Federal Government

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

Submitted: Apr 12, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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La famille du porc

Submitted: Apr 04, 2007

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

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

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

Bill Hatch
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Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The MacDonald Affair

Submitted: Mar 31, 2007

Having observed and commented on the corruption of local, state and federal environmental law in this region for nearly a decade, the recent hoopla surrounding Julia MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks in the Department of Interior, is not news. We met MacDonald shortly after her appointment as aide to Judge Craig Manson, the assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks, in 2002. She urged us to get in touch. We think we have her card somewhere.

Locally, we see it as being within the general context of another spring offensive by finance, insurance, real estate and the Bush regime against the San Joaquin Valley. We are going into a drought, Bush is losing his war, and the local speculative housing boom is collapsing, generating skyrocketing foreclosure rates and some class-action suits on building defects. However, as we have said since they stole the Florida election in 2000, these people crossed their Rubicon and have had nowhere to go since but straight into the public's face.
The Badlands editorial staff honestly admits that MacDonald's corruptions would be quite beyond our scope if any of Interior's Inspector General's report were news to us. But we've covered most of it when her meddling and bullying first appeared. It's all back there in the archives somewhere and we will dig it out at the appropriate times. Meanwhile, she's a certifiable California "waterperson." She went after Klamath Bull Trout to help Rove do his stunt in the Klamath basin before the 2004 election; she went after the San Joaquin Delta Smelt, when heavy pumping caused by Interior's brokered Colorado River Agreement meant Southern California would have to get more water from the Delta; she went after seasonal wetlands and vernal pools and California Tiger Salamanders, all local issues here in the Pombozastan. We reported it all as it was happening.

However, that said, we were titillated by MacDonald's intimate relations with the California Farm Bureau and Pacific Legal Foundation, on the same ideological page: private property's right to public water.

On the other hand, the changes proposed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to the Endangered Species Act, a story that appeared a day earlier, is news. A story of human sacrifice, particularly of a woman, is cool, but the dry, bureaucratic language of the proposed ESA changes are meanwhile concealed. Yet, these proposals capture the worst aspects of the Pomboza bill to gut the ESA in the last session, which aroused so much anger in the environmental community that, with help from former Rep. Pete McCloskey, they defeated Pombo at the polls. Furthermore, they would turn over many key ESA decisions to governors. In California, where the governor and the Legislature is actually owned by finance, insurance and real estate special interests, you could kiss some species goodbye if this proposal passes judicial review. As a recently retired Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species specialist put it, the reason we have federal protections for endangered species is because the states will not protect them.

The Bush regime is consistent, if nothing else, and that consistency has fallen heavily on the San Joaquin Valley. The other federal proposal-of-the-month of special impact is the idea of privatizing the heavy-metal laden water of the San Joaquin Valley west side, including giving the water districts partial ownership of the San Luis Reservoir. This is the Bush regime solution to upcoming review of the selenium situation around Kesterson.

Of course, there is a connection between this story and the MacDonald Affair. She's a genuine California water girl.

But, our question is: was she any worse than the Cowgirl Chancellor of UC Merced, who built the first phase of the beloved boondoggle without the required federal permits, quit her job (along with a number of other of her starting team), and dropped a regulatory mess in her successors' laps and a bigger mess in the community's lap. If MacDonald was in the air in Washington, the Cowgirl was right here on the ground, building that anchor tenant for one of the greatest, most destructive speculative real estate booms in the nation. Nor has the attempt by UC to corrupt environmental law and regulation at every level of government by its lobbyists, administrators, lawyers, politicians like Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced and the regional finance, insurance and real estate special interests stopped. These interests will destroy California's fragile water-delivery system in order to save their profits. A key step in that is to get public attention off endangered species that in any way appear to interfere with delivery of paper water through the Delta pumps via crumbling levees. The collapsing housing bubble only encourages them.

There is a rough equivalence between the endangered species menaced by MacDonald's policies and the misery of students at UC Merced, which is today a sort of developer's model home of a university, with decorative students in residence (not all of them expiring in the shrubbery). However, like the endangered species, about which the Cowgirl's rhetoric was just fine, the students are not there for display; they want a life, too.

Nope. We admit the corruption of the federal government and the University of California, in full color, is too much for our humble descriptive abilities. We'll leave the job to the mainstream press. Its reporters are well-rested after seven years on a vacation from reality. Let them "investigate" and give each other prizes.

Meanwhile we will ask why Judge Manson was rewarded for his crimes against Nature with an appointment to McGeorge Law School. McGeorge needs some looking into, actually. Its dean is a former general counsel for the CIA. What's going on there? Why did UC Boalt Hall hire John Yoo, author of the torture-justifying memo during his years as counsel to the president?

And, isn't the timing of the MacDonald story and the ESA changes interesting? How much do top Fish and Wildlife Service officials support the Bush proposals? FWS Director Dale Hale appears, in the Inspector General's report, to be the epitome of a guardian of pure biology in the MacDonald Affair stories, while simultaneously trying to squelch any news about the new ESA rules. Are we headed for a "show hearing" at the House Natural Resources Committee in May on MacDonald, while the ESA changes wend their unnoticed way through the Bush regime "process"?

Will the next proposal for rule changes coming from the Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service be to privatize all the wildlife refuges in the nation?

We might also ask -- from the ground here in UC/Great Valley Center/Pombozastan, home of a state "blueprint" for growth along the lines indicated by Pombo Family Real Estate Farms -- how soon will UC give up on UC Merced and move it to Tracy, which wants a college, where it can be absorbed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Level-4 Biowarfare Lab and the Tsakopoulos family's Hellenic studies programs? Our nation needs genetic technologists who can create the biological weapons of the future (and, of course, their antidotes) while simultaneously learning to conjugate irregular Greek verbs and reading a bit of Jaeger's Paideia. Don't it? Ain't that the kind of "shared experience" we need?

How long will it be before the next Peripheral Canal proposal surfaces to convey paper water in a drought to Southern California? Before or after the next levee break?

It is the very bravest of new worlds possible, my dear Calaban. How's the asthma?

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

3-28-07
New York Times
Proposed changes would shift duties in protecting species...Felicity Barringer
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/28/washington/28habitat.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering limiting the ability of federal wildlife protection agencies to intervene on behalf of endangered species that may be harmed by federal actions...would also increase the role of state governments in administering some of the species protections that are now the responsibility of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. H. Dale Hall...said Tuesday that the draft proposal detailing the changes was “really a beginning of a process.” "It had all options on the table,” Mr. Hall said. “It really doesn’t represent anything that we support or don’t support.” Jan Hasselman, a lawyer with the Seattle office of Earthjustice, an environmental group, said that he had obtained a copy of the draft proposal from a federal official, and that it was created in June but had been edited as recently as a month ago. “I certainly don’t think that anyone ever contemplated a wholesale delegation of fundamental duties” to the states, Mr. Hasselman said. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed legislation amending the act when he was a senator from Idaho, and more drastic changes were proposed in the last Congress in an unsuccessful bill.

3-27-07
Salon
Inside the secretive plan to gut the Endangered Species Act
Proposed regulatory changes, obtained by Salon, would destroy the "safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction," say environmentalists.
By Rebecca Clarren

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is maneuvering to fundamentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, its strategy laid out in an internal 117-page draft proposal obtained by Salon. The proposed changes limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved. It shifts authority to enforce the act from the federal government to the states, and it dilutes legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.

"The proposed changes fundamentally gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act," says Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, who helped Salon interpret the proposal. "This is a no-holds-barred end run around one of America's most popular environmental protections. If these regulations stand up, the act will no longer provide a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction."

In recent months, the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone to extraordinary efforts to keep drafts of regulatory changes from the public. All copies of the working document were given a number corresponding to a person, so that leaked copies could be traced to that individual. An e-mail sent in March from an assistant regional director at the Fish and Wildlife Service to agency staff, asking for comments on and corrections to the first draft, underscored the concern with secrecy: "Please Keep close hold for now. Dale [Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] does not want this stuff leaking out to stir up discontent based on speculation."

Many Fish and Wildlife Service employees believe the draft is not based on "defensible science," says a federal employee who asked to remain anonymous. Yet "there is genuine fear of retaliation for communicating that to the media. People are afraid for their jobs."

Chris Tollefson, a spokesperson for the service, says that while it's accurate to
characterize the agency as trying to keep the draft under wraps, the agency has every intention of communicating with the public about the proposed changes; the draft just hasn't been ready. And, he adds, it could still be changed as part of a forthcoming formal review process.

Administration critics characterize the secrecy as a way to maintain spin control, says Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group. "This administration will often release a 300-page-long document at a press conference for a newspaper story that will go to press in two hours, giving the media or public no opportunity to digest it and figure out what's going on," Suckling says. "[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne will give a feel-good quote about how the new regulations are good for the environment, and they can win the public relations war."

In some ways, the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act should come as no surprise. President Bush has hardly been one of its fans. Under his reign, the administration has granted 57 species endangered status, the action in each case being prompted by a lawsuit. That's fewer than in any other administration in history -- and far fewer than were listed during the administrations of Reagan (253), Clinton (521) or Bush I (234). Furthermore, during this administration, nearly half of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who work with endangered species reported that they had been directed by their superiors to ignore scientific evidence that would result in recommendations for the protection of species, according to a 2005 survey of more than 1,400 service biologists, ecologists and botanists conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit organization.

"We are not allowed to be honest and forthright, we are expected to rubber stamp
everything," wrote a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist as part of the survey. "I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it has ever been."

The agency has long seen a need to improve the act, says Tollefson. "This is a look at what's possible," he says. "Too much of our time as an agency is spent responding to litigation rather than working on recovering the species that are most in need. The current way the act is run creates disincentives for people to get involved with recovering species."

Kempthorne, boss of the Fish and Wildlife Service, has been an outspoken critic of the act. When he was a U.S. senator from Idaho in the late 1990s, he championed legislation that would have allowed government agencies to exempt their actions from Endangered Species Act regulations, and would have required federal agents to conduct cost-benefit analyses when considering whether to list a species as endangered. (The legislation failed.) Last June, in his early days as interior secretary, Kempthorne told reporters, "I really believe that we can make improvements to the act itself."

Kempthorne is keeping good on his promise. The proposed draft is littered with language lifted directly from both Kempthorne's 1998 legislation as well as from a contentious bill by former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. (which was also shot down by Congress). It's "a wish list of regulations that the administration and its industry allies have been talking about for years," says Suckling.

Written in terse, dry legal language, the proposed draft doesn't make for easy reading.

However, the changes, often seemingly subtle, generally serve to strip the Fish and Wildlife Service of the power to do its stated job: to protect wildlife. Some verge on the biologically ridiculous, say critics, while others are a clear concession to industry and conservative Western governors who have long complained that the act degrades the economies of their states by preventing natural-resource extraction.

One change would significantly limit the number of species eligible for endangered status. Currently, if a species is likely to become extinct in "the foreseeable future" -- a species-specific timeframe that can stretch up to 300 years -- it's a candidate for act protections. However, the new rules scale back that timeline to mean either 20 years or 10 generations (the agency can choose which timeline). For certain species with long life spans, such as killer whales, grizzly bears or wolves, two decades isn't even one generation. So even if they might be in danger of extinction, they would not make the endangered species list because they'd be unlikely to die out in two decades.

"It makes absolutely no sense biologically," wrote Hasselman in an e-mail. "One of the Act's weaknesses is that species aren't protected until they're already in trouble and this proposal puts that flaw on steroids."

Perhaps the most significant proposed change gives state governors the opportunity and funding to take over virtually every aspect of the act from the federal government. This includes not only the right to create species-recovery plans and the power to veto the reintroduction of endangered species within state boundaries, but even the authority to determine what plants and animals get protection. For plants and animals in Western states, that's bad news: State politicians throughout the region howled in opposition to the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into Arizona and the Northern Rockies wolf into Yellowstone National Park.

"If states are involved, the act would only get minimally enforced," says Bob Hallock, a recently retired 34-year veteran of the Fish and Wildlife Service who, as an endangered species specialist, worked with state agencies in Idaho, Washington and Montana. "States are, if anything, closer to special economic interests. They're more manipulated. The states have not demonstrated the will or interest in upholding the act. It's why we created a federal law in the first place."

Additional tweaks in the law would have a major impact. For instance, the proposal would narrow the definition of a species' geographic range from the landscape it inhabited historically to the land it currently occupies. Since the main reason most plants and animals head toward extinction is due to limited habitat, the change would strongly hamper the government's ability to protect chunks of land and allow for a healthy recovery in the wild.

The proposal would also allow both ongoing and planned projects by such federal agencies as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Forest Service to go forward, even when scientific evidence indicates that the projects may drive a species to extinction. Under the new regulations, as long as the dam or logging isn't hastening the previous rate of extinction, it's approved. "This makes recovery of species impossible," says Suckling.

Gutting the Endangered Species Act will only thicken the pall that has hung over the Fish and Wildlife Service for the past six years, Hallock says. "They [the Bush
administration] don't want the regulations to be effective. People in the agency are like a bunch of whipped dogs," he says. "I think it's just unacceptable to go around squashing other species; they're of incalculable benefit to us. The optimism we had when this agency started has absolutely been dashed."

3-27-07
Endangered Species Act changes in the works...Janet Wilson and Julie Cart
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-na-endangered28mar28,1,7044899.story

Bush administration officials said Tuesday that they were reviewing proposed changes to the way the 34-year-old Endangered Species Act is enforced, a move that critics say would weaken the law in ways that a Republican majority in Congress was unable to do...draft of suggested changes, which was leaked Tuesday, would reduce protection for wildlife habitat and transfer some authority over vulnerable species to states. Acting under orders from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who has long fought for changes in the law, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall said he had asked his senior field staff to evaluate proposals in the draft by policy advisors in the Departments of Interior and Commerce, which oversee almost 1,300 imperiled species. Hall made his comments after environmental groups and the online journal Salon.com published a draft version of the proposals Tuesday. The draft contains language from Kempthorne's proposed 1998 legislation and from a controversial bill by former Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy), both of which died in Congress.

3-27-07
Washington Post
Govt. eyes changes in Species Protection...H. Josef Hebert, AP
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/27/AR2007032701623_pf.html

Details of some of the proposed changes surfaced Tuesday in a number of draft department documents released by environmentalists, who said the changes would amount to a gutting of the federal Endangered Species Act. Department spokesmen said the drafts were still under review and that no decision had been made by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on whether to proceed. "The focus is how we can do a better job of recovering more species," department spokesman Hugh Vickery said in an interview. He called the documents that have surfaced preliminary and in some cases out of date. Some of the proposed changes are outlined in a 117-page draft regulation and in a half-dozen separate memorandums, some dating back to last summer and others as recent as mid-February. The proposed changes "touch on every key program under the Endangered Species Act. It is a rewrite from top to bottom," said Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group based in Tucson, Ariz. The draft was the subject of a story Tuesday on Salon.com. Vickery said the 117-page document, which includes many of the proposed changes, is old. "It does not represent the latest thinking by the Fish and Wildlife Service," he said. "Recommendations are still being floated." But Daniel Patterson of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which put the documents on its Web site Tuesday, said the memos have been circulated among agencies outside the Interior Department, suggesting that the proposals are in the late stage of consideration.

3-30-07
Stockton Record
GOP launches early attack on McNerney...Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070329/A_NEWS/703290337

National Republicans have begun their attempt to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, a full 20 months before Election Day 2008. The Republican National Campaign Committee, which spent tens of thousands of dollars in an unsuccessful effort to save former Tracy Rep. Richard Pombo last fall, has included McNerney in its first round of targets posted on www.therealdemocratstory.com. NRCC will also send about 100,000 e-mails into McNerney's 11th District highlighting their criticism of the freshman Democrat's voting record. McNerney has voted with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time so far this year.

3-31-07
Center for Biological Diversity
Interior Department Official Distorted Agency's Own Science to Avoid Protecting Endangered Species...Press Release...3-29-07

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/press/macdonald-03-29-2007.html
Report from Inspector General Department of Interior Blasts Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald
3-23-07...A copy of the Inspector General’s report is available at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/esa/pdfs/DOI-IG-Report_JM.pdf.

3-31--07
San Francisco Chronicle
Judge tosses new forest rules...Henry K. Lee
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/31/BAGE5OVFUT1.DTL&hw=endangered+species&sn=003&sc=374

A federal judge in San Francisco threw out the Bush administration's new rules Friday for managing the country's 155 national forests, saying the government had failed to consider the environmental effects that could result from the changes...administration also failed to give the public a chance to review the new regulations before they went into effect in 2005, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said in a ruling on two consolidated lawsuits filed by environmental groups and the state of California. Hamilton said the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act and couldn't institute the new rules until environmental reviews are conducted. More than a dozen environmental groups had filed suit, including Citizens for Better Forestry, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club.

3-32-07
San Francisco Chronicle
UC faculty to join talks on big BP biofuels deal...Rick DelVecchio
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/31/BAGE5OV6G61.DTL&hw=uc&sn=001&sc=921

UC Berkeley's administration has invited faculty members to join the contract talks on the $500 million BP biofuels deal amid pressure to ensure that campus traditions and values are safeguarded in the partnership. Journalism Professor Bill Drummond, chairman of the campus Academic Senate, said the administration will allow four professors who chair Senate committees -- Calvin Moore, Patrick Kirch, Christopher Kutz and J. Miguel Villas-Boas -- to participate in the negotiations... The university's administration is being sharply challenged by faculty members who fear the BP deal is so big that it threatens to upset the tradition of shared governance on campus between the Academic Senate and the administration. A petition signed by 130 faculty members, including some of the campus' most widely respected academics, calls for the immediate convening of a blue-ribbon committee to look into aspects of the BP deal that impinge on the Academic Senate's mandate. The petitioners argue that decisions on hiring faculty and allocating resources to the BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute, to be staffed by 50 BP-appointed researchers and 100 from academia, are going forward without proper campus review. A second petition by a different group of faculty members seeks to cancel the BP deal on the grounds that it constitutes the "greenwashing" of the oil company's environmental record through its association with the university. Robert Dudley, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and a member of the Academic Senate's academic freedom committee, said the lack of disclosure of the BP deal's details is "potentially suspicious."...cited a 1998-2003 research deal under which the Swiss biotech firm Novartis provided $25 million in funding to the university's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Faculty members were upset that a funding deal that large wasn't discussed universitywide before it was implemented. Ironically, the Novartis controversy prompted Cornell's faculty to develop standards that could be put into action in a similar partnership. Cornell faculty's 26-page document was finished in 2005 after two years of debate...document coined a new term for large-scale research sponsorships: "strategic corporate alliances."

3-30-07
San Francisco Chronicle
UC-Merced hopes to lure large-campus rejects...San Jose Mercury News
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/03/30/state/n125253D42.DTL&hw=uc&sn=009&sc=878

The University of California, Merced has a new strategy to attract students:...The "Shared Experience" program will allow about 1,000 students who narrowly miss admission to UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine or UC San Diego to attend the Merced campus for two years, and then finish their studies at a more established school. Growth has been slower than expected at UC Merced, where freshman enrollment dropped 38 percent last fall in the school's second year. The Shared Experience program was also used to increase attendance at UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s, when some students were guaranteed subsequent entry to the Berkeley campus.

3-31-07
Los Angeles Times
Southland's dry spell could get worse...Betinna Boxall
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dry31mar31,1,7683947

Nature is pulling a triple whammy on Southern California this year. Whether it's the Sierra, the Southland or the Colorado River Basin, every place that provides water to the region is dry. It's a rare and troubling pattern, and if it persists it could thrust the region into what researchers have dubbed the perfect Southern California drought: when nature shortchanges every major branch of the far-flung water network that sustains 18 million people. The mountain snowpack vital to water imports from Northern California is at the lowest level in nearly two decades. The Los Angeles area has received record low rainfall this winter... And the Colorado River system remains in the grip of one of the worst basin droughts in centuries. Thanks to a bountiful Sierra snowpack in the spring of 2006, the state's reservoirs are in good shape. Twice during the 20th century — in the late 1950s and the early 1980s — drought strained all three regions that supply Southern California, said Scripps Institution of Oceanography hydrologist Hugo Hidalgo. UCLA geography professor Glen MacDonald, warned, "if you went into a decade or longer of persistent drought that affected the Sacramento [River Basin], the Los Angeles area and the Colorado, you would end up basically taxing all of the those water storage facilities, from the dams on the Colorado to what we have here, to beyond the breaking point." As a result of this spring's skimpy Sierra snowpack — it's at 46% of the normal statewide average — the State Water Project will reduce deliveries of Northern California water to the central and southern parts of the state, but not dramatically.

Washington Post
Extinct sense...Editorial
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/30/AR2007033001998.html
IT LOOKS LIKE another story of endangered ethics on the Bush administration's environmental staff. Last week the Interior Department's inspector general submitted the results of an investigation of Julie A. MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, to congressional overseers. According to numerous accounts collected in the inquiry, Ms. MacDonald has terrorized low-level biologists and other employees for years, often yelling and even swearing at them. One official characterized her as an "attack dog." Much of this bullying, the report suggests, was aimed at diluting the scientific conclusions and recommendations of government biologists and at favoring industry and land interests. Ms. MacDonald's subordinates said she has trenchantly resisted both designating new species as endangered and protecting imperiled animals' habitats. She defended her interventions in an interview with the inspector general's staff, saying that she kept Interior's scientists accountable, according to the report. But the evidence available suggests she was at the least too aggressive. H. Dale Hall, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, recounted a battle he had with Ms. MacDonald over the Southwest willow flycatcher, an endangered bird. claims that Ms. MacDonald insisted on lowering that to 1.8 miles so that the nesting range would not extend into California, where her husband maintained a family ranch. The inspector general noted that she has no formal training in biology. The inspector general's review of Ms. MacDonald's e-mail account also showed that she had close ties to lobbying organizations that have challenged endangered-species listings and that she had "misused her position" to give them information not available to the public on Interior Department policy. Reports of Ms. MacDonald's alleged sins have emerged soon after revelations of other ethical lapses by Bush environmental appointees. J. Steven Griles, the former second in command at Interior, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Jack Abramoff scandal. And Sue Ellen Wooldridge, formerly the government's top environmental lawyer, jointly purchased a vacation home with Mr. Griles and a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips. These are troubling incidents. Ms. MacDonald works for an agency tasked with making determinations based on scientific fact, not on her, or her lobbyist friends', inclinations. She appears to have betrayed that vital principle. The inspector general has sent his report to top officials at the Interior Department. They should investigate for themselves the document's troubling descriptions and take action to ensure that Ms. MacDonald and other managers at Interior make policy fit the science, not the other way around.

4-1-07
Sacramento Bee
Canal still best Delta water fix...Dan Walters
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/147490.html

One of Brown's better initiatives was closing a gap in the water system that had been started under his father, Pat Brown...the "Peripheral Canal" enjoyed support from both environmentalists and municipal and agricultural water agencies... After a highly misleading, farmer-financed campaign, voters rejected the Peripheral Canal in 1982. Had the Peripheral Canal been built as Jerry Brown urged, the fish being chewed up in the pumps would have been alive and more numerous. Had the Peripheral Canal been built, we wouldn't have to worry so much about Delta levees collapsing due to an earthquake or being breached by rising ocean levels from global warming, either of which would threaten water deliveries. But the canal wasn't built. Schwarzenegger described the fish-kill decision as "one more indication of how our system doesn't really work, and that we have to upgrade it. We have to fix our levees. There are a lot of things that need to be done. We need to have more above-the-ground water storage. We have to start thinking about our Delta; it's very, very vulnerable. As I said, one earthquake and one big storm, and it could wipe out this whole system, and 25 million people will suffer because of it." Arnold Schwarzenegger is the first governor since Brown to truly confront the water policy gridlock. Schwarzenegger described the fish-kill decision as "one more indication of how our system doesn't really work, and that we have to upgrade it. We have to fix our levees. There are a lot of things that need to be done. We need to have more above-the-ground water storage. We have to start thinking about our Delta; it's very, very vulnerable. As I said, one earthquake and one big storm, and it could wipe out this whole system, and 25 million people will suffer because of it." He's right.

| »

A Plague of Big Shots

Submitted: Mar 24, 2007

submitted by Bill Hatch

Big Shots are found everywhere in American society. So, viewing them from the San Joaquin Valley of California, once a great agricultural area now mindlessly converting itself as fast as violation of environmental law and regulation and common sense permits to another Western slurb, is as good a place as any to observe Big Shots.

American society is plagued with Big Shots, people that have gotten to some position of power through an excess of aggression, which they use to bully others. The rest of us all too often take the bullying in stride, hoping for a better day or, under the relentless onslaught, cave and grow permanently afraid.

All Big Shots have some self-righteous ideology, fundamentalism or doctrine to shout down at the rest of us from their positions, just a little above us one way or another.

The self-justification can be anything from “good work habits” to “the war against global terrorism.” All of it is a smoke screen for big-mouthed little cowards playing authoritarian games, throughout the sick institutional structure of this nation – from the orchard and tomato field to the packing shed to the city council to the school to the development corporation and the oil company to the White House.

We sit and read and hope somehow the “We the People” of the high-school texts will miraculously manifest that mythical unity We are said to possess to get the Big Shots off our backs, without risking anything. But, there is too much power, too much money floating around America, too many weapons in obedient hands and way too little human dignity left to stop this imperial cannibalism that is devouring millions of people in our imperial way – the toll rising, unabated by weak political resistance within the empire’s “homeland.”

Americans now confuse order and government in the “homeland” with bullying and being bullied. We elect a majority of Democrats in Congress to stop the war and their “leadership” blows us off in favor of the military contractors, the oil companies and the Israel lobby. But, will the public stand up to them? Call them by their name: hypocrites, sanctimonious bribe-takers, hacks and buffoons? Sue them? Prosecute them? Call their propaganda by its name?

America is a frightened, ruthless, unjust and ugly society full of denial and a guilt growing too large to measure, let alone accept. More than 600,000 Iraqis are dead because of a 30-year political “vacation” taken by the citizens of the USA, culminating in this atrocity. Our health care system is broken because America does not care about its people’s health. Top American political leadership is sociopathic because it serves at the pleasure of transnational corporations with no commitment to anything but their profits and the destruction of government regulation rather than the people and law. But the people are too besotted with corporate propaganda to know their rights, their interests and how to defend either. Yet, the US is losing “the war against terrorism” for the same reason it long ago lost the “war on drugs”: the Big Shots are too corrupt to win a war or stop the carnage of this one. Or rebuild New Orleans. Or save our environment. Or even put a dent in global warming.

Big Shots dominate our federal, state and local legislatures and our media corporations. The political situation in America is, in fact, much more critical than most Americans can imagine. There are entire institutions, vital to a functional society that have dropped off the map of the civilized world because they have been so rotted out by the greed of special interests, bribery and corruption. A small example, that will be familiar only to the very few remaining candid souls living in rural America, will be this year’s Farm Bill, which will demonstrate again that the Department of Agriculture is so corrupt it cannot identify national interest or even farmers’ interests. Likewise with the Food and Drug Agency, that has made unwitting guinea pigs of the entire American society and any foreign markets for our crops too stupid or oppressed to avoid it for the free, unregulated experimentation of the health effects of genetically modified organisms. Resource agencies charged with enforcing environmental law and regulation are daily corrupted by development corporations. Agency-by-agency, institution-by-institution, where can we find one that is working for the People? As glad as we may be made by tidings of churches, with congregations 10,000 strong, doing incredible feats of community outreach and care, can they replace a government that is supposed to serve 300 million people and is not supposed to be owned by transnational corporations?

American universities promote those character traits of sycophantic aggression prized by the corrupt corporate power elites that fund research for private profit rather than public benefit. High school dropouts, unlike the PhDs that staff the nation’s national laboratories, are not recorded to have produced American weapons of mass destruction that menace the world. These weapons aren’t the products of education; they are from its simulacrum, the university/corporate technology/military complex. To these must be added the “independent experts” whose regular gigs are at the brothel think tanks.

As ever, on the cutting edge of military technology, the Pentagon now conducts war by hurling immeasurable (at least by its accounting) tons of pork at the enemy, possibly hoping to crush him under the sheer weight ham and bacon. While the Pentagon appears to have crushed our side, the insurgents have long ago gone on to their own civil war.

Jake Plummer is outraged over the treatment of Pat Tillman: They knew it was friendly fire then–it makes you sick

By: John Amato on Friday, September 15th, 2006 at 4:15 PM - PDT
On HBO’s Inside the NFL, Peter King interviewed Denver QB Jake Plummer about the horrific treatment the Tillman family have received over Pat’s death. There have been four investigations into what really happened to him and now a fifth one is getting close to being completed. How reprehensible has this been for the Tillman family? Pat is killed and they were repeatedly lied to. The family is not speaking out, but Plummer is. Good for him. Somebody has to.

Video-WMP Video-QT (rough transcript)
http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/09/15/jake-plummer-is-outraged-over-the-treatment-of-pat-tillman-they-knew-it-was-friendly-fire-then-it-makes-you-sick/

King: When you first heard that they hid these irregularities, were you outraged?

Plummer: It just made you feel kinda sick that they’d cover up something like that to–for whatever reason. We were all led to believe he died in leading his troops up the hill and then they come tell us it wasn’t–it was friendly fire. What can you do– you’re at their mercy and you just feel for the family…

I mention Big Shots only because there might be lingering in the American collective unconscious – that immense psychic ocean of all that is suppressed and ignored – some residual folk memory of resentment against Big Shots. Perhaps a residual sense of the political taste that caused people to fight to the death against the British so many years ago. However, it is probable that Americans, after 30 years of corporate propaganda, have been so overwhelmingly persuaded of their unique brilliance, success and that Beautiful Freedom we all enjoy, that they all conceive of themselves as Big Shots, entitled citizens, above the masses. In our area, the masses are imagined by our fictitious Big Shots to be foreigners, Mexicans and Asians and such. Casual observation suggests, however, that when Americans, convinced of their Big Shot status, are muscled by the equally convinced, the former group – rather than getting down to political realities – tends instead to develop a severe case of the vapors. “How dare they!” etc. Generally, their croquet balls are carefully aimed and demurely stroked at a non-lethal local official, in no position to help or to harm, simply one more minor Big Shot on his or her way up or down the ladder to Big Shot Heaven. Missing the target amounts to an alliance with one’s own gravedigger, but if one doesn’t know that, there is not point in bringing it up.

“Use it or lose it,” voter registrars used to mutter in front of supermarket doors at the feckless passers-by. They didn’t use it and they did lose it. Everyman the Big Shot, on his way into WalMart, was above mere voting.

The proper American hero of today is Yossarian, the terrified WWII bombardier of Catch-22. When you tell the truth to power, power will fire back. Yossarian wasn’t crazy. Fighting fascism is dangerous work. But, having allowed this unaccountable, authoritarian power to take root on the ground, it must be defeated even though it fights back. That would take courage and spirit, and probably fewer vacations. But, of course, Catch-22 was just a funny novel written 50 years ago, which said some rather off-message things about the “greatest generation.”

Our local McClatchy Chain corporate outlet is a Big Shot with barrels of ink that is never off-message. The Chain is part of the immense advertising/public relations empire in charge of controlling our taste, distorting all issues with one aim – the destruction of a truly public perspective in favor of the very private, “special” perspective of the private profits of their paymasters and their social equals in the Club de Big Shots. In the San Joaquin Valley, the McClatchy Chain relentlessly attacks the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement, reached between local, state and national environmental groups and farmers and local, state and federal water agencies. The idea of accord between agriculture and environmental groups is an abomination to McClatchy advertisers – principally real estate development, finance and insurance – and they cannot allow this agreement to live, which would put Sierra snow melt back into the state’s second-longest river all the way to the Delta. To this destructive end, the Chain has taken to quoting every inane utterance of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, a bullyboy for corporate agribusiness welfare. The Big Shots the Chain does not name, who are bankrolling Nunes’ attack on the settlement, are smoother and worse.

The Big Shots intend to protect their power and their wealth. That’s all they have to say now, and all they ever had to say, millions of barrels of ink ago. Where’s the “Progress”? What did agribusiness, built on federal water, crop subsidies and low wages, really accomplish? Where is the quality in those islands of wealth surrounded by poverty and economic anxiety? What was the ideal served? Where is the happiness?

Do we live to buy what we don’t need to keep corporate CEOs in the style to which they have become accustomed, averaging 300 times higher compensation than the median income of their employees? Do we live for the fame of having invaded and destroyed already crippled nations to plunder their resources? Do we live to support and applaud or suffer in fearful silence the fraud and corruption of predatory plutocrats? Were we born to become the generation that forgot the difference between news and advertising? Is our purpose in life here in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere to stand at attention and sing hymns of praise to the destroyers of the Public Trust and the builders of grotesque slurbs – just because Big Shots have the “freedom” to do it?

Is this nation’s destiny freedom for Big Shots and the shaft for the rest of us?

“Of course not, of course not,” I hear you saying.

I end in communion with the great Dodge City lawman, Bat Masterson, who went on to a distinguished career as a New York City sports writer. He wrote:

There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed, for example, that we all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter. -- Bat Masterson

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Cardoza did the right thing

Submitted: Mar 23, 2007

I received a note from the MoveOn.org political action team today, urging me to personally thank Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, for voting for the Iraq Accountability Act, which was passed today, 218-212, two Republicans voting in favor, and 14 Democrats joining the Republican opposition. Tallying up the Democrat opponents, I found six members of the Progressive Caucus and seven members of the 43-member Blue Dog Caucus, of which Cardoza is the communications director. Strange bedfellows, but these are fractious times.

Reading through the press reports on the bill, I noticed that some critics of it made allusions to pork.

"The sweeteners in this bill are political bribery," said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam and who delivered an emotional speech to conclude the Republican side of the debate. -- LA Times, March 23, 2007

I thought, before I rushed into the arms of MoveOn's conveniently available website to send our members of Congress our thanks (when I write Cardoza, the messages bounce back unopened), I might check out the pork a little first.

There may be some reason these agricultural appropriations are included in a bill on Iraq War appropriations. Maybe the old Contract-on-America crowd are just griping because they have not gotten used to two-party rule in the House yet. There could be a reasonable explanation why $252 million for the Milk Income Loss Contract Program is included in this bill beyond what Johnson calls "political bribery." But, the most reasonable explanation is that the communications director of the Blue Dog Coalition, representing the second largest dairy district in the nation, got a "sweetner." All but the handful of the remaining 34 Blue Dogs who aren't from agricultural districts, got their sweetners, too.

So, Speaker Pelosi lost progressive representatives Kucinich, Lee, Waters, Waston and Woolsey on principle, but picked up less-than-progressive Cardoza and the 34 Blue Dog Democrats, for a price.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, a long-term opponent of the Iraq War, is in a special category. The spinach growers in his district, "the Salad Bowl of the Nation,"economically harmed last fall by an outbreak of E. Coli traced to his district, got $25 million in relief. But Farr sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and on three subcommittees:

* Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
* Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
* Subcommittee on Homeland Security

which puts him in a position to both know what he wants and to get it. However, in this instance, where his vote seemed in little doubt, it appears the Speaker may have rewarded with some honey-cured ham.

More than 650,000 Iraqis have died in this war, now longer than WWII. This war was begun and maintained by one-party, rightwing Republican rule in the White House and Congress, during a period when, it is said, pork was also distributed to friends of the Republican administration like Halliburton. Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton before he reentered "public service." After billions in no-bid contracts in Iraq, Halliburton has expressed its loyalty to the nation by moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai.

So there is pork and there is pork, Mr. Sam.

We are by no means beyond the trauma of authoritarian one-party rule. In that shadow a middle-aged Northern Californian does a little dance at the pure normalcy of the pork deals. Farr plays the game like his father, former state Sen. Fred Farr did. Cardoza plays as his predecessors did. Pelosi deals with the rurales as San Francisco politicians have always dealt with them, when they needed them. But, don't you tell Cardoza that his bio-region has anything to do with the politics; Not necessarily judging by what he says, but by what he does, in his view, his farming district is a metropolis-in-waiting.

Therefore, I am going to resist the request of MoveOn.org to thank Cardoza for doing the right thing. The way it looks now, if the Senate doesn't take the timetable out, Bush will veto it. Neither House or Senate Democrats have the votes to override. So, maybe the pork stays in, the timetable goes out, and even the almond growers -- in case the bees didn't work this year -- will get bailed out with Crop Disaster Assistance.

But business-as-usual is preferable to recently deceased Contract on America.

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

Nita Chaudhary, MoveOn.org Political Action (moveon-help@list.moveon.org) +Add contact
To: Bill Hatch (billhatch@hotmail.com)
Subject: Rep. Cardoza does the right thing on Iraq

Dear MoveOn member,
We're one step closer in the fight to end the war. Today the Iraq Accountability Act passed Congress. For the first time, Congress passed a real deadline to end the war—by fall of 2008. Your representative, Congressman Dennis Cardoza voted right and helped make that happen.

This was a very hard vote for members of Congress. But Rep. Cardoza supported Speaker Pelosi in her strategy to wind down this war. Can you write him a quick note to say 'thanks' for bringing us one step closer and to keep up the fight until all our troops are home?

http://pol.moveon.org/endwar?id=10080-5558129-WDXVEY&t=1

There's no question that this bill was not as strong as most of us would have wanted—-and we're going to keep fighting together to bring the troops home sooner than next year. But it's an important step forward, and at today's vote 63 of the 71 members of the Out of Iraq Caucus voted for the bill. All but 2 Republicans voted against it.

Now the fight moves to the Senate. If Senators also pass a hard timeline to end the war then this plan goes to the President.

If he makes good on his promise to veto it, he'll be forced to stand up in front of the American people—a strong majority of whom want to set a date to end the war—and argue for a war with no end. And he'll have to veto funds for the war along with the timeline and send the whole thing back to Congress.

We've taken one big step in the right direction and together, we are going to keep fighting until we bring all our troops home safely.

This is just the beginning. Please write Rep. Cardoza and thank him for making this victory possible.

http://pol.moveon.org/endwar?id=10080-5558129-WDXVEY&t=2

Thanks for all you do,

–Nita, Eli, Justin, Karin and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Friday, March 23rd, 2007
-------------------

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR01591:@@@D&summ2=m&
H.R.1591
Title: Making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Obey, David R. [WI-7] (introduced 3/20/2007) Cosponsors (None)
Related Bills: H.RES.261
Latest Major Action: 3/22/2007 House floor actions. Status: Considered under the provisions of rule H. Res. 261.
House Reports: 110-60
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SUMMARY AS OF:
3/20/2007--Introduced.

U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007 - Makes emergency supplemental FY2007 appropriations for specified activities related to the global war on terror to the Departments of Agriculture (including food aid to Africa and Afghanistan), of Justice, of Defense (Military, including funds for Iraqi and Afghan security forces), of Defense (military construction and base closure), of Energy, of Homeland Security, of Veterans Affairs (particularly veterans' health programs), and of State (including international peacekeeping operations), and related agencies as well as the House of Representatives.

Provides funds to enable military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan to respond to urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction requirements.

Specifies conditions for assistance to Lebanon.

Prohibits the use of funds under this Act to deploy any unit of the Armed Forces to Iraq unless the chief of the military department concerned has certified to the congressional appropriations committees in advance that the unit is fully mission capable. Sets a maximum number of days for deployment in Iraq for military units. Authorizes the President to waive such prohibition and deployment limits on a unit-by-unit basis for reasons of national security.

Directs the President to transmit to Congress by specified dates certain determinations and certifications with respect to conditions to be met by the Government of Iraq. Requires redeployment of the armed forces from Iraq if any of such conditions is not met.

Directs the President to appoint a Coordinator for Iraq Assistance, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Declares that Congress will fully support the needs of members of the Armed Forces who the Commander in Chief has deployed in harm's way in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and their families.

Declares the sense of Congress that the U.S. Constitution grants: (1) the President the sole role of Commander in Chief; and (2) Congress the sole power to declare war.

Declares the sense of Congress that: (1) the commanders of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq should be allowed to conduct the war and manage the movements of the troops; and (2) Congress should remain focused on executing its oversight role.

Makes additional appropriations for disaster relief and recovery related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to the Departments of Agriculture, of Commerce, of Defense (Civil), of Homeland Security, of Health and Human Services, of Education, and of Housing and Urban Development.

Makes appropriations to the Secretary of Agriculture for emergency crop and livestock disaster assistance.

Makes additional appropriations for specified purposes to the Legislative Branch and to the Departments of Agriculture, of Commerce, of State, of the Interior and of Agriculture (for wildfire suppression), and of Health and Human Services (for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and for response to an influenza pandemic).

Rescinds specified unobligated balances of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Prescribes requirements for DHS contracts, subcontracts, and task orders.

Requires each federal agency that has awarded at least $1 billion in the preceding fiscal year to develop and implement a plan to minimize the use of no-bid and cost-reimbursement type contracts.

Makes appropriations to the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to eliminate the FY2007 shortfall in funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 - Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase the federal minimum wage to: (1) $5.85 an hour, beginning on the 60th day after enactment of this Act; (2) $6.55 an hour, beginning 12 months after that 60th day; and (3) $7.25 an hour, beginning 24 months after that 60th day. Applies federal minimum wage requirements to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and to American Samoa.

Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2007 - Amends the Internal Revenue Code to extend and revise: (1) the work opportunity tax credit; (2) expensing for small businesses; and (3) the credit for certain taxes paid with respect to employee cash tips.

Waives alternative minimum tax limits on the work opportunity credit and the credit for taxes paid with respect to employee cash tips.

Defines qualified joint venture with respect to family business taxes.

Makes certain dependents ineligible for the lowest capital gains rate.

Lengthens the period of failure to notify a taxpayer of liability before interest and certain penalties must be suspended.

Increases the amount of any required installment of estimated tax otherwise due in 2012 from a corporation with assets of at least $1 billion.

------

SEC. 3107. MILK INCOME LOSS CONTRACT PROGRAM.

Notwithstanding subsections (c)(3), (f), and (g) of section 1502 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (7 U.S.C. 7982), there is hereby appropriated $283,000,000, to remain available until expended, for payments under such section, using the payment rate specified in subsection (c)(3)(B) of such section, from September 1, 2007, through September 30, 2008. Of such amount, $252,000,000 shall be available only on or after September 30, 2007, and only so long as an Act to provide for the continuation of agricultural programs for fiscal years after 2007, including such section 1502, is not enacted.

H.R.1591
U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act, 2007 (Reported in House)

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

SEC. 3101. CROP DISASTER ASSISTANCE.

(a) Assistance Available- There are hereby appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture such sums as are necessary, to remain available until expended, to make emergency financial assistance available to producers on a farm that incurred qualifying quantity or quality losses for the 2005 or 2006 crop, or for the 2007 crop before the date of the enactment of this Act, due to damaging weather or any related condition (including losses due to crop diseases, insects, and delayed harvest), as determined by the Secretary. However, to be eligible for assistance, the crop subject to the loss must have been harvested before the date of the enactment of this Act or, in the case of prevented planting or other total loss, would have been harvested before the date of the enactment of this Act in the absence of the damaging weather or any related condition.

(b) Election of Crop Year- If a producer incurred qualifying crop losses in more than one of the 2005, 2006, or 2007 crop years, the producer shall elect to receive assistance under this section for losses incurred in only one of such crop years. The producer may not receive assistance under this section for more than one crop year.

(c) Administration-

(1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary of Agriculture shall make assistance available under this section in the same manner as provided under section 815 of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001 (Public Law 106-387; 114 Stat. 1549A-55), including using the same loss thresholds for quantity and economic losses as were used in administering that section, except that the payment rate shall be 50 percent of the established price, instead of 65 percent.

(2) LOSS THRESHOLDS FOR QUALITY LOSSES- In the case of a payment for quality loss for a crop under subsection (a), the loss thresholds for quality loss for the crop shall be determined under subsection (d).

(d) Quality Losses-

(1) IN GENERAL- Subject to paragraph (3), the amount of a payment made to producers on a farm for a quality loss for a crop under subsection (a) shall be equal to the amount obtained by multiplying--

(A) 65 percent of the payment quantity determined under paragraph (2); by

(B) 50 percent of the payment rate determined under paragraph (3).

(2) PAYMENT QUANTITY- For the purpose of paragraph (1)(A), the payment quantity for quality losses for a crop of a commodity on a farm shall equal the lesser of--

(A) the actual production of the crop affected by a quality loss of the commodity on the farm; or

(B) the quantity of expected production of the crop affected by a quality loss of the commodity on the farm, using the formula used by the Secretary of Agriculture to determine quantity losses for the crop of the commodity under subsection (a).

(3) PAYMENT RATE- For the purpose of paragraph (1)(B) and in accordance with paragraphs (5) and (6), the payment rate for quality losses for a crop of a commodity on a farm shall be equal to the difference between--

(A) the per unit market value that the units of the crop affected by the quality loss would have had if the crop had not suffered a quality loss; and

(B) the per unit market value of the units of the crop affected by the quality loss.

(4) ELIGIBILITY- For producers on a farm to be eligible to obtain a payment for a quality loss for a crop under subsection (a), the amount obtained by multiplying the per unit loss determined under paragraph (1) by the number of units affected by the quality loss shall be at least 25 percent of the value that all affected production of the crop would have had if the crop had not suffered a quality loss.

(5) MARKETING CONTRACTS- In the case of any production of a commodity that is sold pursuant to 1 or more marketing contracts (regardless of whether the contract is entered into by the producers on the farm before or after harvest) and for which appropriate documentation exists, the quantity designated in the contracts shall be eligible for quality loss assistance based on the 1 or more prices specified in the contracts.

(6) OTHER PRODUCTION- For any additional production of a commodity for which a marketing contract does not exist or for which production continues to be owned by the producer, quality losses shall be based on the average local market discounts for reduced quality, as determined by the appropriate State committee of the Farm Service Agency.

(7) QUALITY ADJUSTMENTS AND DISCOUNTS- The appropriate State committee of the Farm Service Agency shall identify the appropriate quality adjustment and discount factors to be considered in carrying out this subsection, including--

(A) the average local discounts actually applied to a crop; and

(B) the discount schedules applied to loans made by the Farm Service Agency or crop insurance coverage under the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.).

(8) ELIGIBLE PRODUCTION- The Secretary of Agriculture shall carry out this subsection in a fair and equitable manner for all eligible production, including the production of fruits and vegetables, other specialty crops, and field crops.

(e) Payment Limitations-

(1) LIMIT ON AMOUNT OF ASSISTANCE- Assistance provided under this section to a producer for losses to a crop, together with the amounts specified in paragraph (2) applicable to the same crop, may not exceed 95 percent of what the value of the crop would have been in the absence of the losses, as estimated by the Secretary of Agriculture.

(2) OTHER PAYMENTS- In applying the limitation in paragraph (1), the Secretary shall include the following:

(A) Any crop insurance payment made under the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.) or payment under section 196 of the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7333) that the producer receives for losses to the same crop.

(B) The value of the crop that was not lost (if any), as estimated by the Secretary.

(3) DUPLICATIVE PAYMENTS- The Secretary of Agriculture shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that no producer on a farm receives duplicative payments under this section and any other Federal program for the same loss.

(f) Eligibility Requirements and Limitations- The producers on a farm shall not be eligible for assistance under this section with respect to losses to an insurable commodity or noninsurable commodity if the producers on the farm--

(1) in the case of an insurable commodity, did not obtain a policy or plan of insurance for the insurable commodity under the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.) for the crop incurring the losses;

(2) in the case of a noninsurable commodity, did not file the required paperwork, and pay the administrative fee by the applicable State filing deadline, for the noninsurable commodity under section 196 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7333) for the crop incurring the losses; or

(3) were not in compliance with highly erodible land conservation and wetland conservation provisions.

(g) Timing-

(1) IN GENERAL- Subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary of Agriculture shall make payments to producers on a farm for a crop under this section not later than 60 days after the date the producers on the farm submit to the Secretary a completed application for the payments.

(2) INTEREST- If the Secretary does not make payments to the producers on a farm by the date described in paragraph (1), the Secretary shall pay to the producers on a farm interest on the payments at a rate equal to the current (as of the sign-up deadline established by the Secretary) market yield on outstanding, marketable obligations of the United States with maturities of 30 years.

(h) Definitions- In this section:

(1) INSURABLE COMMODITY- The term `insurable commodity' means an agricultural commodity (excluding livestock) for which the producers on a farm are eligible to obtain a policy or plan of insurance under the Federal Crop Insurance Act (7 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.).

(2) NONINSURABLE COMMODITY- The term `noninsurable commodity' means a crop for which the producers on a farm are eligible to obtain assistance under section 196 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 7333).

SEC. 3102. LIVESTOCK ASSISTANCE.

(a) Livestock Compensation Program-

(1) AVAILABILITY OF ASSISTANCE- There are hereby appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture such sums as are necessary, to remain available until expended, to carry out the livestock compensation program established under subpart B of part 1416 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, as announced by the Secretary on February 12, 2007 (72 Fed. Reg. 6443), to provide compensation for livestock losses during calendar years 2005 and 2006, and during calendar year 2007 before the date of the enactment of this Act, due to a disaster, as determined by the Secretary, including wildfire in the State of Texas and other States and blizzards in the States of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. However, the payment rate for compensation under this subsection shall be 75 percent of the payment rate otherwise applicable under such program.

(2) ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS- In carrying out the program described in paragraph (1), the Secretary shall provide assistance to any applicant that--

(A) conducts a livestock operation that is located in a disaster county with eligible livestock specified in paragraph (1) of section 1416.102(a) of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (72 Fed. Reg. 6444), an animal described in section 10806(a)(1) of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (21 U.S.C. 321d(a)(1)), or other animals designated by the Secretary as livestock for purposes of this subsection; and

(B) meets the requirements of paragraphs (3) and (4) of section 1416.102(a) of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, and all other eligibility requirements established by the Secretary for the program.

(3) ELECTION OF LOSSES- If a producer incurred eligible livestock losses in more than one of the 2005, 2006, or 2007 calendar years, the producer shall elect to receive payments under this subsection for losses incurred in only one of such calendar years, and such losses must have been incurred in a county declared or designated as a disaster county in that same calendar year.

(4) MITIGATION- In determining the eligibility for or amount of payments for which a producer is eligible under the livestock compensation program, the Secretary shall not penalize a producer that takes actions (recognizing disaster conditions) that reduce the average number of livestock the producer owned for grazing during the production year for which assistance is being provided.

(5) LIMITATION- The Secretary shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that no producer on a farm receives duplicative payments under this subsection and another Federal program with respect to any loss.

(6) DEFINITIONS- In this subsection:

(A) DISASTER COUNTY- The term `disaster county' means--

(i) a county included in the geographic area covered by a natural disaster declaration; and

(ii) each county contiguous to a county described in clause (i).

(B) NATURAL DISASTER DECLARATION- The term `natural disaster declaration' means--

(i) a natural disaster declared by the Secretary during calendar year 2005 or 2006, or calendar year 2007 before the date of the enactment of this Act, under section 321(a) of the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (7 U.S.C. 1961(a)); or

(ii) a major disaster or emergency designated by the President during calendar year 2005 or 2006, or calendar year 2007 before the date of the enactment of this Act, under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.).

(b) Livestock Indemnity Payments-

(1) AVAILABILITY OF ASSISTANCE- There are hereby appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture such sums as are necessary, to remain available until expended, to make livestock indemnity payments to producers on farms that have incurred livestock losses during calendar years 2005 and 2006, and during calendar year 2007 before the date of the enactment of this Act, due to a disaster, as determined by the Secretary, including hurricanes, floods, anthrax, wildfires in the State of Texas and other States, and blizzards in the States of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

(2) ELECTION OF LOSSES- If a producer incurred eligible livestock losses in more than one of the 2005, 2006, or 2007 calendar years, the producer shall elect to receive payments under this subsection for losses incurred in only one of such calendar years. The producer may not receive payments under this subsection for more than one calendar year.

(3) PAYMENT RATES- Indemnity payments to a producer on a farm under paragraph (1) shall be made at a rate of not less than 30 percent of the market value of the applicable livestock on the day before the date of death of the livestock, as determined by the Secretary.

(4) LIVESTOCK DEFINED- In this subsection, the term `livestock' means an animal that--

(A) is specified in clause (i) of section 1416.203(a)(2) of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (72 Fed. Reg. 6445), or is designated by the Secretary as livestock for purposes of this subsection; and

(B) meets the requirements of clauses (iii) and (iv) of such section.

(c) Limit on Amount of Assistance- The Secretary of Agriculture shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable, that no producer on a farm receives duplicative payments under this section and any other Federal program for the same loss.

SEC. 3103. SPINACH.

There is hereby appropriated to the Secretary of Agriculture $25,000,000, to remain available until expended, to make payments to growers and first handlers, as defined by the Secretary, of fresh spinach that were unable to market spinach crops as a result of the Food and Drug Administration Public Health Advisory issued on September 14, 2006. The payment made to a grower or first handler under this section shall not exceed 75 percent of the value of the unmarketed spinach crops.

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The British Petroleum-University of California deal

Submitted: Mar 12, 2007

I know that the people of California will demand a better university for themselves, because without it, their options for a survivable future, let alone a future they might desire, are dim. -- Ignacio H. Chapela, Associate Professor UC Berkeley – March 2007

Meanwhile, however, the UC Board of Regents will undoubtedly rubber-stamp the BP-UC deal to produce more uncontrollable genetically engineered organisms. Among the other grave distortions of language surrounding California’s “greatest public research university in the world,” is the term conflict-of-interest. The present chairman of the Regents is Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Together, they have extracted all meaning from the term.

Badlands editorial staff
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Remarks Prepared by Invitation of the Chair of the Academic Senate University of California, Berkeley

On the Berkeley-British Petroleum Proposition:
Things are Often Not what they Appear.

Presented on the Floor of the Academic Senate of the University of California, Berkeley Division.

In eight minutes.

by
Ignacio H. Chapela
Associate Professor

Things are often not what they appear.

This Session

This session, for instance. It will be portrayed as the latest expression of the vibrant democratic system of shared governance for which Berkeley was once known. Far from it, this session is a last-minute hurried afterthought by a leadership caught asleep at the wheel, a session convened only because of the rising outrage and opposition to the presence of British Petroleum on our campus.

May nobody claim that eight minutes of my clumsy words represent any kind of reasonable and legitimizing discussion. May nobody leave this room thinking that there is anything like a legitimate process in place to guarantee that this Faustian deal with the British transnational corporation is not what it portends, the last - and I believe final - coup de grace to the very idea of a university that can represent the best interest of the public.

The Technical Value of the Premises

I have tried for size the word Prostitution as best describing that for which the Chancellor and his associates would like us to sign.

When faced with this concept, I have heard the proponents of this deal simply shrug and say: "But at least we can agree that it IS a lot of money - and even perhaps some science may come out of it!" So leaving prostitution aside, why not glance at the science?

What would certainly come out of the BP-Berkeley facilities would be a large number of genetically altered, reproducing, LIVING organisms to be released in the public environment.

In Berkeley, in the Midwest and around the world. Genetically-modified (or "GMO") grasses, trees, algae, bacteria, viruses destined for intentional, large-scale release in the public environment.

These organisms do not represent Science. If anything, they may represent our failure as scientists to assume the deep inadequacies of our understanding about living organisms and the ecology of our planet. I do not need to dwell on it: read it in the front pages of your newspapers.

Despite a third of a century and more than $350 billion dollars invested in the trinket, a hurricane remains more predictable, and a wildfire remains more controllable than GMO organisms. Meanwhile, they have proven to be a disastrous economic proposition, not to speak of their environmental and social consequences.

Cognizant of this reality, BP-Berkeley proponents would wish to rename everything in their trade to give it a fresh face of novelty: GMOs should now be called "DNA circuits", pieced together from "Biobricks" through a craft not called transgenesis, but "Synthetic Biology"; decomposition, the process which has defeated many better minds in the past may be more tractable - they suggest - if it can be renamed "depolymerization". And so on.

In the BP-Berkeley spirit I would suggest we rename "science" what used to be called "magic" in my childhood: addressing a question by drawing a cloak of confusion and secrecy over it, only to extract a pre-arranged answer to the pre-arranged question.

We hear that the magic of "DNA-circuits" should also produce some science in the physics departments. BP-Berkeley proponents wish to deny it, but the proposition that more energy can be extracted from a process than what is invested into it does not follow the phoney rules of the stock market or the wild-eyed predictions of venture capitalists. Biofuels may be convenient because they shove the tragic aspects of our insatiable consumption to the invisible corners of the Third World, but they will not change the laws of thermodynamics, nor - I suspect - will they succeed in the medieval quest for perpetual motion machines.

Do we need a solution to the crazed consumerism binge of the short two centuries we have spent burning our fossil-fuel accounts?

Certainly. If we do not find it soon, the solution itself may come and get us, and we may not like it. But does the BP-Berkeley proposal address any of the questions necessary to find that solution? I believe not. At least there are very legitimate and reasonable concerns, growing by the day in the last few weeks here and abroad, that the idea of Biofuels embodied in the BP-Berkeley proposal is not only short-sighted, but fatally flawed:

For a measure, Indonesia without Biofuels used to be close to 20th in the world as producer of CO2 in the atmosphere. In a few years with biofuels it is now third, only behind the US and China.

Signing the contract with British Petroleum would yoke the university to a flawed and potentially very dangerous route at least for the next decade. Because of the investments and commitments made and because of the roads not taken, most probably much longer.

The evidence keeps coming in about the inadequacy and dangerous nature of the proposal, but we cannot afford to even see or acknowledge it, even before signing the contract, for fear of scaring the money away.

If we signed that contract, can anyone seriously imagine that Berkeley would be in a position to undertake significant research to show the problems with the BP strategy? Can anyone believe that after signing the contract we could be working on alternatives that do not involve patents, immoral profit margins, economies of scale and command-and-control governance? Look at the subservient motions of this very Senate, and answer these questions truthfully, at least to yourselves (at night, in the bathroom?).

After signing the contract with BP, will anyone ever believe our objectivity and advice as we move into the most difficult part out of the social and environmental decomposition that we live in?

Chancellor Berdahl, while signing with one hand the predecessor of the BP-Berkeley agreement, the Novartis-Berkeley deal, was writing with the other hand:

"The issue is not that Novartis may direct the research exclusively to topics that may yield profits for the company; it is, rather, that the perception of the objectivity of our faculty may be compromised and with it the confidence that their research is dedicated to the public good. Few would put a great deal of confidence, I suspect, in the objectivity of lung cancer research funded by tobacco companies."

The evidence is in, and we cannot afford to see it?

We already missed the opportunity of listening to the best advice of our faculty. In addition to Berdahl's, the following names, and what they could have contributed are but a sampler of the many important campus voices that are clearly not represented here:

Clark Kerr - the dangers of the university-industrial complex.
Nancy Peluso - probable consequences of the BP deal in Indonesia.
Miguel Altieri - ditto for the Amazon basin, plus the many non-patent alternatives to global disaster.
Michael Watts - ditto for Asia
Claudia Carr - ditto for Africa
Gordon Rausser - the difference between first right of refusal and first right of negotiation. Basics of negotiation strategies.
Bob Buchanan - the limits of microbial transgenesis
Bob Berdahl - the possible limits to privatization
Laura Nader - the impossibility of unlimited power through knowledge
David Hollinger - the unsustainability of using the university as a political workhorse
Tad Patzek
Urs Cipolat
Gray Brechin
Bob Brentano
Jennifer Miller
Iain Boal
Louise Fortmann ... the list goes on

Can we call this a "Berkeley"agreement when these and many other voices are not here?

Things are often not what they appear: there are other names.

This agreement, which many fear as an unacceptable private-public partnership, is very much a private-private partnership. Attention faculty in English, Music or Rhetoric: do not hold your breath for the financial crumbs to fall from the party table for your programs, because the chickens are all counted, and they carry name-tags around their necks.

I mean to say: the reason why you have not heard mention of even the concept of Conflict of Interest is precisely because nobody in the partnership seems to recognize the idea.

To my knowledge the last time Conflict of Interest was considered worth visiting, again involved the Novartis-Berkeley deal. One of the overseers of that Deal, Prof Jasper Rine, stated in his legal declaration on conflict of interest caused by his simultaneous involvement in private and public science-making:

" … the possibility of conflict of interest is non-existent, since the science happening in my lab at Berkeley is exactly the same as the science happening in [my outside company]" A curious but clearly faulted definition of the concept, I should point out.

It is not surprising then to see that conflict of interest levels that would have been considered unthinkable even a decade ago would not deserve even a note in the BP-Berkeley designs. The conflicts and mutual-self-serving dealings are many, large and very complex, but once again in eight minutes we are reduced to a mention of a few examples.

BP-boosters propose to focus on grasses and other "DNA circuits" controlled by a company in Walnut Creek called Mendel Biotechnology. Mendel is thus a major, little-mentioned partner in this deal. Mendel has an alliance with Monsanto, the world’s monopoly of transgenic seeds, for more than $40 milllion dollars. This long-term relationship includes a Vice President of Monsanto on Mendel’s board; in their words, their reciprocal interests are "highly aligned". So it stands to legal reason --by some standard I suppose-- that there would be no conflict of interest between BP, Berkeley, Mendel, Monsanto, and the deployment of their products for profit over more than 200 million acres of transgenic (excuse me, "Synthetic Biology") crops? In this proposal, Berkeley is nothing but a business partner with these corporations, professors entrepreneurs and students simply cheap labor, paying high fees for the privilege of giving their work to the right corporation.

Principals in Mendel's Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory Board are Prof. Brian Staskawicz, of Berkeley, and Prof. Stephen Long of the University of Illinois (the other business partner in this Proposal). Both entrepreneurs' interests inside campus and out are probably so identical that they do not need to worry about conflict of interest. Whether their students can maintain such clear alignment in their allegiance between finding out what is true and publicly desirable and finding out what is profitable might be a different question.

Chris Sommerville, CEO of Mendel, has been apparently rushed in to Berkeley through a secretive and highly irregular flash-hire process to be safely on the UC side as a professor for the signing of the agreement. His campus interviews, behind closed doors, apparently happened last Tuesday, although the Chancellor had already announced more than a month ago that he would unilaterally appoint him. Not surprisingly, there is no outward sign that the Academic Senate even knew about all this. Oh, I nearly forgot: Mr Sommerville's wife is reportedly also getting another professorial position at Berkeley through the same process - I am not sure what she does professionally.

Of course, no contract will be official without the signature of the Regents but here again, the Chair of the Regents, Richard Blum, stands in multi-million-dollar conflict of interest over his financial engagement with "development" corporations that are already signed on to begin the digging and concrete-pouring in Strawberry Canyon, as has been well documented by investigative journalist Peter Byrne.

Prof. Dan Kammen's description of the goals here is appropriate, and seems to describe the real environmental interest in the BP-Berkeley proposal: He said that the goal of the BP-Berkeley deal was "to generate an ecosystem of companies". We now have an inkling of the "biodiversity" making up this "innovation environment"; now we know that what is really meant here is a trophic web of favoritism that would have shamed the Soviet system, in an environment of profit-driven conflict of interest.

BP's Benefit

As the smell of depolymerization (British Petroleum-word for decomposition) continues to emerge from the extraordinary proposition, few stop to ask what else would BP get out of all this.

Time is short, so we are back to citing samplers from a much larger collection.

I will leave a marker here for what I think is the most important benefit to BP apart from the obvious greenwashing and the very large public subsidization of its faulty science, research development, distribution and marketing: the liability haven provided by Berkeley.

If the production of Synthetic Biology "DNA circuits" entails with it very clear risks, Berkeley is providing an unrivalled degree of protection against public scrutiny, through the abuse of the public privilege assigned to us in the Constitution of the State of California to conduct our affairs in privacy, for academic freedom's sake. This privilege can also be used, as if it were a private right to secrecy, to deflect public inquiry and to protect BP, Dow, Monsanto, Mendel, Savia, Amyris and the rest of the "ecosystem of companies" from the evident and imminent liability in Moral, Fiduciary and Legal terms associated with the release of herbicide resistant weeds, algae, all kinds of microbes, crops and the rest of it.

Thanks

It is not all bad. I want to thank the many students and faculty who are awakening to the situation of their university, the public of California and the world who understand what is at stake and will hold us accountable for it, as they are doing here tonight.

But I also want to thank British Petroleum, not for the $500,000,000.00 - which, at $600 of after-tax profit per second for last year does not represent much - but for the arrogant and reckless style with which they have come to our Campus. With this they have already helped uncover the depth and breadth of the problems with/for our university that this proposal entails. These problems were really in need of public attention, and they will get it.

I Believe that I stand here for a majority within this campus, throughout the State and in the world who also believe that the time has come to re-take control of our institutions as the only possible way forward from the enormous environmental and social catastrophe that we are already living through.

I Trust that this Academic Senate, the only legitimate body of representation for our faculty, will stand up against this last push to declare us irrelevant in the worst moment of social and environmental need.

I know that the people of California will demand a better university for themselves, because without it, their options for a survivable future, let alone a future they might desire, are dim.

Let there be light.
-----------------

Note:

Answers.com
http://www.answers.com/topic/richard-c-blum

Wikipedia: Richard C. Blum

Richard C. Blum is an investment banker and the husband of United States Senator from California Dianne Feinstein. He is the Chairman and President of Blum Capital Partners, L.P., a long-term strategic equity investment management firm that acts as general partner for various investment partnerships and provides investment advisory services. He founded the firm in 1975. He also owns 75% of the voting stock in Perini.

Educated
He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his B.S. in business administration in 1958, and an MBA in 1959, both degrees coming from the Haas School of Business.

Boards

On March 12, 2002, Blum was appointed by California Governor Gray Davis to a 12-year term as one of the Regents of the University of California. Blum also serves on the boards of the following companies:

CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. (Chairman)
Newbridge Capital, LLC (co-Chairman)
Glenborough Realty Trust

Blum has a strong interest in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. In 1981 he attempted to climb Mount Everest from the Tibetan side with Sir Edmund Hillary. He is the Chairman and founder of the American Himalayan Foundation, which has given millions of dollars to build hospitals and schools in Tibet and Nepal.

In addition to the AHF, Blum’s not-for-profit endeavors include service as Trustee of The Carter Center; member of the Board of Trustees of The Brookings Institution; Co-Chairman of the The World Conference of Religions for Peace; Director at the World Wildlife Fund; Member of Governing Council of the Wilderness Society; and Member of the Board of Trustees of the American Cancer Foundation.

The Center for Public Integrity has reported that Blum and his wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, are making millions of dollars from Iraq and Afghanistan contracts through his company, Perini. [1] Critics have also argued that Feinstein's support of policies that are friendly to the Chinese government are because of her husband's extensive China-related business holdings.

References
Biographical sketch in the San Francisco Chronicle
Blum Capital Partners, L.P.
Blum Biography at the University of California
Richard Blum hones art of upping shareholder value. Loren Steffy; Bloomberg News; August 4, 2002.

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UC indemnified against security violations spreading low levels of radiation over several states

Submitted: Mar 01, 2007

We presume that UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory would also be indemnified if deadly toxins escaped the biowarfare laboratory it is proposing to build at Site 300 outside Tracy, or if depleted uranium from its experiments with bombs on Site 300 contaminate the groundwater.

What does a million-dollar fine for security violations that endanger the population mean if the violator has an indemnification agreement that lets it get off without paying the fine?

Maybe it's a symbol or an allegory or a metaphor.

Badlands Journal

2/28/07
Los Angeles Times
UC cited for safety violations at Los Alamos
By Ralph Vartabedian, Times Staff Writer

February 27, 2007
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-na-fine27feb27,1,7704783.story?coll=la-news-a_section

The Department of Energy on Monday cited the University of California for 15 violations of safety rules in 2005 involving nuclear weapons research at Los Alamos National Laboratory, including a case of mishandled materials where low levels of radiation were spread across several states.

The violations would have carried a $1.1-million fine, but federal law waves such penalties for certain nonprofit contractors. UC's contract to run Los Alamos expired last year, but it is the lead contractor in a consortium that operates the lab.

It is the largest number of violations in UC's history of running Los Alamos. The fine, even though it won't have to be paid, ranks as the largest civil penalty in the history of the Department of Energy's nuclear safety program, the agency said.

The action is a preliminary notice. UC will have a chance to respond.

A spokesman for the lab declined to comment. UC officials were not available.

A history of security and safety breaches led the department's National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, to put the Los Alamos contract up for competition last year, leading to the consortium arrangement.

But the lab, which dates to the Manhattan Project in World War II, continues to land in the center of controversy.

Its poor performance was the subject of two investigative hearings in the House last month, prompting calls by lawmakers to transfer some of Los Alamos' research to other labs.

Tom D'Agostino, acting chief of the NNSA, said in a notice to UC that the "large number of violations" reflected continuing "performance deficiencies over the last few years."

Five of the 15 violations were classified as Level 1, the most serious.

Department of Energy officials said they tried to let the lab correct some of its problems after a March 2005 violation, when several workers were exposed to radioactive materials while performing decontamination operations.

Another serious breakdown occurred in July 2005, the department said, when employees improperly handled radioactive americium and contaminated their work areas, homes and buildings in other states.

Special crews were dispatched to contain the radioactive contamination, which the Department of Energy said was below its limits. The violation notice said the lab management was putting emphasis on "mission accomplishment to the detriment of safety."

The other violations cited by the department involved improper safety procedures, training and record keeping on a wide range of issues, including combustible and radioactive materials.

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UC Merced environmental permit update

Submitted: Feb 21, 2007
"It (UC Merced) is not a good neighbor with environmental sensitivities, and it has continued to show us they have no regard for the process ... They have relied on political clout to circumvent environmental rules, and they can only bend the laws so far before the regulatory agencies say no." -- Lydia Miller, president San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center.

2-20-07
San Francisco Chronicle
Merced - UC expansion plans again run up against protected fairy shrimp...Tanya Schevitz

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/02/20/BAGGBO7I5V1.DTL

Endangered fairy shrimp, those tiny vernal pool dwellers that have bedeviled planners at UC Merced for years, are flexing their protected status again.

The half-inch-long crustaceans are in the path of the campus' long-range development plans and, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, their environmental standing might force the university to expand elsewhere -- possibly 15 miles away.

The campus, which opened in 2005 and is 6 miles from downtown Merced, wants to grow directly to the north and east with new dorms, lecture halls, classroom buildings and other facilities needed to accommodate a projected enrollment of 25,000 students by 2030.

The expansion would involve 910 adjacent acres, including 86 acres of seasonal wetlands over which the Corps of Engineers holds authority to regulate development or reject it outright.

Even more wetlands would be affected by a new residential university community of about 31,000 people planned for next to the campus. UC Merced and private developers want to jointly build the new city on 2,100 acres -- including 40 acres of wetlands -- directly south of the campus. It would include 11,600 homes, with some of the homes sold on the open market and others built as subsidized housing for faculty and staff. Also planned are stores, restaurants and entertainment facilities.

UC Merced officials were warned years ago of the obstacles they would face.

The Corps of Engineers advised them in 2002 -- before the university began building the first phase of the campus on a former golf course to avoid wetlands -- that there was no guarantee it could build the rest of the campus on nearby lands considered environmentally fragile.

"Those impacts are fairly substantial," said Bruce Henderson, senior project manager for the Corps of Engineers. "These (vernal) pools have a lot of creatures covered by the federal and state endangered species acts."

The Army engineers expect to issue a federal environmental impact statement outlining the project and its impacts in about two months. The public will be given 60 days to comment, and a final report and decision are expected by early next year.

Henderson said it was too early to make any judgments on whether UC Merced will win the permits it needs.

"There is a need for the university in the region," Henderson said. "What we are looking to do is take their proposal and avoid and minimize the impacts to the aquatic resources."

UC Merced spokeswoman Patti Waid Istas said that before UC built the first phase of its campus, it got a biological opinion and looked at a similar permitting case in Florida. She said UC officials are optimistic that they will be able to move forward as planned with the next phase.

"If we had had to wait, this region would not have had access to a UC (campus) all this time," said Istas. "We decided that the needs of the valley and the state were too important to delay."

But the uncertainty about its next phase is the latest in a series of challenges to the fledgling campus, UC's first new one since 1965.

The campus hasn't attracted as many freshmen in its second year as hoped. Students complain that the campus is remote and that there isn't much to do. The campus has 1,586 undergraduate and graduate students and three academic buildings. Two other buildings are planned for the core campus, which can accommodate 5,000 students. But the goal is to grow to 25,000 students by 2030.

Adding a 10th UC campus was approved by the UC Board of Regents in 1988, and Merced was chosen in 1995 as the winning site. But the campus has been plagued by controversy about vernal pools and fairy shrimp for years. Environmental concerns forced the university to shift the campus from its preferred site to the old golf course about a mile and a half away with plans to grow on adjacent lands.

"When they did that, they did that with the knowledge of the risk that the final permit might be for something different than what they laid out," said Karen Schwinn, deputy director of the water division at the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, which has a formal advising role in the Army engineers' permitting process.

In its analysis, the Corps of Engineers has included the university's preferred proposal and scaled-down alternatives. Yet another would put the campus expansion about 15 miles away near Livingston.

University officials insist that only the preferred site will do and have taken issue with the Corps' analysis.

"What we find is that the Corps' alternatives would add significant costs to taxpayers and would delay the campus development," Istas said.

And if UC does not get a permit to proceed with its proposed site, the campus may never be developed to its full potential, the university warns.

But federal regulators say UC has not proven that its project is the least environmentally damaging alternative.

"Thus far, we have not been convinced ... that enough justification has been made to fill the waters out there," Schwinn said. "They haven't yet demonstrated that it is necessary to fill the extent of vernal pools they have proposed to construct a viable campus. They need to justify why it is not feasible as they build a campus to consider one of the other sites."

Istas said that in the Central Valley, wetlands are not the only consideration. Farmlands are very important to residents as well. She said the decision must consider a variety of factors.

"It is beyond the impacts to wetlands. It also includes the impacts on economics of the area, land use, property ownership, traffic, air pollution and the public and private need for the university," Istas said. "Sometimes folks are just focusing on the environmental impacts and it is so much more complex than that. ... To keep the campus contiguous would reduce the impacts in the other areas."

She said that as proposed, the project would affect 86 acres of wetlands and 1,400 acres of farm- land. The alternative proposals would impact fewer wetlands but more agricultural lands.

In addition, she said, the university has already purchased 25,000 acres of open space to offset the loss of vernal pools on the proposed campus site. While Istas said that an assessment by the Corps showed that the land would preserve wetlands at a ratio of nearly 3 to 1, a debate continues about the value of that land in comparison to the land that would be destroyed.

Lydia Miller, a longtime opponent of the UC Merced project and president of the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, is looking forward to the opportunity to comment on the plan when the environmental report on the university comes out.

"It is not a good neighbor with environmental sensitivities, and it has continued to show us they have no regard for the process," she said. "They have relied on political clout to circumvent environmental rules, and they can only bend the laws so far before the regulatory agencies say no."

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Fairy Shrimp
Branchinecta lynchi

Habitat: Fairy shrimp occupy a variety of vernal pools, seasonal aquatic habitats formed when winter rains fill shallow depressions. The pools persist for several months, gradually evaporating during the spring. Habitat varies from small clear sandstone rock pools to large grassland valley pools.

Reproduction: A single female can produce several hundred cysts (eggs) during one season. The cysts usually remain dormant until the next year's rain, but they can last for a decade. The average time to maturity is 41 days.

Sources: Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office Species Account; California Department of Pesticide Regulation Endangered Species Project.

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Must make sense in Tracy

Submitted: Feb 10, 2007

The Tracy City Council voted on Tuesday to oppose the UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory proposal to build a level-4 biowarfare laboratory at Site 300, a nearby bomb-testing site owned by the Department of Energy and managed by UC/Lawrence Livermore.

At the same meeting, the council voted to support trebling the amount of explosives that can be used on Site 300.

Both votes were 3-1.

Site 300 is outside the Tracy city limits.

Presumably, the two votes make sense in Tracy.

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

2-7-07
Tracy Press
Council votes against proposed bio-lab...John Upton

http://tracypress.com/content/view/7689/2/
Councilwoman Irene Sundberg, Councilwoman Evelyn Tolbert and Councilman Steve Abercombie voted Tuesday night to oppose a proposal by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to build the bio-lab at Site 300 in the hills southwest of Tracy, even though the council has no jurisdiction over the site. Acting Mayor Suzanne Tucker voted against opposing the lab... University of California Vice Provost for Research Lawrence Coleman asked Tracy City Council to not take a position on the bio-lab until the Department of Homeland Security provides more information later this year. The University of California operates Lawrence Livermore for the Department of Energy. Sundberg criticized Lawrence Livermore for taking too long to clean Site 300 contaminants...You’ve got no money to clean it up. And now you want to put more stuff in my backyard. Activist Bob Sarvey played an audio tape from a Nov. 15 public forum on the bio-lab, in which Lawrence Livermore spokeswoman Susan Houghton acknowledged that human errors could occur at the bio-lab and that homeowners might need to warn potential homebuyers about the facility. Stockton resident Mike Robinson, president of the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau, and Livermore resident Darrel Sweet, a past president of the California Cattleman’s Association, said the agricultural industry supports building the bio-lab at Site 300 in part because it would help speed up detection of exotic diseases in California’s agricultural stock.

2-8-07
Tracy votes down controversial bio lab...Jake Armstrong

http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070208/A_NEWS/702080318
The Tracy City Council voted late Tuesday night to oppose the University of California's bid to locate a federal laboratory that would research incurable diseases on a high-explosives test range southwest of the city...called the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. In a twist of irony, moments later, the council by the same margin voted to support an increase in the amount of explosives used in tests on the range known as Site 300, a 7,000-acre parcel owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Air pollution regulators in December gave Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory approval to more than triple the amount of explosives it uses in its outdoor tests at Site 300. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Hearing Board was set Wednesday to hear an appeal of the permit, which allows the laboratory to use 350 pounds of explosives a day and up to 8,000 pounds a year. However, the board voted to continue the hearing to next month in order to handle a request for public documents. Tracy council does not have jurisdiction over Site 300, which is just outside city limits, the city's opposition to the bio lab will be put into a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials who are evaluating more than a dozen proposals from universities and laboratories seeking to win the facility. The lab would also research incurable pathogens in an area of the strictest containment level, or Bio-Safety Level 4. Other factors that will influence the final decision are a local work force with experience running high-level bio-safety labs and access to multiple forms of transportation from the site, Kelly said. The 18 contenders for the bio lab face a Feb. 16 deadline to submit more information on their proposals to DHS, which plans to visit the sites and make final recommendations sometime from March to May. Environmental impact studies on a short list of sites will begin in July, with a finalist being named in October 2008. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010, and the bio lab is expected to be up and running as early as 2013.

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A client for Cruz?

Submitted: Feb 07, 2007

Build the rooftops and the lobbyist may come.

Build a mile-long, illegal 42-inch pipeline to your sewer plant on County land without a County permit, maybe you need the former state Assembly Speaker and Lt. Governor as your lobbyist.

But can Livingston, not the wealthiest community in Merced County, afford Bustamante? It leads the public to consider whether it is the people behind the sewer line and the development it could induce who are paying for the long-time state elected official. If the Merced County fix is no longer as secure as it was when former Bill Lockyer was state Attorney General, who knows, people could be asking questions.

Another question is Livingston's alleged motive for hiring a lobbyist -- more better Highway 99 improvements around Livingston. Perhaps the one thing Livingston actually has is the best stretch of 99 in the county. So, the public can safely discount this as the reason for hiring a lobbyist and consider other regional transportation plans as the more likely target, like the Big Beltway that will exit Highway 99 between Livingston and Atwater, run through prime farmland to UC Merced, then down the Campus Parkway to the WalMart distribution center. Other plans for expanding roads from the Livingston area toward Stevinson, fitting in with development plans of the Kelley and Mike Gallo families are also likely topics of conversation between the former Lt. governor and the new generation of legislators.

Livingston may need Bustamante, not the worse politician from the Valley to have served in the state Legislature and Executive. But why would Bustamante want to launch his new lobbyist career representing Livingston?

To get closer to money, the mother's milk, Cheerios and New York steak of politics.

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

2-6-07
Merced Sun-Star
Livingston may hire lobbyist Bustamante...Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13267202p-13900255c.html
After more than 30 years in politics, former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante remained guarded last month about his career after leaving office. But the Sacramento insider is returning to the political arena, this time on the other side of the table. The Livingston City Council will consider hiring Bustamante, 54, tonight to lobby Sacramento leaders with hopes that their multimillion-dollar highway construction plans will be fast-tracked. Livingston could be the second Merced County city to hire a lobbyist this month to maintain a presence in Sacramento. Merced's City Council awarded a $65,000 one-year contract to Townsend Public Affairs, an Irvine-based lobbying firm, Monday night. Two contract options with Bustamante will come before the City Council. One is for six months at $10,000 a month. The second is a two-year contract with the first six months at $10,000 a month, which decreases to $7,500 for the remaining 18 months.

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