2012: new year, new web site

The official free website of The Madera Tribune newspaper (www.maderatribune.com) has been created anew from scratch after a year of being the comatose hostage of our former web host.

For the moment, the amount of content offered on it is light, but it has many features that improve upon those offered by our former sites. This site (www.maderatribuneredline.com) will soon became little more than a metaphorical sign pointing the way to our new free “home” on the Internet. The Red Line and other content previously posted here will soon be appearing on our reborn main site.

We have also changed the company that provides our premium online subscription service. More details on that soon on our main site.

Be sure to surf on over to our new site for an early bird peek, and happy new year!

Red Line (June 14)

All comments are edited for length and content. Because of content and space limitations some comments may not be published. More than one comment from the same person in the same week will normally not be published. Please keep your calls to two minutes or less.

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“The Tribune is very good about putting things in there about Mr. (Lupe) Rodriguez,” said a man. “Now we find out he’s been exonerated, but you don’t let anyone know. That’s not right.” (Note: The Saturday, June 11 edition carried a front page story concerning Mr. Rodriguez’s exoneration of all allegations.)

A woman also commented “on the investigation on the (school district) maintenance director by Alice Rios and that she wasn’t happy with the investigation results. “That’s really sad that Alice Rios and her partner Ronnie Zaragosa are allowed to make such allegations against a person in the district. The people of Madera need to stand up and get these people and their negativity out of Madera Unified.”

A woman “read the article by Chuck Doud (June 7) about the ethical and moral standards of our public officials. I would like to thank him very much. It was a very nice article. I am very disgusted by (School Board member) Lynn Cogdill’s comment that he wanted to have another casino here in Madera and teach our students how to play poker. We are not setting our standards high enough for our children.”

A man had “a message for the Madera National Little League.” He wanted “to stress some issues that need to come out. First, this is a very disappointing season. The board showed unpreparedness, and unprofessionalism all year long. The neglect for the kids. The president of National League was so far over his head he stepped down. There’s not one member who is wanting to take over the position.” He also had a message “about the photographer who is hired by the Madera National League board this year to take team pictures. After two to three or more attempts the photographer still hasn’t got it right. Both her and her husband are board members and we feel it was a conflict of interest she even got the job. It’s time to stand up and let’s get rid of this board.”

A man had “a solution for Madera Unified School District. If they need the test scores to go up why don’t they take all the administrators and district office personnel and have them teach three periods a day. They get all the answers and let’s see if the
test scores go up.”

A lady said, “the pullout of today (no date given) was all nice and great, but for some reason there were a couple of businesses that were not included. She mentioned a couple including the (city-operated) Adult Day Care Center. There were a lot of city officials put out there. Was that oversight, or was there a reason why certain names were not included?”

A woman left her phone number and said, “please call me.” She left no message as to what she wanted to talk about.

“I get the paper at (address given) and if it comes early before the sprinklers come on, every day it gets soaking wet. Somebody needs to tell my carrier to please throw it a little further so it doesn’t get wet by the sprinklers in the morning.”

A lady said, “I always read Mo’s Musings, but Friday’s was extra special. His memories of his father made me realize what a great father I have. Thank you, Mr. Emo. I will be spending a little more time with my dad.”

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Thank you for your calls. Remember the Red Line is open for your messages 24 hours a day by calling 674-4478 or visiting www.maderatribuneredline.com.

Is there a hippo farm in your future? (June 13)

By Chuck Doud
The Madera Tribune

I met a fellow in Washington State years ago who operated a rescue ranch for hippopotami, most of which had been in circuses and zoos before they went to live with him. He would bring them to this ranch, feed them, make sure they were cared for, and then when they died he would dig a hole with a backhoe and bury them.

People thought this fellow was a great friend of animals — hippos, at any rate — until they found out that on occasion he would slaughter one of the animals and sell the meat to restaurants specializing in wild game. It was all very legal, but nevertheless people who had sometimes sent checks to help him feed hippos started sending him insults in the mail, not checks.

Not long after that, the hippo farm closed — or perhaps the hippo farmer died, I don’t know. But one thing I do know is that all the hippos he was taking care of died with nobody to take care of them.

And who would be dumb enough to start another hippo farm — at least in the United States, where people have a dim view of eating the water horses? Most of those same people, of course, would think nothing of eating hamburger and pork chops, believing that they materialize on the meat counter as if by magic.

But it wasn’t that long ago that cattle and hogs were wild animals. They didn’t start out as foodstuff for humans, but it turned out that way. Cattle are a way for people to eat grass and other forage. The same is true of sheep. People don’t actually eat the grass, but cattle and sheep do, then we can eat the animals. Pigs eat just about anything else, and we eat the pigs. It is a nice arrangement.

Hippos, by the way, eat prodigious amounts of grass and turn it into prodigious amounts of meat, which people in Africa happily eat. Maybe some day we will domesticate hippos, too.

Letter: $11.2 million is found, now what? (June 13)

Interesting Board of Supervisors meeting June 7, as all board members listened with awe to news of found money misallocated in the late 1990s. Unions and entitlement groups: Don’t get too excited, because they still are not sure if this is the correct amount.

How can the taxpaying citizens of Madera County trust county departments, private and state auditors and a bewildered Board of Supervisors with our tax money? How can this mistake of $11,176,110 happen? What happened to check and balance?

This money was so well hidden that the hired private and state auditing team over the years could not find the extra booty. Thanks to Auditor-Controller Janet Kroeger and her team, who had the guts and the fortitude to bring this tremendous mistake to the public.

After a long questioning period and debate, the board members decided to put this money back into the General Fund and wait until the next Board of Supervisors meeting in two weeks to make a decision. It was confirmed even with this new-found booty the state of the county budget is still not in good shape.

The taxpaying citizens lucked out, because if this money had been found a year ago it would have been spent.

The only board member so far that has fiscal responsibility is David Rogers, who recommended paying down the Madera County “debt” and making sure that we keep Madera County safe. The Madera County CAO, Eric Fleming, recommended the same scenario.

If you are a taxpayer, call your district supervisor at 675-7700 or e-mail supverisors@maderacounty.com and ask them to support Rogers’ and Flemings’ recommendations.

Rick Farinelli,
Madera Chapter, Central Valley Tea Party

Red Line (June 7)

All comments are edited for length and content. Because of content and space limitations some comments may not be published. More than one comment from the same person in the same week will normally not be published. Please keep your calls to two minutes or less.

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“Way to go, trashy residents of Madera,” began a woman who her gave her first name. “Leaving your mattresses, now on Santa Fe Drive, and Avenue 15, waiting for an accident. Somebody is going to get really hurt. On Santa Fe Drive they leave trash and unwanted dogs and all kinds of stuff. I’m really, really angry.”

A lady “had to call in response to the callers about the girls taking their shoes off at the prom. The girls probably took off their (high) heels for awhile. I know a lot of them feel very tall in those beautiful high heels and they are kind of uncomfortable. I was at the prom all evening and I was impressed by the vast majority of the dresses that the girls were wearing. They were in wonderful taste. They had great behavior and manners. It was a wonderful evening and it made me proud to be one of their teachers. I think we have some amazing students here in Madera.”

“I am in total agreement with the letter by David Rogers, supervisor from District 2 of Chowchilla,” said a woman. “He has spoken the truth about Israel and us needing to stand with them. I am very pleased to have a man like him represent our county, because I live in the county.”

Another lady had similar comments and concluded with, “what a magnificent article (letter). It should be posted on the front pages of all the newpapers.”

A woman called “about the County Board of Supervisors. I know a lot of people are really upset with them right now because they are trying to pull a Fresno on the workers of Madera County. They want to bring in outside outfits without even bringing this to the table and bargaining with the union. After all the furloughs, no raises and everything the workers have gone through to save their jobs, the supervisors want to lay them all off and bring in outside workers. Because they won’t have to kick in for benefits or anything like that. Can you imagine all the contraband and thievery that will be done by these outside workers? That would be awful.”

“I am sick about hearing not to worry about what management makes,” said a lady. “There was an article back on (May) 24 saying negotiate and quit worrying about what they make. We need to worry. They keep cutting back the little guy and they’re not cutting back the top dogs. It’s time to stand up for our rights and say enough is enough.”

A woman said, “we need to stop these tax breaks in their tracks. These huge corporations that can cheat and go around without paying the taxes they are supposed to be. They’re getting away with murder and then they blame it on the little people that we’re not paying our fair share? This is absolutely baloney. Come on people. Stand up for what’s right. Let’s start yelling and screaming.”

“I really enjoyed (columnist Leon) Emo’s latest Meanderings (May 28),” said a gentleman. “Many years ago he gave me a four-day tour of his desert, and what a place. I’ll always remember his knowledge and stories and the places he showed me.”

A caller said, “During a classified employees barbecue luncheon at the maintenance department I heard a couple of guys talking about how they were going to get off early. They told another guy, ‘why don’t you work through your lunch hour and get off an hour early’? I would like to ask the (school) board members, if they can do that, why can’t other classified employees do that?”

A mother who called last week about a graduation photo said, “you printed a new picture and new caption of my daughter’s senior graduation. I am very thankful that you did that. I am thankful the Tribune stepped up and corrected the mistake.”

A woman responded to “the article about the grand jury finding nothing wrong with the D.A. I think they need to go back and re-investigate. The D.A. (Michael Keitz) himself has not tried one person. There are three people sitting out at the county jail for murder. They have been out there for three years waiting to be tried. Michael Keitz has done nothing. Ernie LiCalsi (former D.A.) tried everyone in court all the time. The board of supervisors do not need to give the D.A. any more money to run his office. He needs to be there and run it right.”

“I visited the (Paleontology) Center today,” said a Maderan. “Thank everyone in your community for the effort it must have taken over many years to bring the center into being. The displays are fascinating and preserve an important and very interesting historical record. Most of all, the people of the center were very knowledgeable and welcoming.”

“I agree with Bill Hoffrage’s letter that Rick Farinelli should get a chance at being a city council member to replace Sam (Armentrout),” said a caller. “Rick takes a lot of interest in politics, he is a Tea Party guy. Of course, he might have to move out of his district, if that proves to be necessary.”

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Thank you for your calls. Remember the Red Line is open for your messages 24 hours a day by calling 674-4478, or by accessing maderatribuneredline.com on the Internet.

Chinese had better beware of Africa (June 11)

By Chuck Doud
The Madera Tribune

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, giving a speech in Zambia, raised the issue of growing Chinese influence in Africa. She said China’s rising role as an investor in Africa and purchaser of African resources isn’t necessarily bad, but perhaps is not meeting international standards of how its influence should be asserted. That’s another way of saying that China, in its way, may be trying to colonize Africa, or at least parts of that continent.

That would not look like a bad idea if you were China, which is just a little bigger than the continental United States, but has more than three times America’s population. All those Chinese people who come along in the future — heck, even a lot of those who are here now — are going to need someplace to go.

Africa has plenty of room and resources. The British, the Belgians, the Germans and the French all noticed that about Africa, and in the 19th century they established colonies there, only to have their hearts broken. What those European countries extracted in wealth didn’t make up for the high price they had to pay because of vast sociological miscalculations.

Despite monumentally expensive efforts to impose nationhood on colonial regions of Africa, that continent diddn’t change all that much. The Africans, not unlike the Afghans, are and always have been tribal in nature.

China needs African oil and other resources, as well as Africa’s markets, but before they move too far forward, they should study what the Europeans tried to do — and wound up undoing.

Clinton seemed to be warning Africa against China’s intentions, but she probably should be warning the Chinese about the Africans as well.

The United States over the past 60 years has poured uncountable billions into Africa, to almost no avail. If the Chinese wind up doing the same, they will find themselves with a bleak harvest.

The cat turns up her nose (June 10)

By Chuck Doud
The Madera Tribune

The cat in whose house we live has started turning up her nose at her food, probably because I bought her a new bag of grub which she hadn’t eaten before.

She is like a lot of people I know. Even though a change might be good for them, they fight it. I am one of those people. Years ago, I embraced change, but something happened when I wasn’t looking, and now a change has to look pretty darn good to me before I’ll give it a chance.

I think a lot of the reasons why people have a hard time giving up habits that aren’t good for them is that they would rather not be bothered with changing. For example, if you are a smoker, pulling a cigarette out of a pack, lighting it and taking a puff seems a lot more compelling than doing something else, such as eating a tomato.

I had a colleague at a newspaper where I worked years ago whose doctor told him to stop smoking, so he came up with the idea of bringing some tomatoes to work with him. Whenever he thought it would be a good idea to light up a cigarette, he would eat a tomato instead. He would eat it as a person normally eats an apple. He had a salt shaker in his desk, and he would put a little salt on it as he ate.

At first, we all thought he was crazy, but darned if he wasn’t able to quit smoking. Only he couldn’t stop eating tomatoes with salt on them. He’d bring a brown grocery sack of tomatoes every shift.

One day, though, he showed up at the office without a bag of tomatoes. “Where are your tomatoes?” I asked.

“The doctor says I can’t eat them anymore unless I stop salting them,” he said. “I have high blood pressure. And who wants a tomato without salt? I think I’ll start smoking again.”

Well, even though the cat doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t eat tomatoes, I’m sure she would like to get back to her favorite food as soon as possible. She’ll have to wait for the weekend, though. I haven’t got time right now to go to the store.

Letter: For council job, pick Farinelli (June 6)

When it comes to replacing Sam Armentrout on the City Council … can’t do it.

But if we have to, then why don’t we place someone that wants to be there and has a working knowledge of how the process works. Its only until the 2012 elections, and I believe the (by district) rules should be applied then, not now.

Rick Farnelli, who ran for the job last year, can do it, and I can’t see why we are hesitating on this issue.

Bill Hoffrage,

The Founding Farmers (June 9)

By Chuck Doud
The Madera Tribune

What did George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison have in common? They were all Founding Fathers of the United States of America, you might reply, and you would be correct. But they also were part of another club, one which may have been even more important to them than their politics. They all were farmers.

Washington was one of the most prosperous farmers in America — if not the most prosperous. He even had a whiskey distillery.

Jefferson’s farm was a showcase of then-modern farming methods. Madison’s Montpelier, and Adams’ small farm in Quincy, Mass., although not as expansive as Mount Vernon or Monticello, were nevertheless as much loved by their owners as were the larger spreads by theirs.

According to Andrea Wulf, in her new book “Founding Gardeners,” many of those who brought our nation into being were as interested in seeds and gardening tips — and especially manure as a fertilizer — as they were in politics.

Good seeds were harder to come by in those days. Good farmers kept part of their crop back for seeds, both for their own use and to sell or give to others.

Today’s big, scientifically-based seed industry bears no resemblance to the practices of the colonists, who often spent years developing seed strains to improve output or improve the quality of a fruit or vegetable.

Animal husbandry was likewise carefully practiced. There was no such thing as All West Sires or other artificial breeding programs. Dairy and beef herds had to be improved one animal at a time.

Today, manure is seen by most people as a waste product, but colonial farmers rightly saw it as a valuable commodity. They knew that by direct application, or by composting, it could provide food for new crops and stability for the soil.

The whole foundation of the United States was agricultural, as was the later growth. We in Madera County have only to look out our back doors to see and understand the beauty and value of what the founders engendered for us.

Measuring trade can be misleading (June 8)

By Chuck Doud
The Madera Tribune

Here may be one reason why we are having trouble digging ourselves out of the Great Recession: We have fallen for some economic sleight of hand.

Until 1991, the value of the American economy was expressed as the Gross National Product — which was the market value of goods and services produced by labor and property supplied by U.S. residents, regardless of where those residents might be.

After 1991, however, we began measuring economic output as Gross Domestic Product — which is the market value of goods and services produced by labor and property in the United States regardless of nationality.

In other words, the Gross Domestic Product now includes those things that are produced abroad by non-Americans and sold in the U.S.

Using Gross Domestic Product as a measure of our economy has made it appear that for most of the past 20 years we have been doing very well, but in fact, we haven’t. America’s trade deficit now is hovering at around $500 billion annually, meaning we buy more abroad than we sell abroad.

When we bring those items purchased from foreigners here and resell them, those sales are folded into the measure of the Gross Domestic Product, although no American — or at least very few Americans — benefitted from their production.

The retailers who sell imported products can claim that their productivity was increased by being able to buy imports such as shirts, for less than the same items might be made at home, but that is a false measure of productivity. Only the profit on the shirt should be part of the Gross Domestic Product, not the whole shirt.

But if that were the case, Gross Domestic Product would be many billions of dollars smaller, even though it would be a more accurate measure of how productive we are.

What we are finding out is that so-called free trade isn’t free, and that its out of-balance weight on our economy is making recovery very tough.