Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas To Everyone From The Westerner

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

North Star, OnStar and the Christmas Star

Julie Carter

For centuries and long before time was recorded, our ancestors used the stars for their navigation around the globe.

Fixing the location of the North Star in the night sky, they would head out in that direction in the morning, slay a mastodon or two and return by evening.

The Vikings, and later Columbus, after Isabella sold her jewelry for him to get to America, navigated by sextants and the constellations to maintain a course on uncharted waters.

It could be speculated that the Indians that greeted the New World travelers on the eastern shores of America, had ancestors that got there by crossing the Alaskan land bridge following the migration of reindeer, using the North Star for a point of reference.

The new Americans followed the stars across the country from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and even some from Yankee territory, to the open ranges of Texas and the gold fields of California and the Rocky Mountains.

They came with dreams of riches and a new life on the frontier.

The estimated 13 million cattle driven from South Texas to Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Montana were guided by a cowboss' fixation on the North Star at night to give direction in the daylight.

Later cattle drives could simply follow the trail left by the earlier herds, but they were still capable of star navigation when the need arose.

Since the time of man, it has been known that in the winter, the run rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest.

In the summer, it rises in the northeast and goes down in the northwest, making the transition at the equinox. The stars shift slightly with the changing of the seasons.

Today, we have this wondrous invention for our most popular mode of transportation - the automobile. OnStar is the push-a-button technology that puts you in touch with a voice to tell you where you are, where you need to go, call for emergency help and a plethora of other options.

Recently, a member of the cowboy set partnered with the bank to own a new pickup truck that came fully loaded with gadgets, digital bells and whistles and, yes, even OnStar.

Manfully, he mastered the owner's manual and learned how to operate this wondrous vocal guide, determined to become a member of the modern generation.

One of the first opportunities to use it came when he ventured across the cattle guard and even a few county and state lines, to compete at the U.S. Team Roping Championships in Oklahoma City.

He purposed to use for the first time his new navigational system.

His wife, not so sure about the technology, brought her along her worn, but trusted Rand McNally.

The new Onstar was activated at departure time, and gave vocal directions at every highway change, telling the cowboy which direction and highway number to take.

He later reported that the helpful instruction by the insistent voice was wrong at each and every turn.

"It was like having my mother-in-law in the back seat," he said.

When he turned into the parking lot of the arena in OKC, the Onstar voice told him, "go 12.2 miles east and you will be there."

The cowboy didn't bother to turn on the OnStar guide for his trip home. He decided the stars and Rand McNally would get him there just fine.

Wise cowboys in all seasons are known to be guided by the stars. In this season, we are a reminded of the navigational star that led some other wise men, mounted on camels, along with a few sheepherders, to Bethlehem.

The Star of Bethlehem was the miraculous sign that told the world of the birth of the Christ and led the magi to the stable where they presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

It was not the only navigational tool in the history of the world, but surely the most important one.

May you all have a blessed Christmas season and keep your eyes on the heavens.

Julie, who is frequently lost in thought and beyond the help of OnStar, can be reached for comment at

Christmas on the Frontier

By U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

It’s not every day that men are asked to check their spurs at the door before they can enter a party or social gathering. But for three nights every December in the small West Texas town of Anson, checking your spurs is a must-do if you want to gain admission to one of the region’s oldest and most celebrated festivities – the Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.

The frontier dance, held in Anson as early as 1885, earned its title after New York poet Lawrence Chittenden visited Anson in the late 1880’s. Chittenden stayed at the Star Hotel which was the site for an annual Christmas dance held by hotel operator M.G. Rhodes in appreciation of the region’s ranchers and cowboys. Chittenden was inspired by the colorful scene and traditional dances to later write a poem: “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball.”

Anson’s Texas Western published Chittenden’s poem on June 19, 1890, after the Star Hotel was demolished in a fire. Though the dance was shelved for several years after the hotel fire and during Prohibition, its legacy was preserved by Chittenden’s poem, which slowly gained wider recognition. In 1893, it was published in the first volume of Ranch Verses, and also in the book Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads in 1910.

More than 40 years after the Star Hotel was destroyed, local teacher Leonora Barrett revived the Christmas Ball and hosted a reenactment of the original dance in a high school gymnasium. In 1940, Pioneer Hall was constructed as a project under the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, and the dance has been hosted at Pioneer Hall ever since.

It wasn’t until 1946 that “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” was set to music by Gordon Graham, a cowboy folklorist from Colorado. He sang it at the 1946 ball and it became a tradition to have the ballad sung before the ball every year. Grammy-award-winning cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey, who recorded the song “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball” in 1985, has sung the ballad at the dance nearly every year since 1993.

Today no detail is forgotten in the effort to reenact the 19th Century ball. The 22-member Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Association, which sponsors the dance and owns Pioneer Hall, strives each year to create a setting that transports guests back to the frontier days from the moment they enter Pioneer Hall. Men bow and women curtsy. The hall is decorated with quilts and cedar boughs. Association members don matching outfits with the men in black vests and cowboy attire, and the women in Victorian blouses and taffeta skirts over hoop petticoats. There is a strict no-jeans policy for women, and men are still required to check their hats, spurs and guns at the door.

This year marks the 75th consecutive re-enactment of the original dance. From December 17-19, families will gather to dance, enjoy pot luck dinners, and socialize at Pioneer Hall. The ball is commenced each night with the traditional Grand March, led by a newlywed couple. There are seven approved original dances: the waltz, Paul Jones, Cotton-Eye Joe, polka, Virginia reel, Schottische, and square dance.

Thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of Anson men and women spanning more than a century, the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball is a unique Texas tradition that has been preserved with great detail and is sure to be enjoyed for years to come.

Song Of The Day #207

Ranch Radio started our Christmas Season with Gene Autry and that's who'll bring it to a close for us. Here he is performing Merry Christmas Waltz.

Ranch family honored

The Frost family, Duane and Shelly Frost, and their sons Dal and Rankin, from Claunch, N.M., and formerly of Grant County, was named the 2009 New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau Family of the Year at the organization's 92nd annual meeting in Albuquerque.

The Frosts manage the Surratt Ranch, a cow/calf operation that covers portions of Lincoln and Torrance counties. They have been active in Farm Bureau for more than four decades.

Farm Bureau President Michael White, of Dexter, said the Frost family represents "the gold standard" in the areas of leadership and volunteerism.

"Duane and Shelly were raised with the strong values taught by their parents who were ranching and mining pioneers in our state," he said. "They, in turn, have passed these ethics on to their two children who are also pursing careers in agriculture."

The couple grew up on opposite sides of the Continental Divide in Grant County and met at a sheriff's posse dance where Shelly played fiddle in the band "Girl Country." Duane graduated from Cobre High School in 1975 and Shelly from Cliff High School in 1976. They were married in 1976 and Duane went to work for the Flying A Ranch. Shelly then began her college career at Western New Mexico University. She graduated from WNMU in 1979 with a minor in music and a major in accounting.

They began their Farm Bureau career in their county and statewide Young Farmers and Ranchers Committees. Duane was later elected to the Cliff/Gila/Grant County Farm and Livestock Bureau Board of Directors and Shelly served on the Farm Bureau Women's Committee and was one of the founders of the Frisco Cowbelles in Catron County in 1981. After Shelly graduated from college, the couple moved back to her family ranch at Big Dry Creek to help run that operation, which covered portions of Catron and Grant counties.

In 1989, the family moved the ranching operation to Ramon, N.M., and got involved with the Lincoln County Farm and Livestock Bureau, where Duane served on the board of directors and later was elected president of the organization. He currently serves on the state board of directors for the N.M. Farm and Livestock Bureau. Shelly is active in the Crown Cowbelles and is a volunteer at Corona High School. She also runs the post office at Claunch. Duane serves on the board of directors of the Central New Mexico Telephone Cooperative and the Lincoln County Natural Resources Advisory Committee. In addition, he was a New Mexico Beef Council director in 2003-2004.

For more than 50 years the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau has recognized a family each year that epitomizes the goals and ideals of the state's largest private agricultural organization.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

No Substitute For Fossil Fuels

Earlier this year, Congress approved a scheme to pour $80 billion — on top of the tens of billions already spent — into renewables. A government report released last week indicates the money will be wasted. Renewable energy is the shiny gem that everyone wants but no one can have. Not even a president. Campaigning last year in Lansing, Mich., President Barack Obama said that it was his goal for the U.S. to generate 10% of its electric power from renewable sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025. But he cannot, by the force of will or executive order, change the laws of physics and economics. America has long relied on fossil fuels to power its economy. Oil, natural gas and coal provide about 84% of the nation's energy. And for good reason. They are plentiful and typically easy to retrieve, and, consequently, cheap. At the other end of the spectrum are renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal. They supply only about 4% of our energy, the remainder coming from hydro and nuclear power. t's clear that renewables, which have benefited from government subsidies far in excess of what fossil fuels have received, can't compete in today's market and won't be faring much better a quarter century from now, according to the government's own more

Song Of The Day #206

Our Christmas songs today are by Eddy Arnold and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

US gives Mexico 5 helicopters to aid drug war

U.S. officials delivered five helicopters to Mexico on Tuesday to help the country in its fight against drug cartels. The aircraft are part of more than $604 million worth of vehicles and equipment that the U.S. plans to give Mexico in the coming months. In addition to the more than $1.1 billion worth of aid the U.S. has pledged to provide Mexico, Brennan said U.S. and Mexican officials are planning new programs to help Mexico professionalize its police forces and strengthen its justice system. U.S. officials are fighting drug cartels on both sides of the border, he more

And Senator Bingaman wants to designate 560 square miles of DA County as wilderness, where low flying aircraft are banned.

Give them to Mexico and outlaw them here - sounds like a great policy.

Cartel ‘spies’ infiltrate U.S. customs agency

But, early last year, after just a few months as a customs inspector, he was waving in trucks from Mexico carrying loads of marijuana and illegal immigrants. He pocketed some $200,000 in cash that paid for, as far as the government could tell, a $15,000 motorcycle, flat-screen televisions, a laptop computer and more. Some investigators believe that Mr. Alarid, 32, who was paid off by a Mexican smuggling crew that included several members of his family, intended to work for smugglers all along. At one point, Mr. Alarid, who was sentenced to seven years in federal prison in February, told investigators that he had researched just how much prison time he might get for his crimes and believed, as investigators later reported, that he could do it “standing on his head.” Mr. Alarid’s case is not the only one that has law enforcement officials worried that Mexican traffickers — facing beefed-up security on the border that now includes miles of new fencing, floodlights, drones, motion sensors and cameras — have stepped up their efforts to corrupt the border police. They research potential targets, anticorruption investigators said, exploiting the cross-border clans and relationships that define the region, offering money, sex, whatever it takes. But, with the border police in the midst of a hiring boom, law enforcement officers believe that traffickers are pulling out the stops, even soliciting some of their own operatives to apply for more

U.S. drug cartel crackdown misses the money

Every day, criminals shove proceeds from U.S. drug sales in their shoes, tape it to their torsos, stash it under dashboards — or just wire it electronically to Mexico. It all adds up to $25 billion a year. A highly touted U.S. Treasury Department program aimed at starving Mexican drug cartels of that cash is currently blocking just $3 million, an Associated Press investigation has found. That's in addition to $58 million seized under a new initiative at the U.S.-Mexico border. The figures suggest that $99.75 of every $100 the cartels ship south is getting through — money that is fueling a brutal war that has killed 14,000 people in three more

Raid violated privacy rights of alleged illegal immigrant

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that a 2008 raid of a local tax preparer's office aimed at building identity-theft cases against hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants violated their Fourth Amendment right to privacy. The 4-3 ruling was the latest and most devastating legal blow against Operation Numbers Game, an investigation launched by Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and District Attorney Ken Buck that aimed to use tax returns to identify and prosecute illegal immigrants. The raid on Amalia's Tax and Translation, a business that caters to Spanish-speaking clients, led to the seizure and review of some 4,900 tax returns. Deputies said they found about 1,300 suspects in identity-theft and criminal-impersonation cases. Prosecutors around the country have been watching the case closely, reportedly the first in the United States in which law enforcement sought to use tax returns — generally considered confidential under federal law — to take suspected illegal immigrants to criminal more

State lawmakers to seek ban on sales of semi-automatic weapons

In response to recent shooting deaths, three state lawmakers say they want to ban the sale of military-style semi-automatic weapons in Washington. The lawmakers intend to propose the ban in the state legislative session that begins next month. The legislation, called the Aaron Sullivan Public Safety and Police Protection Bill, would prohibit the sale of such weapons to private citizens and require current owners to pass background checks. It is named for Aaron Sullivan, 18, who was fatally shot last July in Seattle's Leschi neighborhood, allegedly with an assault-style weapon. Supporters say they also are motivated by the Oct. 31 slaying of Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton and the wounding of his partner. Police believe a .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle was used then. The bill is backed by Seattle's police department, spokeswoman Renee Witt said. Also pushing it is Washington Ceasefire, a nonprofit that seeks to reduce gun more

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A discordant accord

It was an extraordinary sight: the leaders of more than 20 countries, including US president Barack Obama and the heads of most of the world's other biggest economies, herded with an adviser or two each into a small room on Friday morning, poring over a short piece of prose with red pens. The atmosphere grew tense as they sweated over amendments to a text they hoped would form the basis of a new climate change agreement. If they succeeded, it would be a historic deal: the first to bind both developed and developing nations to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Failure would mean political humiliation at home and ultimately a potentially disastrous rise in the world's temperature. The unscheduled meeting took place upstairs at a Copenhagen conference centre where, for the previous fortnight, the leaders' senior officials and ministers had engaged in increasingly fractious arguments. What emerged late on Friday night, after hours of hard bargaining, including a showdown between Mr Obama and the leaders of China and the other big developing economies, was a document to be known as the Copenhagen accord. The three-page declaration by the biggest developed and developing countries made tentative commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and proposed financing from the rich to poor countries to help them do likewise. Mr Obama said it was the first time in history all the leading economies had come together to take action on global warming, but even proponents had to admit the accord fell well short of what they had hoped for after years of more

Beyond debate?

Is belief in global-warming science another example of the "madness of crowds"? That strange but powerful social phenomenon, first described by Charles Mackay in 1841, turns a widely shared prejudice into an irresistible "authority". Could it indeed represent the final triumph of irrationality? After all, how rational is it to pass laws banning one kind of light bulb (and insisting on their replacement by ones filled with poisonous mercury vapour) in order to "save electricity", while ploughing money into schemes to run cars on ... electricity? How rational is it to pay the Russians once for fossil fuels, and a second time for permission (via carbon credits) to burn them? And how rational is it to suppose that the effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere take between 200 and 1,000 years to be felt, but that solutions can take effect almost instantaneously? Whether rational or not, global warming theory has become a political orthodoxy. So entrenched is it that those showing any resistance to it are described as "heretics" or even likened to "Holocaust deniers" more

Desert Vistas vs. Solar Power

Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in Congress on Monday to protect a million acres of the Mojave Desert in California by scuttling some 13 big solar plants and wind farms planned for the region. But before the bill to create two new Mojave national monuments has even had its first hearing, the California Democrat has largely achieved her aim. Regardless of the legislation’s fate, her opposition means that few if any power plants are likely to be built in the monument area, a complication in California’s effort to achieve its aggressive goals for renewable energy. “This is arguably the best solar land in the world, and Senator Feinstein shouldn’t be allowed to take this land off the table without a proper and scientific environmental review,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist and a partner with a venture capital firm that invested in a solar developer called BrightSource Energy. In September, BrightSource canceled a large project in the monument area. Union officials, power industry executives, regulators and some environmentalists have also expressed concern about the impact of the monument legislation, but few would speak publicly for fear of antagonizing one of California’s most powerful politicians. The debate over the monument encapsulates a rising tension between two goals held by environmental groups: preservation of wild lands and ambitious efforts to combat global more

Federal stimulus funds to improve seismic monitoring in Yellowstone

With funding made available for the installation of 10 new seismic monitoring stations over the next two years, the Yellowstone super volcano will soon be the best monitored hot spot in the world, according to Bob Smith. “We should have a fantastic network, probably the best in the world over an active volcano,” said Smith, a University of Utah geology and geophysics professor and member of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The observatory is jointly operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, Yellowstone National Park and the University of Utah. Funding for the project will come from a portion of $950,000 in Recovery Act money given to the more

Obama & the congress are putting Old Faithful to shame, belching money all over the country.

Big DOE grant will help western states plan for new energy transmission

The U.S. Department of Energy today handed $12 million to the Western Governors' Association to help 11 states, including Oregon, prepare for new transmission while dealing with future demand for energy, resources, environmental concerns and energy efficiency. The states are developing and evaluating potential new transmission and how it could affect water supplies, wildlife, landscapes and state economies. Money for the project is from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant will support the Western Renewable Energy Zones Initiative. The first phase of the initiative identified areas within the Western Interconnection that have the greatest potential for large scale development of renewable resources, without causing harm to the environment. The grant will help state and public utility officials examine the strengths of different transmission more

More belching.

Fight to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes reaches Supreme Court

The fight to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes reached the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, as Michigan's attorney general filed a lawsuit seeking closure of two shipping locks near Chicago. Claiming Illinois officials have been lax, Michigan Atty. Gen. Mike Cox asked justices for immediate action to seal off the most direct route for fish entering Lake Michigan, in hopes of protecting the region's $7-billion fishing industry. "We don't want to have to look back years later . . . and say, 'What was the matter with us? We should have done something,' " Cox said. Closing the locks, he said, was "the easiest, the most reliable and the most effective" short-term step officials could take. In addition to closing the locks, the lawsuit seeks creation of barriers to prevent carp from escaping the Des Plaines River or neighboring waterways during flooding. Cox also called for a study of Chicago's water system to understand the size and scope of the Asian carp population. The lawsuit comes during a period of heightened anxiety over recent DNA research that hinted the voracious fish may have bypassed an underwater electric barrier system -- and could now be within six miles of Lake more

Study shows 'Green' shoppers more likely to cheat

If buying an organic apple instead of one caked in pesticides eases your conscience, there's a good chance that your next ethical decision might not be a good one. According to the results of a University of Toronto study, participants who assigned more social value to 'green' shopping were more likely to cheat and steal in subsequent tests than those with less stringent shopping habits. The study, to be published in the new year in the journal Psychological Science, is the latest in a growing field of research called "moral licensing." more

Video: Undersea volcano erupts explosively

Thieves make off with miles of pipeline

It may not be southeast New Mexico's biggest or most valuable criminal haul, but at 5 miles it's probably the longest. The Eddy County Sheriff’s Office is looking for whoever stole the 5 miles worth of 3-inch inch polyethylene pipe from remote site in the county. "Poly pipe is a conduit," sheriff's Capt. Jeff Zuniga said. "Basically it's like really big plastic pipe, and it's used to move water from one location to another." Two companies and a rancher have come forward claiming to be victims. They estimated a total of $43,000 worth of poly pipe was taken between May and more

Who is that woman?

Etta Place walked into a New York City photo studio in 1901 -- and unknowingly walked into history. There she stands, wearing her fine clothes and gold watch, her dark hair piled elegantly atop her head and her arm brushing the arm of a dapper gent known as the Sundance Kid. The portrait of Etta with her outlaw boyfriend is one of the few scraps of physical evidence that this woman existed. Before and after she turned up in the DeYoung Photo Studio on Broadway, Etta Place -- if that is even her real name -- lived a life now shrouded in mystery. "As much as (historians) have looked for Etta, nobody has ever really pinned her down," says Leo Lyman, a retired historian in Leeds, Utah, who has researched the story of the woman who hung out with Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch in Utah, the West and South America. Exactly where this woman was born, what she did before she rode with the Wild Bunch, and what happened to her after Butch and Sundance reportedly died in a 1908 shootout in Bolivia are all more

Clubfoot died after dining on local bull

The grizzly bear you're referring to first was named Reelfoot, which was a reference to the club foot he gimped around on after losing three toes to a trap. After his death, he also became known as Clubfoot. Reelfoot had a taste for prime beef and was indeed the scourge of cattle ranchers in the Southern Oregon-Northern California area. According to a story published in the Mail Tribune in 1957, old Reelfoot finally came to his end in 1890 after inciting the ire of rancher Bill Wright by killing his best bull near Camp Creek, a stream flowing east from Pilot Rock into the Klamath River drainage. Wright recruited a 17-year-old hand, Purl Bean, and the two of them set off in pursuit. They knew exactly which grizzly they were after, because Reelfoot's distinctive footprint was all too familiar to ranchers. He had killed so much livestock and ticked off so many ranchers that a prodigious bounty of $1,800 — a virtual fortune at the time — was placed on his head. Wright and Bean tracked Reelfoot for two days and, on April 10, 1890, came across him in a forest opening, about three miles east of Pilot Rock. After they fired on him from 80 yards, Reelfoot charged them. It took 10 rounds from their big-bore rifles to bring him down for good, by then only about 20 feet from the two men. Reelfoot was huge, standing 8 feet tall and with a chest that measured 40 inches across. Wright estimated he weighed 1,800 pounds, but some suspect that estimate came after he'd spent too much of the reward money at a local watering hole. Others estimated him at 1,200 pounds. Reelfoot was stuffed and mounted on a wagon pulled by mules as an early-day mobile exhibit. The exhibit toured the West and apparently took a few detours, including to the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago in more

It's All Trew: Things I bet you never knew - and then some

My continuous research turns up some odd and interesting tidbits of wisdom, recollections or plain old nonsense. Here are a few. # How long has it been since you "dabbed a minor wound with Monkey Blood?" This was once the favored nickname for a medicine called Mercurochrome. Its distinctive red color stopped many a childhood tear without a burn or sting and brought sympathy and hugs to the wounded. #Depending on the area where you lived, the term "grass widow" had different definitions. In some areas, the term meant a discarded mistress. In other areas, it meant a woman alone because of divorce, rejection or separation from a husband who was alive and "still above the grass." # If you are afraid of witches, merely hang a horseshoe above your home entrance. It seems witches are afraid of horses. That's why they ride broomsticks. Heck, makes sense to me. # If you have ever been active in your community and its affairs, you will appreciate this quote: "A committee is a group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit to do the unnecessary." # The word "devout" is explained by the dictionary as "living without sin." An old cowboy friend explains devout as, "A 75-year-old, single, church deacon living in the middle of dry county where the only bootlegger is in jail." more

Song Of The Day #205

Ranch Radio brings you another double dose of country Christmas tunes. Today we offer Tennessee Ernie Ford and Tex Williams, singing Rootin' Tootin' Santa Claus and Winter Song respectively.

Both recordings are available on the previously mentioned Christmas on the Range: Cowboy Classics from Capitol Records.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Krahling & Vasquez-Butler: Flooding Us With Contradictions

Diana Alba reports in today's Sun-News that Dona Ana County may lose $8.4 million in unspent capital outlay funds because of the state's budgetary woes.

Commissioner Scott Krahling is quoted:

"The Legislature and governor have put everything on the table to balance the budget, so if that means they cut all the capital outlay for the entire state in order to do it, they have to do it," he said. "I'm optimistic they'll have other options." Krahling referred to proposals that could consolidate state offices to save money and raise taxes to address the budget problems.

Kudos to Krahling for being so straight forward. We now know he supports raising taxes on all New Mexicans.

And the all wise Commissioner Oscar Vasquez-Butler is concerned about flood control projects:

County Commissioner Oscar Vásquez-Butler said he has sent a letter to the state, asking that three Vado projects —a flood control wall, improvements to Swanaack Road and the Presa Storm Drain — be exempted from the cuts. He said flooding in Vado indirectly led to two children's deaths this year, a reason the projects should be allowed to go forward. Also, he said he hopes appropriations for Hatch and other flood-prone areas remain intact.

Krahling also mentioned losing a flood control project in his district.

I could hardly believe what I was reading. Krahling led the pack in having the DA County Commission support the Bingaman bill to create wilderness all over the county and encircling Las Cruces. Vasquez-Butler actually traveled to DC to testify for the NM Wilderness Alliance in favor of the bill.

Both are ignoring the concerns of the local Flood Commissioner and the county soil & water district. There are no motorized vehicles or mechanical equipment allowed in wilderness areas, thus flood control projects are not allowed.

Krahling & Vasquez-Butler support federal legislation which would ban flood control projects on 560 square miles in DA County but go crying to the state legislature about losing similar projects in their districts? On the one hand Krahling would raise taxes on all of us for flood control and on the other hand bans flood control measures on a huge swath of the county?

Makes no sense to me.

Ranchers wary of group’s effort to create wildlife reserve bigger than Yellowstone

When the new West is won, will there be cowboys? In light of what her neighbors are up to, Double O Ranch owner Vicki Olson isn’t so sure. “I guess the point that I keep hammering at is that if they succeed, that means all of us third- and fourth-generation ranchers are gone,” Olson said. She is the average Montana rancher, 56 going on 70, working a spread gouged from the pebbly soil by her grandparents 100 years ago. Her neighbor, the nonprofit American Prairie Foundation, is methodically acquiring ranches and crafting a 3.5-million-acre wildlife reserve out of private property and adjoining federal land. The inconspicuously named Prairie Project could be the largest privately funded conservation land venture on the planet and the biggest free-roaming bison range in the United States. Yellowstone Park, at 2.21 million acres, would be a distant second. You could watch a horse and rider traverse these treeless plains and lose sight of them only when they’re finally eclipsed by the curve of the Earth. Yet conflict here always seems to center on there not being enough room for more

New Records Contradict Forest Service Claims On Station Fire

Newly released records contradict a finding by the U.S. Forest Service that steep terrain prevented the agency from using aircraft to attack -- and potentially contain -- the Station fire just before it began raging out of control. Experts on Forest Service tactics also dispute the agency's conclusion that helicopters and tanker planes would have been ineffective because the canyon in the Angeles National Forest was too treacherous for ground crews to take advantage of aerial water dumps. Two officers who helped direct the fight on the ground and from the sky made separate requests for choppers and tankers during a critical period on the deadly fire's second day, according to records and interviews. At 12:49 a.m. on Aug. 27, Forest Service dispatch logs show, a division chief made this call for aircraft: "Fire has spotted below the road, about five acres. Order one helitanker, three airtankers, any type. . . . Have them over the fire by 0700 hours." But the airtankers were canceled and the helitanker was significantly delayed, according to dispatch logs, deployment reports and interviews. The Times obtained the logs, reports and volumes of other documents through the federal Freedom of Information Act. Records of the Day 2 battle do not cite the sheerness of the canyon above La Cañada Flintridge as a reason for withholding the aircraft, which firefighters who were at the scene say might have stopped the blaze from erupting into the disaster that it became. The fire was the largest in Los Angeles County history, killing two firefighters, destroying about 90 dwellings and charring 250 square miles in one of America's most-visited national more

Firefighting Under Fire

Though the flames of the Jesusita Fire burned out long ago, the firefighting agencies who battled it are now under attack again, this time by an environmental group that claims the use of airplane-dropped fire retardant killed dozens of endangered steelhead trout. Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) — an environmental nonprofit focused on protecting whistle-blowers and pushing reform of the Forest Service's land use policy — filed a notice with the U.S. Department of Commerce on December 16 that it plans to file suit against the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. FSEEE maintains that the two fire protection agencies used a toxic flame retardant material that killed endangered steelhead trout during the Jesusita Fire last May. In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, FSEEE must wait 60 days before it can file a lawsuit. "That is to give the Department of Commerce an opportunity to do what this lawsuit would do, and that is enforce the Endangered Species Act," said Andy Stahl, FSEEE's executive director. "This lawsuit goes forward only if the government chooses not to enforce this law." more

Feinstein to introduce legislation to establish 2 national monuments in Mojave Desert

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she plans to introduce legislation today to establish two national monuments on roughly 1 million acres of Mojave Desert outback that is home to bighorn sheep and desert tortoises, extinct volcanoes, sand dunes and ancient petroglyphs. Its centerpiece, Mojave Trails National Monument, would prohibit development on 941,000 acres of federal land and former railroad company property along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles. The smaller Sand to Snow National Monument, about 45 miles east of Riverside, would cover about 134,000 acres of federal land between Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Its diverse habitats range from desert scrub to yellow pine forests 9,000 feet above sea level. The legislation, which had been delayed by efforts to resolve conflicts among environmentalists, off-roaders and renewable energy interests, would also designate 250,000 acres of public land near the Army's training center at Ft. Irwin as wilderness; add 41,000 acres to the southern boundary of Death Valley National Park and add 2,900 acres to northern portions of Joshua Tree National Park. In addition, it would designate as permanent five existing off-highway vehicle areas in San Bernardino County covering 314,000 more

Otter Creek: Cautionary tale from Wyoming

Our family ranch, homesteaded in 1918, in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin was in two parcels. One consisted of Forest Service leases. When coal mining began we noticed loss of spring water. The Bureau of Land Management acknowledges that our ranch is in a “five feet drawdown area” around the mines. The springs and surface water have dropped five feet. In addition, Wyoming Geological Survey has monitored Powder River Basin wells and reports aquifers in virtually every well have gone down, some by over 600 feet. When mining began, officials informed us land would be restored better than it was before with “good grasses.” After 40 years we have not received one acre of restored ground and have never had a cow get a mouthful of “reclaimed grass.” more

Looking Back Two Decades On Managing The Greater Yellowstone Ecoystem

Twenty years ago, a controversy erupted over a mere term and a concept that now, in hindsight, makes all of the resistance and wasted time marshaled by politicians to stop it, seem rather silly. And yet, it marked a turning point in the region that includes America's mother of national parks, as the cut-and-run era of industrial forestry, thoughtless mining, and public-land livestock grazing sometimes conducted at the expense of other values, were coming to a close. In 1989, a year after the Yellowstone forest fires, and six years after the Greater Yellowstone Coalition was founded by conservationists meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, two ideas were advanced. The first was somewhat rhetorical: To get the multiple federal agencies -- National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers, and state agencies -- to use a common reference point. Indeed, there was a time when “Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” based on the recognition of common, interconnected topographical features instead of feudal bureaucratic jurisdictions, was a foreign concept met with resistance. Today, there are still graybeards retired from the Forest Service who refuse to utter the word “ecosystem” and will at best invoke the term Greater Yellowstone “Area.” Why? Because they view it as a rhetorical usurpation of turf and agency mandate. Which leads to the second “controversy,” one inflamed by some congressional delegations to feed the nonsense of there being “a war fought by Washington, D.C. on the West.” more

Wildlife Agency Backs BLM In Wild-Horse Lawsuit

The Nevada Department of Wildlife is siding with federal land managers against a lawsuit that seeks to block the Dec. 28 removal of 2,500 horses from the range north of Reno. The state agency on Thursday filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The wildlife department's filing says its assessment of habitat in the Calico Mountain Complex showed horses have "severely degraded" the range and continue to adversely affect wildlife. In Defense of Animals, based in San Rafael, Calif., and wildlife biologist Craig Downer of Nevada filed the lawsuit last month to halt the roundup. Equine advocates contend the Bureau of Land Management is grossly inflating horse numbers to justify their removal from the range. Ken Mayer, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said more horses than deer are spotted in some aerial more

Turning children into Orwellian eco-spies

There is a long and sordid tradition of trying to socialise children by scaring them. The aim of such socialisation-through-fear is twofold: firstly, to get children to conform to the scaremongers’ values; secondly, to use children to influence, or at least to contain, their parents’ behaviour. If you want to know how it works, watch the official opening video of the Copenhagen summit on climate change (see below). Titled ‘Please Help The World’, the four-minute film opens with happy children laughing and playing on swings. A sudden outburst of rain forces them all to rush for cover. The message is clear: the climate threatens our way of life. It then cuts to a young girl who is anxiously watching one TV news broadcaster after another reporting on impending environmental catastrophes. Then we see the young girl tucked into bed, sweetly asleep as she embraces her toy polar bear… but suddenly we’re drawn into her nightmare. She’s on a parched and eerie landscape; she looks frightened and desolate; suddenly the dry earth cracks and she runs in terror towards the shelter of a distant solitary tree. She drops her toy polar bear in a newly formed chasm and yells and screams as she holds on to the tree for dear life. The video ends with groups of children pleading with us: ‘Please help the world.’ You get the picture. Although this video is a product of the gathering at Copenhagen, it is typical of the kind of propaganda that is constantly directed at children these more

Please Help The World Video

The Dirt on Climate Change

Though they have always been prized by farmers, the dark soils of the Amazon were largely forgotten by science for a century after their discovery. They are now re-emerging as an important topic of study, not because they're an ethnographic or historical curiosity, but because they show an exceptional ability to store carbon, which in the form of carbon dioxide has rapidly turned into one of humanity's most pernicious waste products. As a result, they're joining the rapidly growing roster of tactics that might be used to combat climate change. Researchers around the world are considering whether people may, by engineering soils specifically to maximize carbon storage, be able to absorb substantial amounts of our emissions, increase the fertility of agricultural areas and dampen some of the effects of climate change. But it's not just plants and animals that hold carbon. Soils do, too, a lot of it — an estimated 2.5 trillion tons worldwide, or more than three times the amount floating around in the atmosphere and about four times as much as in all the world's living plants. About 60 percent of the soil's carbon is in the form of the organic molecules that compose living things, while the other 40 percent is in inorganic forms such as calcium carbonate, the crusty salt common in desert more

Ranking Ag Members Have Questions for Vilsack

The Ranking Members of the House and Senate Ag Committees have questions about remarks made by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack this week regarding USDA's climate change legislation analysis. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Representative Frank Lucas, R-Okla., say the Secretary's statement implies a lack of confidence in the modeling used by his department and the Environmental Protection Agency. "The Department's testimony delivered earlier this month to the House Agriculture Committee is clear and unequivocal; agriculture will undergo significant structural impacts that will change how food, feed, fiber and fuel are produced in the United States," Lucas and Chambliss wrote in a letter to Vilsack. "The disappearance of 59 million acres of cropland, higher food prices and lower exports will undoubtedly shape how farmers and ranchers make a living in the years ahead. While we can disagree on policy, we cannot ignore the facts when they are inconvenient to our preferred narrative." The two are asking both the USDA and EPA to report to their committees on the problems with the economic model in order to reflect realistic scenarios while examining the impact of cap and trade on the ag and forestry sectors. In a separate letter, Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., a former ag secretary, wrote," It was confusing to read that you have called into question an analysis produced by your own department." Farm Futures

Forest plan gets the ax at UN climate talks

A plan to protect the world's biologically rich tropical forests by paying poor nations to protect them was shelved Saturday after world leaders failed to agree on a binding deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Burning trees to clear land for plantations or cattle ranches and logging forests for wood is blamed for about 20 percent of the world's emissions. That's as much carbon dioxide as all the world's cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships combined. About 32 million acres (13 million hectares) of forests are cut down each year — an area about the size of England or New York State — and the emissions generated are comparable to those of China and the United States, according to the Eliasch Review. Deforestation for logging, cattle grazing and crops has made Indonesia and Brazil the world's third- and fourth-biggest carbon emitters, after China and the United more

In Aspen speech, Ritter defends his roadless position

Gov. Bill Ritter in Aspen Thursday night defended his position on roadless lands, which has been under fire from environmentalists. Ritter said his administration believes it is best to make “carve-outs” in roadless areas so there can be vehicular access to water-system infrastructure and powerlines. Colorado has about 4.5 million acres of roadless public lands. “Our process protected 95 or 96 percent of all roadless areas in the state but made carve-outs,” Ritter said. His administration was working on a state-specific roadless position while President Bush was still in office. Once President Obama took office, his secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, asked Colorado to resubmit its position. More public comment was collected, and the state's final proposal is being drafted for federal government review. Ritter commented on his team's work on roadless issues while he spoke in Aspen at a conference on the bark beetle epidemic hosted by a local nonprofit organization, For the Forest. “It is still our intention to do as much as we can to protect as much we can in terms of roadless,” Ritter more

3 Colo. Counties Back Land Swap For Ski Village

Three southern Colorado counties support a federal-private land swap that could allow construction of a long-contested ski village, but congressman John Salazar hasn't signed on. Developers of the Village at Wolf Creek and the U.S. Forest Service would swap parcels of about 200 acres each. That would put most of the project away from wetlands and ski runs and place it adjacent to a highway, so no access road would be needed across federal land. Archuleta, Mineral and Rio Grande county commissioners have voted to endorse the swap. The site is near the point where the counties converge. A spokesman for Salazar, a Democrat, says he's waiting to see whether more consensus develops before writing legislation to allow the swap. AP

2 admit stealing seed pods in Zion Park

Two men have pleaded guilty to trying to steal 600 pounds of wildflower seed pods in southern Utah's Zion National Park in hopes of a payday on the commercial market. Cresencio Martinez-Guzman, 44, and Cresencio Lucena-Alvarez, 23, pleaded guilty to felony theft of government property and were sentenced to probation Dec. 7. They also admitted being in the U.S. illegally and agreed not to fight deportation. The pair had apparently spent weeks in a remote portion of the park pinching Palmer's penstemon, a tall-growing native plant whose seeds are often used by government agencies for reseeding projects, according to court records. They were arrested in September after Zion park rangers spotted them with several large bags of seed pods inside the park's western boundary. The commercial value of the pair's cache was about $25,000, according to court documents. Commercial seed collecting is a bustling business in southern Utah, and it's legal on other federal lands with a permit — but not in more

Song Of The Day #204

Ranch Radio is back! This Monday we bring you a double dose of The Original Texas Playboys. The first tune is Cowboy Christmas and the second tune, in keeping with our toe-tapping Mondays, is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. That's Leon Rausch with the vocals on both songs. Both selections are from their LP Western Swing Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Holiday tips for fun, food and gifts

Julie Carter

Last minute Christmas shoppers are about to be loosed on the streets and a few suggestions for the shopping list could possibly make the process go better.

The recession seems to not only be over in some parts of rural America, but appears to be encouraging early shopping by a few thoughtful men.

One gal just received a new set of back tires for the 4-wheeler, which is an important tool for her to gather his roping cattle while checking the water tanks in the assorted pastures.

Just down the road, her cousin reported that she had gotten a new pressure washer and was expected to test it out regularly. Another said that while she has had a good year of use on last year's gift of a riding mower, her new gift was an umbrella so she could endure a few more hours in the sun while keeping the home place trimmed up.

While these gift items don't overshadow the often given pick axe and wood splitting maul, no one ever accused a cowboy of not being practical in his giving.

Holiday eating

In a season of over-indulgence in food and sweets, eating fruit is frequently suggested to cleanse the pallet as well as fill the belly with something nutritious. A few suggestions to those insisting on a generous intake of fruit might be:
• Apple cake with cream cheese frosting or apple pie
• Pineapple upside- down cake
• Peach cobbler or peach pie
• Nectarine or blackberry swirl mousse
• Banana cream pie or banana nut cake with praline frosting
• Raspberry white chocolate tart
• Lemon icebox pie
• Cherry pie
• Strawberries stuffed with cream cheese and nuts

On a healthier note, a fruity yogurt can be eaten while you are waiting for the other things to finish baking.

Seasonal recreation

Snow and holidays will bring out the snow skiing urge for many. Every now and then you see a cowboy and his family hit the slopes.
One such family ventured to the mountain where they were seen on the bunny slopes teaching the kids how to ski. Dad had the three little kids following him "bouncing down the bunny trail," as he put it.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "The next thing I knew I was flat on my back with my 8-year old looking down at me saying, 'Wow Dad! That was an awesome wreck.' "

Dad could not get up, but would not let Mom help him. So she left him there to sulk while she continued to teach the kids how to ski.
He continued to sit and sulk until his leg was so swollen he'd never be able to get up.

The ski patrol had to come haul him off the bunny slope in a stretcher and the medics with the ambulance were all asking, "How exactly did this happen?"

He didn't enjoy the question or the answer, so simply said, "I don't know what happened."

"Why didn't you get help before your leg swelled up so big that now we have to cut your pants off," they asked. He wouldn't answer and just glared at them.

At the ER, the same questions were asked by the admitting staff and again by the doctors.

All were expecting some story about going down the "face," hitting a tree or some similar description of a major wreck.
The "bunny slope" story only brought snickers and outright laughter.

As it turned out, he had blown out all there was to blow out in his knee. That eventually led to a knee replacement surgery.

When asked if he and the family ever went back to ski, he nodded and said, "Oh yes, we came back last year. I sat in the pickup and read a good book.”

Julie can be reached for comment at

Buck Gets Antlers Tangled in Christmas Lights - Video

Making criminals out of all Americans

...The Founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offenses, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law. Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalization the first line of attack -- a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it's corporate scandals or e-mail spam. At one point on Tuesday, Breyer protested: "I thought there was a principle that a citizen is supposed to be able to understand the criminal law." Good luck with that. There are now more than 4,000 federal crimes, spread out through some 27,000 pages of the U.S. Code. Some years ago, analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offenses on the books, and gave up, lacking the resources to get the job done. If teams of legal researchers can't make sense of the federal criminal code, obviously, ordinary citizens don't stand a more

Ohio court: Cell phone searches require warrant

Police officers must obtain a search warrant before scouring the contents of a suspect's cell phone unless their safety is in danger, a divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday on an issue that appears never to have reached another state high court or the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ohio high court ruled 5-4 in favor of Antwaun Smith, who was arrested on drug charges after he answered a cell phone call from a crack cocaine user acting as a police informant. Officers took Smith's cell phone when he was arrested and, acting without a warrant and without his consent, searched it. They found a call history and stored numbers that showed Smith had previously been in contact with the drug user. Writing for the majority in Tuesday's ruling, Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger said the only case law available to guide the court appeared to be the conflicting federal court decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn't taken up the issue and there appeared to be no decisions from top-level state courts on the matter, she wrote. Lanzinger said the majority didn't agree with the state's argument that a cell phone was akin to a closed more

Does the Second Amendment Apply in Chicago?

Last year’s landmark Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller definitively settled the fact that the Second Amendment secures an individual right—not a collective one—to keep and bear arms. Yet that ruling applied only to the federal government (which oversees Washington, D.C.). Does the Second Amendment apply against state and local governments as well? Through a series of legal decisions handed down over the past century, the Supreme Court has gradually held that most of the protections in the Bill of Rights apply to the states via the 14th Amendment, which declares, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Second Amendment, however, has been glaringly absent from this process, leaving state and local governments free to systematically violate gun rights. Until now. Later this term, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago, a case that centers on whether the Windy City’s notorious handgun ban violates the 14th Amendment. As we’ll see, it most certainly does. The text of the 14th Amendment, the historical events leading to its adoption, the goals of its framers, and the statements of purpose made both by its supporters and by those who ratified it, all point in the exact same direction: The amendment was designed to secure individual rights—including the right of armed self-defense—against abusive state and local more

Gun Laws are Getting Looser across Much of US

It's been the year of the gun in Tennessee. In a flurry of legislative action, handgun owners won the right to take their weapons onto sports fields and playgrounds and, at least briefly, into bars. A change in leadership at the state Capitol helped open the doors to the gun-related bills and put Tennessee at the forefront of a largely unnoticed trend: In much of the country, it is getting easier to carry guns. A nationwide review by The Associated Press found that over the last two years, 24 states, mostly in the South and West, have passed 47 new laws loosening gun restrictions. Among other things, legislatures have allowed firearms to be carried in cars, made it illegal to ask job candidates whether they own a gun, and expanded agreements that make permits to carry handguns in one state valid in more

House Delays Patriot Act Spy Vote

The House of Representatives tabled on Wednesday legislation to reform U.S. surveillance law. The two-month delay puts off a collision with a competing Senate version. The move automatically extends provisions of the Patriot Act that would otherwise expire at year’s end. The Senate is likewise expected to delay the matter. The act, hastily adopted six weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, greatly expanded the government’s ability to spy on Americans in the name of national security. A key difference between the House and Senate packages concerns the standard by which the FBI may issue so-called National Security Letters — although Wednesday’s vote prolongs the time for more backroom negotiations. Reforming NSL powers is a key bone of contention in the Patriot Act debate, even though it is not one of the three Patriot Act provisions that was scheduled to expire Dec. 31. NSLs allow the FBI, without a court order, to obtain telecommunication, financial and credit records relevant to a government investigation. The FBI issues about 50,000 NSLs annually, and an internal watchdog has found repeated abuses of the NSL powers. A House version permits NSLs in cases concerning terrorism or spy activities of an agent of a foreign power. If it became law, such a plan would vastly reduce whom the government could target. The Senate version generally would leave NSLs under the status more

Short Patriot Act extensions may open door to tinkers

Opponents of the USA Patriot Act say that a congressional move to consider temporarily extending three key provisions that are due to expire at year's end opens the door to try to alter or eliminate some of the national security strategies implemented by former President George W. Bush and embraced by President Barack Obama. Extending the provisions — elements that Patriot Act opponents don't like — was part of Congress' to-do list before it adjourns for the holidays. However, Congress may turn to temporary extensions because of the pressure to pass health care legislation and complete other legislative business before going home. The three Patriot Act provisions that would expire allow the federal government to collect business, credit card and even library records of national security targets, use roving wiretaps to keep tabs on suspects who try to avoid detection by repeatedly changing cell phone numbers and track so-called "lone wolves," individuals who may be working on behalf of foreign governments or terrorist groups. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a House Judiciary Committee member, said that extending the Patriot Act provisions temporarily would buy opponents time to press the White House to back House of Representatives and Senate proposals that would establish uniform procedures for courts and judges to deal with government state-secrets more

Justice Department restrains lawyers in Panther probe

The Justice Department has told the federal attorneys who filed a civil complaint against the New Black Panther Party for disrupting a Philadelphia polling place last year not to cooperate with an investigation of the incident by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission last week subpoenaed at least two Justice Department lawyers and sought documents from the department to explain why the complaint was dismissed just as a federal judge was about to punish the New Black Panther Party and three of its members for intimidating voters. Joseph H. Hunt, director of the Justice Department's Federal Programs Branch, ordered the lawyers' silence in a letter to the attorney for J. Christian Adams, the lead attorney for the department in the New Black Panther case. The letter said "well-established" and "lawful" Justice Department guidelines prohibited Mr. Adams' cooperation in the commission more

FBI Linguist Guilty of Leaking Classified Documents

An Israeli-American lawyer who worked as an FBI linguist pleaded guilty Thursday to providing an unidentified blogger with classified documents derived from U.S. communications intelligence. Shamai Kedem Leibowitz, 39, of Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded to one felony count of disclosing to an unauthorized party five documents that were classified “secret” that he obtained through his work with the FBI. Leibowitz leaked the documents to the unnamed blogger in April 2009. The blogger — identified as “Recipient A” in court filings — then wrote a post based on the classified documents. “As a trusted member of the FBI ranks, Leibowitz abused the trust of the FBI and the American public by using his access to classified information for his own purposes,” said the FBI special agent in charge, Richard A. McFeely, in a press more

Terrorists, Crooks Allowed to Keep FAA Pilot's Licenses

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has asked the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Inspector General to investigate why suspect individuals - including terrorists and drug kingpins - have been able to retain their Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot's licenses. In a letter to DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner, the senators cited media reports, including an ABC News investigation, that questioned the ability of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to purge the FAA's aviation list of individuals posing a threat to transportation security. In one high-profile case reported by the Blotter, a well-known drug boss named Fernando Zevallos Gonzalez was able to keep his U.S. aviation license despite being on a "black list" of foreign drug kingpins since 2004. The Blotter also reported the names of two other men tied to drug trafficking and two convicted arms traffickers who still had their licenses as of Oct. The New York Times revealed that individuals charged or convicted of terrorism-related crimes were also able to retain their FAA licenses. While some of the individuals named in the ABC News and Times reports have since been stripped of their licenses, others have not, according to Safe Banking Systems (SBS), the New York computer security firm that first uncovered the suspect more

RAND Corporation Blueprint for Militarized “Stability Police Force”

The RAND Corporation, one of the most fecund research arms of the Military-Industrial-Homeland Security Complex, has released a study entitled A Stability Police Force for the United States: Justification and Creating U.S. Capabilities. The SPFOR (to use the inevitable acronym) would be a “hybrid” military/law enforcement unit created within the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) for use “in a range of tasks such as crowd and riot control, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), and investigations of organized criminal groups” — both abroad, in UN-directed multilateral military operations, and at home, as dictated by the needs of the Regime. Initially as small as 2–6,000 personnel, the SPFOR’s size “could be increased by augmenting it with additional federal, state, or local police from the United States” as necessary. The RAND study, which was conducted for the U.S. Army’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, recommended using the Marshals Service rather than the US Army’s Military Police as host for the SPFOR in order to avoid conflicts with the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids (albeit in principle more than in practice) the domestic use of the military as a law enforcement more

Pentagon: Insurgents hacked drones with cheap software

Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have intercepted live video feeds from Predator drones, a key weapon in a Pentagon spy system that serves as the military's eyes in the sky for surveillance and intelligence collection. Though militants could see the video, there is no evidence they were able to jam the electronic signals from the unmanned aerial craft or take control of the vehicles, a senior defense official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence issues. Obtaining the video feeds can provide insurgents with critical information about what the military may be targeting, including buildings, roads and other more

Some agencies, such as the Forest Service, are already using drones domestically. Hope this slows them down.

Pentagon Told of UAV Hacking Threat in 2004

Senior military officers warned officials five years ago that video from Predator drone aircraft could be intercepted and doctored, but the Defense Department only began securing the signals this year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The Journal was the first to report yesterday that Iraqi insurgents had hacked into the system to download video and communications from unmanned aerial vehicles. Today it is reporting that officers warned the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the downloads were vulnerable to intercept by Russia and China, but were not concerned that the feeds could be picked up by insurgents in either Iraq or Afghanistan. JCS Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has confirmed that insurgents obtained data from the drones but caused no significant military damage, The Associated Press is reporting more

D.A.: City crew acted like 'band of brigands'

Nine city workers who were assigned to clean up blight in Northeast Philadelphia instead acted like a "band of brigands" by illegally entering homes and ransacking them of cash, jewelry, TVs and guns, District Attorney Lynne Abraham said yesterday. The nine are current or former employees of the Department of Licenses and Inspections or the Mayor's Office of Community Services who were assigned to the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), an anti-blight program supervised by the Managing Director's Office. From June 2006 to January 2008, the nine conspired "to invade people's homes" to steal whatever they could, Abraham said at a news conference while announcing the results of a grand-jury investigation into the case. CLIP was implemented in Northeast Philly in 2002 to deal with quality-of-life issues, such as a homeowner who didn't mow his lawn, who left trash on his property or who didn't fix a broken window. If an owner failed to fix a problem after having been given notice, a city crew was sent to fix it and the owner was billed...

Mow that lawn or the gov't will steal your this case literally.

To Song Of The Day Fans

Can't get Factory File to work. Songs are there but they won't play. I've emailed their support staff and will start the feature again when the problem is solved. I had some really neat Christmas songs done western swing style by The Original Texas Playboys, but guess they'll have to wait until next year.