Saturday, November 05, 2011

Taxpayers Fund Impractical Cracker Barrel EV Recharging Scheme

If you were going to run a pilot project that deploys charging stations in a network to enhance the use of electric vehicles, what kind of establishments would you locate them at? Whose customers might be most interested in that amenity? Certainly Starbucks comes to mind, as might sustainability-crazy Walmart – but how about Cracker Barrel? It’s true, the down-home chain of Old Country Store restaurants was chosen by Ecotality for a practice run in Tennessee as part of The EV Project, which is funded with a $115 million Department of Energy grant to create infrastructure to support EVs like the Nissan Leaf. The rollout features a dozen so-called “fast chargers,” which means they can provide an electric “fill-up” in 30 minutes, with the idea that an EV owner could consume his Cracker Barrel Sampler and a couple of sweet tea refills while the Leaf gets its electric infusion...more

And of course U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican who has fallen for every environmental scheme placed under his nose, has to show up for a photo op:

“There is enough unused electricity at night that we can plug in half our cars and trucks without building a single new power plant,” Alexander said, “and forward-thinking companies like Cracker Barrel are making it even easier to drive electric vehicles by allowing customers to charge them up while we eat, work, shop or otherwise go about our days. Electric vehicles are the best solution to $4 gasoline — and plugging in my Nissan Leaf gives me the patriotic pleasure of not sending money overseas to people trying to blow us up.”

Then the author really has some fun with the enviro Senator:

Unused electricity? Does Alexander think it gets thrown out with the uneaten chicken ‘n dumplins’ at night? And if he thinks EVs are the best solution to $4-per-gallon gasoline, he has probably also embraced the fantasy that bright sunshine and mountain breezes are enough to keep his Leaf running strong. Meanwhile the rest of us, who are steeped in reality, are the ones left to fight for the right to drill for fossil fuels on our own lands and shores, which is the real answer to high gasoline prices.

And oh yes, the quick charge won't work on the Chevy Volt. The D.C. Deep Thinkers are at it again and taking advantage of us poor old tax-paying crackers.

White House Fires Back at 'Overbroad' Subpoena on Solyndra Documents

The White House on Friday all but refused to turn over the documents House Republicans have subpoenaed on bankrupt solar firm Solyndra, firing off a letter saying the request would put an "unreasonable burden on the president's ability to meet his constitutional duties." The feisty response appears to set up a clash between congressional investigators and the White House over the sprawling probe into Solyndra's finances and the administration's involvement in the decision to provide the struggling company a $528 million loan with taxpayer money. White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, in her letter, scolded GOP lawmakers for demanding more documents, noting the Obama administration has already turned over 85,000 pages of documents in the course of their investigation. Without explicitly refusing to comply with the subpoena, Ruemmler repeatedly described the order as "overbroad."...more

The Westerner's Radio Theater #008

Our feature today is an Eddy Arnold Show from 1956.

After Years of Conflict, a New Dynamic in Wolf Country

Yet the dynamic between ranchers and conservationists has begun to change, and Mr. Peterson is surprised to find himself acting as a grudging mediator. The turning point came early this year as lawmakers from some Western states were demanding that the government remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list, and cede control of the animal in Montana and Idaho to state governments. In April, they succeeded by attaching a rider to a budget bill. Aghast, some environmental groups had a moment of reckoning. Had they gone too far in using the Endangered Species Act as a cudgel instead of forging compromises with ranchers? So a handful began reaching out to ranchers, offering them money and tools to fend off wolves without killing them. And some ranchers, mindful that tough federal restrictions could be reimposed if wolf numbers dwindle again, have been listening. Tentative partnerships are cropping up, and a few that already existed are looking to expand. Working through Mr. Peterson, People and Carnivores, a new nonprofit group that promotes “co-existence,” has built a five-mile, $15,000 electric fence adorned with flags to protect calves on a neighbor’s property. This summer, it helped pay for a mounted rider to patrol 20 square miles of grazing land shared by three ranches near Mr. Peterson’s as a deterrent. “A lot of my neighbors think I am wet behind the ears to take money from these people,” said Mr. Peterson, who has not yet accepted aid for himself. “But the wolf is here to stay now, and my feeling is that those people who want it here should share the costs.”...more

Friday, November 04, 2011

Keystone Pipeline Delay Puts Energy Future On Hold

The president who often lets policy decisions be driven by others now says the pipeline to bring Canada's tar sands oil to America is his decision to make. So make it already, Mr. President. An increasingly peeved Canada may not wait for the U.S. to remain its best customer, a promise Obama made Brazil as it pursued offshore drilling we were curtailing. "What will happen if there wasn't approval — and we think there will be — is that we'll simply have to intensify our efforts to sell the oil elsewhere," Joe Oliver, Canada's natural resource minister, told Reuters. That elsewhere is China. As we've noted, Sinopec, a Chinese state-controlled oil company, has a stake in a $5.5 billion plan to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Coast province of British Columbia. Alberta's finance minister met this month with Sinopec and CNOOC, China's other big oil company, and representatives of China's banks. Unlike issues such as ObamaCare, which the White House let Congress run with, the Keystone ball has been squarely placed in the president's court by Obama himself. Will he dismiss a loyal ally and friend if it means offending his environmentalist base? He hasn't exactly been a profile in courage...more

Chasm wide on Grand Canyon uranium mining

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and a mile deep, which is roughly the size of the gap between the Obama administration and Western Republicans on the issue of uranium mining in Northern Arizona. Western Republicans are fighting to stop Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from slapping a 20-year moratorium on any new mining claims for yellowcake uranium on 1.1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon National Park. A two-year ban instated in 2009 is scheduled to expire in December. A House Natural Resources subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on the Republican-sponsored Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, which would block the effort to ban uranium mining in the region. Robert Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, said at the hearing that the area is too sensitive to accommodate expanded mining. The Colorado River, which runs through the canyon, delivers water to 26 million people in seven states, raising the stakes for any contamination that might result from a mining mishap. Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican who chairs the subcommittee on national parks, forest and public lands, accused the Obama administration of bowing to environmental groups by pushing a policy “based purely on political pressure and not sound science.” Republicans say concerns about environmental damage are unfounded. The Interior Department’s draft environmental impact study showed that uranium mineral development would post “little, if any, threat to the park or water quality in the region,” according to an Oct. 12 letter to Mr. Salazar from Republicans. At the same time, Republicans say, allowing more uranium mining would dovetail with the administration’s clean-energy efforts. At a time when the U.S. imports 90 percent of its uranium, the Grand Canyon region could help the nation reach its goal of becoming more energy self-sufficient...more

The problem is the law that allows the Secretary to withdraw that amount of acreage. They need to fix the law (Section 204(c) of FLPMA), not just that one withdrawal.

Gas Against Wind

Which would you rather have in the view from your house? A thing about the size of a domestic garage, or eight towers twice the height of Nelson’s column with blades noisily thrumming the air. The energy they can produce over ten years is similar: eight wind turbines of 2.5-megawatts (working at roughly 25% capacity) roughly equal the output of an average Pennsylvania shale gas well (converted to electricity at 50% efficiency) in its first ten years. Difficult choice? Let’s make it easier. The gas well can be hidden in a hollow, behind a hedge. The eight wind turbines must be on top of hills, because that is where the wind blows, visible for up to 40 miles. And they require the construction of new pylons marching to the towns; the gas well is connected by an underground pipe. Still can’t make up your mind? The wind farm requires eight tonnes of an element called neodymium, which is produced only in Inner Mongolia, by boiling ores in acid leaving lakes of radioactive tailings so toxic no creature goes near them. Not convinced? The gas well requires no subsidy – in fact it pays a hefty tax to the government – whereas the wind turbines each cost you a substantial add-on to your electricity bill... Wind power costs three times as much as gas-fired power. Make that nine times if the wind farm is offshore. And that’s assuming the cost of decommissioning the wind farm is left to your children – few will last 25 years...more

New report identifies nation's 101 top conservation projects

An Interior Department report released Thursday identifies 101 high-priority conservation projects across the nation as part of President Barack Obama's initiative to protect public lands, but it says most will have to find funding somewhere besides the U.S. government. The report outlines two projects in each state and one in the District of Columbia in various stages of development, ranging from the creation of an all-season trail system in Alaska's Denali National Park to the completion of a 32-mile trail through urban areas in central Florida. Representatives from all 50 states who were asked to identify specific projects in which the federal government could form partnerships as part of the America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Some could be completed within in a few years, while others would take several decades, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. Salazar said he didn't know the total cost, and the report says the federal agency won't be able to fund most of them, "given the fiscal constraints facing the federal government."...more

EPA chief’s toxic emissions

It is time for Lisa P. Jackson to resign. Last Friday at Howard University, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) railed against the coal industry, saying, “In [the coal industry’s] entire history - 50, 60, 70 years or even 30 - they never found the time or the reason to clean up their act. They’re literally on life support. And the people keeping them on life support are all of us.” This is patently false, of course, as emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are quite heavily regulated. Those emissions controls are the reason U.S. air is clean and safe and why, say, the air in regulation-free China is not. As West Virginia’s Republican Rep. David B. McKinley pointed out, to the extent that the coal industry is “on life support,” it is Ms. Jackson’s EPA and the rest of the Obama administration that has put it there with a slew of proposed and finalized anti-coal regulations. A week before, Ms. Jackson appeared on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” where she said, “We’re actually at the point in many areas of this country where, on a hot summer day, the best advice we can give you is don’t go outside. Don’t breathe the air, it might kill you.” But there is no scientific or medical evidence to support this statement - not now or even when the EPA was organized and the Clean Air Act was amended to its current form in 1970. Akin to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, her inflammatory rhetoric actually serves to undermine all the efforts put forth and money spent by government and industry to clean the air the past 40 years...more

Regulation is this Halloween’s goblin

American entrepreneurs and small business owners have good reason to be scared this Halloween. According to a new Gallup poll, small business owners consider “complying with government regulations” to be the greatest problem they face. Why? Because the current administration and government bureaucrats simply can’t get enough of scaring the bejesus out of entrepreneurs with calls for more regulations. The March 2010 health care legislation (not-so-affectionately known as “Obamacare”) is an appropriate bogeyman. Rammed through Congress with little public support, it continues to cast a pall of uncertainty throughout the economy, as thousands of its implementing regulations have yet to be written. As a result, firms are holding back on hiring employees and engaging in new projects until they know how the rules will affect them. Of the legislation’s 907 pages, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) already has managed to turn just six of those, regarding the Medicare shared savings program, into a whopping 429 pages of new rules. At that rate, businesses can expect to face 71.5 regulations per page and almost 65,000 new regulations as a result of this legislation. Businesses are certain about one thing: more taxes. According to a July 2011 poll by the National Federation of Small Businesses (NFIB), more than 75 percent of small businesses believe that their taxes will increase in order to pay for Obama’s health care overhaul. They just don’t know by how much...more

New Mexico Town Tops Magazine's Millionaires List

A northern New Mexico city is No. 1 one among the places "Where Millionaires Live in America." The November edition of Kiplinger ranks Los Alamos the top millionaire town based on a recent report by Phoenix Marketing International, a company that follows wealthy residents. According to the report's findings, there are 885 millionaire households among Los Alamos' 18,000 or so residents. That gives the city an 11.7 percent concentration of millionaires. Los Alamos beat out Naples, Fla., and Bridgeport, Conn., which were ranked two and three respectively. The report says nearly 130 Los Alamos households had at least $5 million in investable assets...more

I was sure it would be Santa Fe and never would have thought of Los Alamos.

Cargill: Inside the quiet giant that rules the food business

With $119.5 billion in revenues in its most recent fiscal year, ended May 31, Cargill is bigger by half than its nearest publicly held rival in the food production industry, Archer Daniels Midland. If Cargill were public, it would have ranked No. 18 on this year's Fortune 500, between AIG and IBM. Over the past decade, a period when the S&P 500's revenues have grown 31%, Cargill's sales have more than doubled. But those numbers alone don't begin to capture the scope of Cargill's impact on our daily lives. You don't have to love Egg McMuffins (McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500) buys many of its eggs in liquid form from Cargill) or hamburgers (Cargill's facilities can slaughter more cattle than anyone else's in the U.S.) or sub sandwiches (No. 8 in pork, No. 3 in turkey) to ingest Cargill products on a regular basis. Whatever you ate or drank today -- a candy bar, pretzels, soup from a can, ice cream, yogurt, chewing gum, beer -- chances are it included a little something from Cargill's menu of food additives. Its $50 billion "ingredients" business touches pretty much anything salted, sweetened, preserved, fortified, emulsified, or texturized, or anything whose raw taste or smell had to be masked in order to make it palatable. Cargill's roots lie in the ancient, risky business of buying, storing, and selling grain. William Wallace Cargill, the second son of a Scottish sea captain, started with a single warehouse in Conover, Iowa, in 1865. Conover is a ghost town now, but Cargill still deals heavily in grain. Wherever it grows and wherever it goes...more

Song Of The Day #704

Ranch Radio this morning brings you (Oh Baby Mine) I Get So Lonely, recorded in 1954 by Johnnie & Jack.

Jack is Jack Anglin and Johnnie is Johnnie Wright, husband of Kitty Wells. The duo started playing together in 1938, and continued in the business until Jack Anglin was killed in a car wreck on his way to Patsy Cline's funeral.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Officials Bust Drug-Smuggling Ring Linked to Mexican Cartel

Law enforcement officials on Monday announced the breakup of a massive drug-smuggling ring that used lookouts on hilltops in southern Arizona to move huge quantities of marijuana and other drugs across the Mexican border to users throughout the United States. Over the last month and a half, federal, state and local officials have arrested 6 people, from organizational bosses to stash-house guards to those who transported the drugs in backpacks and in vehicles, the authorities said. All were linked to the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquín Guzmán, Mexico’s richest and most wanted outlaw, who goes by the nickname El Chapo, the authorities said. Speaking at a news conference on Monday, officials estimated that the ring had been in operation for at least five years and had generated more than $2 billion in profits by smuggling more than 3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into the United States. Such large smuggling rings usually use tractor-trailers to get their contraband across, the authorities said, but this operation relied mostly on migrants on foot straining under their loads. The authorities acknowledged that the huge smuggling ring took place under their noses. The drugs would be carried across the border in relatively small quantities and then transported north to a network of stash houses in the Phoenix area. From there, the contraband would be sold to distributors nationwide. The route was through the most desolate desert areas of southern Arizona, including the sprawling Tohono O’odham Indian reservation, between Yuma and Nogales. Spotters with radios or cellphones were used to point out the presence of law enforcement and divert loads, the authorities said...more

Now comes the part of most interest to NM: authorities say there will be a "shift" because of increased enforcement. They are currently moving our way and that will happen for sure if Bingaman gets his "perfect corridor" Wilderness bill through Congress. The article continues:

While calling the arrests a blow to the smugglers, the authorities were cautious in declaring victory. “I expect there will be a shift,” said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of Arizona for the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “One investigation is not going to put them out of business. We have to continually adapt.”

Texas AG: Mexican cartels 'spilling over' border

Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday warning that Mexican cartel violence is increasingly "spilling over" the border and calling for more security. Abbott cited a "deadly shootout" involving "cartel operatives" last weekend in the town of Elsa, about 250 miles south of San Antonio, in which a Hidalgo County sheriff's deputy was shot three times. Sheriff's officials have said the deputy was wearing a protective vest and is expected to recover. Two suspects were charged Wednesday in connection with the attempted drug deal and kidnapping, a contract job to recover a lost load of marijuana for the Gulf Cartel, according to a KRGV-Rio Grande Valley interview with Hidalgo Sheriff Lupe Trevino. Carlos Zavala and Carlos Juan Hernandez were charged with three counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of criminal attempted capital murder. "Thankfully the officer survived, but the Hidalgo County Sheriff confirmed that the shooting spilled over from ongoing drug wars involving the Gulf Cartel in Mexico," Abbott said, noting the shooting was not an isolated incident. During the last two weeks, he said, three "high-level cartel leaders" have been arrested while hiding in Texas. Last week, Border Patrol agents arrested Eudoxio Ramos Garcia, 34, the Gulf Cartel's former plaza boss, or regional commander, in Rio Grande City, according to a newspaper in the border town of McAllen, The Monitor. Ramos had been in Texas only a few days at the time of his arrest and had paid $500 to cross the border illegally because his visa had expired. The day before Ramos' arrest, agents near Santa Maria arrested Jose Luis Zuniga Hernandez, "Comandante Wicho," on a weapons charge, believing he was at one point the plaza boss for Matamoros, across the Rio Grande from the Texas border town of Brownsville, according to The Monitor. The monitor also reported that on Oct. 20, ICE agents arrested Rafael “El Junior” Cardenas Vela, after a traffic stop by Port Isabel police. Cardenas is the nephew of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, the former Gulf Cartel kingpin extradited to the U.S. in 2006 and sentenced last year to 25 years in a U.S. prison. Abbott listed a number of other incidents earlier this year involving cartel violence along the Texas border, including:

-- In September, a man was killed when "cartel operatives" exchanged gunfire between vehicles driving down a highway in McAllen.

-- In June, drug smugglers in Mexico fired upon Texas law enforcement officers near the border community of Abram.

-- In May, U.S. Border Patrol agents near Mission, Texas, came under fire from across the border.

-- In January, highway workers repairing a road near a known drug-smuggling route were fired upon from the southern side of the border near Fort Hancock.

Mexico cartels extend U.S. reach

As dawn broke, police smashed down doors of 52 different houses across California to discover automatic rifles, a grenade launcher and 20 kilos of cocaine, allegedly smuggled by Mexican cartels into the United States. The cocaine and guns seized in the raids, which happened last month, were in the possession of members of a California motorcycle gang. Mexican cartels have long operated in the United States and forged ties on a smaller level with American gangs, using them to sell drugs on street corners. A report by the National Drug Intelligence Center said that Mexican cartels already operate in more than 1,000 U.S. cities — or almost every urban area in the United States. But this recent bust, the culmination of an 18-month probe codenamed “Operation Simple Green,” underscores one of many ways that Mexican drug cartels have strengthened their ties with American gangs, broadening their reach into the U.S. and changing the dynamics of the U.S.-Mexican drug trade. The development comes amid fears that the relentless drug violence in Mexico could spill over the Rio Grande...more

Texas Sheriff Says Shootout Was “Spill Over” of Mexico’s Drug Violence

After a shootout left a deputy seriously injured and a Mexican man dead, the local county sheriff is saying it was linked to a nearby dispute involving the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s largest drug trafficking gangs. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said the violent dispute “spilled over” into the U.S. from Mexico, saying it’s the first time he’s been able to point to an incident and say the violence from Mexico has finally crossed the border...more

Mexican drug cartels operating in Colo.

The same drug cartels causing chaos on the U.S./Mexico border are also active in Colorado. 9Wants to Know examined a situation report from the US Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center, which says the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels are active in five Colorado cities. Those cities are Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, and Longmont. Sylvia Longmire, author of the book "Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico's Drug Wars," says the cartels mainly operate under the radar in Colorado, although they are believed to be responsible for much of the ongoing violence plaguing the border. "What's happening along the border is crucial for folks in Denver to understand because the cartels have a physical presence in Denver and they are trafficking the majority of the drugs that are circulating throughout the city," Longmire said...more

Kidnapped Man Rescued From Trunk Of Car At Texas Border Crossing

Police at a South Texas border crossing rescued a bound and gagged man from the trunk of a car headed for Mexico. The incident happened early Tuesday at the Hidalgo border crossing, seven miles south of McAllen. Police Capt. Robert Vela said an officer who was monitoring Mexico-bound traffic spotted a car driven by an unusually young male. When he stopped the car, he heard a thumping noise coming from the trunk. The driver was removed from the car and handcuffed. When officers opened the trunk, they found a man who was gagged and whose arms and ankles were bound...more

Mexico troops seize catapults used to fling pot

The Mexican army says soldiers have seized two catapults that were being used by drug smugglers to fling packages of marijuana across the border into Arizona. A military statement Tuesday says an anonymous tip led troops to a house in the border city of Agua Prieta where they found a catapult in the bed of a pickup and another inside the house. It says soldiers also seized 1.4 tons during Monday's raid in Agua Prieta, which is across the border from Douglas, Ariz...more

Killings of US citizens in Mexico hit eight-year high

According to data from the US State Department, the first six months of 2011 represented the most deadly period of the past eight years for US citizens in Mexico. From January 4 to June 11 of this year, 65 Americans were killed in Mexico, a 300 percent increase since 2003. This figure comes from La Opinion, which gained access to a report compiled by the US State Department. As the paper notes, the actual number of deaths may be higher in reality, as the figures only refer to voluntarily reported deaths...more

Cuba legalizes sale, purchase of private property

Cuba announced Thursday it will allow real estate to be bought and sold for the first time since the early days of the revolution, the most important reform yet in a series of free-market changes under President Raul Castro. The law, which takes effect Nov. 10, applies to citizens living in Cuba and permanent residents only, according to a red-letter headline on the front page of Thursday's Communist Party daily Granma and details published in the government's Official Gazette. The law limits Cubans to owning one home in the city and another in the country, an effort to prevent the accumulation of large real estate holdings. It requires that all real estate transactions be made through Cuban bank accounts so that they can be better regulated, and says the transactions will be subject to bank commissions...more

Dust bowl looms if US Southwest drought plans fail

THEY like their beef in Texas. So when Texan ranchers started offloading their cattle at bargain prices because pastures were parched - as they did this summer - it was a clear sign that this was no ordinary drought. While rains in October brought some relief, further drought is forecast, which will add to losses already exceeding $5 billion. The bigger question is whether the Texan rancher's pain is a harbinger of things to come for the entire Southwest - and if so, what the broader impact on Americans living in the region will be. Climate models indicate that the Southwest will get drier in the coming decades, threatening water supplies already under pressure from a growing population and ageing infrastructure. The most alarming projections come from a team led by Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. They ran 19 climate simulations, averaged out across the entire Southwest, and came to a stark conclusion: that conditions matching the 1930s Dust Bowl and the multi-year droughts of the 1950s "will become the new climatology of the American Southwest" within decades (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1139601)...more

Inspector General: Green energy stimulus program plagued by problems

Inspector General Gregory Friedman, testifying to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's panel on stimulus oversight, called the program "at odds with realities." Among other things:

° $35 billion in stimulus overwhelmed DOE's $27 billion budget
° More than half the weatherization projects audited failed
° Of the roughly 125,000 workers eligible for green jobs training, only 40 percent received it and only 8,035 participants landed jobs
° Of those placed, only 1,336 participants had retained employment for more than 6 months – or about two percent of the planned 69,717

That means 60% were lucky...their time wasn't wasted.
He also testified that 45% of the money hasn't been spent...yet.

And, this story says the I.G. has launches criminal probe into more than 100 Energy Dept. loans

Interior secretary to include 2 New Mexico projects as part of 'Great Outdoors' initiative

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says two projects in New Mexico will be included in a 50-state report outlining proposals for reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors. The projects include the creation of an urban national wildlife refuge on Albuquerque's southern edge at the site of the old Price's Dairy and construction of a pedestrian bridge at the Aztec Ruins National Monument in northwestern New Mexico. The full report will be released in the coming weeks. It includes 100 projects nationwide that are part of the Obama administration's conservation and recreation agenda. The report is the result of meetings among Interior Department officials, governors, local and tribal representatives and other stakeholders. AP

Now we wait for the "crown jewels".

Riding the Dakota Oil Boom

A surge in crude-oil production in North Dakota is fueling a railroad boom in one of the nation's most remote regions, as producers bet that trains will be a quick and lucrative way to break a transportation bottleneck. The steady conveyor belt of jet-black rail cars is just the latest change in this state's western corner. Already clusters of trailers, known as man camps, have popped up in pasture lands outside of small towns like Watford City, N.D., to house oil workers. Watford City has gone from a quiet crossroads without a single stoplight to a bustling hub with its own rush hour, because it serves as a stopping point for truckers looking for diesel, Red Bull and Hot Pockets. The trains, trucks and trailers point to what has become a central challenge facing North Dakota's rise as a U.S oil-producing power: how to get crude out of the massive Bakken Shale reserve and to the refineries far away that process it. North Dakota's output has grown in the last three years from a trickle to nearly 450,000 barrels a day—trailing only Texas, Alaska and California—and could double by the middle of the decade, according to analyst and industry projections. But pipelines in the region already are operating at capacity, and major new lines aren't expected to start going into service until 2013...more

Let's sell federal lands to the oil companies

Federal ownership of vast, unproductive acreage contributes to our insolvency as well as offers a partial remedy to our government indebtedness and ability for America to gain a measure of energy self sufficiency. Nearly 30 percent (about 650 million acres) of our national land mass of 2.3 billion acres is in federal lands. Another 8.6 percent is owned by local and state governments. Additionally, there is another 1.76 billion acres of taxpayer-owned lands offshore available for energy production. Suppose, for instance, that 10 percent of the 650 million acres — 65 million acres — would be offered for sale only to domestic energy companies. Of course, each parcel sold would need to be priced at its respective market value and evaluated so as to weigh its comparative merits for producing energy versus being preserved for environmental or scenic value. For the sake of illustration, if these tracts were sold for an average of $1,500 per acre, the resulting revenue to repay our hemorrhaging national debt would be in the range of $97.5 trillion. This strategy is altogether reasonable. Liquidation of assets occurs regularly in the private sector. In fact, it generally is demanded by creditors when borrowers have defaulted. In the case of the federal government, there is an increasing queue of creditors. Taxpayers effectively are creditors who are beginning to demand that government's unchecked spending and over-regulation of energy exploration and production be brought under control...more

Who's Afraid of Seven Billion People?

This Halloween, the United Nations declared over the summer, a baby will be born somewhere on Earth who will tip the world's population over seven billion for the first time. Truly do international bureaucrats have the power of prophecy! The precision is bunk, of course, or rather a public-relations gimmick. Nonetheless, the occasion will provide an excuse for yet another round of Malthusian gnashing of teeth about overpopulation. But we shouldn't let it obscure the real story of the past 50 years, which is not how much faster than expected, but how much slower, population has been growing. The growth rate of world population has halved since the '60s and is now expected to hit zero around 2070, with population around 10 billion, though some news outlets prefer to focus on the U.N.'s "high" estimate that it "could" reach 15 billion. The truth is, nobody can know, but if it's below 10 billion in 2100, we will have only increased in numbers by 1.5 times in the 21st century, compared with a fourfold increase in the 20th. This "demographic transition" to lower birth rates began in Western Europe in the 19th century and later spread to North America, then Latin America, Asia and now Africa. In 1955, the birth rates per woman in Yemen, Iran, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Brazil and China were, respectively, 8.3, 7.0, 6.8, 6.5, 6.1 and 5.6. Today they are 5.1, 1.7, 2.7, 5.2, 1.8 and 1.7. Notice: The poorer a country has remained, the slower the fall. The fall in the birth rate is a largely voluntary phenomenon. It has happened just as fast in countries with no coercive population policy as it has in China, with its Draconian two-child law. The demands for coercion that were common in the 1970s—"Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?" wrote Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich and John Holdren in 1977—seem embarrassing in retrospect. Birth rates have gone down because of prosperity, not poverty. Everywhere it has occurred, it has followed a fall in child mortality and famine and an increase in income and education...more

DHS-Funded Taser Drone Launched in Texas

A Department of Homeland Security-funded surveillance drone deployed against insurgents in Afghanistan that can also be used to tase suspects from above has been unveiled by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office and will be operational within a month. “At $500,000 a pop, Montgomery county spent $250,000 to get the UAV. The rest was covered by a Department of Homeland Security grant,” reports
Although its initial role will be limited to surveillance, the ShadowHawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, previously used against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and East Africa, has the ability to tase suspects from above as well as carrying 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchers. The ShadowHawk is a 50lb mini drone chopper that can be fitted with an XREP taser with the ability to fire four barbed electrodes that can be shot to a distance of 100 feet, delivering “neuromuscular incapacitation” to the victim. The drone can travel at a top speed of 70MPH and can operate for 3.5 hours over land and sea...more

Go here for my previous post on drones. Here's a video of it's capabilities:

School Lunch Proposals Set Off a Dispute

The government has some thoughts on how to make the federally financed school lunch program more nutritious: A quarter-cup of tomato paste on pizza will no longer be considered a vegetable. Cut back on potatoes and add more fresh peaches, apples, spinach and broccoli. And hold the salt. The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school-lunch program — are meant to reduce rising childhood obesity, Agriculture Department officials say. Food companies including Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and the makers of frozen pizza and French fries have a huge stake in the new guidelines and many argue that it would raise the cost of meals and call for food that too many children just will not eat. With some nutrition experts rallying to the Obama administration’s side, the battle is shaping up as a contentious and complicated fight involving lawmakers from farm states and large low-income urban areas that rely on the program, which fed some 30 million children last year with free or subsidized meals. Food companies have spent more than $5.6 million so far lobbying against the proposed rules. A group of farm-state senators have already succeeded in blocking an Agriculture Department plan to limit the amount of starchy foods in school meals, and are now hoping to win a larger victory. The group includes Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who once worked picking potatoes and led the opposition to the new starch rules last month...more

Song Of The Day #703

This morning Ranch Radio brings you Sweet Temptation, recorded by Merle Travis in 1946.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Obama uses executive orders as a political tool; threat to the West - video

President Barack Obama is crafting his own laws of political physics these days, insisting that inaction by a divided Congress requires White House action in order to get something done. A campaign labeled "We Can't Wait" pushes unilateral directives and programs from the White House as the only way to push ahead on the president's agenda when a do-nothing Congress fails to act. "There is inaction. There is a lack of action," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained to reporters this week when asked about a series of executive orders and actions the president has taken or is planning. "So there is a need to move, because we can move." "Meanwhile, they're only scheduled to work three more weeks between now and the end of the year," Obama said in the Saturday address. "The truth is, we can no longer wait for Congress to do its job. The middle-class families who've been struggling for years are tired of waiting. They need help now. So where Congress won't act, I will."...more

This is scary for several reasons, one of which is the potential impact on the West.

Just remember the secret memo on designating National Monuments or Obama's memo to departments on implementing the Endangered Species Act and you will get a flavor for the potential harm here.

Think of all the executive authority granted to the agencies by Congress over the years. All this ceding of authority is coming home to roost.

There is also the potential of amending or revoking existing Executive Orders.  Grazing fees are set by Executive Order as one example.

Rest assured the enviros will jump on the "We Can't Wait" campaign.  The memos will be or already have been submitted to the White House on National Monuments, withdrawals, pesticides, endangered species, etc.

The War on The West may have just been stepped up a notch or two.

Here is the video of Obama's Saturday address:

Enviros Target Dusty Skies in Eight Western States

WildEarth Guardians today petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rein in dangerous levels of particulate matter air pollution in 21 areas in eight western states, including Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. “We need the EPA to step up and put these areas on the path to clean up,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “These dusty skies are not only dangerous, they’re a sign that air quality throughout the west is at risk. We need relief.” Air quality monitoring data for the 21 areas shows that health-based standards limiting particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter, or 1/7th the width of a human hair, also known as PM-10, are being violated...more

The states listed are:

  • Arizona: Douglas, Nogales, Tucson, and Yuma.
  • Colorado: Alamosa, Durango, Grand Junction, Lamar, Pagosa Springs, and Parachute.
  • Montana: A portion of Jefferson County south of Helena.
  • Nevada: Pahrump.
  • New Mexico: Anthony, Chaparral, Deming, Las Cruces, and Sunland Park.
  • Oklahoma: Tulsa.
  • Utah: Salt Lake and Utah Counties.
  • Wyoming: A portion of Sweetwater County near Point of Rocks.

Obama says he'll make the final decision on Keystone oil pipeline

President Obama strongly suggested Tuesday that he will make the final decision on whether the administration will approve the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. His remarks come a day after White House press secretary Jay Carney appeared to put some space between Obama and the controversial project by stating “This is a decision that will be made by the State Department.” But Obama, in an interview with a Nebraska TV station from the White House, indicated that the State Department – which is leading the federal review of TransCanada Corp.’s plan – would put the final decision in his hands...more

Sheriffs discuss challenges they believe rural communities face

About 700 people attended a meeting at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds on Saturday sponsored by the activism group Defend Rural America, founded by Idaho native Kirk MacKenzie. The meeting consisted of a film, a fundraising auction and discussions with a panel of eight sheriffs from Northern California and Southern Oregon. After the film and the auction, the panel of sheriffs, including Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey and a property rights attorney, took the stage to address their concerns about the challenges they believe rural communities are facing. Lopey began the panel discussion by presenting his views about Klamath dam removal, what he sees as federal government incursion into state and county jurisdictions, and the current state of rural America. Lopey told the audience that many sheriffs in Northern California and Southern Oregon are becoming increasingly concerned about government taking power out of the hands of citizens and making poor land use decisions that have the potential to destroy the “rural way of life.” “These are constitutional issues,” Lopey told the crowd. “We are here because sheriffs are sworn to uphold the United States constitution. We are broke, so why are these people doing stupid stuff to make us poorer?” Lopey asked, referring to concerns about the costs associated with Klamath dam removal, and higher taxes and power rates that may come along with the process. Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson told the audience that “there is an assault on our communities. The government is denying us of our resources that make us self-sustaining. We have allowed this to happen to our country, but our founding fathers gave us the tools to fix it. We can take back our country county by county.” Nearly every sheriff mentioned concerns about decommissioning of roads in publicly owned forests and the lack of government coordination with local officials during the process. Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney said roads in national forests are essential for search and rescue missions in remote areas. Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood said, “Events like this are something that hasn’t happened before. There is an awakening of a giant here.”...more

Links to videos of all the presenters, including attorney Karen Budd Fallen, are available here

What really happened to the dinasaurs

Song Of The Day #702

Today's tune on Ranch Radio is Faron Young's 1952 recording of Goin' Steady.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Cap and trade as food policy

From the Ezra Klein at the Washington Post:

Could cap-and-trade regulations have a place in food policy? That’s the idea behind a recent New England Journal of Medicine paper, which suggests that one way to stem our obesity crisis would be to regulate the total amount of unhealthy food that’s available. Cap and trade was a key part of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments as a way to regulate acid-rain-causing pollutants like sulfur dioxide. Under the program, the overall amount of pollution was limited, and utilities were allowed to trade pollution credits on the open market, so that the lowest-cost reductions got made first. The policy worked well...This leads them to ask: what if a cap-and-trade policy treated unhealthy foods as pollutants, limiting their availability?

The U.S. food supply can also be viewed as a polluted environment. Because of industry’s practices and consumers’ choices, pollutants such as excessive salt, sweeteners, and unhealthful fat end up damaging our health. Setting a cap on the amount of harmful ingredients used in U.S. food production could profoundly affect our diet. This approach could take many forms but would probably work best if applied to entities that supply food products directly to consumers, rather than to the producers of the raw ingredients. Although food ingredients are components, not by-products, of production, cap and trade may still make sense for several reasons. First, the approach is thought to work best when the capped substance is easy to measure. Ingredients such as salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats are even easier to measure than pollutants like sulfur dioxide. And cap and trade is ideally suited for markets in which many companies use or produce a given substance but it would cost some more than others to decrease that use or production.

Ah yes, our food supply is a "polluted environment" brought to you by the private sector, so we need the DC Deep Thinkers to control it.

Enjoy those Snickers while you can and a big Happy Halloween from the DC Demons & Washington Witches.

Rural Rebellion Brewing

Sacramento is Government Central, a land of overly pensioned bureaucrats and restaurant discounts for state workers. But way up in the North State, one finds a small but hard-edged rural populace that views state and federal officials as the main obstacles to their quality of life. Their latest battle is to stop destruction of four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River – an action driven by environmentalists and the Obama administration. Most locals say the dam-busting will undermine their property rights and ruin the local farming and ranch economy, which is all that's left since environmental regulators destroyed the logging and mining industries. These used to be wealthy resource-based economies, but now many of the towns are drying up, with revenue to local governments evaporating. Unemployment rates are in the 20-percent-and-higher range. Nearly 79 percent of the county's voters in a recent advisory initiative opposed the dam removal, but that isn't stopping the authorities from blasting the dams anyway. The evening's main event: a panel featuring eight county sheriffs (seven from California, one from Oregon) who billed themselves as "Constitution sheriffs." They vowed to stand up for the residents of their communities against what they say is an unconstitutional onslaught from regulators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. In particular, they took issue with the federal government's misnamed Travel Management Plan, which actually is designed to shut down public travel in the forests. The people in Siskiyou were echoing points I've heard throughout rural California. As they see it, government regulators are pursuing controversial policies – i.e., diverting water from farms to save a bait fish, the Delta smelt, clamping down on carbon dioxide emissions to address global warming even if it means driving food processors out of the Central Valley, demolishing dams to increase a population of fish that isn't endangered – without caring about the costs to rural residents. We've got a real sagebrush rebellion brewing in rural California. Urban legislators can ignore it at their own peril. ..more

The Climate Scam Continues

In an attempt to revive climate hype, a chart by a Berkeley scientist claims to show global warming has not slowed. In fact, what it shows is no warming for the last 11 years. Self-proclaimed climate skeptic Richard Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, made quite a splash recently in the Wall Street Journal with his compilation of data from ground stations and conclusion that the earth has warmed since the 1950s and continues to warm. Muller's team, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, concluded that the average land temperature has risen 1 degree Centigrade — or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit — since the mid-1950s. Not so fast, says Professor Judith Curry, a distinguished climate researcher with more than 30 years experience and the second named co-author of the BEST project's four research papers. Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, says the project's research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the 1990s. Despite being the second named co-author, Curry was not informed of or consulted about either the release of any study data or of Muller's conclusions, which involved private briefings with selected media outlets. That may be for good reason, since an analysis of the data by other respected analysts shows Muller's conclusions to be wrong, and perhaps deliberately so...more

Lubbock man accused of $40 million in green energy fraud

A Lubbock man, Jeff Gunselman, 29, is suspected of committing $40 million worth of wire fraud. Court records related to Gunselman's company, Absolute Fuels, were unsealed Monday, solving some of the mystery surrounding a mid-October federal raid at several Lubbock and South Plains locations. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 obligated fuel makers to sell a minimum 4 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2006, and a minimum 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. The renewable fuels, such as bio-diesel, were tracked by RIN or Renewable Identification Numbers. RINs could be traded or sold so that fuel makers could meet their federal obligations. Court records say in May of 2010, an employee challenged Gunselman about the sale of RINs that did not exist: "Gunselman took the employee out of earshot of the other employees and repeated his instruction to find someone to buy that quantity of RINs, stating 'This is in the pioneering stages and no one will ever know. We'll make the fuel later." However, efforts to make bio-diesel fuel at the company's Anton/Littlefield facility had failed, according to court records. Tests showed the fuel was unusable. Gunselman spent millions of dollars. Court records say Gunselman had 11 vehicles including a 2011 Bentley, and Shelby Cobra 427. He purchased a home in Boerne, Texas for $2.65 million. The company had purchased a private jet worth $2.5 million...more

Coalition Pushing To Save Conservation Funding

A coalition called America's Voice for Conservation, Recreation and Preservation is pushing a new study commissioned by one of its members that shows that outdoor recreation, natural resource conservation and historic preservation supports 9.4 million jobs, raises $107 billion in tax revenue and generates $1.06 trillion in economic activity each year. The coalition, which includes the Wilderness Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several hundred other groups, is worried that as the government looks to cut spending, it will go too far in slashing conservation funding. In a conference call with reporters today, leaders of the coalition highlighted how spending in these areas only accounts for 1.26 percent of the federal budget...more

Rice seed yields blood protein

One can't squeeze blood from a turnip, but new research suggests that a bit of transgenic tweaking may make it possible to squeeze blood — or at least blood protein — from a grain of rice. In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe rice seeds that can produce substantial quantities of a blood protein called human serum albumin, or HSA1. HSA is in high demand around the world, both for its role in drug and vaccine production and for use in treating patients with severe burns and other serious conditions such as haemorrhagic shock and liver cirrhosis. The primary source of therapeutic HSA is donated human blood. To overcome limitations caused by blood shortages and contamination of donated blood by viruses, researchers worldwide have been working to create functional HSA either synthetically, with the help of yeast and bacteria, or in transgenic organisms such as cows and tobacco. The rice-derived protein was shown to be functionally equivalent to the version found in human blood plasma. Not only were the two chemically and physically identical, but they were also similar when tested for medical efficacy and immune reactivity. In rats with liver disease, both types of HSA proved equally effective in relieving symptoms associated with cirrhosis. And rats that were given rice-derived HSA showed no stronger immune reaction than animals that had been given the plasma-derived version...more

WSMR land, ranchers subject of talk

Joe Ben Sanders' discussion of the 1941-42 takeover of private land by the federal government for White Sands Missile Range drew an interested audience Saturday. Close to half the people in attendance at the Alamogordo Public Library said their families were affected by the government action. "There were over 200 ranches that were destroyed, there was no accountability," Sanders said. "The people hired lawyers and the government stalled them with legal action until most of them died." Sanders is an archaeological consultant and author of more than 60 books on the Tularosa Basin area, including Three Rivers Petroglyphs. He's also an experienced cartographer, with dozens of maps to his credit. "What the government did is a cancer on our history." "I did archeology on White Sands Missile Range with Pete Eidenbach," Sanders said. "I worked out there for 17 years. I could see the pain in the people's eyes. The abandoned homes, there were still books in them." The takeover started in 1941. G.L. Tucker's land was affected, as was that of his aunt, Lola Tucker. G.L., age 70, lives in Tularosa; Lola, 86, lives in Alamogordo. "I came because I was interested in the way they changed the titles of land for the missile range," G.L. said. "My folks had a little ranch on the south side of Salinas. We had to leave there, and my family had to lease a ranch at Three Rivers." Lola's memory is painful: "We had just gotten to where we didn't owe anybody anything, and my dad said, 'We're going to have to move.' I said, 'But they just can't take our land,' and he said, 'They did.' He had to move his cattle off the ranch...more

Navajos Rated Above California Plan First Bonds: Muni Credit

The Navajo Nation, the largest American Indian tribe by members and reservation size, plans to issue its first bonds in a $120 million offering that would be the biggest sale of nongaming tribal debt in at least a decade. With more than $1 billion in reserves, the nation gets almost one-third of its revenue from oil, gas and coal royalties. It plans to use the proceeds to finance about 50 projects, including a tourist center, on its 27,000-square-mile reservation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, according to the Navajo Division of Economic Development. The nation carries an A rating from Standard & Poor’s, one level above California’s. The sale is intended to create thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy on a reservation where, even with energy revenue, more than 37 percent of the 170,000 residents lived below the federal poverty level in 2009...more

Roosters costing NM taxpayers a fortune

Some roosters are evidence in a misdemeanor cockfighting case, but keeping them alive so they can be presented in court is costing taxpayers a small fortune. The total is more than $100,000 so far. On Monday, a Santa Fe judge decided whether that's a necessary cost. Prosecutors say the birds could be euthanized, frozen and then presented as evidence. The suspect, Raul Trinidad-Enriquez, contends they're just pets and he needs them alive in court to prove it. The roosters were rescued last July from what authorities believe was a huge cockfighting ring in Santa Fe. They are now being housed at the Santa Fe animal shelter as evidence. It's a big inconvenience to the shelter that normally cares for household pets. Crews have had to build a special cages to house the poultry, provide designated care for the birds and even bring in a veterinarian used to caring for roosters. "An invoice form the santa fe animal shelter that indicated for all 62 birds that were housed then in October of 2010 they were being housed at $15 a day and after 77 days it cost some $71,000 TO $72,000 dollars at that time," said prosecutor Ragina Ryanczak. That's $15 dollars per bird. Now almost a year later there are eight roosters in custody. The rest of the animals were either adopted or died...more

Fifteen dollars a day per bird? Sure glad the government doesn't run our chicken farms.

Song Of The Day #701

You know how a song will sometimes pop into your head.  Sometimes because of an event, or a person, or a song that sounds like it.  And occasionally it just pops in there for no reason at all.  Well that's what this song did last night.  Here's Jerry Lee Lewis and his 1968 recording of Another Place, Another Time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scientist who said climate change sceptics had been proved wrong accused of hiding truth by colleague

It was hailed as the scientific study that ended the global warming debate once and for all – the research that, in the words of its director, ‘proved you should not be a sceptic, at least not any longer’. Professor Richard Muller, of Berkeley University in California, and his colleagues from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures project team (BEST) claimed to have shown that the planet has warmed by almost a degree centigrade since 1950 and is warming continually. Published last week ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa, next month, their work was cited around the world as irrefutable evidence that only the most stringent measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can save civilisation as we know it. The Washington Post said the BEST study had ‘settled the climate change debate’ and showed that anyone who remained a sceptic was committing a ‘cynical fraud’. But today The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a leading member of Prof Muller’s team has accused him of trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has stopped. Prof Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at America’s prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Prof Muller’s claim that he has proven global warming sceptics wrong was also a ‘huge mistake’, with no scientific basis. Prof Curry is a distinguished climate researcher with more than 30 years experience and the second named co-author of the BEST project’s four research papers. Like the scientists exposed then by leaked emails from East Anglia University’s Climatic Research Unit, her colleagues from the BEST project seem to be trying to ‘hide the decline’ in rates of global warming. In fact, Prof Curry said, the project’s research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the Nineties – a fact confirmed by a new analysis that The Mail on Sunday has obtained...more

Also see this post at NewsBusters.

Destructive Energy “Policies”

“Energy independence.” Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? Unfortunately, in the era of Barack Obama the goal of enabling the United States to meet its own energy needs has been subverted by some very destructive politics. First, the term “energy independence” has been confused with the term “green energy.” While some people use the two expressions synonymously, the Obama Administration has gradually phased-out references to “energy independence” and moved towards “green energy” references exclusively. This language shift from the Obama Administration raises some important questions: are we no longer seeking to become “energy independent?” And if we are still seeking “energy independence,” what is it, exactly, that we are trying to become independent from? Since the days of the Nixon presidency most Americans have recognized the many problems associated with being dependent on foreign oil suppliers. And it was nearly six years ago when George W. Bush became the first U.S. President to proclaim that “America is addicted to oil.” But now President Barack Obama seems to have determined that our problem isn’t so much “foreign oil,” but oil itself. His Administration has sought to force the nation away from consuming all types of oil – both foreign and domestic –and to move us in the direction of his environmentally preferred “green” energy sources. Unfortunately, the President has approached energy policy just as he approaches most everything else – with the naïve assumption that as long as lots of government programs and mandates are established, the agenda will be accomplished and all will go well...more

NM drought

Everyone in New Mexico knows about the drought — from the farmers and ranchers who live on the plains to ditch riders in the Rio Grande Valley and backyard gardeners in the state's largest city. They've felt the sting of what has become one of the driest years in over a century. While the taps aren't expected to dry up any time soon, New Mexico's reservoirs are low and conservation has regained its place on the stage as one of this arid state's buzzwords. The only hope for New Mexico is some much-needed moisture during the winter, and those hopes are already being dashed by forecasters who are predicting high probabilities for below-normal rain and snow. With back-to-back years of scant precipitation looming, water managers are concerned about the state slipping into a downward spiral. With soil so dry, any drop of rain would be quickly absorbed, keeping it from making its way into rivers and reservoirs. At stake are rural economies, endangered species and mandates for delivering water to Texas and Mexico. While the city taps will remain on, farmers in southern New Mexico aren't so sure they will get what they need for their crops next year. In the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, this year marked the shortest irrigation season on record at one month and it could be just as short next year. In the Carlsbad Irrigation District in southeastern New Mexico, projections show farmers could end up next year with less than a third of their normal allotment of three acre-feet of water per acre of land. "If La Nina hangs in here, we're just drilling further down into the drought," said Gary Esslinger, manager of the Elephant Butte district, which has some 8,500 members. Farmers have few options, none of which Esslinger said is ideal — curtailing crops, leaving land uncultivated or bunching up crops close to groundwater wells...more

Government agencies hunt wildlife-killing nurdles

Environmental regulators walked gingerly along the San Leandro shoreline Friday, keeping a sharp eye out for the elusive wildlife killer known as the "nurdle." "I've got one," said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, after scooping one out of a worker's net. There, in his palm, was a tiny white pellet. Nurdles are the tiny bits of plastic that are melted down and used in the production of plastic bags, bubble wrap, packaging and wrapping material. They may sound cuddly and nonthreatening, but they are believed to be responsible for the sickness and death of thousands of fish and birds in the region that have mistaken them for food. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, State Water Resources Control Board and the EPA have targeted four San Leandro plastic manufacturers in a first-in-the-nation effort to halt the rampant spillage of the pellets, hundreds of thousands of which have washed into storm drains that flow into San Francisco Bay...more

Concerns Are Raised About Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes

These mosquitoes are genetically engineered to kill — their own children. Researchers on Sunday reported initial signs of success from the first release into the environment of mosquitoes engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, killing them before they reach adulthood. The results, and other work elsewhere, could herald an age in which genetically modified insects will be used to help control agricultural pests and insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria. But the research is arousing concern about possible unintended effects on public health and the environment, because once genetically modified insects are released, they cannot be recalled. Authorities in the Florida Keys, which in 2009 experienced its first cases of dengue fever in decades, hope to conduct an open-air test of the modified mosquitoes as early as December, pending approval from the Agriculture Department...more

Fear The Food? Or The Food Police?

‘Food Day’ was earlier this week, an event sponsored by The Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI). To celebrate the CSPI released their ‘Terrible Ten’ food list. It seems fitting that this list was released just before Halloween, as it makes ‘monsters’ out of food. “Vending machines dispensing soft drinks and candy are the ubiquitous, mute, metallic monsters that promote unhealthy diets 24/7”, according to the list. Even Toucan Sam is among CSPI’s list of terrors, “Kellogg’s Froot Loops, a fruit-less sugary cereal gussied up with synthetic dyes, is one of a host of junk foods marketed heavily to kids.” While these items and other foodstuffs make the ‘terrible’ list, one thing the CSPI does not find terrifying during Halloween or any other season is more government regulation and taxation. “Taxing soft drinks is an effective approach for cash-strapped federal and state governments looking for ways to fund health care and disease-prevention programs,” the CSPI website claims. There are many calls to action on the CSPI website, from efforts to eliminate transfats to urging the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to up taxes on alcohol related beverages...more

World's grain prices depend on more than just wealth

Today the world's population is expected to hit a record 7bn, according to the United Nations. Indeed, the global population could double by the end of the century, stoking the old Malthusian cry that we will not be able to provide enough to go around. Conventional wisdom tells us that grain price rallies during the past few years have been caused by concerns over a rising population and rising wealth in the developing world. As people become richer, they eat more meat, and livestock needs significant amounts of grain to fatten up. Indeed, worldwide meat production has tripled over the past four decades and increased 20pc in the past 10 years, according to research from the Worldwatch Institute, the environment organisation. The pressure group noted that industrial countries are consuming growing amounts of meat, nearly double the quantity in developing countries. If this trend continues, then severe food inflation seems certain. However, research from Capital Economics suggests we are all worrying over nothing. They disagree with the conventional premise that meat consumption is responsible for rises in grain costs. A further complication is that different types of meat require different amounts of animal feeds. "According to the US Department of Agriculture, it takes 16lb of grain and soya beans to produce 1b of beef. But the ratio falls to 6:1 for pork, 4:1 for turkey, and only 3:1 for chicken and eggs," Mr Jessop says. There are similarly marked differences in the ratios for other inputs such as water and fuel. The upshot is that if Chinese people increased the amount of protein in their diet by eating less fatty pork and more lean chicken, rather than beef, the demand for animal feeds could actually fall," he says...more

Local rancher turns plastic cows into art with cow pies

That herd of painted plastic cows plastered all over downtown doesn't exactly make you want to shout "Yippie ti yi yo," does it? So what could you do to cowboy up those critters? Simple. Last week, Cow Patty, not her real name, secretly went around town putting 11 hand-painted and shellacked cow pies behind some of the fake cows you've seen downtown that make up the so-called artistic Cow Parade. Ms. Patty, a local, small-time cattle rancher, didn't want me to use her real name because she doesn't want to get busted for littering. The cows might be phony, but the cow pies are real. To get the decorating job done, on Wednesday Cow Patty marched through the Whole Foods store at Sixth and Lamar, carrying two of her cow pies, which are pretty darned huge. The store was busy, but nobody seemed to notice. Maybe people thought they were some kind of organic squash. "I get away with this because I look like everybody's mom," Cow Patty explained. She blames her fiancé for the project: "It was his idea. He said, ‘Those cows, they need (something) behind them.' " The Cow Parade is that collection of 74 to 78 decorative cow statues you've seen around Austin for the past few weeks. It's a world of polyurethane hooves and tails out there. The cows have taken over for a worthy cause: to raise money for the Super Hero Kids Endowment, a program for families of children who have leukemia and other blood disorders and diseases. Some of the cows, decorated by local artists, will be auctioned off Nov. 13 by Jay Leno at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater. This is big-money stuff. "We estimate each of the cows will go for between $500 and $10,000," said Brian Dolezal, a spokesman for Cow Parade, a corporation that has been plastering cities around the globe with plastic cows since the first event in 1999 in Chicago. Cow Patty thinks her cow pies add a touch of authenticity to the herd. Each pie has the message "Keeping Austin Weird! Cow Patty" on the back...more

Organic squash?  

Baxter Black: Shepherding rough, thankless career

For those of you to whom the phrase “sheep camp” conjures up a pastoral, nostalgic, even romantic vision of shepherds watching over their flocks, I suspect you’ve never slept in one. Sheep camp, in the real world of shepherding, is the wagon where you sleep, live and eat. It looks like a small covered wagon. There is a built-in bed with storage underneath, a small stove-heater propane unit and a drop-down kitchen cabinet behind. A lantern provides light. The roof could be canvas or fitted tin. The wagon has four tires and a tongue and is usually hauled or pulled to the grazing area. In its heyday, the mid-1900s, sheep camps were as common and handy as Airstream motor homes. I worked in the ION country (southern Idaho, western Oregon, northern Nevada) in the ’70s near the end of good times for the sheep business. I worked for an outfit that ran 20,000 sheep on the high desert sagebrush. In the summer, the herd would be divided into bands of 2,000 to 3,000. One man with his sheep camp, dogs and a saddle mule or horse would keep moving them to good forage and try to protect them from predators. When it was needed, he would hook up his horse and drag his camp to a new location. The boss would drive in with the supplies at least once a week. These were self-sufficient, hardworking immigrants, often Basques from Spain. Over the years I watched the Basque improve their lot and be replaced by South Americans...more

Song Of The Day #700

Ranch Radio's 700th song just happens to occur on Swingin' Monday.  So here's a swingin' tune about two things much appreciated here: Cowboys & Rodeos by Quartette. 

The tune is on their 1996 CD Quartette.  According to Amazon, this CD is now pretty rare.

Dismembered bodies found all over Juárez

The dismembered bodies of four men were found throughout Juárez on Tuesday in a grotesque display of brutality. Some of the body parts were left in front of an elementary school and a day care center. Heads, arms, feet and other severed body parts were scattered at various locations in the city, which has been in the grasp of a deadly drug-cartel war for nearly four years. The mutilations were an apparent act of emerging rivalries with new drug organizations, according to messages left with the body pieces. The gruesome crimes follow the discovery of a man's severed head late Sunday and his decapitated body found hours later. In other violence, a Juárez police officer was killed when his car was peppered with gunfire Tuesday in the north part of the city...more

Mexican drug cartels strengthen ties with US gangs

I have previously posted FBI report: "The US Southwest Border region represents a continuing criminal threat to the United States" but this article from the El Paso Times gives you a view of local impact.

Mexican drug cartels are strengthening alliances with gangs in the United States beyond ethnic, ideological and geographic boundaries, warns a new report from the federal National Gang Intelligence Center. The gang-cartel link is most prominently seen in El Paso between the Barrio Azteca gang and the Juárez drug cartel, but similar alliances are emerging in various parts of the country, according to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. "Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are observing a growing nexus between the Mexican drug cartels, illegal alien smuggling rings and U.S.-based gangs," the study stated. "Ties have grown between them, and it is all because of money and drugs," said Sgt. Alberto Telles of the El Paso County Sheriff's gang intelligence squad. "Both the Barrio Azteca and Sureños have established ties (with cartels) to get cheaper prices on drugs. Sheriff's officials said there were 68 confirmed Barrio Azteca members and 31 Sureño members last week at the El Paso County Jail Annex. Numbers fluctuate as inmates are released from or arrive at the jail. Rival gangs are kept separated to avoid trouble...more

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Ghost tale from the camp fire

 by Julie Carter

Phantom horse, phantom rider – the stuff ghost stories are made of.

In J. Frank Dobie’s “Coronado's Children.,” a tale from cow camp relates the story of a cowboy murdered along the Loma Escondida road. Carrying gold coins in his saddle bags to buy a herd of cattle, he rode out on his cream-colored dun stallion with the black stripe down his back --what the Mexicans called a bayo coyote.

After his second night out, he rose, saddled the lineback dun and went to receive the herd he was purchasing. 

A couple hours later, the sheriff came along on his way to inspect the herd for stray brands. He found both the cowboy and his horse dead. The saddle bags were gone. 

The sheriff gathered a posse, followed the tracks and caught up with the murderers late in the afternoon. Although both the murderers readily admitted to the killing the cowboy, nothing could persuade them to divulge where they had hidden the saddle bags full of gold coins. They were hung for their crime and with that, carried the secret to their graves. 

Over the years, many tried unsuccessfully to find the hidden treasure. There was only a short stretch of road between where the murder took place and where the criminals were overtaken, but nothing was found.

Years later, another cowboy was sent from a cow camp to the headquarters of the ranch to fetch coffee. He left camp after dark and was trotting along the same road where the murder had happened, when up ahead he spotted two figures in the moonlight. 

Coming closer, the cowboy could see what he believed to be a man and a horse. The man mounted the horse and loped off. The curious cowboy set out to catch up, thinking it would be nice to have company on his night ride. 

As he narrowed the distance between himself and the rider ahead, he could see that the horse was a lineback dun. He continued following the rider and the dun up a steep brush-covered hill. 

At the top, the rider got a burst of speed and as he was passing by a dead mesquite tree, he totally disappeared. The cowboy thought the rider had simply slipped away into the brush in the dark of night. Without more thought, he continued his coffee-fetching errand.

He reached the ranch, twisted the coffee up in one end of a flour sack and began his return to cow camp. There at the same place as before,  he again saw the rider on the dun horse.

Putting a spur to his side, he kicked his horse off into a high lope with every intention of catching up with the mysterious rider. However, he never could quite close the gap between them,  even though the moonlight kept them silhouetted against the night. 

Once again as before, the rider and bayo coyote stallion seemed to disappear into that same mesquite tree. 

The cowboy dismounted, tied his horse and began to carefully explore the ground surrounding the tree. He could find no tracks. 

Perplexed, he leaned on the trunk and felt a long, deep gash that appeared to be a very old axe mark. Stumbling over a large rock, he saw something gleaming on the ground. Striking a match to see in the dark, he picked up the $20 gold piece.  

Familiar with the lost treasure story, he knew he’d likely found the spot where the fabled gold had been hidden. Turning over more rocks, he found the partially rotted saddle bags. 

The cowboy returned to the cow camp, presented the coffee to the cocinero, all the while keeping the other end of his flour sack carefully closed. 

Over the years, people would still come to hunt for the treasure, but now they hunted on the ranch belonging to the coffee-fetching cowboy. No one has ever again reported seeing the rider on the dun horse.

The tradition of campfire stories carries a tone of gospel truth to them and belief is fed more than it is refuted.

Julie can be reached for comment at