Merced River property owners urge friends and neighbors to support Claudine Sherron for Supervisor

Submitted: May 30, 2008

Merced River Property Owners Group
e-mail: mercedriverprop@elite.net

May 28, 2008

Update to River Property Owners and District 4 Citizens:

The purpose of this letter is to encourage you to vote for Claudine Sherron for Merced County Supervisor in District 4.

Support of Claudine Sherron has grown out of the following issues:

1. The Amsterdam/Hopeton area is a large part of District 4 and contains the most significant natural resource in the County, the Merced River. Under the auspices of the current District 4 Supervisor, the citizens of the Amsterdam and Hopeton areas (and the River) totally lack representation. The Supervisor’s website does not even list us as being part of her constituency.

2. The manner in which the Farm Bureau endorsement was secured for the current Supervisor, while consistent with Farm Bureau’s bylaws, had the perception of impropriety: The current Supervisor’s husband is a member of the Board and was present during the vote. Only the Board members (and their special invited guests) heard the presentations by the candidates. Only seven of 28 board members were required to be present to constitute a quorum. The written remarks of all candidates who spoke at the Board meeting were published, except for those of Claudine Sherron. District 4 is the only District in which the Board made an endorsement, despite a hotly-contested race in District 2.

3. The current Supervisor, Ms. Kelsey, is widely credited for being the only Supervisor who opposed the Riverside Motor Park project; in fact, Ms. Kelsey approached a member of our community who has an interest in racing and assured him that she was in support of RMP. Only when it became evident that there was a groundswell of community opposition to this project, did Ms. Kelsey adopt her anti-RMP stance.

4. A letter (copy, attached), which has been widely circulated, raises troubling questions about Ms. Kelsey’s support of the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center (SJRRC), a well-known environmental group. This appears to represent a major conflict of interest. In essence, Ms. Kelsey, through the Kelsey Family donations, was supporting the action of SJRRC in bringing suits against the County.

5. A review of Ms. Kelsey’s financial campaign statements shows a significant dollar amount of contributions from out-of-town developers and construction related companies. Why were developers in Carmel, Monterey, Danville, Del Mar, Fresno, Sacramento, and Pleasanton motivated to support a Merced County supervisor. Do you think those developers will come back and clean up the mess in our County? [An interesting related issue: Ms. Kelsey supports a housing development which would add 3,880 homes to the tiny town of Stevinson, population 400.]

6. Each Supervisor receives an annual discretionary fund, raised from $25,000 each to $100,000 each in 2005/2006.

District 4 has paid $2,000 for UC-Merced Student Development costs; $12,500 toward restoration of the Snelling Courthouse (which project has since been abandoned); $1,500 toward the Atwater High School Hawaii Invitational Band Trip; $4,400 for 4th of July celebrations in Gustine and Delhi; and $25,000 for the City of Gustine Economic Development projects among $269,000 in projects favored by Ms. Kelsey since FY 2004. There were no funds allocated for Amsterdam or Hopeton. Private donations were solicited when the Merced River School Multi-purpose room needed improvements which the students use every day.

It appears that this is how politics are conducted in 2008. We think Merced County deserves better!

‚ Every citizen deserves representation: Each of us pays taxes; what do we have to pay to get the representation afforded the out-of-town developers?
‚ Farmers are generally fair-minded and want the organizations which represent them to provide a level playing field based on issues, not favoritism.
‚ Citizens deserve a consistent response to issues which affect them, a response based on careful evaluation of available information not changeable depending on what the voter wants to hear.
‚ After 13 years it is time for a new perspective from a Supervisor with no agenda except to do what is best for District 4 and Merced County. It is time to start fresh.


Pat Bettencourt Ferrigno, Coordinator
Merced River Property Owners Group

Claudine Sherron has no discretionary fund or election war chest. If you would like to make a financial contribution, please send your check payable to “Claudine Sherron, Candidate for Supervisor” to Claudine at P. O. Box 185, Ballico, CA 95303.

The next meeting of the Merced River Stakeholders will be on the third Monday in July; watch for agenda to be circulated.

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Raptor Center thanks contributors

Submitted: May 27, 2008

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341

The San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center would like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the tremendous support through the years provided by a small group of prominent officials and organizations.

The Raptor Center knows that this expression of gratitude for contributions to its projects and lawsuits is long overdue. The Raptor Center apologizes for its tardiness, but hopes these contributors will accept our gratitude.

First, the Raptor Center wishes to express its deepest gratitude and applause for Lowmac, who for a decade has searched local, regional and national press every day for stories indispensable for our work and has distributed these stories to us and many others involved in work that supports and is supported by the Raptor Center. Lowmac also provides a complete weekly schedule of important meetings in the county. There is no way to thank lowmac enough for the voluntary dedication and education lowmac provides daily. Lowmac’s daily clipping service has been the best news digest in the Valley since 1999.

The Raptor Center needs to express its profound gratitude to the Natural Resources Defense Council for 20 years of diligent, painstaking and protracted representation in court and in Congress in our common effort to restore the San Joaquin River and its watershed.

The Raptor Center wishes to publicly acknowledge the long-time, consistent in-kind support it has received from Cal Eggs (Rebecca Farms.)

The Raptor Center would like to publicly acknowledge the Kelsey Family, long-time Snelling ranchers, for contributions to Raptor Center lawsuits through the years. The Kelseys have never sought publicity for their contributions and have consistently dodged the limelight for their deep commitment to natural resources, environmental health and wildlife species, at this time the Raptor Center believes that the public ought to know about the Kelsey Family contributions. The Raptor Center also thanks the Kelsey Family for gifts from its bountiful harvests through the years – the Clementines.

The Raptor Center expresses its gratitude to Merced County Planning Commissioner Cynthia Lashbrook, for her contributions to help fund lawsuits the Raptor Center has undertaken. Although Commissioner Lashbrook’s commitment to the Merced environment and farmland has been manifest for years, the Raptor Center hopes that our acknowledgement will add to her fine reputation.

The Raptor Center wants to thank the Merced County Farm Bureau Board of Directors for its outstanding contributions to projects and especially to lawsuits through the years. It has been a great relationship and we sincerely hope it will continue for many years to come.

The Raptor Center expresses its gratitude to several members of the board of directors of the East Merced Resource Conservation District for contributions to projects and legal funds through the years. The EMRCD has labored long and hard for the good of the natural resources in eastern Merced County.

The Raptor Center is grateful for the financial support it has received through the years from the Peninsula Community Foundation of Palo Alto.

The Merced Fish and Game Club has generously contributed to the Raptor Center for many years and the Center wishes to express its deep gratitude to its members.

The Raptor Center realizes that these select individuals and groups are only a handful among the many who contribute to its work on behalf of the natural resources of Merced County. From time to time, we will publish more names of other contributors. We hope, by publishing these short lists, to give proper, public acknowledge for all the quiet, unheralded work these fine, public-spirited and concerned citizens have done behind the scenes to help protect our environment and wildlife species in Merced County.

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center
P.O. Box 778
Merced, CA 95341


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Resource Conservation District Assistance Program watershed coordinator grant program

Submitted: Apr 29, 2008

Resource Conservation District Assistance Program watershed coordinator grant program
2007 Watershed Coordinator Grant Program Final Decision List

The Department of Conservation (Department) is pleased to announce its 2007 Watershed Coordinator Grant Program Final Decision.

Final Decision List (PDF) available at:

The Department’s decision is the result of an extremely competitive process and an impressive response from special districts, local governments, and non-profits throughout the state. The Department received 86 proposals requesting over $19 million in funding. The large number of proposals received reflects the great need for watershed coordination in the state. The $9 million allocated for this three-year grant program was sufficient to fund only half of the submitted proposals. The review committee recognized that there were many compelling and high-quality proposals that could not be recommended for due to funding constraints.

The Department encourages organizations which were not recommended for funding to continue watershed work through other means if possible. The management of water resources and the improvement of impaired watersheds is a high priority for the State, and watershed coordinators have shown great success in both areas.

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Merced County Planning Commission behavior outrageous

Submitted: Apr 04, 2008

Lydia Miller, President Steve Burke
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center Protect Our Water (POW)
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center 3105 Yorkshire Lane
P.O. Box 778 Modesto, CA 95350
Merced, CA 95341 (209) 489-9178, ph
(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax

Merced County Board of Supervisors
2222 M Street
Merced, California 95340
Fax: (209) 726-7977
Ph: (209) 385-7366
dist1@co.merced.ca.us ; dist2@co.merced.ca.us ;
dist3@co.merced.ca.us ; Dist4@co.merced.ca.us ;

Dee Tatum
Chief Administrative Officer

Robert Lewis
Director of Planning and Economic Development

James Fincher
County Counsel

Paul A. Fillebrown
Director of Public Works
209-735-3989 Fax

Re: Planning Commissioner Sloan intimidates, censors, and harasses the public and staff on March 26, 2008 Hearing (Felix Torres: CUP #MM07-025-1st Modification to CUP#05-031 and Minor Deviation)

April 4, 2008 Via: E-mail

Members of the Board,

Planning Commission Chairman Steve Sloan violated the public right to present testimony on a number of occasions at the March 26 Planning Commission hearing.

A member of the public attempted to read the resignation letter of Mary Stillahn, Confidential Secretary to the Merced County Housing Authority, which shed valuable light on the decision-making process of the project proponent. Chairman Sloan interrupted the member of the public numerous times.

Chairman Sloan denied the public its right to hear critical information during the testimony given by a County employee, Mr. Richard Graves, C.B.O., Deputy Building Official for Merced County. This testimony was not heard at the hearing held on February 27, 2008. The public, Commissioners, agencies, and staff did not have access to this information. Mr. Sloan not only interrupted Mr. Graves, he directed him to skip immediately to his concluding paragraph.

Department staff is not subject to time limits during a public hearing. Commissioner Sloan gave Mr. Graves five minutes. Mr. Graves’ letter included evidence of 22 omissions and violations.

Chairman Sloan censored public testimony and the other commissioners and County Counsel went along with it. He badgered, harassed and attempted to intimidate members of the public and County staff who were presenting information essential to public and the commission’s understanding of the Felix Torres project. He interfered with his own commission’s decision-making process. Chairman Sloan displayed outrageous bias in favor of project proponents and against important evidence from two public employees about deep flaws in this project.

At the Felix Torres hearing, the public also discovered that the County was ignorant of the recent legal settlement between Planada Community Services District and San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water restricting the district’s wastewater capacity, which would impact this project if it were within the PCSD boundaries. The County was unaware that the project is outside of district boundaries, which means that the district cannot serve the camp.

Chairman Sloan’s conduct during the Felix Torres hearing was outrageous. We request that the Board of Supervisors direct him to reopen the public hearing on that project at the April 9 Planning Commission meeting and direct him review laws and regulations for running a public hearing in the state of California. If Chairman Sloan refuses, we request the Board to remove him from the Planning Commission.

Lydia M. Miller Steve Burke

Cc: Interested parties

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The 2008 honey bee deal

Submitted: Apr 02, 2008

The bee deal

The European Honey Bee was imported to North America is colonial times. In the course of its pollination work, it became a symbol of American agrarian industriousness. We see an indication of that in the names of the McClatchy newspapers -- Sacramento, Modesto and Fresno Bees -- in the region built on the greatest fruit, nut and vegetable production in the nation. Poetically, we might see an analogy between the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in the honey bees and Subprime Mortgage Disorder (SMD) in subdivisions that have replaced so many agricultural fields and orchards in recent years. But, we aren't as poetic as the McClatchy chain.

Established agricultural scientific research, mainly coming from the land-grant university system, has identified several factors and tentatively suggested that no one factor in bee environment is causing the CCD, but that it is a combination of stresses. Arguments of both sides of the polarized debate around genetically engineered crops is inconclusive that their pollens are involved, however some land-grant university professors are willing to grant that it might be one weakening factor among others. The anti-GE forces continue to produce compelling information that, due to biotechnology corporate influence in the Clinton and Bush administrations, approval of GE crops was granted by the federal government without adequate human health studies as to their effects, and that US and Canadian citizens are now unwitting guinea pigs in a massive, unregulated dietary experiment. This would be somewhat similar to the recent SMD experiment in the credit markets conducted with such enthusiasm here in recent years, as we were unwittingly dragged from the "old" agricultural economy into the "new economy."

The "old" economy, however, is the devil we know. It was never particularly stable and this latest mess in the almonds, the largest market for rental bees in the world it seems, is another case of the original problem of high concentration of mono-cropping of a luxury crop humanity could actually do without, particularly this year with the lowest grain storage quantities since WWII and Third World food-importing nations scrambling to avoid famine. Add to this that a great many almond acres are simply plantings to hold land in agriculture to the tax advantage of developer owners, speculating on a future real estate boom, and it presents a view of extreme agricultural irresponsibility, sort of suicidal in fact. It looks more like Ricardo's dour thoughts on (land) Rents than like agriculture at all.

Nevertheless, although Adee, the South Dakota bee magnate, says (below) that he lost 40 percent of his bees in the California almond orchards this year, he didn't say he lost money on the deal. Aside from the 28,000 Sioux Falls honey bees that did not return from California this year -- about which no one seems to care anymore than Economic Man cares about anyone beyond his own family -- it is becoming likely that the California almond industry is a death trap for bees. And that has consequences far beyond the family of the grower or the investor in the almond deal, when it is considered that honey bees pollinates about a third of a commercially grown crops in the US.

The almond deal, however, can rest assured that as the land-grant university scientists dither on with their various hypotheses and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced ducks and runs from his House Agriculture subcommittee responsibilities including bees, one hypothesis that will never be considered, at least for funding, is what the effect of 600,000 acres of one crop -- largest magnet for bee rental in the nation -- is having on the nation's premier commercial fruit, nut and vegetable pollinator. This would challenge "scientific" laws of a much higher order of value: economic rather than merely biological.

So, we have a crop, almonds, that originated in China and Central Asia, brought on the Silk Road to Italy and Spain, and brought to California by Spanish missionaries, that must, at least at this quantity, be pollinated by a bee brought to the American Colonies by the English. Our 600,000-acre block supplies an estimated 80 percent of world production and draws in bees for its six-week pollination period from all over the nation and even other parts of the world for an annual International Honey Bee Jamboree, held simultaneously with the annual International Honey Bee Disease Festival.

There is a well-known analogy here: the San Joaquin Valley's huge blocks of mono-cropped orchards and vineyards have attracted the largest infestations of pests ever known -- a great boon to land-grant university pesticide researchers and manufacturers. Evidently, when economic and biological laws conflict, scientists and biotechnology corporations make money. This process has looped around to the point -- all scientists seem to agree on this -- that the pesticides in the Valley are one of the causes for CCD.

We have discovered nothing in this brief essay. However we may be able to salvage something because, unwittingly, we might have rediscovered the definition of "junk science." This term is widely used at least in the state Capitol and no doubt in Washington, wherever committees meet on natural resource or agricultural issues. We think it can be defined as: "data from the natural sciences that in any way conflicts with special economic interests." When legislators start babbling about "junk science," typically prodded on in their opinions by lobbyists and economically pliable scientific experts consulting for special interests, it is necessary for the public to "scientifically" research the legislators' property, business involvements, those of their campaign contributors, and make sure who's paying the "expert," before accepting the derogatory judgment and legislative consequences. The failure of this sort of science has led, in other realms, to blind acceptance of weird formulas designed to create the illusion that the latest crop of Nobel Prize-winning geniuses had erased investment risk from economic history.

Contemplating this example of "junk" math and its consequences raises the issue of what the general public, not arrayed in any special-interest bloc, fewer by the day in our region being able to afford a can of salted, oiled and smoke-flavored almonds, can do to defend the environment against continual depredations by increasingly lethal special interests in control of the government and most media outlets. While the term, "in the public interest," is still bandied about by government, it is frequently used against the public on behalf of special interests. The poor old Common Good"appears in recent years to have gone the way of the Rights of Man.

Moving from the scientific to the legal quagmire we now call the Homeland, we might faintly echo Christopher Stone's question about forests by asking: "Do Honey Bees have rights?" Other questions in this vein that occur are: Do beekeepers have public responsibilities? Do California almond growers have public responsibilities with regard to pollinators? Is CCD a genuinely public issue in which the public -- to be carefully distinguished from land-grant universities' research priorities and funders -- is the only advocate possible for the bees? So far, reports are nearly unanimous in covering the story strictly from the point of view of the economic interests of farmers and beekeepers. Yet, reporters dutifully mention the datum that they pollinate 90 US commercial crops. Sometimes, Einstein's speculation is brought in: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left." Of course, we aren't talking about the disappearance of all bees, just the European Honey Bee. But CCD is, at the very least, an unsettling precedent.

There is something grotesque about looking at so much massive death of a species so valuable to all of us and to nature itself, as well as being a creature valuable solely in its own right, totally in terms of the economic problems of its "owners and users;" and, to the extent that deals like almonds are export-led, to other people and industries as well. However, though it is not fundamentally an economic story, there is something equally horrible about never mentioning the scale of "ownership" and "use," as if bigger is always better in agriculture. "Science" is looking everywhere but at its alliance with the special interests it serves in the name of the public interest.

While the Fed is busy printing billions socializing Wall Street's private debt, you'd think they could print a few hundred millions without any special-interest strings attached to help save the bees, considerably and consistently better citizens than your average hedge-fund CEO. And Congress, which seems to have rediscovered its power to regulate, should do what regulation can do to help the situation, and not, under any circumstances listen to some phony "win-win/public-private" crap apt to come from the mouth of the Ol' Shrimp Slayer, now representing his rotten borough, which includes most of the California almond deal, from residence inside the Beltway.

Badlands Journal editorial board

AP/Google News
Mystery Die-Off Worries Beekeepers...WAYNE ORTMAN (AP)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The California winter has been a tough one on South Dakota beekeepers like Richard Adee. Last fall he sent 155 semitrailer trucks to California loaded with hives containing bees fit and ready to pollinate the almond crop.
"We lost 40 percent of the hives we sent there. We sent 70,000 out and lost 28,000," said Adee, whose Adee Honey Farms in Bruce is considered the largest beekeeping operation in the nation."I would say overall the losses of South Dakota bees — from what I've heard — from what they started in the spring of '07 until they came out of the almonds is at least 50 percent. It's not good."
Now, in preparation for the honey-making season in South Dakota, he's working to get back to full strength from a mystery called colony collapse disorder.No one's really sure what's causing the disorder, evident when adult bees abandon the hive...The U.S. Agriculture Department has earmarked money and research to solving CCD because it says one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.
"As beekeepers we're confused and the scientific community is even more confused because they feel like they should be able to figure this out and get a handle on it, and yet there are so many variables they are just having a problem," said Adee, chairman of the legislative committee for the American Honey Producers Association.
Researchers with the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture are chasing various theories about CCD, said Jon Lundgren, an ARS entomologist in Brookings not directly involved in the research.Among the possible causes are parasites, a virus, or pesticides.It may be a several factors resulting from stress on the bees, he said...The California almond industry covers about 600,000 acres and prefers two bee colonies per acre to do a good job during a pollinating season that lasts about six weeks.

The Independent (UK)
Albert Einstein speculated that "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left."
Species under threat: Honey, who shrunk the bee population?
Across America, millions of honey bees are abandoning their hives and flying off to die, leaving beekeepers facing ruin and US agriculture under threat. And to date, no one knows why...Michael McCarthy

It has echoes of a murder mystery in polite society. There could hardly be a more sedate and unruffled world than beekeeping, but the beekeepers of the United States have suddenly encountered affliction, calamity and death on a massive scale. And they have not got a clue why it is happening.
Across the country, from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, honey bee colonies have started to die off, abruptly and decisively. Millions of bees are abandoning their hives and flying off to die (they cannot survive as a colony without the queen, who is always left behind).
Some beekeepers, especially those with big portable apiaries, or bee farms, which are used for large-scale pollination of fruit and vegetable crops, are facing commercial ruin - and there is a growing threat that America's agriculture may be struck a mortal blow by the loss of the pollinators. Yet scientists investigating the problem have no idea what is causing it.
The phenomenon is recent, dating back to autumn, when beekeepers along the east coast of the US started to notice the die-offs. It was given the name of fall dwindle disease, but now it has been renamed to reflect better its dramatic nature, and is known as colony collapse disorder.It is swift in its effect. Over the course of a week the majority of the bees in an affected colony will flee the hive and disappear, going off to die elsewhere. The few remaining insects are then found to be enormously diseased - they have a "tremendous pathogen load", the scientists say. But why? No one yet knows.
"We are extremely alarmed," said Diana Cox-Foster, the professor of Entomology at Penn States University and one of the leading members of a specially convened colony-collapse disorder working group."It is one of the most alarming insect diseases ever to hit the US and it has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry. In some ways it may be to the insect world what foot-and-mouth disease was to livestock in England."
Most of the pollination for more than 90 commercial crops grown throughout the United States is provided byApis mellifera, the honey bee, and the value from the pollination to agricultural output in the country is estimated at $14.6bn (£8bn) annually. Growers rent about 1.5 million colonies each year to pollinate crops - a colony usually being the group of bees in a hive.
California's almond crop, which is the biggest in the world, stretching over more than half a million acres over the state's central valley, now draws more than half of the mobile bee colonies in America at pollinating time - which is now. Some big commercial beekeeping operations which have been hit hard by the current disease have had to import millions of bees from Australia to enable the almond trees to be pollinated.
Some of these mobile apiaries have been losing 60 or 70 per cent of their insects, or even more. "A honey producer in Pennsylvania doing local pollination, Larry Curtis, has gone from 1,000 bee colonies to fewer than eight," said Professor Cox-Foster. The disease showed a completely new set of symptoms, "which does not seem to match anything in the literature", said the entomologist...
Professor Cox-Foster went on: "And another unusual symptom that we're are seeing, which makes this very different, is that normally when a bee colony gets weak and its numbers are decreasing, other neighbouring bees will come and steal the resources - they will take away the honey and the pollen. Other insects like to take advantage too, such as the wax moth or the hive beetle. But none of this is happening. These insects are not coming in.This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them."
The scientists involved in the working group were surveying the dead colonies but did not think the cause of the deaths was anything brought in by beekeepers, such as pesticides, she said.Another of the researchers studying the collapses, Dennis van Engelsdorp, a bee specialist with the State of Pennsylvania, said it was still difficult to gauge their full extent. It was possible that the bees were fleeing the colonies because they sensed they themselves were diseased or affected in some way, he said. This behaviour has been recorded in other social insects, such as ants.
The introduction of the parasitic bee mite Varroa in 1987 and the invasion of the Africanised honey bee in 1990 have threatened honey bee colonies in the US and in other parts of the world, but although serious, they were easily comprehensible; colony collapse disorder is a deep mystery.
One theory is that the bees may be suffering from stress as beekeepers increasingly transport them around the country, the hives stacked on top of each other on the backs of trucks, to carry out pollination contracts in orchard after orchard, in different states.
Tens of billions of bees are now involved in this "migratory" pollination. An operator might go from pollinating oranges in Florida, to apples in Pennsylvania, to blueberries in Maine, then back to Massachusetts to pollinate cranberries.
The business is so big that pollination is replacing honey-making as the main money earner at the top end of the beekeeping market, not least because in recent years the US has been flooded with cheap honey imports, mainly from Argentina and China...

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What's happening here?

Submitted: Mar 24, 2008
In his history of the Great Crash, economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted, “Congress was concerned that commercial banks in general and member banks of the Federal Reserve System in particular had both aggravated and been damaged by stock market decline partly because of their direct and indirect involvement in the trading and ownership of speculative securities.

“The legislative history of the Glass-Steagall Act,” Galbraith continued, “shows that Congress also had in mind and repeatedly focused on the more subtle hazards that arise when a commercial bank goes beyond the business of acting as fiduciary or managing agent and enters the investment banking business either directly or by establishing an affiliate to hold and sell particular investments.” Galbraith noted that “During 1929 one investment house, Goldman, Sachs & Company, organized and sold nearly a billion dollars' worth of securities in three interconnected investment trusts--Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation; Shenandoah Corporation; and Blue Ridge Corporation. All eventually depreciated virtually to nothing” ...

Scholes’ and Mertons’ fundamental axioms of risk, the assumptions on which all their models were built, were wrong. They had been built on sand, fundamentally and catastrophically wrong. Their mathematical options pricing model assumed that there were Perfect Markets, markets so extremely deep that traders' actions could not affect prices. They assumed that markets and players were rational. Reality suggested the opposite—markets were fundamentally irrational in the long-term. But the risk pricing models of Black, Scholes and others over the past two or more decades had allowed banks and financial institutions to argue that traditional lending prudence was old fashioned. With suitable options insurance, risk was no longer a worry. Eat, drink and be merry...

That, of course, ignored actual market conditions in every major market panic since Black-Scholes model was introduced on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. It ignored the fundamental role of options and ‘portfolio insurance’ in the Crash of 1987; it ignored the causes of the panic that in 1998 brought down Long Term Capital Management – of which Scholes and Merton were both partners. Wall Street blissfully ignored the obvious along with the economists and governors in the Greenspan Fed.

Financial markets, contrary to the religious dogma taught at every business school since decades, were not smooth, well-behaved models following the Gaussian Bell-shaped Curve as if it were a law of the universe. The fact that the main architects of modern theories of financial engineering—now given the serious-sounding name ‘financial economics’—all got Nobel prizes, gave the flawed models the aura of Papal infallibility. Only three years after the 1987 crash the Nobel Committee in Sweden gave Harry Markowitz and Merton Miller the prize. In 1997 amid the Asia crisis, it gave the award to Robert Merton and Myron Scholes...

The nature of the fatally flawed risk models used by Wall Street, by Moody’s, by the securities Monoline insurers and by the economists of the US Government and Federal Reserve was such that they all assumed recessions were no longer possible, as risk could be indefinitely diffused and spread across the globe... F. William Engdahl, The Financial Tsunami, http://www.globalresearch.ca

The community was shaken Thursday by the news that County Bank (corporate headquarters in Merced) was experiencing difficulties. It's stock had lost 90 percent of its value in two years, down to $3.76 a share on Wednesday, having lost half its value from the previous day. The CEO retired.

With the exception of a rather dramatic graph on the first page -- a jagged descending line showing the drop in stock price -- the McClatchy Chain covered the story as a momentary "blip." It called upon Valley economic gurus Tappan Munroe and Lon Hatamiya (former state commerce secretary under Gov. Gray Davis) for perspective. Munroe's insoucant metaphor, a "souffle with the air slowly leaking out," aptly caught the perspective of our witless Valley economic gurus.

But, that wasn't, and no doubt isn't, the end of the County Bank story. On Saturday, McClatchy reported that the bank stock had rebounded an astounding "72 percent," to $6.48. Problems over? A local builder, both a stockholder and client of County Bank, expressed his "personal opinion" that the bank is "very strong and very well-managed but the (real estate) values declining as rapidly as they did -- it just caught them by surprise."

McClatchy's Modesto outlet published a reassuring story Monday to the effect that local commercial banks didn't invest in subprime home loans and, while developers aren't always paying their loans at the moment and auto loans are a problem, their portfolios are adequately diversified to withstand the fallout from the general collapse of real estate values and foreclosures.

We'd like to go on record as saying that, beyond the stock price and information from public bank documents about its losses, we don't believe a word McClatchy has written about the problem. And the unasked questions are too numerous to list, but one could begin with the compensation for the retiring CEO, compensation for the economic gurus, was it involved at any stage in bundling subprime loans, and how will its losses affect it local agricultural lending this season?

What has happened is a massive loss of confidence, the end of every speculative bubble since the Dutch Tulip. We recall the early boosting of the bubble in Merced, when the same local builder was managing the reelection campaign of former state Sen. Dick Monteith, then claiming to the "real Mr. UC Merced." The builder and his candidate was "confidently" claiming UC Merced was a "done deal" when, in fact, as they knew well, it was not. So, forgive us for our skepticism that the local finance, insurance and real estate industry, bought politicians and McClatchy "were caught by surprise." The only real local question is: Who got to the souffle before it went flat?

The predatory lending practices that have caused a world credit crisis as well as our local crisis, were done here face-to-face by local lenders together with local realtors to local and speculative buyers. Judging by the rate of foreclosures in the north San Joaquin valley, one of the highest rates in the nation, there was an enormous amount of fraud committed here. In fact, it might be said that today the area is floating on a sea of "Liar Loans."

From the incredible amount of lying behind UC Merced, in which the local newspaper was thoroughly involved, to the rise and fall of the real estate value souffle, to this unhappy news about County Bank, there has been fraud, political manipulation, wholesale denial of environmental law and regulation and public process laws on the local, state and federal level, and a pattern of harassment of members of the public who asked any questions. This deceit has been broadly spread among what passes for "leadership" in Merced -- from the builder-politician to the Great Valley Center, UC regents and administrators of UC Merced and their boosters, municipal and county government, state and federal legislators, landowners, developers and lenders.

Saddest of all, few if any of the perpetrators regarded this as fraud or deceit. It was just good business. Alchemical formulas emanating from the nation's financial centers "proved" that risk was not risk and the more bad loans made the better. There were a few dissenting voices, but they were ignored as being, at the least, unpatriotic.

Local legacies of local greed include: a campus born with "complications," tremendous destruction of regional natural resources and wildlife habitat, the worst air quality in the nation, decreasing water quality and supply, local governments with swollen salaries for elected officials and department heads and shrinking budgets, unfinished subdivisions with empty houses and nervous residents, shaky banks, political corruption, bad news for the newspapers to cover over as best they can, and the same old compulsion to boost and to deny.

Badlands Journal editorial board

Merced Sun-Star
County Bank parent company anticipates first loss
CEO Thomas Hawker announces that he will step down when a replacement can be found....LESLIE ALBRECHT

Shares of Capital Corp of the West, the Merced-based parent company of County Bank, were hammered Wednesday following news that the company expects to post its first-ever yearly loss.
Capital Corp said it anticipates it will lose $4 million for 2007.
Shares were trading at $3.76 -- a seven-year low -- when the Nasdaq market closed, a 64 percent decline from the day's opening price. The one-day percentage drop was the largest recorded on any of the major U.S. stock exchanges Wednesday. A year ago, Capital Corp's stock traded at $26.55.
The company blamed its anticipated loss on "the rapid decline in real estate values in California's Central Valley in the fourth quarter of 2007." It was then that Merced led the nation in home-value depreciation, with prices plunging 19 percent between 2007 and 2006, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.
The drop in real estate values means the collateral backing County Bank loans is worth less than it was when the loans were made one or two years ago. Capital Corp must now reclassify those loans as riskier. That, in turn, means the bank must back the reclassified loans with more money than what's required to back more secure loans -- money that comes directly out of Capital Corp's revenue stream, Smith explained...
The loss isn't tied directly to the subprime mortgage meltdown, he added, because County Bank doesn't make many home mortgages or invest in subprime loans. However, the company does lend money to developers buying land, and that land is less valuable than it was a few years ago. "Even though the guy is still paying his loan, by federal law, we have to downgrade the loan because the quality of collateral has gone down," said Smith.
Capital Corp's current problems were foreshadowed in the summer of 2007 when the company reported that a foreclosed loan to a housing developer had put a $5 million dent in its quarterly income compared with the previous year...

Merced Sun-Star
Bank's shares bounce back 72%
Analyst says volatility a reflection of economic conditions and lower Valley real estate values...LESLIE ALBRECHT

Capital Corp of the West, the Merced-based parent company of County Bank, saw its stock rebound strongly Thursday, shooting up 72 percent from the seven-year low it hit earlier this week.
That drop had come after the company announced its first-ever yearly loss. Capital Corp expects to post a $4 million loss for 2007, the result of plunging real estate values.
At the Nasdaq's market close on Thursday, Capital Corp's stock price had risen to $6.48 a share, compared with $3.76 on Wednesday...
On Thursday Capital Corp put the focus on the present, announcing that unaudited internal financial reports from January and February show the bank has adequate capital on hand. The company had previously told federal regulators that it had fallen below what regulators consider "well-capitalized" status.
Joe Morford, a San Francisco-based analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said while the company's projected loss may be unsettling, it's typical of the problems California banks will probably face over the next year, especially in areas hard hit by the real estate slowdown.
"Six to 12 months from now, this is not going to look that unusual," said Morford. "We think there's going to be problems for several other banks both in the Central Valley and throughout the state."
He added, "A big part of the success of a community bank is the strength of its local market. Right now Merced and the Central Valley are having a real tough time. You're seeing the banks share that pain."...
On Wednesday, the company announced that it's forming a committee of board members to oversee bank operations; CEO Thomas Hawker will now report to the committee. Capital Corp also said it's hired financial advisers.
Those moves could be a sign that federal regulators are closely watching the bank, Morford suggested. "It looks like (regulators) are telling the bank that you need to raise capital, and there needs to be some changes in management," said Morford. "The regulators don't want to see County Bank fail, so they're doing what they can to ensure that doesn't happen."
Meanwhile, bank clients sounded a cautiously positive note Thursday. Local builder Bob Rucker, who's both a stockholder and client of County Bank, said he's watching intently. "The whole banking system is going through a major crisis right now with liquidity," said Rucker. "My personal opinion of the bank is that they're very strong and very well-managed, but the (real estate) values declining as rapidly as they did -- it just caught them by surprise."...

Modesto Bee
Valley's smaller banks eluding upheaval in financial industry
Area firms steer clear of most home loans, limiting fallout from crisis...BEN van der MEER

While giant banks such as Bear Stearns implode as an indirect result of the housing crisis, many of the community banks based in the Northern San Joaquin Valley report being largely insulated from such upheavals.
That's true even after last week, when Merced-based County Bank announced a $4 million loss in 2007, and then saw its stock lose more than half its value in one day before rallying late in the week.
Jeff Burda, president of Modesto Commerce Bank, said most community banks don't make many home loans, including the subprime loans that prompted the recent housing meltdown...
Other banks, like County Bank, may have avoided subprime securities, but made substantial loans to commercial builders. With new housing at a virtual standstill, those builders aren't building, Burda said, and loans aren't being paid...
Credit agencies that monitor banks over time on the basis of criteria such as earnings and liquidity take a more measured stance.
Bankrate.com, a consumer finance Web site, gave five valley community banks, including County, Bank of Stockton and Farmers & Merchants, ratings of three or four stars -- the same ratings most banks receive, with five stars being the best, according to the site...

Chancellor Kang's humility, skills seen as good fit for UC Merced...MICHELLE HATFIELD
MERCED -- Steve Kang has become a road warrior.
A different kind of leader
Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who stepped down as founding chancellor to return to teaching, is remembered for her stiff demeanor and commanding presence. (After going back to the classroom in 2006, Tomlinson-Keasey quietly retired in June, moving to Georgia. She couldn't be reached for comment.)...
Kang said he believes the best leaders are those who earn trust by example.
"You have to be part of a team...
"(Tomlinson-Keasey) never really went to small events. Chancellor Kang goes to everything. I think that's why he's so popular among students," said Brenda Ramirez, a psychology junior.
Goals and plans... Focus on students urged...

Getting UC Merced closer to permit approval from the Army Corps of Engineers for campus expansion and an adjacent university residence community
Starting a strategic planning process to guide the university's academic future
Drumming up community support for a medical school

Beef up student recruitment
Solve budget issues facing the campus, including lack of physical space for professors, students and research
Continue paving the road to a UC Merced medical school
Continue research initiatives among professors, focusing on issues specific to the Central Valley such as agriculture and water and air quality
Academic planning -- "Where are you going to be putting your resources? What do you want to be the best in the world at? You can't be the best at everything," UC President Robert Dynes said.

UC Merced Facts
Year opened: 2005
Number of students: 1,800
Number of employees: 884
Annual budget: $100 million
Size of campus: 18 buildings, 105 acres
Academics: 17 majors, 17 minors
Number of alumni: 76
Estimated amount of money generated by university: $1.2 billion since 2000 ...

Expansion compromise for UC Merced campus...Editorial
It took six years for the University of California Board of Regents to choose where in the San Joaquin Valley to build its 10th campus. It's already taken more than seven years for UC to figure out how to position the campus and the adjoining community on its selected site east of Merced.
What was the hang-up? Limiting the damage to wetlands and to native plants and animals, such as the bald eagle, fairy shrimp and Colusa grass...
Finally, last year, some meaningful conversations started taking place among UC, the corps and two other federal agencies, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. By October, the university announced it had a revised map that reduced the size of the campus and the placement of the community. Last month, the university submitted its formal permit application, which triggers an environmental review process that typically takes 12 to 14 months...
UC needs the Corps' permit to continue with its long-term campus plans, but it is just as essential that there will be shops, restaurants and other amenities close by for students and staff. Some current students and a number of prospective students complain about the isolation of the campus and how far it is into town.
Downsizing the campus by 100 acres does not reduce the academic choices or activities that UC Merced will offer. In fact, it is appropriate that the campus -- which already has won awards for environmental design and energy conservation -- should have a footprint that does the least possible damage to the environment.
It took too long, but we commend university officials and regulators for reaching what appears to be a good compromise.

If anyone can fix (or help) UC, it's this guy...Short Takes
The University of California system -- 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories -- is at a crossroads. With its leadership stepping down after five years; with UC's share of the state budget declining; with the economy changing rapidly; and with a need for innovation greater than ever, a new UC president will step into an extremely challenging environment. On top of these long-term issues is the need to recover from the 2005 controversy over administrative bloat and bonuses, stipends, relocation packages and other forms of unreported compensation to top administrators. Then there's California's short-term budget crisis, which will likely require increases in student fees and rethinking of financial aid. Fortunately, in Mark Yudof, a search committee has tapped the right person to serve as the next University of California president. This first-rate constitutional scholar and teacher has served as chancellor of the University of Minnesota system (1997 to 2002) and the University of Texas system (2002 to now). The UC system really needs someone from outside the system to bring in fresh ideas, fresh personnel and shake up old ways of doing business. Yudof is ideally suited to do that. An extremely effective manager, imaginative thinker and savvy political leader, amazingly he still finds time to teach. He knows how to deal with politicians and the state budget process, create endowed professorships, increase financial aid for students and encourage research partnerships. The UC system needs this kind of president. In a reduced and changing presidency, Yudof is perfect. The regents vote Thursday. They should approve him with unanimous enthusiasm.

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Qualified praise for Cardoza’s move to Washington

Submitted: Mar 16, 2008

To get the qualifications out of the way, we don’t like many of the political positions taken by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced. His record on environmental law has been a disgusting sellout to finance, insurance and real estate special interests in his district and his stint as the rear end of the Pomboza (head having been Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy) was disgraceful. Nor do we imagine those positions are likely to change.

Having said that, we can very well understand why a California congressman, any California congressman, would move his family to Washington, DC. There have been examples in Valley political lore – Harlen Hagen, John McFall and Tony Coelho come to mind – in which the congressman lost touch with the district, got too involved with Beltway corruption and fell from power. If memory serves, something similar happened to Jeffrey Cohelan of Oakland, defeated by Ron Dellums. John Burton got all screwed up in Washington and lost his seat. Phil Burton managed to keep the schedule and rise to Majority Whip, but none of the above could match Phil Burton for discipline, energy and intelligence – least of all Cardoza.

But it must be terribly hard to keep a family together under the circumstances of being a California congressman and rather than bash him for his move, we give him this qualified praise. Anyone trying to keep his family together these days deserves it.

He seems to have pulled a few strings with cronies in Maryland politics, like Rep. Steney Hoyer, his old mentor, and with the University of Maryland, his alma mater, to get his wife a decent medical job. Don’t people often ask congressmen to pull strings for them? Isn’t that one of the major functions of a congressman?

Presumably, Cardoza will return to his district less often and become more engaged with inner-Beltway work like his new position with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, revolutionized by Coelho before his fall, described in Brooks Jackson’s Honest Graft. But, as far as contact with his district is concerned, Cardoza was never much good at it anyway. His “townhall” meetings were absurd and he never has listened to much more than a handful of local plutocrats anyway. They’ll still have his cell phone number. This way, the public may be spared a dose or two of his bathetic vision.

It might be a public benefit if Cardoza showed up less often at his Merced offices on the third floor of the County administration building. Perhaps with less interference from the congressman, local administrators and elected officials could do a somewhat better job. At least this move opens the hope.

Of course, the media has been critical: they stand to lose a little direct access. However, those who have had direct access to Cardoza should reflect that it wasn’t much help, really. When Cardoza talks about politics, it is as boring as listening to a bull rider take 10 minutes to describe the six seconds he was on top.

The hot stuff is in the speculation about what will happen now. But, we don’t know the future. What we know is a congressman seems to be making an attempt to keep a family together, be a less absent husband and father. You can’t knock him for that. Perhaps he didn’t want his children to grow up with asthma, induced by the development he championed. So let him join the Cowgirl Chancellor Carol Tomlinson Keasey and all the rest of the fleeing rodents. Some people are simply too sensitive to deal with consequences. It’s a character thing.

Badlands editorial board

P.S. A St. Patrick Day's reflection on character -- One of North America's greatest 20th-century leaders, Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas, once told a biographer, as he was embarking from the Capitol on yet another 1,000-mile trip in his Willys Jeep to meet with rebellious citizens, that there was rarely anything he could do for his people in the post-Revolution economy, but he could at least be with them and try to encourage them. For Cardoza to keep his residence address in Merced County as a political convenience after holding a couple of "foreclosure workshops," sends the message to the residents of the district that, having been a political leader in the real estate boom and environmental destruction, he is unwilling to take the consequences of his actions that most of his constituents are helpless to avoid.

Whining for a medical school for UC Merced because the Valley has a physician shortage, he takes the one doctor -- his wife -- he might have been able to influence to stay in the Valley to a job in Maryland.

While we still praise him for trying to keep his family together and safe from the social and environmental fallout of the real estate boom and bust and environmental destruction he had so much to do with engineering on behalf of finance, insurance and real estate interests in various backrooms, starting with UC Merced, we don't think it is unfair to call the man a triple-dyed hypocrite.

When in the coming months top officials in county and city government retire, collect their pensions and whatever else they made on the boom and move away, we can add a new phrase to the local political lexicon: "Pulling a Cardoza."

Pulling Cardozas are certainly signs of the times. Another, which we saw yesterday afternoon, was a homeless person with baby stroller and earthly possessions camped in the alcove of the M Street entrance to the splendid offices once occupied by Ranchwood Homes, now up for lease, across from the courthouse park.

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Loose Cheeks, March 10, 2008

Submitted: Mar 10, 2008

Loose Cheeks

Loose Cheeks: Hot Tips
By Lucas Smithereen
Loose Cheeks Senior Editor

Got a hot tip for Loose Cheeks? Call the Loose Cheeks hot-tip line: (000) CHE-EEKS. We’ll get back to you whenever.

A member of the public recently directed the attention of Loose Cheeks’ intrepid reporter A.J. Gangle to the wild, wacky world of agbiz, beginning with the Merced County Farm Bureau's February 2008 newsletter, the New York Times and the Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database for a few enlightening items.

Item #1

Merced County Farm Bureau: "We farm. You eat."
We live in a diverse state that is able to produce over 350 different commodities under the most stringent regulations in our nation. California is the number one agricultural producing state. Of the top ten Ag producing counties, California claims eight, with Merced County ranked 6th in the nation. We are blessed with rich soils, available water, and climatic conditions that allow our family farms to be so productive. We hope this website will give you an insight into our industry and the men and women that are the face of our family farms here in Merced County.

"Family" means things to the Farm Bureau not always intuitively obvious to urban dwellers, for example, lot splits on ag land to create ranchettes. On p. 12 of the February Merced County Farm Bureau Newsletter,
http://www.mercedfarmbureau.com/pdf/February%202008%20Issue.pdf, the casual reader will find an ad by Century 21 Salvadori Realty, listing three parcels, two 20-acre ranchettes and an 18-acre ranchette. At least two of the three realtors representing the properties, two sisters from the Le Grand area, grew up in "family farming." One of them is a former Farm Bureau director. One ranchette already contains three houses. Another is listed as containing one house and a building site for another, although it is in an "organic"
walnut orchard. On parcels this size, all that is required is a building permit for a second house. The third 20-acre parcel of almonds and one "quaint" dwelling can be purchased together with an adjoining 20-acre parcel in the same varieties of almonds.

"Great income potential!" the ad says. Since it's not great income potential for farming, perhaps what is meant that it is good for more parcel splits and more smaller ranchettes. How long ago were these two 20-acre parcels one 40-acre parcel and then were split by permission of the County in as a favor to the "farming family" that owes it. Or was it a favor to the former family farming realtors?

Item #2

From the Merced County General Plan, Chapter 7:

Objective 2.A. Agricultural areas are protected from conversion to nonagricultural use.
Objective 2.B. The parcelization of large holdings is discouraged.


Merced Sun-Star
Public Notice
PUBLIC HEARING... to consider: MINOR SUBDIVISION APPLICATION No. MS07-058 - Chris Robinson
"PUBLIC HEARING" A public hearing will be held by the Merced County Hearing Officer on Monday, March 10, 2008 at 8:30 a.m., in Conference Room 301 on the 3rd Floor, 2222 "M" Street, Merced, California, to consider: MINOR SUBDIVISION APPLICATION No. MS07-058 - Chris Robinson - To divide a 1,027.20 acre parcel into 3 parcels and a remainder resulting in parcel sizes of: Parcel 1 = 198.63 acres; Parcel 2 = 343.18; Parcel 3 =
165.25 acres, and Remainder Parcel = 320.14 acres under a parcel map waiver on property located on the east side of Highway 59, approximately 1/2 mile north of Youd Road in the Snelling area. The project site is designated Agriculture land use in the General Plan and zoned A-2 (Exclusive Agriculture). THE ACTION REQUESTED IS TO APPROVE, DISAPPROVE OR MODIFY THE APPLICATION. DG All persons interested are cordially invited to attend. Written comments are encouraged and should be sent to the Planning and Community Development Department, 2222 "M" Street, Merced, California 95340, prior to the hearing.
If you have any questions, please call the department at (209) 385-7654.
Sincerely, Robert A. Lewis Development Services Director Legal 08 -286 February 23, 2008

For recent arrivals here in the Foreclosure Capital of the West, what's happening here is that a local cattle baronet whose family exploited the Merced River for irrigation, exploited the river for aggregate, exploited the state for millions to try to reclaim the river after the mining, now seeks to exploit the river and the County by exploiting the river "viewshed" for a few luxury estates. Or perhaps it's all about conservation easements, yet another family adventure at the public trough.

Badlands Journal
Red Menace over Merced
A rouge pall, like the Delta peat fires of old at twilight, hangs over Merced County.
According to Supervisor Mike Nelson, the “socialists” were out this morning at the supervisors’ meeting. A group advocating agricultural preservation were arguing against parcel splits for ranchettes between Gustine and Santa Nella.
And we thought we saw Eugene Debs highballing down the Santa Fe tracks last night.
The Badlands editorial staff investigated, and found at least one ringleader of the agland preservationists has a long history of affiliation with red front groups: the Merced County Chamber of Commerce; American Farmland Trust; the Merced County Farm Bureau; and California Women for Agriculture.
By contrast, Nelson was a union Atwater City fireman for nine years and now draws a public salary from Merced County of over $65,000 a year plus thousands a month in perks, benefits and retirement, beside what the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board pays him to defend special interests from the peril of regulating the worst air pollution in the US. Nelson’s wife is a union public school teacher, drawing a public salary, health and retirement benefits.
We suggest Nelson look again at the red menace hanging over the county. If he can see through the merciless rightwing hypocrisy, he will find it is red ink caused by the reckless, uncontrolled growth approved by majorities of the indemnified supervisors and city councils beholden and in some cases directly benefitting from their ties to finance, insurance and real estate special interests that now control local government in Merced lock, stock and barrel.
Badlands editorial staff

Update: Merced County supervisors' salary is now $74,000 and Nelson is chairman of the board of Merced County Association of Governments, the local pork barrel for federal highway funds.

Item #3

The Merced County Farm Bureau's February newsletter expresses a number of straighforward views about serious issues in the Valley. The executive director wrote about water:

I started the month of February at a water forum sponsored by the City of Fresno. The information was plentiful but we need action, not more words. We need cooperation not litigation. Simply put we need more storage.

Although we're sure Merced's family farmers understood this and all that followed, we were a little mystified.
Action is not litigation and cooperation will produce more dams? There has always been great doubt in the circles traveled by the executive director that Merced County is a part of the state of California.

Item #4

The Valley View editor of the MCFB newsletter, writing about genetically engineered crops, opined that objections to their use and deregulation were "based solely on the fear of the unknown." Gene-drift is a "possibility," according to the author,and "is a legitimate concern that must be considered."

The Union of Concerned Scientists, UC Berkeley professor Ignacio Chapela, Jeffrey M. Smith (Seeds of Deception (2003), Frances Moore Lappe (Food First), Dr. Joseph Cummins, Dr. Wes Jackson (Land Institute), Dr. Arpad Pusztai and F. William Engdahl among many other responsible scientists around the world have been considering GE genetic pollution and a host of other problems arising from genetic engineering of food crops for nearly a decade. None of them, however, are Merced County family farmers, so what could they know?
Even the Catholic Church has spoken of biotechnology as a source of "new sins," but the Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary is a long way from Merced County.

Yahoo! News
Vatican lists "new sins," including pollution By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Thou shall not pollute the Earth. Thou shall beware genetic manipulation. Modern times bring with them modern sins. So the Vatican has told the faithful that they should be aware of "new" sins such as causing environmental blight.
The guidance came at the weekend when Archbishop Gianfranco Girotti, the Vatican's number two man in the sometimes murky area of sins and penance, spoke of modern evils.
Asked what he believed were today's "new sins," he told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the greatest danger zone for the modern soul was the largely uncharted world of bioethics.
"(Within bioethics) there are areas where we absolutely must denounce some violations of the fundamental rights of human nature through experiments and genetic manipulation whose outcome is difficult to predict and control," he said...Girotti, in an interview headlined "New Forms of Social Sin," also listed "ecological" offences as modern evils...

Item #5

The MCFB article, Understanding CEQA: Public Involvment is Key, got the right point in its title, but we felt strayed a bit lower in the story with advice like:

Contradictory, conflicting, conclusory, or inadequate responses or significant environmental issues need to be submitted in orally or in writing.

With some small experience with CEQA ourselves, we confess that we have absolutely no idea what this sentence means. A spot of editing might have helped, but the Farm Bureau probably couldn't bring itself to edit Sweet Potato Joe's daughter-in-law. And, who knows, perhaps Merced County family farmers know exactly what the sentence means.

Item #6

New York Times
Fairness on the Farm...Editorial
Against all odds, there is still hope that Congress will produce a halfway decent farm bill, one that increases spending for underfunded programs like food stamps and conservation while decreasing subsidies to rich farmers who have never had it so good.
The reason for hope is President Bush, who has been on the right side of the farm issue from the beginning and is threatening to veto any measure that resembles the stinkers produced by the House and Senate last year.
Some legislators are now scrambling for a better version. Tinkering around the edges will not do it.
Mr. Bush has two sound objections. First, the House and Senate bills, each costing about $280 billion over five years, are way over budget and include an array of gimmicky tax increases to make up the shortfall.
Even worse, the bills perpetuate an unfair, wasteful program of price supports and direct payments. Half the subsidies would go to farmers in just seven states producing a handful of crops — corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat; two-thirds of the nation’s farmers would not benefit at all. Mr. Bush has complained in particular about provisions that allow subsidies to flow to farm families making as much as $2 million a year.
What makes these subsidies even more outrageous is that just when the rest of the country is sliding into recession, commodity prices are booming and big farmers are rolling in clover.
In a rational world, legislators would try to find the cuts Mr. Bush wants in subsidy programs, but little is rational when it comes to farm bills. While some influential members of the House have talked about stricter limits on wealthy farmers, Big Agriculture’s Senate friends say the cuts would have to come from conservation programs.
The food stamp program is not yet on the Senate chopping block, but it, too, is not home free. Congressional leaders may be tempted to see this year’s bill as a way to help farm state incumbents hold onto their seats. The dollar amounts are too large, though, and the fairness issues too stark, to stick with a broken system of farm subsidies.

Item #7

Environmental Working Group Farm Bill 2007: Policy Analysis Database --

Top Commodity and Conservation Programs in the 18th district of California (Rep. Dennis A. Cardoza), program years 2003-2005:

Rank Number of Beneficiaries Total

1 Cotton Subsidies
795 $74,723,391
2 Dairy Program Subsidies
709 $18,664,192
3 Corn Subsidies
1,315 $15,867,968
4 Rice Subsidies
139 $5,452,704
5 Wheat Subsidies
899 $3,750,842
6 Env. Quality Incentive Program
282 $2,419,418
7 Oat Subsidies
971 $523,545
8 Barley Subsidies
548 $453,254
9 Conservation Reserve Program
28 $185,179
10 Grasslands Reserve Program
2 $92,732
11 Wool Subsidies
18 $77,294
12 Sorghum Subsidies
172 $58,319
13 Safflower Subsidies
105 $48,407
14 Wetlands Reserve Program
2 $37,008
15 Sheep Meat Subsidies
2 $10,850
16 Sunflower Subsidies
1 $74

Total Direct Payments benefits in 18th district of California (Rep. Dennis A. Cardoza) totaled $31.2 million in program years 2003-2005.

Item #8

More on subsidized farmers no longer alive
Letters to the Editor
Fresno Bee
July 27, 2007
Dear Sir or Madam,
The U.S. Department of Agriculture gets my inept federal bureaucracy of the month award for writing subsidy checks to 172,801 dead farmers totaling $1.1 billion dollars during the period from 1999 to 2005. This gives new meaning to the term “buying the farm.”
All the sordid details are available in a report from the Government Accountability Office located at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071137t.pdf.
Nineteen percent of the deceased subsidy recipients had been dead for seven years or more, while a whopping 40 percent had been dead for three years or more. Even more troubling, someone undoubtedly alive signed and cashed those checks given the considerable difficulty the dead have in signing checks.
There must be plenty of dead San Joaquin Valley farmers on the list given that we are the farming capitol of the nation. They must be chuckling somewhere in the Great Pasture in the Sky that they couldn’t make any money while living but managed to generate some green after they were gone.
Lloyd Carter

Item #9

Merced Sun-Star
Local growers in Washington to push farm bill…Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON…on Capitol Hill, the House Agriculture Committee is poised in coming days to divvy up billions of dollars in a new farm bill… With the House panel planning to write its farm bill over the course of three days next week, Teixeira and several dozen other organic farmers are taking a desperate stab at changing the course of federal agricultural policy. So far, success is elusive. Existing cotton, rice, wheat and corn subsidies would stay essentially the same, under the current bill written by the agriculture committee chairman, Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn. Federal crop subsidies totaled about $17 billion last year. The politically vocal American Farm Bureau Federation likewise supports Peterson’s stay-the-course approach to traditional subsidies, as does the National Milk Producers Federation. California at Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner allies himself with California’s fruit and vegetable growers, who seek a bigger share of the farm bill. The bill coming before the House committee next Tuesday does boost some specialty crop funding. Even so, specialty crop advocates — and organic growers in particular — complain the current House bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture. “We are looking for a niche,” said Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. “We’re looking to be legitimized, in a way.”

Item #10

Badlands Journal

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance lashes Valley agricultural pollution
Water Board Report Shows that Irrigated Agriculture Has Polluted the Delta and Most Central Valley Waterways
For immediate release:
25 July 2007
(Stockton, CA) The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) has released a landmark draft report presenting the first region-wide assessment of data collected pursuant to the Irrigated Lands Program since its inception in 2003. Data collected from some 313 sites throughout the Central Valley reveals that: 1) toxicity to aquatic life was present at 63% of the monitored sites (50% were toxic to more than one species), 2) pesticide water quality standards were exceeded at 54% of sites (many for multiple pesticides), 3) one or more metals violated criteria at 66% of the sites, 4) human health standards for bacteria were violated at 87% of monitored sites and 5) more than 80% of the locations reported exceedances of general parameters (dissolved oxygen, pH, salt, TSS). While the adequacy of monitoring (i.e., frequency and comprehensiveness) of monitoring varied dramatically from site to site, the report presents adramatic panorama of the epidemic of pollution caused by the uncontrolled discharge of agricultural wastes.
The report is posted on the Regional Board’s website at:

Item #11

San Franciso Chronicle
Yes, San Francisco is in the land of cotton subsidies...Carolyn Lochhead
Los Banos, Merced County -- San Francisco is famous for its cotton farmers. Or at least one of them.
At last count, the largest California recipient of federal farm subsidies is the city's Constance Bowles Peabody, 88, a wealthy heiress of pioneer California cattle baron Henry Miller.
Peabody and her now-deceased brother George "Corky" Bowles, collected $2.4 million in cotton subsidies from 2003 to 2005, according to federal data compiled by the Environmental Working Group, which opposes the subsidies.
Actually, so does Philip Bowles, her son, who has run the family's farm operation for more than a quarter-century.
Asked why he should get subsidies, Bowles replied, "Why should anybody?"
A former Yale drama student who once made television commercials, Bowles operates the family's 13,000-acre cotton, alfalfa and tomato farm in Los Banos, where the city fathers erected a statue of his great-great-grandfather in the town plaza.
"The money that we do get from the government I look at as a form of liquidated damages," Bowles said as he drove through his fields, certain that the quality of his cotton and the efficiency of his farm would, if put to the test, obliterate his competitors in the Mississippi Delta and Texas...

Item #12

Where does Ol' Slippery John Pedrozo hang his hat, anyway?
Ol' Slippery got a free ride for a second term yesterday, so we thought to check where he lived, since you can't be too careful with the peoples' elected representatives in Merced County. Ol' Slippery lists his address at 2222 M Street, Merced CA.
Wait a second!
Unless the County administration building has some sort of special status like Washington, DC or the Vatican, it's in Supervisor Crookham's district, not the district Ol' Slippery is supposed to represent.
What's he got in his office up there on the third floor, a cot and a hibachi? Does he barbecue on the roof on pleasant evenings? We didn't even know they had showers in the administration building. Does he spend quality time with the Old Shrimp Slayer, Congressman Cardoza, who also has an office in the building, barbecuing tri-tip while the Slayer cooks the beans? Or do they fry up a batch of fairy shrimp out of the freezer, supplied by some of the Slayer's best contributors?
Ol' Slippery apparently doesn't have a decent Yesman to guide him in the niceties of local government etiquette -- like not sleeping in his office and stuff. County Topflak Mark Hendrickson is obviously too busy dogging the heels of Supervisor Mike Nelson, a real contender for Champion of the Rightwing ... what, exactly?

Item #13

Jess Brown and his Porkbarrel Band of Renown have concocted yet another transportation document, this time on an expressway between Atwater and Merced -- for April Fools' Day release.
It is called the Atwater Merced Expressway Draft Environmental Impact Report and it is a plan to make a plan to make a plan to make a plan ... to make pork.

Item #14

A great big ATTABOY! to Tom Grave for making it to the big time with his recent appointment to the Citizens Advisory Committee of Merced County Association of Governments. Tom has made it out of the pits where the public sits and into the hallway outside the backroom. He'll be close enough to smell the smoke now.

Item #15

Another great big ATTABOY to Sonny Star and the Gigolo Press of Merced for a fine column by Steve Cameron in today's mega-sports section-in-a-zillion colors. Cameron is a man of deep convictions, one of them that Sonny Star, the New York Times and the rest of the US press never writes an article to sell more papers.
Since the waning years of the 19th century, there have been two ways newspapers make money. The old-fashioned way was to increase circulation because that was the first way to increase advertising revenues back in the days of actual media competition in the US. The modern way newspapers make money is to monopolize
advertising regions after driving out competition. Big Mama McClatchy's house runs most of the callperson press in the Valley. Sonny makes it, to the extent Sonny does make it, on a captured local business community that HAS to advertise in the local gigolo press.
Don't get us wrong. We are great fans of Cameron's exploding sports section. It's real Big Time. Livingston goalie eyes the pros. Hot stuff. But examples comes to mind to disprove Cameron's claim.
When Riverside Motorsports Park was buying huge amounts of advertising with the paper, Sonny Star endorsed the project. When that advertising stream ended (about the time a lot of real estate advertising was also ending), Sonny did a real number of RMP -- a day late and a lot of legal trouble short of doing a timely job of informing the public and decision makers on RMP dirt.
And then, of course, there were the years of special UC Merced inserts, during which Sonny Star mainlined UC Bobcatflak.
Not to mention the bevies of comely young realtors right out of high school posing in the real estate inserts back in Flip City Days.
Hey, maybe we could bring back the lasses with a Flip City Days Festival to brighten up tours of brand new empty houses. Sonny Star should get working on it.

Merced Sun-Star
Please trust this about our sports section...Steve Cameron
Hey, this is an historic election, so...
...I've been in this business a long time, and I can tell you without a question of doubt that we don't ever make editorial decisions while wondering if a few more people might plunk 50 cents into a box.The only time we sell extra papers is well-advertised, and it's because you ask for it.
For instance, if a local high school wins a district football championship, we might print a special eight-page commemorative edition. Maybe. But that's it.
After hearing that woman on CNN, I'm not sure the public actually will believe this, but I want it on record.
We make editorial decisions for lots and lots and lots of different reasons. Selling a dozen extra papers at Save Mart ain't one of them. And never will be.

Item #16

Feral shopping cart whitewash.
Everybody in town, except Sonny Star, knows those shopping carts are as wild and willful as our exploding alley cat population. But, Sonny, always ready with a way to tranquilize the population, is claiming today that human agency is involved in the dispersal of shopping carts, complete with the usual lying photos of shopping carts bathing in the creek and resting against street signs and such.

Merced Sun-Star
Despite '03 law, shopping carts still clutter landscape...DOANE YAWGER...3-8-08

But the people know the real story on those criminal shopping carts. You hear them cruising our sidewalks at night and you turn out the lights and cringe because here they are again to rob and steal with their big black garbage bags and rattle off down the alley.
People don't talk much about getting mugged by shopping carts for fear nobody would believe them. And that is the great advantage our predatory feral shopping carts enjoy in this town. They are highly organized into gangs, each with its own distinctive colors, easily identified by police if they wanted to look.
Feral shopping carts represent the largest threat to law and order Merced has ever seen.
In the end, they will pick us clean.

Item #17

Local casino in the offing?
The rumble close to the ground is that the Madera/Highway 99 casino is a catspaw. The rumor is that state Legislature, abused for more than a decade by bloviating local real estate special interests spouting hyper-inflated metaphors from "high-tech, bio-tech engine of growth" to a suckling baby, has been combing the vicinity for a Native American tribe -- any tribe -- to sell the campus to for a dollar. Meanwhile big supporters for the campus are rumored to be willing to step aside because they already cashed in on growth stimulated by the campus and because the whining brat has become a civic embarrassment.

Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced leaders plead for budget mercy
Assembly panel meets on the campus to hear university's stance on funding...VICTOR A. PATTON
UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang on Thursday likened the university to a "baby" -- one that still "needs milk" and tender loving care to survive.
Translation for state legislators: UC Merced "cannot afford any budget cuts"...

Item #18

Great big ATTAGIRLS to the staff of the East Merced Resource Conservation District for printing a brochure in which the inside is upsidedown from the outside. Is it a metaphor or just another sincere expression of incompetence?

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Help support family farmers who protect endangered species habitat

Submitted: Mar 07, 2008

From The Endangered Species Coalition:

You can help family farmers protect endangered plants and animals on their land. Please call your Member of Congress and ask them to support the Endangered Species Recovery Act and incentives for landowners to save endangered species.

Help support family farmers who protect endangered species habitat.

Congress has a great opportunity to help at-risk wildlife, with a new bill called the Endangered Species Recovery Act (S. 700/H.R. 1422). This legislation will provide farmers, ranchers, family forest owners and other landowners with the financial tools they need to protect the hundreds of endangered animal and plants.

The Senate has already passed the companion bill in the Senate Farm Bill tax package. This means that the time is ripe for the House of Representatives to move this important piece of legislation as quickly as possible.

Call your member of Congress and ask them to support the Endangered Species Recovery Act. The Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Ask for your Representative's office.

Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act. However, the Act is chronically under-funded in regard to recovery planning and habitat restoration--especially on private lands. More funding is needed to save America's endangered wildlife.

For more information, visit www.stopextinction.org/farmers

Thanks for your help to protect endangered species,

Leda Huta
Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition

The Endangered Species Coalition (ESC) is a national network of 380 conservation, scientific, sporting, religious, humane, business and community groups across the country. Through public education, scientific information and citizen participation, we work to protect our nation's wildlife and wild places. The ESC is a non-partisan coalition working with concerned citizens and decision makers from all parties to protect endangered species and habitat

Endangered Species Coalition
PO Box 65195
Washington, DC 20035
(202) 320-6467


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Concerning UC/Lawrence Livermore National Lab bombs over Tracy

Submitted: Mar 06, 2008

Organizing / Planning Meeting in Tracy on MARCH 6

Public Hearing in Tracy on MARCH 18


Please circulate widely. Please come. It's crucially important.

An important invitation for you:


We've found the Weapons of Mass Destruction! Five years ago, the U.S. attacked Iraq based on flimsy allegations of non-existent WMDs. Now, the Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration has released new plans to modernize and "revitalize" the U.S. nuclear weapons research and production complex at 8 locations across the country, including at the Livermore Lab's Site 300 in Tracy. The DOE calls the plan, "Complex Transformation."

We call it "Bombplex." Tri-Valley CAREs and allied organizations are calling on all anti-nuclear, anti-war, environmental, and peace and justice activists to turn the "Bombplex" public hearings into a national public referendum on the future of nuclear weapons.

Here is where you come in. We are holding a special organizing / mobilizing / planning meeting in Tracy and calling on key activists and organizations to participate. Our goal is to take action together to MOBILIZE a large and powerful turnout at upcoming public hearings in Tracy (March 18 - see below for hearing time and location) and Livermore (March 19 - the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war).

Planning Meeting in Tracy:
Thursday, March 6th, 7 PM to 8:30 PM, Tracy Community Center, 300 East 10th
Street, Tracy. To RSVP or obtain details, call Marylia at (925) 443-7148 or email marylia@earthlink.net.

Note: Also at the Tracy Community Center on March 6, beginning at 6 PM, there will be a Dept. of Energy (DOE) workshop on the Superfund cleanup of toxic contaminants at the Building 850 "Firing Table" at Site 300. This Firing Table is one of four highly polluted locations where open-air bomb blasts have been (and still are) detonated at Site 300. The DOE workshop will feature posters about the cleanup (not speakers), so you can pop in and see the displays before the "Bombplex" organizing meeting at 7 PM. (And, if you think that pollution from bomb tests is relevant to why we must stop the "Bombplex," you are correct.)

Planning Meeting in Livermore, too:
Thursday, February 21, 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, at Tri-Valley CAREs, 2582 Old
First Street, Livermore, CA. To RSVP or obtain details, call Marylia at (925) 443-7148.

Elements for each organizing meeting will include:
* What is Bombplex? A primer on nuclear weapons programs embedded in this plan, followed by a discussion on what YOU want to emphasize at the Tracy hearing.
* How do we stop it? Ideas to make the hearings successful, powerful and effective.
* Who can we mobilize? A structured outreach brainstorm to accomplish our goals.
* What's next? A broader discussion on nuclear disarmament action beyond the hearings.

"Bombplex" Action Alert for Newsletters, etc.

Public Hearings on the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex!

The Dept. of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration has released its draft plan to revitalize the nuclear weapons complex at 8 locations across the country, including Livermore Lab. The DOE calls the plan "Complex Transformation" (formerly known as "Complex 2030"). We call it "Bombplex."

The draft plan is in the form of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The most important thing to know is that the plan is fundamentally about the future of the U.S. nuclear weapons research and production complex. Do you want to see a revitalized weapons complex with added capabilities to research, develop, test and produce new and militarily modified nuclear bombs? Or, do you want to see the U.S. fully comply with its legal obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Don't be silent at this critical juncture. Your voice is needed now. Make the hearings a public referendum on nuclear weapons. At the hearings, you can speak on the changes you want to see at Livermore Lab, or on U.S. nuclear weapons policy writ large. You can speak out to stop polluting nuclear weapons activities at the Livermore Lab main site and its Site 300 in Tracy. You can tell the government to stop new nuclear weapons, like the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which the DOE is still pushing for with $40 million in its latest budget request. You can call on the government to end ALL bomb testing at Site 300. Tell DOE not to detonate depleted uranium, high explosives and other toxic and radioactive materials on open-air Firing Tables that are already polluted from past use. Tell DOE that plans to conduct even bigger bomb blasts under a "for hire" program for the Department of Homeland Security is unacceptable. You may also wish to point to the U.S. hypocrisy in planning to produce new weapons of nuclear mass destruction on the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Come and speak your truth to power. Choose the peace issues that are most meaningful to you. There will also be a 90-day period for written public comments. Public hearings are:

Tuesday March 18, 2008 -- Tracy, California
Holiday Inn Express, 3751 N. Tracy Blvd. One session only: 6 p.m.-10 p.m.

Wednesday March 19, 2008 - Livermore, California
Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave. 2 sessions: 11 a.m.-3p.m. and 6 p.m. -10 p.m.

Comments may be submitted by mail to:
Mr. Theodore Wyka, Complex Transformation SPEIS Document Manager, Office of
Transformation, NA-10.1, U.S. Department of Energy/NNSA, 1000 Independence
Avenue, SW. Washington, D.C. 20585
Or by fax: (703) 931-9222 (request confirmation of receipt)
Or by e-mail: ComplexTransformation@nnsa.doe.gov (request confirmation of receipt)

More info at -- www.trivalleycares.org o www.wslfweb.org o www.peaceactionwest.org

Marylia Kelley,
Executive Director

Tri-Valley CAREs
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA 94551

Ph: (925) 443-7148
Fx: (925) 443-0177
Web: www.trivalleycares.org
Email: marylia@trivalleycares.org or marylia@earthlink.net

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