Representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and George Radanovich, Bankrupt Winemaker-Mariposa, are proposing a National Agricultural Science Center for Modesto and have introduced a bill in Congress for funding. They argue that because Modesto has produced more ag politicians since World War II than any other city in the US, Modesto deserves this national center.
In order to shore up his political standing, the one-party, rightwing House of Representatives leadership recently appointed Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, vice-chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. Congress is debating a new, 5-year Farm Bill, Pete McCloskey is nailing Pombo’s corrupt hide to every Grange Hall and political club wall in the 11th Congressional District, and Pombo’s handlers have moved the cattle trailer that used to sit one field west of Tracy’s last subdivision that announced “Pombo’s Real Estate Farms.”
Pombo and Cardoza, known collectively by local farmers as the Pomboza, have made a career for themselves whipping up private property-rights rage against the federal Endangered Species Act. Cardoza and the rest of Merced County’s farm-loving political leadership graciously bestowed the Williamson Act on all unincorporated Merced County, claiming deceitfully that it was to be “mitigation for UC Merced.” Merced is the last major agricultural county in the state to get the Williamson Act, which is proving to be a boon for developers buying up ag land at reduced property taxes all over the county.
The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, so highly praised for being pioneers in Valley irrigation in the early years of the last century, every year convert their historic mission more and more to water and electric utilities to slurb development. The smaller Merced Irrigation District dreams the same dream.
The hypocrisy and greed for prestige, credit and honorifics displayed in this proposal is preposterous. Developers, aided every step of the way by local political leadership, are paving over north San Joaquin Valley agriculture as fast as the next “guidance package,” “programmatic EIR,” and quicker than a county planner can say “mitigated negative declaration.” In the process, they are creating an air pollution disaster that is already costing millions in lost production on the remaining agricultural land.
Yet, as a world-class laboratory for everything wrong with agribusiness, no place could be better suited than Modesto (if the former site of the Shell ag chemical lab in Ripon is not a contender). Here is a farming region with no more farms. There is no sense of distinct place left in this farming region. Nobody who farms this land can afford to love this land anymore. Although estates and mansions rise from some of these fields, there is little evidence of real care for real place left. Essentially, there are no more farms, only acreage. In this region you can’t hear the cows moo on the mega-dairy factories, the meadowlarks warble, or the sounds of tractors or crop dusters for the constant background roar of commuter traffic and the real estate adding machine in town, dinning the air with the Great Kah-Ching as it calculates the development value of each acre of farm and ranch land for future slurb.
What the Shrimp Slayer and the Bankrupt Winemaker are proposing is a science museum that will obscure the truth of the disaster of agribusiness even when it is all slurbed over. The McClatchy Chain is enthusiastic.
But the real reason Modesto deserves the center is because of the leadership roles county residents have had in state and national agriculture, Wenger said.
Richard Lyng and Anne Veneman served as U.S. agriculture secretaries as well as state agriculture secretaries, Wenger noted. Henry Voss, Clare Berryhill and Bill Lyons all served as state agriculture secretaries.
"No other county in the country has had that kind of leadership," Wenger said.
You bet. And if any other county had that kind of leadership, they might not have been quite as quick to brag about it. Lyng wasn’t a farmer, he was a rich, politically connected seed dealer. Veneman, daughter of a state legislator, gained the nickname “Mad Cow Annie” when, during her tenure as secretary of the USDA she managed almost to completely bury the mad cow disease story and any serious investigation of it, probably with health consequences it will take many years to realize. Voss and Berryhill were farmers, and -- if memory serves --gentlemen of proto-Pombo political orientation. Lyons failed to get the UC campus on the Mapes Ranch, which he inherited. So he bought 530 acres in the path of development of UC Merced. Asking for annexation to the City of Merced, he appeared before the city council in jeans and plaid shirt as a simple family farmer; but he had his suits handle the deal at the county Local Agency Formation Commission. Lyons is a developer, not a rancher, who bought his state ag secretary post fair and square with a huge fund-raising effort on behalf of Gray Davis’ campaign.
About the only thing the Badlands editorial staff could contribute to this monument to agricultural ruin in the San Joaquin Valley would be to suggest that outside the national center there should be a statue of a Holstein cow about two stories high. “Annie,” the blurb might read. “She lived one year. She made much milk and fast food. Before she died, she wasn’t quite herself.”
Talking it over further, the Badlands editorial staff came up with a counter proposal, a wax museum dedicated to the superb San Joaquin Valley agricultural political leadership from which agriculture has so greatly benefited. Although there are many possible names, the staff decided that, in the vernacular at least, it probably would be called simply, “The Lagoon.”
Pombo’s recently disappeared cattle trailer would be parked outside, proclaiming again, “Pombo Real Estate Farms.” (There is no more completely sound bitten mind in the Valley than the ol’ Buffalo Slayer’s.)
In the lobby, we see a superhuman sized figure -- one hand outstretched to receive, the other full of cash to bestow – a wax likeness of Tony “Honest Graft” Coelho.
Entering the darkened hall, at the first exhibit, backlit behind glass, the visitor would encounter the Mr. and Ms. UC Merced Gallery and would be plunged into the Science Motif, but in a folksy style. This would be an old-timey musical scene, as befits our agricultural heritage, subtitled, “One Voice for The Great Kah-Ching.” At the center of the ensemble would be a barbershop quartet labeled “The Bobbies” (Ayers, Carpenter, Rucker and Smith). The conductor would again be ol’ Honest Graft himself. Musicians would include former Rep. Gary Condit, Lover-Ceres, on fiddle, the Shrimp Slayer on bass, and former state Sen. Dick Monteith, Halfback-Modesto on guitar, conducted by Mike Lynch, with a buggy whip.
Motion-activated, the Bobbies would break into an original song in four-part harmony with one word: “Kah-Ching,” sung to the tune of Abba’s 1960’s hit, “Money.”
Beside them would be an all-woman choir, dressed in white robes, each with a golden halo. Although the wax here would be melted into an angelic blob, a few faces would shine out with holy grace: Supervisor Kathleen Crookham would be the most distinguishable, one hand tastefully strangling a fairy shrimp.
They would be accompanied on harp by Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the Cowgirl Chancellor herself. Her hat would be of that very, very special shade of royal blue issued to UC administration officials in lieu of the indictments for fraud and corruption they should receive. Her blouse would be of royal blue and golden stripes. Her authentic cowgirl vest would be made of bobcat fur. Her square-dance skirt of royal blue would be decorated with golden dollar signs interspersed with medical cadeusises. Her boots would be made of black bear-cub hide.
The landscape painted on the curved wall behind them would be filled with depictions of subdivisions completed and under construction with Phase One of the UC Merced campus, radioactively glowing on a low hill, like a Ronald Reagan holy city for all the right Americans and none of the rest of us. There would also be artistically rendered swollen creeks and our Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds would be standing knee deep in dirty water.
In the corner would be only a sign but no wax figure – “Our Governor, the Hun, Who Didn’t Come to the UC Merced Opening.”
The next exhibit would be strobe lit and flickering, but there would be enough intermittent light to make out the figure of former Gov. Gray Davis, an electrical plug in hand.
The third exhibit would be nothing but glass enclosed smoke. The sign would read, “Air Quality.” There would be a black box with a button on it, marked “High-Tech Fix.” When visitors push the button, they would hear the sound of a hospital ward of children coughing, but the smoke would not disappear. Sponsors of this exhibit would be the Gentlemen Start Your Engines Association, the Arkansas/China Trading Hong, the International Foundation for the Preservation of Dirty Diesel Engines, the Make Me SuperRich Developers Association, the Maybe Someday UC Merced Medical Institute for the Study of Childhood Respiratory Disease, the Alliance of Fully Indemnified San Joaquin Valley Local Land-Use Authorities, and the huge membership of the San Joaquin Valley We Don't Give and Damn and Can't Do Anything About It Anyway Society.
Another exhibit would be labeled “FALFA – We Are Always on the Winning Side.” This would be a single, monumental, lumpy piece of wax from which the faces of our prominent spokeswomen for agriculture and smart growth would vaguely emerge – Carol Whiteside, Holly King, Merced County Supervisor Diedre Kelsey, Diana Westmoreland Pedroza, etc.
Yet another exhibit, labeled “Almost the First President from Ceres and Family,” would show the interior of an ice cream franchise in an Arizona strip mall and the Condit family, capped and aproned, scooping ice cream to a group of unemployed construction workers.
The “42-Inch Sewer Trunk Line from Livingston” would be an artist’s rendering of a long line of Ranchwood earth-moving equipment digging and covering a ditch from the Livingston sewer plant to Stevinson, across county roads and a Merced Irrigation District canal. When visitors push a red button, marked “Merced County Planning Process,” the following message is played:
Mrs. Crookham, this is Greg Hostetler calling. My cell number actually is 704-13** if you need to call me. I’m on a cell phone cause my other battery I’m trying to save that, preserve it you know. I’m into preserving things too from time to time, but anyway, uhm, I’m just calling you, uh, to let you know that…ah if you don’t already know… that we’ve had a lot of drama and trouble in the county … everywhere I do business [inaudible] apparently I guess because of Mrs. uh…Mrs. Deirdre Kelsey ah… thinks staff may need some help, because she’s climbing all over them… using [inaudible] staff for her personal pit bulls…trying to bite our people, and our staff — this is my opinion — causing a lot of drama in Livingston, for the City of Livingston and we’re trying to uh in the progress of uh in the process of installing a sewer line over there. If you haven’t talked to Dee Tatum, he could fill you in on what’s going on over there. But uh this probably will not end any time soon. So, I just wanted to give you the update, and if you could give staff any help I’d appreciate it… Thank you!
“Village of Geneva Meets Planada Natives” would depict a touching scene in contemporary rural class relations. The above-mentioned Hostetler, top dog in the Geneva deal, in US Calvary officer drag, surrounded by assorted lesser developers in golf clothes, is seen presenting a snow-cone machine (marked “$600 or more”) to local officials of the unincorporated town of Planada, attired in buckskin and feathers with smiles painted on their faces.
Visitors seeking more information on this exhibit would push a button and hear a short dialogue.
Question: What do you get when you cross a school board with a sewer district board?
Answer: A piss poor receptacle for slush fund contributions! Or as Robert Frost might have opined: Something there is that doesn’t love a snow cone machine that sends a chilling public records act request through frozen coils and spills its donors’ check stubs in the sun, exposing accounting gaps big enough to squeeze through the whole ball of wax.
In “DC Does Deacons of Merced,” visitors observe a wax phallus representing male members of the Merced County unregistered, tax paid lobbyists of the “One Whine” crowd in Washington. After a hard day of pimping for federal highway funds for the UC Campus Parkway, they are artistically rendered priapic while ogling strippers, getting the real feel of Beltway politics.
“The Milking String Shakedown” abstractly represents the Valley dairy industry as a doleful, huge-headed Giant garter snake, its mouth full of money, coiled at the feet of the Pomboza, a one-headed creature with four hands reaching down to grab the cash. The huge head is composed of suits decorated with brands – United Western Dairymen, Hilmar Cheese, Gallo and assorted other mega-dairycrats. As the visitors’ eyes follow the snake back toward the tip of its tail, rubber boots begin faintly to emerge in the design, as back-to-front the entire industry is neatly packed and arranged according to the sizes of dairy herds. Pushing the informational button, visitors hear a simple statement: “No 3-cent per hundredweight tax!”
“The Lagoon: A Wax Museum of San Joaquin Valley Leadership” is a work in wax and in progress. However, we think our concept is sound and already more fully realized than its competitors, and we humbly petition the Pomboza for federal funding for this public, grassroots project.
Ground broken on ag center bill...Tim Moran
The bill is in the hopper to authorize spending federal money for the proposed National Agricultural Science Center in Modesto. Cardoza, D-Merced is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa... ag center is proposed as an interactive, high-technology exhibit designed to explain to people of all ages where food comes from, and agriculture's relationship to the environment and to technology. "I believe it is important for the community to invest in this," Cardoza said. As for when federal money might become available, "It will take a little while," Cardoza said. Allocating new federal money for the center probably isn't realistic, he said. "We are going to have to find an existing pot of money," Cardoza said.