The Bush Administration's Ongoing Assault on Blue-State California: Spraying Us to Exterminate the Light Brown Apple Moth

Posted on 29 May 2008

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By Paulina Borsook

The spirit of Clausewitz ("war is a continuation of politics with other means") has been ever-present since the Bush Administration declared war against blue state-California in 2007.

How has this war been faring, the one where the combined powers of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) intend to engage in the fury of aerial bombardment and the terror of ground assault on people, economy, and environment of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas? A war which may extend to the entire state?

This is the extermination campaign against the LBAM (Light Brown Apple Moth), a total war the USDA says it will carry on regardless the will of the people, scientific testimony, state rulings, or anything else having anything to do with rational courses of action. All this against a bug that poses a threat only in the realm of ideas and not in the realm of actual harms. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it, like a few other wars (in Iraq; on some drugs) carried out by the Bush Administration?

Yet, even within the USDA, documents released through the April 2008 court hearing in Santa Cruz (where Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick ruled that the LBAM has caused neither emergency nor harm to California agriculture, so CDFA can no longer try to get around the need for an environmental impact report [EIR] on its LBAM eradication program) there is evidence that the LBAM is a moth of gentle breeding and modest aspirations, and an eradication program for it would be unseemly.

Specifically, the USDA itself described the LBAM as a "transient pest" and also said "the Suterra formulation is being applied in a way that we believe may seriously compromise its effectiveness, which may have been problematic to start with" [Suterra being the manufacturer of Checkmate, the party mix of pheromone+plastic particles small enough to lodge in the deep lung+mutagens, carcinogens, aquatic toxins, skin lung+eye irritants+possible endocrine disruptor sprayed over the Monterey Bay irritants+Areain 2007.]

So why is the full force and majesty of the U.S. government behind this pre-emptive attack on a presumed (agricultural) terrorist? Just why is the USDA spending its money on a program which isn't necessary, isn't effective, and isn't safe --- when the agency is slashing the budget for useful projects such as research into the wheat rust fungus that's threatening to turn into a scary food-scarcity-causing pandemic?

Good question. Maybe Speaker Pelosi, whose district is smack in the middle of this war zone, can find out.

And the proposed testing of whatever is next to be dumped on blue-state Californians (who still don't know what exactly they are to be dosed with, whether it will be either of the two toxic micro-encapsulated formulae used in the fall of 2007 over the Monterey Bay area, or novel flakes/pastes/gunk from the Black Lagoon. This lack of timely full disclosure hardly inspires confidence.) is to be in Texas, a state known [not!] for its strong environmental stewardship and consumer protections.

This is the same Texas that threw up the oil-patch malefactors that were Enron, good good friends of the Bush administration --- the smartest guys in the room who jammed California into the false energy-famine at the beginning of this century. Those bad actors were aided and abetted by the Bush administration's FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) good old boys, who colluded in the economic vengeance wrecked on California that drove Gray Davis from the governor's office --- and brought Arnold Schwarzenegger in.

And blue-state Californians, presumably a pack of credulous chumps, are supposed to trust any of this?

Meanwhile, the Bush administration-driven CDC (Center for Disease Control) and office of the Surgeon General have ignored the request of Sam Farr, the U.S. representative from Santa Cruz, to have those agencies' oversight into the health and safety of the proposed LBAM eradication program. These federal entities charged with tending to human health and well-being relinquished their authority to the EPA, an agency which, since the palace coup of 2001, is utterly demoralized except in the places where it has been utterly corrupted by corporate agendas.

The Romans pretty much got there first in so many aspects of living in a multi-culti, fractionalized, mercantile, warring world: "quis custodiet custodes?" And the CDFA, aping Bush Administration style in so many ways, has set up the guardians of the LBAM eradication process to be compromised, incompetent, or clueless.

Specifically, the CDFA-initiated Environmental Advisory Task Force (EATF) dictates that the EATF operate from the fully-supine Bush Administration
posture: regulation and oversight = permission-giving, enabling, and allowing the powers that be to maintain a culture of information-sparing, not information-sharing. EATF members are not to be insubordinate to their betters!

For a glimpse into how declawed and defanged the EATF is, consider that the CDFA feels no obligation to give any meaningful or timely responses to EATF member requests for information or explanations of CDFA actions. The representative to the EATF from the consultancy firm hired by the state of California to do the EIR is not only an employee of a firm largely hired to make nice (and make way) for gas and oil companies, but also said that all information for the EIR was to come from CDFA itself. But wait, it gets better, Bush-administration style! Human health concerns are brushed off as Not Our Department! Instead, members of the EATF are cajoled by CDFA staffers into having the right attitude, which is one of helping to explain the position of the CDFA to the public: not your place to challenge or criticize or ask questions!

And one last testament to this Bush Administration-stylishness, where everything is the opposite of what it sounds like (you know, "Healthy Forests" is a synonym for "increase your logging" and "Clear Skies"
signifies that air-polluters can do as they like): the EATF is not to find fault with the wisdom (idiocy?) of the CDFA's decision to bring in non-native wasps to attack the LBAM. That's right, let's bring in a second invasive species to pound on a first (one, mind you, which has caused no damage), but not do any testing to see how this second species will affect the chain of life of native plants and animal! Criminy! except of course, it's criminal.

Thus, this EATF is about as effective as such a thing would have been under the reign of Nicole and Elena Ceausescu, the former dictators of Romania. These tyrants, like the CDFA and the USDA, also liked to dress up their actions detrimental to the people and environment under their rule with the language of what sounds like science, and also insisted their actions were only and all analogous to what kindly, caretaking parents would do.

Then, there's the whole other mystery how the poor misunderstood LBAM (the story of its misclassification is a little bit like those horror-stories of children whose IQs were confused with the number of their schoolrooms, such that they were horrifically and mistakenly tracked with the trainable mentally-retarded for years) got classified as an "actionable pest", i.e.moth of mass destruction. What's been disseminated is reminiscent of the rationales and intel about weapons of mass destruction that lead up to the invasion of Iraq. It's a threat because we say it's a threat! Because we keep repeating that it's a threat, it obviously has to be a -dire- threat.

With the LBAM, there are those rumors and susurrations that it was declared to be an "Insect Not Known to Occur in the United States" back in the 1950s (meaning, it's not from around here. Damnable alien!), with its non-green-card status evidently renewed in the 1980s and again sometime early in this century. So true, the LBAM's country of origin does remain the land down under; but oddly, documentation about how and why LBAM is classified as "actionable major pest" that can and should be eradicated--that G2 is just not easily searchable, traceable, verifiable, nor open to independent third-party evaluation.

Even stranger, there are the exemptions to the export-a-plant-or-crop-outside-the-county-with-a-single-LBAM-on-it-and-you're-a-crispy-critter quarantine that the CDFA/USDA has erected: broccoli, mustards, collard greens, lettuce and artichokes are exempt; citrus, apples, and strawberries are not. On what botanical, entomological, or agronomic basis were these exemptions made? Lettuce is hardened and Kevlar-plated and citrus fruits are of tender maidenly sensibility? Again, let the Romans be our guides: "cui bono", or to use the language of our era, "follow the money".

Still, there is a kind of outside evaluation to be had of the actual threat posed by the LBAM. In addition to the reports from Hawaii and New Zealand, where long experience with the LBAM has proved that in this day and age it is just not that big a deal, there is now news from the mother country. Daniel Harder, director of the arboretum at UC-Santa Cruz, and adjunct professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology reports that Her Majesty's Gardeners at Kew (that's the Royal Botanic Gardens, one of the greatest collections of plants and plant-people ever created over time anywhere) have said that LBAM, which has been hanging out in the UK for decades, poses no threat to the Kew Gardens collections.

So I guess it's different for us? Plants on the U.S. mainland are -speshul-, dainty, and vulnerable? Not like those rough tough butch plants of Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii, where LBAM is just no big whoop?

A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, Rachel Cameron, said that the governor is "confident that we will prevail" in the appeal of Burdick's ruling the state of California is planning to mount. Huh? What exactly does the Gubernator/Exterminator -mean- by "we"? Is this an indication of a Chalabi-like deal with the Bush Administration: "I am in cahoots with you so you will set me up princely fashion when this war is over"? Because "we" is surely not the people of California, nor its plants, its environment, its wildlife, or its economic well-being.

Author of "Cyberselfish", Paulina Borsook lives in the Northern California spray zone. Her journalism, essays, humor, and fiction have been published in "Mother Jones", "The New York Times", "", "Wired", and other venues too numerous to to count. Her work has been widely anthologized. She has written previously on the LBAM wars for The Huffington Post.