UC Gargantua, the monthly update

With apologies to Rabelais, a question, not serious certainly: How did a large expanse of land, containing a majestic mountain range, a fertile plain often flooded, 15-20 raging rivers, a mountainous coast containing a few tiny seaports and some good bays, populated 160 years ago by 100 Indian tribes too small to do more than squirmish with each other, the owners of some scattered Mexican land grants, a string of mining camps in the Sierra foothills and the odd sailor or farmer, grow so large that it cannot provide enough water
for its present residents?

Seriously, an educated population would not be so stupid. But, of course, this is not a serious question because it is about California, a state that has been incapable of governing itself due to the cancerous growth of its population for at least 40 years. Yet it has what is invariably described at the "greatest," "the best," and always "the largest" system of public higher education "in the world." With such a magnificent edifice to higher education and research, how could California have reached such an elemental impass?

That, too, isn't a serious question because we are talking about the University of California Gargantua, inventor of nuclear weapons, midwife to the biotechnology revolution, mother of countless pesticides and so many other boons to humanity the mind swoons to even try to imagine how much good UC has done California and the world. How fondly we recall UC's recent contribution to air pollution science with its studies on cow farts. And just last week, UC scientists announced that agricultural crops were a
significant source of hundreds of tons of hydrocarbons, the key component of smog.

However, lest you think that science is fragmentary and nonsensical and never really gives us answers, UC Merced, our own local bit of The Blue and The Gold, The Golden Bobcat Itself, is only asking $200 million in public funds to establish a medical school right here in the worst air-pollution zone in the nation. When you put the flatulence from cows, almonds, cotton and sundry row crops together, mix with diesel exhaust and
commuter cars and you got beige skies and the highest child asthma rates in the nation. You also have an ideal location for a medical research facility specializing in respiratory illness.

So, from an educated perspective, your child's misfortune is a benefit for a medical researcher. So, be happy. Progress is happening all around you, thanks to the benefits of the greatest research higher education institution in the world, your one and only UC Gargantua, the Real Big School. You should be happy that your environment has given you this unique opportunity to serve the cause of higher education and research science.

Managing the Real Big School takes a Real Big Man for a Real Big Salary.

Richard Blum, the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and chairman of the UC Board of Regents, doesn't think much of the current president of UC. He wanted a more dynamic fellow in the chair. So, he went out and bought in Texas, for a salary of about a million dollars of public funds a year, about 76 percent more than his predecessor, receives, 80 percent more than the Hun, our governor, receives, but only 60 percent more than The Decider, Mr. Mission Accomplished in the White House receives.

Richard Blum, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, said when the appointment was
announced. "One of the problems the university has had is we need to step up and be competitive."

UC is already the largest public higher education research university in the nation (or the world, the press and UC are vague on the difference), so UC cannot be competing with mere universities. Given the paltry sum the president of the US receives, UC cannot be competing with just any old imperial powers on the planet. We think Blum seeks to lead UC to become the world's largest public higher education research kleptocracy, perhaps using former Soviet republics as his model.

How long will it be before the UC budget will be larger than California's budget? It's not a serious question, because no one knows the size of the UC budget anymore than anyone knows the size of the Pentagon budget. The less you know about the UC budget the better. Otherwise you might fret, which would be serious.

UC Gargantua bills itself as a 10-campus system open to high school graduates with 3.0 gpa's, per the Master Plan for Higher Education (1965 -- when state population was half of what it is today). But, as in its budgets and executive compensation packages, other things keep cropping up. Outside of the New Mexico Los Alamos National Laboratory, of course. The latest revelation is "UC Moorea," located in the Society Islands (Tahiti et al) in the South Pacific. Its official name is the Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research
Station in honor of the donor of the land, long-time owner of Gumps,

An emporium of engaging galleries featuring advanced, classic and custom jewelry, Asian,
American and European art objects, mastercrafts, gifts and decorative home accessories. This East/West shopping experience also includes the world's best selelctions of crystal and china, a vast collection of silver, along with bed, bath and personal, ambient frangrance selections.

Gump himself was for more than 50 years to arbiter of taste and refinement in Pacific Heights salons, bon vivant, musician, denizen of the South Pacific and leader of a once famous SF oom-pah band.

UC-Moorea, known as the university's "best-kept secret," is 35 acres of South Pacific paradise, but, according to UC's superbly confected flak, it is doing serious research in several views, including biology, archeology and sustainable development.

One subject that must be excercising the best biological minds at UC is the outbreak of Glassy-Eyed Sharp Shooters, bearing the evil Pierce's Disease, that have arrived and florished on the Society Islands since 1999. This is a serious research topic, so don't take it seriously, this is just the monthly update on UC Gargantua.

And if you really don't want to take something seriously, we suggest you consider a recent Australian scientific expedition to Bikini Atoll, site of numerous nuclear tests in the 1950s. The coral around Bikini, the Aussies report, has regenerating and grown very tall and imposing. However, geiger counters "go berzerk" around the coconuts, still too contaminated after all these years for anybody's consumption. Does coral get cancer?

Best to stay on Moorea sipping mai tais beneath the banyan chit-chatting about sharp shooters and research assistants' bikinis. Part of being "competitive" is never remembering your past.

There is so much else to report about UC Gargantua the mind reels at the responsibility. UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang was recently back in Washington DC meeting congressional staff to make relationships, not to ask for (and be refused) money. We thought UC had lobbyists to meet with congressional staff and that campus chancellors might get to run with the big dogs. But UC Merced, known as "The Boondoggle," is not actually very reputable back where the public funds flow. However, Kang did stop by the Department of Energy, which has some sort of vague oversight over nuclear labs like Livermore and Los Alamos. A bombing range to go with the fantasy medical school? Perhaps the San Joaquin Valley population is not yet sick enough to get the big medical bucks so Merced is still in the Tracy league of bombs and biological warfare labs. (And cow farts, of course, along with a research station in Yosemite for biologically inclined hikers.)

Nevertheless, Professor John Yoo, of torture-memo fame, is back in the news. Yoo teaches law at UC Berkeley Boalt Hall. The House Judiciary Committee has summoned him to testify after his recent Esquire interview. This morning, the UK Guardian reviewed a new book on torture at Guantanamo, in which top military brass make an interesting case that all the responsibility for US military torture of captives should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Bush adminstration lawyers, including Yoo.

The Bush administration has tried to explain away the ill-treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by blaming junior officials. Sands' book establishes that pressure for aggressive and cruel treatment of detainees came from the top and was sanctioned by the most senior lawyers.

Myers was one top official who did not understand the implications of what was being done. Sands, who spent three hours with the former general, says he was "confused" about the decisions that were taken.

Myers mistakenly believed that new techniques recommended by Haynes and authorised by Rumsfeld in December 2002 for use by the military at Guantánamo had been taken from the US army field manual. They included hooding, sensory deprivation, and physical and mental abuse. (Myers is evidently way too high in the brass to actually read the manuals himself -- ed.)

"As we worked through the list of techniques, Myers became increasingly hesitant and troubled," writes Sands. "Haynes and Rumsfeld had been able to run rings around him."

Myers and his closest advisers were cut out of the decision-making process. He did not know that Bush administration officials were changing the rules allowing interrogation techniques, including the use of dogs, amounting to torture.

"We never authorised torture, we just didn't, not what we would do," Myers said. Sands comments: "He really had taken his eye off the ball ... he didn't ask too many questions ... and kept his distance from the decision-making process."

Larry Wilkerson, a former army officer and chief of staff to Colin Powell, US secretary of state at the time, told the Guardian: "I do know that Rumsfeld had neutralised the chairman [Myers] in many significant ways.

"The secretary did this by cutting [Myers] out of important communications, meetings, deliberations and plans.

"At the end of the day, however, Dick Myers was not a very powerful chairman in the first place, one reason Rumsfeld recommended him for the job".

He added: "Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzalez and - at the apex - Addington, should never travel outside the US, except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court."

I know I feel more secure just knowing that John Yoo is teaching future California lawyers. About the time we hit 50 million people, the state will need legal architects of the totalitarianism necessary to really govern once again, after term limits will have given way to "unitary executive" power in the governor's office and the UC president will be making a billion a year and the university will be rejecting 6.2581 gpa's from our state's finest gated public high schools.

Meanwhile, California high school graduates with adequate gpa's can't get into the UC campus of their choice and more may have to come to UC Merced as a result, treating the campus as a glorified junior college for the first two years of their undergraduate careers. Nevertheless, jocks still get the nod at the campus that chose them, regardless of their gpa's.

It is always difficult to conclude our updates on UC The Gargantuan "Scientific" Kleptocracy. However, we might suggest that next to UC, the California Legislature and the Hun Our Governor looks modest and responsible.

Don't worry. This is not serious. Just because it's happening doesn't make it real. Surreal, perhaps, but not real. Reality is something else, far, far from the world of Blum, Feinstein, Gump and Yoo.

Badlands Journal editorial board

The Guardian
Top Bush aides pushed for Guantánamo tortureSenior officials bypassed army chief to introduce interrogation methods...Richard Norton-Taylor

Modesto Bee
Even top students finding it hard to get into top colleges...MERRILL BALASSONE and DEB KOLLARS, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

Inside Bay Area
Crowded UC makes room for athletes
Critics say star players given priority over low-income, high-GPA scholars...Matt Krupnick

Berkeley Dean Defends Law Professor...PAMELA HESS

Democratic Underground
Conyers Schedules Hearing with John Yoo...Paul Kiel

Merced Sun-Star
UC chancellor walks the halls in Washington...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureau

Stanislaus Alliance wins grant for biotech education
Objective is to draw firms to region, train workers...CHRISTINA SALERNO

Fresno Bee
Mean greens
Valley plants, trees may add to pollution by emitting tons of a key smog element....Mark Grossi

UC officials understated president's compensation
Numbers didn't include retirement deal...Daniel Borenstein

Bioone Online Journal
Pacific Science
Article: pp. 429–438 | Abstract | PDF (1.14M)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Coral reefs can easily be swamped in algae if there are too many nutrients in the water.
UCRL-MI-206535 Marshall Islands Program Briefing Document The effective and environmental
half-life of 137Cs at former U.S. nuclear test sites in the Marshall Islands T.F. Hamilton W.L. Robinson

The Scotsman
After 45 years, life returns to Armageddon atoll
Giant corals as tall as trees tower under the surface, but on shore, coconuts are still too radioactive to eat ...JENNY HAWORTH

Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station-Moorea, French Polynesia

Inside Bay Area
Amid state budget crunch, UC runs island 'paradise'
Tropical research site a bargain, defenders say...Steve Geissinger, MedianNews Sacramento Bureau