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Are the politicians over-reacting?

We’re going to be okay.

We’re going to get through this.

Stop the panic.


I hesitate to start this week’s column on the topic of the coronavirus because I am sick of it already – not the virus but the reaction of panic in our grocery stores over toilet paper and hand sanitizer. 

A lot of us are watching this self-centered hording of supplies unfold with jaws dropped. We’re also watching a government overreach and can’t understand how this reaction comes when past medical threats did not rise to this level. Some are wondering if the hype from the syndicated media is all about tampering with a presidential election. After all, the pundits were saying that a great economy equated to a Trump re-election. Consider that the best gift for the Democrats would be a Wall Street crash and a crippled economy. We’ve heard repeated criticisms on MSN and CNN that Trump didn’t act quickly enough even though his first action was in January.

Consider this: The H1N1 (swine) flu epidemic that swept America in 2009-2010 infected 60 million Americans and sent 265,000 to the hospital and killed 12,000! About 1,000 Americans died before then President Obama made mention of it and the media did not come down on him for the delay. And Americans certainly weren’t panicked and hording supplies.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be worried. We don’t know what will happen. As far as it depends on you, use caution.

As of Friday, coronavirus had infected 1,840 Americans and resulted in 41 deaths. As of yesterday morning, 5,636 cases and 95 deaths. Perspective: about 3,287 die in car crashes daily. About 32 million Americans have come down with flu since September, resulting in over 18,000 deaths in that same time period.

I don’t remember the media hype about swine flu to the point that people were hording TP and groceries. And because those hell-bent on seeing a Democrat defeat Trump see how this is working, look to the incessant coverage which in turn causes more panic, more disruptions to life, more layoffs, more government control.

Dr. Drew Pinsky feels the national news media should be ashamed and “held accountable” for “a panic that is far worse than the viral outbreak.” He aptly notes that “A bad flu season is 80,000 dead. We’ve got about 18,000 dead from influenza this year; we have 100 from corona.” In a recent interview he said to be cautious but “go about your business. That’s the story. Do not be alarmed by the word pandemic, which the CNN reporter seemed to discover this morning.”

Biologist Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai from MIT said media fear mongering will go down as the biggest fraud to manipulate economies. He said the “Deep State” is exaggerating the impact of the virus and stressed the need to end the scare talk and begin educating about immune health. Ayyadurai said 80 percent who get the virus have a mild reaction while those who see serious reaction have compromised immune systems or pre-existing medical issues. He also talks about the importance of vitamins A (acts like a shield to human cells), C and D.

“You politicians listening out there, that comes through clean water, clean food and good nutrition. But they don’t want to talk about that. What politicians want to talk about is, they want to scare us … they really want to do, in my opinion, this entire coronavirus is a wonderful opportunity for China to shun dissent….”

Yet here we are shutting down life in America. Everything has come to a grinding halt. I get that it’s good to be cautious but I think balance is essential. My fear is that once this virus has passed, the economy may not recover for years, crushing tens of thousands of businesses with jobs in the process.

* * * * *

Last week was a week of cancellations.

The “Every 15 Minutes” program set for Thursday and Friday was cancelled after the tragic and unnecessary death of a Central Valley High School teen the prior night.

Outright panic about the corona virus caused Hughson Elementary School to cancel a Friday morning ceremony for which my grandson was to be honored.

A myriad of other events are being cancelled because of the panic.

Flu has been around for eons yet we have never panicked like this.

I’m ready to get back to normal.

* * * * *

Did I miss the press releases from Democrat Assemblyman Gray Davis and Democrat Rep. Josh Harder condemning Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom in filing a lawsuit against Trump for his desire to stop the water grab? No, because they didn’t issue any criticism of Newsom.

Harder came out last week with a press release touting his bill, the Securing Access for the Central Valley and Enhancing (SAVE) Water Resources Act which passed the Natural Resources Committee on a vote of 19-12. The bill supports local water storage projects, spurring innovation, and makes investments in California’s existing water infrastructure. The bill has to be passed by the full House of Representatives. The bill requires the Bureau of Reclamation (federal bureaucrats) to expedite feasibility studies for four storage projects in the Valley – the Sites Reservoir, Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir, Los Vaqueros, San Luis Reservoir, and Pacheco Reservoir. It also provides $100 million in storage funding.

But why build more projects when the state Board of Water Resources (appointed by Democrats) arbitrarily comes in and forces us to flush 40 percent of that stored water down the river for fish?

Harder will never admit it but his party is the worst thing for water and farming issues in his district and he won’t call them out on it. The answer is replacing him with Ted Howze, a local veterinarian.

* * * * *

When we lose our children to car accidents we grieve for their loss and the what-ifs. That feeling is compounded when the cause of death was something stupid. Certainly, youth in particular don’t have the perspective and experience that reckless actions can lead to calamity. There is something about the male brain in the teen years that recoils from common sense that adults have. No doubt, the “it won’t happen to me” mentality kicks in when one pushes the accelerator to the floor in a senseless racing contest.

I remember that stupidity well. Once in 1979 I had my best friend with me as I drove my 1974 Camaro up Santa Fe Avenue north of Parker Road in east Modesto. The next stop sign was about a mile away, maybe more, at Milnes Road.  Being 17, I wanted to see how fast that 350 engine with its four-barrel carburetor would take us so I stomped on it. The Camaro got up to 100 mph but I was afraid to push it faster. The stop sign at Milnes Road came up faster than I anticipated and I almost didn’t stop in time. That scare was enough to make me never do it again. That was the first and last time I ever hit 100 mph.

 Kids, don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk … and the cost.

* * * * *

Journalists tend to be a cynical lot so I was a bit suspicious when Krishan Malhotra got up at the last City Council meeting to complain about candidate signs on telephone poles at eight different locations in Ceres. I found out later that others had the same suspicions.

He singled out the candidacies of judicial candidate John Mayne and surprise, surprise, county supervisor candidate Tom Hallinan, who happens to be the city attorney sitting right there at the platform. He also mentioned finding a 2018 sign from Hallinan’s state Board of Equalization campaign still up. A recently appointed member of the Ceres Beautification Committee, Malhotra cited a state Penal Code which makes it illegal to attach to any sign to a utility pole, and asked the city to crack down on such violations.

Malhotra, of course, is correct that signs should never be placed on poles but it seemed an overt attempt to shame Hallinan, who may have been unaware of the sign placed there by a campaign minion. I say that because Malhotra made little mention of the vast myriad of garage sale signs attached to poles – which mar the Ceres landscape to a greater degree. Malhotra vocalized that he not only wanted the council to know but also the “residents of Ceres” know too (presumably because he wants Hallinan discredited so they vote for Hallinan’s opponent, Channce Condit).

You might also be curious to know that Malhotra was/is friends with fellow classmate Gary M. Condit (Channce’s brother) and had joined him in the 2017 student push for Fifth Street pedestrian signage adjacent to Ceres High.

* * * * *

The effort to recall Gov. Newsom has failed to garner enough signatures.

There were two recall efforts. One was staged by Erin Cruz and the other by Dr. James Veltmeyer. The La Jolla doctor said his recall effort received only $90,000 to hire people to gather signatures to collect the approximate two million names that he needed. He wanted $5 million so he abandoned his effort in January.

Also adding to the confusion is that the two petitions – the one from Veltmeyer and the one by Cruz – diluted strength. Cruz filed an unsuccessful recall against Newsom when turning in 281,917 valid signatures in that recall effort on Feb. 13. Supporters of that recall needed 1,495,709 signatures to force a recall election.

Now there is a petition seeking the recall of Democrat state Attorney General Xavier Becerra was approved for circulation by the California Secretary of State on March 11. Supporters of the recall have until August 18 to collect 1.47 million signatures to force a recall election.

The recall petition correctly alleges that Becerra mismanaged the state’s legal system, wasted public money and resources, lacks leadership, and has been hostile with his policies. The recall against Becerra is being led by Erin Cruz and 10 others.

While I wholeheartedly agree Becerra needs to go – he is one of the worst Democrats in the state and the people unwisely elected him in 2018. I predict this recall effort goes nowhere, too.

* * * * *

City Manager Toby Wells is leaving the city. Toby has done a phenomenal job and so much has been accomplished. I’ve been in the council audience more consistently than anyone and seen his command of the facts, sense of leadership and ability of articulate. His performance rates up there with that of Jim Marshall and Gary Napper and trust me I’ve seen a few who were horrible managers since 1987. (I could name them but I won’t.) Wells was able to get downtown revitalized – something talked about for decades – as well as lots of key public infrastructure projects. Wells also was a driving force behind crafting the developer agreements for cannabis operations. At a time when some cities like Turlock were saying no, Ceres took the bull by the horns and today has about $2.1 million extra per year to spend on police and fire. Turlock, the city he is going to with its budget problems and the worst streets in the county, has done a late about-face and running after cannabis now.

Toby has his work cut out in Turlock. I am no fan of its mayor who like Channce Condit lacks the foresight to support the regional surface water project. She’s also highly abrasiveness, but that’s Turlock’s problem. And now Toby’s.

City managers serve at the whim of fickle people so it’s not unusual for the winds of change to sweep managers out every three to five years. (We’ve heard that there are currently 35 city manager openings in California).

It’s too bad that Wells had no friendship in Ryno, Condit and Kline. Now they have the responsibility of finding someone competent enough to fill his shoes. Tom Westbrook, the Community Development Director, is now interim city manager and we wish him luck as he deals with an increasingly difficult council of fractured vision.

* * * * *

The coronavirus hype has not curtailed the liberals from continuing their fight to protect criminal aliens in our state.

In defiance of a new state law, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents busted some illegal aliens at the Sonoma County Superior Courthouse. The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) has now asked state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to defend the recently-enacted Assembly Bill 668 written by San Diego lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez. The legislation, co-sponsored by CAAA and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, went into effect Jan. 1 to bar civil arrests in California courthouses without a valid warrant. The attorneys say people who are here illegally fear arrest while showing up in court to pay fines, file papers or testify in cases.

People who commit crimes should fear being arrested showing up anywhere. They always have the option of returning to their home country.

Good for ICE, whose  field office director in San Francisco said that their “officers will not have their hands tied by sanctuary rules when enforcing immigration laws…”


This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at