, the Sun-Star has found. The profile was altered to correct some of the inaccuracies on Wednesday, following inquiries from the Sun-Star. Controversy drew the spotlight...Since initial environmental reviews of Condren's proposal were released in November 2005, the project has become perhaps the most controversial in local history. The debate included little discussion of Condren's professional past and Condren has remained guarded about his background and the project's financial backing, twice declining interviews with the Sun-Star for a profile story. Numerous Web biography inaccuracies... Two bankruptcies were filed... Condren maintains his failed businesses and bankruptcies are no reflection on his ability to manage his current undertakings.A statement attributed to RMP's board of directors that Condren sent the Sun-Star this week said RMP's "board and the company's investors and shareholders are extremely pleased with the integrity, honesty, focus, leadership and resolve shown by Mr. Condren over the last six-and-one-half years that he has led the company."

Farmland skyrocketed in value in racetrack plan...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13237445p-13873182c.html
While the debate over the Riverside Motorsports Park grabbed headlines last year, another story quietly unfolded: how a swath of farmland tucked behind a decommissioned Air Force base, a chicken ranch, and a federal prison came to be worth $12 million. The following timeline traces how it happened.
1930s: The Morimoto family, Japanese farmers, settle in Merced County. They acquire the property northeast of the future Castle Air Force Base over the next several decades, according to the cultural resources section of the Riverside Motorsports Park environmental impact report....1999: The Morimotos propose building a 376-acre industrial park called Pacific ComTech on the property adjacent to Castle Air Force Base...Oct. 5, 2001: John Condren registers Riverside Motorsports Park as a limited liability company with the California secretary of state...Oct. 16, 2002: The Airport Land Use Commission votes unanimously that Pacific ComTech Industrial Park is compatible with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan...Late 2002: John Condren pitches his racetrack idea to The Nicholson Co...Dec. 17, 2002: The Board of Supervisors approves Pacific ComTech Industrial Park...Jan. 17, 2003: Two local environmental groups, the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water, file a lawsuit against the county over the approval of the Pacific ComTech Industrial Park...March 18, 2003: The Nicholson Co. creates a partnership called Race Ranch LP ...March 20, 2003: Race Ranch LP buys the 1,300 acres adjacent to Castle from the Morimotos for $5,143,000...March 25, 2003: Race Ranch LP takes out a $4,225,000 mortgage on the property with Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco...April 8, 2003: The Board of Supervisors meets in closed session and approves a settlement agreement with the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water. The settlement reverses approval of Pacific ComTech Park. The property reverts to agricultural zoning and is removed from the Castle Specific Urban Development Plan area....Aug. 12, 2003: Riverside Motorsports Park LLC publicly announces plans to build...Oct. 1, 2003: The Airport Land Use Commission votes unanimously that the Riverside Motorsports Park is not compatible with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan...Nov. 2005: Merced County releases the draft environmental impact report...September 2006: John Condren registers another LLC, called RMP Agricultural Group, with the Secretary of State...
Dec. 12, 2006: The Board of Supervisors votes on the first series of actions required to allow Riverside Motorsports Park to go forward. The environmental impact report is certified, the land is rezoned from agricultural to planned development and added to the Castle Specific Urban Development Plan, and the board overrules the Airport Land Use Commission's finding the RMP is not compatible with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.
Dec. 18, 2006: Race Ranch LP sells the 1,300 acres near Castle to Riverside Motorsports Park LLC for $12,254,000.
Dec. 18, 2006: Riverside Motorsports Park LLC takes out a $12,500,000 mortgage with Missouri-based First Bank. Condren would not say how much his mortgage payments will be, but he says the profits from 700 acres of almonds on the land and rent paid by farmers leasing the land will cover them.
Dec. 19, 2006: The Board of Supervisors casts final votes to approve the Riverside Motorsports Park by approving the General Plan amendment. RMP has two years to submit a development plan to the county. If it does not meet that deadline, the Board of Supervisors must vote on whether to reverse the zoning and land-use changes approved for RMP, said county spokesman Mark Hendrickson. As the zoning stands now, only a raceway complex can be built on the RMP site. "If they wanted go out there and build a shopping mall, they couldn't do it, it would have to be a multi-venue racetrack," said Hendrickson.
Dec. 21, 2006: Riverside Motorsports Park LLC leases the 1,300 acres to Hull Farms LLC, another company under The Nicholson Company. According to the lease memorandum filed in the county recorder's office, Hull Farms has an option to buy the land that expires in November 2009. Hull Farms and RMP also signed a subordination agreement that says if First Bank forecloses on RMP's mortgage, the lease remains intact, including Hull Farms' option to purchase the land. Both Condren and The Nicholson Company say it's unlikely Hull Farms will exercise its option to buy the 1,300 acres. The option, Condren said, was included in the lease as a "safety valve" in case the Board of Supervisors did not approve the project. Condren said he has no intention of selling the land. Why would I ever put myself in a position to lose the property after we worked so many years?" Condren said. "Why would I sell it when I can build a motorsports park there that's worth way more? Tenacity is my middle name." Condren predicted that the raceway complex will be up and running by the time Hull Farms' option to buy expires. The Nicholson Company could help construct some buildings on the RMP site, said Craig Nicholson, but no formal agreement is in place. Condren also offered The Nicholson Company "membership options" in Riverside Motorsports Park LLC, but The Nicholson Company is not a partner in RMP at this point, Nicholson said.
Jan. 18, 2007: The San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources, and the California Farm Bureau Federation sue the county over the Board of Supervisors' approval of Riverside Motorsports Park. All four groups say the county failed to adequately study RMP's environmental impacts.

1-26-07
Merced Sun-Star
He's all revved up, part 2...Loose Lips
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13232983p-13869661c.html
Riverside Motorsports Park CEO John Condren was apparently "angry and saddened" that someone leaked one of his e-mail messages to Loose Lips last week.
Well, it's happened again.
Here's the message Condren fired off after he found out his e-mail had entered the public domain:
"Gentlemen:
Five minutes ago, I received a telephone call from a reporter at the Merced Sun-Star who stated that their Editor, Mr. Joe Kieta, just handed her a copy of the e-mail I sent out yesterday announcing that RMP had reached a settlement with the Bureau of Prisons and was close to securing a settlement with Foster Farms. She was looking for additional comment.
This e-mail was sent to you -- a very select few -- in confidence to keep you up to date on the RMP project's progress. To that, the legal notice at the bottom of this, and every e-mail sent by RMP, is not placed there solely to take up space on the page. I am sending this e-mail to the 15 of you who were sent the original message. It is now clear that a trust has been broken. I can only assume that other confidential information that I have entrusted within the "leaders of the community" has also been disseminated, including the current campaign to stop the legal action taken against Merced County and RMP by the Farm Bureau.
I am both angry and saddened by this event.
I have notified the Sun-Star that any use, quotation or dissemination of the information within that e-mail will result in legal action by RMP.
John Condren"
Lips would like the "leaders of the community" to know that they are always welcome to send "confidential information" our way.

1-24-07
Merced Sun-star
RMP delay costs all of us...Roger Wood, Atwater...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13226018p-13863438c.html
Now that the Board of Supervisors has completed its actions to approve Riverside Motorsports Park, the big question for the future is, what will the opponents do next? The project created the largest environmental impact report in the county's history (even bigger than the UC Merced report). The opponents were given substantial time to speak to the board about their concerns. I along with many others believe that the opponents (at least some of them) will now try to stop the RMP through some sort of legal action. What will be the result of the possible litigation? The first thing...project will be delayed. The second thing...RMP will be forced to spend a substantial amount of money to defend itself. What is the effect of the possible litigation on the great majority of citizens of Merced County who support RMP? Number one is that we will not get to enjoy the benefits of RMP... A second... we may not get as good a project as has been planned by RMP. Perhaps RMP will find a site somewhere else... I encourage the opponents to stop their opposition to the RMP and participate in the annual reviews that have been set up as part of the county's permit process. These annual reviews are intended to correct problems as they develop. We need to remember that it is in RMP's best interests to remedy any problems that develop. They do have a business to run. Recurring problems are not conducive to a successful business.

1-19-07
Badlandsjournal.com
(from a Merced Sun-Star article that does not seem to be posted on its website now)
After the Merced County Farm Bureau announced plans to sue the county over its approval of the $230 million, 1,200-acre racetrack proposal, RMP CEO John Condren put out a call to arms.
In an e-mail message sent Wednesday afternoon to business heavies Steve Newvine, Julius Pekar, Doug Fluetsch, Robert Rodarte, Bob Carpenter and Bob Rucker, Condren wrote the following. We quote without editing:
“Good day to all -I am pleased to report that RMP has reached a settlement with the US Bureau of Prisons and is close to having a settlement with Foster Farms. Keep your fingers crossed on that one. To date, the Merced County Farm Bureau is the only legal challenge we face. Regarding the Merced County Farm Bureau, they have filed a Notice of Action against Merced County (referencing the RMP EIR) that gives them 10 days to file their actual lawsuit.
Countering this move, our very own Scott Reisdorfer has initiated a campaign to pressure the Farm Bureau to withdraw their lawsuit. Scott has made contact, and continues to make contact, with various farming and ag members and ag-based organizations that are proponents of RMP. All have agreed to inundate the Farm Bureau’s offices with phone calls, fax and e-mails demanding that the Farm Bureau back-down.
If you can help with this campaign, please do so! Thanx - John Condren” --

| »

Ol' Slippery John and the lawsuits

Submitted: Jan 19, 2007

Members of the Board of Supervisors said they weren't surprised by news of the pending lawsuit.

"You can't be surprised that this is what we're seeing," said board Chairman John Pedrozo. "That's why it was so important to get the indemnification, and that's why I voted against the certification (of the environmental reviews)."

Pedrozo and Supervisor Deidre Kelsey voted against approving the project and certifying its environmental reviews in December. The county's three other supervisors voted in favor of the project. – Merced Sun-Star, Jan. 17, 2007

On Tuesday, the Merced County Farm Bureau took the courageous step of filing notice of their intent to sue the county and Riverside Motorsports Park (RMP) for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act. On Thursday, the petition was filed along with petitions from other local citizen groups against the racetrack.

During the public hearing process on the RMP project, severely and illegally truncated as it was by the arrogant, corrupt Merced County Board of Supervisors, Farm Bureau Executive Director Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo and a number of Farm Bureau board members joined many members of the public to testify against the project for as long as they were permitted to speak (five minutes). They submitted extensive written comments. They spoke for longer periods at the town hall meetings sponsored by Supervisor Deidre Kelsey after the public hearing on the project had been closed by former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Mike Nelson. Like many, many other residents of Merced County, the Farm Bureau “exhausted its administrative remedy,” as the lawyers say.

So, now the Farm Bureau are suing the smug, arrogant, corrupt government of Merced County, dominated by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced (since the new House Speaker took him to the river, he’s a reborn Democrat).

The Merced community needs to praise and support the Farm Bureau and other citizens groups for this stand. It is not easy for them. From the time before UC Merced was a “done deal,” the local Farm Bureau has been the target of finance, insurance and real estate special interests (FIRE) as well as the University of California and all local elected officials, because before that time, Merced had a strong commitment to agriculture. Special interests had to get in front of agriculture by trying to spin its largest representative organization, the Farm Bureau. These interests, working through elected officials, set up a host of committees, workshops, plans, programs all aimed at convincing Merced farmers and ranchers that UC Merced would not stimulate the largest agricultural land-eating housing boom the county had ever seen. The politicians even finally agreed to give the county the Williamson Act, which farmers and ranchers had been unable to get through the board of supervisors in two previous attempts over the last 35 years. Somehow, it was sold as “mitigation for UC.”

But that was just a little fib compared to the lies around the great land-deal boondoggle called UC Merced. The problem for Farm Bureau members has been that, as landowners and farmers and ranchers looking at the future of agriculture in Merced County, they have been the objects of most of the strongest special interest, political and economic pressures since the housing boom began.

The FIRE special interests are again lining up to thug around the Farm Bureau. Today the local paper published this interesting tidbit:

After the Merced County Farm Bureau announced plans to sue the county over its approval of the $230 million, 1,200-acre racetrack proposal, RMP CEO John Condren put out a call to arms.
In an e-mail message sent Wednesday afternoon to business heavies Steve Newvine, Julius Pekar, Doug Fluetsch, Robert Rodarte, Bob Carpenter and Bob Rucker, Condren wrote the following. We quote without editing:
"Good day to all -I am pleased to report that RMP has reached a settlement with the US Bureau of Prisons and is close to having a settlement with Foster Farms. Keep your fingers crossed on that one. To date, the Merced County Farm Bureau is the only legal challenge we face. Regarding the Merced County Farm Bureau, they have filed a Notice of Action against Merced County (referencing the RMP EIR) that gives them 10 days to file their actual lawsuit.
Countering this move, our very own Scott Reisdorfer has initiated a campaign to pressure the Farm Bureau to withdraw their lawsuit. Scott has made contact, and continues to make contact, with various farming and ag members and ag-based organizations that are proponents of RMP. All have agreed to inundate the Farm Bureau's offices with phone calls, fax and e-mails demanding that the Farm Bureau back-down.
If you can help with this campaign, please do so! Thanx - John Condren"

Agriculture, still by far the largest industry in the county, suffered a deflation in its value as an industry, while experiencing a tremendous inflation in land value for conversion to subdivisions during the UC Merced hoopla and real estate speculation boom.

Bob “Mr. UC Merced” Carpenter (Leap/Carpenter/Kemps Insurance), is the original, bona fide “Mr. UC Merced.” Bob Rucker, Rucker Construction, worked closely with the original bona fide Mr. UC Merced, when Rucker was chief of staff for state Sen. Dick Monteith, R-Modesto, one of the many political Mr. UC Merceds. Newvine is president and CEO of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce. Fluetsch, of Fluetsch/Busby Insurance, is president of the Merced Boosters. Robert Rodarte represents Citigroup here in town. According to its website, Citigroup is an international financial conglomerate with operations in consumer, corporate, and investment banking and insurance. Julius Pekar represents the Merced County Chamber of Commerce. Scott Reisdorfer seems to be a man involved somehow with auto racing in Fresno. He’s into things like “nostalgia drag racing.” It looks like he’s staff for Condren now.

One could ask, How much do these people want?

All of it, would be the answer.

This is the group dispatched by Condren to put pressure on the Farm Bureau board of directors to block the lawsuit. Despite the ridiculous hash the Sun-Star made of the story Thursday, the lawsuit was filed in a timely manner. Three other local groups filed another lawsuit on the same day. The Merced FIRE faction will leave the heckling and heavy whispering campaign to Don Bergman and others of his ilk, now below the new speculator economy scum line.

Appreciation for farming, the agricultural economy and natural resources has fallen as rapidly in Merced County as farm real estate values have appreciated. Depreciated as vital economic producers, farmers are now appreciated as owners of land, as long as they were willing to sell it. And, by the way, if they decide to keep it and continue to farm, they should keep their mouths shut, according to Condren’s finance, insurance and real estate claque and the chamber flaks.

All growth is good, according to Merced FIRE and their bought and sold politicians, the elected board of supervisors and the city councils in the county. Each time the supervisors have amended the county General Plan, which recognized agriculture as the most important industry in the county, more agricultural land was taken for real estate development. The Farm Bureau has joined early critics of the evolving slurbocracy and become more critical of the county’s de facto policy of amending the General Plan whenever a subdivision is proposed, to the point that it offers no guidance for “planning” at all! The Farm Bureau also has been the agricultural community’s most consistent public opponent of more lot splits on farm and ranch land.

Such is the toady local press that, after mangling a good story about courage and principle, it ends on two lies: that indemnification is good policy; and the Chairman of the Board John Pedrozo voted against the RMP project.

Indemnification was described in a Coalition Statement signed by 17 local, regional, and statewide organizations last spring:

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

Adopted 2006
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
Merced River Valley Association
Planada Association
Le Grand Association
Communities for Land, Air & Water
Planada Community Development Co.
Central Valley Food & Farmland Coalition
Merced Group of Sierra Club
Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge VernalPools.Org
California Native Plant Society
Stevinson Citizen’s Group
San Bruno Mountain Watch
San Joaquin Valley Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Ol’ Slippery John likes indemnification because it shields the board from having to pay public funds for the legal consequences of its decisions. We can’t believe the supervisors themselves were ever bright enough to come up with the lipstick on this pig: that through indemnification the public actually benefits from projects destroying health, public safety, quality of life, agricultural land, natural resources and wildlife habitat.

If the political approach worked, if politicians like Ol' Slippery and his fellow supervisors actually listened to the public rather than the special interests, indemnification would be unnecessary. But, since the arrival of UC Merced and the Merced FIRE speculators, the entire local planning and land-use political faculty – city and county – has been captured by outside special interests. Lawsuits have been the only way the public could make any headway against special interest political pressure.

FIRE, the finance, insurance and real estate sector that controls the state government and its congressional delegation lock, stock and barrel,has found a way to make local elected officials comfortable: indemnification against any financial responsibility from lawsuits filed by citizens and organizations with legal standing to oppose environmentally ruinous land-use decisions.

Indemnification is one of those aspects of corruption that make for stupid county supervisors. Is Ol’ Slippery John stupid enough to believe that the public is going to swallow his story about voting against the RMP project just because he repeats nearly daily that he did? Or is something else going on?

If Pedrozo wanted to stop RMP, all he had to do was vote with Kelsey against the board motion to override the Castle Airport Land Use Commission’s designation of a 10,000-foot noise and safety zone around Castle airport. That motion required four yes votes to pass. If Pedrozo had voted with Kelsey against it, there would have been only three votes for the override, the project would have been stopped and there would be no lawsuits against it.

I spent the evening a year ago in a public hall in Livingston, arguing with Pedrozo about a completely illegal mile-long sewer line the county had allowed, if not permitted, to be built from the Livingston wastewater facility right through the middle of prime farmland. A 42-inch sewer trunk line tends to induce urban development.

It was quite an ugly party, unless you enjoy political pathology. Pedrozo stood before the townspeople, surrounded by county and city staff and officials, all of them lying in their teeth. The city officials and staff said they had legal authority to permit the pipeline, built entirely on county land. The county staff and Pedrozo denied any responsibility for the project.

The fix was in so deep, it was almost as if a band of angels had laid that 42-inch, mile-long pipeline through prime farmland in the middle of the night accompanied by a celestial choir.

Pedrozo shouted down the few people who objected to the illegal pipeline, suggesting they were outside agitators. All three of us lived closer to Livingston than most of the outside liars on the stage, including Slippery John.

The worst thing about Pedrozo is not even that he can’t tell the truth. The more we listen to Ol’ Slippery, the more we suspect he actually believes he did vote against the RMP project. And it is clear he sees absolutely no connection between his vote to approve the Castle airport override and the present lawsuits brought by the Merced County Farm Bureau and three community groups.

It’s one thing to deceive the public consciously. It is quite a different thing to deceive oneself. Contemplating Ol' Slippery's wiggling around indemnification and his crucial vote for RMP, we find ourselves at the borderline between the corrupt and the wacko.

| »

Merced residents sue County and Riverside Motorsports Park

Submitted: Jan 18, 2007

Merced County sued over approval of Riverside Motorsports Park

MERCED (Jan. 18) – Three local groups on Thursday filed a petition in Merced Superior Court against Merced County and the Riverside Motorsports Park (RMP).

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources filed the petition under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the County’s approval of the final environmental impact report for the RMP project.

The petition asserts the County failed to follow proper CEQA procedures, violated CEQA and abused its discretion in a number of ways, some of which will be familiar to participants in hearings on the RMP project.

The citizen groups state that Merced County failed under provisions of CEQA:

To recirculate the RMP project final environmental impact report (EIR) for public review and comment;

To consider substantial evidence in the record to support its statement of overriding considerations in connection with the approval of the project;

By approving the RMP project final EIR despite the availability of feasible alternatives and alternative site configurations that would substantially lessen or avoid the project’s significant adverse impacts;

By improperly and too narrowly defining the project objectives to allow adequate treatment and consideration of the project alternatives;

To analyze the potential impacts of the project’s inconsistency with the Merced County Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUP) and further failure under CEQA to analyze the impacts of overriding the Merced County Airport Land Use Commission’s determination that the project is inconsistent with the ALUP;

To disclose, analyze, consider and mitigate the project’s significant impacts to water quality, biological resources, traffic and circulation.

The citizen groups also assert that Merced County abused its discretion by failing to consider written comments submitted during the Oct. 25, 2006 County of Merced Planning Commission hearing concerning consideration of the RMP project.

A spokesperson for the Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources said Thursday, “Merced County government failed its citizens with the approval of this project. The County sold out substantial economic, agricultural and environmental resources to outside special interests by approving RMP.”

“The supervisors violated numerous provisions of environmental and public-process law to railroad this project through,” said Lydia Miller, president of San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center. “Increasing numbers of Merced County residents realize that their local government has been fatally corrupted by special interests and that they will have to go to court to protect their natural and wildlife resources, water supply and quality and air quality, and their agricultural economy, for the common good. Otherwise, special interests will turn Merced County and the rest of the San Joaquin Valley into another San Fernando Valley.

“We are very confident in the strong petition submitted to the Merced Superior Court today by attorney Gregory Maxim, of the Roseville firm Sproul and Trost,” Miller added.

The petition and notice of intent is attached.

For further information contact:

Lydia Miller GREGORY L. MAXIM
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center Attorney at Law
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax Sproul and Trost LLP
(916) 783-6262 tel

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
Protect Our Water
Citizens for the Protection of Merced County Resources

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The Invisible Middle Finger

Submitted: Dec 24, 2006
Invisible hand
Definition
Term used by Adam Smith to describe the natural force that guides free market capitalism through competition for scarce resources. According to Adam Smith, in a free market each participant will try to maximize self-interest, and the interaction of market participants, leading to exchange of goods and services, enables each participant to be better of than when simply producing for himself/herself. He further said that in a free market, no regulation of any type would be needed to ensure that the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services took place, since this "invisible hand" would guide market participants to trade in the most mutually beneficial manner.

Smith published his theory the year the United States was formed and declared its independence from Great Britain. Manufacturing was in its infancy. Nevertheless, for the last 30 years, American economists have re-embraced Smith’s invisible hand with the fervor of rightwing religious fanatics embracing the Rapture, Armageddon and all that.

But, in 2000, the financial services sector of the US economy became for the first time in history a larger percentage of the gross domestic product than manufacturing. This year, US agricultural imports may exceed its agricultural exports. The balance has steadily shrunk for the last decade.

Contemplating this impressive statistic, the Badlands Journal editorial board responded with a genuine new economic theory, which we call the Invisible Middle Finger.

Now, the strength of a theory lies in its simplicity and its capacity to explain diverse economic phenomena. We believe the Invisible Middle Finger – what could be simpler? – explains it all.

A year and a half ago, the Merced real estate market was described as one of the most inflated markets in the nation. Farmers couldn’t get farmworkers because everybody was a carpenter. Developments were sprouting as fast as new orchards once did. The Invisible Middle Finger had guided Merced County ever since the UC Merced project was approved, with a series of economic overrides of the environmental review documents, and set loose a speculative real estate feeding frenzy with the result that the county now leading the nation in home mortgage foreclosures.

Nevertheless, enormous profits were made on inflated land values and by the speculative “home flippers” who didn’t get left standing in the game of musical chairs. The huge inflation in land values also enabled local landowners to borrow a great deal more money.

Throughout it all, the local paper, the Merced Sun-Star, bought by the McClatchy chain soon after UC Merced was a done deal, has been a fervent if unconscious choirmaster of the Invisible Middle Finger. Why, just the other day, in a story about how an allegedly corrupt former district attorney was exonerated for serving alcohol to a minor, who was later the victim of vehicular homicide, could not bring itself to relate that it was two UC Merced students who ran the boy down. In our faith-based real estate speculation, we cannot bear to speak a negative word about the little darling credit cows at UC Merced. Surely, the Invisible Middle Finger is the only explanation.

Basically, the Sun-Star got the story right on the Dec. 12 supervisors meeting: Supervisor John Pedrozo voted against the Riverside Motorsparts Pork final environmental impact report on a losing 2-3 vote and then voted with the majority, providing the necessary vote to pass the airport noise/safety zone restriction, without which the RMP project could not have gone forward, despite approval of its environmental review. It wrote a headline: "Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo votes YES on Riverside Motorsports Park."

Somebody, and we think ol’ Slippery John might have been part of it, screamed bloody murder, so the paper changed the headline. What they should have done was keep the headline, bring the airport-vote graph up near the top, and explain what it meant. While we doubt that was beyond the compositional capacity of the reporters, the Invisible Middle Finger had thwonked the editorial mind. So the paper caved, and confused the public.

This may be an excellent lesson for the paper and a warning to keep editors outside the vicinity of an actual story. Actual reporting only seems to confuse them. They belong in offices with doors that close and out of the hair of reporters trying to do the difficult work of covering public meetings.

However, under the aegis of the Invisible Middle Finger, we encountered the faith-based newspaper management belief that the only journalism than sells is malicious gossip. Newspaper subscriptions are falling but the faith goes on.

This “personal” story focused on Supervisor John Pedrozo, who had made no secret that he would vote for the noise/safety zone reduction, for the benefit of other projects, although he would vote against the racetrack. We knew that Pedrozo had been thumped in the head by the Invisible Middle Finger. The only real surprise that could have come out of that meeting would have been if Supervisor Kathleen Crookham had sided with Pedrozo and Supervisor Diedre Kelsey against certifying the environmental review of RMP. But even Crookham wasn’t dumb enough to ignore the Invisible Middle Finger. Board Chairman Mike Nelson was never in doubt, and spoke of wishing “to leave a legacy” ( a monument to the Invisible Middle Finger). Nor was Supervisor Gerry O’Banion, a politician perhaps the chosen messenger in Merced County for the Invisible Middle Finger.

The supervisors meeting was an evening event, which went on until “the wee hours” as the paper put it. The paper has a deadline, so the editor and at least one reporter left after the early votes to file the story.

In short, the paper screwed up the story and confused its readers needlessly.

We should have known what would happen the moment the editor appeared, because this was the guy who lectured to the public about the meaning of irony in defense of a racist column about Border Patrol busts in Planada last spring. There doesn’t seem to be anybody too poor, vulnerable or innocent, especially if they have names like Oseguera or Gomez, who can’t be the victim of this paper’s madly spinning moral compass needle.

But the Invisible Middle Finger is pointing directly at Planada real estate and so that needle just spins and spins.

The paper’s sports editor got into the story last weekend by asking who the RMP investors were.

"No, I'm not discussing our investors and their identity doesn't matter in any case," (RMP CEO John) Condren sniffed when asked about it on Friday.
Fine, that kind of arrogance will play with reporters and various members of the public who dare touch on subjects he doesn't like, but...
What about the county?
Incredibly, nobody on the board seems to care where Condren has stumbled across a quarter-billion dollars for the largest private investment in Merced County history.
And despite Condren's scoffing at the question, it does matter.

It was a fair, necessary, competent reporter question. We do know the names of investors in the sports franchises of our region: Lurie, Magowan, Shorenstein, Finley, Haas, the Maloufs, the DeBartalos, Davis, Kelley. Local NASCAR team sponsors include the Piccininis (SaveMart) and the Fosters (Foster Farms). They are wealthy people with good credit ratings.

It hasn’t been since one of the early information sessions on RMP that investor names like West Hills Investors and Race Partners have shown up on RMP flak. These names are about as revealing as Acme LLC or ABC Inc. or XYZ Import-Export and, in any event, have disappeared from the Internet. Perhaps RMP CEO John Condren’s letter to investors accurately predicting how Tuesday’s votes would go two years ago spooked the investors after the letter was leaked and published.

The problem with Condren’s arrogant letter was that it didn’t have any class, and you usually expect $250 million to come with a little class, particularly in the sporting world. But, once you grasp the theory of the Invisible Middle Finger, any relationship between class and $250 million magically disappears.

The personal attack on the sports editor in the letters-to-editor space was immediate and severe. The first writer advised the paper’s management: “Put editor on a leash.”

It is always interesting to read the Merced Sun-Star and see the half-truths that Sun-Star Editor Joe Kieta's reporters have to say. Another attack on Riverside Motorsports Park CEO John Condren was in Saturday's issue of the Sun-Star. It once again proved that the reporters don't know anything about what they write.… If Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron had done some investigation he would have had a number of answers to his questions. He would have known that a group of private investors don't have to have their names in the paper. The firm that is funding the track is very reliable and trustworthy. Now wouldn't that have been good for the paper to report that fact?

Actually, Cameron wouldn’t have gotten any answers from investigation, at least not on the Internet, which provides exactly zilch information on RMP investors, other than several references to Kenny Shepherd putting together a group.

People could still legitimately ask where Condren and Shepherd are going to find $250 million. Nobody really even knows who paid for the ridiculous EIR done for the project or who will be writing the checks to indemnify the County for legal expenses arising from lawsuits against it for having passed this indefensible environmental review. While the duo seem to be competent pitchmen and competent racecar drivers (and Sheperd is possibly a competent manager of Altamont), they just don’t look like $250 million. And nobody who has been following this project ever supposed that they were $250 million.

The sports editor’s professional question drew a second letter attacking the sports editor was published:

For someone who has "spent the better part of a decade covering the business of sports and entertainment," he doesn't know much about these things. Thankfully the county and our supervisors do. The books and finances of any privately held entity are indeed that -- private. Ask any entertainer or track owner, or for that matter, any farmer or rancher. The Sun-Star's obsession with the finances of private citizens is more than disturbing.
Maybe the Sun-Star is the greatest paper in the Central Valley.
And maybe it's a fish wrapper.
If Steve Cameron was hired to cover the impact of RMP and professional racing, he may be guessing for years where his press pass went.

These two writers, who regularly defend local real estate speculators, are out to take this sports editor down for asking the right question at the right time and for describing Condren’s rudeness.

For lack of any accurate information about whom the investors in RMP are, people begin to speculate. Speculation moves around two poles: either Condren has $250 million, or he doesn’t.

If he doesn’t, this can lead to all kinds of wild questions, take your pick. For example, what sort of relationship does Condren have with Foreign Trade Zone #226 Merced and how necessary is the appearance of such a project for the future of that enterprise, whose official grantee, according to the federal government, is the Merced County Board of Supervisors? Is it merely coincidental that “control” of the former Castle Air Force Base passed from the federal government to Merced County a week after the RMP project was approved and the airport noise/safety zone was shrunk to fit RMP and other projects in its vicinity?

Students of the Invisible Middle Finger recall the famous Pegasus project, fomented upon Castle by an alleged granddaughter of President Eisenhower. They also recall, a few years later, a great, dishonored prophet of the Finger, Sun-Star reporter Gary L. Jones’ famous lead concerning another disappeared Castle project: “Ring, ring, ring goes the bell. Bounce, bounce, bounce goes the check …”

If Condren does have $250 million, how much of it is local money and who are the local investors? People against this environmental disaster might be interested in boycotting their businesses if they knew who they were, because this project is going to be the very definition of environmental impacts and cumulative environmental impacts. People know it and they are angry at what they perceive as the betrayal by their elected officials and local business leaders.

Of course, Badlands Journal’s gifted editorial board knows it is just the working of the Invisible Middle Finger.

We don’t know who the investors are or why the supervisors approved this project. We do know that the Invisible Middle Finger is hovering over Merced making the well-known gesture. In light of the letter writers’ vitriol, we suspect the Invisible Middle Finger is at least in part homegrown. But, who knows? There is a whole lot of funny money in the American economy today and it doesn’t have any kind of conscience about public health and safety.

Finally, we return to the Sun-Star editor’s weekend apologetics and attack on ol’ Slippery John Pedrozo.

I called Pedrozo last week and asked him to explain the rationale behind his split decision. He said that he voted "yes" for the airport rule change because it possibly could affect other proposed developments in the area.
But Pedrozo is flat-out wrong about that. The vote was only about RMP and did not bind further developments.

In fact, the vote “bound” the airport to shrink its noise/safety barrier. It didn’t bind any developments. It unbound them from sensible noise and safety standards around an airport.

Once again, we have the friendly, apologetic editor setting the record straight, while continuing down the dimwitted “personal” story angle. And getting the story wrong. This is a political, financial and, at the moment, above all a legal story. About the only thing we can deduce from Kieta’s column is that the Sun-Star will be going after John Pedrozo like it went after Gordon Spenser. The two letter writers are trying to intimidate the sports editor out of going after Condren in the same way.

This story isn’t about Pedrozo, Condren, or any of the supervisors. The Invisible Middle Finger bent down and popped them all on their noggins and they are seeing themselves as stars. Actually, the supervisors did an excellent political job of diffusing the public with four town hall meetings, which altogether, included probably 15 hours of public testimony that didn’t count a bit, because they weren’t legal public hearings. Three of the meetings were held by Kelsey, an opponent of the project because it will seriously impact here district. The last was held before the Dec. 12 vote by the project’s strongest supporter, Chairman Nelson. Pedrozo made no secret of how he was going to vote. His motive for those votes was clear to any enlightened observer: the Invisible Middle Finger was hovering right over his head and pointing straight down upon him that night.

Meanwhile, the Invisible Middle Finger is drawing "fully controlled access" expressways all over the county.

However, despite the defeat of reason in favor of speculation to establish a temple to the stock car in one of the two worst air pollution zones in America as a failed war for oil rages on in the Mideast killing, among many, many others, soldiers from Merced and the San Joaquin Valley, and the local housing boom busts as spectacularly as the inflation in home prices a year ago, and unfinished subdivisions surround the city, there was a positive result. The public has begun to realize that their local government is corrupt and has begun to say it out loud.

Badlands Journal editorial board
-------------------

Notes:

Invisible hand definition
http://www.investorwords.com/2633/invisible_hand.html

American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips, pp. 266-267

USDA Economic Research Service
http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FATUS/

12-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
Risky loans squeeze owners
...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13133035p-13779704c.html
Merced homeowners who took out high-risk loans this year are more likely to fall into foreclosure than borrowers in any other city nationwide, a new study predicts. Merced's projected foreclosure rate ranked No. 1 on a list of 376 cities compiled by the Center for Responsible Lending, a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization
...study predicts that 25 percent of Merced's subprime loans will end in foreclosure. Subprime loans are made to borrowers with poor credit histories...include adjustable interest rates... When the interest rate increases, payments can jump up by 30 percent in some cases. Borrowers are faced with "payment shock," said Kathleen Keest, one of the study's authors. "You've got this perfect storm of these adjustable rates starting to adjust at a time when housing prices are coming down and interest rates are going up." Skyrocketing home values encouraged borrowers to take out risky loans because they assumed they could refinance with a better loan after their equity increased. "Here we are two years later and that (home value) appreciation is not happening." "What goes up does sometimes come down." Victor Jimenez of First Merced Mortgage Co. said he's noticed an increase in foreclosure activity. Two years ago when Merced was rated No. 2 in the state in home value increases, buyers flocked to the area... "People just used their houses as an ATM machine," Jimenez said. "It was a disaster waiting to happen and now it's happening."

1-28-06
Merced Sun-Star
D.A. may have served alcohol to underage drinker who died
… Chris Collins
Sun-Star investigation: Gordon Spencer relied on others to check IDs at country club
Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer has admitted that he "probably" served alcohol to an underage drinker at a party last month who was later killed by a car as he walked home.
Spencer also said he didn't check IDs at the party while he served drinks as a bartender, but instead expected others to keep underage drinkers away from the alcohol.
Greg Gomez, a 20-year-old from South Merced, was served alcohol at a Dec. 18 buffet dinner at the Merced Golf and Country Club, the Sun-Star has learned.
He was invited to the party by his girlfriend, who works at the club. The dinner and free drinks at the bar were arranged by managers at the club who hosted the party to thank employees.
Spencer said he wasn't sure whether he served Gomez alcohol, but added: "I'm not going to say I didn't." …

12-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
UC, city are one
...Josh Franco, UC Merced Student Body President...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13133053p-13779716c.html
Much has been said about the relationship between students and the community this semester. People who continue to erect boundaries between students and the community further propagate an "us versus them" mentality; however, I write to say that we are truly one and the same. We each contribute to the vitality of this planet, whether it's planting crops, mowing lawns, cleaning toilets, serving food, trading stocks, attending city council meetings, writing our representatives, e-mailing our professors, researching alternative energies, discovering cures for aliments or contemplating the future...while some semblance of division will always exist because few people will always feel unappreciated or unwelcome, such should not deter us from making our community what it must be: an inspiring beacon of perpetual hope. Students value Merced, and this region, for the opportunities it offers and responsibility of serving the public it bestows upon us and we share this responsibility with the community. Therefore, I conclude with a heartfelt "Thank you" to the people of the city of Merced for giving students the opportunity to learn about, live in and love the Valley!

Badlandsjournal.com – April, 2006
You can come to our Valley but can you play our blue violin?

12-2-06
Modesto Bee
Buying house still out of reach for most
Report ranks Stanislaus nearly last in affordability
… By J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/v-rssxml/story/13069778p-13723130c.html
Despite falling home prices, the Northern San Joaquin Valley continues to have among the least affordable housing markets in the nation, according to new statistics.
Median-income families could afford to buy fewer than 5 percent of the homes sold in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties during July, August and September.
Nationwide, median-income families could afford 40.4 percent of the homes sold, according to the National Association of Home Builders-Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.
In Stanislaus County, 4.1 percent of homes were affordable, because the median price was $372,000 and the median income was $54,400.
In Merced County, 4.3 percent were affordable; the median price was $359,000 and the median income was $46,400.
In San Joaquin County, 4.8 percent were affordable; the median price was $434,000 and the median income was $57,100.
Northern San Joaquin Valley homes weren't always so costly. In 1999, more than half of the homes sold in the three counties were affordable to those with median incomes.
The index showed that Los Angeles County was the least affordable place to buy. Median-income families there could afford 1.8 percent of the homes, because the median home cost was $523,000, while the median income was $56,200.
To see the index, including data going back to 1991, go to: www.nahb.org/hoi.

12-20-06
Merced Sun-Star
County controls Castle property
…Abby Souza
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13130076p-13776995c.html
Few property owners will take a $10 check in exchange for more than 1,900 acres, but that is exactly what Merced County paid the Air Force for land at Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center.
At Tuesday's Merced County Board of Supervisors meeting, Board Chairman Mike Nelson handed a $10 check to Air Force Real Property Agency's Philip Mook.
In exchange, the county and several other groups now own 1,991 acres on the former Air Force base.
The "purchase" was actually a transfer of deeds for the land, said John Fowler, county director of commerce, aviation and economic development. The $10 was representative of a title transfer fee of one of those deeds …In the meantime, the board also approved a management agreement with Federal Merced Associates. That company will act as landlords for the property for the next five years, as well as market and sell property within the base with board approval.
This company will pay the county $1 million annually in collected rent and other income …

Put editor on a leash...Don Bergman...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13130091p-13776971c.html
It is always interesting to read the Merced Sun-Star and see the half-truths that Sun-Star Editor Joe Kieta's reporters have to say. Another attack on Riverside Motorsports Park CEO John Condren was in Saturday's issue of the Sun-Star. It once again proved that the reporters don't know anything about what they write. I have had experience with half-truths written by the reporters at the Sun-Star...seem that Kieta wants to create as much controversy as possible in the articles, maybe he thinks this will sell more papers instead of making the paper look like it doesn't know what they are doing. If Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron had done some investigation he would have had a number of answers to his questions...that a group of private investors don't have to have their names in the paper. The firm that is funding the track is very reliable and trustworthy. The Sun-Star and The Modesto Bee came out in support of the project, so why now are they attempting to discredit the project? Maybe Hank Vander Veen should get his editor on a leash and wait until the project is developed and then hold Riverside to what Condren has said. EDITOR'S NOTE: Cameron is an internationally recognized expert on sports facilities -- including racetracks.

12-21-06
Merced Sun-Star
Attack wasn't necessary
...David Wood, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13133052p-13779729c.html
To paraphrase, it's amazing after four years, Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron is still guessing... What's with the personal attacks on John Condren? Have some degree of professionalism! For someone who has "spent the better part of a decade covering the business of sports and entertainment," he doesn't know much about these things. Thankfully the county and our supervisors do. The books and finances of any privately held entity are indeed that -- private. Maybe the Sun-Star is the greatest paper in the Central Valley. And maybe it's a fish wrapper.

12-13-06
Merced Sun-Star
RMP gets a green light
...Corinne Reilly...Mercedsunstar.com
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13108206p-13757468c.html
Riverside Motorsports Park moved from plan to reality early Wednesday morning when the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the raceway complex in a series of votes that spanned eight and half hours. With Supervisors Deidre Kelsey and John Pedrozo dissenting on two key votes, plans for the 1,200-acre racing venue earned just enough support to move forward. The board's 2:30 a.m. decision followed hours of emotional public testimony from raceway supporters and opponents...300 people filled the board chambers and nearby overflow rooms at the meeting's 6 p.m. start...the final vote was cast just before 2:30 a.m. the crowd had thinned to a weary three dozen. Kelsey voiced the strongest opposition to the raceway -- at one point reading a 35-minute statement condemning the project as a disaster for taxpayers and an attack on farmers and ranchers near the raceway's future northern Merced County site. Kelsey slammed environmental reviews of the project as inadequate and rushed, urging the board to delay its vote until more studies on the project's impacts could be completed. She said approving of the project would damage the public trust and disgrace the supervisors. "As this project sits in front of me today, it's terrible," said Kelsey. "...The credibility of our board is on the line with this." Pedrozo cast the only other votes against the project. "I know what it is to be a farmer and I know what it is to have cars coming down your country roads," said Pedrozo. "I can't support the (environmental impact report), not until I am totally confident that all the people that live out there are taken care of." The board voted on six motions that collectively allowed the project to move forward. By the end of the meeting, the board had voted to approve the project's environmental reviews, to allow traffic and noise from the raceway to exceed current county standards, and to overrule a finding by the Airport Land Use Commission that the racetrack's site is too close to Castle Airport's runway.

12-18-06
Merced Sun-Star

Steve Cameron: Riverside has too many unanswered questions
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/sports/story/13119426p-13766961c.html
It feels like the hollering and arguing have been raging forever. Two years?
Three? Four?
The Board of Supervisors perhaps put an end to the debate this week, approving all the key provisions which give the green light to Riverside Motorsports Park -- a $240 million development that would change the face of Merced County.
Note the key word -- perhaps…In any event, Condren insists the board never inquired about his investors. And in this case, his routinely smug tone was justified.
"A list of investors was neither asked for, nor does the county have such a list," said Mark Hendrickson, the county's director of governmental affairs.
Don't you want to scream: Why not?
It's astonishing what the county board doesn't know and didn't ask about the Riverside Motorsports Park -- despite a request to change the general plan regarding land use for that property and obvious opposition from a significant segment of the population.
Even Condren's allies don't really know much about the business plan which supposedly provides an underpinning for the motorsports park.
The local business community, which has supported Riverside while dreaming of the millions which could be pumped into our economy (Condren's figures, naturally..), has little clue how the project really might work.
To borrow an old line, you could fill the Grand Canyon with what we don't know about the Riverside project.
Or about Condren, for that matter.
Maybe Riverside Motorsports Park could be the greatest thing to hit the Central Valley since cows.
And maybe it's a dead fish.
Amazing that after four years, we're still guessing...

Riverside Motorsports Park, 1 January 2005 “To all our valued investors and supporters, Happy New Year!”

Although it’s too early to start planning a ground-breaking party, we can report that RMP has won the support of 4 of the 5 members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors … and we may succeed in securing the unanimous support of the Board once the EIR is released. In addition, RMP has secured the approval and support of State Senator Jeff Denham, US Congressman Dennis Cardoza, 5 Chambers of Commerce within Merced County, the City Councils of Atwater and Merced, and RMP has the support of the California Builders Industry Association. Added to this list are over 1,500 local Merced County citizens who have signed to be on our project update mailing/e-mail list.

12-23-06
Merced Sun-Star
Pedrozo could have voted down RMP -- but didn't
...Joe Kieta
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/columnists/story/13138811p-13784799c.html
Dec. 14 edition. It was right there in big, colored type on the front page: "Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo votes YES on Riverside Motorsports Park." I distinctly remembered when Pedrozo said he was against the park's environmental impact report -- which I took to mean he was opposed to the Riverside project moving forward as-is...struck at how strongly he voiced his opposition. How could we have printed that Pedrozo voted "yes" when he clearly voted "no"?...a razor-sharp copy editor caught the error and it only appeared in half of all copies. But was it really a mistake? I'm convinced that it wasn't an error at all. When you whittle it down and trim out all of the baloney, Pedrozo voted "yes" when it counted most. The first involved whether to certify the environmental impact report...it passed 3-2... The second (and most critical) vote concerned changing rules that require a certain distance between a development and Castle Airport's runway. The changes, which essentially sidestep the airport land use commission's rules, require a 4-1 vote of the supervisors to pass. If the vote failed, the RMP project would have been essentially dead. Pedrozo voted "yes." In essence, the fate of the project was in Pedrozo's lap -- and he put it over the top. Pedrozo said that he voted "yes" for the airport rule change because it possibly could affect other proposed developments in the area. But Pedrozo is flat-out wrong about that. The vote was only about RMP and did not bind further developments. If Pedrozo really, truly was against Riverside Motorsports Park, he would have voted "no" on the airport land use vote. But he didn't. Whatever you think about RMP (and this newspaper has cautiously endorsed it, mind you), Pedrozo's "no" and "yes" votes are just plain contradictory. I hate mistakes in the paper. But I love pointing out hypocrisy and political gamesmanship -- two terms that seem to fit Pedrozo like a pair of trusty Levis.

Keep media untethered...Mike Salm, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13138794p-13784818c.html
This is not the first time I've seen a letter to the editor that says, in effect, "put the editor on a leash." It also happened earlier this year when there was a lot of investigative reporting regarding the behavior of a few government officials in Merced. You never want to get too close to some government officials. They don't like it. So should we, the people, then be like a possum and smile, roll over and play dead? In this country we have a government of the people, for the people. We have a right to know how our government functions.

Plainsburg resident's attempt to recall supervisor fails...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13138783p-13784863c.html
County auditor Stephen Jones said Friday that Owens didn't serve Pedrozo with notice of the recall in accordance with state guidelines. "You swore under penalty of perjury that you had made proof of personal service on John Pedrozo," Jones wrote in a letter to Owens, dated Dec. 18. "However, you did not make personal service as you attested, as Mr. Pedrozo was out of town." The letter said that the county's attorney has determined the recall petition is invalid. Owens said he tried on Friday to personally serve Pedrozo, but couldn't track him down. Now Owens said he intends to serve Pedrozo via certified mail.

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