Fair is foul

Fair is foul, and foul is fair
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

--Macbeth, 1.1

Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
-- Jack Abramoff, Vanity Fair, April 2006

Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission, Cardoza said with a laugh.
-- Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, Modesto Bee, March 31, 2005, in reference to the famous joint fund-raiser with Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and the Lodi ranch of Fritz Grupe, the north San Joaquin Valley's largest developer.

Every time has its exploiters. When caught, they always beg forgiveness. Abramoff and Cardoza belong to the same crew of sanctimonious, pious frauds.

But everything is hitched to everything else, as John Muir used to say, possibly looking down on the San Joaquin Valley from the Sierras, back when you could see the Valley from the Sierras.

Perhaps Dennis has been spending too much time hanging out - and maybe laughing - with Jack Abramoff, suggested Juan de la Rana Salto recently.

Asking for forgiveness rather than permission is apparently infectious in Merced County. Recently, Livingston officials constructed an entire theological theory of forgiveness (invoking St. Francis no less) around the mile-long, 42-inch sewer trunk line Ranchwood Homes built from the Livingston wastewater treatment plant to a subdivision Ranchwood is planning.

What ever happened to: “Don’t to the crime if you can’t do the time”?

Political corruption is a complex political phenomenon that begins, in this country, when the rule of men overwhelms the rule of the laws upon which the democratic republic is based and without which, it fails. Once corruption picks up steam, for example when the US Supreme Court decides on a straight partisan vote who won in Florida in 2000 without a total recount, there is Hell to pay.

The world is paying it. The times hurtle toward disaster. Tragic drama, some say the best tool the West ever invented to understand itself, has a characteristic moment near the end when the times simply run of their tracks.

Business leaders and public officials are busy making money and power off the mad times. Their hands on the throttle, they drive the state through the trackless wilderness of human nature.

Here in the local bailiwick, the officials and UC Merced have decided it would be just a dandy way to make money off the gathering environmental and public health disaster, caused by ruinous growth stimulated by the arrival of UC Merced, to start a UC Merced medical school, side-by-side a biomedical research lab. The latter would have to be guided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (of weapons of mass destruction) because even UC realizes this campus is an unguided missile.

Meanwhile, Mercy Hospital, operated by one of the nation's most corrupt hospital management corporations, has decided to build a new hospital on the right side of the tracks in North Merced. They've just made their draft environmental impact report available to the public. The local paper reports -- as absolute fact -- the hospital, to be built on wetlands and Swainson's Hawk habitat -- will only be required to mitigate for its environmental destruction at the ratio of .5 acre per acre of natural habitat destroyed.

Presumably, there is some basis for the reporter's statement. Let us conjecture that the DEIR contains the declaration of a deal between the hospital and the City of Merced.. Meanwhile, Merced County will soon be creating a new general plan and the same group of local urban and farm leaders will be meeting again to discuss urban/agricultural land-use policy, as they have so terribly effectively in the past.

If you believe in divine forces like gods who forgive corrupt politicians and lobbyists, gods who decide the pattern of growth in your community, gods who decide where a public university campus will go, and alien beings that dirty the air, pollute the water and make your children sick, you qualify as a local leader able to discuss land-use policy in Merced County. All you need is a good alibi.

For a good alibi, our Valley leaders turn to the Great Valley Center (for urban development), the people who receive and dole out grant money to anyone who can come up with a new idea about how to pave over paradise in good conscience. GVC has become a mistress of the corporate game of "value-free information," which always seems to benefit the corporation and nobody else. We the people, we suffering masses of unemployed, environmentally, ethnically, educationally and shopping challenged, are the commodity whose deficiencies GVC hustles to the coastal non-profits and, lately, the developers' banks and non-profits based on real estate fortunes.

GVC, moving right into lock-step with UC Merced, with whom it formed a partnership last year, is holding a conference on health.


High tech M.D.

An apple a day: Better health through prevention

Promotoras: More than community health workers

Bikes and walks: Creating healthy communities

Healthy food for low income communities

More than 100 speakers, panelists, and presenters view at:

Conference topics include: Air Quality and Health, Agriculture, Environment, Technology, Growth, Water, Arts and Culture, Community building, and more.

The GVC possesses an amazing talent for framing itself in front of the crisis, backlit by the flames. The Center appears to do all the right things, particularly creating alibis when it all goes wrong; and much money is paid and spent along the way for larger offices and redecoration in fantastic performances of good conscience, good will, balance, wise use, smart growth, leadership development, and general all-round vision.

GVC officials don't believe in gods and demons. They spend their time scanning the heavens for a glimpse of the Invisible Hand of the Market Place. Their necks have become so stiff with this long, disciplined, earnest searching, that they could not see our Central (not Great) Valley environment, even if they wanted to. This posture, eyes to the sky looking for the Hand, is a form of worship, like the practice of sun gazing that eventually blinds the illuminated one.

Our very own think tank is remorselessly positive. They put an idiotic happy face on each and every act of land-use misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance performed from Redding to Bakersfield – and collect high fees for doing it. Observed up close, their happy face is in fact a grimace of eternal vigilance against a critical idea that could blow the whole cultural edifice upon which this incredibly destructive urban growth boom rests. The growth boom rests on a business confidence game called faith in the churches of our business leaders, or an amalgam of faiths, each requiring belief in forces beyond human control guiding land-use decisions in what was once the richest agricultural area, acre-for-acre, in the world. Like all such rich farming regions, unfortunately it makes too few wealthy and that wealth is based on widespread poverty, low wages, and high seasonal unemployment.

Learning how to preserve that agricultural richness, learning how to create social, environmental and economic justice within that agricultural economy, should have been the direction. But that would have required critical thought, open debate and courage. It would have required the principles of republican democracy.

For a frank discussion of Catholic Healthcare West's managing order of union busting, community-clinic closing nuns, see the Dissent article below. Perhaps these are the sisters that have taught Cardoza how to forgive himself with such good humor.

Cardoza’s vote on GMOs labeling works well with UC Merced biomedical research. Perhaps the San Joaquin Valley will become that dream laboratory where finally the public health and safety research will be done on these crops and foods, which the US government and the FDA did not do, at lobbyist insistence.

The health effects of the nationwide American experiment now going on of planting, harvesting, genetically manipulating and eating GMOs should make lovely research for UC Merced’s biomedical research laboratories, unless biomedicine begins to take on the more sinister aspect of biowarfare research. While UC Merced might be able to claim honestly that it was not doing any such research, the sorts of biotechnology corporations UC, GVC and all good Merced public officials lust after, could. In official circles, certainly nobody is talking about regulating, inspecting or banning that kind of research because it is all hitched together with the high technology economy that our leaders believe, with profound faith, will bring (someone) prosperity. But this technology is consuming energy far beyond its means. The world warms, wars multiply, tanks, helicopters, jets are not fuel efficient, and Arabs turn out to be as tough as Vietnamese.

I don’t think anybody in my neighborhood, in what UC Merced social facilitators are now cutely call "Middle Merced, " has much gene-splicing skill. That’s one of the attractive features of my neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times found that the speculative housing boom in Merced was busting, and the local paper called some local realtors who confirmed the local news. The fat profits have been taken; now the foreclosures begin in earnest. It’s hard to put a happy face on foreclosure and bankruptcy, so our leaders and their media will not try, focusing instead on plans such as hospitals and med schools. Meanwhile, the rightwing white owners, born to the manner, blame the most vulnerable group in society, Mexican immigrants. They hope to terrify the suburban soccer moms of the nation sufficiently to get their vote and maintain control of Congress in the coming election.

To his credit, Cardoza voted against HR 4437. The owners had a comfortable majority in the House without him. Had their control been less certain, the rear end of the Pomboza would probably have voted with his boss, Pombo. The hospital nuns would have granted him instant absolution because it was their largely minimum-wage Mexican workers that the SEIU organized despite the loss of appeal our president has suffered in their SUVs.

How dismally stupid this election year will be as our leaders bash or posture some defense of immigrants all season, forgetting the Iraq War, the economy, the national debt and the foreign trade deficit as Congress seriously debates building a wall across the entire US/Mexican border – a boon to sales of cutting torches on the other side.

Everything is hitched to everything else. Once again the owners create their own monsters for their own purpose, which is always power.

No somos criminales; somos trabajadores internacionales, said the large, hand-painted sign on the Tijuana side of the new wall in the summer of 1994, including the semi-colon.

Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

-- Julius Caesar, 1.3


California farm heartland's dirty air costs $3 bln
Reuters, March 30, 2006
Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:55 PM ET

Report issued for new hospital...Carol Reiter
Merced Sun-Star, March 29. 2006
The draft environmental impact report for Mercy Medical Center Merced's replacement hospital in North Merced is available to the public today. The EIR is the latest step in the hospital's goal of building a new facility by 2009. Mercy must resolve before building the new hospital include the light and glare that the facility will generate, impacts to the school that is located nearby, safety issues from a helicopter landing pad on the roof of the building, noise from the helicopter, the aesthetic impact of the towers, air quality, and the loss of wetlands from a lateral canal and creek that are on the property, a zoning change. The hospital is located on ground that has been found to be a foraging site for Swainson's hawks, a threatened species. Mercy must mitigate for the loss of habitat, at the rate of .5 acres for every acre that is developed. The hospital will also impact local wetlands, the EIR found. The other issue that may be a problem for neighbors is the helicopter...

Modesto Bee
March 29, 2006
Medical school idea makes rounds...Ken Carlson
UC Merced officials presented the plan for the medical school at a public meeting Monday evening at the Great Valley Center in Modesto. 100 people attended the meeting to hear a presentation by UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey and Maria Pallavicini, dean of the university's school of natural sciences. The plan calls for UC Merced medical students to attend academic classes for two years. After that, they would be sent to physicians' offices, clinics and hospitals in the valley for hands-on training. To attract faculty from across the country, UC Merced officials also are developing a biomedical research institute that would have close ties to the medical school. After the presentation, some physicians asked whether the regional approach could provide effective training for medical students. In particular, students who aspire to become specialists usually are trained in a university hospital.

Unions and Health Care Reform
By Katherine Sciacchitano
Summer 2004

… Organizing the Church; Leveraging Wall Street

SEIU began the campaign hoping for voluntary recognition. However, although the National Conference of Catholic Bishops supported the dignity of workers and their right to organize, the order of nuns that owned CHW hospitals didn't reflect that position in their management practices. Brothers in the hospitals held captive prayer meetings, organizers were told unions were nowhere to be found in the Bible, workers were surveilled.

SEIU countered with a campaign that dissected CHW's roles as a provider of health care services, employer, corporate citizen, organ of the church, and recipient of tax subsidies. When CHW pursued expansion plans by buying and closing community hospitals to increase its own market share, staff researched CHW's legal responsibility to provide charity care and asked the California attorney general to enforce the hospitals' charitable trust obligation to the community. Organizers worked with Catholic activists to hold CHW accountable to Catholic social teachings. Sympathetic priests were asked to sponsor "labor in the pulpit" on Sundays so workers could tell congregations about their working conditions and CHW's resistance to organizing. There were rallies in front of hospitals and a prayer vigil in Sacramento. When SEIU's campaign for voluntary recognition stalled after a year and a half, organizers reacted flexibly and petitioned for NLRB elections in hospitals where they thought they could be successful. When the union lost several of the elections, it established a Fair Election Commission, headed by State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigoso, to expose CHW's election conduct and used the report to maintain momentum with workers and the community. …

Warning: This bill could make you sick
By Al Meyerhoff and Carl Pope
March 21, 2006
Los Angeles Times

THE HOUSE of Representatives this month passed the National Uniformity for Foods Act, a measure that would kill or cancel significant parts of 200 food-safety laws in 50 states. This ill-advised bill, supported by millions of food-industry dollars, passed without a single hearing. Now it's in the hands of the Senate. If it passes there, among its many victims would be California's requirement that foods containing harmful chemicals display a warning for consumers. ..

All told, food companies have forked over $5.2 million to the bill's 226 co-sponsors. The Californian members of Congress co-sponsoring the bill in the House received about $670,000 from food interests for this election cycle alone, and more than $1 million for 2004, according to public filings with the Federal Elections Commission. Some of the top money-getters are Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Tracy), $250,208); Devin Nunes (R-Visalia), $558,152); and Dennis Cardoza (D-Atwater) $239,152). ..

In February, Waxman, together with Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs), wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging him to oppose the "National Uniformity" bill. Thus far, the response from the governor's office has been silence. As the debate over food safety moves to the U.S. Senate, it's time for the governor to make sure this threat to California's sovereignty is terminated.

Merced Sun-Star
Local experts agree with dreary housing article...David Chircop
Real estate is a driving force in Merced's economy. Five of seven members of the City Council draw their livelihoods from it -- four are licensed to sell homes, including the mayor... It's little wonder that an in-depth Los Angeles Times article spotlighting the city's rapidly cooling housing market has made the rounds. The city's historic housing boom continues, in spite of slowing sales numbers...7,000 new houses in the works. Merced as the second-most-overvalued city for single-family homes. Global Insight and the Cleveland-based bank National City determined Merced's homes were 76.7 percent overvalued

Los Angeles Times...3-25-06
The Land of the Open House. Merced, once the state's hottest housing market, is headed back to being, well, Merced again....David Streitfeld

Wage War on Poverty, Not Immigrants
by Jesse Jackson
Chicago Sun Times – March 28, 2006

"Sa se puede!" Yes we can. They marched by the hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles, by the tens of thousands in Milwaukee, in Phoenix, in New York. Across the country, Hispanics dramatically entered what has been an increasingly ugly debate about immigration in this country.

Rep. Tom Tancredo is gaining national attention railing against undocumented immigrants. He wants them turned into felons, a wall built along our border to keep them out, police dispatched to send them home. He does not bother to tell us how he plans to transport 11 million estimated undocumented workers out of the country. Nor what will happen to the millions of their children who were born here and are American citizens.

Senate leader Bill Frist is doing his own Tancredo. Efforts by Senators Kennedy and McCain to fashion a compromise look likely to fail in the face of the furies. President Bush has offered an employers bill -- why does this not surprise? He'd increase enforcement at the border, but create a guest worker program so that employers could ship low wage immigrants in, so long as they promise to boot them out when they've finished exploiting them.

When employers brought slaves to America, few objected as long as they were prepared to work without wages and without rights. When they began to demand equal rights, all hell broke loose. No one minded when Mexican farm workers came to pick the crops, do the lawns, clean the houses. When they started to demand the right to citizenship, to vote, to organize -- the furor started.

American workers are sensibly worried that the flood of immigrant labor will bring lower wages as part of the global race to the bottom. But their complaint is with employers who prefer undocumented workers whom they can exploit without complaint, and with federal and state authorities who turn a blind eye to that exploitation.

There is no way anyone is going to locate, arrest, detain and ship millions of undocumented workers out of America. Our choice is whether we want to maintain permanently a large underclass of undocumented workers that can be easily exploited by cynical employers, and slurred by callous politicians -- or whether we want to fulfill America's promise by providing them with a road to citizenship, benefitting from their willingness to work, pay taxes and contribute.

How do we stop our country from being overrun by impoverished immigrants if we offer them pathways to citizenship? There is only one way -- and it is not mentioned in this debate. We passed a treaty called NAFTA with Mexico and Canada that guaranteed rights to employers and investors but not to workers.

The results have been catastrophic. Wages in Mexico, the United States and Canada have fallen. Mexico now exports more cars to the United States than the United States exports to the world -- all made by U.S. companies benefitting from cheap labor in Mexico. And U.S. food exports have displaced millions of poor Mexican peasants and driven them from their communities. They don't come to the United States because they want to leave their homes. They come desperate for work.

The only way to stop the flood of immigrants is to help lift their standards up, rather than drive ours down. When Europe created one trading union including impoverished Spain and Portugal, the high wage countries of the north spent billions on development in the poorer countries, while demanding that they adhere to labor rights, environmental protections and basic social protections.

While those countries still are not as wealthy as those in the north, their people were given hope and opportunity -- and would much prefer to stay home. We can spend billions trying to lock immigrants out and hold those that come in down. Or we can devote energy and resources now wasted on a civil war in Iraq to help lift our neighbors up, gain real trading partners and significantly reduce the misery that drives people from their homes.

Potential presidential candidates like Frist, Tancredo and even supposedly straight-talking John McCain won't say anything like this. But that's the truth. And in the end, it is the truth, and only the truth, that will set you free.