Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act Upheld By Supreme Court

By Gaetana Drake

We’ve all heard by now that the Supreme Court gave a 5-4 ruling in favor of the Affordable Health Care Act.

I’d like to point out some very positive aspects to the plan.  Young adults who are over the age of 19 can stay on their parent’s insurance.  This effects millions of college age people in the country, who are struggling to go to school and find jobs at the same time.

A person can’t be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Your current insurance cannot drop you if you become ill.

There is no longer a lifetime maximum coverage amount.  Most policies were limited to $1,000,000 of lifetime coverage, which could easily be wiped out by cancer treatments or care for chronic conditions.

And the best part of all….it will be illegal to charge a woman more for insurance than a man.  Some states actually allowed insurances to charge a woman up to 80% more for insurance coverage.   President Obama has made it illegal for insurances to consider having a uterus a “pre-existing” condition and charging more for coverage.

Several studies have suggested that passing this law will actually result in lower insurance premiums.  This is what happened in Massachusetts when then-Governor Romney mandated that everyone purchase insurance.  97% of the citizens of Massachusetts have coverage and the average cost of premiums declined.

Some people are concerned about the tax penalty for not purchasing insurance.  The plan calls for a $150 tax penalty in 2014, if you have not purchased insurance, with the penalty going higher each year, to a maximum of $695.  However, there are no “teeth” to this penalty.  The plan specifically says that if you fail to purchase insurance and do not pay the penalty, there will be no liens on your tax return, or your property.  The prospect of a penalty simply encourages people to purchase insurance.

All in all, the Affordable Health Care Act will be beneficial to millions of American citizens.  The Supreme Court was right on this one.

Important MID Up Date Here’s the Latest Information about the Water Sale

From Reed Smith

Concerned water users:
Director Larry Byrd stated today that MID has four (4) votes IN FAVOR OF SIGNING THE CONTRACT.  Any utterances by Nick Blom, Jr. or Paul Warda to the contrary are not true.  Blom and Warda are so strongly in support of the sale that Byrd fought for an hour and a half today just to prevent MID Board from voting on this contract on July 10.  His successful result is that they will vote on July 24, 2012 to approve the sale.  We gained 2 additional weeks to prepare, thanks to Larry.
You will see that there are no substantive changes from the Draft stating that is was entered into January 24, 2012.
Our < stopMIDinsanity.com > efforts already include:
• Supporting City of Modesto Councilpersons in suing MID as first-parties to a breach of contract.
• CEQA compliance litigation preparation.
• 3rd-party lawsuit against MID for breach of contract.
• Referendum
• Recall of Board President Tom Van Groningen and Nick Blom, Jr.
• Possible recall of City Council members who support the sale by voting to restrict the City of Modesto from defending it’s contractual water delivery agreements through litigation.  We feel this is the first line of defense.
• Economic analysis for litigation support
• Hydrology technical assessment and support
We will keep you apprised of developments as they evolve.
Fundraising is now a critical component to our success, so any referrals to potential supporters will be important.  We have a goal of $250,000 in the next 60 days.
Regards, Reed

Kansas Revokes Physician’s License – for not forcing a 10 year old to give birth!

By Gaetana Drake

Dr. Ann Neuhaus was a colleague of Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider.  You may remember that Dr. Tiller was assassinated by an anti-abortion activist in 2009, while attending church services.   Dr. Neuhaus worked with Dr. Tiller, providing second opinions for cases of late term abortions due to mental health issues.

For several years now, Dr. Neuhaus’ license has been restricted to providing limited medical care on a charity basis.  She was hoping to have her full license restored, instead her license has been temporarily revoked based on an investigation into 11 cases of girls ranging in age from 10 to 17.  The cases were obtained by Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group.

The investigation claims that Dr. Neuhaus did not provide the proper “standard of care”, based on the medical records they obtained.  They believe Dr. Neuhaus did not do a thorough evaluation or provide appropriate follow-up care.  Dr. Neuhaus said that she intentionally left pertinent information out of the files because she knew they might someday be subject to review by outsiders and didn’t want to violate her patients’ privacy.

The Kansas Board of Healing Arts will decide next April if Dr. Neuhaus will permanently lose her license to practice medicine in Kansas.  Governor Sam Brownback recently appointed Richard Macias, a former Operation Rescue attorney, to the Board of Healing Arts.  Mr. Macias said concerning Dr. Neuhaus, “I’m more concerned about the standard of care, particularly the after-care”.  I assume he means he’s more concerned about that than the young women who were pregnant and suffering from mental illnesses.

In one of the cases, the girl involved was a 10 year old victim of rape.  Rape by her uncle.  An expert testified that the girl was too young and emotionally immature to be able to truly assess her situation.  But this expert testified against Dr. Neuhaus. The child had told Dr. Neuhaus that she knew she had a baby growing in her and didn’t want that.  Apparently, in the experts opinion, being too young and emotionally immature to assess her situation didn’t mean she was too young and emotionally immature to be forced to give birth.

Is this really what we want in this country?  For a 10 year old victim of rape/incest to be forced to give birth?

In the last two years over 1100 bills have been proposed (and many of them passed) that had the word “women” in them.  If we replaced the word “women” with the word “religion”, everyone would agree there was a war on religion.  Why don’t people believe there is a war on women?  And now the war on women is also a war against little girls. 

Please think about this.  If your 10 year old daughter were pregnant as a result of rape, would you want her to be forced to give birth? 

Who do you believe is more qualified to help a woman (or a child) make such a personal decision – a politician or a physician?  This is a decision that should ONLY be made by the woman (or girl), her family and her physician.  Politicians should stay out of it.

Stand up for the rights of the women in your life.  Your mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters need your help.  The battle is raging.

We Followed up the Email Bomb Shell with a Public Information Request

By Emerson Drake

After reading today’s article about the alleged bogus email by Bill Lyons we sent a Public Information Request to County Council requesting the “entire email including the IP information.”  This afternoon the county responded with the email but no IP information.

We’ve done a follow-up request but I’m sure we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for a response. 

This is a copy of the allegedly  “Bogus Email”

—–Original Message—–
From: bill lyons
To: <gstapley@modbee.com>, <boggsk@stancounty.com>, <obrienw@stancounty.com>
Subject: West Park
Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2012 08:49:56 -0700

I think an interesting story would be why supervisor Terry is able to vote on a project where his family and their partners own surrounding land. Del Mar and Maring and their affiliates own land around and near the naval base. In Terry’s own words “his is an accountant and can work figures”, I think anyone that can do basic math can figure when surrounding properties are developed, the undeveloped values increase significantly.

Dirty Politics by Bill Lyons, Mike Lynch and the Alliance Cost Stanislaus Residents Jobs

By Emerson Drake

Why is it every time people start looking into backroom deals to line a few private pockets at the expense of the majority of us, the names  Bill Lyons and Mike Lynch are usually at the top of the slime ball list?  Tuesday night at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting was no exception.  One of the first announcements was that Supervisor Terry Withrow was required to recuse himself from voting on Gerry Kamilos’ WestPark project.   

Bill Lyons, who was the political opponent Terry Withrow soundly defeated, allegedly sent an email complaining about a potential conflict of interest since Withrow’s wife holds a one twelfth interest in some land across the street from the project.  This wasn’t considered a problem during earlier discussions but when Lyons and Lynch became concerned about the possibility of Kamilos being told to hit the road, Lyons and Lynch pulled out all of the stops.

Gerry Kamilos gave a presentation to the Board that quite honestly defied belief for anyone who has followed this debacle from the beginning. He did acknowledge the WestPark footprint had changed yet again.  Remember the original size was supposed to be approximately 1,400 acres but Kamilos insisted on 4,800 acres.  The bloated size of the project caused him problems from the beginning.  His most recent fantasy involves 2,900 acres which includes a scaled down solar farm (he can’t find a buyer for his electricity if built) and intermodal operation (truck and rail)  and a business park.

Kamilos paraded a mixed group of consultants who allegedly supported his concept but each and every one of them can to the party empty-handed and represented only themselves and not their organizations.  While Port Commissioner Victor Uno said “we think this project has great value to your community” he wasn’t bearing any “official”  Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) to do business with Kamilos.  None of his business supporters were carrying MOU’s.  We were treated to kind words regarding the Union Pacific Railroad but again no MOU, in other words nothing concrete.

When Kamilos came to a page in his presentation containing about twelve as he termed it “good questions” he provided a little smoke and a few mirrors but didn’t completely answer any of them.  His consultant for water and sewer who has been with the project from its inception could provide no insight to how the sewer and water could be handled.

Kamilos’ Problem is he doesn’t have ANY Answers.

Kamilos doesn’t know or isn’t willing to admit he doesn’t have a clue where the money to upgrade the railroad tracks will come from.  He overlooks the fact that an Intermodal operation in Modesto had to be down sized because of the lack of business.  But Kamilos keeps using numbers that suggest he will get the lions share of the business in the valley when at least one of his competitors in Lathrop is better located and has had a successful operation for years. 

When Kamilos was questioned by Supervisor DeMartini his responses fell flat.  Kamilos used phrases like “value engineering” and “when the contingencies are factored” which have absolutely no meaning and DeMartini called him on it. When Kamilos claimed to have made “credible progress” the audience laughed and wondered aloud if Kamilos understood what that meant.  I’ve heard a few complaints regarding Supervisor DeMartini’s questioning of Kamilos but I thought DeMartini’s response was on target. DeMartini said he didn’t find Kamilos’ answers credible and he didn’t have the track record of someone the Board should be doing business with.

DeMartini asked Kamilos for a list of successful business parks he developed.  Kamilos named a few but DeMartini pointed out the parks he mentioned had never been completed or were mainly housing developments. DeMartini has been suggesting all along that Kamilos had originally used a map with five thousand home on it.  Kamilos has been denying this but last night Supervisor Monteith slipped and said the original map contained the  homes but the board had asked Kamilos to change it and he did.

Kamilos sued for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars by his vendors

Kamilos has a track record which suggests his vendors have been required to take him into court to get paid. These weren’t challenges of withholding payment for shoddy work. Kamilos just doesn’t have the money to pay his creditors. One of his consultants last night appears to be continuing to support him in order to eventually get paid for past services rendered.  DeMartini raised the concern a creditor would come after the $2 Million deposit the County is going to hold.  That issue was never cleared up completely.

Supervisor Monteith says Kamilos is AMAZING

Actually Monteith said Kamilos was amazing three separate times.  It sounded almost like Monteith had a bro-mance going on with Kamilos.  Monteith didn’t mention if he purchased his rose-colored glasses or if they were loaned to him by Lyons and the Alliance but they definitely effected his view of reality in the opinion of many. Monteith has been a Kamilos supporter and sees nothing wrong with the five, going on six-year delay.  But since Monteith stopped placing candles on his birthday cakes he might not be aware of just how many years have passed. It begs the question if six years in “Supervisory Years” are the same as they are for you and me.

Supervisor Chiesa a disappointment

Although Supervisor Chiesa sent plenty of warning signs out about his vote prior to the proceedings, a glimmer of hope had prevailed with the crowd, since Supervisor Chiesa had said fifteen months ago it was the last extension he would vote for. But alas, in our opinion it appears he had been persuaded to change his mind prior to last nights meeting.  Chiesa is a smart businessman and I firmly believe nothing he heard last night could have possibly influenced him to vote for Kamilos and his project.

Kamilos held the Reports Hostage and dangled the $2.75 Million as a Saving Grace for the Supervisors

Yes the combination of the money and the lost reports were used as an excuse for the three Supervisors to vote for this option.  Bill Bassitt of the Alliance basically said there was no downside to the deal.  He told the Board early on If they got to keep the money it would be a fair deal.  But Mr. Bassitt and his Alliance get paid more from the state if the economic conditions remain as they are.  Yes, they want things to get better for the valley but would prefer it to be coordinated  to ensure the best of possible deals for their boards members.

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce Trots out Paid help to Promote Kamilos’s Deal

Yes, as usual the Chamber was knee-deep in trying to divide the “spoils” they hope to receive. They supplied paid employees to speak in support of Kamilos. Someone compared them to a “Union” for businesses. Others prefer to think of them simply as paid lobbyists.

JOBS are the Most Important result for WestPark

Yes, jobs are the top concern but the question that was supposed to be asked and answered last night was ‘is Kamilos the right developer to answer Stanislaus County’s prayers? ‘

Most of the public seems to feel Kamilos brought the early difficulties with WestPark on himself with his arrogance.  He believed he could run rough shod over everyone and everything, but he failed to size up the opportunities correctly.  Now all he can do is try to buy time to find  a deep pocketed suitor who won’t look too close at the details to provide the working capital he so desperately needs to continue his bumbling, stumbling, lurching attempt to cross the goal line.

More Water Sale Information You Need to Know

By Reed Smith

Right now, MID has overcommitted it water resource by 71,804 acre feet, with no drought and no sale to SF.  With the sale to SF, that increases to 99,044 AF (and still no drought) of water MID does not posses.
This irrigation season, MID farmers are getting their full 42 acre inches of surface water deliveries.  Based upon rainfall, MID should have drasticaly cut water deliveries like Turlock Irrigation District did by cutting 50%. They politically could not document the drought with delivery reductions.  The MID Board, motivated by unknown incentives, is going to sell ALL of our water to SF.  I say ALL based upon the fact they are already breaching a written signed contract with the City of Modesto.  If this Board is willing to breach a written contract with their primary customers, and voters who elected them, they will do anything.
The MID proposed contract gives SF first right of refusal for all future sales.  Let’s connect the dots.  MID sells water they do not have, directly taking it from a populace that has a written contract, in order to provide it to the SFPUC and the Cargill development.  How is Modesto to protect any of it’s water with Nick Blom, Jr., Glen Wild, Paul Warda, and Tom Van Groningen sitting as Directors?  We can’t.
The City Council has the most direct power to stop this sale by enforcing, by litigation, the written contract it has with MID:  Appendix E: Water Treatment and Delivery Agreement.   This document is enforceable, and will prevent the sale.  THE PROBLEM:  Rubin Villalobos along with a handful or others are trying desperately to “flip” the 7 to zero City Council vote to sue MID to a 4 to 3 against suing MID.  Villalobos’s letter of May 4, says explicitly his purpose:  to stop the vote to sue MID.  Why would he do that?  He is being paid to do that, claiming he represents MCS, when MCS’s write he does not, all the while he is representing another paying client.  Villalobos profits from claiming to represent MCS, to the detriment of MCS.  We do not know the name of the real client.
Let me run through the math:  It takes 42 acre inches to grow an almond crop EVERY YEAR.  A farmer cannot skip an irrigation year because he did not get water.  The tree dies.
If MID sells to 27,240 AF of our water to SF, the resulting –99,044 AF from the over-obligation table can only come from one place, agriculture.  Ag gets, on average, 191,000 AF.  Subtract 99,044 AF from that and you have a 54.7% acreage loss to ag.  That means that permanent-crop farmers will have to fallow 54.7% of 58,000 acres, or saying it another way, turn 31,726 acres into desert, right in our midst.  Each acre, if growing almonds, the farmer generates $5,700 worth of almonds at the farm gate [3,000 lb. almond yield (non-pereil + pollinator) x $1.90/lb = $5,700 /Acre].  That money is, in turn, circulated throughout the Modesto community seven (7) times, as per Cecil Russell, Modesto Chamber of Commerce Exec Dir.  So, we take a loss of 31,726 acres x $5,700 farm gate value per acre x 7 times economic multiplication factor = $1,265,967,400 ANNUAL LOSS to MODESTO.
Stanislaus County will be an economic desert by 2018.  We have approximately 20% unemployment in our county now.  WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE LOSING $1.26 Billion from our Stanislaus economy?  AND, WHAT WILL CRIME BE?
MID does not have any water to sell.  The sale is fraud and grand theft.

The Benefit Of Being A Man

By Gaetana Drake

We’ve all heard much about whether or not insurances should cover contraception for women.  I’m sure we each have our own opinions.  Many people are opposed to federal funding for birth control and abortions for low-income women, saying they don’t want their tax dollars used for that purpose.   I understand that.  But did you realize that your tax dollars are paying for penile implants for men over 65?

There is a push to allow employers to deny coverage for contraception unless it is used for some other purpose, such as controlling menstrual cycles, preventing ovarian cysts,  controlling endometriosis.  These purposes have a health benefit. Some proposed bills would require that a woman provide her medical records to her employer in order to prove she is not using the pill for it’s real purpose – contraception. Many people believe birth control is mainly for “recreational purposes” and no employer should be required to cover it.  Mind you, they are talking about women who are paying for their private insurance and lawmakers would like to ban private insurance from being required to cover contraception.

Now we find that men over 65 can use their Medicare coverage (or their private insurance, if it covers them) for penile implants.  There is no health benefit to these implants.  They are purely for recreational purposes.  Not even for procreation.  Just recreational sex.  Why is it no one has a problem with insurances covering “recreational” items for men?  Insurances don’t cover breast implants (unless they are reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy).  Generally speaking, breast implants are for “recreational” purposes.   I wonder if a woman over the age of 65 can have Medicare pay for breast implants?

Personally, I object to my tax dollars being used for a 65 year old man to get a penile implant just for “recreational” purposes. I would much rather my tax dollars go to contraception for low income women, which benefits all of us in the long run.  I don’t see the benefit to society in general in an elderly man using my tax dollars for his penile implant.  Do you?

The Censorship of American Women – Brought To You By The GOP

By Gaetana Drake

Two female Michigan representatives (both Democrats) were recently censored for speaking out for women’s rights.  Michigan is attempting to pass some of the most abortion-restricting laws in the country.

Representative Lisa Brown (D) was expressing her opposition to a series of bills regulating abortion, when she said “Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no means no’.”  House Republicans claim her remark violated the decorum of the chamber and barred her from speaking during a subsequent debate on education.  I guess if you’re pro-choice in Michigan, your opinion on education is worthless.

Representative Mike Callton (R) said, “what she said was offensive.  It was so offensive I don’t even want to say it in front of women.  I would not say that in mixed company.”  Believe me, Mr. Callton, women are used to hearing much worse when it comes to our lady parts.  “Vagina” is a welcome improvement.

Ms. Brown quickly expressed her amazement at being censored during a press conference.  “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?  What language should I use?”  She also noted that it is the medically correct word, and that everyone in the chambers was an adult.

The House also denied Barb Byrum (D) the ability to introduce an amendment that would ban men from having vasectomies unless the procedure was needed to save their lives.  “If we truly want to make sure children are born, we would regulate vasectomies”, she told reporters.

Many anti-abortion (and anti-birth control) legislatures claim they are opposed to abortion and birth control because of  “all the children waiting to be born.”

Apparently, the Republicans in Michigan have forgotten about the right to free speech – especially if it’s speech from women promoting women’s rights.  There is nothing vulgar about the word “vagina”, and using it was no reason to censor Lisa Brown.  Barb Byrum didn’t even use the word “vagina”.  She just suggested that if we’re going to legislate the reproductive rights of women, we should legislate those same rights of men. 

We all remember the Congressional panel that was formed to hear testimony about birth control.  Five men….talking about birth control.  And not one woman was allowed to give input to the discussion.  And now we can’t say the word “vagina”. 

What restrictions will be placed on American women next?

The SFPUC Thumbs Their Nose at the Tuolumne River Trust’s Concerns

English: Tuolumne River in West Modesto-Riverd...

English: Tuolumne River in West Modesto-Riverdale Park area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Emerson Drake

It appears as of this moment the City of Modesto’s threatened lawsuit currently has the best chance to stop the MID’s sale/giveaway of our water.  I’ll be making a request Monday to  Mayor Marsh to provide an update Tuesday night at the City Council meeting. 

Reed Smith was good  to provide the following pdf from the Tuolumne River Trust.


Why Won’t They Stand Up For Women?

By EOM Staff

House Republicans recently presented a watered down version of the Violence Against Women Act for approval.  Remember, this act was approved in 1994 for the purpose of providing criminal justice to female victims of violence (we are the majority of victims of violent crimes), and to provide education and better prepared responses to domestic violence.  It has been overwhelmingly approved each time it has come up for renewal.  That is, until this year.

Republicans didn’t like the expanded version of the act, which would have provided protection for LGBT victims, Native American victims, illegal immigrant victims and even mail order brides who become victims.  Apparently, these women don’t deserve any kind of justice or protection.

I wonder how many men have hurried through a dark parking lot, nervous and looking over their shoulder, trying to get to their car as quickly as possible.  Do many men check the back seats of their cars before getting in?  How many men quickly lock the doors as soon as they are in their car?  These are things that are habits for women.  I wonder how many men wait for an abusive wife to come home and beat them up?  Not many, I don’t suppose.  1 of 7 American women will be the victim of a rape or attempted rape during her life.  1 of 3 American women will be the victim of a violent attack during her life.  Can’t say the same for men.

If violence against women is ever going to be curtailed, we need the force of law to help us defend ourselves. Don’t these Republicans know that they are denying protection to their own wives, daughters, sisters and mothers?

Then there’s the matter of contraception.  While most women think it’s nobody’s business but theirs, there are many laws being passed that restrict birth control.  The most bizarre one is the proposal that would allow an employer to deny women contraception coverage even if the employer has no moral or religious objection to it.   These male politicians (83% of Congress is male), should not be deciding what is best for women.  Do they believe we are not intelligent enough to make our own decisions?  Do they think we have no moral compass?  We are adults, and we know better than men what it means to bear and raise children.  Women spend an average of 30 years of their lives trying to prevent pregnancy.  Consider the financial burden of that if your insurance doesn’t cover it.

Now we have politicians trying (and succeeding, I’m afraid) to limit access to safe and legal abortions.  Apparently, we need to be punished for making the difficult decision to end a pregnancy.  I can’t imagine anything more humiliating that a trans-vaginal ultrasound being required prior to undergoing a legal procedure.  Their mind-set seems to be “you have sinned, now we must humiliate you.”  As usual, it is the woman who has “sinned”, with no burden placed on the man who sinned with her.  Makes me wonder if Mr. Limbaugh would have us all wear a scarlet “S” (he thinks we’re sluts, you know) on our clothes.

And just a few days ago, the Republicans voted down the Fair Pay Act.  Men are supposedly better at math than women.  Why don’t they understand that getting paid .77 to every 1.00 they earn for the same work isn’t fair?  With this kind of wage gap, how can women support all the babies they’ll be having if these male politicians have their way? 

And the battle over President Obama’s health care plan is still to be resolved.  Maybe these politicians don’t realize that in some states it’s legal to charge a woman up to 80% more for insurance than a man.  Mind you, women in these states are paying more for insurance, while making less for the same work.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?  The responsibility for birth control falls to women 99% of the time.  Thirty years of birth control costs, while earning less for the same work. I guess having ovaries is a “pre-existing” condition that makes this practice acceptable.

A hundred plus years ago, men ruled over women.  They owned the property, we couldn’t.  They served on juries, we couldn’t.  They could vote, we couldn’t.  Women needed to be “guided” by a firm masculine hand.  Our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations tolerated that.  This is a new generation of women.  The party is over, boys.  You’ve started a war.  If you want peace in your lives again, it’s time to draw up a truce.  One where women control their own lives, not you and not the politicians.

To quote from Madeleine Kunin, first and only female Governor of Vermont, “if you persist in fighting women on these fronts, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that, especially in an election year, you end up looking and sounding stupid.”

Pay attention, guys.  More women than men voted in the 2008 presidential election.  And there will be even more this year.  Get your act together and start fighting for the rights of the women in your lives.  We won’t go back to the way it used to be.

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