Evidently, in addition to every other absurd, tasteless outrage against political life here in the Valley, now we have a hissy fit between two third-generation Portuguese immigrant princes, calling each other names. Devin Nunes, a Republican from the largest dairy county in the nation, learned a six-syllable word the other day and started calling Dennis Cardoza, a Democrat who represents the second-largest dairy county in the nation, a "to-tal-i-tar-i-an." Cardoza took Nunes to the cowshed, replying, "Ele no tem vergonha," ("He has no shame") although between the two, Nunes would know a lot more about the inside of a cowshed than Cardoza ever did. Nunes serves on the House Ways and Means Committee; Cardoza serves on the House Rules Committee. Both have teamed up to help Westlands Water District and the Friant Water Users Authority to circumvent any ways, means or rules standing between them and water from the San Joaquin Delta and the San Joaquin River. They are both in their fourth terms.
Nunes also attacked Rep. Jim Costa, another San Joaquin Valley Democrat, another grandson of immigrants, who represents Fresno County, the nation's number one agriculture producing county, Kern County, the third and Kings County the ninth-ranked agricultural county in the nation. Costa serves on the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Foreign Affairs committees, and led the effort to effect the San Joaquin River Settlement. Unlike the two obstructionists, Costa came to Congress with a 24-year record of distinguished leadership in the California State Legislature. Unlike the nitwits, he actually represents Westland Water District yet has managed to convey the impression that he does not believe their mouthpiece, Tom Birmingham, or their directors walk on water, while Nunes and Cardoza scratch each others' eyes out for contributions from the oligopoly of agribusiness south of where the empty San Joaquin River crosses the Valley. Costa is the exception that proves the rule that cowsheds send their most witless grandsons into politics.
Nunes is also the most vociferous supporter from the Valley's Azorean delegation to Congress of Richard Pombo, running to replace the retiring Rep. George Radanovich. The district is a masterpiece of tail-wagging-dog gerrymandering: a number of mountain counties yoked to eastern sections of Fresno and Stanislaus counties. Pombo, a rightwing Republican that once represented a district that included much of the San Joaquin Delta, was chairman of the House Resources Committee (since restored to its earlier name, Natural Resources), chair of the House Portuguese-American Caucus, and was the greatest enemy the Endangered Species Act and regulation of the ecology of the San Joaquin Delta ever had in Congress. We doubt Pombo has changed his opinions. He hasn't even changed his residence to live in the district he is running to represent.
During the Great Speculative Real Estate Bubble, Cardoza, a Democrat, slavishly followed Pombo, a man he referred to simply as "Mr. Chairman." They raised money hand-in-hand from the developers of the three Valley county seats that enjoy top rank nationwide in foreclosure rates and are right up there for unemployment, too. The two were so close that the cowsheds began to call them the "Pombozo," not apparently a polite word on some of the Azorean islands.
Of course, their great patron saint and still potent leader is former Rep. Tony Coelho, once chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Wall Street Journal reporter Brooks Jackson wrote an enlightening book about Coelho's political career called Honest Graft. That's a New York way of describing what locals call the institution of the "bag man."
The indigenous people of the Valley having been mostly exterminated by immigrants long ago, we current residents of the Valley would petition the old men of the cowsheds to get these two buffoons, Nunes and Cardoza, under control because the nitrate content of regional politics has reached toxic levels and the public will soon petition for regulatory relief. we do not give a load of the nitrate-bearing substance for the little princes' hissy fit and we don't care who started it. Take it back to Washington and leave it there. We have the highest unemployment rates in the state and highest foreclosure rates in the nation, dairy and almond prices are in the toilet, and these boys are tossing cow pies at each other. It is shameful.
Between these two, there's not much to choose: Nunes is a liar of commission; Cardoza, apparently angling to be the Azorean Godfather, is a liar of omission. The two seem to be rivals for the favors of the finance, insurance and real estate special interests that rule us because we don't seem to be able to get out of the squeeze table they put us in to brand, castrate and de-horn all the rest of us immigrants to the Valley.
Badlands Journal editorial board
San Joaquin Valley's tradition of bipartisan cooperation meets bitter end...Michael Doyle, McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- San Joaquin Valley lawmakers have begun open warfare, as water and health care passions have shattered the region's traditional bipartisan truce.
Democrats are demanding that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, apologize for his vehement rhetoric. Nunes, in turn, is holding his ground and says the Democrats he calls his friends deserve defeat in November.
Percolating for many months, the regional conflict turned scalding hot during the House of Representatives' debate on health care legislation.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, says it will be "very difficult" to collaborate again with Nunes unless the Republican repudiates allegations that Cardoza voted for health care legislation in return for an Interior Department water delivery decision.
"I am deeply, personally disappointed in Mr. Nunes and his comments," Cardoza said in an interview. "I think he should apologize." Driving the point home, Cardoza used the Portuguese denunciation "Ele no tem vergonha" in discussing his fellow member of the House Portuguese Caucus. The phrase roughly translates as "he has no shame," and it carries a big cultural wallop.
But Nunes, in turn, sternly denounces both Cardoza and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.
"They are part of this totalitarian regime in Washington," Nunes said, adding that "we know their votes are for sale, but we didn't know for how much." Nunes cited Costa's and Cardoza's support for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Nunes said Pelosi and her lieutenant, Rep. George Miller, D-Concord, want to cut off Valley irrigation water because "they are radical environmental crazies," and he explicitly likened the House leaders' water policies to those of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the current Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe.
Saddam's forces killed between 30,000 and 60,000 of the so-called Marsh Arabs in the early 1990s, following an uprising encouraged by the first Bush administration after the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. Saddam's campaign included destroying marshlands. Mugabe's corrupt security forces practice torture and "politically motivated, arbitrary and unlawful killings," according to the State Department's annual human rights report. Some activists allege Mugabe's repressive tactics include cutting off water supplies to dissident cities.
Nunes further says House Democrats employ "staff thugs," who watch over lawmakers during votes.
"They have chosen to go down this road, into this left-wing gutter," Nunes said of Costa and Cardoza.
In this fight, legislation and congressional effectiveness are becoming collateral damage. Nunes repeatedly has been blocked from offering California water amendments, which has fueled his frustration.
In turn, he sharpens his own weapons.
On Wednesday, a House subcommittee was scheduled to approve Costa's legislation offering federal funds for California water projects during droughts. Farmers support it.
Costa, though, withdrew his bill in the face of amendments prepared by Nunes and other Republicans. Viewed politically, the amendments waiving the Endangered Species Act and turning on California irrigation pumps would box Costa into an election-year corner. Voting for them would have rendered the bill unpalatable to other Democrats.
Voting against them would have seemed anti-farmer.
Costa said other reasons contributed to the bill's postponement. He added, though, that "baseless and extreme rhetoric" has undercut Nunes' credibility.
"I think that, beginning last summer, his antics have thrown the tradition of bipartisanship out the window, and that saddens me," Costa said.
Though rivalries have always existed, including within the same party, Valley lawmakers have long preferred a collaborative spirit. Cardoza and his predecessor, Gary Condit, for instance, declined to campaign against their then-Republican colleague, Richard Pombo of Tracy.
"The understanding we had was that we would never take on our Valley people," recalled Tony Coelho, the former Dos Palos-area Democratic congressman who worked on Capitol Hill for 25 years. "We had to work together to solve our problems." Now, there are more fissures that began opening last year amid heated disagreements over San Joaquin River restoration plans.
Recently, for instance, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein authored an amendment to increase irrigation deliveries to Valley farms. Feinstein distributed the legislative language to other congressional offices.
Nunes, however, was deliberately excluded, and even other Valley offices would not share the sensitive documents with him.
"Devin has gone to such an extreme that I don't know how he's going to be effective," said Coelho, the House majority whip during the late 1980s. "He is making himself irrelevant." Nathan Monroe, a UC Merced political scientist, predicted that "through the November election" water disputes will "continue to cause friction." Longer term, though, he suggested political self-interest could reunite feuding members.
"When it benefits these congressmen, their constituents and their re-election chances to work again on Valley issues, I expect they'll do it without hesitation," Monroe said.