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Sacto’s Biggest Stories: Keeping Track and Catching Up


MODERATION IN DEFENSE OF ELECTABILITY: Three weeks before election officials send out vote-by-mail ballots for the June 3 primary, it speaks volumes that when Republican über-strategist Karl Rove came to California last week, he promoted GOP wannabe governor Neel Kashkari.

Kashkari, a political moderate and Goldman Sachs hack, is competing among Republicans against Tea Party champion and Inland Empire Assemblymember Tim Donnelly. The latter is running second to Democratic incumbent and prohibitive favorite Jerry Brown in the latest Field Poll and also trouncing his rival among likely GOP voters, 34-to-3 percent.

Jerry Roberts

Mainstream party leaders privately are aghast at the possibility that Donnelly, whose views include fierce opposition to abortion rights, gay marriage, and any form of gun control, will emerge as their candidate and swiftly stunt recent efforts to repair the state Republican brand.

Rove is a leader of national efforts by mainstream conservatives to wrest control of the Republican Party away from Tea Party extremists, arguing for the nomination of candidates capable of winning elections, not just ideologically pure enough to please the far-right wing.

So when he made a dinner speech to a business group in the capital last week, Rove said it would be a mistake for GOP voters to defeat Kashkari.

“If the Republicans have to pick someone to lose to Jerry Brown, they’d be stupid not to pick” Kashkari, said Rove, reported San Francisco political writer Carla Marinucci, citing an anonymous source at the dinner.

For a, um, somewhat different perspective on Kashkari, check out Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi’s rant against the guy who managed former President Bush’s much-maligned TARP program. You can find it here.

CALIFORNIA’S JIM BOWIE: Rove’s comments came on the same day that Seema Mehta, writing in the L.A. Times, revealed the existence of an audiotape of a 2006 Donnelly speech to a crowd of militant anti-immigration protesters:

I am a descendant of Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo,” said Donnelly, then a leader of the militant Minuteman group. “It is rumored that he took a dozen Mexican soldiers to their deaths before they finally killed him. How many of you will rise up and take his place on that wall?

We are in a war. You may not want to accept it, but the other side has declared war on us,” the would-be governor added, according to the report. “There is a growing insurgency, right here in Los Angeles,” he said. “…We need to begin to root out the insurgency in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, just as we are doing in Baghdad, Samarra and Tikrit, 9,000 miles away.”

Not by coincidence, Rove also told his pro-business audience in Sacramento that he worried about the effect Donnelly’s inflammatory rhetoric would have on the party’s effort to reach out to minority voters.

“The comments that the other guy has made in the past are going to damage the party with Latinos on Election Day,” Rove reportedly said, in a masterpiece of understatement.

LATEST ON SHRIMP BOY: The Senator Leland Yee political scandal got a boost of legal celebrity last week, when it was announced that famed civil rights attorney Tony Serra will represent S.F. Chinatown ex-felon Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow against federal charges brought in the matter.

A noted media hound, Serra was played by James Woods in the 1989 film True Believer, about one of the lawyer’s more high-profile cases, which also emerged from the city’s Chinatown.

Among others, he’s represented Huey Newton, the Hells Angels, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, several high-profile marijuana activists, and Barry Bonds’s former trainer, caught up in the baseball steroids scandal. Serra already has made clear that his strategy will be to “put the government on trial” in the Chow case, as he put it.

There’s a premise out there that Shrimp Boy is a gangster,” Serra told reporters last week. “That is a false premise — our client had been free for approximately 10 years. Multiple agencies have surveilled him. … he has been a target for a decade and nothing has risen to a level of criminal activity.

I believe that if Yee hadn’t been involved, maybe my client would have never been charged … We don’t represent a gangster, we represent an exemplary human being,” he said, adding that undercover agents had tried to “induce, involve and catch” Chow in illegal acts for years.

ADD SHRIMP BOY: If Amazon Books ever starts listing Law Enforcement Affidavits as a sales category, FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua would be the breakthrough blockbuster author of the century. His 137-page opus, which was used as the basis for the arrests of Yee, Chow, and two dozen others, falls somewhere in word count between Anna Karenina and Remembrance of Things Past, Volumes I & II, but has been devoured by reporters, lawyers, crime fans, and legal voyeurs around the state and the nation. You can find it here. No word yet if the FBI will publish a sequel.

DROP BY DROP: Data compiled by officials in Stanislaus County, in the Central Valley, show that about 4 million recently planted almond trees in the county require as much water annually as 480,000 people, roughly the population of Santa Barbara County.

As detailed in the Modesto Bee, the data are significant because agriculture consumes about 80 percent of California’s water supply. Amid the state’s drought, there is considerable debate about the wisdom of growing crops which require relatively large amounts of water, such as almonds, alfalfa, and cotton, in what are essentially desert conditions.

“This city of thirsty trees has taken root virtually unregulated on what had been dry grazing land along the county’s far eastern and northeastern edge,” the paper’s J.N. Sbranti reported. “None of the farmers who planted those east side trees needed the government’s permission to tap the region’s groundwater supply, and currently they can pump all the water they want without revealing how much they’re using.”

GOING BATTY: While the drought has generated considerable discussion about issues from conservation to croplands, an unexpected new threat has suddenly emerged: a decline in vitality for the state’s bat population.

Several Central Valley news organizations recently reported about concerns raised by the Responsible Bat-Loving Community about a decline in overall bat wellness because of drought-inflicted losses to California insect populations.

“With the drought, there wouldn’t be the abundance of insects. If there is not enough food where they come to rest, by the time they get here they will be weak,” Rachael Long, a farm adviser in the Yolo County Cooperative Extension office told the Sacramento Bee.

Those interested in checking out state government’s overall plan for addressing the drought will find it here.

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