Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Cheer

Wolf pups on their own after NM pack separates

Two six-month-old Mexican gray wolf pups are navigating southwestern New Mexico's Gila forest on their own now that their troubled pack has splintered, worrying environmentalists who think the animals' chances of survival are slim. This week's efforts to track the Fox Mountain pack show the pups are miles apart and far from the pack's alpha male. Environmentalists blame federal wildlife managers, who ordered the pack's alpha female — the pups' mother — captured and removed from the wild in response to a string of cattle kills. The fate of the pack is fueling the latest wave of frustration over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's handling of the 14-year effort to reintroduce wolves to the American Southwest. The frustration has taken the form of online petitions, public records requests and now a lawsuit. WildEarth Guardians, a Santa Fe-based environmental group, announced Wednesday that it was asking a federal court to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to release documents related to management of the moreFox Mountain pack. Another public records request filed by the Center for Biological Diversity has gone unanswered. A third has netted hundreds of pages of blacked-out documents, raising questions about decision-making within the wolf program...more

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Obama administration increases 'critical habitat' for nothern spotted owl

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today it will designate 9.6 million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, nearly double the last designation in 2008. The acreage in Oregon, Washington and California won't be off limits to logging. But the ruling requires more federal review of logging projects on lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the bulk of the designated land. The service's initial proposal in February contained 13.9 million acres of habitat, including 1.3 million acres of private land. The final designation includes no private land, after timber groups raised objections. The spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. The listing protected old-growth stands -- the owl's favored habitat -- but drove down logging on federal lands. In 2011, Oregon loggers harvested about a half-billion board feet of timber from federal lands. In the 1980s, prior to the listing, the annual harvest ranged from 2.5 billion board feet to nearly 5 billion. The new designation comes after a lawsuit and a finding from the Department of the Interior's inspector general in 2008 that Bush administration appointees tinkered with the science last time around...more

In sign of growing clout, Brazil competes with U.S. ag.S. market

As U.S. cornfields withered under drought conditions last summer, Brazil’s once-empty Cerrado region produced a bumper crop of the grain, helping feed livestock on U.S. farms and ease a drought-related spike in prices. The U.S. imports of Brazilian corn were small by world standards. But they are rising fast, and they mark just one element of the increasingly complex and sometimes contentious relations between the world’s agricultural superpower and its fast-growing competitor amid shifts in the global economy. Starting at zero in 2010, Brazilian corn exports to the United States are on pace to exceed $10 million this year and are bound to rise as farmers here expand planting and more corn is funneled to nonfood uses, such as ethanol production. Brazil is expected next year to dethrone the United States as the world’s largest producer of soybeans. With so much land available for cultivation, that status will probably become permanent. With a heavy dose of U.S. capital and know-how, a massive agribusiness complex has been established here. State-backed research since the 1970s has turned the Cerrado — once considered unproductive scrubland — into a vast farm belt. Still mostly unplanted, and comfortably distant from Brazil’s environmentally sensitive Amazon region, the Cerrado has become a new frontier in the green revolution that made U.S. farmers the most productive in the world. Just as the vast plains of the American Midwest helped keep down world food prices for the last half of the 20th century, the Cerrado may do the same in the 21st...more

And of course, there is this:

Despite what is described as intense cooperation between the two governments, there is a developing sense of competition as well. Brazil challenged U.S. cotton programs in the World Trade Organization, arguing that U.S. government support for domestic growers held down world prices and hurt cotton farmers in Brazil. As the result of a 2009 WTO ruling, Brazil now receives about $17 million in monthly payments from U.S. taxpayers — money being used to advance the Brazilian cotton industry with research on best practices, pest management and other issues. The Obama administration agreed to the payments as an alternative to either curbing government support for U.S. cotton growers or having Brazil slap import taxes on American goods to compensate for the loss to its farmers.

The D.C. Deep Thinkers have you paying U.S. farmers not to farm, while at the same time sending your money to Brazil  to expand their farming.

NM Coyote Contest Winds Down With No Problems

A coyote hunting contest organized by a New Mexico gun shop that set off protests from animal rights activists has ended without problems. Gunhawk Firearms business manager Rick Gross says the hunt ended at noon Sunday and all hunters had checked in with the shop's owner by 2 p.m. Gross didn't have a count for the number of coyotes taken. But he says the last count he had from Saturday was 23 and he expected no more than 60 would be shot in all. Animal activists and the state's trust land commissioner were incensed when Gunhawk owner Mark Chavez said he'd go ahead with the hunt despite the protests. The store is about 20 miles south of Albuquerque in Los Lunas. AP

Wyo. county launches coyote bounty program

Jimmy Owens shoots coyotes on sight. Ranching a herd of 3,000 sheep, he has to. In the past two months, he said, he has lost at least 30 ewes to coyote attacks on the family ranch north of Casper. “Coyotes are the hardest thing on sheep,” Owens said. “It’s money out of your pocket every time they kill.” Owens and other Natrona County Predator Management Board members spent their Saturday afternoon at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Casper, doling out checks to any hunter wanting to cash in on a $20 bounty offered for each coyote killed in Natrona County. It was day one of Natrona County’s first bounty program, and the board raked in 36 sets of coyote ears. The Predator Management District wants to use the bounty to connect with new sportsmen and to gather data about exactly where in the county coyotes are killed...more

Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.
Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy's staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week. Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge...more

US, Mexico sign rules on sharing Colorado River

The United States and Mexico on Tuesday signed a pact for new rules on sharing water from the Colorado River, capping a five-year effort on how to spread the pain of drought and reap the benefits of wet years. The far-reaching agreement gives Mexico badly needed water storage capacity in Lake Mead, which stretches across Nevada and Arizona. Mexico will forfeit some of its share of the river during shortages, bringing itself in line with western U.S. states that already have agreed how much they will surrender when waters recede. Mexico also will capture some surpluses when waters rise. Also under the plan, water agencies in California, Arizona and Nevada will buy water from Mexico, which will use some of the money to upgrade its canals and other infrastructure. The agreement, coming in the final days of the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, is a major amendment to a 1944 treaty considered sacred by many south of the border. The treaty grants Mexico 1.5 million acre-feet of river water each year - enough to supply about 3 million homes - making it the lifeblood of Tijuana and other cities in northwest Mexico...more

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interior Secretary Salazar to meet on oyster farm controversy in Marin County

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will meet Wednesday in Marin County with stakeholders in the controversy over the federal permit for Drakes Bay Oyster Company's operation in the protected waters of Point Reyes National Seashore. Salazar is scheduled to meet with the family-owned oyster company officials, including owner Kevin Lunny, at the farm on the edge of Drakes Estero, a 2,500-acre estuary designated by Congress as potential wilderness. Later, he will meet at Point Reyes Seashore headquarters with wilderness advocates who want Lunny's permit terminated when it expires on Nov. 30. The Lunny family maintains that harvesting $1.5 million worth of oysters a year from the near-pristine estero is a perfect example of sustainable food production in an otherwise untrammeled waterway. Sen. Dianne Feinstein authored legislation giving Salazar sole discretion to either terminate the permit or renew it for up to 10 years...more

Feds begin high-flow releases from Glen Canyon

Federal water mangers and scientists Monday began ratcheting up releases from Glen Canyon Dam as part of a five-day experiment to push sediments down the Colorado River in hopes of restoring sandbars that play a vital ecological role in the river channel. This week’s high-flow releases, designed to mimic the pre-dam natural flooding, mark "an historic milestone" for river management, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The federal Bureau of Reclamation began experimenting with high flows in 1996; this week’s event is only the fourth experiment. The others occurred in 2004 and 2008. But the frequency of future releases will increase — to the delight of conservationists — under protocols Salazar announced in May. "We have been pitching Interior for years to do these as often as the sediment in the system warrants. They rejuvenate all the sediment-related resources," said Nikolai Lash, a program manager with the Grand Canyon Trust. Under the new protocols, high-flow releases are expected to occur as often as once or twice a year, depending on the accumulation of downstream sediments...more

I didn't realize the drought was over.

Deer vs. DHS surveillance plane

In the battle between a whitetail deer and a Department of Homeland Security jet, neither won. The deer is dead and all that remains of the jet is part of the cockpit and nose. Just before noon on Saturday, a plane identified as a Cessna C550 (Citation II) jet hit a deer with its left wing as it was landing at Greenwood (SC) County Airport. After hitting the deer, the plane burst into flames. Fortunately, the pilot and the sole passenger were able to exit safely.  It appears the plane belonged either to DHS or to the Border Patrol. The news stories are somewhat conflicting on this. However, Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis did say that it carried surveillance equipment.

Davis could not identify the type of plane or where it came from, but said that it carried sophisticated surveillance equipment that can be used in a variety of operations -- including border control and marijuana eradication operations.

Read more:
 Davis could not identify the type of plane or where it came from, but said that it carried sophisticated surveillance equipment that can be used in a variety of operations - including border control and marijuana eradication operations.

Will Dept. of Homeland Security figure it out?  Deer don't like being surveilled.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Documentary focuses of WWII internment camps in New Mexico

A former El Paso TV reporter hopes to illuminate a little-known shadow in New Mexico's past through a documentary film that debuted Saturday night. The film examines two internment camps — one in Lordsburg and the other in Santa Fe — that held captive about 4,500 men of Japanese heritage during World War II. They were part an estimated 120,000 Japanese-American men, women and children who were rounded up from their homes and imprisoned in remote encampments across several states, as public mistrust burgeoned because of the war. Most were never accused of any crime. Former reporter Neil Simon, native of Portland, Ore., learned about the existence of the New Mexico internment camps when living in Albuquerque. The topic caught his interest. Later on, he moved to Washington, D.C., and checked the national archives to find records about the camps. He was surprised at how little there was. The result is the 91-minute film, "Prisoners and Patriots: The Untold Story of Japanese Internment in Santa Fe," which aired Saturday and Sunday on KRWG-TV in Las Cruces. What differentiated the New Mexico camps from the others was that they were used to hold male inmates who were considered by the federal government to be the highest risk for stirring unrest, according to Simon. The names of Japanese-American men who were perceived as leaders in a slate of categories were on a watch list compiled by the federal government, even prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he said. The Santa Fe camp opened in February 1942, but its detainees were soon moved to Lordsburg — a rural, southwest New Mexico border town known for its Wild West history. The Lordsburg camp would hold Japanese-American detainees until the spring of 1943, when they when they were moved back to Santa Fe. After the departure of the Japanese-Americans, the Lordsburg camp was then converted to a prisoner of war camp for Germans and Italians, Simon said. Barracks, concrete and foundations of the Lordsburg camp have survived...more

Wild horse advocates in NM call for gentle tactics

A federal agency's proposal to use helicopters to gather hundreds of wild horses in northwestern New Mexico has drawn criticism from animal advocates who are urging the government to use gentler tactics. The Bureau of Land Management office plans to round up more than 270 wild horses off the Jicarilla/Carracas Mesa area near Navajo Dam. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports ( ) that the federal agency's preferred option includes using helicopters, which the agency has used for decades to gather mustangs around the West, despite protests from wild horse advocates. Over the past few years, the Carson National Forest has rounded up the horses by baiting them with hay and trapping them in hidden corrals, a method the federal agency claims hasn't been effective in removing enough of the equines from the range. Wild horse advocates say helicopters frighten the horses and injure more of them during a gather than no-chase methods like bait-and-trap. Plus, they say there are other choices the agency could use to reduce the herd size, keep it small and reduce the number of mustangs that end up in costly, long-term holding facilities. Restoring the number of mountain lions — the mustangs' natural predator — is one. Regularly using contraception is another...more

Song Of The Day #977

Ranch Radio's song today is Jim Reeve's 1954 recording of My Rambling Heart.

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Keeping 'thankful' in perspective

Julie Carter

Since I was a girl in school and old enough to write, there was always the assignment to pen a "I am thankful for" list. For some reason it usually takes a holiday where the bounty overflows so much it should be embarrassing that we ponder our thankfulness.

True to form, it is almost Thanksgiving and my "thankful" list is underway. But this time I'm gauging my thankfulness for today on the things of yesterday.

We in this current world take our comforts so much for granted. We can't control the weather outside so we create climate-controlled environments inside and live there. As a civilization, we have invented enough forms of electronic entertainment to keep us mindlessly busy 24/7 and never notice what Mother Nature is doing outside. We have a gadget that will tell us if we need to know.

Each generation has a generation before it that lived a very different life with completely different challenges. My kids never knew what black and white TV looked like while I remember when the first one showed up at my grandparents' house. My grandparents remembered when radio was pretty exciting stuff second only to actually having the electricity to use it.

I could outline "hard times" by each generation in my family back to the immigration from the "old country." But today I'll just say I'm thankful for their tough mind sets and willingness to make do so that survival allowed for my generation to be born.

My grandmother wrote about when she was only 18 and had just married my grandfather. It was in 1930. They lived in a one-room cabin near a freshwater spring in the mountains of Southern Colorado. He worked at a sawmill too far away to travel daily so he left on Monday mornings not to return until Saturday night. They had a dog, a milk cow and very little food. 

She related that they survived on venison and not much else. She made cottage cheese from the cow's milk and my grandfather trapped for coyote, fox and bobcat to sell the furs to supplement a very meager income. 

During their first spring together, the thoughts of green vegetables from her carefully tended garden excited her so. Then in the first week in July, there came a hard freeze and her rows of vegetable plants turned black. She fell to the ground and cried but not for long. She simply started over. That fall she was blessed with a bountiful harvest in spite of the very late start.

Imagine an 18- year-old of today living with so few resources. Survival meant food and shelter, not the latest fashion in belly-button revealing clothes or owning the newest version of the coolest phone. 

What will my grandchildren remember of my sacrifices? "Poor Grandma. It was 70 miles one-way to the nearest Wal-Mart."

My grandmother wrote, "They were years of very hard times, but the memories are sweet and precious. We raised our kids on beans, love and poached venison. Looking back I see just how little material things mattered. Survival and family were what life was all about. Sixty years later, it still is."

Our "hard times" are so truly relative to the times we live in. I'm so thankful for her life in order to keep a solid perspective on mine.

Julie can be reached for comment at

A Lesson in Chicken Legs

A Lesson in Chicken Legs
Hugh Reed
Lucky we were
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             We were eating at the kitchen table at Ma Rice’s. Over there was the big wood cook stove that kept the room warm. I had just been reprimanded for not eating. Hugh was across the table observing the proceedings. He called to me in the aftermath.
             “Hey, Stevie,” he said. “You gotta’ eat chicken like this.” 
             He proceeded by biting the chicken leg in half and eating the whole thing … bone and all. He showed me his teeth as he ate smacking and sneering. He was four and I was still south of three. I remember, though, and his sneer remains in my memory. 
            We did a lot of things at Ma Rice’s. We swung off the hay stacks in the old barn. We drank the ditch water running into the garden. We rode Sam’s pigs on threats to our lives. We drank the coldest water imaginable out of the hand dug well from the communal well cup. We snuck out on the porch at night to scare ourselves with the grizzly skin rug laid across the bed out there. We climbed the yellow cherry tree and ate until we had the squirts. We worked unwillingly and played hard, but we worked enough to get the nod to go to the river.
            The river
            If Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer had the Mississippi, we had the Gila. To this day, the world beyond the fence against the river remains the nearest thing to heaven that we knew. The sun, the water, the freedom, the independence, the fish and the adventure all held us in utter fascination. We became sucker fishermen extraordinaire, but Hugh Reed was the best of the best. In fact, he was the best fisherman I ever saw.
            There were also sloughs along the river that were created as the levees were pushed up along the river channel. Who had planted them with bluegill, bass, and catfish we didn’t know, but we fished them like Banshee warriors attacking a British column.  New words came into our vocabulary. Hula Poppers and Zebco 33s were our newly discovered tools of the trade. There was nothing was more exciting than enticing a bass to run at a Hula Popper.
            Points beyond the river
             Our world wasn’t just the river, though. There was Sacaton Mesa!
            The mesa conjured up mystery and adventure just like the river. Even before we could pack a .30-.30 we were deer hunters. Those early mornings at Hugh’s grandparents on Sacaton Creek before sunup were real life fairy tales. There we would sit listening to our maternal grandfathers, two of the Rice brothers, tell us stories. They needed only to change the names, but the themes were always the same. They united us with their youth in those stories.
            The Trivio Pasture, the Cross H Pasture, Rain Creek Divide, Big Pat and Little Pat were all names that we came to know in fact and imagination. Big mule deer bucks prowled those points and magical places, and we engaged them! By the age of 11 or 12 we were certified deer hunters. If there was a deer in a pasture, the Rice grandsons would likely find him and embark on a duel of serious consequences. We loved it. 
            To the Mountains
            The summer after high school, Hugh got a job riding “Wilderness Patrol” in the Wilderness District of the Gila. I went along on one of the first rotations, and then, when I was old enough, I joined him for a time riding for the Forest Service as well.
            We spent the night before that first trip at the Double S. We got the first mule packed before she jerked loose and bucked around the horse trap. All along the big circle we picked up sleeping bags, pans, and canned goods. We double tied her before we repacked her and threw that diamond.
            That day was all that was expected … great names and greater places. We went off into Bud’s Hole and were at the Kemp Place well before noon. We found where the trail turned out of Mogollon Creek up Trail Canyon. 
            We had our supper in the cabin at White Creek that night. White Creek cabin would become a favorite place for Hugh and me over the years. Many memories ring from that place. 
            It was there that our fishing expertise would expand into Mitchell ultra light reels and Mepp’s spinners. We would go down the creek in the evening and fish back to the cabin alternating as we fished. Those times will remain in our memory forever.
            So would other of the mountain experiences. We filled our files with kicking mules, bucking horses, following blazes, fighting fires, packing butane, and interacting with an ever broadening, less innocent world. 
            Jingles, ER, SOB, Snooper, Hub, RRR, Socks, and Tuffy Nunn were all characters that would become entwined in our memories. It was Socks that kicked a lens out of Hugh’s new sunglasses one day at Gila Center as he tried to shoe her.
            “Am I okay?” he had asked, cockeyed and wobbly.
            “Are you asking about yourself or your new monocular?” was the reply.
            From that day forward we threw her to shoe her. We both think that she just missed him because she could kick a fly off the fence. 
            Another time Hugh had to ride her from somewhere. We had been told she was a good riding mule if you could get on her. He was by himself and he said he tore up a half acre of timber getting on her. He was sure glad to get to wherever he was going because he needed to relieve himself and he wasn’t about to get off. He didn’t think he could get back on!
            Snakes and Lightning
            Everybody who has spent time in the Mogollons will have a snake and a lightning story. One of each took place the same summer. 
            The snake was on the Middle Fork one evening when we were fishing. Hugh had crossed a log lying across the trail. It was big enough to have to put weight on it as you straddled it to get across. I remember looking at it and the rotting depression that lay across the top side and thinking that would be a heck of a place for a snake. Just as I cleared the other side having put my weight down across that depression sure enough   … that snake rattled.
            The lightning strike took place right on top of the Diablos on another afternoon. We were coming across the top knowing it wasn’t a good place to be with a storm building right over us. Hugh was in the front leading several mules and I was coming behind them with some more. I watched that big strike split a towering ponderosa pine not 45 yards in front and just to left of Hugh.
Kaboom! Through the mushroom of dust and the splinters, we struck a lope and got off that mountain!
            The Turkey Feather Experience
            On a late summer circle, we left White Creek and spent the night at the Trotter Place. We had ridden up the Middle Fork from there and had turned up Iron Creek to go to Turkey Feather Pass. In the park just after we left the pass and dropped back into the West Fork drainage, Hugh swung off Snooper, threw his hat, and laid in the shade under the pines. 
             “I am sick and tired of breaking brush,” he lamented.
            Now, 44 years later, I know he would trade many things to ride that bay horse and his then new Garrett Allen made Chuck Shepard roper down that trail once more. He would love to feel the strength of youth and the opportunity to address life in a renewed manner. We both would.
            I see Hugh several times a year and each time it is always good for us. His kids are the cousins that remained cousins to my daughters. They text each other and they, too, now share lives of broadening, less innocent worlds. There is something timeless and reassuring in that relationship.
            Regardless where life and health now take us, we are blessed. We had wonderful grandfathers who understood the world through the eyes of their grandsons. They didn’t necessarily teach us everything, but they created the opportunity for us to teach ourselves. We survived just as they survived.
             If we had it to do all over, there are things that we would not change an iota. We would work harder at other things, but … we will always eat chicken legs with a smile and a sneer!

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico.  “We buried Hugh’s dad, Sam, last Monday. I thought about how to remember Sam. I came to the conclusion that it was only appropriate to do so through his son … who remains.”

Baxter Black: Loose cow 'redecorates' house, porch

It was a late Saturday afternoon when Donelle glanced out the front window and saw a cow, one lone cow, standing on her front porch.

She did not look docile or friendly like some cows do. This one had a wild look in her eye.

Donelle was pretty sure the cow came from a bunch that Mr. Mark had unloaded into a nearby pasture near the Mariposa County fairgrounds several weeks ago. He’d come back to gather them this Saturday.

The whole bunch was spooky and skitterish as a bag of yellow hornets in a paint shaker! Since he couldn’t ride within 50 yards of one, he had brought along his prized Catahoula hounds.

Within 25 minutes, he and the dogs had managed to get one cow into the trap, almost. She was the one that ended up on Donelle’s front porch.

Mark was careful as he approached the lone cow. He was holding his dogs back since an all-out frontal attack might put the cow through the $2,500 plate glass picture window in Donelle’s living room. This was not the first time they had issues about loose cows.

It was obvious the cow was on the fight. She would snort and bawl at her reflection in the window.
Any time, he thought, she was going to charge. Mark made a decision — he jumped up on the porch and clung to a corner pole. She pawed the front porch boards. The three hounds came up the other side snarling and nipping.

Trail Dust: Two Southwestern writers who provided inspiration

by Marc Simmons

I happened upon some notes the other day I’d taken down many years ago concerning J. Frank Dobie, that irrepressible Texas raconteur and folklorist.

They had come from a conversation With New Mexico’s legendary book man Jack Rittenhouse, who seemed to have an insider’s story on many of the Southwest’s 20th century writers.

According to what he told me, Dobie in the 1930s had wanted to teach a new course at the University of Texas titled Literature of the Southwest. But prompted by objections from the English Department, which questioned whether much true literature existed in the region, the school administration hesitated.

To resolve the matter,, Dobie added the word Life at the beginning of the class name to read now, Life and Literature of the Southwest.

He thought the change made the title more acceptable because, as he proclaimed, “There’s plenty of life in the Southwest.” Further, the controversial world Literature was de-emphasized by its placement in the title’s interior.

The powers that be accepted the compromise and Dobie’s course became hugely popular. His class bibliography, a handout containing brief and enticing notes for each entry, was published as a book in 1943 to wide acclaim.

Dobie’s experience got me to thinking about the scope and definition of “Southwestern Literature,” a field that I’ve long found fascinating. The first meaning of the word literature is “writing recognized as having permanent value based upon its intrinsic excellence.”

That’s not what ranch-raised Mr. Dobie had in mind. Rather, he leaned heavily toward a second definition of literature, as: “the entire body of writings of a specific language, period or people.”

Casting a wide net allowed an author to go where he please, without fearing what highbrow literary critics and university professors thought of his work.

Another favorite regional writer of mine, Lawrence Clark Powell, published in 1974 his book Southwest Classics, Creative Literature of the Arid Lands. His “Southwest” is limited to what he calls its “heartland,” meaning New Mexico and Arizona.

Big Brother’s Border Blindness

by Greg Beato

In America today, an expanding network of surveillance cameras tracks our bank deposits, our shopping expeditions, and our workplace trysts in the supply closet. When we venture online, hundreds of companies diligently note the websites we consume, the files we download, and the comments we make. Our smartphones are even worse stool pigeons than our computers, constantly keeping tabs on our precise geographic coordinates. If you grow weary of such oppressive attention, if you long for a little Waldenesque solitude outside the crosshairs of our panoptic culture, there is still one place you can go to get away from it all: the borderlands of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
That situation is ironic, of course. Long before Google Street View existed, long before we started sending out alerts every time we breached the perimeter of Starbucks, the U.S. government embarked on an epic quest to establish a “virtual” fence along the Mexican border. The year was 1997. And while the U.S. Border Patrol’s surveillance technology then consisted primarily of sunglasses, border hawks and bureaucrats dreamed of a thin technological line of motion sensors, infrared cameras, and video-driven command centers producing the same sort of omniscience we now exert over 7-Eleven parking lots. To realize this bold but improbable vision, Congress approved funds for a pilot project called the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System, or ISIS.
Thus began a long stretch of failure: cameras that wilted from the heat when thermometers hit a relatively temperate 70 degrees, ground sensors that could not tell a native cactus from an illegal intruder, inept project management, insinuations of fraud and corruption. Periodically, the quest would be canceled and then revived under a different brand name. ISIS begat America’s Shield Initiative, which begat the Secure Border Initiative Network, or SBINet...
 Now the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is ready to give the virtual fence still another go. According to the trade publication Defense News, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), a division of DHS, has earmarked $91.8 million in its fiscal 2013 budget for the construction of what it calls “integrated fixed towers.”

President Obama Unilaterally Gives Cybersecurity Powers to the Military

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the president signed a hush-hush directive granting the military additional power to respond to cyberattacks. The directive was signed as Congress debated — and, ultimately, rejected — controversial legislation dealing with the same issue. While the Post would have it that the president is simply bypassing nasty bipartisan gridlock in Congress to get important stuff done, that glosses over the unpleasant reality that many knowledgeable people argue against the policies that dear leader just implemented unilaterally. With the stroke of a pen, we now have two problems: Potentially bad policy inflicted on the nation through an abuse of executive power. The details of Presidential Policy Directive 20 are a bit vague, partially because the Pentagon is supposed to fill in the details itself, and (probably) partially because the "leak" about the directive may well be controlled and deliberate, given that the Senate killed Senator Joe Lieberman's Cybersecurity Act yesterday, as well. Suffice it to say that "cybersecurity" is a broad and vague term that can cover everything from the government making sure its own computers are tucked in snugly behind their firewalls, to mandated policies for the private sector and even intrusive snooping...more

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nasa to encrypt data after its latest laptop loss

US space agency Nasa has ordered that the data on all its laptops must be encrypted, after losing another one of its portable computers. Until the process is complete, it has forbidden staff from removing Nasa-issued laptops containing sensitive information from its facilities. The order follows the loss of a device containing "sensitive personally identifiable information". There have been several similar incidents over recent years...more  

But don't worry, your personal medical records will be safe.

EPA won't waive ethanol mandate for gasoline

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to move forward with a mandate for corn ethanol in gasoline, denying requests to suspend the requirement following a drought that drove up corn prices. The EPA said Friday its renewable-fuel standard was not causing economic harm. The agency said it had determined that suspending the standard would reduce corn prices by only 1%. In the midst of a drought this year, livestock producers complained that the mandate for corn ethanol was driving up demand for dwindling supplies of corn...more

Another "after the election" decision. 

Song Of The Day #976

Ranch Radio's gospel tune this Sunday is Satan I Won't Be Your Servant No More by Jones & Leva.

The tune is on their 13 track CD Journey Home.

GOP accuses EPA chief of using secret email

Republican leaders of the House Science Committee want to know if EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is using private email addresses or psuedonyms to conduct official business in an effort to dodge public scrutiny. Lawmakers are citing a recent  Daily Caller story alleging that Jackson has used “alias email accounts,” including one under the name “Richard Windsor.” “This reported incident follows similarly secretive and highly questionable methods of communication by senior officials at science agencies within the White House, Department of Commerce (DOC), and Department of Energy (DOE),” the Republicans said in a news release. Committee Chairman Ralph Hall and five other Republicans on the panel sent letters Friday to the EPA, the White House and other agencies. Earlier this year, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee raised red flags after learning that an Energy Department employee had used a Gmail account to send confidential information to a company that went on to get a $1.4 billion partial loan guarantee. In September, the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued EPA to demand the release of emails from “‘secondary,' nonpublic email accounts for EPA administrators.” It cited a 2008 memo in which an agency official told the National Archives and Records Administration that the accounts had begun under Clinton-era EPA chief Carol Browner...more

Obama gives battery maker $1 million on the day it files for bankruptcy

The Obama administration provided struggling battery maker A123 Systems Inc with nearly $1 million on the day it filed for bankruptcy, the company told lawmakers investigating its government grant. The company, which makes lithium ion batteries for electric cars, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month after a rescue deal with Chinese auto parts supplier Wanxiang Group fell apart. That same day, October 16, A123 received a $946,830 payment as part of its $249 million clean energy grant from the Energy Department, the company said in a letter, obtained by Reuters, to Republican Senators John Thune and Chuck Grassley. In the letter, dated November 14, A123 said the October payment was the most recent disbursement it had received from the government, with an additional $115.8 million still outstanding on the grant...more

Two More Stimulus-Backed Solar Companies Announce Layoffs

A pair of foreign-owned solar companies that benefited from a combined $84 million in Energy Department tax credits have announced they will lay off employees. One of the companies, German-owned SolarWorld, was integral in the fight for tariffs against the importation of Chinese photovoltaic solar panels. The other, Chinese company SunTech, blamed those tariffs for its own layoffs. Both companies benefited from the Energy Department’s stimulus-funded Advanced Energy Manufacturing (48C) Tax Credit. The 48C credit is worth up to 30% of the cost of manufacturing qualifying green energy projects. SolarWorld received a credit worth $82 million, while SunTech’s was worth $2.1 million....more