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tv   Conversation with Mark Arax  CSPAN  February 4, 2017 1:13pm-1:26pm EST

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better system of laws and regulations for lobbying, we basically need a system, lobbying for all of the time. by the people who are employing the lobbyists. all the lobbying regulation system we have now come all the lobbying revelation, all about identifying who is lobbying, who they are lobbying for, this is fine stuff, but what they are lobbying for. that is one of the biggest challenges moving forward, lobbyists themselves, more and more pressure a lot of people coming in. and a finite number of
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lawmakers, that is more beholden, looking to the clients, that is a big ethical challenge going forward. >> a literary tour of fresno, california. we hear from journalist mark arax about the geographic landscape of the san joaquin valley. >> i had a choice a long time ago before i went to school in the east in baltimore. going around the country, placing written books and stories i stayed -- decided to come back here to understand what it is. that linked up to the other stories and i hear the stories,
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african-americans came west, mexicans crossing the border, not very different from my grandfather's tail, my grandfather came here in the 1920s. the name of a river that flows down from mount ararat, he was a poet and eric's was his pen name, the army and navy means the son of. we were the son of joseph. it was a more literary pen name. it was going to be a poet, and the armenian genocide broke out and he had to hide in an attic in istanbul from 1915 to 1916-17 and went up there with his books, all these french poets and short story writers and he became a lover of french symbolism and he had a choice,
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to remain in turkey after the genocide, and the uncle that came into fresno, california. there is a new armenia here, place, valley, surrounded by mountains, grapes as big as egg, watermelons float down the river's, took the bait, came to fresno. he carved out a life here of farming, being a grocery man and writing his poetry. my dad had a football scholarship at usc. the literary things kept a generation. we are sitting in my office in
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northwest fresno. tons of documents in california and the story of water and that is where we are. this is heaven and hell. where did we first read about that, starting to figure out, thousands of post its, with topics, each cover represented different topic. the central valley really goes, for bakersfield to sacramento and even beyond. the longest valley in the united states, or talking the san
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joaquin valley, the san joaquin and sacramento. and all these dramas take place, it is geographically exiled from the -- physically exiled. it is psychologically exiled. the same kind of ethics. it is backward if you come here. feels very much like the south, feels like the south for a reason. when my grandfather arrived here in 1920, these sons of the cotton plantation on coming here. the bald eagle was ravaging the cotton fields in the south, the sound of the plantation find a
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new place, and landed in this valley. about 50 miles from here. others -- and the california map. the sons of the plantation came west. they drain the lake try. they ended up damning those rivers turning the meanders of those rivers into straitjackets, if i showed you those rivers today they will be as straight as an arrogation can now. they control the flow of those rivers and put pumps along the rivers that make the rivers run backward to control that flow and all those rivers were captured in the name of
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agriculture. and 90% were taken by farm that the flow is shut off by the dam and the flow that is shunted to this lattice irrigation canals throughout the valley so it is the most industrialized farm in the history of man, creating these factories. to begin with the nonfiction literature of this place, factories in the field by carrying it -- a book that was written in the depression time and really put on the map how industrialized this is. how we created this futile society with farmers who didn't call themselves farmers but growers, had captured tens of thousands of acres of land and industrialized it and to find a workforce south of the border. and imported a workforce and we
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basically important -- imported did the a lower-class that came here and the struggle created a vast plantation society and that futile structure still exists today. it is a place of tremendous disparity where the land, and machines are controlled by 300 families up and down this valley, the vast majority of the land and water is controlled by a handful. that is the story i am trying to tell. and factors in the field left off and telling the story of this place. i was born here, spend most of my life here but it is still history to me. if we were to take a drive, it
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would take 20 minutes. we begin in the suburbs north of here. it is a conservative place that voted 67% donald trump and out there are big mega churches and houses, we drive from those suburbs to downtown fresno, the highest concentration of poverty in those neighborhoods and 15 minutes beyond, we would land in the middle of a place, the raisin capital of the world, surrounded by different thing, a beautiful thing, quiet agriculture but rural, in that half hour drive you can see these landscapes and i would say, you don't find that anywhere else.
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those three places at one drive. quite a canvas to write about. a hard place to write about, you have to make certain judgments. it can be a depressing place to write about which is why so much of the literature has been fiction and poetry. a rich history of great poets phil levine from detroit, great fiction beginning with steinback but nonfiction is more difficult. you have to dig into the brokenness of this place. it doesn't make you a popular person to tell the stories here. i live here, writing these stories not everyone embraces, telling the history, warts and
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all, the wisest person, the wisest people i ever interviewed -- she was 100 years old at the time. she had come in texas, the contrail west. they stop along the way, 7 or 8 of them -- the kid in each place. he landed in -- picked the cotton. interviewing her, on the outskirts of that city, that town, to the slave days of her grandmother. and that one interview standing 150 years of history, remarkable to get on the piano and playing,
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above the piano, the photographs of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. her voice, one of the powerful voices, and her story is told in california. it is a joy to do this. his old beat up sony tape recorder, i don't even use a digital one. just capturing these stories and tell the history of the place. to be a nonfiction writer and live in this place, you have to write in a way that is going -- never tell stories of how upset

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