Federal Government

Unlikely McCloskey?

Submitted: Jan 30, 2006

McCloskey an unlikely opponent for Pombo

Fresno Bee

I was momentarily confused by the radio snippet I heard the other day about a Republican challenging Rep. Richard Pombo, the Tracy, Calif., Republican who has raised the ire of some for his conservative positions on the environment and property rights. Did the newscaster really say that former Congressman Paul M. "Pete" McCloskey would run against Pombo?

It was time to do the math because I covered McCloskey's last campaign, an unsuccessful U.S. Senate race 24 years ago. My first thoughts: How old is McCloskey now, and can he really be serious about winning a campaign against a Republican power broker?

The answer to those questions came quickly when I heard that familiar voice a few days later in a telephone interview: "Yes, I'm serious," McCloskey said. "At 78, you don't give up five months of your life to lose an election."

His determination aside, the odds are against the one-time Marine who served 15 years in
Congress. Pombo has $555,000 in the bank, and could spend $5 million on a re-election
campaign. Pombo also has a solid GOP base, although he faces criticism over ties to admitted felon Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist.

But few think Pombo is in serious trouble unless further revelations surface. For McCloskey to win the June primary, he will have to persuade Republicans in a Northern California congressional district that he's a better party nominee than the incumbent.

That's where it gets a bit tricky for McCloskey, who has been called a maverick Republican for most of his career. Some think that means he's not really a Republican.

Wayne Johnson, Pombo's political consultant, said the more voters learn about McCloskey, the less enthusiasm there will be for him. He really should be running in the Democratic primary, Johnson said.

If McCloskey's campaign takes hold, Pombo undoubtedly will point out that his opponent has often gone against his party, starting with McCloskey's 1972 challenge of President Richard Nixon over the Vietnam War, and then supporting Democrat John Kerry over President Bush in 2004.

That isn't a record that you'd expect to be a roadmap for success in a rock-solid Republican district that covers parts of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties.

But McCloskey says 11th District voters want someone they can trust, adding that Pombo caters to the powerful and ignores his constituents.

"This is going to be a fun campaign," McCloskey said in a telephone interview from Lodi, Calif. "Pombo has a hotshot campaign consultant who says Pombo won't debate me, which is an interesting position for someone who is part of Congress, which is a debating society."

McCloskey began his political career amid much applause. He defeated Shirley Temple Black, whose career as a child actress made her a household name. That began a congressional career that saw him making news often because of his direct talk.

Among his accomplishments in Congress was co-authoring the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo is trying to dismantle. Now that has made this personal.

McCloskey understands that he may not be taken seriously by the political establishment or the media. But he said he's committed to changing the minds of doubters.

"You are entitled to view with skepticism why a 78-year-old retired farmer and attorney from Yolo County would move 90 miles to San Joaquin County in order to challenge incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy," he said last week during his campaign announcement.

McCloskey looked for other Republicans to challenge Pombo, and decided to get into the race when he couldn't find a serious candidate. Despite his age, he said he is willing to take a stand.He said Republicans in Congress have strayed from party principles of smaller government, less intrusion into citizens' lives and a commitment to the environment.

"It was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who gave us a strong environmental policy to protect parklands, wildlife preserves and wilderness, as well as anti-trust laws to control business excesses," McCloskey said.

It's a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, he said.

We'll see whether Republican voters in California's 11th Congressional District see it that way. McCloskey, at least, will give them a choice in the GOP primary. At a time when gerrymandered districts have sucked the interest out of congressional elections in California, this one might be fun to watch.

(Distributed by Scripps-McClatchy Western Service, http://www.shns.com.

I was sorry to read that the McClatchy Co. has decided to bury Pete McCloskey's challenge to Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, in the rhetoric of the horse-race. For the corporate media, whenever political values threaten the tranquil flow of business (the real estate business in California), it instantly resorts to handicapping as a form of political coverage.

The headline is dismissive: "McCloskey an unlikely opponent for Pombo."

We assume McCloskey had something to say after his comment, "You are entitled to view with skepticism why a 78-year-old retired farmer and attorney from Yolo County would move 90 miles to San Joaquin County in order to challenge incumbent Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy," -- and Boren just forgot to mention what McCloskey had to say in the next sentence.

I don't know what airy heights Boren now inhabits in what Scripps-Howard office building or where in the country is it. But I have registered voters in recent years in front of supermarkets in Tracy, Manteca and Stockton, in the 11th congressional district. From my observations, those people are no less deserving than any other Americans to honest, decent political representation in the House of Representatives. At present, they are represented by the political front man for Pombo Real Estate Farms, a man who cannot remember how many times he met Jack Abramoff and would be happy to forget he received about $55,000 from him, if other organizations had not reminded him of the fact. To local dairymen, he is the front half of the Pomboza, a duet of congressmen so committed to the real estate development of their districts they cannot be counted
on to represent the dairy interests in the upcoming Farm Bill.

We welcome McCloskey to the San Joaquin Valley, as should the newspapers. He's a strong guy and a straight shooter.

"It's a battle for the soul of the Republican Party," Boren quotes him saying. "This one
might to fun to watch," he concludes.

The message to the readers: Even though you have a political system stacked against all you fools that read our papers trying to get information about important public affairs; even though that political system favors all our wonderful advertisers whose fraudulent messages are, if only by convention, so far beyond the truth they have to pay us handsomely to have them printed, don't you be losers now; don't you imagine for a minute there might be someone running against a crook for a decent reason. The system would crumble tomorrow if that notion were allowed to escape in public. Don't you dare dream of possibly cleaning up this corrupt system, congressional seat by congressional seat. Don't you dare dream you have that kind of power as individual voters. Uh-huh. No, no.

Boren is so obscure, who knows what he's trying to say? Who cares? What, for example, is so wrong with a battle for the soul of the Republican Party? Republicans have souls just like Democrats. All God’s chillun got souls. When Pombo's campaign manager repeats the ancient charge McCloskey should run as a Democrat, we're just talking two-bit power talk c. 1970. (I am always suspicious of so-called “journalists” when they think like back-alley political hacks. If they want that life in its uncertainties, why don’t they have the guts to live it?) This campaign is actually about the soul of both parties, because Democrats should vote for McCloskey on behalf of the general public in the district. That's because, somewhere, sometime, working politicians must step out of their respective machines and begin to think about the public instead of their damned places in the machine. One of the secrets of political campaigns is that it never made much difference which party working politicians worked for, they were and remain essentially the same kind of human animal -- neither the worst nor the best, but one of America's very first inventions, before the steam engine or the cotton gin, and their value remains when it ain't all bought up by the corporations.

The problem we are facing today with both working politicians and the political press is a
complex process of destruction. Maybe it could be accurately said that Republican politics traditionally centered in the soda fountain or the barber shop on Main Street, while Democratic politics centered in the tavern near the mill where the workers cashed their checks. It had to begin in some kind of concrete community because if America had been suburban from the beginning we would never have had any politics. We would have had the monarchy now so rapidly reaching fruition.

We are having a hell of a problem trying to conceive what politics means, now. The high-tech, suburban geniuses say history has fulfilled its purpose in themselves. Not in us,
necessarily; in them. They will manage it all by their perfect numbers from hereon out. So, you don't need to worry about politics anymore. That's nostalgic. America is a technocracy now; it's not even trying to be a democracy anymore. Forget that. That's oldthink. Yes, it is true that once we were based on political principles that were expressed in words complete with logic and argument oldamericans were willing to fight and die for. But the irrepressible forces of American business genius have led us to the newtime in which we live, here and now. Follow the numbers. They change frequently, providing endless variation.

Oldthink was so primitive that the nation had two parties: the Donkeys and the Elephants. The Donkeys and the Elephants lived in the belief that by the strength of their argument alone, after the Civil War, they would protect liberty and justice for all. It was said in public schools every day, little hands placed on growing hearts, as if it weren't a prayer but a pledge of allegiance -- "liberty and justice for all."

What terror awaits the voters of the 11th CD. They have been given a choice denied most Americans. And all the risk of voting for a possible loser, an honest man running against a man who does not have the truth in him. A terrible, terrible thing. Maybe they vote wrong.

Oh, terrible, terrible thing. Not to pick the winner.

Politics is not a horse race. It is really much, much more important than any horse race.

Before you believe your newspapers, realize they make their money from the crap on their advertising pages, not from you. The only reason you exist in their world is that the more there are of you trying to get some decent information on public affairs, the higher the rates they can charge to the advertisers.

As for Boren, oh well. What do you do about one more wannabe politician with a mortgage and an office with a view of somewhere high above the 11th congressional district? One may lack the authority to speak about this district if he hasn’t stood in front of the south Stockton Kmart watching cars being boosted in broad daylight whilst registering the odd Democrat. The sneer from airy heights doesn’t erase for me the fine local coverage of news the Stockton Record has delivered, especially on the incredible complexities of the Delta, through the years. Nobody in their right mind loves Fat City – which in a nutshell is the problem with right minds. Stockton is love at first sight or a heart attack. Take it or leave it. Fat City could care less.

Bill Hatch

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Have we reached a "teachable moment" yet?

Submitted: Jan 30, 2006

January 28 / 29, 2006

The Impeachable Mr. Bush
An Aggregation of High Crimes and Misdemeanors

What will it take for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to be held responsible for a multitude of political crimes, recklessness, prevarications and just plain massive ongoing mismanagement of the taxpayers government?

The first step is to aggregate these travesties so they add up to a more comprehensive judgment. Then, together they confront us with an awful truth -- that our present system of constitution, law and checks and balances have failed to be invoked by the elected and appointed officials of our Congress and our Courts. This is happening even though the polls have been dropping on the Bush regime for over a year and are now quite negative on many important questions.

Consider the following sample of irresponsibility and flouting of the law and then ask yourself how much more will it take to start holding the Bush/Cheney crowd of serial fibbers and dictacrats accountable? Is there ever to be a tipping point in the Washington world of spineless Democrats and supine Congressional Republicans worried about Bush losing the 2006 elections?

1. The drug benefit boondoggle, starting January 1, 2006, has been by all reports maelstrom of confusion, deprivation, gouging and misadministration, leaving many sick people in a frightening limbo. That is Bushland messing up big time while giving the gouging, long-subsidized profit-glutted drug companies hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade paid by the taxpayer.

2. Katrina! The breaching of the levees was predicted at least over a year before and warned about just before the Hurricane hit by federal officials but ignored by the Administration. Bush's godliness complex let him give the public the impression that the destruction was an unavoidable Act of God, when it was an avoidable disaster of Bush. The White House earlier had cut the Army Corps of Engineers budget designed for hurricane defense in the New Orleans area. The Corps itself is not blameless, but its commander in chief is, after all, George W. Bush.

3. Bush-Cheney plunged our country into an endless war-quagmire in Iraq on an often repeated platform of falsehoods, cover-ups and deliberate distractions from the ignored necessities here at home. Tens of thousands of American have lost their lives, their limbs or their health over there and casualties of innocent Iraqi adults and children are much more numerous. Already costing hundreds of billions of dollars, the mismanagement of this war of choice is the material of hundreds of Pentagon audits, Congressional reports, official admissions, firsthand press reports and Congressional condemnations by the respected Government Accountability Office (GAO).

"Iraq Rebuilding Badly Hobbled", U.S. Report finds, "is a recent front page headline in The New York Times-- one of many such headlines in recent months. The corporate contractors, such ass Halliburton, will set records for waste and worse as the facts spill out to the people.

4. The impeachable George W. Bush imperiously asserts that he will continue to violate federal law and place the American people under any surveillance that he chooses to impose without ever using a Congressionally approved procedure which requiresfor a quick and secret court warrant that is even permitted to be retroactive.

He and his pitchmen claim that they are pursuing terrorists. But the National Security Agency's (NSA) electronic dragnets are enveloping millions of people, flooding the FBI with what that agency says is mountains of indiscriminate undigested data that are useless.

Besides, as of the end of 2004, Bush and John Ashcroft, his then Attorney General had arrested 5000 people on suspicion of terrorism, jailed them, most without charges, and then proceeded to strike out. Two were convicted and the convictions were overturned in Michigan. The Bush scorecard, according to Georgetown Law professor David Cole was 0 for 5000! Does this record qualify for chronic abuse of legal process or is it just sloppy law enforcement designed to produce political press releases?

5. Bush pumps "the ownership society" and opposes attempts to give investors the power that should accrue to them as owners over the self-enriching managers of the giant corporations. As a result, big time corporate executives keep vastly overpaying themselves, through their rubber-stamp Boards of Directors (starting at $7200 an hour in 2002 and upward for the CEOs of the top 300 corporations). Warren Buffet called runaway executive compensation and stock options a central cause of cooking corporate books and undermining jobs and their own companies' financial stability.

6. Cutting life-sustaining programs for needy children, sick adults and regulatory health-safety protections for most Americans while reducing the taxes of the richest one percent, including his own and Cheney's taxes, invites Biblical condemnation. He has left many Americans defenseless from preventable hazards here at home, while he plays the providential Viceroy of Iraq. At the same time, Bush's forked tongue touts "the safety of the American people" as his highest responsibility.

7. He encumbers young children with taxes (who will have to pay the debt) through massive federal deficits brought about significantly by huge numbers of corporate handouts, giveaways, subsidies and tax escapism. That's one way of leaving children behind.

8. Mismangement and underfunding implode his educational distraction called No Child Left Behind. Just ask the Republican state of Utah or millions of teachers beset with constant, vapid standardized multiple choice tests created by corporate consultants.

9. He huffs and puffs about spreading democracies around the world while condoning and encouraging the shipment of whole American industries and jobs to the communist Chinese dictatorship, and other dictatorships on which he continues to lavish such globalized policies.

However, his boomeranging foreign policy may yet turn him into an unintended patron saint of elected Islamic theocracies.

These and many other documentations of his tortured tenure can demonstrate what their aggregation can contribute to motivate the American people toward holding him and Cheney accountable to them under the rule of law. But don't count on the Democrats leading. They blew another election -- Congressional and Presidentially -- against the worst Republicans in American history.

Aggregation, my fellow citizens, is up to your independent minds and judgments to absorb and act upon.

Have we reached a moment when from our observations we have come again to basic doubts and questions? The doubts and the questions are no more than the normal course of history for any nation; in a democracy they must become public or we cease to be a democracy. Have we reached a point where we are able to turn to those we know have acted and thought on principle for decades and yet are still, fortunately, among us, thinking publicly, sober, hard-working, thinking men, like Ralph Nader?

To put it plainly, the nation is again bought and sold by a cabal of special interests with no agenda but the corruption of the government's defense against them on behalf of the public. The definition of patriotism is at stake. Is it to be blind loyalty to lying leaders whose wars impoverish us, kill our children,destroy our land, air and water, and sow seeds of hatred against us for generations, just for the enrichment of the friends of the regime in power? Or is it to be a defense of the land of our fathers against the financial, political and cultural manipulations of their fathers?

Unity in stupidity is bound to fail. We have land to repair, industry to rebuild, employment and education to regain against this latest regime of the most selfish businessmen, plundering the national treasury for lack of invention.

Why should the federal government bail out another American automobile manufacturer? These are ruined, idiot corporations, going the way of the railroads 30 years ago. They have no heart, soul or genius -- all that remains is the numb-nut knuckle-headed greed of executives. An instructive trial in Houston begins tomorrow on Enron.

In the seething anger and anxiety overtaking us there is gold if resentment can become a question, a legitimate political question, the sort of question that formed and united the nation and has saved it from time to time in its history. This is one of those times to sober up and remember moral, political roots. No god can help us but we pray sincerely on our knees, not parading in some damn Washington cathedral. No king or dictator can do anything but harm us.

"These are the times that try men's souls." -- Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (1783)

American souls have been tried, tested and found sound in crisis. We have known great pain, suffering and compassion for one another in times of crisis -- even when gripped by the most profound disagreement. The political ground we walk on was made of this. It is solid, rocky and steep. There is no other way but passive reception of despotism and the death of liberty.

Can we come to realize again that Nature is neither friend, enemy, or laboratory victim? Can we come to realize again that Nature, including the human nature that demands liberty, is simply stronger, even than George W. Bush's "Amer'ca" ? Can we come to realize that the incredible achievement of our industrial, financial and military power is our weakness? Can we turn our back on imperial hubris before that Armageddon Day University of California scientists labor so diligently to make ready while Bush's kept preachers spread religious terror wherever they go? Can we turn our back on the illusion of fusion and The Rapture? Do we have the courage to face the damage we have done and begin to support the genius to cooperate with Nature, including repairing and restoring the human nature run riot in our current political economy? And, maybe that way, find our way back to God?

For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War semi-conscious, we never doubted Richard Nixon's patriotism or his intelligence, however much we disagreed with his murderous policies and came to believe, patriotic and bright as he was, he'd been driven mad by that thing. He spied on us. Dark, dirty city alleys could look like sanctuaries in those days. But you knew the man. Basically, he was one of us in his particular, brilliant, twisted way.

This Bush is a spoiled, silly boy, playing with WMDs. He is not one of us. Arab tribes outwit him and outfight him as easily as Indian casino managers outwit Pombo. This boy is way above us. He has lived in a world of privilege and protection unavailable to any but the richest, most vulgar Americans. We don't know him; he don't know us, and that's the way he likes to keep it. How many people did he have executed in Texas? This boy don't know nothing but sick games.

To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ass for a lion. -- Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

Americans have inspired friends like Paine throughout our history. We have been loved for our fortune and that great, initial moment of wisdom. De Toqueville loved us and bent the best of his critical mind to warn us against ourselves. Really, it was only Dickens, and a century later D.H. Lawrence, who felt the need to puncture us. Lawrence saw in our greatest writers a tendency to hate humanity. Dickens found our frumpery. We have had to defend ourselves and have produced able defenders and formed a literature unique in its affectionate criticism. We sympathize with Captain Vere when Billy walks the plank. This is not Stendhal or Flaubert or Dickens. In Melville we meet the agonizing torment of a new kind of individual, radical enough and not quite European. It took the Algerian Camus to properly introduce him to my generation. Stephen Crane described the worst war in history to that time in Red Badge of Courage. Our first real love story, forbidden naturally in our Cotton Mather-dominated, official culture, was The Scarlet Letter, retold recently in cowboy by Annie Proulx, "Brokeback Mountain."

My favorite of all American characters remains little Wall Street Snopes, age 10 or so, staring through the knothole when the dry corn hit the feed trough and the spotted ponies exploded the barn in Faulkner's Hamlet. Little Wall Street stood there through it all, left with nothing but a disappeared knothole.

Nobody in the world described the universal moment of anxiety at twilight in a cityu as well as James Baldwin. And it's beautiful magic when the bass player brings Sonny back into the music.

It took the Czech, Milan Kundera, to put it so succinctly: the Tom Paines of the world describe our individual rights but our novelists create individuals, filling in the sillouettes -- the people that walk that steep, rocky trail. There are people -- a lot of them in America today --that more badly than they realize need to read Sherwood Anderson just to get a glimmer of where they came from. Have the questions about American society posed by the novels of John Dos Passos or John Steinbeck really been answered? We need to read Charles Olson and William Carlos Williams again -- it's a lot cheaper and saner than nuclear war.

But you can begin by just reading the poet down the street. You could fall in love with your own soul without really understanding what happened that made it such a good day again.

Bill Hatch

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Jack-hammering Castle walls

Submitted: Jan 25, 2006

More than a decade ago, Castle Air Force Base was closed and consigned to the absurdities of a local joint-use authority, composed of Merced County and the cities of Merced and Atwater (which adjoins the former base) and some representatives from other entities, like Rep. Gary Condit's office.

The “authority” dissolved in anarchy, leaving the county in control, by default. Reporters forced to cover the former committee developed physical symptoms of illness from the sheer stress of trying to cover week after week of raving lunacy about a site that has seemed, through the years, to be a dumping ground for a steady stream of business fraud and corruption.

As former Merced Sun-Star reporter, Gary Jones, Castle redevelopment’s finest poet, put it once concerning one of these projects: “Ring, ring, ring goes the bell. Bounce, bounce, bounce goes the check.”

The present redevelopment plan discussed below is basically the work of John Fowler, an able county bureaucrat who has for many years displayed an unusual knowledge and concern for the thorny problem of employment in the county. Yet, in the mysteries of the Castle, all the public ever sees is an occasional dark figure darting past a castle window, shrouded in impenetrable mists of redevelopment funding, state and federal grants, and the Stygian blackness of the Pentagon. One hopes Fowler darts well, but it probable the public will never know.

He unveiled the Castle Redevelopment Plan before the county supervisors yesterday. The plan came with a request to delay environmental review. Two members of the Planada public wrote a comment letter that triggered an automatic delay in the plan’s approval.

Why Planada, an unincorporated village of farmworkers on the eastern edge of the county, separated from the former base by fast-growing Atwater and Merced? Bearing in mind we look through these castle windows most darkly, there is apparently some continuing effort to employ the county’s seasonal or unemployed workforce on Castle grounds. The Castle is to become a “free trade zone,” which seems to permit the finishing of partially assembled import goods, bestowing the “Made in America” label, with some mysterious tax savings to manufacturers. Somehow, through a financial vehicle called “Champion Cities grants,” villages with high unemployment like Planada might send their unemployed to work at these assembly plants. This will be in much the same way as John Condren, CEO of Riverside Motorsports, who hopes to put his NASCAR-level racetrack next to the Castle, says he will partially employ mothers during school hours at menial jobs.

Bearing in mind it is not given to the public to see through stone walls or correctly interpret the movements of bureaucrats darting past dark, medieval windows, part of this redevelopment plan seems to involve an experiment in domestic maquiladora enterprise. This is basically what Mexico did in its border towns, to draw the unemployed from its central states north to assembly factories. The owners pay few if any taxes, employment and health rules are relaxed or extinguished there are few if any benefits, but the plants employ hundreds of thousands of people, mainly young women migrants from the interior. Labor organization is not encouraged.

Fowler would undoubtedly discount any public speculations on his redevelopment plan, saying the public lacked the information to form an intelligent decision.

John Fowler, the top county official at Castle, said Owens' letter was based on bad information and that it didn't raise any serious concerns. – Merced Sun-Star, Jan. 24, 2006.

But the comment letter that forced a delay in the project approval wasn’t “based on bad information.” It was based on little or no information; and that, we suggest reluctantly, is exactly how Mr. Fowler likes it. Nevertheless, Owens and Kathleen Lopez jack-hammered the Castle walls with questions the public needs to ask regardless of the chances of getting any answers out of the Castle, Fowler, or the supervisors, who we feel sure haven’t read as much of the voluminous Castle documents as Owens has.


Bryant Owens
2683 South Plainsburg Road
Merced CA 95340-9550 (209) 769-0832


Bryant Owens
2683 South Plainsburg Road
Merced CA 95340-9550 (209) 769-0832

Monday, January 23, 2006

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced CA 95340 ` Via fax (209) 726-7977
And via email

RE: Public Hearing 1-24-06 et seq/ Establishment of Ordinance of the County of Merced approving and adopting the redevelopment Plan for the Castle Airport Aviation and Development Center Redevelopment Project

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for the opportunity of comment on, and object to this proposed ordinance.

In reviewing the Report to the Board of Supervisors produced by the consulting firm of Kayser Marsten in Oct. of 2005, many concerns became manifest to which we would like to direct your attention:

Notably the report of the county financial officer was incomplete: i.e.. The consultant was left to extrapolate tax benefits and/ or expected disbursals from and to the nine taxing agencies that have jurisdiction over the various portions of the project area.

Notwithstanding the guesswork in the consultants report to the board, what exactly prevents that information from being gathered and presented for your and our consideration in a timely fashion, and prior to making this decision?

The County is receiving a windfall from the USAF represented by the transfer of title (whether fee simple, or with restrictions) to the former Castle Air force Base to the County. According to the Redevelopment Plan the County will subsequently/simultaneously “?” transfer that same title to the Merced County Castle Airport Redevelopment Agency.

Beside the nine taxing agencies previously mentioned, what mechanism exists to spread this potential windfall economic boon around to the rest of the unincorporated areas of the County of Merced?

Why does the decision to invest housing set aside funding from this project, into areas outside the boundaries of the project area represent a benefit to those other unincorporated areas without a similar dedication of a corresponding percentage of the accruing rental/lease/sale or tax base funds gradually accruing over the life of the Castle Airport reuse project?

If low and very low income housing is to be built or fostered through Agency programs in other areas of the county how do the other blight alleviating benefits of the Castle Redevelopment Ordinance flow along with this redirection of low income housing into other areas of the county?

How will ALL of the additional infrastructure requirements necessary to support this redirected low income housing, be met or enhanced in areas outside the boundaries of the Castle Airport Redevelopment Plan?

What economic benefits /incentives does the Castle Redevelopment plan provide to offset the enhanced negative impacts on other blighted communities in the county which according to this proposed ordinance, must now absorb this proposed low and very low income housing?

What mechanism exists to more proportionately benefit the other unincorporated communities in Merced County in which blight is already endemic?

What mechanism exists to prevent that very blight from being fostered and further exploited, simply to allow the proposed economic development at the Castle Site?

Under California Community Redevelopment Law the Agency is authorized to enact tax increment financing as a possible funding scheme, and the referenced Report to the Board of Supervisors goes into great detail as to both the need for this financing scheme, as well as the relative potential for success and failure.

The Consultants Report to the Board of Supervisors of Oct 2005 is quite clear as to the crucial importance of securing an Cargo Transport Company as the anchor tenant of the Castle Reuse Plan, yet the bulk, of the proposed redevelopment activities are cosmetic in nature and seem tailored to the needs of the tenants and users of the current facilities. Why does this make sense?

In so far as the Board of Supervisors and the Members of the Redevelopment Agency are the same persons wearing different hats, what mechanism exists for public oversight with regard to the expenditure of County funds, as opposed to Agency funds in furtherance of this redevelopment?

What compels the Redevelopment Agency to be cautious with public funds if there is no enforceable indebtedness incurred by the Agency under the aegis of this ordinance? How does this plan interconnect with the existing Foreign Trade Zone?

If the Agency transfers title to portions of the project area to the County, how does the County avoid becoming liable (indebted) for Agency approved redevelopment activities in the execution of any of the improvement projects associated with this redevelopment? The public remains uncertain as to how the proposed Redevelopment Agency may incur indebtedness that is not ‘debt’ under the US or California Constitutions.

What prevents that indebtedness from becoming a liability of the County if and when (as the Agency is authorize to do) the Agency transfers a portion or portions of the redevelopment area to the County Board of Supervisors?

If that potential indebtedness does become a liability of the county at that point, at what point does the public have any say about the imposition of that additional collective tax liability and about servicing such debt?

What mechanism exists to compel the County to spread any of the potential economic benefits of the Castle Redevelopment to the other unincorporated areas of the county? Why shouldn’t areas, where the ‘residential beneficiaries’ of this proposed redevelopment are being directed, also receive a portion of the anticipated economic benefits of redevelopment?

To be more specific, and in the mode of comparing oranges with oranges, be reminded that the statistics referenced in the supporting documentation referred to Merced County’s losses, as a whole, when the US government stopped providing payroll for Castle AFB personnel and their families. Those statistics represent comparisons with the county’s then current employment statistics, available jobs, and available housing.

How do the redevelopment and the reduction of blight at Castle translate into countywide availability of jobs, when the new jobs will be concentrated within the project area and the new housing will be outside the project area?

How are other areas of the unincorporated Merced County to be protected from over-development of residential housing if the consultant-mandated Cargo Transport Facility is not realized in the end?

Beside the 10 year report required under the various sections of the California Health and Safety Code, pertaining to the housing set aside funding generated by this proposed redevelopment plan, what other ‘canaries’ (monitoring mechanisms) will assure the public that this infrastructure redevelopment plan is working financially for the county?

What mechanism ties the activities of the Merced Housing Authority to the Castle Redevelopment Agency, in terms of Merced County’s state obligation to provide low and very low income affordable housing, as required by (for example) RTIP grant funding from the state?

What is the date certain by which time an anchor tenant (described in the Report by Kayser Marsten as a Cargo Transport Company) must be contractually secured in order to assure the public that this redevelopment remains financially in the best interests of the county as a whole?

How are the planned and proposed infrastructure improvements in projects in close proximity to the Redevelopment Plan Area such as the RMP Motor Sport Park proposal, integrated with the proposed redevelopment project at points where those several project intersect, or in instances when the infrastructure in question is in common use by all county residents?

In making findings of consistency with the Housing Element of the County General Plan, what effort has been made to incorporate the statistics for housing development projects under County jurisdiction in the unincorporated areas of Merced County, to show that the county has met or exceeded its state mandated quotas for the various levels of available housing, and on which continued funding of other county revenue streams depend such as the Community Development Block Grant Program.

Have the impacts to the housing market from the County Supervisor’s prior approval of the University Community Plan, Vista del Lago, Yosemite Lake Estates, and any other similar SUDP expansions (i.e. internally inconsistent General Plan text amendments), and the Merced Housing Authority’s decision to demolish the Felix Torres Migrant Camp in Planada (also a severely blighted unincorporated community in Merced County) been incorporated into the estimations on which the report to the Board of Supervisors consultant makes its cautiously optimistic recommendations as to the probable success of this venture?

We feel that making any such findings of consistency with the County General Plan would be an abuse of your discretion in this matter and urge you to delay making such findings until such time as the county general plan is both internally consistent and up to date.

In making the determination to delay CEQA analysis of this project for 18 months the public is curious to know what the County has been doing over the last 5 years that Castle AFB has been under their jurisdiction that has prevented an environmental analysis of this project heretofore? Is there any legitimate reason for the delay? Castle AFB has been the subject of extensive environmental review as a superfund site, and the County has most certainly been involved with earlier environmental assessments of the designated areas during the existence of the Castle Joint Powers Authority.

We appreciate your consideration of these concerns and look forward to your timely written response to these and any other questions you may receive during public testimony on this matter on Jan 24th 2006, and what ever subsequent date you may consider this item.


Bryant Owens and Kathleen Lopez

Planada Community Development Corporation

2683 South Plainsburg Road

Merced CA 95340 Cc: San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water

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Wobbly three-legged stool

Submitted: Jan 20, 2006

The three-legged stool

Viewed from an ecological perspective, rooted in the environment of the San Joaquin Valley of California, politically affairs this week seem to be perched on a very wobbly three-legged stool.

The short, skinny leg

When (funded) “value-free facilitators” begin showing up in your community, it is probably time to count the silverware or, from an ecological perspective, inventory the environmental quality of your neighborhood. We have an area called “South” Merced, where, traditionally, minority groups have lived south of the tracks and the highway. Through the years, the city has done a pretty decent job of hustling federal funds to repair and restore old single-family houses and build some multi-family apartment complexes. The county housing authority is located there. However, the area has almost no business, at least business useful to the residents, like a decent shopping center with a supermarket. In recent months, the city has proposed the development of a specific urban development plan for the neighborhood, appointed a citizen’s advisory commission and has engaging consultants to draw up a land-use plan.

What the area needs is development that pays its way for the schools it overcrowds, a decent shopping center with a supermarket, and more employment. A dark thought is that it will the area in which the city will fulfill its low-income housing quotient required to keep its general plan correct. Several new low-income complexes have already been built and more are already in the planning pipeline.

“We’re just glad to be here to facilitate this process,” said the value-free facilitator with a Crash Davis (“Bull Durham”) grasp of cliché, before a group of about 40 at a meeting two weeks ago. A number in the audience were government officials, including three city council members (including the mayor) and two supervisors. A city planner led a significant portion of the meeting.

An elderly resident complained about the governing vocabulary. “My tax bill doesn’t tell me I live in North or South Merced,” she said. “It says Merced. All we want is to have the same facilities throughout Merced.” She described 24 empty streetlights on her street. Later, an officious city councilman told the group those streetlights were in the county, not the city, so the city wasn’t responsible.

“There is something ignorant about this whole thing,” the resident commented. “Let’s use our intelligence and forget this North/South Merced.”

The value-free facilitator and the city planner went right on calling it South Merced, referring to my neighborhood as “Middle Merced.” North Merced is where the growth, induced by the arrival of UC Merced, is rapidly doubling the size of the city.

One of the neighborhood’s present dilemmas is what to do with Carl Pollard, an African-American resident of the neighborhood who, after losing six campaigns for the city council, was recently appointed to it. Less than a month after the appointment, he was charged with driving a car without insurance, with an open container of alcohol and some amount of marijuana in it. He has been fired from his realtor job. If convicted, presumably he would lose his council seat. Pollard led an invocation at the beginning of the meeting.

There are better people than Pollard, a political accident that has happened, trying to work for a decent level of services (at least one supermarket south of the tracks, for example), as development that does not pay its way rages to the north and more “low-income” housing development – horribly impacting schools in the south – is planned for the neighborhood. Perhaps, if they organize themselves, beginning by believing almost nothing of what city and county officials tell them, they will have a prayer the Rev. Pollard shall not lead.

“Value-free community organizing” facilitated from the top down by University of California personnel is illusory. What has worked in a modest way in the neighborhood has been volunteer crime watches that have existed for years. What will make things more miserable is crowding in more low-income residents to satisfy regional low-income housing mandates into an area with a chronically low level of services and usable commercial enterprises.

The fat, middle leg

A year ago, the Sacramento Bee did a series of articles exposing a classic situation of corporate power in diary processing. Hilmar Cheese had been polluting surface and groundwater near its site for years. The San Joaquin Regional Water Quality Control Board had been effectively bought off by the corporation. Publicly embarrassed, the board levied a $4-million fine against Hilmar.

After the state Water Resources Board in November refused Hilmar Cheese’s proposal to pay a fraction of the fine the regional water quality board had levied against it for polluting its area with huge quantities of wastewater, the federal EPA approved a test deep-injection well this week. Presumably, if the engineers on this project are more skillful than on the plant’s last techno-fix, the test will be successful, paving the way for injection of Hilmar Cheese’s 2-to-3 million gallons a day of waste water more than 3,000 feet below the Valley surface.

Meanwhile Hilmar’s corporate lawyers and water board lawyers continue to negotiate a settlement of the fine. The board should hear a new proposal by March, Catherine George, water board attorney, said today.

Vance Kennedy, a retired hydrologist from Modesto, told me yesterday it was as “done deal:” EPA has the power to override the state water board’s decision, on the grounds that deep injection is out of the state board’s jurisdiction over surface and ground water.” George confirmed Kennedy’s report.

“Ground water” refers to the aquifers several hundred feet down from which well water is drawn for domestic and agricultural use.

Kennedy said the EPA is using the analogy of water injection into oil and gas wells to force the products to the surface from beneath impenetrable layers. Hilmar, he said, is supposed to have a 100-foot thick layer of shale deep down, presumably impermeable.

He repeated the point he made in several hearings on the project: that water is incompressible and will move laterally, for miles, until it begins to push salty water up into groundwater aquifers lying above “impenetrable” layers.

“The sad thing is that salty water elsewhere may not show up for years or decades,” he said. He added it might not ever be possible to trace salt-water intrusion into wells back to the lateral pressure caused by Hilmar’s deep injection system.

Worse, Kennedy said, it’s a precedent for the San Joaquin Valley. Every wastewater facility from Redding to Bakersfield will be looking at this technology. EPA approved a number of wastewater deep-injection wells in Florida, providing another decade of rapid growth. The Sierra Club sued in February 2005, citing massive ecological damage. Kennedy said he’d been told Miami effluent has been traced as far away as Bermuda.

This middle leg is overweening corporate power to dominate surrounding communities and destroy their environments. Merced, the second largest dairy county in the nation, is afflicted with Big Dairy, an extremely powerful lobby from county to country devoted to the propositions: Bigger and More. The best comment I’ve heard on the economic philosophy of Big Dairy was from a small dairyman who said: when someday milk is so over-produced it isn’t worth a penny, some dairyman will say it’s a good day to buy cows.

The Hilmar Cheese deal reveals a tendency in our economy toward outright corporate ownership of government. In the lexicon of American politics exists the phrase, which covers the situation so well a book about the political career of a former Merced congressman, Tony Coelho, is titled, “Honest Graft.”

This sort of corruption tends to spiral out of control, as in the present case of the Abramoff affair. Some economists argue that eventually, the power of special interests devours the nation’s substance for the gains of very few, if gigantic firms. In the case of US transnational corporations, the approach has been to cause deep structural unemployment of domestic industrial workers and devour other nations’ substance at very low wages. The process is well advanced in the US, particularly in California, where the state budget is beginning to resemble the budget of Third World nations like Argentina and Chile, raped by utility and development corporations and thrown into the tender claws of Wall Street for the foreseeable future.

The impact of the EPA decision may go far beyond Hilmar.

The housing development industry is a radical example of the domination of sheer financial interest over the construction of subdivisions containing rows of three or four “housing products.” Everything about the structure of this “industry,” from the elaborate system of subcontracting to the pittance the state requires it pay for the schools it overcrowds, is designed to protect the developer investor from any public liability. In employs mobs of illegal aliens, heretofore always called “unskilled farmworkers,” to do highly skilled construction work for well below union wages. It has bought wholesale political and legal attacks on state and federal environmental law. It is pricing out farmers on agricultural land while making large rural landowners who sell for development rich. Development in states like California and Florida has made a mockery of any concept of urban planning.

If the deep-injection fix takes off in the Central Valley, residents and farmers will be the losers but the corporations will be the winners in the near term, which is their only time frame. Meanwhile, laws that haven’t already been written will be written to limit or exempt them from liability. But, one might object, wastewater facilities likely to jump on this fix are public entities. They are public entities driven every step of the way into surface and groundwater pollution by private development corporations. The system to protect the genuinely public interest is broken, corrupted, for sale, less and less often these days with even a pretence of being other than for sale. Growing numbers of rightwing politicians aggressively promote the ideology that public policy ought to be for sale to the highest bidder. Up and down the ranks of the Republican Party, this is considered to be “the hard, right decision.”

The local glaring, daily example is the loss of rights of existing residents of a region to the same quality of life they had before a UC campus was located in their county and development took off, running roughshod over law, regulation and resources. Against the local land-use authorities’ power to reject projects under the California Environmental Quality Act is the constant drum of developer propaganda: “Growth is inevitable.” You hear it on street corners out of the mouths of people who were once citizens but now passively accept the role of being mere subjects of alien, hostile government. It makes you wonder what else could have been done with all the money it took to convince Californians of this suicidal proposition that has, in 30 years, distorted this state out of all self-recognition, that has replaced, for private gain, a state composed of cities, towns, communities with abundant natural resources and rural economies of hope, with a slurbocracy of mere subjects.

Hilmar Cheese, “largest cheese plant in the world,” is using demonstrably bad Florida technology because its industry largely owns its regulators. Not that the EPA needed much encouragement to worsen the environment of the San Joaquin Valley. Its present administrator started his scientific career at Litton Bionetics, one of the nation’s leading developers of chemical and biological weapons: he is the perfect Bush fox for the EPA henhouse.

But, in our terribly contemporary political culture here in the 18th Congressional District, in Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, we have the epitome of the emerging one-party state, under the relentless pressure of special interest corruption. Cardoza is referred to locally simply as the south end of O Pomboza, the northern end being Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy. Pombo is an exemplary modern American fascist, complete with his corruption problems linked to Abramoff, who he denies knowing, and his strong penchant for breaking laws he can’t change, like the Endangered Species Act.

The EPA decision leaves people to believe – and they are definitely meant to believe – they are powerless to stop this level of pollution, corporate irresponsibility and corruption, because the corporations, the Pomboza and the regulating agencies don’t give a damn about the people and believe they exist to do the bidding of the least responsible whim of the corporations who effectively own their own regulating agencies. Some political theorists call this form of government corporatist and describe it as a precursor to fascism. We will content ourselves with the homey old American expression, “honest graft,” well established in government during the McKinley administration, apparently the guide to all domestic politics in the W. administration.

There are residual American political tactics against such corruption. People concerned about this well and its implications for the future of groundwater in the Central Valley ought to consider starting a national boycott against Hilmar Cheese products. A boycott has the old-fashioned charm of asserting the dignity of human communities in the face of inhuman corporate power. People might find it a refreshing diversion from being oppressed and depressed by decisions affecting their lives over which they have no control.

The long, weird leg

A preface is required to begin to describe the last leg of the current stool. I’ve chosen a passage from Douglas Dowd’s book on Thorstein Veblen, an American economist who wrote this during the McKinley administration, at the turn of the 20th century:

“Business interests urge an aggressive national policy and businessmen direct it. Such a policy is warlike as well as patriotic. The direct cultural value of a warlike business policy is unequivocal. It makes for a conservative animus on the part of the populace. During war time, and within the military organization at all times, under martial law, civil rights are in abeyance; and the more warfare and armament the more abeyance … a military organization is a servile organization. Insubordination is the deadly sin. (The Theory of Business Enterprise, Thorstein Veblen, 1904, p. 391)

What is true of those directly involved in the military applies also to the civilian population in significant degree:

“They learn to think in warlike terms of rank, authority, and subordination, and so grow progressively more patient of encroachments upon their civil rights … At the same stroke they (patriotic ideals) direct the popular interest to other, nobler institutionally less hazardous matters than the unequal distribution of wealth or of creature comfort. (Ibid. p. 393)

But for those who might see this as a triumph of business enterprise over the threat of social change led by workers, it is turned by Veblen into a hollow triumph. For, if the discipline and values of the warlike and patriotic society may “correct” the institutionally disintegrative trend of the machine process, it is just as probable that, for the same reasons there would be “a rehabilitation of the ancient patriotic animosity and dynastic loyalty, to the relative neglect of business interests. This may easily be carried so far as to sacrifice the profits of the businessman to the exigencies of the higher politics (Ibid. 395).

Thus, Veblen sees the system of business enterprise caught in a terrible historical dilemma: If, to offset the institutional and threatening imperative of industrialism, it encourages, or acquiesces in, developments that will cause social unrest to “sink in the broad sands of patriotism,” it is faced with the equal probability that what is quicksand for one will sooner or later pull down the other.

The last paragraph of the Theory might be Veblen’s epitaph for the system of business enterprise:

“It seems possible to say this much, that the full domination of business enterprise is necessarily a transitory dominion. It stands to lose in the end whether the one or the other of the two divergent cultural tendencies wins, because it is incompatible with the ascendancy of either. (Ibid. p. 400)

(Thus, in the late 1930s, German industrialists who had supported Nazism as a “corrective discipline” for the political and economic troubles of the early 1930’s found themselves increasingly harassed by regulation, taxation, and general interference in their affairs by Nazi Party and Wehrmacht functionaries.) – Thorstein Veblen, by Douglas Dowd, 1964, pp. 52-53.

In our suddenly radical contemporary experience in Merced, we now host UC, a university whose two national laboratories of mass destruction are now competing for the design award for new nuclear weapons. Therefore, we must ask, for what end, the Cold War having ended some years ago? Our current, neo-McKinley imperial administration cum dynastic, monarchal pretensions, aims at nothing less than world domination. Like the Nazis, the neocons didn’t come to power just to regulate, tax and interfere with business. They came with a plan for world domination. Read all about it at the Project for the New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org).

The details of the vision really don’t matter nearly as much as the absurd fact of the vision itself “for the spread of American ideals.” For the neocons, the vision is the only fact that matters. One observes the tendency daily in the president. In fact, as opposed to vision, America cannot even fight successfully in two war theaters, let alone the many anticipated by the PNAC. And their he-man, Ariel Sharon, is in a coma.

On the other hand, they have our UC to build new nuclear weapons.

The fat leg should be called by its name: totalitarian ambition. It has not happened yet. The Alito confirmation hearing was held up for a week. Investigations of scandals mount. The drums for impeachment tap, if inaudibly to the ears of American subjects. However, “yet” is a highly ambiguous term in such a moment, because, although we are aware of the velocity of change, we aren’t able to measure it accurately, in large part for lack of honest media. The totalitarian ambition has been an old dream of American industrialists and financiers, evident to Veblen in 1904, far more overt before the two world wars, and the Bush family has been heavily involved in it since before WWI.

The only question of any importance today is whether the American people have the intelligence to see it and the energy left, in this rapidly decaying economy, to resist it, particularly without an effective opposition political party. Appeals to the ideals of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights fall on largely deaf ears. The fundamental right for which American subjects of the British crown fought was the right of political participation. After a century of fraudulent commercial advertising and government propaganda, is there enough citizenship left in the subject population to resist the neocon plan to make the Mideast safe for Israel, US oil companies, conduct an eternal Indian War against Arabs, and subject the US population to enough terror so that it doesn’t notice the absurdity of the neocon vision and the destruction of both the domestic economy and its environment.

The question is important, however, as a preliminary to the larger, more dangerous problem of how we confront global warming and lesser forms of environmental destruction. We haven’t a prayer of avoiding the global tipping point without strong state regulation of corporate environmental destruction. It also leads one to wonder just how many UC-built nuclear bomb blasts it would take to tip the planet over the edge. It is hard to imagine anything more destructive to the environment than a nuclear bomb. But, UC Merced is an environmentally conscious campus.

And they ask why the public mind is boggled so often these days.

Veblen’s prognosis for American business is a useful anchor:

“It seems possible to say this much, that the full domination of business enterprise is necessarily a transitory dominion. It stands to lose in the end whether the one or the other of the two divergent cultural tendencies wins, because it is incompatible with the ascendancy of either.” (Ibid. p. 400)

“Full domination” has been achieved all too successfully. The rule of law is rapidly crumbling before this full domination. Law was the arena in which the divergent tendencies met and argued. Without law effectively protecting the rights of citizens, the United States of America ceases to be itself and the voice of reason is drowned by the screaming antinomy between privileged and desperate subjects in a rapidly deteriorating environment. The reasonable solution would appear to be something less than “full domination of business enterprise,” beginning with regulatory agencies that are permitted to perform their necessary public function, uninfluenced by either political pressure or foxes in henhouses. The political irony is that business enterprise would have to call for a rapid, perhaps radical reduction of its domination in order to save the system of government that nurtured its rise to power. That would require an act of reason probably beyond the capacity of corporate attitudes today and equally beyond the capacities of its bought and sold political class. The real road to Hell has been paved with done deals between special interests and government.

But that’s just how things look from the middle of the San Joaquin Valley in California.

Bill Hatch


Hannah Arendt: Origins of Totalitarianism, On Revolution

Douglas Dowd: Thorstein Veblen

Hilmar Cheese Permitted to Drill Test Well

Mancur Olson, The Rise and Decline of Nations

Brooks Jackson, Honest Graft: Big Money and the American Political Process

Upgrades planned for U.S. nuclear stockpile. Agency leader expects significant warhead redesigns...James Sterngold

Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush

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California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit in Sacramento

Submitted: Jan 14, 2006

Central Valley and Foothills cattlemen, conservationists, and state and federal resource agency officials held a historic summit Jan. 11 in Sacramento. The all-day conference was called to develop a broad action plan to implement the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Resolution, a statement of joint goals reached last year.

"Today we have embarked upon a historic partnership to preserve and enhance California's working landscapes," said California Cattlemen's Association President Mark Nelson. "The California Rangeland Resolution serves as the foundation of an extraordinary partnership between ranchers, environmentalists and governmental agencies ... Our CCA members have a unique standing with respect to the conservation of our state's rangelands, given that ranchers own and/or manage over 30 million acres in California. Given the sheer volume of property managed by ranchers, and the well-documented preference by imperiled species for these properties, it is clear that meaningful species recovery or conservation efforts require the voluntary cooperation of landowners. Put another way, the protection of our state's most valuable natural resources is highly dependent on working partnerships between conservation interests and landowners."

John Hopkins, director of Institute for Ecological Health, said, "The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition is an exciting and important new venture. The conservation organizations that are signatories to the Coalition's Resolution are very pleased to be working closely with agricultural organizations and a wide array of state and federal agencies in crafting and implementing the important goals of the Resolution.

"Private owned grasslands and oak woodlands around the Central Valley and its surrounding foothills support a stunning variety and abundance of native wildlife and plants. Maintaining the private ranches and their economic viability is essential for the conservation of these critically important natural habitats and their native species.

"This Coalition provides a major opportunity to achieve widespread conservation of rangeland, to aid stewardship and help maintain ranching as a viable way of life. These are steps that are necessary to maintain the many large tracts of grasslands and oak woodlands that are vital to the future of our state's wildlife. For example, vernal pool grasslands possess a rich array of endangered and threatened animals and plants that are found nowhere else in the world. The grasslands are home to the highest diversity and density of wintering birds of prey in North America. Oak woodlands are essential for hundreds of vertebrate species."

Hopkins added that, "Two key areas for future action are the 2007 federal Farm Bill and possibilities for additional funds for rangeland conservation in state bond measures." He said that the CCA and the state Farm Bureau have good relations with members of the House and Senate agriculture committees, while environmentalists have good relations with more urban members of Congress. The Coalition, putting "teams of cowboys and environmentalists in Congressional and legislative offices is very politically effective, he said. "Jaws can drop."

Paul Henson, assistant regional director of the California-Nevada US Fish and Wildlife Service office, pledged to add staff to help qualify ranchers for safe harbor agreements. In these agreements, developed in 1999, the Service will issue a permit to ranches to "enhance the propagation or survival" of an endangered or threatened species, once the Service is satisfied that actions undertaken by the landowner produce a "net conservation benefit" to the species.

Bill Chrisman, Director of the state Department of Resources, promised the members of the Coalition that the state would work on ways to streamline environmental regulations to provide certainty in a timely manner, possibly involving changes to the California
Environmental Quality Act.

Ryan Broderick, director of the state Department of Fish and Game, told the Coalition that the large blocks of land held by Valley and Foothills ranchers are "the key" to conservation of endangered and threatened species of animals and plants. In response to a question from Dan Macon, director of the Nevada County Land Trust, Broderick agreed that the future will see more public/private partnerships for the effective management of publicly held land. The CDFG now has tenant farming agreements that are both economical and good stewardship of the land. "The Department of Fish and Game does a lot of farming,” Broderick added.

California benefits less relative to its size and the value of its agricultural output from the federal Farm Bill than the Midwestern grain states do, said Michael Bean, attorney and chair of the Wildlife program for Environmental Defense, a national environmental advocacy organization. California ranchers benefit even less. The Coalition of California ranchers and environmentalists working together, presenting a unified voice before Congress, could yield better federal funding for California ranching.

Henson, (USFWS) added that the resource agencies agree that rangelands need to stay in ranching and that they need to help ranchers stay on the land by "removing regulatory disincentives and getting more funding for conservation easements."

"We have come together as one and must continue to strengthen our bond, CCA President Nelson concluded his address. "We must not let the opportunities presented by this partnership pass us by, and we look forward to transforming the targets defined earlier today into real-world, on-the-ground successes."

The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition came to life through the following resolution:

The California Rangeland Resolution

The undersigned recognize the critical importance of California’s privately owned rangelands, particularly that significant portion that encircles the Central Valley and includes the adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands, including the Sierra foothills and the interior coast ranges. These lands support important ecosystems and are the foundation for the ranching industry that owns them.

WHEREAS, these rangelands include a rich and varied landscape of grasslands, oak woodlands, vernal pools, riparian areas and wetlands, which support numerous imperiled species, many native plants once common in the Central Valley, and are home to the highest diversity and density of wintering raptors anywhere in North America;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are often located in California’s fastest-growing counties and are at significant risk of conversion to development and other uses;

WHEREAS, these rangelands, and the species that rely on these habitats, largely persist today due to the positive and experienced grazing and other land stewardship practices of the ranchers that have owned and managed these lands and are committed to a healthy future for their working landscapes;

WHEREAS, these rangelands are a critical foundation of the economic and social fabric of California’s ranching industry and rural communities, and will only continue to provide this important working landscape for California’s plants, fish and wildlife if private rangelands remain in ranching;

THEREFORE, we declare that it is our goal to collaboratively work together to protect and enhance the rangeland landscape that encircles California’s Central Valley and includes adjacent grasslands and oak woodlands by:

Keeping common species common on private working landscapes;

Working to recover imperiled species and enhancing habitat on rangelands while seeking to minimize regulations on private lands and streamline processes;

Supporting the long-term viability of the ranching industry and its culture by providing economic, social and other incentives and by reducing burdens to proactive stewardship on private ranchlands;

Increasing private, state and federal funding, technical expertise and other assistance to continue and expand the ranching community’s beneficial land stewardship practices that benefit sensitive species and are fully compatible with normal ranching practices;

Encouraging voluntary, collaborative and locally-led conservation that has proven to be very effective in maintaining and enhancing working landscapes;

Educating the public about the benefits of grazing and ranching in these rangelands.

Current signers of the California Rangeland Resolution include the following:

Alameda County RCD

Alameda County Board of Supervisors

American Land Conservancy

California Cattlemen’s Association

California Resources Agency

California Wildlife Foundation

Central Valley Land Trust Council

Bureau Land Management

Defenders of Wildlife

Butte Environmental Council

Environmental Defense

California Audubon Society

Institute for Ecological Health

California Cattlemen’s Association

Natural Resources Conservation Service

California Dept of Fish and Game

San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

California Dept of Food and Ag

San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

California Farm Bureau Federation

Sierra Foothills Audubon Society

California Native Grasslands Association

The Nature Conservancy

California Native Plant Society

Trust for Public Land

California Oak Foundation

US Fish and Wildlife Service

California Rangeland Trust

US Forest Service

California Resource Conservation Districts


Wildlife Conservation Board

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Jack and the Shrimp Slayer

Submitted: Jan 06, 2006

Yesterday the Tracy Press published an editorial that noted Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, had also received money from Washington super-lobbyist, now singing to federal prosecutors. The amount is small, compared with what Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy has received, but Cardoza felt called upon to protest today even the mention of his name in connection with the wholesale corruption now being investigated. So, on account of a thousand dollars from an Indian casino, we get this:

I have never met Mr. Abramoff, nor have I had any dealings with him. Period. In fact, the contribution I received from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians occurred long after the tribe had cut all ties with Mr. Abramoff and his firm.

Cardoza wrote in a letter to the Tracy Press today.

Mr. Abramoff’s admitted crimes are shameful and flagrant abuses of the public trust. Any public official convicted of wrongdoing in this matter should be punished to the furthest extent of the law... The scandal surrounding Mr. Abramoff has cast a dark cloud over Congress and threatens to further weaken the public’s trust in the integrity of their government.

he continued.

When the Shrimp Slayer conjures up "the public's trust" to defend his moral rectitude, the public gets the fantods. The man speaks like a neo-con hack. The Pomboza, Cardoza and Rep. RichPac Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy's wholesale attack on the public trust in their suite of bills to dismember the Endangered Species Act, comes to mind. The Pomboza collecting their contributions from developers last spring at their joint fundraiser at the Grupe ranch in Lodi comes to mind. It turns the public mind to the Pomboza trip, with Interior Secretary Gale Norton, in January 2004 to the Marianas, where Abramoff textile sweatshops are located. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez is now calling for a House investigation (along with other on-going investigations) into connections between members of Congress, Ambramoff's Marianas clients, and legislative affecting the area.

Of course, out there in the Great Water, where Bikini was and the US still conducts tests, maybe the Shrimp Slayer was scouting out territory for UC weapons of mass destruction testing.

More questions are raised than answered by Cardoza's pious denial. For a congressman who doesn't know Abramoff, he's certainly up to date on when and for how long the lobbyist was connected with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. In fact, Cardoza's deep dependency on Pombo, Doolittle, DeLay and the rest of the hard rightwingers in the House suggests involvement with their top money guy, Abramoff. We may never know, however, because campaign financing in this country is a hall of mirrors equal to its tax code, federal highway and HUD funding. Given the public's low level of trust in its congressmen, Cardoza raises a good question: why trust his denial of involvement with Abramoff? Or is just because the other half of The Pomboza, Pombo, denies knowing a lobbyist who gave him $55,000?

Any public official convicted of wrongdoing in this matter should be punished to the furthest extent of the law ...

Cardoza intones. Are we looking at a falling out among thieves? Next thing we know, Cardoza will deny every having known Pombo -- who is in the limelight, along with Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin -- of this investigation. Will Cardoza also deny knowing Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, who received $8,500 from the Abramoff operation? Will he give up membership in the Portuguese American Political Caucus of the House of Representatives, whose members received $200,700 from various Abramoff pots? For example, Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, co-chair with Pombo of PALCUS, received more than four times ($42,500) what Rep. Nick Rahall, D-WVa, ranking minority member of the Resources Committee received ($10,000) from Abramoff.

Just exactly where will all the denial end? Who knows, but probably the Abramoff affair will test the limits of absurd denial as it unfolds.

The Tracy Press wasn't making this up. It came from

http://capitaleye.org/abramoff_recips.asp?sort=N, whose parent website is

Bill Hatch


No Abramoff dealings

I would like to clarify a few points from Thursday’s editorial, “Reform U.S. Capitol lobbying,” which stated that I had received a contribution from an Indian tribe connected to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. I have never met Mr. Abramoff, nor have I had any dealings with him. Period. In fact, the contribution I received from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians occurred long after the tribe had cut all ties with Mr. Abramoff and his firm.

Mr. Abramoff’s admitted crimes are shameful and flagrant abuses of the public trust. Any public official convicted of wrongdoing in this matter should be punished to the furthest extent of the law.

I strongly agree that Washington needs to take immediate and dramatic action to reform lobbying. This is long overdue. The scandal surrounding Mr. Abramoff has cast a dark cloud over Congress and threatens to further weaken the public’s trust in the integrity of their government. My sincere hope is that Americans’ outrage over this violation of the public trust will force Congress to enact meaningful reform that will crack down on these abuses and demand greater transparency from lobbyists and public officials. I pledge to speak out and fight for these reforms.

Dennis Cardoza

Reform U.S. Capitol lobbying

Super lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s squealing to federal prosecutors may expose the depth of this sordid game of special interests exchanging monetary gifts for political influence in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

Among those on Abramoff’s trail of deception, fraud and money exchange are about 300 members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. They include Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. Between 1999 and today, Pombo has received $54,500 in contributions from Abramoff and the American Indian tribes that hired him as a lobbyist. Cardoza has accepted $1,000.

Pombo’s contribution from Abramoff and Abramoff-connected parties is the fifth highest among the members of Congress (Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., is No. 1 with $101,620). Since 2003, Pombo has been chairman of the House Resources Committee, which handles Indian affairs.

Neither Pombo nor Cardoza has been implicated publicly in the Abramoff case. Pombo says he has never met the guilty lobbyist. Fortunately, Pombo’s rise in leadership came at the same time Abramoff’s influence as a lobbyist was dwindling because of federal investigations.

Accepting campaign contributions from a lobbyist, an Indian tribe or other special interests isn’t a crime unless there is a direct quid pro quo, and even then it is hard to prove in court. That’s why prosecutors let Abramoff and his associates make deals — so they can squeal on the lawmakers.

Abramoff was associated with the K Street Project that was designed by the Republican Party to force big business and trade groups to hire more Republican-connected lobbyists. The K Street Project created an almost seamless relationship between members of Congress and corporate America. Abramoff was the middleman who profited from the monetary influence.

After the partisan finger-pointing ends in Washington over the Abramoff case, Congress must to embark on immediate lobbying reform with tougher disclosure laws and stricter professional standards.

The Abramoffs of D.C. reflect the wrong side of democracy — the freedom to commit greed and fraud when no officeholder wants to look. This disregard of fairness in government disillusions Americans, who wonder if all lawmakers are crooks, not statesmen.

Among the ways the statesmen can regain the confidence of Americans while decreasing the influence of lobbyists and political action committees with fistfuls of dollars is by interacting more with the folks in their districts and states and less with Abramoff-clone lobbyists.



Miller Calls for Probe into Abramoff's Marianas Dealings
By Josephine Hearn
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) today called for a congressional investigation into former lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, which Abramoff represented from 1994 to 2001.

Miller wrote a 7-page letter to Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over U.S. territories, asking that the committee exercise its appropriate oversight responsibilities without further delay to investigate a variety of allegations of improper behavior, including the overpayment for lobbying services, interference in territorial elections, interference in contract procurement, and the questionable payment of overseas trips for Members of Congress and staff. Abramoff has been at the center of a growing scandal over sizeable fees he and his associate Michael
Scanlon charged Indian tribes for lobbying and public relations. Two Senate committees, a federal taskforce and the Interior Department¹s inspector general are conducting separate investigations into the duo and their dealings with members of Congress and administration officials.

Abramoff arranged for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to visit the islands in December 1997 to tour textile factories. The commonwealth¹s government, an Abramoff client at the time, and the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association paid for the trip.

A senior GOP aide to the Resources Committee said that the committee had seen Miller¹s letter, was still reviewing it and had no response at press time.

Miller and Abramoff have long been at odds over labor and immigration policy in the islands, with Miller contending that current laws are abusive to immigrant workers. Abramoff has represented garment manufacturers seeking to maintain the islands¹ exemption from certain U.S. immigration and labor laws.

Meanwhile, in other Abramoff-related news, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington launched a new web site, www.jackinthehouse.org, to chronicle Abramoff¹s association with various members of the Congress, lobbyists and conservative activist. The group is urging visitors to the web site to contact House ethics committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and ask that the committee begin an investigation.

Miller: Abramoff Money Halted Sweat Shop Legislation

POSTED: 7:50 am PST January 4, 2006
UPDATED: 12:39 pm PST January 4, 2006

UNDATED -- East Bay Congressman George Miller just couldn't understand why his legislation to end sex and textile sweat shops in the Northern Mariana Islands -- a U.S. protectorate in the Pacific -- was being blocked in the House of Representatives. Now, he has his answer.

Miller had run into a roadblock allegedly thrown up by lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"There is no question that Jack Abramoff is no run-of-the-mill lobbyist," Miller said on Mornings on 2. "The Mariana Islands were one of Abramoff's clients…The garment industry there was importing young men from China and elsewhere work in sweat shops…There's a sex rade…labor camps."

"I was trying to get legislation passed in the House," Miller added. "It passed out of committee in the Senate and had bi-partisan support. I just couldn't get it to the floor of the House of Representatives."

Miller said it was time to investigate why the legislation was being blocked.

Blue Dog in South Pacific.

Delegation arrives for 2-day visit By Mark-Alexander Pieper Pacific Daily News;



* A congressional delegation arrived on island last night for a two-day a fact-finding trip.

A six-member congressional delegation visiting the Micronesia region on a fact-finding mission arrived on Guam last night for a two-day stay...

The delegation, accompanied by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and David Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, was greeted by local dignitaries at the island's commuter terminal adjacent to the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam...

The delegation includes California Congressman and House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, Delegate Eni Faleomavaega from American Samoa, Reps. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Dennis Rehberg, R-Mont., Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo. All are members of the resources committee with the exception of Lucas.

After the statements, the delegation was whisked away to a hotel. Media was denied interviews with the delegation.

Earlier yesterday, the Interior Department announced that Norton and CNMI Gov. Juan Babauta signed a grant that will provide more than $5.1 million to the CNMI to mitigate the impact of migration from the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

"These funds will help the CNMI provide health, education and other social services to the citizens of the freely associated states who are permitted to migrate to the CNMI under the Compacts of Free Association," said Norton, who made her first visit to the Northern Marianas this week before arriving on Guam.

Capitaleye.org lists Rehberg received $30,000 and Lucas $2,500 from Abramoff operations.

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Lack of incentive

Submitted: Dec 30, 2005

It's very hard to see that the USDA has any incentive to properly monitor GMO crops, pharma or otherwise, considering they are so gung-ho in favor of them, along with the land grant universities whose "win-win public/private partnerships" with biotechnology corporations have produced them.

When the nation is going to wake up and discover this technology required serious public testing it never received remains a question based on the ability of lobbies and propaganda to bend perception. Using the example of genetic contamination, however, whatever is said from bent perspectives won't change inevitable facts. So far the critics have been right, every step of the way.

Investigators say the USDA lacks details on what happens with pharma-crops.

Des Moines Register, December 30 2005

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has failed to properly oversee field trials of genetically engineered crops, including plants designed to produce chemicals for medical and industrial uses, investigators say.

A report released Thursday by the USDA's inspector general said the department "lacks basic information" on where field tests are or what is done with the crops after they are harvested.

The report is the latest blow to prospects for developing an industry based on mass-producing pharmaceutical chemicals from genetically modified corn. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack once called the idea the "future of our state."

During the inspector general investigation, auditors found that two large harvests of pharmaceutical crops remained in storage at test sites without the USDA's knowledge or approval.

The investigators also said that in 2003 the department failed to inspect fields of pharmaceutical crops with the frequency that officials said they would.

"Current (USDA) regulations, policies and procedures do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology," the report said.

The report "confirms the public's lack of confidence in the USDA to oversee pharmaceutical and industrial chemical crops," said Susan Prolman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group that has been critical of the agricultural biotechnology industry.

USDA officials said they have made a number of improvements since the investigation was done but disagree with some of the findings.

"We were addressing many of the issues as they were looking at the same issues," said Cindy Smith, deputy administrator for biotechnology regulatory services in the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

She said violations cited in the report were minor. Also, the agency now does all the required inspections of pharma-crop sites, including one last summer near Burlington, Ia., she said.

The department is heeding one of the inspector general's suggestions and may make it mandatory for researchers to provide global positioning coordinates for test sites.

Smith's staff has grown from 23 to 65 since it was established in 2002.

The Agriculture Department oversaw 67,000 acres of biotech field trials in 2004, up from 8,700 in 1994.

Relatively little of that acreage is devoted to pharmaceutical or industrial crops, but there is special concern that those plants could contaminate conventional crops or get into the food supply.

A small biotech company, ProdiGene Inc., was ordered to pay more than $3 million in penalties and cleanup costs in 2002 after mismanaging field trials of pharmaceutical crops in Iowa and Nebraska.

Pharma crops are seen as a cheap way to mass-produce human and animal drugs. Corn has been the crop of choice because it is relatively simple to engineer and produces a lot of grain that can be easily stored and processed.

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Reform mood hits Valley

Submitted: Dec 19, 2005

Appropriate for the worst air quality basin in the nation, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District last week decided the Valley would be the first region in the nation where developers must pay an air pollution fee for the new homes they build. While the amount of the fee, less than $800, which can be reduced by various mitigating factors, is a token that will be entirely passed on to home buyers, it establishes an important principle.

The Valley air pollution fee on new development acknowledges that the public has been subsidizing new development in the Valley as air pollution descended to Los Angeles standards and is now worse in some years. The Valley public has subsidized the new development with its own health, particularly the health of its most vulnerable citizens – children and the elderly. It has subsidized development with higher health care spending. The Valley public has subsidized growth in terms of deteriorating water quality and supply, sewer, water and road expansions. Valley children have subsidized growth by attending over-crowded, deteriorating public schools.

The Valley public has subsidized urban sprawl politically through the loss of representation of its elected officials, who for years have been distracted from their obligations to the general public by their obligations to developers, who make up the largest part of their campaign financing. The system whereby any developer, from the University of California to the national homebuilders to sand-and-gravel miners, automatically indemnifies the local land-use authority (city or county) from paying its own legal costs if the public sues the jurisdiction for violations of environmental law or public process has protected local land-use decision-makers from taking financial responsibility for decisions appellate court judges on occasion find absurd – unless the University of California is involved. How could UC say or do anything absurd?

Valley children are paying the highest price. Not permitted recess periods during the increasing number of bad air days; their asthma rate is a regional disgrace. What may be producing action on the air quality front is that childhood asthma has no decent respect for income levels, affecting the rich as well as the poor children of the Valley. But, due to developer political rigging in Sacramento, the children also pay because the developers do not pay an adequate amount of money for schools to keep up with growth.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board recently refused to be intimidated by a Hilmar Cheese legal/public-relations campaign to make it back off fining the “largest cheese factory in the world” $4 million for polluted ground water. The board will soon hold a scooping meeting and public workshop to examine agricultural pesticide discharges into the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Tracy, hometown of Rep. RichPAC Pombo, under national attack for months,

authorized spending $60,000 to hire a consultant to write a plan that will identify potentially available land encircling the city's limits and address how the city can pay to keep that land pristine. If adopted, residents may continue to see acres of farmland and trees around town instead of unbridled roadways, rooftops and restaurants. (1)

It might be that the Pombo dynasty of real estate farmers is losing its grip on Tracy government. The leader of the local slow-growthers is Celeste Garamendi, state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi’s sister.

The Stockton Record editorialized on Dec. 16 about preserving the Williamson Act to preserve agricultural land.

For 40 years, extraordinary measures have been taken to protect California farmland. This commitment is critically important now -- Since 1965, the Williamson Act has been the No. 1 device for conserving California's 30 million acres of agricultural land. More and more, its protections are under assault as homebuilders, developers and farmers seek ways to circumvent its restrictions. The Williamson Act is a relatively modest program that has been successful in protecting and preserving agricultural land in a state whose economy depends so heavily upon it. It's been especially important in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. There's no reason it shouldn't remain California's agricultural sentinel for 40 more years. (20)

Modesto Bee editor Marc Vashe wrote a tribute to Ralph Brown, former speaker of the state Assembly from Modesto, who wrote the Brown Act protecting the public’s right to access to governmental decisions. Brown retired after a successful legislative career of nearly 20 years, the last three as Assembly speaker. Jesse Unruh succeeded him. John Williamson was elected to the state Assembly in the early 1960s from Bakersfield. He seemed only to have served long enough to get the agricultural conservation law passed, when only years later came to bear his name.

Little is heard from the other half of the bipartisan environmental law gutting team that farmers are calling O Pomboza, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. A consortium of local, state and national groups filed suit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service yet again last week on its latest truncated, politically coerced, critical habitat designation for the 15 endangered and threatened species living in or close to the vernal pool wetlands. The largest fields of contiguous vernal pools in the nation lie in Cardoza’s district. So far, his several bills to damage or destroy the designation under the Endangered Species Act have failed but his finger prints are visible on the various slashed versions of the designation since Cardoza went to Congress in 2003.

Meanwhile, The Shrimp Slayer has a bit of a mess on his hands in his local office on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. A few weeks ago, the county announced Ruben Castillo, county counsel, would be leaving, after a lackluster defense of county policies in a number of lawsuits. Today, the rumor was that Planning Director Bill Nicholson has been demoted to assistant planning director. The new planning director, the story goes, comes from fast-growing Henderson, Nevada, where (s)he has doubtlessly burned the midnight oil studying the California Environmental Quality Act.

And UC Merced still does not have its Clean Water Act permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to expand northward onto the Virginia Smith Trust land where its Long Range Development Plan said it would. This leaves the option of expanding onto the land presently designated for the University Community.

Cardoza, whose political mentors appear to be Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho and Pombo, has worked hard to corrupt both the Brown and the Williamson acts in Merced County on behalf of UC Merced and developers. That kind of reputation might be coming around to bite him if the reform mood surfacing in the Valley gathers any momentum.


(1) Tracy to plan for open spaces...Rick Brewer...12-18-05

(2) Keep saving the land...Editorial...12-16-05

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Environmental groups sue Interior again on vernal pool critical habitat

Submitted: Dec 17, 2005

December 13, 2005
Broad Coalition of Conservation Organizations Challenges Inadequate Habitat Protections for Wetland Species and Habitats
Note: A PDF copy of the complaint is available at: http://becnet.org/documents/complaint_vernal_pool_200512.pdf

Chico, CA – Butte Environmental Council, the California Native Plant Society, Defenders of Wildlife, San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Vernalpools.Org, and Sierra Foothillls Audubon Society have filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of the Interior over its second, Final Vernal Pool Critical Habitat Rule for 15 endangered and threatened vernal pool plants and animals found in California and Oregon. On August 11, 2005 Interior designated 858,846 acres of critical habitat in the Final Rule, eliminating almost 900,000 acres that were proposed in the original 2002 Draft Rule. The 2005 rule is a result of litigation also filed by some the current plaintiffs over the elimination of more than one million acres of VPCH for the 15 species and five entire counties.

In the 2005 final critical habitat designation, Interior unlawfully relied upon a flawed analysis of economic impacts that overestimated potential costs of critical habitat designation, as well as underestimated and disregarded potential benefits of designation. Additionally, Interior unlawfully excluded many areas, including National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, and lands overlapping with habitat conservation plans, based on inadequate existing protections.

“While Interior added some VPCH to the five excluded counties, others like Placer and Stanislaus were decimated based on a political agenda, not economics, which leaves them open to this legal challenge,” stated Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director of Butte Environmental Council (see charts below). “Not only did Interior’s Economic Analysis overstate economic costs, it also ignored the economic benefits associated with the protection of vernal pool grasslands, such as providing educational and recreational opportunities, infrastructure support services, ranching, tourism, and economy of scale by covering 15 species in one rule,” declared Vlamis.

To illustrate the overstated conclusions in the Economic Analysis, Butte County’s projected costs were $152 million over 20 years. Even if one accepts the economic methods used, which the plaintiffs do not, this translates into a microscopic 0.17% per year when compared with the annual economic output of the county, $7.36 billion (IMPLAN 2001). “Excluding any of the proposed VPCH is not justified by the economic analysis that led to this Rule,” stated Carol Witham, President of the California Native Plant Society.

Designating critical habitat for federally listed species is important for the recovery of listed species because it clearly identifies the areas essential for their recovery. These critical habitat maps are essential to providing information for statewide and local conservation planning efforts. “The decision to eliminate nearly 1 million acres of vernal pool critical habitat, including lands in Fresno, Placer, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, and Tehama counties, may very well prevent the recovery of these 15 imperiled species,” stated Kim Delfino, California Program Director, Defenders of Wildlife. “At a minimum, it means its open season again for developers for those excluded vernal pool grasslands,” continued Delfino.

If recovery is to occur, the remaining range of the 15 vernal pool species must not only be protected, it must expand. Vernal pools are unique depressional wetlands that fill and dry every year. The eight endangered and seven threatened species are currently listed due to the severity of vernal pool destruction in California and Oregon. As the 2002 Proposed Rule indicated, noted vernal pool expert Robert Holland estimates that close to 75% of the Central Valley’s vernal pool habitat was lost by 1997; the central coast has lost at a minimum 90%; southern California’s losses exceed 95%; and Oregon has had 60% destroyed with 18% of the extant habitat considered intact (2002). More recent estimates place the habitat losses at over 90% throughout the historic range of vernal pools (Wright 2002).

Butte Environmental Council
Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director
(530) 891-6424

California Native Plant Society
Carol Witham, President
(916) 452-5440

Defenders of Wildlife
Kim Delfino, California Program Coordinator
(916) 313-5800

San Joaquin Raptor and Wildlife Rescue Center
Lydia Miller, President
(209) 723-9283

Carol Witham
(916) 452-5440

Sierra Foothillls Audubon Society
Ed Pandolfino, Placer County Conservation Chair
(916) 486-9174


A January 14, 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirming the protection of four federally listed fresh water crustaceans under the Endangered Species Act. The species were listed under the Endangered Species Act by the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in September 1994. The California Building Industry Association sued to try to reverse the species’ protection in 1995. Two California organizations, the Butte Environmental Council (BEC) and the Environmental Defense Center of Santa Barbara, supported the listings as interveners all the way to the Supreme Court.

Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court of Columbia issued the initial ruling on July 29, 1997 that rejected the BIA request to de-list the shrimp, but his decision supported their petition requiring the Service to designate critical habitat for the shrimp species. When the Service failed to respond to the court’s direction, BEC sued on April 12, 2000 for critical habitat designation for the four crustaceans. On February 9, 2001, the District Court for the eastern district of California ordered the Service to complete a final critical habitat designation for the crustaceans. The Service requested an extension of one year past the court ordered deadline and BEC concurred when the negotiations created a more comprehensive benefit for the habitat by including 11 vernal pool plant species.

On August 6, 2003 the Bush administration issued the final critical habitat rule and justified the removal of one million acres and six counties on economic grounds. Their analysis was feeble and concentrated almost exclusively on the economic costs over the economic benefits, illuminating its bias. The list of economic benefits of the critical habitat designation that were ignored by Washington is quite extensive and includes flood control, water quality, tourism, animal husbandry, hunting, recreation, education, and all the species in the food chain. The counties omitted from the 2003 critical habitat designation are: Butte, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento, & Solano.

The counties with acreage in the 2003 critical habitat designation are: Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Placer, Plumas, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, San Joaquin, Shasta, Stanislaus, Tehama, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, Yuba, and Jackson County, Oregon.

In January 2004, BEC, the California Native Plant Society, and Defenders of Wildlife filed suit challenging the 2003 VPCH Final Rule over the elimination of more than one million acres of VPCH for the 15 endangered and threatened vernal pool plants and animals and five entire counties.

Table 1. Covered Species Status and Listing Dates

Common Name Scientific Name Date Listed Status
Conservancy fairy shrimp Branchinecta conservatio September 19, 1994 E*
longhorn fairy shrimp Branchinecta longiantenna September 19, 1994 E
vernal pool tadpole shrimp Lepidurus packardi September 19, 1994 E
vernal pool fairy shrimp Branchinecta lynchi September 19, 1994 T*
Butte County meadowfoam Limnanthes floccosa ssp. Californica June 8, 1992 E
Colusa grass Neostapfia colusana March 26, 1997 T
Contra Costa goldfields Lastenia conjugens June 18, 1997 E
Greene's tuctoria Tuctoria greenei March 26, 1997 E
Hairy orcutt Orcuttia pilosa March 26, 1997 E
Hoover’s spurge Chamaesyce hooveri March 26, 1997 T
Sacramento orcutt Orcuttia viscida March 26, 1997 E
San Joaquin Valley orcutt Orcuttia inequalis March 26, 1997 T
Slender orcutt Orcuttia tenuis March 26, 1997 T
Solano grass Tuctoria mucronata September 28, 1978 E
Succulent (or fleshy) owl's clover Castilleja campestris ssp. succunlenta
March 26, 1997 T
(E* = endangered; T*=threatened)

Table 2. 2005 Rule acreage restored to counties indiscriminately omitted in the 2003 rule

County Proposed Acreage 2003 Rule Acreage 2005 Rule Acreage
Butte 58,849 0 24,247
Madera 95,802 0 48,359
Merced 194,335 0 147,638
Sacramento 68,820 0 37,098
Solano 67,961 0 13,415

Table 3. Counties that lost the valuable VPCH designation in the 2005 Rule

County Proposed Acreage 2003 Rule Acreage 2005 Rule Acreage
Fresno 32,218 32,228 19,200
Placer 58,849 32,134 2,580
San Luis Obispo 64,171 64,378 48,134
Stanislaus 132,708 128,035 67,462
Tehama 130,752 130,691 102,837

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Bad Thanksgiving ahead

Submitted: Nov 20, 2005

The first article, “The US Has Lost; Let’s Leave,” succinclty states the honest, common-sense case against the war. The second, a statement by Sojourner founder, Jim Wallis, expresses the national wrath about all that is being forgotten as this bloody spectacle in the Mideast blows apart. Wallis reminds us that that the war, like wingnut threats to start another one in Syria or Iran, distracts our attention from the deep moral problem of how these despicable little bullies manage the national budget.

Things are very bad this Thanksgiving. Military commanders are trying to get US troops out of Iraq and the administration is not permitting it because they see every dead American soldier as political cover. Meanwhile national debt and balance of trade are dangerously askew, the speculative housing boom, the source of an unhealthily large percentage of (temporary) employment, particularly in California, is also slowing as interest rates rise. The president has escaped to Asia this weekend to lecture China on its human rights, trade policies and deplorable religious immaturity.

"I look forward to frank discussions on Sunday with President Hu about our need to find solutions to our trade differences with China," Bush said in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

"Access to American markets has played an important role in China's economic development," he said.

Bush will also urge Hu to allow greater religious freedom in China, a message he will underscore by starting his day at Sunday services at the Gangwashi Church, one of five officially recognised Protestant churches in Beijing.

U.S. officials were not happy when a Chinese court recently sentenced a Protestant minister, his wife and her brother to prison terms of up to three years for illegally printing Bibles and other Christian publications.

"Of course, it's Sunday so the president will want to worship," said Mike Green, Asian affairs director at the White House National Security Council. "But it's also important that the world see and that the Chinese people see that expression of faith is a good thing for a healthy and mature society." (1)

The US trade deficit, particularly, has raised worries among economists, and it relates directly to decisions China makes about its currency valuation. (2)

The trade deficit remains a trouble spot for the U.S. economy as it widens to new record highs in 2005. Since this deficit has to be financed by borrowing abroad, the question arises as to how long foreign lenders, particularly China, Japan, the UK, Taiwan and Germany, will lend to the U.S. at comparatively low interest rates. A widening trade deficit could ultimately put increasing pressures on U.S. interest rates, thus potentially contributing to an economic slowdown.

Bill Hatch

The US Has Lost; Let's Leave
Murtha and the L Word
Counterpunch.com – Nov. 18, 2005

Rep. John Murtha, the decorated Vietnam and Korean War Marine vet and conservative Pennsylvania Democrat who stunned Bush administration and Republican congressional warhawks and Democratic go-alongs like Sens. Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden alike with his call for an immediate U.S. pullout from Iraq, left unsaid one important word in his dramatic turnaround announcement: defeat.

But that's the real message of his change of heart from Iraq War backer and booster to peacenik.

The war begun by President Bush with such bravado and so little braino, which was designed to convert him from a dismal president to a crisp and awe-inspiring commander-in-chief, has been lost.

The nearly 2100 Americans who have died so far to help the president get re-elected, to make him look like a leader, and to provide cover for his criminal executive power grab, have died for nothing.

An unorganized bunch of insurgents armed with nothing but raw guts, aging Soviet-era rifles, and home-made explosives, have routed the most powerful military machine the world has ever known.

There will be efforts to cover up this astonishing defeat, just as there were efforts made by the Nixon and Ford administrations to hide the fact that the U.S. was defeated in Indochina, too, but the truth is clear.

American military might can destroy a country. It can kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. It can sow terror through the use of indiscriminate use of such WMDs as DU explosives, phosphorus bombs, helicopter and fixed-wing gunships and computerized drones and missiles. But it cannot defeat a concerted popular resistance.

The American military, according to some generals, is once again, as it was during the Vietnam War, falling apart. Recruitment is collapsing, both for the regular Army and Marines, and for the reserves and the National Guard. Parts and even ammunition are in short supply. Morale is at an all time low and sinking.

Who in Iraq would want to die for Bush and Cheney at this point? And yet they keep on dying.

Murtha has it right. It's long past time to call the whole disastrous thing off. The Bush-Cheney mantra of "stay the course" is the desperate cry of two mad men caught in a trap of their own making--two men who are perfectly willing to send thousands more American soldiers to their deaths, and to slaughter tens of thousands more innocent Iraqis, in order to cling to power and to defer a final reckoning for their crimes.
They cannot be permitted to do this.

The war is lost. Iraq has been destroyed and will have to be helped for a long time to allow its people to recover somehow from the devastation caused by decades of brutal dictatorship, American-led sanctions and America's war of aggression and criminal occupation. The broken military will have to be returned home and made into something appropriate for a world that settles disputes diplomatically, not by unilateral acts of violence and terror. Finally, the veterans of this war will need help recovering from the horrors they were forced to participate in and from the physical and psychic wounds they have endured.

Meanwhile, the political leaders who brought all this about must be called to account. Either they apologize, as growing numbers of Democrats (and some Republicans) have begun to do, like Murtha and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards have done, or they must be ousted. Half steps like Kerry's admission that his pro-war vote and his pro-war campaign were mistakes, after which he then trashed Murtha on Hardball, won't do. As for the criminal authors of this war-Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and others--they should be impeached or indicted as appropriate.)

The first step will be admitting that the US has been defeated in Iraq. Murtha is right that the troops did what was asked of them, but their sacrifices were for naught. The war is lost.

Then we can begin the blame game in earnest.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

As Nation Prepares for Thanksgiving, Jim Wallis and 45 Religious Leaders to Hold Faith Summit on Poverty Nov. 21

11/18/2005 5:29:00 PM

To: Assignment Desk, Daybook Editor

Contact: Jack Pannell of Sojourners, 202-745-4614 or 202-285-1899 (cell)

News Advisory:

What: Roundtable with the Media (Jim Wallis and several religious leaders will discuss the tragic meaning of House Budget vote during the season of Thanksgiving).

When: Monday, Nov. 21, 12 noon until 1 p.m.

Where: Jury's Hotel, 1500 New Hampshire Ave., Washington, D.C.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and Convener of Call to Renewal, made the following the statement today on the narrow passage of the House Budget Reconciliation Bill.


"The prophet Isaiah said: 'Woe to you legislators of infamous laws ... who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan.' Today, I repeat those words. When our legislators put ideology over principle, it is time to sound the trumpets of justice and tell the truth.

"It is a moral disgrace to take food from the mouths of hungry children to increase the luxuries of those feasting at a table overflowing with plenty. This is not what America is about, not what the season of Thanksgiving is about, not what loving our neighbor is about, and not what family values are about. There is no moral path our legislators can take to defend a reckless, mean-spirited budget reconciliation bill that diminishes our compassion, as Jesus said, 'for the least of these.' It is morally unconscionable to hide behind arguments for fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. It is dishonest to stake proud claims to deficit reduction when tax cuts for the wealthy that increase the deficit are the next order of business. It is one more example of an absence of morality in our current political leadership.

"The faith community is outraged and is drawing a line in the sand against immoral national priorities. It is time to draw that line more forcefully and more visibly."



(2) http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=1171451

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