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Harder plays divisive politics despite what he claims

Josh Harder seems to be into censorship.

The 10th Congressional District congressman voted in favor of House Resolution 908 which condemns COVID-19 from being referred to as the  “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” and “Kung-flu,” because such terms have “perpetuated anti-Asian stigma.” It passed mostly along party line in a 243-184 vote on Sept. 17.

Talk about Democrats wasting time. How many times have you heard a flu named after the place it originated? The Spanish flu of 1918, the Hong Kong flu of 1968 that killed one to four million people globally. There was also Ebola from Africa.

Democrats say it’s because we don’t know where a flu originates and that it can hurt the country being singled out. I think we’re solid on where COVID-19 came from but I want to know why Democrats are so concerned with China experiencing economic hardship. It’s just yet another attempt to politicize a tragedy against our president.

Rep. Grace Meng, a Chinese Democrat, said “we reject racism.” It’s news to me that referring to a geographical location is racist. Frankly most Americans are tired of the words “racist” and “racism” being thrown about recklessly among today’s progressives.

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Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra watched the online debate between congressional candidates Josh Harder and Ted Howze last week and heard his name come up. Harder suggested that Vierra was no longer supporting Howze. I’ll give Harder the benefit of a doubt that he was confused, not deliberately lying.

The next day Mayor Vierra posted this message on Facebook: “Listening to the 10th District Congressional debate last night, I was taken aback hearing Josh Harder bring up my name. I continue to fully support Ted Howze for Congress because he has proven he has the experience and leadership ability to deliver results for our Valley. I wanted to set the record straight and I look forward to Ted Howze representing the Valley in Congress.”

I understand that Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu is also still supporting Howze, despite what Harder said.

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Also at the Turlock Journal debate, Harder said: “We can’t have any more of this divisive politics, pitting folks against each other.” Interesting given that Harder made the biggest play of divisive politics by voting to impeach a duly elected president of the United States over the Russian collusion hoax, of which there is solid proof of it tracing back to Hillary Clinton’s paid-for Steele dossier. That one vote alone indicates that Harder puts party above country and calls into question his fairness and judgment.

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A little story to make my next point.

When my daughter Jennifer was young her knee became badly swollen. My wife and I had to take her to a doctor who concluded there was water on her knee and it had to come out. It involved a needle and we had to hold her down because trying to insert a knee into a small child’s knee isn’t going to go well. It was emotionally painful for us and her as she screamed at the pain and thinking we were betraying her with torture.  She couldn’t understand that it was for her own good.

It may not be the best story to illustrate that at times you have to take painful actions for someone’s good. Like the time five members of the Ceres City Council years ago unanimously raised water rates in Ceres for the sake of the future of Ceres’ access to water. 

So it was rather unsettling to see City Council candidate Couper Condit use the painful experience for his political advantage last week when his sleazy attack mailer arrived in Ceres mailboxes. The first thing I noticed is Condit’s hit piece used a Courier photo of him without permission.

I’ve never seen this scale of attack at the city level; always at the state or federal level. It has all the fingerprints of a polished political machine, the work of consultants whose motto would be “all’s fair in love and war.” The mailer has the effect of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly given that we’re only talking about a small council domain of 2,400 homes.

The mailer attacks on Councilman Mike Kline for supporting a 180 percent water rate increase (in 2017) and not going along with his brother’s proposal to have the council give up health benefits (probably because he is covered under his job at Opportunity Stanislaus).

I dislike most political mailers because they twist facts and leave out context for the purpose of making someone look bad.  One could, in theory, make Mother Teresa look like Dorothea Puente with the tactics used in slick mailers.

So why did those water rates have to increase, Couper? Was it because the council wanted to inflict economic hardship on themselves and their fellow Cerams or because the city really had to break its 100 percent reliance on groundwater?

We all know that there are only a few sources of drinking water. One is the underground aquifers; the other from surface rivers or lakes. Modesto drinks from both groundwater and the Modesto Reservoir which is fed by the Tuolumne River. The majority of the Ceres water rate hike was necessary for the city to pay for its expected $100 million share of cost for the regional surface water plant. That plant was deemed necessary because as the Valley grows with more people needing water, groundwater tables are producing water of less quality which fails to meet ever-increasing water quality standards. The nearby Tuolumne River was a logical option for water and ensures Ceres will have a guaranteed source of water for years – as long as Democrats keep their hands off it – while cities like Hughson may be flat out of luck in the future. And you know what happens when a community doesn’t have water – it dries up and blows away like your unwatered house plants.

The rate hikes approved in 2017 take place over the period from 2018 to 2022. At the time Mayor Chris Vierra called the rate hikes “painful” and Councilwoman Linda Ryno said she hated the idea of enacting increases but said “we have to pay for it too. We live in the city and I understand why we are (raising rates); I just don’t think it’s going to be easy for us to accept that.”

So when Kline, Vierra, Ken Lane, Bret Durossette and Ryno all voted for the rate hikes, they realized there was no other choice to seal Ceres’ future access to good clean water. It was a courageous vote. They didn’t play games with it.

Since he’s critical of the vote, it would be a safe bet to say Couper Condit would have voted against the rate hikes, knowing he’d be the odd man out but afford him the chance to tell voters: “See! See! I voted against rate hikes. See, I’ve your back! Vote for me! Vote for me!” all while knowing full well the project was absolutely necessary.

Mike Kline may not be an eloquent speaker but he has the heart of a servant and a reputation as being someone who genuinely cares about his city. He’s served the community in youth sports before his council days. He’s a likeable person and has worked hard as a coach and councilman in addition to his employment not in government but in the food industry. I haven’t always agreed with some of his votes – such as allowing garbage cans in views – but I cringe at the way this political ruthlessness is being directed at him.

Since Condit aims to make an apple to orange comparison with regard to a water plant and council benefits, here’s some perspective: Ceres’ share of the surface water plant is $100 million. Kline’s share of combined benefits and salary for 2018 was $15,985.

By the way, brother Channce has been accepting the council stipend of $6,000 per year, I suppose, because he needs it but not the health insurance. But it remains to be seen if Condit makes it to the Board of Supervisors if he’ll take both the $83,000 annually salary and health benefits.

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Recently Senator Kamala Harris went out of her way to visit Jacob Blake who was shot on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin after resisting police arrest. Harris, a former criminal prosecutor, had the nerve to say she was “proud of him.” Blake is the man who sexually assaulted a woman on May 3. In July, Blake was charged with felony sexual assault, trespassing and domestic abuse and a warrant was issued for his arrest. A month later, Blake allegedly violated a restraining order that was in place when he went to the woman’s home, which led her to call 911.

Harris repulses me for her praise of a criminal while making no effort to visit either of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies who were brazenly shot by a cowardly thug in Compton in September.

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I have always assumed that this region is Central California. I realized there was some question when a woman asked me why I was referring to Sonora as Central California and not Northern California. We are in fact in that region in the middle both east to west and north to south.

If you take the state from the top to bottom, it’s about 665 miles. Divided by three, that gives you 221 miles for each section – northern, central and south. That makes Central California beginning roughly at northern Bakersfield all the way to south of Lodi. So it’s safe to say, yes, Ceres is in Central California.

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I saw a great meme the other day: “The person working the checkout line is deemed essential, worked for the past seven months, eight hours a day, five days a week and sees tens of hundreds of people so you can buy your pickles … but a teacher can’t work seeing the same 20 students daily because it’s dangerous. Science left a long time ago. You are being played!”

We HAVE been played – big time.

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I often hear how people dislike the Bee because of their left political slant. It really bore out in their list of endorsements. They referred to Modesto City Council candidate Janice Keating’s “angry, conservative condescension” as they went on to endorse Ricci’s “progressivism.” They also said of David Wright: “his right-wing rigidity should be a red flag at a time when healing and alliances are in order.”

While commending Channce Condit for his “admirable record of public service” (that would be less than two years on the council), they recommend Hallinan for the District 5 on the Board of Supervisors. They also recommend Bill Zoslocki over former Ceres resident Buck Condit in District 1.

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The return of the Ceres Drive-In has excited many. It’s been open for three weekends now and Mark Stotzer said it’s been a great response so far.

Drive-ins are a nostalgic thing that kind of disappeared with time and came back because of social distancing and the closing of walk-in theaters. The movie theater industry is dying under the onerous restrictions placed on us by the Nanny state.

I remember living in Modesto as a kid and visiting my grandparents in Livingston in the evening and watching the movie screens as we moved along Highway 99. I remember seeing many, including the Ceres Drive-In screen.

Someone on social media shared recently about the Starlight Drive-in in Keyes. I thought it was west of the freeway but aerial photos show the passion pit was on a triangle lot bordered by the freeway and Faith Home Road. A truck lot is there now. Then it struck me why Starlite Trucking was named Starlite Trucking. It was a duh moment. 

It also explains why all those residential streets that followed later were named after movie actors like Monroe, Bacall, Fonda, Heston, Brando and Wayne. That’s why I find history is fascinating – it explains why things are the way they are today!

The screen would have been right where the drainage basin is at the southernmost part of Bogart Drive.

Cathy Line shared a cute memory about the Starlite Drive-In: “We saw Mary Poppins at the Starlight in 1964. My dad would pop a grocery bag size full of popcorn at home to bring, he folded down the middle seats in the station wagon and load up a twin size mattress in the back. We would also hide our cocker spaniel Flicka underneath a blanket and sneak her in. What fun!”

Apparently the Starlite was opened in 1949 by Robert L. Lippert Theatres Inc. By 1955 it was operated by Stanislaus Motor-In Inc. and Redwood-Lippert Theatres. This was a Robert Lippert theater in the 1960’s.

I’m dating myself when I say I remember the Prescott Drive-In when Smokey and the Bandit came out in 1977. That theater was located where Winco and Walmart are located in Modesto. After the movie my family sat in the McDonald’s across the street and watched idiot after idiot burn their tires out of there because they have been exposed to 90 minutes of juvenile delinquent Burt Reynolds driving like a maniac. And they say Hollywood doesn’t adversely affect people. Spare me.

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