Federal Government

More benefits of a UC campus in the Valley

Submitted: Jun 01, 2006

The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which UC manages, recently announced plans to build a level-4 bio-defense lab near Tracy. Level-4 labs store the most dangerous diseases known to man -- Ebola, dengue fever, Lassa fever and "other illnesses for which there are no known cures." (1)

Opposition to UC Davis establishing a level-4 lab in Davis was so strong -- including a unanimous vote against it by the Davis City Council -- that the federal government dropped plans to fund a $59-million National Biocontainment Laboratory there in September 2003. (2) Opponents argued that such a lab would be an attraction to terrorists and that UC doesn't have adequate security to obstruct them from spreading the lethal contents of a level-4 bio-defense lab to contaminate the surrounding community.

Proximity to a UC campus, former UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey never tired of repeating, creates an ambition to go to college. It also creates a fear of UC weapons-of-mass-destruction research and mistrust of the bland assurances of adequate security.

At least one Tracy city councilwoman, Irene D. Sundberg ... "noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby.

"'The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine,' she said."

Whose backyard the most dangerous, incurable illnesses in the world should be stored, is the question being argued in federal court. Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment has appealed their case to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, after their district court suit to stop UC from locating the facility in Livermore. CARE argues that it is madness to locate such dangerous substances in such a heavily populated area, where, in case of accident, under certain wind conditions, plumes of deadly diseases could blow all over the Bay Area, where a number of regents live.

Meanwhile, enter the sheer magic of UC flak. The closer you get to weapons of mass destruction the more magical becomes the UC flak. UC is saying:

By contrast, researchers at the second (Tracy) lab would concentrate to a greater degree on natural- or terrorist-caused agricultural diseases, but might also have the authority to work on extremely virulent human diseases such as Ebola, research on which is not permitted in the lower-ranked lab.

UC mentions hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, keeping the door open for anthrax, Ebola, etc, of course.

The situation seems to be that if UC/Lawrence Livermore wins its appeals court case, the deadliest human diseases will be stored and studied in the Bay Area, the most densely (human) populated area in northern California, while hoof-and-mouth disease, for example, will be studied in the San Joaquin Valley, which contains the densest population of cows in the nation.

This is undoubtedly why our wise leaders invited UC to establish a campus in Merced. This is the kind of enlightened, scientific guidance we dumb farmers need down here in the Valley.

My personal favorite from the selection of UC flak was:

"Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

This rises to the level of fabulously fatuous UC Flak. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported in 2002:

On March 14, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) detailed their research priorities for countering bioterrorism. Their broad goals include increased funding for treatment, diagnostics, and vaccines, as well as projects in applied immunology and genomics. These include studies on how pathogens affect humans as well as the genetics of biowarfare agents. [10] The NIH also plans to construct six to 10 new biosafety level-3 and-4 facilities to supplement the seven level-4 facilities that already exist or are nearing completion. In response, several other countries have announced plans to build their own high-containment facilities. This is a recipe for disaster. (3)

Here's the political dilemma. Suppose Councilwoman Sundberg is able to rally as many opponents to the establishment of a level-4 bio-defense lab on the outskirts of her town as citizens of Davis were able to muster to oppose a level-4 lab in the middle of their town on the UC Davis campus. It would seem, in view of several factors, that UC Merced would be the next logical step for UC to take to get the millions in federal grants.

As a university, UC Merced is floundering badly. It appears, according to intermittent word from students, to be operated like a genteel prison camp. Its course offerings are meager, some would say eccentrically high-tech. Its chancellor has just quit. Its vice chancellor spent most of her career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Its provost departed precipitously for University of Nevada Las Vegas two weeks ago. UC Merced has posted no information on its search for a new chancellor.

First, UC Merced was going to be the UC campus for all the Valley's Hispanics, who according to UC, wouldn't move away from home to go to college. Then it was going to be the environmental campus. This was the period of the Sierra Nevada Institute and the big Nature Conservancy easement program. In fact, due to vicissitudes in the careers of Gov. Gray Davis and Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, UC was unable to fully complete the railroading of all local, state and federal environmental laws and regulations the campus violates, leaving the actual location of future phases of UC Merced up in the air. Lately, more of its flak has been about being a "bio-tech engine of growth."

Labeled both a "land deal" and a "boondoggle" in the state Capitol, so far UC Merced has produced nothing but a huge speculative real estate boom in eastern Merced County, from which various regents and legislators and their families have personally benefited, along with local landowners, developers and realtors. The huge amount of investment capital in the area is flooding in from elsewhere, the same elsewhere where the big profits will go.

What if Tracy develops some backbone? Now that so many Pombo Real Estate Ranches have been filled up with Bay Area-commuter, labor-camp subdivisions, Tracy shows more signs of regarding itself as a part of the Bay Area every day. They may well argue among themselves quite eloquently and persuasively that the best place for a level-4 bio-defense lab also studying hoof-and-mouth disease should be the second largest dairy county in the United States, Merced.

Whereas San Joaquin County supervisors and Tracy City Council members may choose to dodge their patriotic duty to accept a level-4 bio-defense lab, one has no doubt about the patriotism of Merced County supervisors on anything pertaining to UC Merced's memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

That only leaves the problem of providing the amenities to attract the top-notch scientists we need to study hoof-and-mouth disease, Ebola, Lassa fever and other fatal, incurable diseases in our neighborhood. Our local leaders, speaking with One Voice, have already taken a positive step in this direction -- improving the roads to UC Merced. Next Tuesday, our leaders invite one of the poorest counties in the state to vote for a sales tax increase -- the most regressive tax possible -- to raise transportation funds.

With leadership like this, Merced should get a level-4 bio-defense lab in less than a year. And what a boon it would be to our stay-at-home minorities, our cows, and our environment!

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

Notes:

(1) San Francisco Chronicle
Livermore considers bio-defense lab in Tracy. Proposed research site might store deadly human diseases...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/28/BAGLSJ3NVT1.DTL&type=printable
The University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which are already pushing for federal court approval to store and study dangerous microbes at the Livermore lab, have expressed interest in building a second bio-defense lab near Tracy -- a lab that could experiment with even deadlier bugs...if approved and funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the 50,000-square-foot facility near Tracy could come with a ranking of "Biosafety Level Four," a status granted in the United States only to biological labs that store and analyze the world's scariest pathogens, both human and animal -- and lab officials refused to rule out the possibility that they'll study human diseases as well. The proposal for the second lab angered Tracy City Councilwoman Irene D. Sundberg, who noted that the city abuts Site 300 -- as the possible location for the second lab is known -- and new housing is planned nearby..."The (UC Regents) should be putting it in their backyard and not mine." UC officials expressed interest in the possibility of constructing the Tracy facility in a March 31 letter to Homeland Security. UC officials refused to release copies, explaining their letter is "confidential and proprietary" and releasing it might leak secrets to potential competitors for the project. "Lawrence Livermore has a long history of safely and securely working with biological agents," Colston said. "There are hundreds of these facilities in the United States with proven track records."

(2)http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/7356341p-8300182c.html
Huge blow for UCD's lab quest
University fails to win key federal funding.
By Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writer
September 5, 2003

UC Davis' bid for a proposed biolab suffered a crushing setback Thursday when federal officials denied the university funding for a critical research consortium that would have operated out of its proposed facility.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services named eight institutions that will receive five-year grants to operate Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) where scientists would study infectious diseases and defenses against bioterrorist attacks. University of California, Davis, was not among the grant recipients ... Most opponents say they fear the lab could become the target of terrorists and could spread dangerous pathogens through the community through accidents or safety breaches. Marches and silent protests also have been staged to oppose the project ... Don Mooney, an attorney for the group Stop UCD Bio Lab Now, said he has read the NIH's request for proposals for the National Biocontainment Laboratory thoroughly and he believes UC Davis' loss of the Regional Center of Excellence "should be the end" of the biolab proposal. Davis City Councilman Mike Harrington agreed ...

(3)http://www.thebulletin.org/article.php?art_ofn=so02choffnes
Bioweapons: New labs, more terror?
By Eileen Choffnes
September/October 2002 pp. 28-32 (vol. 58, no. 05) © 2002 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

(4) http://www.counterpunch.com/zeese06012006.html
June 1, 2006
Return of the Petri Dish Warriors
A New Biowar Arms Race Begins in Maryland
By KEVIN ZEESE
... Expansion of Bio-Weapons Activity Will Make America, and the World, Less Safe

Not only is this a multi-billion dollar misuse of federal funds, but it will encourage our adversaries to develop similar programs, lead to the invention of new, infectious agents and increase the risk of diversion of U.S. made bio-weapons to our adversaries. If the government really want to increase the safety of Americans the U.S. would invest in the public health system, strengthen international controls and work to remove pathogens from the face of the earth, rather than creating new ones.

The only modern bio-weapons attack was the use of anthrax in letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy at the time the Patriot Act was being considered. There is no question the anthrax used in this attack was produced in the United States and came through Ft. Detrick. The type of anthrax used was the "Ames strain," with a concentration and dispersability of one trillion spores per gram--a technology that is only capable of production by U.S. scientists...

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Some reasons that could explain the Modesto Bee endorsement of Pombo (if stupidity is not the whole answer)

Submitted: May 31, 2006

In a quiet little editorial on May 18, the Modesto Bee endorsed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, against Republican challenger, former Rep. Pete McCloskey.

The Bee says that although Pombo is a (as yet unindicted) crook, he "has been effective in many ways."
McCloskey, is described as a quixotic, 78-year-old renegade, an author of the Endangered Species Act angry over Pombo's attacks.

Pombo's gut-the ESA bills are co-authored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, who represents most of the Modesto Bee distribution area. A practical political consideration not mentioned by the editorialists is that without Pombo's hip pocket to ride in, Cardoza would lose influence in the one-party rightwing House. Rather than register as a Republican, Cardoza is a rightwing Democrat, of use to the House rightwing leadership as "bipartisan" cover for Pombo's radical rightwing legislation and decisions in the Resource Committee.

The Bee notes that Pombo was elevated over more senior House Republicans to the chairmanship of the Resources Committee. The Bee fails to mention that Pombo was also elevated several months ago over more senior Republicans to become vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

These important offices, once earned through years of service to the still untermed House, are now doled out by the radically rightwing Republican leadership to bolster its strengths here, fight off a challenge there and especially to reward loyalty to their radical rightwing policies. Once, even under periods of Republican control, the Congress chose its committee leaders on the basis of seniority, encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric subjects like dairy pricing, cotton and rice subsidies (especially at the beginning of a new Farm Bill debate), ability to compromise and negotiate across the aisle, and perhaps, from time to time, even a for little integrity, civility and authenticity.

In Pombo's case, the radical rightwing Republican leadership of the House, whose guidance the Modesto Bee has followed slavishly, has made Pombo as powerful as it could have in two areas -- resources policy and farm policy -- at a time when north San Joaquin Valley special interests are intent on liquidating both natural resources and agricultural land for a huge speculative housing boom.

It is a moment when the Bee editorial board should have stood for a principle. In fact, the "should" word was used:

It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

The Bee editorialists give no reason why 11th congressional district Republicans "should" choose Pombo, but here are a few I imagine might have persuaded the editorialists:

Get rid of the ESA so developers can build from the Altamont to Bakersfield without any interference from environmental law and regulation, despite the air quality disaster unfolding in the San Joaquin Valley;

Let the government buy up agricultural land at development prices;

Get rid of that 3-cent per hundredweight dairy tax proposed for the new Farm Bill;

Continue strong subsidy support for cotton and rice;

Keep the cabal of Pombo, Cardoza and Valley congressmen Radanovich, Nunes and Costa in control for continued pro-growth, anti-environmental, agribusiness-subsidy and racist policies;

Keep out McCloskey, an independent candidate with a proven record for courageous, principled political positions, who would be no tool for regional special interests;

If necessary (if Pombo is indicted before November), elect one of the Democratic candidates who are vying with each other to see who can be the biggest tool of special interests;

Neither Pombo or the Democrats would be votes to impeach the president; McCloskey has shown he has the courage to take that position if he decided it was the right thing to do.

The Modesto Bee sold its readers down the River of Stupid with this endorsement. It was cowardly, corrupt and dumb -- a combination of components in political policies we are finding more common by the day whenever our leaders speak.

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

Pombo best among GOP options, but he'll have explaining to do later

Last Updated: May 18, 2006, 04:23:03 AM PDT

With his close ties to disgraced Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, contributions from clients of admitted criminal Jack Abramoff, and his off-the-wall plan to sell national parks, Richard Pombo looks to be ripe for defeat in the 11th Congressional District.
We don't think so; not this time. None of Pombo's problems will matter to the majority of Republican voters in a district that includes most of San Joaquin and parts of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties. In this primary, the district's Republican voters are unlikely to vote against their seven-term representative. After all, he is the same big business-friendly, hardball playing, conservative Republican they've been electing since 1992.

As a protegé of DeLay, Pombo was elevated over more senior members to the chair of the House Resources Committee. From that position, he has forged a valley coalition that includes Democrats and Republicans. While we often disagree with the direction he has taken the committee, he has been effective in many ways.

In the primary, Republicans must choose between Pombo and 78-year-old renegade Pete McCloskey (retired Tracy rancher Tom Benigno is a nonfactor). It is highly unlikely they will pick McCloskey over their homegrown congressman. And we don't think they should.

Angry over Pombo's attacks on the Endangered Species Act, of which McCloskey was co-author, Pombo's opponent moved into the district last year to give GOP voters an alternative. This has provided a loud and healthy airing of issues and a real campaign instead of the proforma exercise Pombo usually goes through to win re-election.

We admire McCloskey's quixotic quest, but we doubt that the district's Republicans are interested in an alternative. Besides, even a deeply flawed Pombo has more to offer the district than McCloskey.

It could be a different story in November. Then, a well-financed Democrat with distinctly differing views will present a clearer alternative. Then, Pombo will have to explain why 15 American Indian tribes, all with business before his House committee and some represented by Abramoff, have been so generous to him; why he has voted to protect oil companies' royalties and increase their profits; why he worked so hard to protect DeLay's power, and why he wanted to sell off pieces of15 national parks.

Republican voters should stick with Pombo — at least until they have a better alternative.

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Privatizing US Fish & Wildlife Service biological opinions

Submitted: May 20, 2006

From Florida comes the news that the US Fish & Wildlife are now asking developer consultants to prepare biological opinions on endangered species. It's another win/win, public/private partnership, except for the Public Trust. In fact, the Badlands editorial staff has yet to see a WWPPP where the public or wildlife were winners.

"To speed things up (due to our heavy workload) we are asking the consultant for each project that adversely affects panthers to prepare a BO (biological opinion) based on a template BO that we will send you," federal biologist John Wrublik wrote in the e-mail to RaeAnn Boylan, a consultant for a Lee County project to widen a road through panther habitat.

Predators and Protectors
Defanging the Endangered Species Act
By ALAN FARAGO

May 19, 2006
http://www.counterpunch.com/farago05192006.html

It's always front-page news when an alligator kills a human. The same would be true for a bear mauling or an attack by a mountain lion or shark.

We are hard-wired for horror when a top predator kills one of us. It happens rarely, but when it does, television cameras spark with an impulse older than lights on a Christmas tree.

At the same time, the panthers or gators we may have hunted down after dragging a person into a canal are also on a thousand bronze statues, representing the highest order of strength, endurance and accomplishment.

Protect or eradicate? Honor or revile?

Decades ago, Congress decided that saving species from extinction is the right thing to do. The federal Endangered Species Act's underlying value is to protect the diversity of life. In fact, only a few endangered species are top predators.

Protecting key species -- such as the Florida panther or American crocodile -- should, in principle, protect habitats the species need to survive. A particular economic activity that affects habitat may trigger the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. In particular, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to review the proposed activity through a formal biological opinion, written by staff biologists. The biological opinion should address the threat to the listed species based on science. That's the principal.

Not in the state of Florida, however, where biological opinions are authored, at least in part, by the same developers, miners and economic interests seeking to block an adverse finding in court.

The story was reported last week by journalist Craig Pittman in the St. Petersburg Times. "To speed things up (due to our heavy workload) we are asking the consultant for each project that adversely affects panthers to prepare a BO (biological opinion) based on a template BO that we will send you," federal biologist John Wrublik wrote in the e-mail to RaeAnn Boylan, a consultant for a Lee County project to widen a road through panther habitat. Wrublik wrote in his e-mail that adapting the "template" to fit various projects destroying panther habitat should be "pretty straightforward," requiring only some "deleting and inserting" of information "where appropriate."

In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not too swamped with paperwork to fire an 18-year employee, biologist Andy Eller, one week after he had written a biological opinion against Mirasol, a development proposed for panther habitat in Collier County.

Eller's case quickly became a national cause celebre, an example of intense political pressure on science -- one of the most egregious legacies of the Bush White House.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (1), an organization that supports whistleblowers who work for government agencies, said about scientists like Eller, "The essential dilemma is that they are paid to conduct defensible scientific reviews but face possible termination if they accurately report what they have found."

An endless stream of money has been spent by special interests to declaw, defang and decommission the Endangered Species Act, one of the most important laws protecting America's natural heritage.

Mirasol is the project of a West Virginia coal-mine owner whose advocacy in Congress for mountaintop removal to mine coal may have led to expectations how the conflict between the environment and the force of progress would resolve in Florida.

Recently, I happened to see a dead top predator. It was early evening on an edge road in south Miami-Dade County. Only minutes before my arrival, a panther crossing the road had been struck by a car.

I pulled up in front of what I took to be a lifeless dog. Locked in the headlights, it was one of Florida's premier endangered species, dead in the road, blood congealing on its broken jaw and torn skin.

Nearby, a rock miner is seeking permits to build a small city of 6,000 homes in an area significantly impacting wetlands.

Today, Florida is seeking to wrestle control of wetlands jurisdiction from the federal government.

In 2005, Andy Eller was reinstated to his job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the agency admitted fault in distorting science related to panther habitat near the proposed Mirasol development.

For risking his career, Eller received an award from the Everglades Coalition.

And over the weekend, the alligator that took the life of a Broward woman was hauled from the canal not far from the tragic accident and shot. Two more people have been killed by alligators in the past week, despite the fact that attacks on humans by alligators are exceedingly rare.

So far this year, six panthers have been killed on Florida roads.

What conflicting and contradictory impulses carry us on our brief journey?

Alan Farago of Coral Gables, who writes about the environment, can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com.
--------------------------
Notes:

(1) Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
http://www.peer.org

PEER is a national non-profit alliance of local, state and federal scientists, law enforcement officers, land managers and other professionals dedicated to upholding environmental laws and values.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER’s environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Public employees are a unique force working for environmental enforcement. In the ever-changing tide of political leadership, these front-line employees stand as defenders of the public interest within their agencies and as the first line of defense against the exploitation and pollution of our environment. Their unmatched technical knowledge, long-term service and proven experiences make these professionals a credible voice for meaningful reform.

PEER works nation-wide with government scientists, land managers, environmental law enforcement agents, field specialists and other resource professionals committed to responsible management of America’s public resources. Resource employees in government agencies have unique responsibilities as stewards of the environment. PEER supports those who are courageous and idealistic enough to seek a higher standard of environmental ethics and scientific integrity within their agency. Our constituency represents one of the most crucial and viable untapped resources in the conservation movement.

Objectives of PEER

Organize a broad base of support among employees within local, state and federal resource management agencies.

Monitor natural resource management agencies by serving as a "watch dog" for the public interest.

Inform the administration, Congress, state officials, media and the public about substantive environmental issues of concern to PEER members.

Defend and strengthen the legal rights of public employees who speak out about issues concerning natural resource management and environmental protection.

Provide free legal assistance if and when necessary.

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Political lessons from the McCloskey/Pombo campaign

Submitted: May 20, 2006

Conventional political "wisdom" says Pombo has raised so much money from corrupt dealings with lobbyists wishing to extinguish every trace of environmental law and regulation on the books that he is unbeatable. But where does that money go?

Into a media flood of lies to try to save Pombo and all he can deliver to the lobbyists. Evidently, this crap is beginning to backfire on the great Buffalo Slayer.

It challenges conventional political "wisdom." If all Pombo can do with the money is produce deceptive advertising and the constituents are not in the mood to be deceived, what a truly incredible waste of money! If Americans ever regained their ear for the truth in politics, campaigns could not cost nearly what these inflated races cost now. If corporations were made by such a public that their political contributions were an incredible waste of money, the political system as we know it could collapse like Enron stock, and conventional political "wisdom" along with it.

Bill Hatch

KCRA 3
Adwatch: Pombo's ad focuses on gnatcher
http://www.kcra.com/politics/9241873/detail.html#
The ad claims Pombo saved lives of U.S. Marines by taking a stand on the gnatcatcher. KCRA 3 took a closer look. The ad was shown to three local experts...Barbara O'Connor is a public communications professor at Sacramento State University. Steve Swatt is a political analyst and former political reporter. Bob Waste teaches public policy at Sacramento State University. KCRA 3's adwatchers have a problem with how this describes that move as "closing" parts of the base. In 2003, Pombo wrote legislation exempting all military bases from critical habitat designations. But according to documents, three year's before Pombo's legislation the Fish and Wildlife Service already decided to exclude Camp Pendleton from this critical habitat decision...the scene in the ad of Camp Pendleton Marines being told they couldn't train because of the gnatcatcher could never have happened.

The following statement from Pete McCloskey on Pombo's latest misleading ad was sent to print reporters moments ago.
If you haven't already checked out the latest Pombo TV ad, and KCRA's analysis, go to:
http://www.kcra.com/politics/9241873/detail.html#
An analysis of the ad from KCRA is written below, following the McCloskey statement.
Pete McCloskey issued this statement regarding the ad:
"I trained at Camp Pendleton before leaving for Korea in 1951 and trained there nearly every year through 1965 when I volunteered for service in Viet Nam. The Marines have done a better job of preserving the native habitat and endangered species of most of the 400 square miles of Camp Pendleton than have many civilian agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Pombo has stretched the truth on the gnatcather, as he did when he lied to the Senate in 1994 about the kit fox. No Marine has lost has life or had it endangered because of the manner in which the base commanders at Camp Pendleton and Miramar have mainitained the natural landscape entrusted to them. Major General Mike Lehnert, who participated in the original assault on Baghdad, has perhaps said it best when he told me last February, when I visited the base, "A country worth fighting for is worth preserving."
"Pombo's deciding vote on May 26, 2005 against $9 million for prosthetic research to help military amputees is far more dangerous to Marines than the remaining wildlife at Camp Pendleton."
As a rifle platoon leader in Korea, McCloskey was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

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Hate Week

Submitted: May 15, 2006

The Party of "God" is desperate. Its occupation of Iraq is unravelling. Gasoline prices are rising above $3 per gallon. Its foreign debt is beyond reckoning. The Almighty Dollar has fallen a cent a week against the Euro for the last six weeks. Norway just announced plans to pull out of the London oil market and form one of its own, based on the Euro, following Iraq's plan (squelched by the invasion) and Iran's plan. The famous "trickle-down" economic theory of the Party of "God," the main tactic of which is to continue obscene taxbreaks to the richest 1 percent of the nation, has resulted in more corporate investment in offshore manufacturing, with an estimated loss of 800,000 more American jobs this year (with some growth in bartender and waitress work). Rumors are reported that Karl Rove will be indicted for perjury and possibly obstruction of justice this week. Other reports suggest the evidence trail is leading to the vice president. The president's polls have fallen below 30 percent, and Americans don't like to be spied on by their own government (in fact, it's illegal). Then there's Hookergate.

People are saying something rarely said about Nixon: Bush, they say, is incompetent and too stupid for the job. Since Bush has been known to claim he rules by the word of the biblical "God," theological mysteries surround his administration.

The coalition of oil men, debt finance institutions and the Dixie-based religious right that produced the presidency of George W. Bush, having ruled since 9/11 on fear and hatred of Muslims, now turns these passions on Mexicans. The cynicism behind this move, in people who understand the border and particularly the machinations of border banks to get NAFTA passed, would be staggering if we, the people, were not reassured that the Lord "God" told Bush to do it.

"Just like them damn Philistines!" may have been His exact words to the Great Decider.

"Stomp 'em, David – er, I mean George."

One characteristic of totalitarian propaganda is its abstraction and appeal to racist theories, in this case how Mexican immigrants are the cause of all our employment woes, because, in the words of a bygone US Senator from California, they are "built lower to the ground," and are therefore better fit for stoop labor with a short-handled hoe. From the standpoint of propaganda, the more absurd it is the better, because the aim is to get the individual (soon to join the mob) to deny his concrete experience in the world, choose the ideology the promises membership in the great new vision of the future of the Homeland rather than that "insignificant" experience and memory of it one inconveniently happens to have. This memory, sealed away in direct experience rather than ideology, suggests that Mexican immigrants cross that dangerous zone because they too have no work. Another heterodoxical opinion might be that NAFTA was as bad for Mexico as it was for the US. An even more heretical notion from experience and research is that it was very good for border banks from Los Angeles to Brownsville TX, home of Senator Lloyd Bentzen, who served in the Clinton administration as secretary of Treasury until at least a day after NAFTA was signed.

Hate stunt

From the standpoint of effective policy (actually stopping illegal immigration), this rises to the level of a jay in a tree squawking at a cat on a sidewalk. It's a hate stunt, not policy at all. At some point the rabid "base" of the Party of "God" might even step back, scratch its head, and realize the extent to which the Party of "God" has betrayed it, every step of the way. Since "vision" is very popular today, one might imagine the betrayed Christians stepping up to organize Christian labor unions on the principle that "Jesus" wants working people to organize for decent jobs and benefits.

Cross cultural identifications

Texas oil men, it was said 30 years ago, perhaps had more in common with Arab oil sheiks than they did with Houston construction workers. Aside from certain matters of dress and native language, they seemed to share a lot of common values: hatred of democracy; love of autocracy; adoration of hereditary monarchies; price rigging; expensive horses; religious fundamentalism; etc. So, even before 9/11, like-minded potentates' thoughts naturally drifted toward regime change in an oil-rich country ruled by a secular dictator.

Now, on the US/Mexican border, another cultural motif of the American Southwest plays out: our Latin tin-pot dictator side. The state will come down on the most vulnerable, worst exploited group available with the full violence of military force (if they can muster up enough National Guard troops not already otherwise occupied). The people will rebel, hold demonstrations, the police will attack. Arrests, beatings, deaths and deportations will probably follow as the Party of "God" attempts to draw the whole nation into its sordid South-of-the-Border racial hate stunt. Racial profiling will run rampant, always denied in the mainstream press, which dutifully and accurately copies official lies, only.

Mexican President Vincente Fox and his conservative party, PAN, and the old-line PRI, so long so cozy with the US, will point out futilely that the US is giving the election to the leftwing PRD, led by Luis Obrador. Perhaps the Party of "God" will send them some money to stem this leftward movement in Mexico, resembling movements in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. In any event, there will be US troops on the border, in numbers perhaps not seen since President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized his nation's oil production in 1940. Perhaps "God" whispers to the leader of His Party that it is time to conquer Mexico once and for all, as the Southern slave states desired in 1846.

Perhaps the Party of "God" will withdraw its troops from Iraq, assuming of course it won't just leave them there to be massacred, and invade Mexico, which also has oil. The Party of "God" is looking for a quick victory. Surely it can defeat Mexico.

Right.

Far be it from a mere American citizen, especially one from the humble San Joaquin Valley (Appalachia del Oeste), to suggest his president change his bedtime readings. But, in lieu of trying to interpret the events of this world through a literal interpretation of whatever translation of the Bible the president uses, I might suggest he read Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism as a means of reflecting on his actions. (Just substitute Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Hitler or Stalin for "God" and you'll get the drift.) George Orwell, of course, wrote an earlier, novelized version, called 1984, if the president prefers bedtime stories. (In that one substitute Big Brother for "God" and you can interpret the story's meaning.)

One suggests these readings because it finally seems as if the Party of "God, "seeking to establish a theocracy on the foundations of a republican democracy one of whose firmest principles is strict separation of church and state, is just spinning in circles. Oh, the will to subvert the Constitution -- that liberal document -- is strong enough among leadership, at least. But this whirling motion, particularly in a state so lethally armed, is a global health and public welfare crisis. Other people -- not just "God" -- begin to talk when you invade nations on false pretenses, Mr. President.

The Party of "God" is wrong. I will leave it to theologians to explain how wrong it is about "God. " But, concerning policy, I am a member of the two-thirds of the American people who think George Bush may be doing some job, but not the job of president of the United States. Lashing out at Mexican immigrants is just one more example of the bully-boy, racist principle of stomping the weak to show strength. It failed in Iraq and the first bullet fired on the border will signal the beginning of another massive failure and source of shame for the American people, currently captured by a government bent on the destruction of its Constitution, economy and society for the sake of imperialism.

And perhaps the voices the president is hearing are not from "God" at all.

Bill Hatch
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http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/051506Z.shtml

Bush to Deploy Guard at Border
By Peter Baker
The Washington Post

Monday 15 May 2006

President Bush tried to ease the worries of his Mexican counterpart yesterday as he prepared for a nationally televised address tonight unveiling a plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to help seal the nation's southern border against illegal immigrants.

Mexican President Vicente Fox called to express concern over the prospect of
militarization of the border and Bush reassured him that it would only be a temporary measure to bolster overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, the White House said.

"The president made clear that the United States considers Mexico a friend and that what is being considered is not militarization of the border but support of Border Patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel," said White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri.

Yet the idea has further stirred an already volatile debate about immigration on both sides of the border even before the president makes his primetime speech from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. A number of Democrats and even a few key Republicans voiced skepticism or outright opposition to the reported plan yesterday, calling it a politically motivated move that will only further strain units already stretched by duty in Iraq without solving the underlying problem of illegal immigration ...
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http://www.commondreams.org/
Published on Sunday, May 14, 2006 by the Seattle Times (Washington)
God's Own Party
by Kevin Phillips

Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before — in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.

Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country's domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion's new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.

The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S.
preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

The political corollary — fascinating but appalling — is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil/national-security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.

President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.

Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests — a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless, credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics.

On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860.

I have a personal concern over what has become of the Republican coalition. Forty years ago, I began a book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," which I finished in 1967 and took to the 1968 Republican presidential campaign, for which I became the chief political and voting-patterns analyst. Published in 1969, while I was still in the fledgling Nixon administration, the volume was identified by Newsweek as the "political bible of the Nixon Era."

In that book I coined the term "Sun Belt" to describe the oil, military, aerospace and retirement country stretching from Florida to California, but debate concentrated on the argument — since fulfilled and then some — that the South was on its way into the national Republican Party. Four decades later, this framework has produced the alliance of oil, fundamentalism and debt.

Some of that evolution was always implicit. If any region of the United States had the potential to produce a high-powered, crusading fundamentalism, it was Dixie. If any new alignment had the potential to nurture a fusion of oil interests and the military-industrial complex, it was the Sun Belt, which helped draw them into commercial and political proximity and collaboration.

Wall Street, of course, has long been part of the GOP coalition. But members of the Downtown Association and the Links Club were never enthusiastic about "Joe Sixpack" and middle America, to say nothing of preachers such as Oral Roberts or the Tupelo, Miss., Assemblies of God. The new cohabitation is an unnatural one.

While studying economic geography and history in Britain, I had been intrigued by the Eurasian "heartland" theory of Sir Halford Mackinder, a prominent geographer of the early 20th century. Control of that heartland, Mackinder argued, would determine control of the world. In North America, I thought, the coming together of a heartland — across fading Civil War lines — would determine control of Washington.

This was the prelude to today's "red states." The American heartland, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to Ohio and the Appalachian coal states, has become (along with the onetime Confederacy) an electoral hydrocarbon coalition. It cherishes sport-utility vehicles and easy carbon-dioxide emissions policy, and applauds preemptive U.S. air strikes on uncooperative, terrorist-coddling Persian Gulf countries fortuitously blessed with huge reserves of oil.

Because the United States is beginning to run out of its own oil sources, a military
solution to an energy crisis is hardly lunacy. Neither Caesar nor Napoleon would have flinched. What Caesar and Napoleon did not face, but less able American presidents do, is that bungled overseas military embroilments could also boomerang economically.

The United States, some $4 trillion in hock internationally, has become the world's leading debtor, increasingly nagged by worry that some nations will sell dollars in their reserves and switch their holdings to rival currencies. Washington prints bonds and dollar-green IOUs, which European and Asian bankers accumulate until for some reason they lose patience. This is the debt Achilles' heel, which stands alongside the oil Achilles' heel.

Unfortunately, more danger lurks in the responsiveness of the new GOP coalition to Christian evangelicals, fundamentalists and Pentecostals, who muster some 40 percent of the party electorate. Many millions believe that the Armageddon described in the Bible is coming soon. Chaos in the explosive Middle East, far from being a threat, actually heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oil-price spikes, murderous hurricanes, deadly tsunamis and melting polar ice caps lend further credence.

The potential interaction between the end-times electorate, inept pursuit of Persian Gulf oil, Washington's multiple deceptions and the financial crisis that could follow a substantial liquidation by foreign holders of U.S. bonds is the stuff of nightmares. To watch U.S. voters enable such policies — the GOP coalition is unlikely to turn back — is depressing to someone who spent many years researching, watching and cheering those grass roots.

Four decades ago, the new GOP coalition seemed certain to enjoy a major infusion of conservative Northern Catholics and Southern Protestants. This troubled me not at all. I agreed with the predominating Republican argument at the time that "secular" liberals, by badly misjudging the depth and importance of religion in the United States, had given conservatives a powerful and legitimate electoral opportunity.

Since then, my appreciation of the intensity of religion in the United States has deepened. When religion was trod upon in the 1960s and thereafter by secular advocates determined to push Christianity out of the public square, the move unleashed an evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal counterreformation, with strong theocratic pressures becoming visible in the Republican national coalition and its leadership.

Besides providing critical support for invading Iraq — widely anathematized by preachers as a second Babylon — the Republican coalition has also seeded half a dozen controversies in the realm of science. These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women's rights and opposition to stem-cell research.

This suggests that U.S. society and politics may again be heading for a defining
controversy such as the Scopes trial of 1925. That embarrassment chastened fundamentalism for a generation, but the outcome of the eventual 21st century test is hardly assured.

These developments have warped the Republican Party and its electoral coalition, muted Democratic voices and become a gathering threat to America's future. No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system.

Conservative true believers will scoff at such concerns. The United States is a unique and chosen nation, they say; what did or did not happen to Rome, imperial Spain, the Dutch Republic and Britain is irrelevant. The catch here, alas, is that these nations also thought they were unique and that God was on their side. The revelation that he apparently was not added a further debilitating note to the late stages of each national decline.

Over the past 25 years, I have warned frequently of these political, economic and
historical (but not religious) precedents. The concentration of wealth that developed in the United States in the bull market of 1982 to 2000 was also typical of the zeniths of previous world economic powers as their elites pursued surfeit in Mediterranean villas or in the country-house splendor of Edwardian England. In a nation's early years, debt is a vital and creative collaborator in economic expansion; in late stages, it becomes what Mr. Hyde was to Dr. Jekyll: an increasingly dominant mood and facial distortion. The United States of the early 21st century is well into this debt-driven climax, with some analysts
arguing — all too plausibly — that an unsustainable credit bubble has replaced the stock bubble that burst in 2000.

Unfortunately, three of the preeminent weaknesses displayed in these past declines have been religious excess, a declining energy and industrial base, and debt often linked to foreign and military overstretch. Politics in the United States — and especially the evolution of the governing Republican coalition — deserves much of the blame for the fatal convergence of these forces in America today.

Kevin Phillips is the author of "American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" (Viking).
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
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http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/051406F.shtml
Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 14 May 2006

When America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.

This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret "black site" Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.

President Bush, himself a sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a "shameful act" that is "helping the enemy." Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.

We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.

Well before Dana Priest of The Post uncovered the secret prisons last November, the C.I.A. had failed to keep its detention "secrets" secret. Having obtained flight logs, The Sunday Times of London first reported in November 2004 that the United States was flying detainees "to countries that routinely use torture." Six months later, The New York Times added many details, noting that "plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements." These articles, capped by
Ms. Priest's, do not impede our ability to detain terrorists. But they do show how the administration, by condoning torture, has surrendered the moral high ground to anti-American jihadists and botched the war of ideas that we can't afford to lose.

The N.S.A. eavesdropping exposed in December by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The Times is another American debacle. Hoping to suggest otherwise and cast the paper as treasonous, Dick Cheney immediately claimed that the program had saved "thousands of lives." The White House's journalistic mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote that the Times exposŽ "may have ruined one of our most effective anti-Al Qaeda
surveillance programs."

Surely they jest. If this is one of our "most effective" programs, we're in worse
trouble than we thought. Our enemy is smart enough to figure out on its own that its phone calls are monitored 24/7, since even under existing law the government can eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant (which is almost always granted). As The Times subsequently reported, the N.S.A. program was worse than ineffective; it was counterproductive. Its gusher of data wasted F.B.I. time and manpower on wild-goose chases and minor leads while uncovering no new active Qaeda plots in the United States. Like the N.S.A. database on 200 million American phone customers that was described last week by USA Today, this program may have more to do with monitoring "traitors" like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists.

Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent.

Even before he went to the C.I.A., he was a drag on national security. In "Breakdown," a book about intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the conservative journalist Bill Gertz delineates how Mr. Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, played a major role in abdicating Congressional oversight of the C.I.A., trying to cover up its poor performance while terrorists plotted with impunity. After 9/11, his committee's "investigation" of what went wrong was notoriously toothless.

Once he ascended to the C.I.A. in 2004, Mr. Goss behaved like most other Bush
appointees: he put politics ahead of the national interest, and stashed cronies and partisan hacks in crucial positions. On Friday, the F.B.I. searched the home and office of one of them, Dusty Foggo, the No. 3 agency official in the Goss regime. Mr. Foggo is being investigated by four federal agencies pursuing the bribery scandal that has already landed former Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham in jail. Though Washington is titillated by gossip about prostitutes and Watergate "poker parties" swirling around this Warren Harding-like tale, at least the grafters of Teapot Dome didn't play games with the nation's defense during wartime.

Besides driving out career employees, underperforming on Iran intelligence and scaling back a daily cross-agency meeting on terrorism, Mr. Goss's only other apparent accomplishment at the C.I.A. was his war on those traitorous leakers. Intriguingly, this was a new cause for him. "There's a leak every day in the paper," he told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune when the identity of the officer Valerie Wilson was exposed in 2003. He argued then that there was no point in tracking leaks down because "that's all we'd do."

What prompted Mr. Goss's about-face was revealed in his early memo instructing C.I.A. employees to "support the administration and its policies in our work." His mission was not to protect our country but to prevent the airing of administration dirty laundry, including leaks detailing how the White House ignored accurate C.I.A. intelligence on Iraq before the war. On his watch, C.I.A. lawyers also tried to halt publication of "Jawbreaker," the former clandestine officer Gary Berntsen's account of how the American command let Osama bin Laden escape when Mr. Berntsen's team had him trapped in Tora Bora in December 2001. The one officer fired for alleged leaking during the Goss purge had no access to classified intelligence about secret prisons but was presumably a witness to her boss's management disasters.

Soon to come are the Senate's hearings on Mr. Goss's successor, Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the N.S.A. As Jon Stewart reminded us last week, Mr. Bush endorsed his new C.I.A. choice with the same encomium he had bestowed on Mr. Goss: He's "the right man" to lead the C.I.A. "at this critical moment in our nation's history." That's not exactly reassuring.

This being an election year, Karl Rove hopes the hearings can portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism when they question any national security move. It was this bullying that led so many Democrats to rubber-stamp the Iraq war resolution in the 2002 election season and Mr. Goss's appointment in the autumn of 2004.

Will they fall into the same trap in 2006? Will they be so busy soliloquizing about civil liberties that they'll fail to investigate the nominee's record? It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 - "Tomorrow is zero hour" for one - and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that "some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose," as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and "for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the

same grocery stores."

If Democrats - and, for that matter, Republicans - let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.

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Grassland Water District letter to county Board of Supervisors re: amendment policies during the General Plan update process

Submitted: May 14, 2006

The following letter was submitted by attorneys for the Grassland Water District and Grassland Resource Conservation District to the Merced County Board of Supervisors for its May 2 hearing on General Plan Amendment policies and procedures during the General Plan Update process. The letter has been transcribed from a facsimile. – Bill Hatch

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo
Attorneys at Law
1225 8th Street, Suite 550
Sacramento, California 95814-4810
Telephone: (916) 444-6201
Facsimile: (916) 444-6209
E-mail: omeserve@adamsbroadwell.com

May 1, 2006

VIA FACSIMILE AND U.S. MAIL

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, CA 95340

Re: General Plan Amendment Policies and Procedures During General Plan Update Process

Dear Chairperson Nelson and Members of the Board:

This firm represents the Grassland Water District and the Grassland Resource Conservation District (collectively, “GWD”). GWD has been following the County’s progress toward updating its General Plan, and the issue of how land use planning should proceed during the General Plan update process. At the Board’s April 11, 2006 meeting, a detailed discussion occurred regarding possible approaches to new project applications submitted during the General Plan Update process. Additional options for the Board’s consideration are included in the staff report for Item 55 on the Board’s April 2, 2006 agenda.

Generally, GWD supports actions by the Board that slow or halt the conversion of agricultural or open space lands located in the vicinity of GWD’s service are to urban and other uses. GWD supports a temporary moratorium on Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) adoptions during the General Plan Update process with respect to the Community of Volta, in particular (Option 3A). GWD also supports reasonable measures to slow or stop conversion of agricultural land during the General Plan update process (Option 3B). GWD also believes that the Board should not allow agricultural subdivision applications to be approved during the General Plan Update process. Such temporary measures are appropriate and would protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the County while the important planning processes are completed. (See Gov. Code, Sec. 65858.)

Background Information

GWD contains over 60,000 acres of privately-owned and managed wetlands located in Merced County. GWD lands, in combination with state and federal refuges and other privately-held wetlands, comprise the approximately 230,000 acre Grassland Ecological Area (“GEA”) designated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). These lands are managed as habitat for migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wildlife.

The wetlands of western Merced County are a critical component of the remaining Central Valley wetlands and constitute the most important waterfowl wintering area on the pacific Flyway. These wetlands are acknowledged by the Merced County General Plan to be highly valuable wildlife and vegetation habitats, and international treaties have recognized the habitat as a resource of international significance. The Convention on Wetlands (also known as the Ramsar Convention) recently designated the GEA as a “Wetland of International Importance”. The GEA is one of only four such sites in California, and twenty-two sites in the country.

A study commissioned by the Packard Foundation, the Great Valley Center and GWD in 2001 found that wetlands within the GEA provide substantial direct economic contributions to the local and regional economies. The GEA receives over 300,000 user visits per year for hunting, fishing and non-consumptive wildlife recreation. Recreational and other activities related to habitat values within the GEA contribute $41 million per year to the Merced County economy, and account for approximately 800 jobs. Agricultural lands within the GEA also account for approximately five percent (5%) of Merced County’s $1.45 billion agricultural economy.

Community Plans Should Not Be Adopted or Updated During the General Plan Update Process

GWD’s concerns relating to adoption and updates of CSPs stem primarily from a long-term concern about the small, unincorporated community of Volta. Located about four miles northwest of Los Banos, Volta is adjacent to GEA, the Volta Wildlife Management Area, and other agricultural lands that provide a buffer to these sensitive wetland areas. Encroachment of incompatible uses associated with CSPs into areas near protected wetland habitats undermines both the long-term viability of the GEA and the core habitat values GWD and other entities are working to protect.

In the 1970’s, Volta was designated by the County as a Specific Urban Development Plan (“SUDP”) area. (General Plan, at p. I-7.) As a small SUDP area, the limited residential and service commercial land uses are oriented toward meeting the needs of the local rural population. (General Plan, at p. I – 11.) No Community Specific Plan (“CSP”) has ever been adopted.

Volta has been the subject of numerous proposals for large-scale residential subdivisions and has long been of concern to state and federal resource management agencies, wetland and waterfowl advisory organizations, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the City of Los Banos, GWD and other public and private entities. GWD has submitted numerous comments on other proposed projects in and near Volta, including Wilkinson Ranch, Volterra, and most recently, the Areias subdivision. These projects, had they been implemented, would have been incompatible with the long-term protection of nearby ecologically sensitive areas and the existing rural character of the Volta community.

Given that it is adjacent to GEA resources, GWD supports the redesignation of Volta to an Agricultural Service Center (“ASC”), as suggested by the current General Plan. (General Plan, at pp. I-11, VII-27.) Primarily, this is because further development of Volta would create conflicts with existing agricultural and open space uses. (General Plan, at p. I-11.) According to the General Plan, redesignation to ASC is appropriate for areas with the following characteristics: (1) lacking a full range of services; (2) stable or declining populations; (3) isolated location; and (4) agricultural service orientation to existing land uses. (General Plan, at pp. VII-27 to 28.) Volta meets all of these criteria; thus, ASC is a more appropriate designation for this rural area.

The current SUDP designation for Volta is inappropriate and will lead to encroachment of incompatible land uses into a sensitive area not suited for urban development. Therefore, GWD believes that adoption of a temporary moratorium on CSP adoptions and updates during the General Plan Update process is appropriate.

Agricultural Subdivisions Should Not Proceed During the General Plan Update Process

GWD also recommends deferring General Plan amendments that facilitate conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses in and near the GEA. None of the current options under consideration by the Board directly address subdivision of agricultural land (“ag subdivisions”). While Option 3B would limit approval of General Plan amendments from agricultural to non-agricultural uses (which GWD generally supports where such subdivisions would impact GEA resources), it is not applicable to ag subdivisions, which do not typically involve a change in land use designation.

Converting land currently in use for farming or grazing to ranchettes is incompatible with the long-term viability of the biological resources of the GEA. Furthermore, agricultural activities around the GEA help buffer the area for incompatible urban uses. According to a recently released report by the American Farmland Trust, nineteen percent (19%) of all developed land in Merced County is outside of city spheres of influence.
(http://www.farmland.org/reports/futureisnow/merced3.html)
Additionally, fifty-nine percent (59%) of all development within the 1990 to 2000 time period occurred in High Quality Farmland. (Ibid.)

GWD has commented on numerous ag subdivisions over the years because of the grave danger fragmentation of viable farmland and grazing land poses to the GEA and other natural resource values. Though the “parcelization of large holdings is discouraged: under the current General Plan, numerous ag subdivisions continue to be approved. (Agricultural Chapter, Objective 2. B.) GWD encourages the Board to also include provisions in its General Plan update procedures to limit approval of ag subdivisions and to ultimately adopt long-term policies that would effectively prevent further fragmentation of farmland and open space in and around the GEA.

Conclusion

GWD is participating in an ad hoc advisory group formed to advise local entities on Grassland-related issues. This group is called the Grasslands Resources Regional Working Group (“GRRWG”), and includes representatives from GWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Fish and Game and Ducks Unlimited. Through the GRRWG and individually, GWD will be participating in the General Plan update process to ensure that appropriate protections are implemented to protect the incredibly valuable wetland resources within the Merced County Grasslands. We look forward to participating in the County’s planned focus groups in the near future.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the information presented in this letter. Thank you for considering GWD’s perspective on these important land use planning issues.

Very truly yours,

Osha R. Meserve

cc: Robert Lewis
William Nicholson
Grassland Water District Board of Directors
Grassland Resource Conservation District Board of Directors
Don Marciochi

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Pomboza seen splitting apart

Submitted: May 13, 2006

People in the 18th congressional district, represented by Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, ought to wake up and take notice of what is happening in the adjacent 11th congressional district, represented by RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy.

Defenders of Wildlife, a national environmental group, commissioned a poll of 402 likely voters in the 11th CD. The pollster found that 52 percent would prefer to vote for someone other than Pombo in the fall general election. "Someone else" is about all the Democrats have to offer, but it may be enough, if Pombo survives the primary.

The damage to the front end of the Pomboza is being done by former Rep. Pete McCloskey, 78, a co-author of the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo and Cardoza have been trying to destroy for the benefit of local developers, landowners, financial institutions, realtors and their relatives and friends.

The idea that two of the most obvious tools of rampant growth ever to hit Congress should have the power to change a widely respected and necessary federal law on behalf of a crowd of regional contributors (and, of course, UC Merced) proved to be a bit much for state and national environmental organizations, now busily canvassing precincts in Pombo's district.

Learned academic authority suggests that the poll might not be accurate because, after all, Defenders did it. This misses the point entirely: Defenders is there and willing to do the poll; that environmental groups have identified Pombo as the top political target in the nation.

What is policy for the groups is more personal for McCloskey, who at times says he is fighting for the "soul" of the Republican Party -- to rid it of greedy, stupid, rightwing, corrupt, environment destroying, House-rules destroying knuckleheads. He's fighting against a wing of the Republican Party who came to believe, like officials in dictatorships believe, that their personal wealth is the meaning of politics. While environmentalists have been knocking on doors and passing out leaflets, McCloskey has been attacking Pombo at every intersection in the district where he can raise a grassroots audience. His campaign has lit a thousand fires in hundreds of places. We'll see how the wildfire spread on primary Election Day, in the only poll that counts.

Pombo already knows he's in the worst fight of his life and has called on Vice President Dick Cheney to come raise money for him. But the rounds still last 3 minutes and nobody can help him in the ring with McCloskey. The people always enjoy the spectacle of a bully getting whupped. And people keep disappearing from Pombo’s corner: Libby, DeLay, Abramoff, and now, reportedly, Karl Rove, the best political cut man in the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the rear end of the Pomboza, like the well known rodeo clown act in which two clowns play the part of one ass, is turning around and running in the opposite direction -- down to Fresno to hobnob with Westlands Water District and three other south Valley congressmen interested in throwing a monkey wrench in the confidential settlement negotiations between the Friant Water Users Authority and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Federal court has ruled that the San Joaquin River must flow; therefore the Friant-Kern Canal cannot flow as much as it has.

Shrimp Slayer claims he had no "direct jurisdiction" to intervene on behalf of the Oseguera family of Le Grand, carried off to the Bakersfield deportation holding tank and held for three weeks until their lawyer could explain they were in the process of naturalization and raise $20,000 bail. Evidently he believes he has direct jurisdiction over the amount of water that flows through 40 miles of dry river in Fresno County and into the farming districts of eastern Tulare and Kern counties and that his good offices would be beneficial to Westlands Water District.

From Shrimp Slayer's point of view, however, we could speculate that his meddling doesn't matter at all, as long as it is a far away from Pombo as possible. That's the great think about Shrimp Slayer, you may not agree with him on the issues, but you always know who he is and where he stands -- the rear end of the Pomboza running away as fast as he can.

Shrimp Slayer's behavior is said to be "smart politics," which, like "smart growth" is constantly advertised as wise and admirable decision making by influential people and those who want to be influential people now that the full violence of lawless, stupid growth has come to the 18th congressional district, which is rapidly becoming just another Tracy, with, of course, a UC campus.

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

Poll says Pombo support waning

Hank Shaw
Capitol Bureau Chief
Stockton Record
Published Thursday, May 11, 2006
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060511/NEWS01/605110337&SearchID=73244256515633

SACRAMENTO - Voters may not know much about the Democrats opposing Tracy's Rep. Richard Pombo, but it might not matter, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

A survey of 402 likely general election voters in Pombo's 11th District taken last week by a well-known Democratic pollster found that 52 percent would rather vote for someone other than the Republican incumbent this fall.

Republican political oddsmaker Allan Hoffenblum, co-editor of a guide to legislative and congressional elections, was impressed by the numbers even though pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner's survey was conducted on behalf of the activist group Defenders of Wildlife.

"It's a sign of deep, deep trouble," Hoffenblum, of California Target Book, said. "It's not easy to get a voter to say they'd fire an incumbent."

Pombo consultant Wayne Johnson said the campaign's internal polling does not match the Greenberg poll, but he did acknowledge that voters are sour on Congress in general.

"The atmospherics are depressing for any incumbent in Congress right now," Johnson said. Still, he said the order of questions in the Greenberg poll could have skewed the results.

"You get people in a hanging mood and it can dramatically affect the result," he said.

Pombo's position as House Resources Committee chairman has placed him at the center of the Republicans' ethical issues in Congress.

He was among the strongest allies of indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Pombo also has come under fire for misusing the congressional mail service and for spending $5,000 in taxpayer money to take his family on an RV tour of the West's national parks.

He received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from felonious lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And though he repeatedly denies that his votes are influenced by campaign contributions, he is seen as being fast friends with oil, logging, energy and mining interests. Just over a week ago, Pombo benefited from a campaign fund-raiser in Houston hosted by several leading energy industry lobbyists.

All of this is impacting his image among the voters, the poll found. Less than one in three likely voters has a favorable view of the incumbent, who is seeking an eighth congressional term. And he's losing in test heats to both his Democratic opponents, Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and Steve Filson of Danville.

A recent poll by the McNerney campaign showed that only 40 percent of primary voters recognized him while less than 20 percent recognized Filson.

"These guys are nobodies, and they're beating him," Pollster Ben Turchin said. "That's unheard of. I'm not saying by any stretch of the imagination that this race is over, but he's in a deep hole."

"Richard Pombo has turned the House Resource Committee into a grand bazaar where special interests ... all get favored treatment in return for campaign cash and luxury trips. The voters have finally noticed," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund.

Hoffenblum downplayed any strength Filson and McNerney showed in the survey because the 11th District is still GOP turf.

"If Pombo loses, the voters will be throwing him out - not putting Democrats in," he said.

Sacramento State University political scientist Barbara O'Connor noted that Defenders of Wildlife paid for the poll - which can run $20,000 or more - largely to help raise the millions they expect to spend this year trying to defeat Pombo.

Pombo's career-long effort to overhaul the federal Endangered Species Act has made him enemy No. 1 within the environmental movement.

That said, O'Connor said she suspects Pombo is in peril.

"I don't think these numbers are necessarily out in orbit from what I've seen, but they are a little high," O'Connor said.

Hoffenblum, who had downplayed the potential competitiveness of the race before, said he might have to change his mind.

"This could really be a horse race," he said.

View details of the poll are at www.defendersactionfund.org/releases/GreenbergPollMemoMay.pdf

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or sacto@recordnet.com
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Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Saturday 13 May 2006

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, did not return a call for comment. Sources said Fitzgerald was in Washington, DC, Friday and met with Luskin for about 15 hours to go over the charges against Rove, which include perjury and lying to investigators about how and when Rove discovered that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative and whether he shared that information with reporters, sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said.

It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said. However, the day and time is unknown. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special prosecutor was unavailable for comment. In the past, Samborn said he could not comment on the case …
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Friends rally for jailed teen

Petition delivered to congressman's office

By Leslie Albrecht
Merced Sun-Star -- April 14, 2006

... In a statement released Thursday, Cardoza responded to the students' letter.

"The Congressman understands that this is a difficult situation for this family. He appreciates the concern the students of Le Grand Union High School have expressed for their fellow classmate. As a member of Congress, Representative Cardoza does not have direct jurisdiction over this case. However, he believes that everyone who enters the United States must comply with the law."
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Regrouping after near-deportation...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/12178706p-12922563c.html
LE GRAND - To the United States government, the Osegueras are criminals -- immigration absconders who were arrested along with 45 other Merced County residents during a two-day immigration sweep in late March. Gloria and her children entered the U.S. illegally in 1992...applied for asylum, but application was denied. They obtained work permits through a lawyer, started the process of gaining legal status. In 2000, a judge issued a deportation order, their lawyer filed an appeal and told them not to leave the country. The motion has been pending before the Immigration Board of Appeals since 2003. At 4:20 a.m. Friday, March 30 seven ICE agents knocked on the front door of their apartment; they would be sent to an immigration processing center in Fresno, then back to Mexico. Gloria explained that the family had a lawyer and that their case was under appeal; agents said the deportation order was final. When they got to Fresno, they called their lawyer, who filed for an emergency stay of appeal. Alma's classmates rallied to support her...collected signatures on petitions asking for Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, to help the family and hand-delivered them to Cardoza's office. Finally on Cinco de Mayo, their lawyer called...bail had been set; they could leave jail... Alma will graduate from Le Grand High School.
-----------------------

At the Tipping Point, A Great Valley Center Event, May 10-11, 2006, Sacramento.
Oral comments on south San Joaquin Valley water politics by different participants.

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SJ Mercury News Endorses McCloskey/McNerney for CD 11

Submitted: May 08, 2006

Date: May 8, 2006 8:22:23 AM PDT
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/14527503.html

Give the nod to Pombo challengers

REPUBLICAN MCCLOSKEY, DEMOCRAT MCNERNEY WOULD BE WORTHY COMPETITORS IN THE FALL

Mercury News Editorial

Even before he became associated with the sleaze surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, even before he was accused of taking a family vacation on the government's dime and even before a watchdog group called him one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress, it was clear that Richard Pombo had to go.

The conservative seven-term Republican congressman from Tracy has a record of radical anti-environmentalism that has imperiled the nation's natural resources, is wrong for the country and is out of step with a state that's known for its environmental leadership.

Fortunately, Pombo's record may be catching up with him. He faces serious challenges to his re-election from both sides of the aisle in a race that has drawn national attention. His 11th Congressional District reaches from Lodi in the north to Morgan Hill in the south and Danville in the east.

Former Congressman Pete McCloskey, who represented the Peninsula for eight terms between 1967 and 1983, is challenging Pombo in the Republican primary. At 78, McCloskey appears to have the same energy and conviction of his younger days, when he became a maverick in his own party, protested against the Vietnam War and ran against Richard Nixon in 1972.

He's hoping to bring his party back to the center and fight against the ethical lapses and fiscal recklessness that have tarnished Republicans in Congress. He also vows to be a staunch defender of environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, which he helped write. Destruction of the ESA has been Pombo's No. 1 mission.

McCloskey admits he exercised poor judgment when he spoke in 2000 to a group that disputes historical facts about the Holocaust. Because of that speech and of his longstanding and blunt criticism of U.S. policy toward Israel, he has been labeled anti-Semitic, a charge that is undeserved.

McCloskey faces an uphill battle, but he's the best choice in the Republican primary.

On the Democratic side, two good candidates have emerged as leading contenders. Neither Jerry McNerney, 54, an engineer and wind-energy consultant from Pleasanton, nor Steve Filson, 59, a United Airlines pilot and retired U.S. Navy commander from Danville, has held elected office. But both bring good ideas and have energized various Democratic Party constituencies. Of the two, we find McNerney's message more compelling.

Filson, a fiscal conservative and social liberal, promises to focus on economic development and fight for transportation dollars, which are needed to upgrade the district's clogged freeways. Having lost his pension at United, he identifies with the pressures faced by working families saddled with rising health care and education costs and stagnant wages.

Most of all, Filson emphasizes his decision-making leadership skills, honed over 20 years as a U.S. Navy pilot and later as a United pilot. He's been endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and various members of Congress including Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, George Miller and Ellen Tauscher.

For his part, McNerney has been running a grass-roots campaign fueled by support from union members that earned him the endorsement of the California Democratic Party. He wants to bring jobs to economically sluggish portions of the district in the San Joaquin Valley, in part by helping promote the area's nascent alternative-energy industry. His professional background would make him a good advocate for more sensible energy policy in Washington.

McNerney offers clear thinking on the nation's health care crisis, emphasizing the need to rally businesses to the cause of reform. And he would rescind portions of the Bush tax cuts that have disproportionately benefited wealthy Americans.

McNerney ran against Pombo in 2004 and got 39 percent of the vote, despite receiving no support from the state or national Democratic Party and being massively outspent by Pombo. That experience should come in handy in November.

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Pombo described

Submitted: May 06, 2006

Jeffrey St. Clair produced an excellent summation of the high points of the sleazy career of Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, on Counterpunch.com this weekend. St. Clair is an experienced investigative reporter that has spent a great deal of time on environmental affairs and corporate lobbying, which makes his take on Pombo dead on target.

The Pombo/McCloskey Republican primary we continue to believe – for lack of evidence so far to contradict this view – is the most important congressional primary in the county because it is a referendum on how willing any congressional district is to tolerate being represented by a flagrant crook. McCloskey is out there in the 11th CD every day offering an intelligent, honest option to his fellow Republicans, while Pombo makes a deal to get Vice President Dick Cheney (18-percent popularity in the latest polls) to come out to the district and shake down developers, agribusiness and plutocrat duck hunters. McCloskey is saying he’ll attend the event wearing an orange hunting jacket.

McCloskey probably doesn’t have enough campaign money for polls. Pombo could poll daily. We speculate the Cheney visit is related somehow to disturbing trends in Pombo’s numbers.

It would be interesting to know how many Republicans, no longer alive, remain on messy voter roles in San Joaquin and the other rapdily growing counties in the 11th CD.

Bill Hatch
----------------
Weekend Edition
May 6 / 7, 2006

The Endangered Visigoth
The Rise and Pending Fall of Richard Pombo

By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

The banner stretched across the entrance to the Crobar ­ a trendy New York nightclub ­read, "Welcome to the Pombo-Palooza". At the door, members of the Rockettes handed out cowboy hats to the A-list invited guests. Inside, a model clad in rhinestone hot pants and a cleavage-enhancing top that might have chastened a Hooters waitress rode a mechanical bull. On the stage, the Charlie Daniels Band cut loose with fiddle-driven Southern funk as lobbyists and lawyers, politicians and tycoons danced the two-step and drank iridescent blue martinis.

Such was the scene in 2003 at Congressman Rick Pombo's coming out party. The young legislator from Tracy, California had just been appointed the new chairman of the House Resources Committee. At 42, he was the youngest chairman on Capital Hill. Bush couldn't attend the hoedown but he sent a herogram congratulating the congressman he calls "Marlboro Man".

That night money flowed faster than champagne. Before Charlie Daniels had finished his first set, Pombo's campaign war chest had been fattened by more than $250,000, courtesy of an assortment of real estate barons, oil and mining company executives, timber lobbyists and casino operators. Many of these contributors would turn out to be the cream of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clientele. (Abramoff now faces many years in prison for his corrupt dealings.) And that was just their opening bid. Over the next two and half years, Pombo's political accounts would be fattened by an additional $2 million from an ever-expanding retinue of lobbyists, real estate barons and corporate PACs.

Pombo's is an unlikely success story. He is a college drop-out from a dusty ranching town in California's Central Valley. He showed no particular flair for politics during his early days and, when given the chance, bankrupted the family dairy ranch. Politics was a last resort, and even in this arena Pombo's future seemed uncertain: he was not a particularly gifted public speaker, nor possessed of an [especially] engaging personality.

Pombo likes to describe himself as a rancher. He shows up to congressional hearings in cowboy boots and a Stetson. He owns a ranch, but spends less time on it than Bush does clearing sagebrush in Crawford. Pombo did place photos of himself on his website constructing a pink barn for his children's pet pigs over the last Christmas break. Pombo used to sport a thin Brokeback Mountain moustache. These days he brandishes a manly goatee. The new growth was detected shortly after the movie premiered.

Western myths aside, the Pombo family didn't make their fortune selling milk from their small herd of dairy cows. They got rich by buying up ranchlands and subdividing them into ranchettes for Bay Area commuters. As a member of congress, Pombo pushed for freeway projects that caused the value of properties owned by his family to soar.

Some thought that young Richard might get a job selling real estate for his uncle, who owned one of the largest brokerages in the Central Valley. But Pombo never passed the real estate exam.

Politically, however, his uncle proved to be a huge help. The red and white Pombo real estate signs are ubiquitous across the congressional district. Thus, Rick Pombo, a tubby and slick-haired man of Portuguese descent, enjoyed huge name recognition before he ever considered running for office.

Pombo has told various stories about the event that prompted him to run for Congress. For years he claimed that he was enraged by plans to turn an abandoned railroad near his family ranch into a bicycle trail which -- he fumed -- would lead to the entire valley being designated a "viewshed" where development would be restricted. Later, Pombo said he ran for office because the family ranch had been designated "critical habitat" for the San Joaquin kit fox, the world's smallest wild canid and an endangered species.

Both stories are embellished to the point of fantasy. Pombo's ranch was never at risk from either action. The allegation about the kit fox driving his family from their homestead is particularly outlandish, since the feds have never designated critical habitat for the tiny vulpine. Real ranchers look kindly on the kit fox, since it feeds almost exclusively on rodents regarded as crop pests. In any event, the habitat designation wouldn't have restricted ranching operations but development. And, indeed, that's precisely what ticked off Pombo. He paid $5,137 into a regional conservation fund as an impact fee for houses he built on his "ranch". The houses went up; kit fox populations went down.

In 1992 Pombo won his seat in Congress after narrowly defeating Democrat Patty Garamendi, daughter of the hugely unpopular state insurance commissioner John Garamendi.

In 1996, Pombo published a book-length screed against the Endangered Species Act and environmentalists. Titled This Land is Your Land, the book was ghost written by rightwing columnist Joseph Farrah. Woody Guthrie wouldn't recognize many of the sentiments set forth in the Pombo-Farrah tract, which called for the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act and disposal of public lands to private interests. Though not a bestseller, the book acquired the allure of a Gnostic gospel among the "Wise Use" crowd, whose concept of wise use derives from God's commandment to Adam in the book of Genesis to pillage the earth's natural resources as he thinks fit. The book put Pombo on the ledger as an apex berserker in what Ron Arnold, the P.T. Barnum of the Wise Users, has billed as the War Against the Greens.

But the Wise Use Movement's backing of Pombo certainly doesn't explain his rise to power. The Wise Users have had their congressional champions in the past, notably Helen Chenoweth, of Idaho. But they've tended to labor in obscurity, deemed as coarse Visigoths even in their own party. For his first few years, Pombo toiled in a similar kind of isolation. His speeches at property rights confabs denouncing Bruce Babbitt as an agent of the United Nations and the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone as an example of "political paganism" garnered only the occasional comical notice in the gossip pages of the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. His bills to dismantle the Endangered Species Act rarely attracted more than a few dozen co-sponsors and usually went extinct without a hearing.

Lately, though, Pombo has been on a roll. His McCarthyesque hearings on the dangers of "eco-terrorism", where environmentalists were hauled up before the House Resources Committee and forced to endure harangues from both Democrats and Republicans, have now culminated in a series of arrests by the FBI of nearly a dozen environmental activists on charges of sabotage, conspiracy and arson. Rod Coronado, an editor of the Earth First! Journal and probably the most famous animal rights activist in North America, was also arrested for giving a speech in 2003 at UC San Diego where he demonstrated how to make and use a Molotov cocktail.

Pombo's scheme to sell off millions of acres of federal forest and range lands, once considered political poison, was adopted by the Bush administration this fall, with a proposal to dispose of 200,000 acres of public land to mining and timber companies and real estate speculators, all in the name of funding rural schools.

This fall Pombo came close to realizing his wildest dream when the House of Representatives passed his bill to annihilate the Endangered Species Act by a hefty margin of 229 to 193. Soon after this mighty triumph, the Washington Times announced the onset of "Pombomania" among young Republican ultras.

Ironically, Pombomania may owe more to his enemies than to the shock troops of the property rights movement. Plucking bellicose quotes from his book and his stump speeches, the Sierra Club turned Pombo into the personification of environmental villainy. In dozens of mass fundraising appeals, Pombo was presented as the new James Watt, the dark agent of the looting of the public estate. Pombo glories in his role. "I'm their bogeyman", Pombo gloats. "They need me to raise money."

The Sierra Club's threat inflation of Pombo almost certainly factored into Tom DeLay's decision to catapult the congressman over the heads of more senior members to the chair of the Resources Committee, one of the most prized seats in Congress.

Pombo also got help from the Democrats. His rewrite of the Endangered Species Act, which eliminates the designation of "critical habitat" for listed species, sets in legal stone many of the practices implemented administratively by his former nemesis Bruce Babbitt when he served as Clinton's Interior Secretary.

In Clinton-time, Babbitt simply refused to designate critical habitat for dozens of at-risk animals and plants, forcing environmental groups into court to compel the Fish and Wildlife Service to live up to its legal obligations. The suits were slow in coming while Clinton was in office, but they began to proliferate after Bush came to power.

Bush and Pombo used those lawsuits, most of which resulted in favorable verdicts for the greens, to charge that the law was outdated and was being exploited by militant environmentalists and litigation-happy lawyers. They got some unexpected help from one of the liberal lions of the House, George Miller, the former chair House Natural Resources Committee. This summer Miller said that the law needed to be reworked.

"There is a recognition that the current critical habitat arrangement doesn't work, for a whole host of reasons," said Miller. "There are some in the environmental community who think the answer is just no to any change, and I think that's a problem."

At those words from a politician once regarded by greens as the most enlightened member of the House, critical habitat went extinct without a fight. There were warning signs of Miller's impending collapse. Shortly after the Democrats lost control of the House, Miller gave up his leadership position on the Resources committee. Friends said he was too tired to fight the likes of Don Young and Pombo.

Another Democrat, Dennis Cardoza, Representative in California's 18th District, worked closely with Pombo to craft his assault on ESA, including a provision that is likely to bankrupt the U.S. Treasury faster than Halliburton's Iraq contracts. Pombo's bill calls for the federal government to pay off developers for not violating the law. Under this rule, the feds would have to compensate property owners for value of a "proposed use" for land inhabited by endangered species. It's a shakedown provision. A Central Valley rancher could proposed to build a casino in kit fox habitat, and the feds would be required to pay out millions to keep them from building it. Then the next year the same landowner could come back with new plans for a golf course and get another payoff.

Sound absurd? A similar law was passed by the voters of Oregon two years ago. The law was initially stuck down by a state court as unconstitutional, but last month the Oregon Supreme Court reinstated the statute, which virtually wipes out the state's vaunted land-use planning regulations.

Pombo's bill is currently stalled in the Senate, where Lincoln Chaffee, the Republican from Rhode Island, has vowed to keep the Endangered Species Act from being "Pomboized". (It may be a coincidence but one of the only zoos in the country that has a kit fox exhibit is the Chaffee Zoological Gardens in Fresno.)

Chaffee may resist his fellow Republican, but you won't hear similar objections from California's senior Senator Dianne Feinstein. She and Pombo have worked closely over the years on everything from water policy in the Central Valley (more water for farms, less for salmon) and logging in the High Sierra near Lake Tahoe. The real estate caucus sticks together.

Pombo says there are other laws he wants to obliterate in the next few years. At the top of his hit list is the National Environmental Policy Act, the law that requires Environmental Impact Statements for all federal projects.

It's been a dramatic run, but, alas, Pombo may not survive to witness the promised land. The ethical noose is tightening around his political career.

Back in the 90s, Pombo made rich sport of attacking Hillary Clinton for her role in the Travelgate affair. But it now turns out that Pombo' office has its own travel-related problems. Pombo's political Svengali is a man called Steven Ding, who has long served as his chief of staff. When Pombo landed the Resource Committee chair, he also made Ding chief staffer for the committee. Ding was double dipping, getting paid by both the committee and Pombo's office.

Ding lives in Stockton and travels back to California every week. The Resources Committee picks up the tab. From 2003 through 2004, Ding billed the committee $87,000 in commuter charges. Some of those visits may not have been to see Mrs. Ding. Even though he has two positions with Pombo, Ding has enough time to also hire himself out as a private consultant to corporations and lobbyists seeking his insider knowledge. Last year, Ding earned $57,000 in outside consulting fees. On four occasions, the House Ethics Committee has cited Ding for lowballing or failing entirely to report such outside remunerations.

Ding wasn't alone, though. He was traveling down a trail that was blazed by his boss. Each year Pombo's office spends nearly twice as much on travel as the offices of the adjacent congressional districts. The biggest freeloader is Pombo himself.

Last summer, Pombo took his family on a two-week vacation, touring the national parks in a rented RV. He sent the $5,000 bill to the Resources Committee. When Rep. Ellen Tauscher questioned the reimbursement, Pombo said he was doing research. And perhaps he was. A few weeks later after he returned from his grand tour, Pombo's office leaked a white paper to the Washington Times calling on the Bush administration to sell off a dozen national parks.

What about Pombo's wife, Annette, whose recipe for Apple-Walnut Crosscut Pie is the most popular page on the congressman's website? Surely, Annette's travel expenses shouldn't have been covered by the committee. It turns out that since 2001 Pombo has paid his wife and his brother at least $465,000 in consulting fees from his campaign fund.

This wasn't Pombo's first infraction. In 2004, he used office funds to pay for the printing and mailing of a flier to a nationwide list of property rights fanatics urging them to write letters in support of Bush's plan to let snowmobilers run amok all over Yellowstone Park. The Ethics Committee ruled that the flier violated the rules on franking and slashed his mail budget. Later that year, Pombo gave all of the Republican staffers on the Resources Committee a paid vacation in October so they could disperse across the country to work in GOP election campaigns.

In October 2005, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Pombo had taken two overseas junkets to New Zealand and Japan. Both trips were paid for by a group called the International Foundation for Conservation of Natural Resources, which receives funding from bioengineering firms such as Monsanto, also from pro-whaling interests. Pombo did not report the trip on his income tax form, though the IRS considers overseas junkets as gifts on which taxes must be paid.

"I really have no idea what is going on with that foundation," said Pombo, when confronted with the report. "Obviously I will have my accountant check into this." Even by the high standards of congressional evasiveness, this was a spectacular bout of memory loss. Pombo founded International Foundation for Conservation of Natural Resources and served as its chairman until July of last year.

Then there's the Abramoff connection. Like Bush, Pombo now pretends to have a foggy recollection of the beleaguered super lobbyist. "I think I met the guy a few times", Pombo said last month. "But he never stepped foot in my office. Never lobbied me about anything."

Unfortunately for Pombo, Abramoff has left a distinct paper trail across Capital Hill, with much the forensic evidence to be found in the chambers of the Resource Committee, where the business of his clients was so often decided. Duane Gibson, a former top staffer on the Resource Committee, left the committee to work in Abramoff's firm, where he represented mining companies and Indian tribes. Gibson helped Pombo draft a rider that would hand over thousands of acres of prime federal lands to mining companies. Three months before Pombo inserted the measure in the budget bill, Gibson hosted a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for the congressman.

In 2002, Pombo went to bat for Charles Hurwitz, owner of Maxxam and infamous looter of redwoods and of Savings & Loans. Pombo and Tom Delay intimidated federal regulators into dropping an investigation into Hurwitz's banking practices. Most of the legal footwork was done by Gibson, who is now under legal scrutiny by federal prosecutors. Hurwitz, of course, has been a top contributor to Pombo's campaign war chest.

Republicans are so worried about Pombo's ethical dilemmas that they've recruited an old war-horse to challenge him in the upcoming primary: Pete McCloskey. McCloskey is a former congressman and a sponsor of the original version of the Endangered Species Act. McCloskey calls Pombo the "Duke Cunningham of the environment," a reference to the now imprisoned congressman from San Diego who memorialized his menu of bribes on his congressional stationery.

Add to that the fact that Pombo's district is changing, as more and more Bay Area commuters move onto subdivisions that have sprouted up on the old ranches and farms of the Central Valley. If Pombo really wants to keep his seat, perhaps he should lose the goatee and go back to that suggestive moustache.
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Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon: Tales of Corruption and Profiteering in the War on Terror.

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You can come to our Valley but can you play our blue violin?

Submitted: Apr 30, 2006

Badlands owes the community an apology. We published a letter to the McClatchy board of directors last week that complained about an article in the Merced Sun-Star some Valley citizens found extremely offensive to Hispanic neighbors, friends, Mexico and Hispanic culture in general.

We seem to have brought down on the community something almost worse than that letter: a series of lectures on theories of literary interpretation, the main one called, “Column wasn’t meant to offend,” by Sun-Star editor Joe Kieta. Perhaps this new professorial tone the Sun-Star is adopting is yet another wonderful benefit of proximity to a UC campus.

Hermaneutics does Merced!

Central Valley Safe Environment Network, which made the complaint to the owners of the Sun-Star, was bombarded by instruction about satire, irony and sarcasm. The author of the article telling Alma Oseguera to get out of the Valley, Keita, a top McClatchy corporate official, Sun-Star publisher Hank Vander Veen and numerous other important people including some local Hispanic “leaders” took time patiently to explain to members of CVSEN, an old Valley grassroots organization, that its members just didn’t understand what the retired journalism professor and freelance columnist really meant.

“Shocking news events like these are tailor-made for commentary,” Kieta wrote in defense of the offensive piece. “Burke decided to write an ironic column that took the extreme opposite side in an effort to point out what he feels is the senselessness of the agency's actions.”

Later, Kieta explains patiently to Valley dumbbells, “But if the irony is missed, readers can be confused or outraged by the comments.” This is followed by the news that the author had received emails soon after publication applauding his extremist views.

We may be confused by Kieta’s superior literary erudition, but it seems like the people who wrote those praises weren’t the least bit confused. They thought they had a regular Bull White Man to speak their racism.

From there, Kieta goes on to explain that the author is a first-rate man who is neither bigoted nor insensitive, and either is Kieta, Vander Veen or the Sun-Star – and if we dummies just knew about irony, satire, sarcasm and such, this whole misunderstanding would never have occurred.

We just didn’t think it was either funny or in good taste. However, our superiors enlightened us: Valley people don’t have no taste, we can’t think so we should just shut up when a former professor employs the highly refined, esoteric tools of the literary art to tell us something that is so far beyond us we could never understand it anyway.

How could we understand these things? We come from these communities – born and raised in them, among immigrants like undocumented Mexican workers. What could they know about a law that criminalizes them?

I guess we’ll have to see. But, from an agricultural perspective, this HR-4437 looks like using gasoline instead of diesel to stoke up an orchard brush-pile fire.

But we have in the Valley our own little canons of etiquette, too, apparently unknown to The McClatchy Company or its outlets who serve most of us our daily print. One of them is that we tend to speak rather respectfully about immigrants since most of us are immigrants and because the Valley has been a settling area for immigrants – from the US as well as other nations – for a long time. We don’t find immigration is a joke. In fact, we’ve learned through the years that if you aren’t careful and joke about it in the wrong company, you will get your teeth kicked in. Of course, our little canons do not rise to the level of McClatchy literary interpretation because they lack the elegance.

The largest concentration of undocumented Mexican workers in the nation lives between Stockton and Los Angeles. Hispanic people have always lived in the Valley, in fact a number of them lived here before the arrival of the Anglos. In the last 40 years, since the termination of the Bracero Program, the beginnings of the Maquiladora system, the end of the large Anglo migrations out of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and the increasing militarization of the US/Mexican border, the population of undocumented Mexican workers in California has radically increased. Agribusiness loves a large pool of workers, the more vulnerable to intimidation and coercion the better from its corporate point of view. In recent years illegal aliens have moved beyond agriculture and even, during the latest speculation-driven construction boom, into building trades.

These people will not be uprooted from the Valley now. They are part of our social fabric, our neighbors, friends and coworkers, and many are homeowners. We have been aware for decades that the lives of our immigrant neighbors are frequently complicated by inadequate papers. Border Patrol sweeps are hardly news in these parts. It’s an old game of harassment and intimidation the government plays whenever special interests get nervous about the workers’ emotional state. The special interests prefer the workers be afraid. Signs of courage, organizing and that sort of thing alarm special interests, who then instruct the government to “do something about the illegal alien situation.”

Actually, however, our Hispanic neighbors and friends here in the Valley have had some rudimentary literary education in recent years. A colorful fellow in Chiapas, who wears a ski mask, smokes a pipe, and controls a region of that state for the benefit of its indigenous inhabitants (mainly Mayas), has shown novel tastes in revolutionary literature. According to this subcomandante, all people really need to read is Don Quixote, with perhaps a little Shakespeare on the side, to get an adequate sense of reality in the post-NAFTA world in a nation that lacked an ideological vocabulary to describe reality.

The Badlands editorial staff – always seeking the key to understanding reality – has had an on-going Quixote study group for a dozen years. We feel it has improved our understanding of reality, but evidently not enough to grasp satire with sufficient depth to understand the refined sense of humor of the retired journalism professor or his bosses.

What we hear in these particularly brutal Border Patrol sweeps, backed by HR 4437, is an old simile from Hispanic political science: The state is like a violin, the left hand holds it but the right hand plays it.

The author of HR 4437, James Sensenbrenner, R-WI, understands this saying because his congressional district has the largest concentration of Hispanic dairy workers in Wisconsin, until 1993 (when California took the lead) the largest dairy state in the nation. He knows who holds it and who plays it.

You can bet the Grand Old Party of Global Corporations (formerly the American GOP or Republican Party) also knows who holds the fiddle and who plays it. Going down the list of the Immigration Reform Caucus Members for the 109th Congress makes interesting reading: half of the 90-plus members come from former Confederate states and the group’s rightwing fervor is “balanced” by two Democratic Party members.

HR 4437 would:

Make being undocumented a felony rather than a civil offense.

• Expand the definition of smuggling to include dealing with undocumented knowingly or with wanton neglect of their status.

• Make felony record an automatic basis to deny legal status and citizenship.

• Require employers, including union hiring halls to report all employers for federal examination of their eligibility to work.

• Have mandatory detention for suspected undocumented not from Mexico or Canada.

• Militarize the border with a wall of several hundred miles and high tech military surveillance.

• Eliminate due process from many immigration procedures.

• Deputize local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws.

Dennis Cardoza, to his great credit, voted against HR 4437.

This law makes about as much sense as Prohibition but is “good politics” for the GOP-GC because it criminalizes and terrorizes its victims into a position in which they must respond with the only political tactic they have, large public demonstrations. Since non-citizens, by definition, don’t vote, the rightwing political strategy of the year is to scare the hell out of everyone who does vote with another American alien scare, all mixed in together with the eternal war against terrorism. What else can they do? Their president lied to get us into a war we’re losing; his very election in 2000 was the result of highly organized vote rigging in the Southern state where his brother is governor; his regime has begun to spy on everyone they don’t like; he has given monstrous tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent in the nation and has stimulated a jobless economic recovery; with the largest national debt ever reached, the dollar is propped up by nervous Asian trading partners China and Japan; and the off-shoring of what is left of essential industries continues. He is so unpopular that in New York City yesterday an estimated 300,000 people braved a huge NYPD gauntlet to march against his war and all the rest of his policies. And gasoline costs more than $3 per gallon and the price is rising – a boon to the American president’s oil company constituents.

So, let’s see if we can get the “aliens” riled up, reason the Texans who rule us.

All the failures of the Bush regime must be the fault of undocumented Mexican workers, right? Nobody is certainly going to even remember, much less believe that seditious little marsupial, Pogo, who declared c. 1955: “We have found the enemy and he is us.”

Blame the undocumented Mexican worker, tack on a fat pork barrel in the form of a Israeli-style wall across the border, and pass another idiotic, unenforceable law terrorizing another in the long line of hard-working immigrant groups who have come to the United States, give the racists something to dream on and maintain control of the Congress by the GOP-GC.

The left hand holds the fiddle; the right hand plays an ugly, monotonous, malevolent tune:

· about learning more hatred;
· about more graft, corruption, oppression and police power;
· a ballad about betraying for the benefit of special interests the justice upon which we stand, without which we fall;
· and about getting more stupid by the month through denying (with help from our media corporations) the multiple dangers lying ahead instead of facing them like the relatively courageous, independently thinking people we have shown ourselves to be from time to time.

It’s not funny at all, when you come to think about it, because this authoritarian regime is above wit, rhetoric, argument, and is especially above humor. The emperor may look ridiculous without a stitch of clothing on, but if you grin, you could end up in Gitmo. This regime speaks only with power, money and force. It makes you really nostalgic for US Sen. Alan Simpson, R-WY, if, of course, you remember Simpson, which requires an inability to erase the recent history of your nation from your mind. The debate between Simpson and Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-TX, is evidence that before the present political nightmare, the US Congress was capable of thought – including analysis, argument, a very high level of rhetoric, wit, humility, humor and wisdom – even on the very difficult issue of the immigration of undocumented Mexican workers.

And, by the way, now that we’ve dispensed with its literary interpretation, does McClatchy by chance know where Alma Oseguera and her 50-plus fellow victims from our community are now? We’ll take the information in simple declarative sentences. Save the hermaneutics for the boardroom where the elites meet.

Happy May Day!

Pedro Conejo-Tonto
----------------------------------

Notes:

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
MercedSunStar.com
Column wasn't meant to offend
By Joe Kieta
… For our part, the Sun-Star will be more careful in the future to make sure satirical columns are clearly labeled as such, which will eliminate any confusion. We could have labeled Burke's column accordingly, but didn't -- and for this, please accept our apologies.
Biting satire shouldn't bite back. We'll do our best to make sure this confusion doesn't happen again.

http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/12086617p-12838624c.html
Weekend voices: Liberty, opportunity are for Americans only
By David F. Burke
Last Updated: April 22, 2006
Get out of this valley, Alma Oseguara. Maybe after a few weeks in a Kern County jail you'll finally understand that we don't want you and your kind here in the San Joaquin Valley. … About 300 years ago, his ancestors, named Garcia, came through Texas -- well, it may have been "Tejas" then -- and up into northern New -- I mean Nuevo -- Mexico and southern Colorado.
Then, 150 years later, my ancestors picked a fight with Mexico. We first tried to get what we wanted peacefully, offering our neighbors to the south $25 million for California. But the ignorant Mexicans thought the state was worth more than that.
So, we sent two armies into Mexico and a third to California, by way of New Mexico. The silly Mexicans refused to surrender, so we captured Mexico City and "convinced" our captors to accept just $15 million for the Golden State. The vanquished Mexicans threw in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Utah - about half of their country, all told - for free.
And that, Alma, should explain why my brown-skinned son -- who was born in New Mexico -- gets to stay while you -- who were born in Old Mexico -- must leave.
It's not personal. It's the law. If you like, you can think of it as manifest destiny.
Now, get out of my country. And don't come back until you are legal.

Gadamer, Hans Georg, Truth and Method, Continuum, New York, 1994, pp. 190-192, 265-266

http://www.uwrf.edu/news_bureau/0531022.html
Hispanic Workers Impact Increasing in Wisconsin
By Khrysten Darm
UW-RF News Bureau
A recent presentation by UW-River Falls dairy science Professor Dennis Cooper reflected a new reality in Wisconsin: 10 percent of its dairy workforce speaks Spanish.
Cooper spoke at a Hispanic Dairy Labor Conference recently in Kaukauna,Wis. His presentation was titled: "?Que Pasa? What is Happening with Hispanic Workers? Nine Ideas to Improve Your Success with Hispanic Employees." … Ten percent of the workforce in Wisconsin is Hispanic, and although a high concentration is in the southeastern part of the state, there are still Hispanic workers that come to larger dairy farms in this area. "We are trying to serve dairy farmers and they need information on how to manage a multicultural workforce," Cooper said.

tancredo.house.gov/
Check out Members of Congress' Immigration Report Cards at http://www.betterimmigration.com/reportcardintro.html

www.house.gov/sensenbrenner/

http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/news/newsbyid.asp?id=34019&cat=Hispanic+PR+Wire&more=/hprw
Latino Immigrants in favor of May first economic boycott
4/27/2006
Burbank, CA--(HISPANIC PR WIRE)--April 26, 2006--The large majority of Latino immigrants will support the May first economic boycott. More than 70% of the respondents stated that they will support the “Great Latino Stop” by not attending work, buying anything, or sending their children to school, according to a study conducted by Garcia Research made public today.
“The study indicates that even with the differences in opinion that exist amongst leaders and organizations about the best manner in which to make the boycott effective, and the possible negative repercussions like sanctions and unemployment, the immigrant population has received with great enthusiasm the idea of the boycott”, said Cristina Garcia, director of El Pulso Latino, the division of Public Polling of Garcia Research …

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0604280145apr28,1,7557293.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed
dglanton@tribune.com
How immigration roils tiny Georgian town
Calhoun finds itself at the center of national debate over illegal laborers
By Dahleen Glanton
Tribune national correspondent
Published April 28, 2006
CALHOUN, Ga. -- This is carpet country, home to the largest concentration of carpeting factories in the world. It is a place of abundant jobs and affordable housing--magnets for a growing population of Latino immigrants that some longtime residents see as a threat to their way of life.
Calhoun's 13,000 people are mostly working-class whites. But now nearly one out of six residents is from another country. Some whites see immigrants, legal or not, as unfair contenders in the competition for coveted jobs they have held for generations at the carpet mills. For the most part, they have accepted the changing demographics with apprehension, much as they reluctantly took to forced integration with African-Americans in the 1960s.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0429-01.htm
Published on Saturday, April 29, 2006 by the Associated Press
FBI Investigated 3,501 People Without Warrants
by Mark Sherman
WASHINGTON - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday. Confirms our fear all along that National Security Letters are being used to get the records of thousands of innocent Americans without court approval.
It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a National Security Letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge's approval or a grand jury subpoena. Friday's disclosure was mandated as part of the renewal of the Patriot Act, the administration's sweeping anti-terror law. The FBI delivered a total of 9,254 NSLs relating to 3,501 people in 2005, according to a report submitted late Friday to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. In some cases, the bureau demanded information about one person from several companies. The numbers from previous years remain classified, officials said.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0430-23.htm
Published on Sunday, April 30, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times
A Day Without All-Stars?
by Dave Zirin
May day 2006 is being called the "Great American Boycott" or "A Day Without Latinos."
Across the country, Latinos and their allies say they will neither work nor shop Monday to protest what they consider anti-immigrant legislation before Congress.
Although many industries and work sites may be affected, one multibillion-dollar enterprise would be crippled by such a boycott: Major League Baseball.
Of the top 10 hitters in the National League, six are from Latin America, including Albert Pujols, last year's most valuable player. In the American League, five of the top 10 are Latinos, including batting leader and 2003 MVP Miguel Tejada.
Latinos dominate the pantheon of the game's superstars like never before. Seven of the last 10 MVPs in the American League are Latinos. The new reality was laid bare at this spring's World Baseball Classic: The U.S. team couldn't compete with its Latin American rivals, failing to even make it out of pool play … The growing Latino presence in Major League Baseball is a story of exploitation and opportunity. Club owners set up baseball academies in countries where future prospects can be signed in their early teens for pennies, then fired with little cost if they aren't good enough to play in the big leagues. As one player said to me, "The options in the Dominican Republic are jail, the army, the factory or baseball." Many talented players make it to the U.S. and play minor league ball, then stay illegally if they're dropped from a team to chase the dream of a professional baseball career. The outer boroughs of New York City are filled with semipro teams of men in their 30s still thirsting for that contract and hoping it comes before they are deported.

http://cpusa.org/article/articleview/752/1/105/
2006 Immigrant Rights Club Educational Guide …
Author: CPUSA Education Commission
First published 04/27/2006 15:25
This educational has the goal of upgrading our understanding of the struggle for immigrant rights and against repressive immigration legislation which is taking place right now throughout the country. The goal is to place in bold relief the central problems of inequality, criminalization, and the greed of US corporations. The suggested readings which are attached include the 2006 report to the National Board on immigration, the resolution on immigration passed at the 28th National Convention, and a PWW article.
The club should invite guests to participate in this educational discussion of the immigrant rights struggle and immediately distribute the educational guide with the attached reading materials to all who will be involved. A discussion leader should be selected to facilitate the discussion. At least 45 minutes to an hour should be devoted to the full educational discussion.
Discussion Questions:
1. How have corporate and governmental policies shaped changes in the immigrant population and the challenges facing the immigrant population? How have the conditions for immigrants worsened?
2. What has been and is now the contribution of organized labor to the fight for immigrant rights?
3. What are some aspects of positive immigration reform? What can your club and district do to help advance the consciousness of the working class, nationally oppressed communities, women, and youth on the issue of immigrants rights? What are some obstacles which must be overcome? What can your club and district do to participate in this struggle? …

http://usliberals.about.com/od/immigration/a/RMahony.htm
Catholic Cardinal Mahony Slams House Bill HR 4437
Liberal Politics: U.S. -- Apr 11 2006
Tells Bush That Priests Will Not Verify Legal Status
In response to an immigration bill passed in late 2005 by the US House, Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, the largest US diocese with five million Catholics, wrote this letter to President Bush, decrying the new mandate that organizations first check immigration status before providing services to any person. …

December 30, 2005
The Honorable
George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
The House of Representatives recently passed a border-security Bill (H.R. 4437) that has enormous implications and ramifications for all of us in this country.
While I am surely in favor of taking appropriate government action to protect the borders of our country, not every action step is feasible or advisable. Apparently, the recently passed House Bill will require of all personnel of Churches and of all non-profit organizations to verify the legal immigration status of every single person served through our various entities.
In effect, priests, ministers, rabbis, and others involved in various Church-related activities will be forced top become "quasi-immigration enforcement officials." The Catholic Church alone offers a vast spectrum of services for all in need, including education, health care, and social services. Our golden rule has always been to serve people in need--not to verify beforehand their immigration status.
But the Bill imposes incredibly penalties upon any person assisting others' through a Church or a social service organization. Up to five years in prison and seizure of assets would accompany serving the poor who later turn out to be here without proper legal documentation.
One could interpret this Bill to suggest that any spiritual and pastoral service given to any person requires proof of legal residence. Are we to stop every person coming to Holy Communion and first ask them to produce proof of legal residence before we can offer them the Body and Blood of Christ?
Speaking for the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, such restrictions are impossible to comply with. The underlying basis for our service to others ,especially to the poor, is the example, words, and actions of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. The 25th chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel does not simply invite us to serve others in the name of Jesus, but offers such service as a requisite to the Kingdom of God:
"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen. I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25: 31-46)
This one example in Matthew's Gospel is foundational to our discipleship of Jesus Christ, and all that we do in service to those in need is done in light of our Baptismal commitments.
It is staggering for the federal government to stifle our spiritual and pastoral outreach to the poor, and to impose penalties for doing what our faith demands of us.
Throughout your Presidency, you have encouraged Faith Based Organizations to be strong partners in meeting the needs of the those in our communities. Yet, this Bill will produce the opposite effect.
You must speak out clearly and forcefully in opposition to these repressive---and impossible--aspects of any immigration reform efforts. Your personal leadership is needed to counter such ill-advised efforts.
Thanking you for giving strong leadership in this matter, and with kindest personal regards, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
His Eminence
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony
Archbishop of Los Angeles

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/043006B.shtml
In Leak Cases, New Pressure on Journalists
By Adam Liptak
The New York Times
Sunday 30 April 2006
Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.
But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws …

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