Federal Government

Bush in Pombozastan

Submitted: Oct 04, 2006

Tuesday's events raised about $400,000 for Pombo, $600,000 for Doolittle and $1.2 million for the Republican National Committee.
-- Los Angeles Times, Oct. 4, 2006

President Bush came to Pombozastan yesterday to tell wealthy contributors that Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy, was a good man of the soil and that Democrats were wimps giving aid and comfort to the enemy for suggesting that suspension of habeas corpus, pedophilia, lying under oath, inventing WMDs in Iraq, torture, outing an undercover CIA agent, vote rigging and other assorted acts of his administration were illegal.

Then, there is that third message about "staying the course." According to this line, the only real American patriotic attitude is to remain steadfastly terrified in support of an unjustified war now longer than World War II, which, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate, is creating more hatred against the US and more terrorists. Incidently, it appears to be a war we are losing for lack of troops and sufficient political support in either Iraq or the US. The only winners are the president's friends in the military contract business.

It was fitting that a president who has brought so much "moral clarity" to us all should throw his arm around Pombo -- loyal minion of the one-party Republican tyranny in Congress who is designated one of its 13 most corrupt members -- and declare him "a man who stands on principle" when in fact he is a man who stands solely for his own family's special real estate interest. It makes sense, that is, if you consider how much his audience paid for its tickets. These plutocrats have never been too interested in the Constitution. They have always regarded the political system as their own personal casino. They're just paying for those Republican tax cuts for the rich, anti-environmental policy, and farm subsidies (by any other name) to keep on rolling along.

Dennis Cardoza, who represents nobody you know socially and whose only known political affiliation is to the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrat blue heelers for the right wing, is the other end of the Pomboza. Cardoza is the Blue Dog propaganda director and is reportedly off campaigning for coalition members in the red states.

Bill Hatch
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Oct. 4, 2006

Bush campaigning in Valley...Ben van der Meer, Modesto Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12835577p-13520643c.html
STOCKTON -- President Bush cast Rep. Richard Pombo's re-election as vital to the war on terrorism and national security in a fundraiser Tuesday at the Civic Auditorium...helped raise an estimated $1 million for Pombo and Republican congressman, John Doolittle of Roseville, while trying to shore up the GOP base...two incumbents are part of a slim majority in the House that the White House wants to preserve. The president has spent the past month campaigning across the country for Republicans in competitive races. Bush again defended his approach to the war in Iraq as well as national security. His 35-minute speech also touched on Pombo's support for finding new domestic energy sources and on tax cuts that Bush said have boosted the economy. "If Rich's opponent wins, your taxes will go up. Make no mistake about it," Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee, spoke only to introduce the president. The fundraiser netted his campaign $400,000.

Stockton Record
Fundraising frenzy wraps up Bush's trip to Stockton...Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061004/NEWS01/610040321/1001
Pombo, a seven-term incumbent, is in a tight contest against Pleasanton wind-energy consultant Jerry McNerney. Two recent polls, released by McNerney and Defenders of Wildlife, show the race to be a dead heat, and even Pombo admits this race is nothing like his 2004 drubbing of McNerney. Pombo did not give a speech during the event but introduced Bush to the sellout crowd of 650 guests, each of whom paid $250 to $2,100 to attend. Through it all, Bush said he needs partners such as Pombo; Pombo has voted with the president 86 percent of the time, according to one recent analysis. "I think it makes sense for the people from the state of California to send to Washington, D.C., a person who trusts the people of California," Bush said. "I think it makes sense to send somebody from the state of California to Washington, D.C., who knows what it means to make a living off the land - and that's Richard Pombo." Pombo's family made its fortune in ranching and real estate speculation.

Bush scenes...The Record
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20061004&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=610040317&SectionCat=NEWS25&Template=printart
Sharp-dressed man...Rep. Richard Pombo's challenger, Jerry McNerney, attended the protest outside the fundraiser. Wearing a hat and suit, he was easy to find in the dressed-down crowd.
Caught on tape...Candid camera: Television reporters weren't the only ones toting cameras. Stockton police also were seen videotaping the crowd.
Momentary boost...The protesters' ranks nearly doubled when about 150 county employees marched into the plaza...

Smaller protest than expected greets president...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20061004&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=610040319&SectionCat=&Template=printart
Bush heard none of it and likely saw very little...police estimated there were about 200 (other estimates were as many as 500) - still fewer than some protesters had expected. While the group's wrath was directed equally toward Bush and Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, the guests were the ones who actually absorbed most of their tirades.

Tracy Press
Bush helps Pombo raise $400K...John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4509/2/
President Bush worked the crowd Tuesday at a fundraiser for Rep. Richard Pombo. About 600 people paid $250 a head to listen to the president's 20-minute speech, which encouraged the campaigning congressman and scorned Democrats. In a 20-minute speech, Bush praised the congressman and urged support for his anti-terror campaign and the war in Iraq, and slammed Democrats as people who will raise taxes. “If you don’t want terrorists to attack the U.S. again, I urge you to send Richard Pombo back to the U.S. Congress,” Bush said. McNerney, who chatted with protesters while the president spoke, has said he wants to draw up a nine- to-12-month timetable for troop withdrawal...also responded to Bush’s and Pombo’s support of tax cuts. “They call them tax cuts, but the deficit spending is really putting a tax on our nation’s credit card, and that bill is going to be paid — they’re really raising our taxes, they’re just paying for them later,” he said. Bush praised Pombo for representing the 11th District, telling the audience that it could trust Pombo. “It makes sense for the state of California to trust a man who knows what it means to make a living off the land,” said Bush. Pombo returned Bush’s kind words. “This person has stood firm — he has recognized that this is an enemy that must be defeated,” he said.

San Francisco Chronicle
Bush stumps rare red areas of a blue state...Rachel Gordon, Greg Lucas
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/10/04/MNGI9LHUQV1.DTL&type=printable
A new independent poll by the San Jose State University Survey and Policy Research Institute found that two-thirds of the state's voters disapprove of Bush's job performance, but the discontent wasn't evident at Bush's two showcased stops in Northern California on behalf of Republican Reps. Richard Pombo of Tracy and John Doolittle of Rocklin (Placer County)...the home turfs of Pombo and Doolittle have more Republicans than Democrats registered to vote. "The Republicans are in trouble. They know it, and we know it,'' said Jerry McNerney... The re-elections of Pombo and Doolittle are crucial in the Republicans' quest to retain control of Congress.

Contra Costa Times
Talk not cheap at Pombo fund-raiser...Lisa Vorderbrueggen
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/community/15674775.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
STOCKTON - President George W. Bush and Rep. Richard Pombo clasped each other's shoulders before a crowd of 650 enthusiastic contributors Tuesday as the president called the Tracy congressman a trusted Republican who will help stop tax hikes and protect Americans from terrorists. But outside the auditorium in the fenced-off "free speech zone," signs of the deeply polarized race roared as Democratic congressional challenger Jerry McNerney joined the several hundred protesters waving signs and chanting anti-war and pro-environment slogans, most characterizing Pombo and Bush's shared ideology as a disgrace. Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund activists wielded wooden back-scratchers -- as illustrations of the adage "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" -- as they passed out fliers that outlined seven policies where Bush and Pombo concur, such as expanding domestic oil drilling. "It's 'Me, too' politics," Defenders spokesman Ed Yoon said. "Whatever Bush wants, Pombo says, 'Me, too.'" Despite the odds, persistent anti-Pombo forces leveraged Bush's visit to showcase the congressman's ideological compatibility with a president ...

Contra Costa Times
Rivals stress flaws in race for House...Josh Richman...Media News...10-3-06
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/15666363.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp
Pombo, 45, seeks an eighth term, saying he's done much to lower taxes and cut wasteful spending; protect private property rights; reform the Endangered Species Act; ensure clean and plentiful water in his heavily agricultural district; and push a Bush administration energy policy that reduces foreign-oil dependence. Democrat Gerald "Jerry" McNerney, a Pleasanton wind-energy engineer, has made clean energy his signature issue -- both as a means of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and as an economic engine -- while also calling for affordable health care for all...paints Pombo as a paid toady of oil companies, a supporter of President Bush's unworkable strategy for the war in Iraq and as corrupt -- accused of taking contributions from disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, trading legislative aid for campaign cash, keeping family members on his campaign payroll and misusing official resources. Pombo paints McNerney as a pandering flip-flopper on issues from energy to health care who never met a tax he didn't want to raise. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee still issues anti-Pombo information but isn't sending much money McNerney's way. As of June, about 75 percent of his campaign funds had come from individuals; most of the rest came from political action committees, primarily labor unions. Pombo, meanwhile, is a prolific fund-raiser endorsed by business and grass-roots GOP groups. As of June, about 48 percent of his campaign funds had come from individuals, and most of the rest was from PACs; because he's the Resources Committee's chairman, he gets a lot from the agricultural and energy industries.

Los Angeles Times
U.S. ruling could eliminate union eligibility for millions...Molly Selvin
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-fi-labor4oct04,1,4382150,print.story
A federal labor agency Tuesday broadened its definition of who is a supervisor, in a ruling that could keep millions of skilled employees from joining unions and accelerate a decades-long decline in union membership. In a long-awaited decision, the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board held that nurses could be classified as supervisors if they directed and oversaw other nurses. Under federal law, employees defined as supervisors aren't entitled to legal protections ensuring their right to join unions. The labor board's definition could be applied to other kinds of workers, particularly in the fast-growing service sector, where unions have made some gains in recent years even as overall union membership has declined nationally, labor experts said. The ruling was applauded by business organizations but denounced by labor groups, which called it part of a Bush administration strategy to destroy unions.

Los Angeles Times
U.S. security at stake in upcoming vote, Bush says in Stockton...Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Rome Tempest
http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-bush4oct04,0,6820607,print.story?coll=la-headlines-politics
STOCKTON — President Bush painted the midterm election as a referendum on national security at fundraising events in California on Tuesday, saying congressional Democrats failed to provide the tools he needs to fight the war on terror. "They talk tough on terror, but when the votes are counted, their softer side comes out,"... Pombo and Doolittle, tarnished by their ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), have been campaigning hard in their solidly Republican districts. Bush called Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee, a man who "stands on principle" and supports the programs necessary to protect the country, including legislation protecting the CIA's program... Both Doolittle, an eight-term incumbent and Pombo, now in his seventh term, waged expensive primary campaigns to fend off attacks from MoveOn.org, the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, the Sierra Club and other groups.Tuesday's events raised about $400,000 for Pombo, $600,000 for Doolittle and $1.2 million for the Republican National Committee.

Washington Post
Stepping up attacks, Bush calls Democrats 'Softer' on terrorists...Peter Baker
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/03/AR2006100301391_pf.html
STOCKTON, Calif., Oct. 3 -- President Bush ratcheted up his campaign offensive against Democrats on Tuesday with perhaps his bluntest rhetoric yet... With his party in serious trouble five weeks before Election Day, Bush shifted into full campaign mode this week, kicking off a month of frenetic barnstorming aimed at drawing disgruntled Republicans back into the fold. The two House Republicans who were beneficiaries of Bush's fundraising hail from usually safe districts, but both face serious competition this year. Reps. Richard W. Pombo and John T. Doolittle...Democratic polling suggests both are running roughly even with Democratic challengers.

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Pombozastan political update

Submitted: Oct 03, 2006
Cardoza can afford to campaign
Cardoza is a leader among the Blue Dogs, House Democrats who have staked out centrist positions on issues such as the budget. He will be spending time this fall campaigning for his fellow Blue Dogs; in part, because he can afford to. -- Modesto Bee, Sept. 25, 2006

Pombozastan, the sourthern tier, the 18th Congressional District

Dennis Cardoza, the "bipartisan" congressman from Merced who represents only the most special-special interests in his district,is taking off on a tour of Blue Dog Country, in the other land o' cotton.

However, all the subdized cotton land in the 18th CD, the San Joaquin Valley is not a Southern state.

Pombozastan, the northern tier, the 11th Congressional District

So much for Cardoza's "aggressive cooperation" with the northern tier of Pombozastan, held by Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy. Pombo appears to be in a fight for his political life without any evident public support from Cardoza, his bipartisan buddy through repeated efforts to wreck the Endangered Species Act and the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

But the speculation that these boys do anything in public would be naive. They like to do their aggressive cooperating in back rooms with very special interests.

Meanwhile, the president is rushing to old RichPAC's aid, having paid a visit to the Democrats' other top Republican target in California, Rep. John "Build-the-Auburn-Dam" Doolittle, the Roseville developers' personal envoy to the US Congress.

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

Oct. 2, 2006

Stockton Record
S.J. County prepares for Bush visit...Ellen Thompson
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20061002&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=610020312&SectionCat=&Template=printart
Stockton police for several weeks have devoted hundreds of hours to planning that feat ahead of President Bush's visit Tuesday, his second trip to Stockton. The president is scheduled to attend a $250-a-plate breakfast for Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, at the Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium and a fundraising lunch at an El Dorado Hills country club for Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay. An unprecedented crowd of protesters gathered in Stockton for Bush's first visit. Plans for protesting Bush policies and Pombo's re-election campaign splashed across local left-wing Web sites as soon as news of his visit was announced in mid-September.

San Francisco Chronicle
Political climate in Tracy changes with new voters...Rachel Gordon
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/10/02/MNGHQLGL9P1.DTL&type=printable
Nowhere has the area's growth been more pronounced than in Tracy -- the hometown of Rep. Richard Pombo... The question this election season is whether the large infusion of transplants from the more liberal Bay Area will change the political landscape in Tracy and put Pombo's career at risk. When Pombo first took office 14 years ago, dominating Tracy were farmland, ranches and politics rooted in a deep appreciation for private property rights and a distaste for big government. Today, the big fight at City Hall is between growth advocates and the slow-growth movement. Vast tracts of agricultural land have been paved over for housing developments, malls and new roads, and traffic jams in town during the morning and evening commute hours clog the once-quiet streets. Nonpartisan political odds-makers who track congressional contests, such as the Cook Political Report, say Pombo probably will be re-elected. Agricultural concerns are no longer at the top of the political agenda in the district. Pombo is vulnerable this election cycle, given the tough test Republicans face nationwide...

Oct. 1, 2006

Stockton Record
Pombo's race is state's toughest...Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20061001&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=610010319&SectionCat=&Template=printart
SACRAMENTO - Rep. Richard Pombo is in the race of his life. A flurry of spending by national Republicans, Pombo's senior position in the House GOP leadership and his status as bogeyman for the nation's environmental movement are making the race for the 11th District the most competitive in California. Money fuels advertising. As of Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee had spent $386,000 on polling, fliers and phone banking for Pombo. Only four candidates in the nation have received more help from the group, federal records show. On McNerney's side, a constellation of environmental groups are mailing fliers, phoning voters and providing ground support for the Pleasanton wind energy consultant. Democratic polls consistently show Pombo in the low 40s in approval ratings, and while the Republicans aren't sharing their surveys, they continue to pour cash into the district.

Sept. 30, 2006

Tracy Press
Give Pombo his due...Our Voice
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4445/2/
Rep. Richard Pombo has taken criticism for doing nothing about Gulf of Mexico oil royalty issues, but the facts speak in Pombo's defense. Democrats need a wedge issue to drive 11th District voters away from the powerful incumbent Republican and to the Democratic challenger. It became a two-day media tale: the first, claiming Pombo was in the pockets of Big Oil; and the second, Pombo replying that he did begin such an inquiry in mid-Februrary that led to a remedy. What the Democrats are reluctant to admit is President Bill Clinton’s Interior Department was the “sweetheart” when it forgot to affix royalties to these 1998-99 contracts. After Pombo read The New York Times’ Valentine’s Day story on the shortfall, he began an inquiry the next morning. On June 29, a bipartisan majority of the House OK’d the changes. Yet, three months later, Miller & Company accused Pombo of not doing anything. Pombo did something, and kept the government out of court.

Washington Post
Energy Bills don't reach finish line in Congress...Steven Mufson
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/29/AR2006092901433_pf.html
When oil prices punched through $75 a barrel and gasoline topped $3 a gallon five months ago, members of Congress offered a raft of proposals, ranging from more U.S. drilling to windfall profits taxes to antitrust investigations. They railed against oil executives' pay packages, and some called for higher gasoline mileage standards. Five months later, long after "Energy Week" came and went in the House of Representatives, Congress is heading home without adopting any significant legislation on energy. House negotiators, led by Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), held out for offshore drilling outside the Gulf of Mexico, while Senate leaders bluntly declared that they could not muster enough votes for that. "He keeps asking us to do something that is politically impossible for us to do," Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) said during the week. She played a key role in forging a compromise in the Senate, and her state stands to gain hundreds of millions of dollars of royalties from new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. "I frankly wish there were more support for drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts," she said, "but the political reality is that there is not. Period. The end." House leaders said that the Senate version, which would have opened up 8.3 million acres in Gulf of Mexico federal lease 181 and adjacent deeper water to the south, didn't go far enough. But talks broke down in the end over maps of the offshore state boundaries in what are now federal waters.

Sept. 29, 2006

Tracy Press
A Tracy Press report listed Jerry McNerney's out-of-state donors, but omitted Rep. Richard Pombo's out-of-state supporters, like oil companies...Chris Gilbert, Berkeley...Your Voice
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4428/2/
John Upton presents incomplete reporting of the Richard Pombo/Jerry McNerney race in Wednesday’s story, “11th District race tops $5.5.”... he neglects to mention any that have contributed to Pombo, such as Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil, the National Mining Association and various Indian tribes... he neglects to mention what Pombo is being hammered with: charges of corruption, voting to privatize Social Security and generally not adequately serving the 11th District.

Bush to scratch backs of loyal congressmen...John C. Chendo, Stockton...Your Voice...9-28-06
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4398/2/
President Bush could be thanking our troops or supporting them by figuring out a new strategy for the war on terror; instead he's busy patting the backs of congressmen who've never even come close to military service. He is taking precious time out from fighting his global war in Iraq to fight in Northern California for four Republican incumbents in Congress: Reps. Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Wally Herger and Dan Lungren. They are all politicians for more than a decade with close ties to multinational lobbyists. All four supported Bush’s veto of stem cell research...supported the president’s privatization of Social Security...supported spending money to attack Iraq...and support taking our soldiers into war by lowering federal taxes on our wealthiest corporations... All four have yet to debate their opponents for Congress in the fall election. You can support our troops by voting for our troops this Nov. 7. Vote against the multinational corporations that are price-gouging with Americans’ tax money on no-bid contracts.

San Francisco Chronicle
Races heating up for 2 GOP incumbents...Rachel Gordon
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/29/MNG4VLF7N81.DTL&type=printable
Republican Reps. Richard Pombo of Tracy and John Doolittle of Rocklin are preparing for President Bush's visit to California next week to generate campaign cash for their re-election bids... Democratic activists are urging the party faithful in the Bay Area to head to San Joaquin County and the Sacramento Valley to help unseat the incumbents. Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the anti-incumbent mood that polls have shown is bubbling nationally and could unhinge the GOP's leadership lock on Congress in the Nov. 7 election. ...the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent nearly $400,000 on the Pombo-McNerney race, and the GOP's top fund-raiser, Bush, is being brought in to help. Bush is scheduled to appear Tuesday at a breakfast fundraiser for Pombo in Stockton, where the cost to attend will range from $250 to $2,000, and at a $2,000-a-head fundraiser for Doolittle in El Dorado Hills in the Gold Country in the afternoon. Vice President Dick Cheney made a similar pilgrimage on behalf of the candidates before the June primary.

Sept. 28, 2006

Tracy Press
Million-dollar men march...John Upton...9-27-06
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4383/2/
11th Congressional District has generated more than $5.5 million in total campaign contributions, and the dollars keep rolling in...
campaigning and a fundraiser with the president still to come, the mid-term campaign season has already seen more than $5.5 million pumped into supporting and unseating Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy. “It’s above average - control of the House is really hotly contested this year, and Pombo is one of the more vulnerable incumbents in the sense that he has these links to Tom DeLay and Jack Ambramoff,” said University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor of political science David Karol. Carl Fogliani accused anonymous donors outside the district of trying to sully Pombo’s reputation with local voters. Pombo needed to spend a lot of money to offset the money being spent against him and to correct “half-truths and innuendo.” McNerney and Pombo will share the stage just once before the Nov. 7 election - the Tracy Press Forum will begin at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at Poet Christian School.

Sept. 27, 2006

Environment and Energy Daily
Campaign 2006: National GOP pouring funds into Pombo contest...Alex Kaplun...9-26-06...Must sign in to access article.
http://www.eenews.net/search/stories/?keyword=pombo&from_month=09&from_day=26&from_year=2006&to_month=09&to_day=27&to_year=2006&Submit_from_index=Search%21?
National Republicans appear increasingly nervous about House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo's (R-Calif.) prospects for re-election, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a contest that had been viewed as an extreme long-shot for the Democrats.

Sept. 26, 2006

Modesto Bee
18th District race drawing little attention ...Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau and Ken CArlson, Bee Staff Writer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12778094p-13470868c.html
WASHINGTON — Dennis Cardoza ran his first congressional race under a white-hot media spotlight. Four years later, the national media is long gone. It's nothing personal. It's just that San Joaquin Valley politics have returned to normal, after Cardoza's dispatching of Rep. Gary Condit in a 2002 primary... Now Cardoza is thecomfortable incumbent, a Merced Democrat seeking election to his third House term. Cardoza said, when asked how he's campaigning this year..."I typically run the same no matter what." He is now facing political novice John Kanno, an electrical engineer who works in Stockton. "I believe that it is time the 18th District had representation that is more concerned about what's important to the Central Valley than what's important to Washington, D.C., liberals and special interests," Kanno said this week. Cardoza is a leader among the Blue Dogs, House Democrats who have staked out centrist positions... The veteran politician had $269,613 stashed away in his campaign treasury as of June 30. Kanno reported having $70,132 in available campaign cash. The 18th Congressional District reflects the aftermath of the 2002 election, when Democratic mapmakers were shaping the district after Condit's political unraveling.
Cardoza can afford to campaign
Cardoza is a leader among the Blue Dogs, House Democrats who have staked out centrist positions on issues such as the budget. He will be spending time this fall campaigning for his fellow Blue Dogs; in part, because he can afford to.

Tracy Press
Pombo hiding out...Lee Miller, Stockton...Your Voice
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4349/2/
Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, who was once in favor of a three-term limit for members of Congress, has been safely hiding out in the gerrymandered 11th District for seven terms, where he has become arrogant about issues that matter to the people. His votes are for his special interests, not ours...constituents who fund him are: big oil, oil drillers, developers and lobbyists like Jack Abramoff. I Googled Pombo and corruption and 155,000 hits come up. Votes for the people are hard to find in Pombo’s record.

Sept. 25, 2006

Modesto Bee
GOP takes no chances in Pombo's House run...Ben van der Meer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12774366p-13467371c.html
Cheney has visited, and Bush plans to, California's 11th Congressional District this year for Rep. Richard Pombo, suggesting a closer-than-normal election for the seven-term incumbent. To keep the seat safe - and also keep the House of Representatives in Republican control - Pombo's party is bringing out big guns to raise money and keep the Tracy resident's profile high, Bruce Cain said. Pombo's Democratic challenger is Pleasanton's Jerry McNerney, a renewable energy consultant who lost to Pombo decisively in 2004. "Pombo's not got a great record of delivering for the district," McNerney said. Though Pombo has easily won re-election since he first was elected in 1992, his campaign manager, Carl Fogliani, said this race is not taken for granted.

Sept. 23, 2006

Stockton Record
Oily mess ahead for Pombo...Hank Shaw, Capitol Bureau Chief
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060923&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=609230327&SectionCat=&Template=printart
East Bay Rep. George Miller and six other House Democrats are demanding that Pombo hold "immediate" congressional hearings on what may be blooming into a full-fledged scandal at the Interior Department. Pombo says he is concerned about the latest revelations and plans to speak with the department's inspector general, Earl Devaney, before Congress recesses in October. Devaney delivered a withering assessment of a culture at the Interior Department that he says "sustains managerial irresponsibility and a lack of accountability. Topping the department's sins is what appears to be a drafting error that occurred during the last year of the Clinton administration over regulations concerning when oil companies should pay federal taxes. This blunder has cost taxpayers at least $1.3 billion. Interior Department officials said this week they will not try to recoup the loss. Add to this a series of lawsuits filed by former Interior Department auditors that claim top department officials prevented them from pursuing up to $30 million in unpaid taxes from several oil firms operating in the Gulf of Mexico;... Miller, who has been feuding with his neighbor across the Altamont off and on for years, said it should be Pombo's Resources Committee that takes the lead in any investigation. The House Government Reform Committee has been taking the lead.

Sept. 22, 2006

Tracy Press
Pombo-McNerney forum approaches...John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/4248/2/
The Tracy Press Forum on Oct. 5 might be the only chance to see Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, share the stage with his Democratic opponent, Jerry McNerney, before the November election...neither Pombo nor McNerney will choose the questions or topics that will be discussed...they will be given up to five minutes each for opening remarks, followed by about an hour of questions posed by the audience through a Tracy Press panel...forum will start at 7 p.m. at Poet Christian School, 1701 S. Central Ave.

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San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement press coverage

Submitted: Sep 28, 2006

Below, you will find a series of abstracts of newsclips about the San Joaquin River Settlement. On Sept. 13, fourteen environmental and recreational organizations and 29 irrigation and water districts and four federal agencies, submitted a settlement agreement to United States District Court, Eastern District of California. The agreement proposes a plan for one of the greatest river restoration projects in American history.

One of the most important laws considered in the federal court's decision, which forced the parties into settlement negotiations, was California Fish and Game Code, Section 5937.

The owner of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to pass through a fishway, or in the absence of a fishway, allow sufficient water to pass over, around or through the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may be planted or exist below the dam. During the minimum flow of water in any river or stream, permission may be granted by the department to the owner of any dam to allow sufficient water to pass through a culvert, waste gate, or over or around the dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may
be planted or exist below the dam, when, in the judgment of the department, it is impracticable or detrimental to the owner to pass the water through the fishway.

However, much -- though not all -- of the press coverage of the settlement reflects the frontier attitude of a former manager of the Merced Irrigation District:

"The price of a water right is eternal vigilance."

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Sept. 28,2006

Lawmakers settle river dispute...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12785879p-13478049c.html
WASHINGTON -- Exhausted Capitol Hill negotiators agreed Wednesday on legislation to revive the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam. Establishing a new "experimental population" of salmon, while still protecting operations on local dams and water projects, were the keys to the compromise. The next big problem is time... In part, the new deal reassures water agencies that they can renew their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses on the Merced and Tuolumne rivers without additional environmental requirements solely because of the new salmon population...guarantees that federal officials in protecting the salmon "will not impose more than de minimus water supply reductions, additional storage releases or bypass flows" on the water districts...agreed to devote the capital repayment from Friant water customers to the river restoration project for the next 20 years. Even so, some Valley lawmakers voiced dissatisfaction with the haggling that included environmentalists making a last-minute push for an additional concession... Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza, while supporting the final compromise, added that "this process should never be repeated (because) legislating by lawsuit is not the way to do public policy." "I'm pleased with the progress that's been made," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, but "we have to look at this seriously. The Congress has to take its time; we have to hold hearings."

Valley well-represented in river-restoration talks...Editorial
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/story/12786191p-13478313c.html
In poker, you can't win if you're not at the table. The same thing is true in water negotiations. Fortunately, we had a seat - several, in fact - at the table where a deal to restore the San Joaquin River between Fresno and Merced has been worked out. Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced a deal... Included were some key third-party representatives. Among them was Modesto Irrigation District General Manager Allen Short, who represented the five irrigation districts - Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale, Merced and South San Joaquin - that depend on and manage the San Joaquin's tributary rivers. Joining him was Ken Robbins, a lawyer for Merced Irrigation District, and all five valley members of the House of Representatives. The negotiations on the bill are complete, but this game is not over. Getting this bill passed will require the help of the entire valley congressional delegation...it is doable.

Sept. 27, 2006

Sacramento Bee
River lawsuit ends; will restoration work?...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/29845.html
It took a lawsuit by environmental groups and a sympathetic federal judge in Sacramento named Lawrence Karlton to force a compromise. The question now is how will the salmon regard the settlement? They are the true judges here. And is this legal settlement the last word? Not really. Many affected parties along the river weren't at the negotiating table. Neither was Congress, which is now wrestling with coming up with the money and deciding how a reintroduced salmon population should be regulated under the federal Endangered Species Act. The end of this contentious lawsuit means the beginning of a long and delicate process -- more negotiating, more political arm-twisting and more scrutiny of river ecolology -- with the goal of accomplishing something on a scale that has never been tried before in California. Beware of anyone declaring this mission accomplished. But celebrate an important milestone for a very troubled river.

Sept. 26, 2006

Salmon may be replenished in San Joaquin River...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12777978p-13470708c.html
WASHINGTON -- The negotiators returning to Capitol Hill today hope to finish crafting the legislation needed for the river's restoration. The end result of the haggling in Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's third-floor office eventually could be an estimated 500 or more spring-run chinook salmon back in the now-depleted river...the San Joaquin River salmon would swim in the shadow of the California condor, the Yellowstone area gray wolf and Florida's whooping crane. Like them, the San Joaquin River salmon would be dubbed an experimental population -- a move that can ease regulatory burdens and soften political resistance...it's become apparent that the San Joaquin River fix likely will include declaring the newly reintroduced salmon as a "non-essential experimental population." Under an Endangered Species Act provision known as 10(j), this will set the salmon apart from other protected plants and animals. Property owners wouldn't have to worry about regulators designating their land as "critical habitat," because experimental populations don't get critical habitat. It doesn't impose new regulations on private land, though critics like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, say it can still depress land values. For that reason, the Bush administration sparked anxiety when it designated 450,288 acres as critical habitat for the California red-legged frog and 199,109 acres as critical habitat for the California tiger salamander.

Sept. 25, 2006

Fresno Bee
River worries flood west side...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12774415p-13467443c.html
LOS BANOS - A farm road runs through the shriveled San Joaquin River where chinook salmon are supposed to swim in seven years. This peaceful farming belt may be the stage for the next legal fight over restoring the dammed and dried San Joaquin. Farmers here are afraid a restoration agreement announced this month might wind up ruining some of their land. Their lucrative crop fields butt against the old stream bed. They fear a restored river will waterlog their land and prevent crops from growing. Now their representatives are in Washington, D.C., trying to protect their interests in legislation to restore the river. Among other concerns, west-side farmers want to make sure there is enough money to properly study the effects of a restored water flow in their area. They also would like to see money set aside to pay for property damage in their area. Otherwise, they say they will have to file suit if damages occur. Aside from funding, there is another sensitive question: Will the nearby flood-control channel known as the Eastside Bypass also be used in the restoration?

Sept. 24, 2006

Stockton Record
Flow will be slow...Allen Short, Modesto Irrigation District, San Joaquin Tributary Agencies and Daniel Nelson, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060924/OPED02/609240307&SearchID=73257838248384
After 18 years in the courts, a settlement on restoring the San Joaquin River from Friant Dam to the Merced River has arrived - but only partly...still must gain the blessing of a federal judge...needs legislation authorizing the expenditure of funds for projects to finalize the settlement. The driving force behind the settlement is restoration of river flows on the San Joaquin River to allow a return of the spring-run Chinook salmon. Specifically, the final settlement resolution must include a reasonable approach to:
» Solve fishery concerns.
» Fully fund infrastructure and mitigation for restoring 142 miles of river habitat.
» Protect water rights, including groundwater, of parties not involved as well as farms, rural communities and cities that rely on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries for water.
» Guarantee that ongoing successful river and chinook salmon restoration on San Joaquin River tributaries aren't adversely impacted.
» Protect all third parties from endangered species penalties regarding reintroduced spring- run salmon.
» Provide an inclusive process for the impacted third parties to have meaningful input into the program.
Legislators and others involved must implement a balanced, long-term solution that is fair to all parties affected by San Joaquin River restoration.

Sept. 23, 2006

How is this a successful river restoration?...Cannon Michael, Los Banos...Guest commentary
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12767877p-13460874c.html
Last week, when the settlement to restore the San Joaquin River was announced...I was surprised to see such positive coverage from local media...it is important for Valley residents to remember: the restoration of the San Joaquin River was not born out of a collaborative desire to bring salmon back to the river, it was brought about by litigation. The environmentalists won their lawsuit and Friant was forced into a settlement that they felt would be better than what Judge Karlton would impose upon them. NRDC has never estimated the number of spring-run Chinook salmon the restoration program would restore... My family farms along a stretch of the San Joaquin River that will be the most difficult and costly to restore, a stretch that has been termed Reach 4-b. The settlement calls for the East Side Bypass to handle some of the initial "pulse flows" required for the restoration while the capacity is increased in Reach 4-b...the bypass would be a far less costly option than creating a new channel in Reach 4-b. I am not against trying to make the restoration work, but I hope that it can be done in a balanced and fiscally responsible way.

Sept. 22, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
Politicians get a look at river restoration plan...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12762086p-13456203c.html
WASHINGTON -- Negotiators are still refining an ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan, with a tentative agreement this week to classify as "experimental" the salmon that will reclaim the river as its home. "experimental" label would mean the Merced and Modesto irrigation districts have less to fear from federal regulators. It is also a sign that river negotiators...may soon resolve completely how Congress will make the San Joaquin live again. One key solution...involves designating the newly reintroduced San Joaquin River salmon as a "nonessential experimental population." Under a rarely used portion of the Endangered Species Act, this softens the accompanying regulatory burden; for instance, critical habitat would not be designated for the salmon. Separately, negotiators seemingly outflanked a controversy over restoring a 22-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River that ends in Merced County..."upper 4-B" stretch is now depleted, causing doubts about its potential revival. Consequently, negotiators say they have agreed to call for a feasibility study... Remaining sticking points...what to do about federal hydroelectric licenses. The Merced Irrigation District's license for the Merced River Project expires in 2014, and the Modesto and Turlock districts' license for Don Pedro Reservoir expires in 2016. Negotiators must also resolve how to handle salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...

San Francisco Chronicle
San Joaquin River plan stall in House...Kimberly Geiger
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/22/BAGHNLAO5E1.DTL&type=printable
Conservationists and federal water authorities have reached a compromise to end an 18-year dispute over the damming of the San Joaquin River, but House lawmakers who reviewed the agreement Thursday said they will pursue changes to the plan before passing legislation required to complete the deal. The deal laid out a scheduled release of water from the dam to restore the river over the next 20 years -- and required lawmakers by year's end to pass a bill authorizing federal funding and oversight of the project...lawmakers at a House hearing Thursday said the settlement overlooks the effects on farmers and other water agencies that were not included in the negotiations. Lawmakers concluded the hearing with a request that the parties to the settlement negotiate a compromise with third-party interests before legislation goes forward.

Sept. 21, 2006

The cost of victory...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060921&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=609210342&SectionCat=&Template=printart
MODESTO - A resurrected San Joaquin River could prove even more expensive than originally thought - costing perhaps $1 billion - while causing unintended consequences for fish, some downstream water users claim. Flows from Friant Dam near Fresno could be too warm for migrating fall-run chinook salmon, they say. Meanwhile, repairing levees and widening a channel that hasn't seen flows in half a century could require huge investments and the retirement of thousands of acres of farmland. The settlement is not the final chapter...as officials from several water districts are expected to testify before a House of Representatives subcommittee today and ask for federal funds. This week...water districts that also rely heavily on the San Joaquin drainage - but were not a part of the lawsuit - are tempering that enthusiasm. Some have spent millions over the past few decades supporting fall-run chinook populations in tributaries such as the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. Also, they fear the sudden reintroduction of spring-run chinook, a threatened species, could mean new water and property-use restrictions under the Endangered Species Act. A summary of the settlement says that the document was tweaked to include the perspectives of others and that no "material adverse impacts" were expected to third parties.

Sept. 20, 2006

Fresno Bee
Reshaping Nature...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/special/150/story/12749797p-13444961c.html
The damming of the San Joaquin helped change the Valley floor, for better and for worse. San Joaquin River was plugged as part of the Central Valley Project, a massive plan to control flooding and provide irrigation water. The sky no longer darkens with millions of ducks and geese, feasting on the river's smorgasbord of insects...the water that no longer feeds the river has helped feed the county's growth through farming and land development. To accommodate farming, swamps and wetlands were drained. The land was leveled. On the west side, large channels were built to funnel the occasional big flows of the river around areas that flooded regularly...agriculture blossomed on 170,000-plus acres in the county as well as on an additional 800,000 acres along the Valley's east side...farming further expanded when the federal Central Valley Project began delivering water from Northern California to the west side. Tinkering with the San Joaquin began long before Friant Dam. In 1911, Southern California Edison began putting together an extensive hydroelectric system in the Sierra... Harold Tokmakian was the Fresno County planning director in the 1960s before becoming a professor at California State University, Fresno...the Valley is being eroded by "lateral expansion" -- also known as sprawl. There are other reasons, too, to value river habitat, said Bob Winter, 81, a Fresno City College biology instructor for more than a half century. For instance, the kangaroo rat might someday help medical science understand kidneys better, he said.

Planting our roots in rich Valley soil...David Mas Masumoto
http://www.fresnobee.com/special/150/story/12749818p-13444972c.html
Generation of farmers of all nationalities have transformed a desert into a garden. Then came the liquid gold from the Sierra: water. They could grow most anything here...So long as they had irrigation water. This liquid treasure, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit, gave birth to generations of farmers and their families. Fresno became a magnet for farmers...the land provided a refuge to a variety of crops and farming methods. Cattle ranches and dairies, wheat, cotton, grapes, peaches, plums, nectarines, vegetables, melons, row crops. Each decade brought new seeds of change. For some, the reality did not match their dreams. Nature played no favorites when destroying a harvest. Others found the greed of humans was no different in this Valley than any other place. Years passed and the pressures did not stop. Valley agriculture became part machine, part something else, what was grown in the fields now merely raw products for others to profit from. The old family farm with farmers and their families working to grow, harvest and sell a crop has almost vanished. Or are family farmers being vanquished -- caught between the forces of business and the explosion of growth? Could land be better suited to growing houses than peaches or grapes? They came as pioneers and today still cling to the land. They are desperate to use any means to maintain a way of life. Some call them fools, stubborn individuals refusing to let go of the bounty of this Valley. Most are still dreamers; that's why they still farm.

Sept. 15, 2006

Two parties at odds over San Joquin restoration costs...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12717970p-13413996c.html
WASHINGTON -- Many farmers and environmentalists now agree on restoring the San Joaquin River. They do not, however, agree on how much it will cost. Environmentalists believe $250 million will suffice. Farmers served by Friant Dam think $800 million is more like it. On Thursday, Department official Jason Peltier joined with four members of Congress, myriad staff members and top negotiators for a closed-door, Capitol Hill briefing on the ambitious San Joaquin River restoration plan... Radanovich is expressing optimism, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, exited the briefing Thursday as angry as ever...insists there's a lot more concern bubbling beneath the public surface. Representatives of the Merced Irrigation District and the so-called "exchange contractors" from the San Joaquin Valley's West Side are crafting alternative proposals in Washington this week. They hope to modify the proposed legislation that's needed to implement the river restoration plan; for instance, to protect them from further Endangered Species Act obligations when the salmon is reintroduced. The big gap in cost estimates, for instance, stems largely from uncertainty over what standards new levees will have to meet. State regulators could get the final say, as they will eventually set the levee standards.

Sept. 14, 2006

9-14-06
NRDC Press Release...9-13-06
Attachment:
Peter Moyle, Professor of Fisheries Biology, University of California Davis..."Bringing the San Joaquin River back to life will be one of the greatest restoration projects ever undertaken in the United States. Over 150 miles of river will once again provide vital habitat for not only salmon but for a wide array of other native fish, plants and wildlife. Restoring one of California's long lost salmon runs will be a strong symbol of our willingness to make California a better place for both wildlife and people. I also anticipate that restoring flows to the river will have a positive effect on the Delta, an ecosystem in crisis. This monumental restoration effort could not come at a better time."
Zeke Grader, Executive Director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association..."Over the past century, West Coast salmon rivers have been devastated by water development and other activities. This agreement provides salmon fishermen with a ray of hope...
Dante Nomellini, Manager and Co-Counsel, Central Delta Water Agency..."Drying up the San Joaquin River harmed more than fish...
Philip Atkins-Pattenson, Outside Counsel for the NRDC Coalition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP..."This settlement represents the triumph of optimism and collaboration among the parties...
Gary Bobker, Program Director, The Bay Institute...The San Joaquin River is the missing limb of San Francisco Bay...
Bill Jennings, Executive Director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance..."This is a truly historic settlement that not only breathes life into a dead river but will measurably improve water quality and lessen human health impacts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta...
Lydia Miller, President, San Joaquin Raptor Wildlife Rescue Center..."Restoring the San Joaquin River will benefit salmon and numerous other native wildlife species, and it will improve the natural habitat along much of the river. It will also improve the quality of life for Valley residents and provide recreational opportunities."
Walt Shubin, Fresno County Raisin Farmer..."As a farmer who grew up on the San Joaquin River, I know that salmon and farming can coexist - I've seen it...
Chuck Bonham, Senior Attorney, California Director, Trout Unlimited..."This settlement shows the remarkable things that people can accomplish when they work together to restore damaged ecosystems...

Merced Sun-Star
River plan needs support in D.C...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12713171p-13409800c.html
WASHINGTON -- The political headwaters for the San Joaquin River now shift to Capitol Hill, where Congress is supposed to turn a river restoration plan into reality...ambitious river plan formally rolled out Wednesday relies on quick congressional action... Theoretically, the new San Joaquin River settlement could collapse if Congress doesn't act by Dec. 31. Ken Robbins, an attorney for the Merced Irrigation District, and other California water professionals will be listening closely on Capitol Hill today as negotiators brief lawmakers about the deal that until Wednesday remained under tight wraps. The Merced Irrigation District, for instance, is a "third party," because it was not part of the lawsuit. Robbins said the district worries about sufficient funding for river channel improvements, and new Endangered Species Act burdens resulting from the reintroduction of the threatened spring-run salmon by 2013. "It poses some enormous problems," Robbins said, adding that "we're going to propose some changes to (the bill.) ...This raises other problems, though, because the settlement agreement requires that the legislation be approved "substantially in the form" that it's been proposed by the original negotiators. On Capitol Hill, congressional staffers expect some changes, and suggest neither farmers nor environmentalists will be too quick to back out. Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced, while applauding the work done on the settlement, cautioned that he could not support a deal if it comes "at the expense of those not party to the legislation." Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, characterized the proposed legislation as a "gun to the head" of Congress.

Fresno Bee
Accord pumps new life into river...Mark Grossi and E.J. Schultz
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12713238p-13409904c.html
The historic deal is finally done, and the San Joaquin River - barring unforeseen snags - will flow freely again...a settlement that will launch what could be the largest river restoration in the history of the American West. The deal, announced in front of a federal courthouse in Sacramento, ends an 18-year-old federal lawsuit... Environmentalists heralded the agreement as the beginning of a new era, not only for the state's second-longest river but also for the state's vast waterways. "This agreement provides that once again the San Joaquin will flow from its headwaters in the High Sierra all the way to San Francisco Bay," said Hal Candee, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the lead plaintiff in the case. The San Joaquin Valley River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, representing west-side farmers, wants to make sure there is enough money to buy land and rebuild the river where it has not existed for decades. A hydrologist for the Bay Institute, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the water used for restoration could be pumped back to farmers for use in the fields after it travels through the river. Once river water reaches the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta pumps, it can be sent back through canals to farmers. "We've done it already in tests, and it works," said hydrologist Peter Vorster...

A river shall run through it...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/12713227p-13409910c.html
A marathon legal battle over the fate of the San Joaquin River inched closer to a settlement Wednesday... If the deal is finally done, over time it will change the face of the Valley — and for the better, we believe. Federal funds and state bond money would be tapped to pay for the costs of the restoration, as part of a "San Joaquin River Restoration Fund" created under the deal. There are obstacles...a particular concern downstream...settlement language apparently includes a guarantee that land will be purchased only from "willing sellers... Another touchy subject is language in the settlement that appears to place a year-end deadline on Congress to pass the necessary enabling legislation. Here's hoping this deal turns out to be a model for future compromises, rather than an ephemeral aberration.

Stockton Record
Parties agree to go with the flow...Alex Breitler
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060914/NEWS01/609140344/1001
SACRAMENTO - Described by conservationists as the "missing limb" of San Francisco Bay, the San Joaquin River will again flow... The resurrected river will flush out pollutants and improve water quality in Stockton and San Joaquin County, conservationists say. Fish will return, followed by recreation and tourism dollars. And the algae blooms that often turn the river's waters a sickly pea green may be diminished. Wednesday's agreement among farmers, environmentalists and the federal government ends nearly two decades of courtroom clashes over water diversions at Friant Dam... The San Joaquin will become "a living ecosystem instead of a contaminated drainage ditch," said Hal Candee, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which first filed suit against the federal government and agricultural water users in 1988. "The federal government for years took a callous attitude toward the river," said Dante Nomellini, a Stockton water attorney who represents water users through the Central Delta Water Agency. While some farmers were praising the restoration plan, concerns remain over how much water they will lose...plan includes several strategies to make up for that loss, including bolstering groundwater supplies during wet years, transferring water from other groups and, when possible, recirculating any excess water from the Delta. "In many respects, the litigation has been the cork in the bottle for restoration efforts on the river," said Lester Snow, director of the California Department of Water Resources. "While that litigation was pending, it's been very difficult to pursue restoration. "We can now move forward."

Sept. 13, 2006

Restoring the San Joaquin...Michael Doyle, Bee Staff Writer and Mark Grossi, The Fresno Bee
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12708691p-13405707c.html
WASHINGTON - More water should start flowing down the San Joaquin River by 2009 under a long-awaited settlement... Farmers and environmentalists have worked out the details during months of negotiations. The agreement will be presented to a federal judge in Sacramento this morning, in hopes of settling an 18-year-old lawsuit...agreement includes an apparent deadline for Congress to approve by Dec. 31. Feinstein will introduce the legislation to authorize the river fixes. Outside parties not allowed to sue...draft of the legislation authorizes the federal government to buy land from "willing sellers." All environmental laws must be complied with - a blow to some water agencies hoping for exemptions. Outside parties - such as the Merced Irrigation District - can't sue if they're unhappy with how the settlement works. The proposed legislation establishes a "San Joaquin River Restoration Fund... The agreement will not automatically dissolve if the legislation strays beyond the deadline, said Friant Water Users Authority lawyer Dan Dooley.

Irrigation districts worried about costs, loss of water...Michael G. Mooney, Bee Staff writer
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12708700p-13405719c.html
Stanislaus and Merced water agencies are voicing concern about an agreement to restore a 153-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River. The $1 billion plan - assuming it wins congressional approval - will be one of the largest river restoration projects in the nation's history... would send more water through the San Joaquin River by 2009 and reintroduce salmon by 2013. "We believe there should be a settlement," Garith Krause of the Merced Irrigation District said Monday, "but that settlement shouldn't add additional burdens to those of us downstream." The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts have questioned the settlement pact, as have the Westlands Water District, San Joaquin River Exchange and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. Key concerns include:... Allen Short, general manager of the Modesto Irrigation District, and the others will lobby for legislation that will:... If the legislation substantively differs from what negotiators agreed to, at least one lawmaker said, the deal could fall apart.

Stockton Record
Agreement reached on river restoration (11:05 a.m.)...The Record
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?Date=20060913&Category=NEWS01&ArtNo=60913002&SectionCat=&Template=printart
A historic agreement to restore water flows for salmon in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam near Fresno while undertaking one of the West’s largest river restoration efforts was announced today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friant Water Users Authority and U.S. Departments of the Interior and Commerce...settlement, filed this morning in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, ends an 18-year legal dispute over the operation of Friant Dam and resolves longstanding legal claims brought by a coalition of conservation and fishing groups led by NRDC.

San Francisco Chronicle
Settlement will restore San Joaquin River...Glen Martin
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/13/BAGG9L4KHQ1.DTL&type=printable
The San Joaquin Rive will be restored under a settlement announced today...be announced at news conferences in Sacramento and near Fresno, is the result of years of negotiations over a lawsuit filed in 1988 by environmental groups and fishing advocates. Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a federal gag order, told The Chronicle that the settlement between water users and environmental groups requires that Friant Dam release between 364,000 and 462,000 acre-feet of water in normal years to help restore spring and fall salmon runs. One acre-foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons, or roughly enough to meet the annual needs of five people. Kole Upton, a farmer and chairman of the Friant Water Users Authority, said the judge's decision required everyone involved to compromise. "If you have a judgment inflicted from above, you can end up feeling like the Germans after the Treaty of Versailles." "The important thing here is that we now have a partners in restoration and mitigation, not adversaries. That makes all the difference."

Sept. 12, 2006

Modesto Bee
Be careful about restoring San Joaquin River...Allen Short, general manager of Modesto Irrigation District and represents the San Joaquin Tributary Agencies
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12704925p-13402258c.html
After 18 years in the courts...a settlement of the San Joaquin River...but only partly. The driving force behind the settlement is restoration of river flows to allow a return of the spring run Chinook salmon. Millions of dollars have been expended and more than 500,000 acre-feet of water released by irrigation districts and water agencies to provide conditions in the tributaries to improve and sustain the fall run. These efforts might be severely jeopardized if water temperatures exceed safe limits for fall run salmon fry. This could happen if sufficient Friant water does not flow through the existing shallow San Joaquin River channel upstream (south) of the Merced River on its way to the delta. These efforts must be recognized and protected from any negative effects as a result of the court and legislative action needed to complete the settlement. Specifically, the final settlement resolution must include reasonable approaches to:... Now is the time to support our representatives' efforts to obtain authorizing legislation that will complete the settlement process. Legislators and others involved must be careful to implement a balanced, long-term solution that is fair to all parties affected by San Joaquin River restoration activities.

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Corruption and incompetence reported at Interior Department

Submitted: Sep 17, 2006

Top Department of Interior watchdog, Inspector General Earl E. Devaney, testified last week before a House subcommittee that Interior was corrupt and incompetent.

"Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior, Devaney told the House Government Reform subcommittee on energy and resources.

"I have observed one instance after another when the good work of my office has been disregarded by the department," he continued. "Ethics failures on the part of senior department officials -- taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias -- have been routinely dismissed with a promise 'not to do it again.' ''

Devaney reported that through bureaucratic neglect, incompetence or "stovepiping," billions in royalties owned the federal government have been lost on deep ocean oil wells. When department officials discovered the error in the contracts, they tried to cover it up, Devaney told the subcommittee.

These charges ought to concern the San Joaquin Valley because Interior controls the Bureau of Relamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Minerals Mangement Service, US Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These agencies have major responsibilities in the Valley on issues as diverse as last week's Friant Dam settlement agreement, enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, Yosemite National Park, oil and gas leases, geological mapping and Indian casinos.

Officials at Interior are under relentless pressure from chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy, other members of his committee like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced, their contributors and other special interests. The public has witnessed examples of Interior officials giving in to that pressure. However, Devaney said his office was under constant pressure from congressmen and senators, special interests and Interior officials, yet he managed to do his job at least in this report. Yet, without an investigative article by the New York Times in March, he might not have had the political support to do it.

"I have unfortunately watched a number of high-level Interior officials leave the department under the cloud of OIG investigations," Devaney said, referring to the Office of Inspector General. "Absent criminal charges, however, they are sent off in the usual fashion, with a party paying tribute to their good service and the secretary wishing them well, to spend more time with their family or seek new opportunities."

The Times reported Sunday:

Three years ago, Devaney scathingly criticized the Interior Department's auditing program for oil and gas royalties. Beyond finding that investigators had missed millions of dollars in underpayments, his office uncovered evidence that agency auditors had lost key files and then tried to fool investigators by forging and backdating the missing documents. In an acid rebuke of the agency, Devaney noted that the agency gave a bonus to the official who came up with the false papers.

We hope the government reform committee might oversee Interior and members of the resources committee who require constant watching.

-------------

References:

September 13, 2006: Chairman Issa: Interior Cover-up Prevented Price Threshold Omission from Being Fixed
http://reform.house.gov/ER/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=50033

Interior Dept. blasted for ethics breaches
Agency officials accused of ignoring cover-ups, cronyism
- Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times
Thursday, September 14, 2006

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Historic settlement on the San Joaquin River

Submitted: Sep 13, 2006

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Friant Water Users Authority reached an unprecedented settlement agreement Wednesday to restore the flow of the San Joaquin River. NRDC, representing a number of local, state and federal environmental groups, and the FWUA had been at war in court for 18 years.

"Bringing the San Joaquin River back to life will be one of the greatest restoration projects ever undertaken in the United States,” said Peter Moyle, professor of Fisheries biology at UC Davis.

A 60-miles stretch of the river in western Fresno County has been dry since the dam was built in the late 1940s due to irrigation diversions south in the Friant-Kern Canal and north in the Madera Canal.

The settlement agreement documents were handed at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to the court of Judge Stanley Karlton, United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division.

It is anticipated that the increased flows to the river will be enough to provide for both spring and fall runs of Chinook salmon. Before the Friant Dam was constructed, creating Lake Millerton at the base of the Sierra foothills east of the City of Fresno, the San Joaquin River was the southernmost range of the Chinook.

“As a farmer who grew up on the San Joaquin River, I know that salmon and farming can coexist-I’ve seen it,” said Walt Shubin, Fresno County raisin farmer.

Between now and 2026, between 15-20 percent of the water formerly flowing to long-term Friant irrigators will go to restoring the river. A number of financial devises, which the settlement agreement suggests in draft federal legislation should be under the control of the secretary of the Department of Interior, will pay for restoration of the river channel and flood control downstream of the Friant Dam. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, chairman of the House Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water and Power, has already scheduled in hearing to hear this suggested legislation. Both sides expressed optimism Wednesday that the House could pass it before the end of the year. According to the settlement, the agreement is void-able if the resources committee – chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy – does not approve the bill.

Kole Upton, representing the 15,000 farmers on about one million acres and a number of towns in FWUA, already experienced in conjunctive use techniques, expressed optimism that the irrigators would find the right combination of recirculation, recapture, reuse and exchange or transfer programs to continue farming. He said the irrigators needed certainty about the amounts of water they would receive, which the settlement gives them.

The settlement proposes that about $11 million per year in fees currently paid by the irrigators will be dedicated to river improvement; the proposed legislation (part of the agreement) could produce an additional $250 million in federal funds, either through bonding, guaranteed loans or other financing. The settlement also anticipates financial participation by the state of California. Greg Wilkerson, attorney for FWUA, said the $5.4 billion Clean Water and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2006 (Prop. 84) contains $100 million earmarked for San Joaquin River restoration.

After the press conference, Hal Candee, lead attorney for NRDC, released an orphaned Red-Tailed Hawk, raised by the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center before a crowd of about 50 people from the media and parties to the lawsuit.

What people are saying about the settlement agreement:

Restoring the San Joaquin River will benefit salmon and numerous other native wildlife species and it will improve the natural habitat along much of the river. It will also improve the quality of life for Valley residents and provide recreational opportunities. – Lydia Miller, president, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

… Over 150 mile4s of river will once again provide vital habitat for not only salmon but for a wide array of other nativ3 fish, plants and wildlife. Restoring one of California’s long lost salmon runs will be strong symbol of our willingness to make California a better place for both wildlife and people. I also anticipate that restoring flows to the river will have a positive effect on the Delta, an ecosystem in crisis. This monumental restoration effort could not come at a better time. – Peter Moyle, professor of fisheries biology, UC Davis.

Over the past century, West Coast salmon rivers have been devastated by water development and other activities. This agreement provides salmon fishermen with a ray of hope. A restored San Joaquin River will literally bring back to life one of California’s greatest salmon rivers. Our fishing communities deserve a little good news. – Zeke Grader, executive director, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association

Drying up the San Joaquin River harmed more than fish. It virtually destroyed the water supply for farmers in the Delta. Restoring the San Joaquin River will help rectify a national disgrace by restoring fisheries and improving water quality, benefiting farmers along the San Joaquin River and in the Delta. Restoring the river is good for farmers, the Delta and all of California. – Dante Nomellini, manager and co-counsel, Central Delta Water Agency.

This settlement represents the triumph of optimism and collaboration among the parties. A jointly supported restoration plan is the best outcome for all. It reverses a historic wrong by reviving a living San Joaquin River for the California public, which owns this important resource. This agreement also demonstrates that the laws protecting the public’s rivers are alive and well. – Philip Atkins-Patterson, outside counsel for the NRDC Coalition, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP

The San Joaquin River is the missing limb of San Francisco Bay. Dewatering the river severed the connection between the Bay and a critical part of its watershed. Restoring flows and salmon to the San Joaquin will not only revive a great river but also improve water quality and habitat conditions in the Bay, at a time when it is facing unprecedented threats. – Gary Bobker, program director, The Bay Institute

This is a truly historic settlement that not only breathes life into a dead river but will measurably improve water quality and lessen human health impacts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. State and federal agencies would do well to consider the elements of this settlement as they begin to fashion a vision for the future of the Bay-Delta estuary. – Bill Jennings, executive director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

…this agreement to restore the San Joaquin can bring back this important part of our natural heritage. In fact, restoring flows for salmon could be the best thing to happen to our overdrafted aquifer in Fresno and Madera counties in 60 years. Walt Shubin, Fresno County raisin grower

The settlement shows the remarkable things that people can accomplish when they work together to restore damaged ecosystems. Trout Unlimited and its 15,000 California members are thrilled that this historic agreement puts California on a course to bringing salmon back to this once-mighty river. – Chuck Bonham, senior attorney, California director, Trout Unlimited.

Some irrigation districts north of Fresno, who unsuccessfully tried to enter the settlement meetings before the agreement was reached, have expressed concerns about its impacts on them and are lobbying for a say in decisions during the implementation stage of the agreement.

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Responsibility for Valley air pollution

Submitted: Sep 04, 2006

The defeat of legislation to expand the board of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to include members from three cities and two public members, a physician and an environmental expert, appears to be such a story. This bill (SB999) was introduced more than a year ago and went through 10 votes and 10 analyses before it was defeated. A majority of Valley legislators voted against it although it was sponsored by one of their own, state Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden. other regional air boards have physicians and environmental experts on them.

Hear what the Assemblywoman from his own county said of the bill:

Assembly Member Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy, called the bill a "solution in search of a problem," adding during floor debate Tuesday that "there is no evidence that the current system is broken."

This a barbaric statement. One is six children in Fresno have asthma, triple the national average.

In 2001, the federal Environmental Protection Agency downgraded Valley air quality from "serious" to "severe" non-attainment

In 2003, the state Legislature took away agriculture's exemption from air pollution regulation.

In 2004, the EPA downgraded the Valley air quality from "severe" to "extreme" non-attainment, a category previously "attained" only by Los Angeles, until recently the worst air pollution basin in the US. But, there was a kicker to this downgrading. At the "severe" level, federal highway funds would have been cut off. At the basketcase "extreme" level, they weren't. The Valley was put on a tight schedule to come up with a plan. Given the record of the Valley air board to come up with and to implement plans, as well as enforce existing regulations, the public has a right to be highly cynical about this plan.

Now, the San Joaquin Valley is considered to be as bad an air basin as Los Angeles, thanks in large part to the Valley air board, composed of eight county supervisors and three city council members.

Meanwhile, despite the dominant roll of cars and trucks in producing air pollution, these same eight counties are embarking on a regional transportation plan under the auspices of CalTrans. Four of the eight counties currently have transportation sales tax measures before the voters, which will increase sales taxes to generate matching funds to attract federal highway funds, primarily, and secondarily, funds to repair existing streets and roads. Focusing on traffic congestion caused by irrational, extreme urban growth, a proven danger to the health of our most vulnerable citizens -- children and the elderly
-- they want to build more roads and streets to stimulate more growth.

These same eight county boards of supervisors who control the Valley air board approve the lion's share of the new subdivisions being built. Most of those subdivisions are being built on prime farmland. When the Farm Bureau joined the Building Industry Association and the Chamber of Commerce, landowners, not farmers, were speaking.

They want nothing -- even a mounting public health crisis -- to interfere with their right to sell land to developers.

What Machado wanted to do was let a little "sunshine" into the decision-making process of the Valley air board. Originally, he wanted four new members. He compromised on two, out of a board of 13. The special interests prevailed. Democrat Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, joined Matthews in crossing the partisan line.

This weekend, Dan Walters (Sacramento Bee political columnist) interviewed a termed-out moderate Republican, a physician who will be returning to his medical practice.

As Richman sees it, "the system is corrupt," not in the conventional sense of under-the-table payoffs, but in having lawmakers so beholden to powerful interest groups -- business, labor, Indian tribes, etc. -- that, with term limits and gerrymandered legislative seats, they utterly control who can run and get elected to the Legislature. And because term limits induce lawmakers to be constantly seeking other offices, they must kowtow to the interest groups that have life-and-death power over their careers.

Dr. Richman voted against SB 999, and he cannot even keep his political logic straight for a short paragraph. Special interests maintain control over the careers of our corrupt local, state and federal legislators through money; whether it is below-the-table just before a vote or above-the-table during the next campaign, the legislators are still selling their votes.

Richman doesn't sound nearly as much like the victim of a corrupt system as he does like an ordinary hypocritical politician with a remarkable lack of self-awareness. But it makes an interesting column.

For the Valley however, far more important than the system is the immediate air pollution crisis. Even the UC Merced, from whatever mixture of motives, sees this crisis. Regardless of how much special interest money political candidates are gathering for their fall campaigns, there are other numbers that are more important, at least to the people of the Valley.

These are American Lung Association national air-pollution rankings from 2004.

Metropolitan Areas Most Polluted by Short-term Particle Pollution (24-Hour PM2.5)

2. Fresno-Madera
3. Bakersfield
8. Sacramento, etc.
9. Visalia-Porterville
11. Modesto
12. Hanford Corcoran
15. Bay Area- 27 percent comes to Valley
23. Merced
-------

Metropolitan Areas Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution(Annual PM2.5)

2. Visalia-Porterville
3. Bakersfield
4. Fresno-Madera
9. Hanford-Corcoran
17. Modesto
18. Merced (equal to NYC)

Top 26 U.S. Counties Most Polluted by Annual Particle Pollution (Annual PM2.5)

4. Tulare
5. Kern
6.Fresno
22. Merced = NYC

Metropolitan Areas with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution

2. Fresno-Madera
3. Bakersfield
4. Visalia-Porterville
6. Merced
7. Sacramento, etc.
8. Hanford-Corcoran
20. Modesto

Counties with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution*

2. Fresno
3. Kern
5. Tulare
8. Merced
10. Kings
12. Sacramento

No rural region in the nation approaches these levels of air pollution. After paving over the Valley, plutocrats will be climbing into their airplanes and escaping to some pleasant place, leaving us with a steadily worsening crisis. We've run out of time for hypocrites and crooks in office.

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

References:

1. SB 999, http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/
2. Air board expansion fails in the Assembly, Fresno Bee, Aug. 31, 2006
3. http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/sjvalley/
4. California State Assembly Passes Landmark Clean Air Bill, September 11, 2003,
http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/003/california_state_assembly_passes_landmark_clean_air_bill.html
5. EPA agrees to lower smog rating for Valley, Fresno Bee, April 11, 2004
6. San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Worsens, Union of Concerned Scientists USA, Feb. 3, 2005
7. In Central Valley, Angelides Vows to Take On Childhood Asthma, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2006
8. A citizen-politician's frustration underscores Legislature's woes, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 3, 2006
9. http://www.valleyair.org/Board_meetings/HB/agenda_minutes/north/Minutes/HB-NR-Minutes-2006-February-1.pdf
10. CRS Report to Congress, California's San Joaquin Valley: A Region in Transition, Dec. 12, 2005

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Oily Pomboza slithers through town

Submitted: Sep 02, 2006
Cardoza is co-sponsoring a bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and earmark the federal income from it for alternative energy development. - Modesto Bee, Aug. 23, 2006

Of course the principle sponsor of the bill is Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy. We pondered the Pomboza's co-sponsorship of this bill and considered upgrading their party affiliations to suit their growing arrogance and destructiveness. Pombo should now be called Whale Slayer, and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced.

While covering a complicated debate about milk nutrition at the state Capitol in 1999, I asked Cardoza, then chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, how legislators, very few of whom are scientists, deal with conflicting expert scientific testimony. He replied that not all scientific testimony was always the best, leaving unanswered how legislators judge between the best and the rest. In that case, an Arizona dairy processor was trying to crash the California skim milk market with lower-standard federal skim milk. The Arizonan had a lot of money and Southern California was rapidly losing its dairies in Chino and San Diego County. However, he was going against the biggest dairy state in the nation.

His argument that there was no difference between the nutritional quality of federal standard skim milk and California standard skim milk was found not to have been the best science.

After several days of reviewing clips on the so-called 2007 Farm Bill and the Pomboza's recent, perfectly coordinated tangents, I recalled the story, the tedious research, the mountains of material presented by the California dairy lobbyist and the Assembly ag committee's chief consultant, and my editors' irritation at the convoluted results. Yet, no one asked the simple question: if it's good enough for 49 states, why isn't it good enough for California? Presumably this was because Cardoza represented our district, was the chief of Assembly ag, and Merced is the second largest diary county in the nation. The debate was about market share, not science.

The same was true about Cardoza’s plan to mitigate the loss of farmland caused by UC Merced and its induced growth through the Williamson Act, which turned out to help developers holding farmland as much as it has farmers in his district.

On Aug. 23, Cardoza, now a congressman and a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, held a breakfast at the Stanislaus Agricultural Center where, in an address supposedly focused on the 2007 Farm Bill, he spoke almost exclusively about alternative fuel sources, mainly ethanol. Two days later, Pombo, appointed vice chairman of the agriculture committee in March, held a workshop in Stockton on alternative fuel sources, centered on a proposed site for a biodiesel plant. At present, Pombo remains chairman of the House Committee on Resources, where Cardoza also serves.

Little if anything was reported about either congressman addressing local farm issues, even dairy subsidies, let alone cotton and rice. Cardoza waxed rhapsodic about alternative energy, the Modesto Bee reported:

The upcoming federal farm bill provides a chance to pursue alternative energy sources, Rep. Dennis Cardoza said Tuesday.

Cardoza, speaking to about 75 people at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, said the bill could promote ethanol and other fuels extracted from corn, dairy manure, cottonseed and other farm sources.

The legislation would outline five years of spending on agriculture and nutrition. Cardoza said the bill, which he is helping to craft as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, could include a section on energy.

The Merced Democrat said farmers in the upper Midwest are prospering because of ethanol production from their corn, and windmills and solar energy systems on their land.

Huh? So what? The highest priority in Cardoza's district is saving farmland from urban development. To legitimately represent farming in his district, he had to address Farm Bill programs that might help arrest slurb.

The most obvious effect of more Midwest corn and soybeans going into ethanol is a rise in corn and soybean prices California dairymen import from the Midwest. According to one Merced dairyman, they are already receiving a $15/ton fuel surcharge from the railroads to account for higher fuel prices.

So, given that Cardoza is just babbling to an audience of Washington energy lobbyists about the 2007 Farm Bill, let's drift back to the money and see if anything is revealed. According to the Environmental Working Group's farm subsidy databank, corn is the commodity that receives the largest amount of farm subsidies: $42 billion from 1995-2004, while dairy program subsidies amount to only $3 billion. We would have thought, in the second largest dairy-producing congressional district in the nation, the congressman might have spoken about raising that a bit.

But, there is another factor that probably provided the primary guidance for Cardoza's remarks – he lives in Pombo's hip pocket. At a workshop on alternative energy attended by the US Secretary of Commerce, Pombo took aim at next year's energy bill to say that the federal government must help private energy companies develop alternative fuel supplies. Presumably, this means tax credits and subsidies. However, it might also mean that Pombo is in the tightest race of his career against a wind energy consultant, Jerry McNerney. McNerney, a Democrat, has already been endorsed by US Army Gen. (ret.) Wesley Clark and Pombo's two Republican primary opponents, Tom Benigno and Pete McCloskey. Pombo, is a crook, voted one of the 13 most corrupt members of US Congress, who should have gone the way of Tom DeLay, has been blasted by the New York Times, the San Jose Mercury-News and the Sacramento Bee for his corrupt, lawless activities as chairman of the resources committee.

Given the stench of corruption surrounding Pombo, it is a certainty that it extends to Cardoza, the rear end of what some local dairymen call the "Pomboza."

We inquired into the subject of biofuels, the ostensible reason for Pombo's all-day theater at the Port of Stockton, because it did not quite ring true to us that the Pomboza is now promoting small, independent entrepreneurs to replace the large energy companies.

In fact, it occurred to us that whatever happens in the upcoming energy bill, it will -- probably regardless of what party controls the House at the time -- be dominated by the Bush/Cheney administration, committed to the obscene profits of oil and gas company top executives.

We did not have to look any farther than the UK Monsanto website for the answer to our question in its informative article about biodiesel. When Rudolph Diesel first demonstrated his engine at the 1900 Paris Exposition, he ran it on peanut oil. He designed the engine to run on a variety of fuels so that farmers far from a source of petroleum would be able to use locally produced vegetable oils. He was quite possibly murdered by agents of oil interests for this fuel promiscuity. Fascinating as the fate of Diesel was, more to the point was the observation made by an executive of a Colorado biofuel start-up, SunFuels, who expressed confidence "big oil" would not try to suppress them:

"They are going to need us once they need to improve their fuel because of the EPA's requirement to remove sulfur from diesel," Lafferty says. "The big boys let the little boys-like us-hash it out, work out the kinks, then buy us out. It's a common trend."

In other words, the Pomboza, acting at the direction of the energy corporations, gets as much R&D subsidy and credits as possible for the entrepreneurs to work out the price, then the energy corporations buy them out. What looks like a pitch for the creative innovation sparked only by economic competition is a front for the oil cartel's control of the creators, the government, the politicians and the market.

Lafferty's remark provided context for the comments of a biofuel executive attending the Port of Stockton workshop, where nothing but a biofuels plant site has yet been proposed:

American Biodiesel Chief Executive Office, Lisa Mortenson, who led the tour of the proposed facility, applauded the renewable energy incentives in the last energy bill.

By extending a biodiesel tax credit, you have given our investors confidence, she said. It is very important to have that commitment at the Federal level.

(In other words, without sizeable federal subsidies, this industry will not begin.)

American Biodiesel's website announces that it will begin construction by mid-2006 on a biodiesel plant in Toledo, Ohio. It's main investor is Michigan-based Delta Fuels, a high profile Clean Air Act violator. American Biodiesel also announces it will produce a 100-percent biodiesel product but will also produce blends

Biofuels produce less greenhouse gases. Depending on the blend, biodiesel is somewhat cleaner than ethanol, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is instructive, however, to ask the question: how does this help California? If we converted our entire shrinking farmland acreage to the production of corn and soybeans to take advantage of the new market for biofuels, would we be better off?

Not only would our economy certainly not be better off, but an argument proposed by UK Guardian science columnist George Monbiot suggests that biofuel is one of the most dangerous enthusiasms of the times. Markets, he points out, are not about people; they are about money. The exploitation of natural resources in a finite world reaches a finite end, and there is an immense cruelty when, on the anticipated global level, land committed to subsistence farming is converted into biofuel production. He noted the tremendous destruction ongoing in Malaysia as forests are burnt to make way for palm-oil groves, which will soon wipe out an entire suite of rare and endangered species starting with the Orangutan. He noted huge destruction of Brazilian rain forests for the production of soybeans for livestock feed. He predicted that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plan to turn Africa into a biofuel plantation would cause immense human suffering and starvation. He concluded his investigation into the subject with these words:

We need a solution to the global warming caused by cars, but this isn’t it. If the production of biofuels is big enough to affect climate change, it will be big enough to cause global starvation.

About the time Pombo was holding his workshop on alternative energy, farmers and developers in his district were trying to reach some accommodation about mitigation for farmland loss. They failed, as usual and as badly as the state Legislator failed to produce a flood bill that would provide responsible local land use policy, including fiscal responsibility for land-use decisions, and would at the same time appease the insane greed of developers.

So, what happened politically in the north San Joaquin Valley last week? This latest performance was straight Pomboza Theater of Diversion. People here, as everywhere in the nation, want to know how to get out of Iraq before we leave an army there, as Napoleon once did in Egypt. Farmers, naturally, want to know what is in it for them in the new Farm Bill. Many people were appalled by Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, particularly by the unexploded cluster bombs left in the last 72 hours of hostilities, when Israel knew the war was ending. Already, these unexploded bomblets have claimed nearly 100 victims. Growing numbers of people from all political persuasions, many of them Jews, think Israel is guilty of major war crimes in that assault. Bush’s popularity has not been out of the mid-30-percent range for weeks. Yet Democrats, even a Democrat like Cardoza, running unopposed, will not stand up.

A friend counseled me that there are many people these days who don’t know the difference between right and wrong and have no moral fiber. Perhaps that’s the answer and perhaps it can be extended to a majority of the members of Congress.

What we may be witnessing here is a large group of elected officials who have enormous power, given the nation in which they serve, without any idea of how to use it for anything but bad purposes because ideologically they don't believe in government and are hopelessly bought by special interests with single issues and no responsibility for intelligent compromise to produce wise policies.

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas, put it this way:

What we have watched unfold for a few decades, I have argued, is a broad reversion to 19th-century political form, with free-market economics understood as the state of nature, plutocracy as the default social condition, and, enthroned as the nation’s necessary vice, an institutionalized corruption surpassing anything we have seen for 80 years. All that is missing is a return to the gold standard and a war to Christianize the Philippines.

Nick J. Rahall, II, Ranking Democrat on House Resources Committee spoke against the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, enthusiastically supported by Pombo, the chairman of the resources committee. Rahall is from West Virginia, where they know more about human costs of energy production, worker exploitation and corporate greed than the Pomboza will ever comprehend. It is so utterly unlike any political discourse we will ever hear in this region and it is the voice of a patriotic American, I quote it in full. Rahall names the national enemy to which the Pomboza sold its soul.

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in opposition to the pending legislation on the basis that I am unwilling to vote against America’s energy independence.

This bill would continue to mortgage our Nation’s future to a handful of multinational oil conglomerates. It demands a continued addiction to a petroleum diet. It would only further enslave us, as a Nation, as a society, to the oily ways of the past, which do not bode well for our energy future.

It is telling that the so-called "Energy Week" proclaimed by the Republican Majority consists of a single piece of legislation that would only further shackle the Nation to the whims and caprices of the petroleum industry.

It is telling that this is their idea, as it has been all along, of what energy
independence means.

As Paul Revere did on that famous midnight ride, those of us opposed to this ill-conceived bill are raising an alarm.

The drumbeat that we hear pounds out a call of freedom.

Freedom to be done with those who profit and plunder at the gas pumps throughout this country. Freedom from the price gougers, and freedom from the merchants of profit and power over our American values. And the freedom to devise new and alternative fuels to our petroleum dependency.

It is time to stand up and be counted. To hoist up the flag and salute it. To strike a
resounding chord that will reverberate across this great land of ours.

I say to my colleagues that today is truly Independence Day here in the House of
Representatives for we are given an opportunity to vote against this bill.

And vote against it on the following grounds.

First, it would improperly and, perhaps unconstitutionally delegate to the coastal States virtually all decision-making powers over the disposition of a federal resource. It says to all of the other owners of our offshore waters and energy resources – whether they reside in Arizona, Idaho, Ohio or West Virginia – that you have no say in the matter. No say whatsoever. That we are going to vest all of the power with a few, to the detriment of the many.

Second, it would grab the second largest source of income to the Federal government after personal income taxes, yank this revenue out of the Treasury, and redistribute it to those few.

Let us be clear. This bill would reallocate existing revenue from OCS oil and gas leases to willing coastal States. Not just future, potential, revenue streams but also those currently being dedicated to the benefit of the Nation as a whole.

It would rob the majority of the American people, and bankrupt the Land & Water Conservation Fund so cherished by communities and localities across this great land.

According to the Administration, the revenue sharing provisions of this bill alone, alone, would constitute a $74 billion hit over the first 15 years.

Envision this massive raid on America’s resources and what it will mean to the average American.

Third, this bill would deprive most of us of jobs and economic benefits in most of our regions.

Those of you from the Midwest – from the cornbelt – forget about ethanol. This bill demands petroleum. Vote for it, and you vote against your interests. You vote against jobs in your region, and against the economic benefits the production of ethanol brings to your farmers.

Those of you from the coalfields – where we have sought for many years to broaden our employment base, and to reduce our Nation’s petroleum fixation, with liquid fuels made from coal – vote for this bill and you are voting against the future of your coal miners.

With a Nation hard and fast on a petroleum diet for decades to come brought forth by the pending legislation, the widespread commercialization of coal-to-liquids technology to fuel our vehicles will continue to be an elusive goal.

I have never forsaken the coal miners in my Congressional District, and I am not about to do so now.

And fourth, this bill is simply not necessary. Under the Bush Administration alone, the Interior Department has offered leases covering 267 million acres of the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf-BH). Industry has only sought to acquire 24 million of those acres. Contemplate that for a moment. There are still 243 million acres available for leasing that the oil and gas industry has not yet seen fit to bid upon.

In all, in total, over 40 million acres of the OCS are under lease and less than 7 million of those acres are in production.

Is there a crisis in the OCS? Is there evidence that legislation such as that before us, which shreds long-standing moratoria, is needed?

The facts tell us not.

Those who bring forth this legislation represent an era that should now be in our past, seeking to place all our eggs in a black basket woven of petroleum.

They would defend the predominance of Big Oil, those with wealth and power, over our energy destiny.

Those of us opposed to this legislation bring with us the conviction that there are limits to what the American people will suffer for the sake of profit and power.

This is indeed a turning point for America. I urge the defeat of the pending legislation and reserve the balance of my time.

Nope. I don’t buy the Pomboza Theater of Diversion. This four-footed thing in humping along into the pockets of Big Oil. This is bad for the 11th and 18th congressional districts of California and for the nation.

If the San Joaquin Valley had the character of Appalachia and not just similar economic problems, we would not elect representatives like Cardoza and Pombo. But as long as we act like political chumps, the Pomboza is what we deserve.

Bill Hatch
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References

1. Cardoza promotes farm-based fuels, Modesto Bee, Aug. 23, 2006
2. Interior secretary travels to ANWR to promote oil drilling, Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2006
3. Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Databank, ewg.com
4.Incumbency has its privileges for Pombo, Stockton Record, Aug. 24, 2006
5. Experts buzzing at Port of Stockton, Inside Bay Area, Aug. 25, 2006
6. www.votepomboout.org
7. www.jerrymcnerney.org
8. It's like oil and water, Stockton Record, Dec. 21, 2005 12-21-05
9. The Biodeisel Revolution, http://www.monsanto.co.uk/biofuels/, July 12, 2002
10. Pombo named vice chairman of ag committee, Ag Alert, California Farm Bureau, March 22, 2006
11.Feeding Cars, Not People, www.monbiot.com, Nov. 23, 2004
12. Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll Announces Six State Class Action Filed against Bayer, CropScience, Aug. 28, 2006
13. Plan to save SJ ag land is discussed, Modesto Bee, Aug. 23, 2006
14. 'New Democrats' Rendezvous With Oblivion, New York Times, Sept. 1, 2006
15. Statement by U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, II, Ranking Democrat - House Resources Committee, Floor Consideration of H.R. 4761, June 29, 2006
16. americanbiodiesel.net

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The Shrimp Slayer’s black-box future

Submitted: Aug 21, 2006

The new Silicon Valley of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, we suggest, is simply another flak attack on his weary constituents, who are slowly beginning to realize up what creek he has led them.

First, let's remember a little history: every major growth project in California for the last 30 years has somewhere in its pitch that it is going to be the new Silicon Valley of Nameyourburg. Second, let us recall the brave words of our culture's newest intellectual elite, as they contemplated the glories of the real Silicon Valley (during a period of growth rather than recession, when you could buy BMWs on every weedy corner used car lot), and declared the "end of history." The content of the famous declaration was that capitalist technology had triumphed over all and any problem could be fixed by a new black box.

Surely, the last refuge of scoundrels in the American political classes is this black-box future, which, if again we call upon human memory and awareness, does not yet exist. Therefore, choices made based on its assumption, amount to selections among fantasies. If, however, you are a member of that political class who has done everything in his power to corrupt local, state and federal environmental law and regulation to establish a university in your district, and this university is floundering in a seething mass of consequences for irresponsible, incompetent planning, led until the end of the month by a chancellor some begin to think is deranged, perhaps you think your best choice is to take this campus by the hand and leap together into the void of the black-box future.

The introduction of a bill in Congress to make solar panels a standard option on all residential development throughout the US (yeah! even Buffalo NY) strikes us as being in the same vein of pious posturing as Cardoza’s bill in Congress to put corrupt congressmen in prison, just another example of the well known substance from Shrimp Slayer Central.

For sincerity, go to his two bills to destroy the natural habitat designation in the Endangered Species Act and his "bipartisan" co-sponsorship, with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy of a bill to gut the entire ESA.

At the moment, Cardoza seems to be struggling to get out of being considered the nether part of the ESA-devouring Pomboza, which has failed so far. To this end, he has gone off to make whoopee with Westlands Water District, he's sponsoring a fundraiser for the opponent of state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced (who dared introduce legislation to try to make the University of California more forthcoming about executive compensation), and now he wants to solarize the Central Valley through federal legislation -- creating a fund for UC Merced to take the lead in development of the next solar black box.

In short, do anything but face the rapidly deteriorating present in which the overbuilt housing market is rapidly crumbling, leaving a social wasteland in its wake.

Yo, Denny: the roof is only a problem for water quality and supply. The cars in the garage and on the street are the problem, and there are more and more of them, particularly on the north side, while the streets of the rest of the city are full of dope-dealing bicyclists.

As a state legislator and now as a congressman, nobody left in office has had more to do with creating the rapidly deteriorating present than Dennis Cardoza, except for the motley crew on the Merced County Board of Supervisors, with whom Cardoza shares adjoining offices. He runs for reelection unopposed, a nominal Democrat, because Republican developers in his district can find nothing wrong with his record or his willingness to serve them.

But, if he is serious about making his district the Silicon Valley of Solar Power, we have a few suggestions.

· Require all vehicles passing through Merced County to be solar-powered cars and trucks.

· Require Union Pacific and Santa Fe to run only solar-powered locomotives through Merced County.

· Require as a condition of permit approval, that the Riverside Motorsports Park become the Solar NASCAR of America, running only races between solar-powered vehicles and, of course, admitting only customers arriving in solar-powered vehicles.

· Require that the Wal-Mart distribution center be powered entirely by solar energy and that the thousand or so trucks coming to and going from it each day be likewise solar-powered.

· Require all staff, faculty, and students of UC Merced drive only solar-powered vehicles.

· Require all developers, construction workers, realtors and new homebuyers in Merced County to drive only solar-powered vehicles.

If that seems impractical -- the Shrimp Slayer's staff would say the political timing isn't right and such a course is not growth inducing -- there is one practical matter that can take some of the pressure off existing residents of the county. As a result of the state Supreme Court's recent decision in Marina et. al v. CSU Monterey Bay, state agencies (like UC) must pay for their off-site environmental impacts.

So, why is the county, under the ruse of Merced County Association of Governments, having been rejected in the primary, bringing back another measure to raise sales taxes to pay for transportation, including $10 million for the Mission Interchange -- Gateway to the UC Campus Parkway?

To begin, this measure, like its two unsuccessful predecessors, is NOT about fixing crumbling city and county streets and roads. It is about building new roads to accommodate new growth, particularly what the absconding UC Merced Chancellor calls “smart growth” induced by the campus.

Why, in fact, should the existing residents of Merced County have to pay one dime for the entire UC loop road -- from Atwater to the campus and down to the Mission Interchange? In its letter to the court in support of CSU, UC said it stood to lose $200 million in Merced if the court decided against the argument that state agencies are not required to pay for off-site environmental impacts. That $10 million for the Mission Interchange should come UC's $200 million. The rest of that loop road should be paid by UC, not existing Merced residents.

Or, to put it more bluntly: why doesn't development pay for itself?

Vote no on whatever they're calling the measure this week (I believe it will be called Measure G in November) to increase your sales taxes. Stay in the present. Do not follow the Shrimp Slayer into the black-box future.

In fact, what the Shrimp Slayer has done for Merced during his professional political career in the state Assembly and in the House of Representatives is to support every development from UC onward, cashing in personally on a few land deals along the way to establishing himself as one of the major Developer's Democrats in Congress.

As the bills come due and the consequences of this reckless path become obvious, the Shrimp Slayer seeks to hide in the black-box future, piously intoning his environmental commitment as he does it.

On the other hand, miracles happen every day. Perhaps he means it and perhaps this is a kind of personal atonement. If so, good. But, the fact is that as a result of the policies and activities of the Shrimp Slayer and others, the north San Joaquin Valley is rapidly becoming a continuous slurb, instead of remaining the valuable farmland and agricultural economy it has been.

The idea that agriculture has a future is nothing new, particularly in the Valley. The present agricultural economy must be given a chance to evolve. But, in a surfeit of greed and stupidity, fomented by irresponsible leadership and this witless UC project, it is in extreme danger of simply disappearing under the developer’s blade.

Concentration of solarizing hundreds of thousands of new homes on this fine land is the lazy, wrong way of looking at “development.”

It is a mystery why an area that has benefited so enormously from agricultural development for more than a century should have produced a generation that hates agriculture so much that today’s leaders and many of their followers will not defend it beyond cloying lip service.

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

Notes:

8-19-06
Merced Sun-Star
Cardoza wants renewable energy to be Valley focus...Corinne Reilly
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12608951p-13314619c.html
With his new solar energy bill and leading solar technology experts at UC Merced, Rep.
Dennis Cardoza said Friday he believes the Central Valley is well equipped to become a
national leader in renewable energy. "We believe it's time for a new energy source, and we believe in solar power," said Cardoza, D-Merced. "We can make the Central Valley the Silicon Valley of renewable energy." Cardoza's bill -- dubbed the Empowering America Act -- seeks to make solar power affordable for all Americans. And, he said, building the solar technology industry locally would vastly expand the Central Valley's economy. "This is an environmental issue, but it's also more than that," said Cardoza. "I'm confident the Valley will lead the way in this next generation of energy technology."

8-20-06

County may clip mega-lot divisions...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12612810p-13318380c.html
Town hall meetings to gather public comment on the draft document are scheduled Sept. 12 in Stanislaus County Agricultural Center's Harvest Hall, 3800 Cornucopia Way, and Sept. 18 at Bonita Elementary School in Crows Landing. Both meetings start at 6:30 p.m. Proposed changes in Stanislaus County's growth policy would give leaders more power to slow a rush on creating ranchettes. Alarmed at increasing requests for manor homesites in rural areas, DeMartini spearheaded a rewrite of the agricultural element to the county's general plan. The most sweeping change would clamp down on a recent proliferation of estate ranch-ettes, loosely defined as home-sites larger than city lots...proposed revision would make it easier for county leaders to deny requests to split large agricultural tracts into 40-acre parcels. More than 33,000 ranchettes have compromised genuine farming on 178,000 acres in 11 valley counties from Sutter to Kern, the American Farmland Trust determined in an April report. Ranchettes account for 25 percent of urban areas but house only 2 percent of the valley's population, according to the report. Revisions also would do away with references to soil quality, because advanced techniques allow production on poorer ground, DeMartini said.

Businesses looking for ways to avoid the traffic crunch...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-v2storylist/story/12612718p-13318289c.html
Valley trucking companies simply can't afford to get stuck in traffic jams on Highway 99
or on their way there. Some are moving closer to Highway 99, and others are installing
computer equipment to help drivers circumvent traffic jams...companies that would bring
hundreds of jobs to valley communities are demanding road improvements upfront to
guarantee easy highway access. Two distribution centers Stanislaus County recently lured Kohl's Department Stores and Longs Drugs Stores - chose a spot near less-crowded
Interstate 5 in Patterson. The county had to throw in road improvements to seal the deal.
Merced is working on a similar agreement for a proposed Wal-Mart distribution center off Mission Avenue. The proposal could lead to a center handling 900 truck trips each day. If it's built, it would hook up with a new interchange at Mission Avenue under construction and a leg of Merced's Campus Parkway - a road that would carry traffic from the highway to the University of California at Merced. Merced Assistant City Manager Bill Cahill said those improvements would benefit a group of distribution centers near the proposed Wal-Mart site. Getting them highway access is a key to the area's development. "The nature of distribution requires access to freeways and good transportation systems," he said.

8-18-06
Modesto Bee
Count on sprawl as usual if Stanislaus movers and shakers have their way...Eric Caine
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/community/story/12603320p-13310174c.html
Despite the buzz about regional planning and periodic announcements to the effect that
"we've got to save our precious farmland," valley politicians are sending a loud and clear
message that when it comes to growth, they prefer that public discussion and influence be
even further out of bounds than our sprawling cities and suburbs...palpable fear that
voters might put limits on development, and that would mean real problems for any number of projects and plans that dominate the agendas of politicians, landowners and developers. Politics and profit do indeed go hand in hand, but to hear Simon, it's almost as though he never accepted those large campaign contributions from the likes of Don Panoz, whose financial interest in Diablo Grande has been well-served by political support from Stanislaus County supervisors, including Simon. Lost in the discussion of disappearing farmland and politics as usual is a valleywide comprehension of the ongoing harm our sprawling growth is causing quality of life. And unless we get a handle on sprawl, we're in for a repeat of the Los Angeles basin, on an even bigger scale. Until then, we can watch dozens of tracts of farmland, like in Salida, go under the pavement, as citizens ponder what happened to their right to participate in the making of their world.

8-17-06
Merced Sun-Star
School district OKs $40,000 for mailers...Doane Yawger
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12598204p-13305642c.html
CASTLE -- Merced Union High School District trustees approved a $39,550 contract with a Sacramento consulting firm to prepare and distribute three direct-mail fliers to voters for the district's November bond measure. William Berry Campaigns Inc. of Sacramento was retained to design, print and distribute about 16,000 fliers to households explaining the $104 million general obligation bond measure. Michael Belluomini, the district's director of facilities planning, said while school districts are prohibited by law from campaigning in favor of passage of bond measures, they are allowed to spend public resources to provide fair and impartial information to voters. Save Atwater Fix Education Coalition in Atwater...unnamed circulator ... urges residents to tell trustees to "stop paying for political consultants and lawsuits." alleges mismanagement of funds, overpaid
administrators and high-priced political consultants and lawyers come at a tremendous cost to the school district, especially when there are underpaid teachers, high attrition rates and gang violence. Trustee Robert Weimer said he has attended several bond measure committee meetings in the evening. He said it is going to be an intense election but hopefully Measure E will be successful. Costs for the three Berry-designed fliers will be paid from the general fund, Belluomini said.

8-14-06
Los Angeles Times
Bending Prop. 13. California voters have been restoring taxes, including on property, bit by bit...Editorial
http://www.latimes.com/business/taxes/la-ed-property14aug14,1,4469539,print.story
PROPOSITION 13 AND THE TAXPAYER REVOLT launched in 1978...politically untouchable for nearly three decades. The measure made it clear that Californians had lost faith in their government's ability to tax and spend judiciously. It stemmed the revenue flow to Sacramento, to counties and to cities, but the hunger for California-quality services - schools and libraries, hospitals and police, roads and bridges, parks and pools, even zoos and museums - remained unabated. So voters began to selectively restore taxes, one at a time, for clearly delineated programs. We have done it slyly...to convince ourselves that we are not really rolling back Proposition 13. With state bonds... We tax ourselves directly for some programs, like transportation. In 1990, voters doubled the gasoline tax. Loopholes remained, allowing Sacramento to divert transportation money for other uses in the event of fiscal crisis. But voters believed that their lawmakers were abusing their power to grab the money and passed a bevy of measures to make sure that the money remains essentially a user fee that can be applied only to transportation. A measure on the Nov. 7 ballot attempts yet again to guarantee this money is used for its intended purpose. But even if it passes, lawmakers will find other loopholes. That's what legislators do. We also impose new taxes on people we don't like much... Now we are going beyond simple ballot-box budgeting and repadding our property tax bills, mostly with local bonds. Unlike deceptively pain-free state bonds, city and county debt to finance schools, libraries and police stations get charged to property owners. As we gradually layer onto ourselves the property taxes we once slashed, we are compelled to reflect on what we are doing. We have distorted not just property taxes, but our entire tax and budgeting system. Our governance, in fact. Some of this fall's tax and bond measures may make sense, given our predicament. We must adopt new bonds and taxes to pay our bills, even as those measures produce larger bills down the road. But the time is near when voters and their elected representatives must have a frank conversation about untying the budget knot we began knitting together soon after adopting Proposition 13.

8-9-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure to be voted on...Measure G
Wednesday, August 9, 2006 E9 CALSSIFIED Merced Sun-Star, Merced, Calif. Notice is given that a special County 00711A on Tuesday, November 7, 2006 for the purpose of submitting to the qualified elector or the County the proposition set forth in the following measure to wit. Merced County Traffic Relief, Road Repair and Safe Streets Measure G:-- a one half cent sales tax for 30 years. Notice is given by the County Clerk of the County of Merced that Friday August 18, 2006 is the final date arguments for and against the measure appearing upon the ballot may be submitted to the County Clerk for printing and distribution to the voters of the County of Merced as
provided by law.

8-5-06
Modesto Bee
Proposition makes bond moot...John G. Wetzler, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.modbee.com/opinion/letters/story/12549804p-13261166c.html
Proposition 42 requires that revenues resulting from state sales and use taxes on the sale of motor vehicle fuel be used for transportation purposes. Starting in 2008-09, about $1.4 billion (before the current raise in gas prices) in gasoline sales-tax revenues, increasing thereafter, would be used for state and local transportation purposes.
With Proposition 42 now in effect, why do we need a state or local bond for transportation?

8-2-06
Modesto Bee
Tax increase for roads lands on ballot...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12533230p-13246736c.html
Voters in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties will decide Nov. 7 whether to raise their sales taxes to help pay for road and rail projects. Supervisors in Stanislaus and
Merced counties on Tuesday formally placed the matter on their respective November
ballots. Merced County supervisors haven't decided whether to leave their item as Measure O or step out of sequence. Voters in that county in June turned down an identical proposal called Measure A. Supervisors decided Tuesday to give it another go to avoid missing out on proceeds from a huge transportation bond going before California voters Nov. 7.

MCAG
Public Support puts Transportation Measure back on Ballot in November 2006...Press
Release...Press Release
http://www.mcag.cog.ca.us/newsrelease/2006/080106TM.pdf
Merced, California, Aug. 1, 2006 – For the second month in a row, county residents stood one by one before the MCAG Governing Board to tell their stories of why a transportation measure was badly needed in Merced County. On July 20, after more thoughtful discussion – this time among Board members – the Board, with Merced Councilman Bill Spriggs as chair, voted unanimously to put the measure back on the ballot in November, where other ballot items, such as several statewide bond measures, will bring more voters to the polls. "In June, the majority of voters showed that they wanted a transportation measure," said MCAG Executive Director Jesse Brown. Brown pointed out that members of any other organization would not be happy if 62% voted for a project to benefit their community but couldn’t go forward because a few voted against it. The MCAG Governing Board hopes that the transportation measure will be a main source of funding for local projects, including repair and maintenance of local roads.

7-25-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure A may make return trip to ballot...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12498850p-13214958c.html
Despite a poll conducted this month that says the half-cent sales tax that failed in June
will do even worse if it is put up for a vote later this year, Merced County officials
decided last week to place it on the November ballot. They say the measure, which would
raise $446 million over 30 years to fix roads, will get the required two-thirds vote this
time because more people will show up to the polls in November than in June. Measure A's failure...stunned many of its supporters. A much more attractive November ballot includes billion-dollar infrastructure bonds and a governor's race is sure to draw more voters. MCAG board members, which includes all five county supervisors and an elected official from each of the six cities in the county, say the county has a one-shot chance at taking advantage of $1 billion that will be set aside for "self-help" counties if voters approve the state bond measures on the November ballot.Sacramento-based Jim Moore Methods...polled 400 county residents earlier this month about the possibility of a November sales tax, concluded that the measure would get only 58 to 66 percent of the vote. "I would not recommend going forward with Measure A again this November," Jim Moore wrote in a letter to Brown. "The survey clearly shows that a November 2008 election date would provide Measure A with the next best chance for passage." If voters reject the measure again in November, it would be the third time a transportation sales tax would fail in Merced County in the last four years.
New measure:
• $10 million for Phase One of the Campus Parkway
• $85 million to widen Highway 99 to six lanes throughout the county
• $10 million for the Highway 152 bypass in Los Banos
• $8 million to widen Highway 59 from 16th Street to Black Rascal Creek
• $8 million to replace the Highway 140 Bradley overhead
• $6 million for Dos Palos street reconstruction

7-22-06
In Brief...Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12487775p-13204301c.html
People can give opinions...Merced County residents are being asked to give their thoughts on the area's future through 10 community workshops. The meetings are the first step in updating the county's general plan. There will be presentations about the plan, as well as about the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Project, which is being led by the Merced County Association of Governments. The first meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday at the Hilmar Community Center. All eight valley counties are participating in the San Joaquin project, which aims to develop a plan for the future of the valley. The general plan discussions will include issues like agricultural land preservation, land use and development, street and highway systems, environmental resources protection, economic development, water supply and public infrastructure, according to a Merced County press release.

7-13-06
Modesto Bee
StanCOG board agrees to put transportation tax on ballot...Inga Miller
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12444598p-13165725c.html
The Stanislaus Council of Governments swiftly agreed Wednesday to put a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot. Dubbed "Measure K"..., it would raise a projected $1.02 billion over 30 years for a raft of projects including commuter rail service, highway and interchange improvements and road maintenance. Jim DeMartini criticized the spending plan, and Tom Mayfield criticized brochures touting the measure as too optimistic about how far money would go. They ultimately voted to approve the measure, however. The supervisors have to vote again, this time to formally ratify the measure for the ballot. Though eight of the nine cities support the measure, the Oakdale City Council declined Monday to take a position. The plan doles out the road maintenance money by population. Modesto would get the lion's share at 41.2 percent, the county would get 22 percent and the remainder would be divided among the other cities.

7-12-06
Merced Sun-Star
Measure set up for failure...Maria Giampaoli, Le Grand
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/letters/story/12439985p-13161477c.html
I knew the day the Merced County Board of Supervisors, with the help of the Planning
Department, voted against a Guidance Package B to the general plan (a small measure that would have protected agriculture land and small unincorporated cities against invasion by developers) that Measure A would fail. Our board on a 4-1 vote and now a 3-2 vote has appeased only two entities in the last 10 years: UC Merced and developers. Agriculture preservation is scrutinized continuously. Equal blame should be placed on the Department of Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers who throw the fairy shrimp in our faces... In the future all social infrastructure issues should be dealt with credibility and I'm sure the voters will respond in a positive manner at the polls.

Merced County Planning Commission agenda
http://web.co.merced.ca.us/planning/pdf/commissionarchive/2006/07122006.pdf
VII. GENERAL BUSINESS
The San Joaquin Valley Regional Blueprint is a planning effort envisioned to support long range regional planning. The goal of the Blueprint process is to develop a preferred
future growth vision for the San Joaquin Valley region. The public outreach for the
planning process has been created with the intent to build a regional vision by developing
local and regional collaboration from the bottom up.

Modesto Bee
Sales tax bump gets supes' OK...Tim Moran
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12440099p-13161665c.html
The proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation in Stanislaus County got a name —
Measure K — and some criticism Tuesday from county supervisors...$1.02 billion over 30 years for road and transportation projects. The spending plan, which is based on
population, would give Modesto 41.2 percent of the $250 million earmarked for road
maintenance. The county would get 22.7 percent. Supervisor Tom Mayfield criticized a
brochure funded by StanCOG and the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, a public-private economic development agency, for overselling what the sales tax could accomplish...Little of the money would be spent on rural and collector roads that carry the most traffic... The Oakdale City Council agreed to take no action on the
transportation tax at its meeting Monday night, a move interim City Manager Steve Kyte
said is the council members' way of expressing their frustration with StanCOG. Though the board endorsed the plan, a separate action is required to put the measure on the ballot.

7-8-06
Merced Sun-Star
No more money for roads...Robert C. Sherwood, Los Banos...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12425129p-13147545c.html
Editor: Measure A failed because more than 33 percent of those who voted believe that more money collected on a half-cent sales tax countywide should not be used to fix our horrible roads. We have the absolute worst, rotten dysfunctional state government of all the 50 states. These contemptible parasites spend every dime that we pay in taxes and demand more. They coerce our local city and county officials into selling us on the idea that more sales tax will get us some of the roads we need after we have already paid twice over for them. We even have an "Association of Governments" in Merced County, for what? The state of California gets most of its money from property tax, sales tax and state income tax. All of the state revenues are higher than ever before. Yet it is not enough. It's
never enough. Why should we Merced County taxpayers pay to bypass Los Banos State Highway 152 and widen state Highway 99 through Merced? Those are state highways and are the responsibility of the state of California. To those who had the wisdom to vote no on Measure A, thank you. To those who voted yes, I say "giving more money and power to government is like giving whiskey and the car keys to teenage boys."

6-29-06
Merced Sun-Star
Hundreds help map Valley's blueprint...Russell Clemings, Fresno Bee
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12385361p-13111938c.html
FRESNO -- Land use planning seminar...650 people attended the kickoff of a two-year effort to define what the San Joaquin Valley will look like 20 years from now...San Joaquin Valley Blueprint project will spend $2 million in state funds to plan for a population that is expected to double by 2040. By late 2007, the effort is expected to publish a set of goals for areas such as transportation, economic development, housing and environmental protection. Other products will include plans for better coordination of major infrastructure, such as highways, with local land use decisions, and a joint pool of data to analyze planning decisions and their effects. ...it is likely to meet with skepticism
if not resistance among local leaders reluctant to cede control over land use and related
matters. Mark Baldassare, director of a newly released Public Policy Institute of
California survey of 2,000 Valley residents, said the results showed widespread public
support for regional planning to deal with issues such as air pollution, population growth
and loss of farmland.

Modesto Bee
Proposed half-cent road tax gains speed with Turlock's approval...Michael R. Shea
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12385475p-13112068c.html
TURLOCK — The City Council backed a $1 billion countywide traffic plan. Voters likely will have their say on the tax in November's election. The Stanislaus County Council of Governments has proposed a half-cent sales tax increase that could bring $34 million a year over 30 years to pay for road improvements. But before the plan reaches the taxpayers it needs city, then county approval. Turlock joined Hughson, Riverbank, Patterson and Newman in voting in favor of the plan. The plan needs nods from five of the nine councils, representing more than 50 percent of the county's city-based population...consumers would pay 7.875 percent sales tax, up from 7.375 percent. The lion's share of the money would be dedicated to maintenance and improvement projects.

6-28-06
Modesto Bee
Valley worried about growth...Adam Ashton
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12380798p-13107739c.html
Increasing numbers of valley residents say they are concerned about growth and are willing to limit development to preserve agriculture and environmentally sensitive areas,
according to a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Those results
tell Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center in Modesto, that people want
solutions to growth-related problems they experience - whether it's snarled traffic or
unhealthy air. The institute's survey shows people increasingly concerned about traffic
congestion but not necessarily willing to support a sales tax measure to raise money for
road improvements. It also indicates people distrust the way governments spend tax money, with 64percent saying "government spending money on the wrong things" is a major problem. In the Northern San Joaquin Valley, 41 percent of those surveyed said the area is going in the wrong direction, up from 32 percent in 2004. In the greater Central Valley, 37 percent said the region is going in the wrong direction. 73 percent of Central Valley residents favored slowing development to protect wetlands, rivers and other environmentally sensitive areas. Similarly, 65 percent said they favored limiting urban development to protect farmland.

6-27-06
Merced Sun-Star
Eight counties to meet for blueprint planning...Chris Collins
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12376475p-13103689c.html
Eight area counties, including Merced County, will join up for their first regional
"blueprint" planning session on Wednesday in Fresno... costs $30 to attend and includes a
lunch, will go from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center.

6-26-06
BadlandsJournal.com
Letter to the Merced County Board of Supervisors on the General Plan Update

process...6-20-06
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=140
There is the Merced County Association of Governments (McAg, as some locals call it) which claims the land-use authority to act as the lead agency and planning department for an entire transportation plan for the county. Although MCAG tries, and reported having spent $420,000 on its latest multi-year campaign to get Merced County citizens to raise their sales taxes to pay for UC’s roads, it has still not added successful political campaign
consulting to its resume of expanding powers. McAg’s latest transportation plan would
remove 2,000 acres of Valley agricultural land. Now, what has that got to do with the
county’s existing General Plan?

6-25-06
BadlandsJournal.com
The desperation of MCAG
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/?p=156
Last week the Merced County Association of Governments decided to put Measure A, the transportation sales tax defeated in June, back on the ballot in November, despite a poll that indicated it might not do any better then than it did either in June or in 2002. The
MCAG, composed of all five supervisors and one elected official for each of the six
incorporated cities in the county, in their judgment overrode the poll results, declaring that the November election will draw more voters than the primary did. The Merced Sun-Star opined without attribution that:...

Fresno Bee
Measure C votes set to begin...Russell Clemings
http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/12369664p-13097113c.html
The effort to renew Fresno County's half-cent Measure C transportation sales tax will kick into high gear this week as the county and its 15 cities begin a monthlong series of
ratification votes...$1.7 billion, 20-year extension plan...hints of a possible court
challenge from one of the holdouts, the Valley Taxpayers Coalition, represented by former Fresno City Manager Jeff Reid. At the policy board meeting, Reid raised a number of objections to the board's handling of an environmental impact report on the spending plan. Sierra Club's Tehipite chapter..."Our immediate feedback is that we want to see the ballot language," "We want to make sure the voters are not being misled" on the extent of potential air quality benefits from the Measure C extension said the chapter's
representative, Kevin Hall.

Support Measure C...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/story/12369655p-13097111c.html
"What if," the commercial begins, "there was no Measure C?" If all goes well, by the end of next month 15 city councils in Fresno County and the Board of Supervisors will have voted to approve Measure C, an extension of a half-cent transportation sales tax. But the first Measure C has lived up to its promises... Extending Measure C for another 20 years also would mean capturing additional matching funds from the state and federal governments. The extension differs from the original measure in several ways. The 1986 version allocated almost three-quarters of the money to major street and highway projects. Now we need to balance our transportation options... The Measure C extension package is a good, balanced plan, thanks to the work of a steering committee that included experts on health, the environment, agriculture, business, government, labor, education, trucking, rural and urban interests.

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Memoir of the neighborhood Crying Man: Reflection on the Girl Blog from Iraq

Submitted: Aug 21, 2006

... Are the lives of Arabs worth so little?

... And the world wonders how ‘terrorists’ are created! A 15-year-old Lebanese girl lost five of her siblings and her parents and home in the Qana bombing… Ehud Olmert might as well kill her now because if he thinks she’s going to grow up with anything but hate in her heart towards him and everything he represents, then he’s delusional.

Is this whole debacle the fine line between terrorism and protecting ones nation? If it’s
a militia, insurgent or military resistance- then it’s terrorism (unless of course the
militia, insurgent(s) and/or resistance are being funded exclusively by the CIA). If it’s
the Israeli, American or British army, then it’s a pre-emptive strike, or a ‘war on
terror’. No matter the loss of hundreds of innocent lives. No matter the children who died
last night- they’re only Arabs, after all, right?

Right?

-- July 30l 2006, Baghdad Burning, "I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend..." Girl Blog from Iraq... let's talk war, politics and occupation.
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There was a man in our neighborhood in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, who cried all day long, openly, quietly, with no other manifestation of mal-adaption but poverty. I assume he slept in our neighborhood park, fairly safely, in the lee of our cathedral.

The neighborhood was popular with tourists from around the world and the mafia kept the streets fairly crime-free for the sake of the restaurant trade. Eventually, the lords of our neighborhood, who had tolerated the crying man among a number of docile street people, granted him a job bussing tables at a coffee shop. I noticed one day in 1979, watching him clearing cups and plates off tables, that his tears had diminished to sniffles. I felt a slight tremor of alarm, but reflected that extreme collective grief cannot be indefinitely maintained, and left the coffee shop to go try to make some money.

But, there was a time, 1975, when he cried for all of us. It was such a time that many of us knew he cried for all the grief over Vietnam and America.

In our neighborhood, however, we had Chinese immigrant people so wracked and ruined by war they babbled and gnashed their teeth out in front of God and everybody. Ours was a picturesque neighborhood but not without its sorrows. Who could forget the earnest Chinese evangelist preaching on the traffic island at our busiest intersection? We were a neighborhood, adored by tourists, yet full of incomprehensible speech and futile gestures.

The Crying Man was as simple as a patient of Jesus. He was the answer to the question asked in the Gospel of St. Mark: Where is the salt? He leaked it. He donated it to the neighborhood. It was his rent check and security deposit.

One analysis of present times is that the Americans sought empire too late in the game. The formerly colonized cut off that avenue for the expansion of power. During the Cold War we could see it all as a vast thriller by Greene, Ambler or Le Carre. After that, America declared the "end of history," and dissolved back into nuclear-armed, oblivious adolescence.

“The Americans have gone mad again,” John Le Carre noted in 2003.

A society that has replaced the knowledge of 30 years ago that “what goes around comes around,” with the arrogant corporate slang that “shit happens,” is actually brain dead.

Right?

Even a spider plunging into the void creates a strand of web behind it. This administration plunged us into a void, leaving behind a trail of nothing but destruction and corruption.

But, wait! Something lurks in the void, more terrifying than this void of corporate nihilism itself: slow moving, society-ruining economic and political consequences.

How do Americans benefit from this fascist plutocracy? How will Americans get rid of it? If we succeed, what then?

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts08212006.html
August 21 , 2006
Will the Unemployed Become Cannon Fodder for Bush's Wars?
Artificial Recovery; Real Job Losses
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
…The July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists 113,000 new jobs, all of which are in services.“Leisure and hospitality” accounted for 42,000 jobs, most of which are waitresses and bar tenders. “Education and health services” accounted for 24,000 jobs.
“Professional and business services” accounted for 43,000. Manufacturing lost another 15,000 jobs. In the US today, government employs 7.7 million more people than does manufacturing. Little wonder we have an $800 billion annual trade deficit when the government sector is larger than the manufacturing sector. American economists are yet to face up to the fact that offshoring high productivity, high value-added jobs that pay well and replacing them with waitresses and bartenders is a knife in the heart of the US economy. Charles W. McMillion of MBG Information Services reports that compensation is falling behind price rises and that the US economy has been kept afloat by consumers overspending their disposable incomes by drawing down their accumulated assets and going deeper into debt.
McMillion reports that according the Bureau of Economic Affairs, households outspent their disposable incomes by 1.5% in the second quarter of this year, a rate of dissaving equaled only by the depression year of 1933 … What kind of economic recovery is it when the purchasing power of wages falls instead of rises?
In my opinion, the recovery was artificial. It was based on extremely low interest rates orchestrated by the Federal Reserve. The low interest rates discouraged saving, but the low rates reduced the mortgage cost of real estate, inflated home prices and encouraged consumers to refinance their homes and to spend the equity. The federal government has been overspending its income also, and has wasted a minimum of $300 billion on an illegal, pointless, and lost war that has turned Iraq into a terror zone … Considering the loss of good jobs, the high debt burden, and the dependence on imports, it is unclear what will enable America to pull herself out of the next recession.
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http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/08/21/minimum-wage-%e2%80%98take-this-pay-and-shove-it%e2%80%99/
Minimum Wage: ‘Take This Pay and Shove It’
Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised. The 10 long years minimum wage workers have earned just $5.15 an hour shows the “skewed priorities” of the Republican-controlled Congress, writes AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on The Hill, the blog recently launched by the influential congressional insider newspaper The Hill.
Says Sweeney in the Aug. 20 post:
If ever an issue clearly showed the skewed priorities of this Congress’ leadership, it’s the minimum wage. Two weeks ago the Senate rightly rejected a cynical ploy by Republican leadership to poison the current minimum wage increase with yet more massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans…
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http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0820-23.htm
Published on Sunday, August 20, 2006 by the New York Times
Five Years After 9/11, Fear Finally Strikes Out
by Frank Rich
The results are in for the White House’s latest effort to exploit terrorism for political gain: the era of Americans’ fearing fear itself is over.
In each poll released since the foiling of the trans-Atlantic terror plot — Gallup, Newsweek, CBS, Zogby, Pew — George W. Bush’s approval rating remains stuck in the 30’s, just as it has been with little letup in the year since Katrina stripped the last remaining fig leaf of credibility from his presidency. While the new Middle East promised by Condi Rice remains a delusion, the death rattle of the domestic political order we’ve lived with since 9/11 can be found everywhere: in Americans’ unhysterical reaction to the terror plot, in politicians’ and pundits’ hysterical overreaction to Joe Lieberman’s defeat in Connecticut, even in the ho-hum box-office reaction to Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center.” … The administration’s constant refrain that Iraq is the “central front” in the war on terror is not only false but has now also backfired politically: only 9 percent in the CBS poll felt that our involvement in Iraq was helping decrease terrorism. As its fifth anniversary arrives, 9/11 itself has been dwarfed by the mayhem in Iraq, where more civilians are now killed per month than died in the attack on America … We look at Mr. Chertoff and still see the man who couldn’t figure out what was happening in New Orleans when the catastrophe was being broadcast in real time on television …Dick Cheney’s credibility is also nil: he will always be the man who told us that Iraqis would greet our troops as liberators and that the insurgency was in its last throes in May 2005. His latest and predictable effort to exploit terrorism for election-year fear-mongering — arguing that Ned Lamont’s dissent on Iraq gave comfort to “Al Qaeda types” — has no traction because the public has long since untangled the administration’s bogus linkage between the Iraq war and Al Qaeda. That’s why, of all the poll findings last week, the most revealing was one in the CBS survey: While the percentage of Americans who chose terrorism as our “most important problem” increased in the immediate aftermath of the London plot, terrorism still came in second, at only 17 percent, to Iraq, at 28 percent … What Republicans really see in Mr. Lieberman’s loss is not a defeat in the war on terror but the specter of their own defeat. Mr. Lamont is but a passing embodiment of a fixed truth: most Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake and want some plan for a measured withdrawal. That truth would prevail even had Mr. Lamont lost. … As the election campaign quickens, genuine nightmares may well usurp the last gasps of Rovian fear-based politics. It’s hard to ignore the tragic reality that American troops are caught in the cross-fire of a sectarian bloodbath escalating daily, that botched American policy has strengthened Iran and Hezbollah and undermined Israel, and that our Department of Homeland Security is as ill-equipped now to prevent explosives (liquid or otherwise) in cargo as it was on 9/11. For those who’ve presided over this debacle and must face the voters in November, this is far scarier stuff than a foiled terrorist cell, nasty bloggers and Ned Lamont combined.
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http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,,1855568,00.html
Tories open nine-point lead as Labour drops to 19-year low
Julian Glover
Tuesday August 22, 2006
The Guardian
David Cameron is on course for a possible general election win, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today that shows support for the Conservatives climbing to a lead that could give them a narrow majority in the Commons, while Labour has plunged to a 19-year low.
The Tories have gained over the last month while support for Labour has fallen heavily in the wake of the recent alleged terror plot against airlines. An overwhelming majority of voters appear to pin part of the blame for the increased threat on Tony Blair's policy of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ministers - including Mr Blair - have repeatedly denied that there is a connection. But 72%, including 65% of Labour voters, think government policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists. Only 1% of voters believe the government's foreign policy has made Britain safer, a devastating finding given that action in Iraq and Afghanistan has been justified in part to defeat Islamist terrorism.
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http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0820-30.htm
Amateur Warlords
Bush, Cheney, Blair - and now Olmert - have demonstrated they have no grasp of military affairs
by Eric Margolis
Toronto Sun (Canada) -- Aug. 20, 2006
For a leader who styles himself "the war president," U.S. Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush's military record now stands at 0 for 4. Even Italy's born-again "imperial Roman conqueror," Benito Mussolini, fared better.
- Fiasco I: Five years after Bush ordered Afghanistan invaded and proclaimed "total victory," U.S. and allied forces are fighting a losing war against Afghan resistance groups. Afghan heroin exports are up 90%. The U.S. just quietly deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan to hunt Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in a desperate attempt to save Republicans from getting clobbered in November midterm elections.
- Fiasco II: "Mission accomplished" in Iraq. Bush's war in Iraq is clearly lost, but few dare admit it. The U.S. has spent $300 billion on Afghanistan and Iraq, with nothing to show but bloody chaos, deficits, body bags, and growing hatred of America. The Bush/Dick Cheney "liberation" of Iraq has now cost more than the Vietnam War.
- Fiasco III: The White House had the CIA and Pentagon spend tens of millions bribing Somali warlords to fight Islamist reformers trying to bring law and order to their strife-ravaged nation. The Islamists whipped CIA-backed warlords and ran them out of Somalia. Following this defeat, the U.S. is now urging ally Ethiopia -- shades of Lebanon -- to invade Somalia, thus raising the threat of a wider war between Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Good work, Mr. President.
- Fiasco IV: Bush and Vice President Cheney egged Israel into the hugely destructive but militarily fruitless war in Lebanon over the past month, in what many view as the first part of their long-nurtured plan to militarily crush Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. They did their best to thwart world efforts to halt the conflict …
No sooner had bombing stopped last week than Hezbollah bulldozers were busy clearing rubble, and Hezbollah social workers resettling refugees. Perhaps Bush should ask Hezbollah to take over rebuilding New Orleans … The "war president" has become the fiasco president. The White House should stop listening to bogus military advice from neocon couch commandos who thirst for Muslim blood, and start listening to experienced Pentagon officers who understand the meaning and cost of war.

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Peltier, water, and the cold hard cash

Submitted: Aug 18, 2006

by Chico del los Pozos

I have concluded over the years that when writing about the complexities of California’s byzantine water world, it is easiest to write about water in terms of cold hard cash. A flowing, living river has aesthetic value to environmentalists and preservationists while a river of dollar bills appeals to a different set of values that even the most apathetic taxpayer can understand.

The dry statistics are that an acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or enough to cover 93 percent of a football field a foot deep. It will meet the domestic needs of two families of five for a year, if used wisely. At this point, readers usually start getting glassy-eyed and losing interest in any further discussion of water. However, if you equate all those gallons to cash, reader interest perks back up.

Does a $25 billion federal taxpayer gift to a few hundred people pique your interest? Read on.

Depending on where you are in the bucket line, California’s river water stored behind dams can be: (1) free; (2) cheap; (3) well below true retail value; (4) expensive; or (5) in the case of bottled water, extremely expensive. Public water that goes to farmers for free or at subsidized rates as small as $20 to $75 an acre-foot, when placed in plastic bottles with scenic labels and treated slightly, can go for up to $2 million or more when sold by the pint or liter in the grocery store or fancy restaurant. For comparison purposes, that $2 million acre-foot of bottled water can also be sold via ditch to Fresno Irrigation District growers for $12-15 an acre-foot.

Thus, it is understandable that deal-making in California’s changing water world, particularly for irrigation water, is usually done behind closed doors and out of the public spotlight. A glaring example is the current secretive negotiations between Fresno County’s Westlands Water District and the United States Department of Interior. A key negotiator for the Department of Interior - and supposedly the general public’s advocate - is Jason Peltier, named assistant Secretary for Water and Science in July.

Peltier’s previous job was as a lobbyist for the Central Valley Project Contractors’ Association, which represents the irrigation water interests of growers from Redding to Bakersfield. Westlands, not surprisingly, is the largest water district in the Contractors’ Association. Here’s how the spinmasters in the Department of Interior, in a recent press release, explained Peltier’s 13-year stint as a lobbyist.

“As manager of California’s Central Valley Project Water Association from 1988 through 2001, Peltier directed the public education and advocacy efforts of this not-for-profit membership organization,” the press release said.

The New York Times, in a March 3, 2006, article, described Peltier much differently. The Times reported, “Mr. Peltier's role influencing decisions that could have a direct financial impact on his former employer is part of a pattern at the Interior Department over the last five years, critics say, with a revolving door between managers on the government side, and the people who buy or lease federal water, land or forests on the other side.”

Peltier told the Times that when he first came to the Bush administration in 2001, he recused himself from some decisions involving the water district he used to represent, but he said he was granted an exemption because of his expertise in California water issues.

''I was given dispensation early on because of my knowledge of these issues,'' Peltier said, adding, ''I have not had the strict bar of separation on certain issues, but I've been very mindful of the appearance of a conflict and operated accordingly.'' Dispensation? Did the Pope grant that?

Interior officials told the Times Peltier had “cleared” his activities with the ethics office. Assistant Secretary Mark Limbaugh, Peltier's boss, claims Peltier's role is only “advisory.” Peltier '”provides background, insight and advice. He is not in a position to make the ultimate decisions,'' Limbaugh told the Times.

In other words, the fox can guard the henhouse as long as the fox is “very mindful” of the “appearance of a conflict.” At least it’s a family affair. Peltier’s wife, Jean-Mari Peltier, a former lobbyist for citrus growers, served as special adviser on pesticide issues at the EPA during the first Bush administration term before returning to being an Ag lobbyist.

Westlands, with their former employee on the other side of the table, is now putting the finishing touches on a new water delivery contract that could bring the 600,000-acre district of 400 to 600 growers as much as one million acre-feet of water a year for the next 50 years (a 25-year water delivery contract with a virtually automatic renewal for another 25 years).

Do the math.

The water, which comes from hundreds of miles away on Northern California’s Trinity River, is worth up to $500 an acre-foot for urban developers in Central and Southern California. Five hundred million dollars a year of water for 50 years = $25 billion. That averages out to almost $42 million worth of retail water on average over 50 years for each of the 600 growers (less the purchase price which will be under 20 percent of retail value). Expensive water bought cheap and used in some cases to grow subsidized crops like cotton. And under current law the Westlands is free to sell any excess water to the highest urban bidder. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is definitely interested.

The water delivery contract negotiations are being concluded as part of an overall settlement of the Westlands growers’ lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for failure to provide a drainage system. Bureau officials recently unveiled a drainage “solution” for the Westlands’ selenium-laced problem farm lands that could cost taxpayers another $1 billion.

The proposed drainage “solution” has provoked an outcry from national environmental groups who contend it is merely a re-creation of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge disaster in early 1980s when Westlands toxic agricultural drainage poisoned the food chain at the Merced County refuge, where the tainted water was funneled to evaporate in deadly ponds.

The Los Angeles Times reported July 8 that the proposed solution, including building over 3,000 acres of new evaporation ponds, has raised fears of another Kesterson-like environmental catastrophe.

“My God,” Ed Imhoff, a retired Department of Interior officials who headed a five-year, $50 million study of the western San Joaquin Valley drainage problem in the late 1980s, told the LA Times. “Why would we be replicating something that caused all the deaths and deformities at Kesterson? Why would we do that?”

When Imhoff’s study group released their final report in 1990, it recommended, among other water-saving measures, idling all the high selenium lands in the Westlands that were generating the poisonous drainage water - up to 300,000 acres.

Jason Peltier, who was then a lobbyist for the Westlands, told the media at that time, “The sooner this report gets put on a shelf and starts gathering dust the better.”

Under an earlier proposal as part of the drainage plan, Interior would have bought out the badlands and idled them. Westlands and Peltier see if differently. The last proposal calls for Interior to merely buy the federal irrigation rights to the badlands. In other words, Westlands growers will get to keep their high selenium lands and will be give well over three-quarters of a billion dollars to simply stop irrigation with federal water. However, they will still be able to use that land for other purposes, including irrigating with non-federal water.

When asked by the Los Angeles Times if this could be true, Kirk Rodgers, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, responded, “No decisions have been made on that.”

One thing is certain. America’s most expensive irrigation project in the middle of a salty desert is about to get a lot more expensive.
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West side tractor drivers know Chico de los Pozos as a tall man in a huge sombrero riding a camel, backlit by the setting son on the ridges of the western hills.

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