Friday, January 23, 2009

Forest Service Water Policy

The work of Gordon Grant, a USGS groundwater researcher is covered by High Country News. Here's an excerpt that mentions FS groundwater policy and how it will impact land use:
Within the Forest Service, which manages the land that supplies water to over 60 million Americans, very little research is directed toward understanding groundwater systems. Grant is doing the most cutting-edge work "by far," says Christopher Carlson, the agency's national groundwater program leader. But he may soon have company. Carlson is developing a national policy on groundwater management for the 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. It assumes a connection between surface and groundwater resources, and emphasizes sustaining groundwater-dependent ecosystems, home to many threatened and endangered species. Before it was founded in 1905, the Forest Service was directed to secure "favorable conditions of water flows." Carlson's policy may be the first major implementation of that directive. "We're transforming 100 years of Forest Service practices," he says. Grant has already documented the amount of water stored underground in the High Cascades. He can even explain how it got there and why. "What I lose sleep over is what we ought to be doing about it," he says. "This is where water will be in the future."An optimist at heart, Grant is confident that widespread understanding of groundwater and its relationship to river systems will evolve. One day it will be as universally accepted as plate tectonics, he says. Then, he believes, land management will revolve around it: "Clean water will be the single most important commodity produced from national forest lands. It will totally eclipse timber."

West's trees dying faster as temperatures rise

The LA Times is reporting on a USGS study finding that more trees are dying in the west:
Death rates had doubled in British Columbia and the Pacific NW according to the study. California experienced the highest death rates, at 1.5 % per year.Scientists who examined decades of tree mortality data from research plots around the West found the death rate had risen as average temperatures in the region increased by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. "Tree death rates have more than doubled over the last few decades in old-growth forests across the Western United States," said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Phillip van Mantgem, coauthor of a paper published in today's issue of the journal Science and released Thursday.
The study found the increasing death rates in a wide variety of forest types, elevations and tree sizes.

Trees Die While The Forest Service Is In Court

The Helena Independent-Record reports:
In a decision issued Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Helena forest’s 2003 plan to undertake commercial thinning and other efforts to remove small trees and vegetation on about 1,500 acres. However, Helena District Ranger Duane Harp said the prescription is only good now for about 100 acres containing Douglas fir trees, since about 90 percent of the trees on the remaining 1,400 acres — mainly lodgepole pines — are now dead. “We are obviously extremely pleased that the Ninth Circuit has found in our favor. But it’s bittersweet news because with the current beetle epidemic, the vast majority of the project area, which was proposed for timber harvest, is now dead,” Harp said. “You can’t use the prescription for green trees on dead trees.
What a wonderful way to manage our forests.

Arsonist 's Trial Begins

According to the AP the trial has begun for Robert Lee Oyler, accused of ignitaing a wildfire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters in 2006:
In opening statements for Raymond Lee Oyler's murder trial, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Hestrin told jurors that Oyler was a serial arsonist who set 25 blazes, including the Esperanza fire, and sometimes as many as three a day during 2006. Hestrin said Oyler was "a man bent on destruction ... a man wanting to be so important, he unleashed disaster on five men." Oyler, 38, has pleaded not guilty to 45 counts including murder and arson. He claimed he had been watching his 7-month-old child at home and then went to a casino when the Esperanza fire began on Oct. 26, 2006, as fierce Santa Ana winds roared through Southern California. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

Pinon Canyon residents deserve a full airing

The Denver Post editorializes:
Turns out it's not just the people of southeastern Colorado who think the Army needs to better explain why it needs to expand its Piñon Canyon training facility. An investigative arm of Congress has now called upon the Army to do just that. It's a welcome voice of reason in a debate that's been clouded by suspicion and an alarming paucity of information. Army leaders should heed the recommendations. At issue is the Army's fervent declaration that it needs to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. First, the plan was to acquire an additional 418,577 acres. After nearby landowners and members of Colorado's congressional delegation raised a stink, the Army announced it needed only 100,000 acres. But as the U.S. Government Accountability Office pointed out, the Army did not explain why it could do with less land or how much of the 100,000 acres would be used for actual training.
In the editorial, the Army claims it will have a 4.5 million acre land shortfall by 2013. What a laugh.

Anyway, it's nice to see the Denver Post take this position.

US lawmakers consider energy measures in stimulus

Reuters is reporting a house committe will approve $25 billion for energy projects as part of the $825 billion stimulus package (they now call it "economic recovery":
The package would also promote the development of so called smart power grid technology to support alternative energy use, plug-in hybrid vehicles and boost energy efficiency. Under the legislation, the government also would provide financial assistance of up to 50 percent of the costs for advanced grid technology necessary for certain electric utilities developing smart grid demonstration projects.
Joe Barton of Texas, ranking minority member criticized the proposal for short changing funding for carbon capture and storage capacity, clean coal development, and for ignoring nuclear energy.

This child thinks the whole thing is a waste. Congress will jump on any "emergency" to spend more money.

Split Estate Leases Hit Speedbump

The Farmington Times reports that while drilling rights were recently sold in San Juan County with little contention, 16,000 acres are being withheld from leasing in La Plata County Colorado:
Much of the property up for lease to developers is private land of which the federal government maintained below-surface mineral rights, known as a split estate, allowing the Bureau of Land Management to sell potential drilling sites to developers without regard to property lines. "Basically it was the fact that (residents) just said, No, we want to have some input in this process,'" said Matt Janowiak, assistant manager for physical resources with the San Juan Public Lands Center, which incorporates both the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service in Southwest Colorado. The BLM is looking to address both environmental concerns and property easement restrictions while seeking comment on the proposed leases. But the question is not if the land will be leased, it's when.
Several western states have enacted split estate legislation, leveling the playing fied between the surface owner and and the owner of the mineral estate. Similar legislation has been introduced in Colorado but hasn't become law. Governor Ritter needs to make this a priority.

A New Deal Gift That Keeps On Taking

The Wall Street Journal writes about Timberline Lodge, a famous New Deal WPA project:
Nestled beneath the peak of Mount Hood in the Cascade Mountain Range lies a bustling resort known as Timberline Lodge. It's part fortress (quarried from local rock), part manor house (complete with a great room) and part log cabin (some of the columns are whole trees). Think Johnny Appleseed meets Beowulf -- rustic, colossal, lots of fireplaces. But Johnny Appleseed didn't build it -- the federal government did. From the weather vane down to the stone foundations, Timberline Lodge is a product of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. President Roosevelt himself came to dedicate the lodge in 1937, "as a monument to the skill and faithful performance of workers on the rolls of the Works Progress Administration."
Roosevelt also said the project would "test the workability of recreational facilities installed by the government itself and operated under its complete control."

So how did this test workout? The Forest Service has had a private operator at the lodge who pays 4.5 % of earnings to the agency. Plus, the FS spends around $1.5 million a year on upkeep, Congress has added another $8 million in earmarks and private philanthropy had thrown in $4 million. The result? Not good. According to the story:
None of this is enough, though. Lodge spokesman Jon Tullis wrote in an email that Timberline hopes to identify some projects that are "deemed 'shovel ready' and worthy for consideration in Obama's stimulus plan."
So, an FDR stimulus project will need a bailout from the Obama stimulus package. Mr. Obama, meet Mr. Roosevelt.

No Avian Flu Found In NM

The avian flu is once again in the headlines. The death of a 19 year old woman in China is the first in that country since 2008, but the Chinese Health Ministry is forecasting an increase in the number of birds carrying the disease this year. Two more deaths in Indonesia (bringing their total to 115), and the recent finding that the flu is becoming more resistant to antiviral drugs is raising concerns among scientists.

However, there are some good news items. Worldwide deaths from the flu have decreased by 55% from 2007 to 2008, and here in New Mexico tests found no asian flu:
Tests at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge have turned up no sign of avian influenza. To date, the H5N1 virus has not been detected in the United States or anywhere in the western hemisphere. The state Department of Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies finished annual testing at the wildlife refuge near Socorro this week, using a rocket net to capture ducks. It's part of a national program to test for avian flu. Migratory waterfowl also were tested at the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, the Bernardo Wildlife Management Area and New Mexico Tech in Socorro. Officials checked 120 each of mallards, pintails, widgeons, green-winged teal and blue-winged teal.

COOL rule, many others, on hold awaiting review by Obama team

Feedstuffs reports COOL rule is among those delayed by Obama's decision to put a hold on all rules not finalzied (The COOL rule was published on Jan. 15). Feedstuffs also says:
Many other rules at USDA – including an APHIS proposed rule on the official numbering system for the National Animal Identification that was published on Jan. 13 and several rules implementing new provisions in the 2008 farm bill – will go into limbo as well, according to USDA spokesperson Jerry Redding. Additional rules at the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration are included under the White House instructions. But, it is unclear if an EPA rule that clarified when livestock operations were required to report air emissions is impacted by the White House memo. That rule, that includes provisions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) was published on Dec. 18 and was to go into effect on Jan. 20, the same day the memo was issued. Neither is it clear if the FDA's new guidance on genetically engineered animals will be affected.
No matter your position on these rules, it is another example of the incompetency of the Bush Administration. They knew the deadlines and couldn't meet them. What a sad commentary.

Norris to become Vilsack's chief of staff

The Des Moines Register reports:
John Norris, the chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board, is becoming Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s chief of staff. Norris’ wife, Jackie, was President Barack Obama’s Iowa campaign director and already had a job in Washington as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. Vilsack was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday and took the oath of office Wednesday afternoon and went to work at his new office at USDA, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. The aide said David Lazarus, a former adviser to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who led an outreach effort to farm organizations during the campaign, will become a special assistant to Vilsack. Vilsack’s deputy chief of staff will be Carole Jett, a longtime employee in USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service who helped direct Obama’s transition work with the department.

NCBA Asks Congress to Oppose Dairy Buyout in Stimulus Package

The NCBA is opposing the dairy buyout in the stimulus package according to this story.

The NCBA says the proposal would use taxpayer dollars to raise dairy prices by buying older dairy cows from farmers, taking approximately 6.5 billion gallons of milk off the market. This would result in nearly 320,000 additional head of cattle entering the beef market, which could drastically reduce the price of beef cattle.

In a letter to the Senate NCBA says:
“The cattle industry is not subsidized by the government, nor do we wish to be,” said NCBA President and Arizona rancher Andy Groseta. “However, we are subject to the unintended consequences of policy directed towards other sectors of agriculture, such as the dairy industry. Flooding the market with beef and driving down the price for our products will be devastating for America’s cattle producers.”
Proponents of the buyout suggest, you guessed it, subsidies for the beef industry:
Proponents of the buyout suggest lessening the consequences for the cattle industry by using United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Section 32 funds to purchase ground beef.
The same bad idea was tried in 1986 and didn't work.

Horse disease in Wyo.

Local News 8 is reporting:
The Wyoming State Veterinarian is investigating a possible case of a highly contagious equine venereal disease in the state. Officials say a mare in Wyoming has been linked to a Wisconsin stallion that was infected with contagious equine metritis (muh-TRY'-tis). It would be Wyoming's first case of the disease, which can result in temporary infertility and cause mares to abort their young. It does not affect other animals or humans and is treatable. As of Jan. 15, a total of 9 infected stallions have been detected nationwide - four in Kentucky, three in Indiana, and one each in Texas and Wisconsin. Wyoming is among at least 40 states involved in testing of horses that may have been exposed to the disease through natural breeding or artificial insemination.

Don Benito Wilson: Mountain Man to Mayor

Pasadena Now has a short book review on the history of what sounds like an interesting man:

In Don Benito Wilson: Mountain Man to Mayor, author Nat Read tells the story of the West and Los Angeles through a single notable figure, Don Benito Wilson, who was born during the lifetimes of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and who died in a Los Angeles that present-day citizens would begin to recognize. Mr. Read reveals the amazing tale of the “pioneer, beaver trapper and trader, grizzly bear hunter, Indian fighter, justice of the peace, farmer, rancher, politician, horticulturist, vintner, real estate entrepreneur, and one of the great landholders in Southern California.” He faced near death experiences with Indians, grizzlies, and a firing squad. Mount Wilson was named after him...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

White House suspends action on gray wolf delisting

The Obama Administration has frozen the Department of Interior effort to take gray wolves off the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions. In a memorandum issued Tuesday to federal department heads, Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, wrote that no proposed or final regulations should be sent to the Federal Register for publication until they have been reviewed and approved by new agency heads appointed by the president. Emanuel added that all regulations sent to the Federal Register, but not yet published, also should be withdrawn for review and approval. Last week, the Department of Interior, which oversees endangered species, had said it expected to delist gray wolves after publishing a new rule in the Federal Register this week. That rule hadn’t been published as of Wednesday, which means it falls under Emanuel’s memo. Hugh Vickery, an Interior spokesman, said he wasn’t sure why the publication had been delayed, although he noted it often takes a few days for the paperwork to go through. Both Monday and Tuesday were federal holidays, which could have slowed the process. Vickery said that after the review, the proposal could go forward as proposed now; it could go forward with some modifications; or it might not go forward at all....

California expects fast Obama move on car pollution

California's top climate change official on Wednesday predicted President Barack Obama's administration would let the state impose its own tough limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars by May, in what would be a victory for environmentalists. If the EPA reverses the Bush administration ruling, more than 12 U.S. states could proceed with plans to impose stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars. California wants to reduce the emissions by 30 percent by 2016 -- the most ambitious federal or state effort to address global warming. Environmentalists have said granting California a waiver that allows it to set its own emissions regulations would signal Obama's commitment to tackling climate change. California wants to require carmakers to use paints that reflect more heat, tires that roll smoother and improved air conditioning to boost efficiency beyond the fuel mileage requirements already facing automakers....

Antarctica not immune to warming

The Earth's lone holdout to climate change, Antarctica, is actually warming, says a new study in today's edition of the journal Nature. Scientists had long thought that while some isolated parts of Antarctica had been warming, much of the continent had been cooling over the past 50 years. But the new analysis found that since 1957, when measured as a whole, the continent's temperature has risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit. Perhaps most troubling is that "a fairly large part of West Antarctica is warming more than we realized," says study co-author Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University.Scientists say West Antarctica is the ice sheet most susceptible to a possible collapse in the future due to warming global temperatures. If the ice sheet collapsed, it would cause cataclysmic sea-level rise around the world....

Editorial - Saving the tortoise

Back in 1973, Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act. Fifteen years later, someone looked around and realized there was no way to do a cost-benefit analysis on how much was being spent to "protect" the proliferating list of weeds and bugs in question, so Congress in 1988 added a section to the ESA requiring an annual species-by-species expenditure report. And about eight years later, the appropriate federal agencies finally got around to issuing them. And which endangered species do you suppose these government agencies spend the most tax dollars "protecting"? The grizzly bear? The bald eagle? No. The 2006 report, the latest released by the Fish and Wildlife Service, estimates $884 million were directly spent "protecting" more than 1,100 species on the list. But there's a wide disparity in how money is doled out. The top recipients have been salmon in the Pacific Northwest and the Steller sea lion. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on those species since reporting began in 1996. Another critter ranking high on the list of money spent by state and federal agencies trying to keep it from extinction, according to an Associated Press analysis of the past 11 years of available data, is Southern Nevada's own desert tortoise. From 1996 to 2006, more than $93 million was spent on managing the long-lived reptile, The AP figures. That's more than was spent on the grizzly, the gray wolf or the bald eagle. There are some odd things about the case of the Mojave Desert tortoise, though. For one thing, its "critical habitat" stretches across 9,600 square miles. Jurisdictions include four states, seven military installations, four national parks and scores of federal, state and county agencies. For another, for a supposedly "threatened" species, there seem to be a whole lot of them out there. Roy Averill-Murray, desert tortoise recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno, estimates there are 111,000 to 187,000 adult desert tortoises in areas designated as critical habitat. Government agencies spent $10.5 million on the desert tortoise in 2006 and more than $11 million in 2007 -- on monitoring, fences to keep them from wandering onto highways, studies on a respiratory disease and stacks of long-range plans. Problem is, no one's sure if it's done more good than harm....

Renewable energy permitting process streamlined

Four years ago, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which called for the development of 10,000 megawatts of non-hydropower, renewable energy projects on public lands by the year 2015. Last week, the Bureau of Land Management authorized the establishment of special offices in Wyoming and other Western states to expedite that renewable energy development on federal public lands. BLM officials said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne issued a Secretarial Order on Friday that will allow the agency to establish coordination offices in Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada.
LM officials said those are the states where the greatest interest has been shown in renewable energy projects, most notably wind power projects. The offices will accelerate the permitting of wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy projects, along with needed electrical transmission facilities, on BLM-managed lands, officials said in a release....

Instead of Glory, the Finder of a Rare Dinosaur Fossil Faces Charges of Theft

In October 2006, a respected amateur paleontologist, Nathan L. Murphy, took a large rock containing the well-preserved bones of a new species of dinosaur to be X-rayed at the Dinosaur Field Station here. He called the fossil, a raptor the size of a wild turkey, Sid Vicious. The find was a coup, bringing Mr. Murphy prestige and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars from the rights to cast the fossil for sale to museums and collectors. But Montana law enforcement officials now say that the fossil Mr. Murphy took to the field station in 2006 had actually been found four years earlier on a private ranch and therefore belongs to someone else. In September, after a yearlong investigation by state and federal authorities, Mr. Murphy was charged with felony theft. Federal agents have also questioned his associates about his other fossil discoveries. The investigations have caused consternation in this small town in the middle of some of the world’s richest dinosaur fields....

Valles Caldera trustees warn preserve may need cash

Trustees who oversee the Valles Caldera National Preserve are acknowledging that becoming financially self-sufficient is a challenge to every aspect of managing the former Northern New Mexico cattle ranch. The trustees said in a report to Congress they may have to request funding for maintenance of existing facilities, to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and for possible new facilities to support public programs on the preserve. "It is our opinion that without adequate infrastructure, the trust will not be able to meet the financial self-sufficient mandate of the (Valles Caldera Preservation) Act," Gary Bratcher, the preserve's executive director, wrote in the report's cover letter. Purchased by the federal government in 2000 for $101 million, the 89,000-acre former cattle ranch is known for its meadows, streams, forests, volcanic domes and huge elk herds. The preserve is managed not by a federal agency, but by the trustees. It's an experiment in the way public lands are managed — only the Presidio in San Francisco, a military base-turned-park, has a similar governance....Most groups and agencies don't want this concept to work, and are making sure it doesn't.

Group recommends DU land buy be rejected

A group that advises Gov. John Hoeven on land purchases by nonprofits is recommending he reject a proposed 598-acre Ducks Unlimited land buy in Kidder County, saying the land would be better off in private ownership. The Natural Areas Acquisition Advisory Committee voted 6-2 Wednesday against the $335,000 purchase. Should Hoeven follow the group's recommendation, it would be the second time in two years that Ducks Unlimited has been denied the chance to buy land in the nation's prime duck production territory. State Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, who voted to oppose the land deal, said that North Dakota's anti-corporate farming law "presumes that these acquisitions are not to go forward" unless there are special circumstances, such as the land in question having a unique view or unique vegetation or wildlife. That was not the case with the Kidder County land, he said. Kramer said the Natural Areas Acquisition Advisory Committee often follows the wishes of the county governing board. "They are probably more in tune to what is transpiring on that property than we certainly are," he said....I've posted articles about this before. ND apparently has a law that all nonprofit land acquisitions must be approved by the Governor and there is also an advisory board to offer opinions to the Governor. Other states should take a look at this approach.

Could cows heal the West?

When Sid Goodloe bought his ranch half a century ago in south-central New Mexico, it was a dry, desertified mess. The roads leading to homesteads abandoned since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s had eroded into gullies. Overgrazing had stripped away soil-stabilizing ground cover. Where plowing had occurred, precious topsoil had dried up and blown away in the area’s fierce winds. Years of fire suppression had allowed pinyon-juniper forest to supplant grassland. “There was little here except broom weed, cactus, and pinyon-juniper,” says Mr. Goodloe. “And yet, it had tremendous potential.” The soil quality was good. Native American petroglyphs of beavers suggested that the area once supported a more productive ecosystem. With the proper care, the land could recover, Goodloe thought. But that would depend on bolstering its ability to retain water, the limiting factor in much of the semiarid Southwest. Originally from West Texas, Goodloe didn’t come from a ranching family. He had no one to turn to for advice, and no preconceived notions. So when, in the 1960s, he met Rhodesian land manager Allan Savory, he was receptive to Mr. Savory’s somewhat counterintuitive proposition: To heal the land, put more animals on it, not fewer – but move them after a relatively brief interval. If livestock mimicked the grazing behavior of wild herbivores – bunched together for safety, intensely grazing an area for a brief period, and then moving on – rangeland health would improve, Savory said. Today, Goodloe’s land is often referenced as a model of “sustainable ranching,” a phrase many consider an oxymoron in the West. Wild antelopes bound across his pastures, which are thick with an array of grass and browse species. Water now runs intermittently though a willow-lined creek that once lay dry. And in 2004, Goodloe put a conservation easement on the property, preventing its development in perpetuity. But he nonetheless resists the “environmentalist” label. “I’m what you would call an environmentally sensitive rancher,” he says....

Lack of moisture in Oklahoma withers ag hopes

So far, this is the fifth-driest winter in Oklahoma since 1921. The climatological winter is December through February. And the Oklahoma Climatological Survey has records back to 1921. With those facts in mind, the average precipitation statewide has been 0.93 inches since Dec. 1. That puts the current winter in the top five driest at this point, at almost 2 inches below normal. "Even though it is normally a dry season, winter precipitation is still vital for recharge of moisture in the soil,” said Gary McManus, assistant state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. "Things are getting worse with each dry day.” State Agriculture Secretary Terry Peach said we’re seeing and could continue to see a tremendous impact. "The drought this year could have a bigger impact than in years past,” Peach said, "because of the fact the producers have a significant increase in their input costs, from seed costs to fuel costs to fertilizer costs to the crops they have in the ground to the crops that will be planted this spring. "And this impact is also hitting our ranchers with the same severity because their winter feed costs were so expensive that they bought in the fall, their fuel costs were probably twice what they were last year because of early purchases and the volatility of the markets. "The impact will be felt statewide.”....

Central Texas Facing Severe Wildfire Season

The United States Drought Monitor now says Central Texas is suffering from moderate to extreme drought conditions. The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management says the lack of rain coupled with high winds is setting the stage for a severe wildfire season, especially for Central Texas farm lands. “All the pasture land right now is just bone dry and the grass is extremely dry, I mean it wouldn’t take, as they say, a flick of a cigarette and it would just take off,” says farmer Richard Cortese....

Group Urges Vilsack To Immediately Redress 3 Rulemaking Blunders

Today, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was confirmed to be this nation’s next Agriculture Secretary, and R-CALF USA wasted no time in sending Vilsack a formal letter not only to congratulate him on his confirmation, but also to seek his immediate assistance in redressing three fundamental rulemaking-related blunders made by the previous Administration and the previous U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). R-CALF USA members have literally expended millions of dollars over the past several years to fund our intense, heated fight against the previous Administration’s efforts to: 1) willfully expose U.S. consumers and the U.S. cattle herd to an unnecessary and avoidable risk of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease); 2) prevent U.S. cattle producers from distinguishing beef produced exclusively from their cattle – born, raised and slaughtered in the United States; and, 3) dismantle historically successful disease prevention and control programs and to substitute them with an unproven, intrusive and ill-conceived National Animal Identification System (NAIS) scheme that constitutes a national premises registration for private property, both personal (i.e., livestock) and real (i.e., land). Specifically, R-CALF USA urged Vilsack to take the following actions within the first few days of President Barack Obama’s Administration....I predict 1) The only changes to the trade policy will be to require additional labor and environmental standards, 2)Vilsack will support the already approved definitions in COOL, and 3) Vilsack was pro-NAIS as Governor and will remain so. Obama may shutdown GITMO, but he will let NAIS stand.

Niman Ranch to merge with Chicago investor

Niman Ranch will still be putting out "all natural" and "raised with care" meat, but its days as an independent company are over. The Alameda company is announcing today that it's merging with its chief investor, Chicago's Natural Food Holdings LLC. It was that or go out of business altogether. Financial and other details were not immediately available, but in a statement I received Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Tripician, Niman Ranch's executive vice president said the deal "will provide our company with a significantly stronger balance sheet and the liquidity to grow and expand our business." In its close to 40-year history, Niman Ranch, originally founded in Bolinas by Bill Niman, built a reputation for its high-quality meat produced by a network of small farmers and ranchers who shared Niman Ranch's commitment to humane and sustainable methods of animal rearing. But the company never turned a profit. In fact, it's been up to its eyeballs in debt and defaulting on loans. Without the merger, its cash would have run out completely by the end of next week....

Source of Salmonella Is Confirmed

The source of a salmonella outbreak that sickened almost 500 people around the country and is linked to six deaths is a peanut processing plant in Blakely, Ga., health officials confirmed. The plant is owned by the Peanut Corporation of America. More than 125 products have been recalled, including cookies, cakes, candy, prepared dinners and even dog treats. A list of recalled products is on the Food and Drug Administration’s Web site, Health officials warned consumers to check the site before eating anything that might contain peanut products. No peanut butter jars sold in supermarkets come from the plant, officials said.

Laura Chester's quirky 'Rancho Weirdo' may cause you to dream of new possibilities

Everything Chester, who lives part-time in Patagonia, does seems a bit off-kilter, which makes sense, since Rancho Weirdo, her new story collection (actually, many of these works appeared in her 1991 book, Bitches Ride Alone), is about as quirky as contemporary American fiction gets. I mean quirky in a good way, of course. The characters who populate Chester's fictional universe break the rules--of literary realism, for instance--and create tension in the reader's mind about what they'll say and do next. Rancho Weirdo clears the aesthetic sinuses, causing you to wonder what else can be done in the literature of the Southwest, so much of which tends to recycle the same tropes, ideology and earnest multicultural stance. This isn't to say Chester eschews multiculturalism; how could she write about the culture-clash that defines Arizona otherwise? But she is definitely more lighthearted, comical and fun than the vast majority of the university press authors who cover similar territory. There are illegal immigrants, Native Americans, cowboys and ranchers in Chester's fiction, but they are unpredictable and darkly humorous....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama halts all regulations pending review

One of President Barack Obama's first acts Tuesday was to put the brakes on all pending regulations that the Bush administration tried to push through in its waning days. The order went out shortly after Obama was inaugurated president, in a memorandum signed by new White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Former President George W. Bush's administration moved into overdrive in the last year or so on a host of new regulatory proposals. Now the Obama administration will review everything that is still pending. In doing so, the Obama administration is taking a page out of Bush's playbook from 2001. Within hours after Bush was sworn in, Bush advisers were seeking to reverse some late-term actions of President Bill Clinton, who in his final 20 days in office issued 12 executive orders, including directives on migratory birds and the importation of diamonds from Sierra Leone....

Idaho rancher fights for livelihood

A rancher from Weiser who blames grazing restrictions designed to protect bighorn sheep for blocking his own access to public grazing lands is asking state lawmakers for help. Sheep rancher Ron Shirts told the Idaho Senate Resources and Environment Committee on Monday that restrictions on domestic sheep grazing in the Payette National Forest have caused 60 percent of his grazing area to be closed. The restrictions were put in place to stem potential disease transmission between domestic and bighorn sheep. The federal government began reintroducing bighorn sheep to Idaho in 1997. Shirts asked the committee to help him preserve a way of life for his three small children. Shirts, one of the last domestic sheep operators in southern Idaho, is fighting for access to public grazing lands that have been taken away to protect bighorn sheep in the Hells Canyon area. "It gives me hope to be here so we can let people hear our story and let people understand the hardship and what's happened in this situation, because this should not happen in America," said Shirts, holding his 18-month-old daughter, Ellie. "I make an agreement. I live by that agreement." He referred to a 1997 agreement signed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, among others, that allowed for the reintroduction of bighorn sheep into the region. The agreement, codified by the Legislature that year, declared "the potential risk, if any, of disease transmission and loss of bighorn sheep when the same invade domestic livestock or sheep operations is accepted.".

Payette forest planner Pattie Soucek, 53, said the 1997 agreement does not legally apply to the Payette Forest. Using the 1997 letter to set grazing standards in the forest would be a violation of several federal laws, including the National Forest Management Act....Well then, why did the FS sign the MOU? I'd be willing to bet the FS initiated the MOU. Let all states take notice: You can sign a MOU with the FS, you can have your state legislature codify the MOU, and it means nothing.

More restrictions on domestic sheep in the Payette National Forest could be on their way. The public has until March 3 to comment on a Forest Service proposal on how to protect bighorn sheep. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Laura Pramuk said the plan has 12 alternatives ranging from no grazing in the forest to no change in the current plan...Notice the only way grazing can go is down. Twelve alternatives and not one of them looks at an increase in grazing. Let's say an opportunity arose to increase permitted numbers by 5 percent. Wouldn't you want to know the impact of that on the resource, the local economy and the bighorn sheep? Is it because the FS doesn't want a public airing of that kind of analysis or is it because everybody knows the FS will never increase grazing, bighorn sheep or no bighorn sheep?.

Last February, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, under pressure from Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, instituted a policy to move or kill bighorn sheep when they mix with domestic sheep. I'll bet there was no MOU on that policy. Way to go Governor Otter. I wish more governors had commitment to sound public policy.

Beyond Belief

According to a Rasmussen poll, 44% of U.S. voters blame long-term planetary trends for the (perceived) global warming; only 41% say human activity is responsible. Those are far different numbers than Rasmussen recorded less than three years ago. In July 2006, Rasmussen found that a mere 35% believed the cause of warming to be part of a natural cycle, while 46% said humans were culpable. It's also starkly different from a poll taken last April, when 47% said man was to blame and 34% said long-term global trends were the cause. Since that survey was taken, Rasmussen says, "the numbers have been moving in the direction of planetary trends." These numbers support the findings of a 2008 survey that questioned 12,000 people across 11 countries. It found only 47% willing to change their lives to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. A year earlier, 58% said they would be inclined to change their lives to cut CO2 emissions. That survey, commissioned by financial institution HSBC and environmental groups, also revealed that last year 37% admitted they were willing to increase the time or effort they put into cutting carbon emissions, a drop-off of 8 percentage points from 2007. The waning faith in the church of global warming seems to have sent one of its apostles into a near panic. James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is saying that time to save the planet from a blistering-hot, ice-cap-melting, sea-rising doom is running out....

Ian Tyson's New CD

Stony Plain Records announces a March 24 release date for Yellowhead to Yellowstone, the new album from legendary singer/songwriter Ian Tyson. Yellowhead to Yellowstone is Ian Tyson's 14th album for Stony Plain and first since his 2005 release, Songs from the Gravel Road. The new album was recorded primarily in Nashville, with two tracks recorded in Edmonton, and produced by Harry Stinson, who's worked with a long list of major talents, including George Jones, Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle. Tyson's songs on the new disc reflect on his life as a rancher in Alberta, Canada, and the prospect of facing his senior years (Ian is now 75 years old). The most immediate change long-time fans will hear on Yellowhead to Yellowstone is that Ian Tyson has a new voice: a grainy, gravelly, deeply emotional tone dramatically different from the smooth-voiced tenor heard on his classic recordings. The new voice is the result of several factors. "A couple of years ago, " says Tyson, "I played a big outdoor show in Ontario. I fought the sound system — and I lost. I knew I'd hurt my voice, and it was recovering slowly when I was hit with a bad virus, which seemed to last forever. My old voice isn't coming back, the doctors told me, so I've had to get used to this new one. Audiences seem to pay more attention, now, to the lyrics and the stories in the songs. And while I've lost some of the bottom end of my voice, the top range, oddly enough, is still there." The eight new songs by Tyson (of the album's 10) cover a range of emotions and stories relating to Alberta's cultural landscape and the disappearing cowboy, as well as his personal life. The title song of the Cd was co-written by Tyson with Stewart MacDougall, and tells the story of a pack of wolves transported from the Yellowhead Pass to Yellowstone Park, where the species had become extinct — told in the voice of one of the wolves who made the journey. Another remarkable song, contributed by Toronto songwriter Jay Aymar, is about hockey commentator Don Cherry and the death of his beloved wife, Rose. A regular performer at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering held in Elko, Nevada, Ian Tyson will be honored at the 25th annual event in late January with the presentation from his fans of a Lifetime Achievement Award: a custom-made, silver-mounted saddle created by the world-famous Hamley & Company. of Pendleton, Oregon....

If Monopoly Was Invented Today

Radio Free NJ got whupped several times in a row by his daughter, playing the game of monopoly. Then he had a thought: how would the game of monopoly look if it were designed under today's rules?

Here are some of my favorites.

Check out his post at the link above and be sure and read the comments for more great ideas.

Hat Tip to Paul Gessing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Salazar & Vilsack Confirmed

The Senate swiftly approved six members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet today, but put off for a day the vote on his choice of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state. The Senate confirmed all six with a single voice vote a little more than three hours after Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president. But Democratic hopes to add Clinton to that list were sidetracked when one senator, Republican John Cornyn of Texas, objected to the unanimous vote. Those confirmed were Steven Chu to be energy secretary, Arne Duncan at education, Janet Napolitano for homeland security, Eric Shinseki to head veterans affairs, Ken Salazar for interior and Tom Vilsack to lead the department of agriculture....

Wolf decision leaves Obama a land mine

So picture yourself as Interior secretary Ken Salazar this week. The Bush administration has left you an immediate decision on whether to move ahead with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plan to remove federal endangered species protections from wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and northern Utah. Thirteen environmental groups including the powerful Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council are poised to sue. These mostly Democrats are among the strongest supporters of your new boss Barack Obama. Indeed, they have friends in the transition team and now probably friends in the White House who are getting a lot of calls. The callers are telling you and them to delay or not publish entirely the delisting rule Jan. 27. They want your Fish and Wildlife Service to start all over with a "stakeholder process" that brings ranchers, environmentalists and hunters together in a big new public negotiation aimed at convincing hunters and ranchers they need to support killing fewer wolves. But now among the people calling you and the White House are western Democrats like Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal. Schweitzer is telling you that if delisting is delayed it will empower the radical anti-wolf forces in his state who have said all along the environmentalists - and now the Obama administration - would never allow the states to take over management. He would report that a bill may come to his desk from the Legislature this year, calling on him to tell the federal government to "shove it" on wolves....

Previously ‘settled’ wolf issue back to square one

A new year has rolled around but some things haven’t changed in dealing with the federal government. Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it its mission to delist the grey wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains, announced it will try and remove the predator without Wyoming in the process. Last year the USFWS tried to delist the canine and had approved Wyoming’s management plan. But after a federal judge blocked the delisting in July, the USFWS abandoned Wyoming’s plan. The governor issued an emergency rule to address the judge’s concerns about the number of breeding pairs in the state and the paths to genetic diversity. But the state has maintained its position on having dual status and created trophy game and predator zones. And therein lies the big problem. After approving the dual status last year, the USFWS has completely backed away from supporting Wyoming’s plan....

Computer to calculate climate change -- has huge carbon footprint

For the Met Office the forecast is considerable embarrassment. It has spent £33m on a new supercomputer to calculate how climate change will affect Britain – only to find the new machine has a giant carbon footprint of its own. “The new supercomputer, which will become operational later this year, will emit 14,400 tonnes of CO2 a year,” said Dave Britton, the Met Office’s chief press officer. This is equivalent to the CO2 emitted by 2,400 homes – generating an average of six tonnes each a year. The Met Office recently published some of its most drastic predictions for future climate change. It warned: “If no action is taken to curb global warming temperatures are likely to rise by 5.5ºC and could rise as much as 7ºC above pre-industrial levels by 2100. Early and rapid reductions in CO2 emissions are required to avoid significant impacts of climate change.” However, when it came to buying a new supercomputer, the Met Office decided not to heed its own warnings. The ironic problem was that it needed the extra computing power to improve the accuracy of its own climate predictions as well as its short-term weather forecasting....A great example of how government works. The average folks in those 2,400 homes will need to make sacrifices, but don't ask those critters in the government offices to do the same.

Gore ice sculpture unveiled in Fairbanks

Al Gore is now a wintertime fixture in Fairbanks. Well, make that an ice sculpture of the 2007 Nobel Prize winner and leader in the movement to draw attention to climate change and global warming. Local businessman Craig Compeau unveiled the frozen likeness on Monday. The 8 1/2-foot-tall, 5-ton sculpture dominates a downtown street corner from its perch on the back of a flatbed truck. Compeau says he's a "moderate" critic of global warming theories. He used Monday's unveiling of the sculpture to invite Gore to Fairbanks -- where it was 22 degrees on Monday -- to explain his global warming theories. He says it will stand through March, unless it melts before then.

Army urges judge to dismiss lawsuit

Army officials insist they acted properly in doing a 2007 environmental study of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and argue that a lawsuit from ranchers in U.S. district court in Denver claiming otherwise should be dismissed. The Army filed those comments last Friday in response to a lawsuit by the Not 1 More Acre group that is opposing the planned expansion of the 235,000-acre training area northeast of Trinidad. The opponents claim the Army's 2007 analysis looking at doing more training at the current Pinon Canyon site failed to adequately look at other training alternatives or the environmental impact of current use. The lawsuit is being argued before Senior Judge Richard Matsch and the Army's filing on Friday was its first response to the lawsuit. Essentially, the Army's answer to the lawsuit is twofold: ranching opponents failed to raise these claims during the public comment period on the environmental study and, secondly, the Army did not need to do more extensive analysis on other training options because there is no "excess" training space at other Army posts....

Grand Junction area ranchers ruminate Dominguez, Escalante proposal

At least two Mesa County ranchers aren’t very happy with U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar’s proposed Dominguez Canyons Wilderness Area and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. Legislation to create the 210,000-acre designations was approved last week in the U.S. Senate; the House is expected to consider the issue this week. “It’s definitely going to affect our ranch,” said Massey, who runs 1,200 head of cross-bred cattle and whose family has run cattle in the area for more than a century. Miller owns thousands of acres of land within the National Conservation Area. His cross-bred cattle graze on the proposed wilderness. Most of the work done now on Miller’s ranch is done on horseback, and that won’t change, Miller said. He’s most concerned about the future ability for the ranch to hire people willing to work from the back of a horse. “As times change, we’re seeing the era of the horseback cowboy diminish. It’s diminished a lot in the last 20 years,” Miller said. Also, Miller’s permit is short on water, he said, and without the ability to drive to the area where his cows need to graze and drink water, he may not be able to build the needed stock ponds....

Lubbock native talks cowboy culture in presidential politics

The term "cowboy" can refer to a fashion, a stereotype or a lifestyle - aspects that have impacted politics. B. Bryon Price, a Lubbock native and expert in Western culture, led a discussion Jan. 15 at the National Ranching Heritage Center about cowboy culture in presidential politics. The discussion, titled "Black Hat, White Hat: The Good, The Bad and The Enduring Image," dealt with the prominent cowboy image in politics and the negative image that has been associated with cowboys. Price said the image of a tall, heroic figure in boots and a cowboy hat has been continuously present in the United States and its politics. "The cowboy image remains the most visible, resilient and controversial images associated with the president," he said. He said the image generally is used in politics in a positive way because the image often symbolizes action, masculinity and strength....

So, was Teddy Roosevelt a cowboy or a snake in the grass? I'd put him in the snake den myself, but would like to hear from them who think different.

It's all about horses

For Ord Buckingham, a fourth-generation Kaycee cowboy, horses have been and probably will always be a part of his life. “My whole entire being revolves around them," he said. "I’ve been around horses all my life. Without them, I don’t know what I’d be doing - nothing, I guess. It’s who you are and without that, you ain’t nothing.” Buckingham, with his family, owns a small spread a few miles east of Kaycee. He and his wife of 30 years, Carole, have six children. Ord’s occupation is "starting" young horses. Years ago, cowboys would call it breaking horses, but now, the more user-friendly terminology is starting horses. Which means Ord takes a horse and gets a 30-day start on it, working with the animal until it knows the basics. His work allows someone to come along and own it, ride it or make whatever he or she wants out of the animal. Local and national ranchers hire Ord to start their horses. “You can get hurt breaking horses," he said in reference to why he remains in business. "A lot of people lack the know-how or they lack the time or it’s a lack of want-to.” Ord has started horses and sent them to Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey....

Elko saddles up for 25th cowboy poetry gathering

During the last quarter-century, Waddie Mitchell has seen cowboy poetry turn from a novelty to a staple. When the first gathering was held in Elko in 1983, organizers had no idea how successful it would be. Mitchell, one of Elko County’s pre-eminent cowboy poets, said he wasn’t even sure the first event would come together. Getting ranchers off the ranch isn’t always easy. But during the slower time in January, it did happen, and, Mitchell said, “it’s changed my life completely.” “If someone told me 26 years ago I’d spend the last 20 years on the road entertaining and writing poetry for a living, I’d not only argue but I’d bet my saddle I wouldn’t.” Lucky for Mitchell, no one made that prediction. Now, the event will celebrate its 25th anniversary Jan. 24-31. Produced by the Western Folklife Center, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has grown to a week of events. Since the first gathering, the art, like Mitchell’s life, has changed....

History, Hollywood and the Great American West

An event unlike any other in the world, the High Noon Western Americana Antique Show and Auction offers a very special opportunity for those passionate about the American West to immerse themselves in the richness of its legacy as it lives on today, stronger than ever. It's no wonder that each year High Noon's auction catalog alone is a virtual history book of the American West, coveted by collectors worldwide. This year, the High Noon Western Americana Spectacular will feature three exceptional events over four days. It all begins on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix and concludes on Sunday, Feb. 8. The High Noon Western Americana Weekend Event is comprised of a Western Americana antique show, one of the country's most important Western Americana auctions, and starting this year, a day honoring Al Luevand, consummate gentleman and life-long supporter of Western lifestyle....

It's All Trew: Romans say take your meds and pray

I have often wondered where the big R with the little x mark used on medical prescriptions originated. An old 1949 Coronet Magazine (remember those?) offered an explanation. It seems early Roman "druggists" evolved from early day tribal medicine men and began concocting certain ingredients for relief from maladies. They called these mixtures "recipes" like a chef would create and record in a cook book.. The letter R in the Roman alphabet means "to take." So we have a recipe the druggist mixed for us to take. Now, at the time medicine was crude and uncertain so to aid in the cure offered, the druggist made the little cross on the leg of the R to remind the patient to pray for recovery from the malady. Take the recipe and pray. The symbol is still in vogue today, maybe more so than ever. All medicinal advertisements present a paragraph touting the good, and several pages of fine print warning of the bad. So, we now should "take our recipe and pray the recipe doesn't kill us." Among my collections of antique oddities I acquired a small cast-iron pot with two spouts opposite each other looking like a teapot with two spouts. It had a lid at one time and a wire bail for carrying. The spouts contain wicks to light, the cast-iron pot is heavy, hard to tip over and definitely not a kitchen or railroad utensil. An oil-field magazine recently featured the item in an article titled "The Yellow Dog Lantern." It was patented in 1870 stating, "for illuminating out of doors especially derricks and places in the oil field where explosions are eminent." The lantern burns fresh crude oil showing a yellow glow instead of a flame thus making it somewhat safer around explosive gasses. The Yellow Dog name comes from workers who used the device stating, "the two spouts glowing in the night resemble a dog's yellow eyes. The price was listed in equipment catalogs as $1.50 each in 1884....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush Commutes 2 Border Agents’ Sentences

President Bush on Monday commuted the sentences of two former border patrol agents who had been sentenced to more than a decade in prison for shooting and seriously wounding a Mexican drug dealer in Texas in 2005. With a day left in his presidency, Mr. Bush exercised his constitutional power to grant clemency — for the last time, according to a senior White House official — in a case that has touched off fierce debate in the Southwest. The two former agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, had attracted considerable support among advocates of tougher border security, who argued that the agents were just doing their jobs....

Horses Offering Healthiest Inauguration Seats

The best seats at the U.S. presidential inauguration events, in terms of health and comfort, are not the coveted VIP bleachers, but instead are those reserved for the hundreds of horseback riders appearing in the parade, suggests new research. A study in the latest issue of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that riding on horseback not only eases back pain, but it also improves the rider's confidence and emotional well being while reducing stress. The findings add to the growing body of research that horseback riding and related equine assistance therapy programs for disabled and injured individuals benefit human participants. Lead author Margareta Hakanson explained to Discovery News that the main reason seems to be "that the movements transferred from the horse's body to the rider are very like the body movements made by a person walking." There are no excessive movements, but a continuous bilateral influence on postural balance that is enhancing balance reactions and the fine movements in the rider's trunk," added Hakanson, a researcher in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Goteborg University in Sweden. She and her colleagues analyzed how horseback riding, along with other equine-related therapies, affected 24 patients suffering from back pain and other health problems. Post treatment, riders were evaluated on both their physical and mental well-being. All participants experienced benefits in both areas. "For those suffering from back pain, a horse at walk provides relaxing movements," Hakanson said. "Apart from the movement influence, the psychological effects of managing, communicating with and steering a large animal promote self confidence." Deborah Van Buren is a therapist and certified riding instructor at Equine Assisted Therapy at Mountain Valley, located in Carmel, California. She has observed similar results in her patients, who consist of children requiring physical, occupational and/or speech language therapy. Both she and colleague David Bates say riding and equine therapies especially seem to help patients with mobility problems, including those who use wheelchairs. "Riding gives them back their independence," Van Buren said. "Instead of being forced to look up at people they can sit tall and look straight ahead. It's a very empowering feeling to be on a horse."....I can testify to this, having multiple sclerosis. Imagine going to the pens, haltering your horse and leading him to the barn, watching every step so that you didn't hit a rock or uneven ground that would cause you to lose your balance. Imagine your legs getting fatigued and weaker as you brushed him off and cleaned his hooves. Imagine holding on to the fence or the horse trailer as you carried your saddle to him and swung it on his back. And then, imagine yourself atop 1100 lbs. of pure athlete, feeling the gathering of his muscles and the pure surge of power and quickness, all under your complete control. Damn how I miss it...I'll share with you another experience I had with Buster, my heading horse. After not being able to ride, I sulked around for quite a few months, not wanting to be around ropers, horses or anything else that reminded me of what I had lost. Finally, I decided "what the hell, let's see what I can do in a wheelchair." I figured I could at least brush him off, comb his mane and tail and keep him looking respectable. Sharon gathered Buster and tied him on the driveway, so I could get to him in my wheelchair. She came in the house and said "Buster is ready for you." I left the house excited to see what I could do in the wheelchair. It turns out I had every reason to be excited, because Buster knew me, but he had no idea what that was rolling at him at a high rate of speed. His idea was to make fast and frequent tracks out of there. Thank God the halter rope held, and since then Buster and I have reached a mutual agreement. He now knows that's me in that contraption, and I now know to be a little more sensitive around animals in my wheelchair.
This picture is of Buster, now 28 years old, and my 8 year old granddaughter, Jenna Rose DuBois.

The Animal Rights Agenda Of America’s Next Regulatory Czar

Barack Obama’s pick for “regulatory czar,” Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein, may be the incoming president’s most popular appointment so far. Judging from his resume -- best-selling author, “pre-eminent legal scholar of our time,” and an endorsement from The Wall Street Journal -- we can almost understand why. Almost. Because as we’re telling the media today, there’s one troubling portion of the new Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator’s C.V. that has seems to have flown under everyone’s radar: Cass Sunstein is a radical animal rights activist. Don’t believe us? Sunstein has made no secret of his devotion to the cause of establishing legal “rights” for livestock, wildlife, and pets. “[T]here should be extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture,” Sunstein wrote in a 2002 working paper while at the University of Chicago Law school. “Extensive regulation of the use of animals.” That's PETA-speak for using government to get everything PETA and the Humane Society of the United States can't get through gentle pressure or not-so-gentle coercion. Not exactly the kind of thing American ranchers, restaurateurs, hunters, and biomedical researchers (to say nothing of ordinary consumers) would like to hear from their next “regulatory czar.” A version of the same paper also appeared as the introduction to Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, a 2004 book that Sunstein co-edited with then-girlfriend Martha Nussbaum. In that book, Sunstein set out an ambitious plan to give animals the legal “right” to file lawsuits. We're not joking: “[A]nimals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law … Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.” It doesn't end there. Sunstein delivered a keynote speech at Harvard University’s 2007 “Facing Animals” conference. (Click here to watch the video; his speech starts around 39:00.) Keep in mind that as OIRA Administrator, Sunstein will have the political authority to implement a massive federal government overhaul. Consider this tidbit: “We ought to ban hunting, I suggest, if there isn’t a purpose other than sport and fun. That should be against the law. It’s time now.”....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Note to readers

This came up in a comments section, so should mention here. I'm experiencing some health problems. been bedridden for 3 days, typing this with one hand. Sitting at desk with pc is much handier than this damn laptop in bed.

Will get the blog up to speed as soon as I am back to normal, not sure when that will be.

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Orange underwear

Julie Carter

Sharing my orange underwear experiences used to be restricted to gatherings of ranch folk who knew exactly what I meant and how the skivvies got in such a state.

Always ready to be amazed, I recently learned that small towns with very old iron pipe waterlines often experience the same casualties to the resident Fruit of the Looms. It is a subtle reminder that we are still living somewhat primitively.

Here in New Mexico we guard water as the precious commodity it is, ranking right up there with sainthood and the sacraments. We may possibly be a little more cautious with our water than the average earth dweller except perhaps those that have camels tethered outside their tents.

In order to stay ahead of the water game the best way possible, ranch water is "stockpiled" in large storage tanks located near the well or along the pipelines that transport it to the backside of the pastures. Because many outfits have to pump every drop of water necessary for themselves and their livestock, it's a full-time job to keep ahead of it.

Big circular storage tanks are made from large sheets of metal welded together and set in concrete. On some older ranches, it is not uncommon to see old railroad tanker cars parked next to the well and used for water storage.

This is where my orange underwear adventure began. Just such a tanker sat on the hill behind the ranch house.

It stored the water for all the domestic use, as well as the corrals and several pipelines that ran north and south from the headquarters. To keep up with the demand, the well's submersible pump usually ran 24 hours a day.

Unwritten ranch law says not keeping the water storage tanks full is a major crime, because inevitably, the minute the tank is allowed to get low, or worse, completely empty, Murphy's law takes over. The well will simply, with no warning, quit working.

Following the cussing over that, there will be days and nights of hauling water from somewhere until the well is fixed.

The pump went out on a Saturday night. As luck would have it, everyone was gone early to late on Sunday, so no one noticed.

By late Monday morning, I knew without looking that the well was likely down. I was doing laundry and my water pressure was getting weak. Hoping maybe it was something as simple as a broken float on the drinking tub at the corrals, I went looking for that but found nothing.

Remember, the washer is still running.

I went back to the house to find the rinse-cycle pumping water into my washer that was a very vibrant rust orange. The bottom-of-the-tank rusty dregs from that old railroad tanker were flowing over the clothes.

It was the last load of laundry for the day and it was the underwear. The white ones.

While Martha Stewart may have quickly given a marketable name to that particular shade of color soaking into the BVDs, I could only think of unladylike things to say. Indeed, for a bit, I lost my religion.

To shortcut the expletives and the futile wash and rewash efforts, I will share that for at least a year, all the members of my household wore underwear that matched in color - something resembling a dark and very unmanly peachy tone.

No, it wasn't a life-threatening trauma. It is just one of those "life on the ranch" adventures they don't put in the brochures.

It’s The Pitts: What Would Grandpa Say?

Lee Pitts

I don’t know quite what to say or think about what is going on in this country, although I do wonder what great leaders like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Ronald Reagan would say. I bet that Will Rogers and Mark Twain would write something entertaining and insightful. While I may not know what these idols of mine might say, I do feel confident they’d be pretty disgusted with us all.

There’s another hero of mine that I can say with confidence that I know exactly what he’d have to say. While I miss my Grandpa terribly, sometimes I am glad that he’s not around to see what’s happening to the country he loved. My Grandpa would look at the billions of dollars in bailouts being handed over to big banks and hold his nose. He’d remind everyone that these are taxpayer dollars being given to the same companies who couldn’t wait to open call centers and database hubs in India and elsewhere, wherever it was cheapest in the world. The effect was that foreigners got jobs previously held by American taxpayers. My grandpa would look those big bankers in they eye and tell them to call a 911 operator in Bangalore and ask them for the cash.

Grandpa wouldn’t have much sympathy for those of you who lost money in the stock market either. He’d want to know why you sent your money back to shysters in New York and trusted your retirement to a bunch of people you don’t even know to invest in options, swaps, hedge funds, spiders and a bunch of other gimmicks designed to steal your money. He’d suggest you shouldn’t invest in anything you can’t explain.

My grandpa would look at the games played on Wall Street and ask why anyone should be allowed to sell something they don’t own. You wouldn’t buy the Brooklyn Bridge would you? Maybe you would. He’d say it’s criminal for a bushel of wheat to trade 40 times from the farmer to the grocery store and that the man who grew it ought to make more money than the paper rustler who owned it for 20 minutes.

This man who didn’t owe anybody anything, would suggest that if you managed to save a little money there’s nothing wrong with paying off your house, cars and credit cards and then putting what’s left in a savings account at your local bank so that they could invest it in the community. Like loaning people money to buy houses. Speaking of which, he’d remind everyone of the model that worked perfectly well for many decades in this country: you could buy a house if you had 20% of the price in cash and your house payments would eat up no more than 25% of your income. If you didn’t have the money you rented until you did have it. There’s no shame in that. He’d also wonder why people need second homes when they are having trouble paying for one.

My Grandpa had a a good memory. He vividly remembered that December day when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He had friends that were killed in World War II and he was not about to buy a car made in Japan or Germany. I never knew him to own anything but a Ford. “We build great cars and trucks,” Grandpa would say, “and if more Americans bought them instead of the tin cans from Japan the car companies could continue to pay good wages and benefits to more Americans.”

When people say that we must bail out AIG, Freddie, Fannie, and all the rest of the pikers because they are “too big to fail”, my grandpa would ask why our government helped them get so big to begin with?

Grandpa would say that the answer is not to give people another “stimulus” so they can buy more stuff they don’t need. That’s what got us in such trouble to begin with. My Grandpa would say that what we need to do is put the crooks in jail, hold the politicians accountable, tighten up our belts, eat more beef and beans and go back to work earning an honest living. We’ll survive this economic mess, after all, we’re Americans, aren’t we?

The Original SUV

As our nation's Big 3 auto manufacturers face bankruptcy, we should return to the basics. Americans will soon need to embrace the original SUV

Inauguration will produce 575 million pounds of CO2

It ain't easy being green, and in the case of Barack Obama's inaugural, it seems like he's not even trying to green it up. According to the Institute for Liberty, the Obamathon in Washington will produce about 575 million pounds of CO2 emissions. In a study titled Carbon Bigfoot, the IFL concludes that the CO2 glut will be substantial. From the global warming wrecking celebs flying all over the place in their many private jets, to the many hundreds if not thousands of vehicles that will be used to get people to and in the midst of the inaugural, the CO2 carnage is at the amazingly high level. The IFL finds: * Celebrities, politicians, and bigwigs using 600 private jets will produce 25,320,000 POUNDS of CO2 * Personal vehicles could account for 262,483,200 POUNDS of CO2 * n the parade, horses alone will produce more than 400 POUNDS of CO2 The IFL also came up with a revealing illustration about what this all means. It would take the average U.S. household 57,598 years to produce a carbon footprint equal to that of the new president’s housewarming party....

Obama's Environmental Agenda

Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton, has been named by Barack Obama to be his Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. This new and undefined office could give her broad influence over economic policy. That is a frightening prospect, not merely because of her participation in a group with overtly socialist ties, but because of the way hostile foreign powers such as China are manipulating the modern Green movement to serve their own national purposes. Between her two tours of duty in Washington, Browner served on the Commission for a Sustainable World Society, which is part of the Socialist International. The Socialist International works closely with the United Nations, and the Commission hopes to influence the UN Climate Change Convention that will meet in Copenhagen in December to draw up a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Until then, the Commission is holding a series of conferences on “global solidarity.” By this, it means re-orienting policy towards helping the developing world at the expense of the Western nations, which the Green movement deems over-developed. Cristina Narbona, Spanish Ambassador to the OECD and former Minister of the Environment, said at the Commission’s September meeting in Stockholm, socialists are “offering a different discourse, shifting the current economic paradigm towards one based on greater equity.” In other words, the Commission proposes a global transfer of wealth from the West to the rest....

The Rule Of The Green Czar

...What makes Browner’s association with the Socialist International noteworthy is that, after the worldwide failure of socialism, she continues to share many of its anti-capitalist views – and if confirmed as climate czar, she promises to translate them into policy. For example, Browner, calls herself a “strong backer” of “utility decoupling.” Under “decoupling” schemes, utility companies will be required to provide less energy, while the government guarantees the companies steady or increased profits through “taxpayer subsidies” and “voluntary” conservation measures. In other words, taxpayers will be given grim Carter-era exhortations to put on sweaters rather than turn up the thermostat and be forced to pick up the tab for utility companies’ reduced earnings, while getting less energy in return. Browner’s penchant for such dubious environmentalist schemes is just one troubling aspect of her nomination. Another is her history of abusing her office for political gain and a record on minority rights that can rightly be called troubling. In 1995, Browner used her position at the EPA to lobby environmental groups to oppose the Republican-led Congress, faxing out documents opposing the GOP’s regulatory initiatives. In a rare show of political unity, Browner was condemned by Republicans and Democrats, who accused her of violating the Anti-Lobbying Act. A stinging letter to Browner from a bipartisan subcommittee of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee noted, “The concerted EPA actions appear to fit the definition of prohibited grass-roots lobbying...The prima facie case is strong that some EPA officials may have violated the criminal law.” This was not the only time that Browner was accused of abusing her authority. According to a February 2001 report in Time magazine, the EPA was plagued with “festering racial problems” during Browner’s time in charge. One African-American EPA employee, Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, told Time that she’d been passed over for promotions for being “too uppity,” adding, "We [African-American employees] were treated like Negroes, to use a polite term. We were put in our place.” Coleman-Adebayo was later awarded $600,000 in damages in a settlement that found the EPA guilty of “discrimination and retaliation against whistleblowers.” Shortly thereafter, Congress passed the “No Fear” government whistleblower protection act in response to the Coleman-Adebayo v. Carol Browner decision. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo lamented in a recent interview, “The very woman I prevailed against in court is being elevated to a White House decision-level position.” At least 150 EPA employees filed similar lawsuits during Browner’s time there....