Friday, April 19, 2013

SCOTUS Asked to Hear EPA Greenhouse Gas Challenge

Top industry groups and a dozen states have asked the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision upholding the Obama administration's plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions generated by power plants and vehicles. The parties, which had until Friday to submit petitions to the high court, are challenging a 2012 decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The petitioners attacked the rules on various grounds, but all argued that the agency should not use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions. "EPA's ill-founded regulations represent a sweeping expansion of its regulatory power under the Clean Air Act and would impose new requirements on potentially millions of stationary sources across the country," the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said on Thursday. The ACC was joined by other industry associations including the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Manufacturers. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which ruled in favor of the EPA last year, denied the group's request for a rehearing in December, prompting the ACC and other organizations to turn to the Supreme Court...more

San Miguel County rejects ban on gas, oil drilling

San Miguel County apparently won't impose an outright ban on oil and gas extraction, but new restrictions on the industry may be in the offing. According to the Las Vegas Optic, county commissioners appeared to agree during a meeting Tuesday that it's impractical to ban extraction outright. However, commissioners directed county officials and their consultant to draft an ordinance with new restrictions and requirements on concerns such as water use, road damage and drilling waste. The commission has had a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the county for over three years, and the commission held four days of public hearings on the issue. The industry's supporters say drilling provides jobs and other economic benefits, while critics say communities' well-being could be put at risk. AP

NASA technology to help in upcoming fire season - video

With fire season set to begin, the U.S. Forest Service is arming itself with a high tech tool born in a NASA laboratory. ABC7 News climbed on board a one-of-a-kind airplane that's helping to save homes and lives. The U.S. Forest Service has a lot of airplanes, but only one jet. And the view from that jet is something spectacular. You won't see these multicolored mountains out the window of the airplane. You'll see them through a NASA-designed infrared sensor on the bottom, when it's looking at this.  "We fly over the larger fires and give a perimeter map, so they have eyes on it in the morning so they can plan for the day," said Dan Johnson. Johnson is one of the pilots who fly in the dead of night, taking thermal images of the biggest wildfires in the west.  "It's dynamic. We don't know where we're going to be every night because of the nature of the fires. Typically we fly maybe four states in one night," said Johnson. Not long ago, the best map they could hope for was an accurate perimeter, a line around the fire. But now, NASA's technology gives them a detailed heat map. "You're able to make much improved predictions of where that fire might go or where it might stall out," said Vince Ambrosia, a Cal State scientist at NASA Ames...more

Here's the ABC video report:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledges to revive gun bill that was declared dead

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday yanked from the Senate floor gun control legislation that suffered a serious setback a day earlier, pledging to revive the bill that many lawmakers have already declared dead.  "Make no mistake, this debate is not over," Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday after lawmakers voted down a string of amendments to the bill. "In fact, this fight is just beginning." President Obama and gun control advocates suffered a serious setback Wednesday when the Senate defeated an amendment that would have allowed a limited expansion of background checks for gun buyers. That amendment was supposed to make the overall gun control legislation more palpable to Republicans and conservative Democrats, and when it was defeated, the bill was considered doomed. Reid said he first consulted with Obama before moving to table the gun legislation, a procedural move that will make it easier for him to bring it back to the floor at a later date. In the meantime, Reid said, proponents of the bill, including Obama, will try to rally greater public support for the measure to turn up the pressure on lawmakers to pass it. Victims of some of the nation's most recent mass shootings will help lobby for the measure. This will allow senators to keep negotiating," Reid said...more

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Obama Throws Tantrum over Gun Control Defeat

President Barack Obama lashed out defiantly and viciously at political opponents who defeated his efforts to expand federal gun regulations today. Standing with families of victims of the Newtown school shooting at the White House, the president claimed that opponents of expanded federal background checks had "no coherent arguments" for their position, and that the "gun lobby" had "willfully lied" in the course of the debate. Ironically, while accusing others of lying, President Obama resorted to false claims and statistics about current laws, including the repeatedly debunked argument that 40% of gun sales are private, and that guns can be bought over the Internet without background checks. It was partly the dishonesty of those very arguments that had led potential supporters of new bipartisan legislation to doubt the administration's motives in supporting the bill.  The administration's defeat came earlier Wednesday, when the Senate failed to pass a cloture motion to end debate on a bipartisan proposal introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Only 54 votes of the necessary 60 votes could be found to support an expanded federal background check system (among other changes), partly because of fears that extending such checks would require the creation of a federal gun registry that could lead to confiscation.  The failure brought an end to four months of fervent campaigning by the president during which he used the Newtown disaster--or, in the eyes of many critics, exploited it--to make an argument about the urgent need for new laws, even if such laws would not have prevented the Newtown atrocity itself. Many Democrats rallied behind him, hoping at first to pass a new assault weapons ban, then abandoning that effort for more modest regulations...more

The Colorado is America’s Most Endangered River

Mark Twain once said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” His words ring true today about another river, the Colorado, that many call the lifeblood of the West. In some places the Colorado River is drained dry, in others its flows are so depleted and manipulated that fish and wildlife are federally listed as “endangered,” and in yet others more dam/diversion/pipeline projects are proposed that would drain the last legally allowed drops of water out of the river. We can no longer deny it – the Colorado is the Most Endangered River in America. Today, over 30 million people throughout the Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico depend on the Colorado River’s water. In 30 years, that total number is likely to double. We must innovate and think deeply about how to use and conserve water far more wisely; we also need to think more seriously about overall population growth and local growth patterns...more

Forest Service begins public review of ski area water rights rules

The Forest Service on this week launched the first of several public meetings and forums as it outlines a contentious push to secure water rights used by ski areas on public land. "There is a fundamental difference of opinion that will be hard to overcome," said Jim Pena, the Forest Service's acting deputy chief, acknowledging ski area opposition to the agency plan to revamp permits with new regulations addressing the ownership of water rights. Tuesday's meetings — billed as "listening sessions" by the Forest Service — are a first step in a court-ordered process. A U.S. District Judge in December sided with ski areas and overturned the Forest Service water clause, ruling the agency violated federal rule-making procedures. The judge required the agency to vet the new plan with more public input. (The same court on Tuesday ordered the Forest Service to pay the NSAA $125,000 in attorney fees incurred in the water-rights lawsuit.) "Taxpayer dollars are being used in defense of an unlawful federal water grab," Link said...more

Florida to be among first states to regulate drones

A bill to limit law enforcement's use of drone aircraft is headed to Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he will sign it. When he does, Florida will be among the first states to regulate the unmanned aircraft. On Wednesday, the House unanimously passed SB 92, which would allow law-enforcement to launch camera-carrying surveillance drones only if they first obtain a warrant from a judge or if a person's life or property is believed to be in imminent danger, or if the Department of Homeland Security has declared a terrorist threat. An unmanned drone could also be used by police to stop a suspect from escaping, prevent evidence from being destroyed or search for a missing person. Evidence collected by a drone that does not follow the regulations in the bill would not be admissible in court and citizens who feel they have been wrongfully spied upon could file a civil action lawsuit. link

Feds: Water forecast is grim for Middle Rio Grande

Federal water managers on Wednesday released their annual operating plan for the Middle Rio Grande Valley and it doesn't look good. Officials with the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said New Mexico is heading into its third year of drought, snowpack levels in key mountain ranges in the northern part of the state were only 45 percent of average and reservoirs are already low. "Just awful," hydrologist Ed Kandl said when explaining the conditions. "We're getting kicked when we're down. It's almost unprecedented to have three bad years in a row. Even in the 1950s when it was really horrible, at least they had a nice fat year in there." Back-to-back dismal summer monsoon seasons have combined with relatively dry winters and warm, windy springs to make for a serious water deficit in New Mexico. Nearly every square mile of the state is dealing with some category of drought. Even if the state gets minimal rains this summer, the Bureau of Reclamation's model shows somewhere between 65,000 acre-feet and 80,000 acre-feet will be needed to meet the demands of target flows for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. Without making operational changes and forming partnerships with American Indian tribes and municipalities, officials warned that there would not be enough water to meet demands...more

Feds Have Long Way To Go To Clean Up Navajo Uranium Sites

The federal government is five years into cleaning up abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The Environmental Protection Agency met with Navajo leaders Tuesday to discuss the plan for the next five years. They still have a long way to go. The EPA has spent more than $50 million to assess, fence off, contain and start to clean up the 500 abandoned uranium mining claims. It’s torn down more than 30 homes and hogans and shut down three wells. Federal agencies have piped or trucked clean water to 5,000 people. Agencies are designing a containment cell to hold the waste that remains at the largest mine site. Nicole Moutoux of the EPA said more than 400 sites remain on the Navajo Nation with elevated levels of uranium...more

EHV-1 Confirmed in Clark Co., Nev., Horse

A horse in Clark County, Nev., has tested positive for equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1), according to Nevada Acting State Veterinarian Anette Rink, DVM, PhD. On April 17 Rink told via e-mail that the affected horse has never exhibited neurologic signs of disease and "is expected to make a full recovery." The animal is currently isolated and under quarantine, and all stablemates' temperatures are being monitored daily. "This is an individual case, not an outbreak, and no other horses outside the premises have been exposed," she wrote...more

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bishop seeks grand bargain on public lands

Tired of the gridlock over how to manage federal lands, Rep. Rob Bishop is attempting to bring together all sides of the issue to find common ground to either preserve or drill. The Utah Republican is one of Congress’ top cheerleaders for oil and gas development and a dogged critic of environmentalists — but he says it’s time to tone down the rhetoric and seize on a change at the Interior Department to get beyond the bitter feud in the public-lands debate. Bishop has invited energy companies, green groups, local officials and other interested parties to submit their plans for what they want to get done and hopes to craft legislation to bring up later this year. "There is some land that needs to be preserved and there’s nothing wrong with that," Bishop said in an interview recently. "There’s also land that needs to be developed, and there’s no reason why the two can’t coexist." Bishop’s office has held more than 100 individual meetings with environmentalists, oil and gas officials, county leaders and other interested parties to gauge input on a grand bargain of sorts aimed at ending the back-and-forth sparring about what to do with millions of acres awaiting a designation. "I think we know that we’re not going to agree on everything. In fact, we may not agree on many things," says Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns with The Wilderness Society, who has met with Bishop about the proposed collaboration. "But there are some areas we will agree." The timing is right, the congressman adds, since new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has taken office and signaled an interest in working with local officials to tackle land concerns. "If we can do it now, while we have a new Interior secretary coming in, [and] before everyone gets too locked down in their habits or biases, I think this is an opportunity to finally get something done," Bishop says. "There’s a window of opportunity now, which if we were to wait too much longer would probably get closed." Jewell, the former head of Recreational Equipment Inc., whose first full day in office was Monday, said during her Senate confirmation hearing that she is committed to public input and working with communities on issues "so that it’s not a surprise" when an action is taken. "I think people in our states [who] are on the ground by these spectacular places or important places know that better than anybody else around the country," she said...more

U.S., Mexico sign deal on Colorado River

Germán Muñoz looked out at the river before him and talked about the days when dolphins swam here, 60 miles from the sea. “The wave made noise like a train,” he said, describing the tides that would roll up the Colorado River from the Gulf of California and then a mile or so up this tributary, past his family’s land. “There would be all kinds of fish jumping, very happy. And then the dolphins would come, chasing the fish.” That was in the 1950s, when the Colorado still flowed regularly to the gulf — as it had for tens of thousands of years, washing sand and silt down from the Rocky Mountains to form a vast and fertile delta. In the last half-century, thanks to dams that throttled the Colorado and diverted its water to fuel the rise of the American West, the river has effectively ended at the Mexican border. The Colorado delta, once a lush network of freshwater and marine wetlands and meandering river channels and a haven for fish, migrating birds and other wildlife, is largely a parched wasteland. Mr. Muñoz last saw a dolphin as a teenager in 1963, the year the last of the big Colorado dams, the Glen Canyon, began impounding water 700 miles upstream. “The river doesn’t come here anymore,” he said. But after decades of dismay in Mexico over the state of the delta, there is reason for some optimism. An amendment to a seven-decades-old treaty between the United States and Mexico, called Minute 319, will send water down the river once again and support efforts to restore native habitat and attract local and migratory wildlife. Water for the environment is only one part of Minute 319, which also calls for more water-sharing between the two countries, and the amounts for the delta are a trickle compared with the huge volumes siphoned off for cities, farms and industries. But a regular base flow of even a small amount of water should breathe new life into the riparian corridor, the river’s main channel. The amendment, which is in effect for five years, also calls for a larger one-time release of water that will mimic the once-common floods that rejuvenated the delta every spring, scouring out sediment and old vegetation and opening up areas for new vegetation to thrive. During this pulse flow, the Colorado should once again reach the sea...more

Well isn't that special.  Worst drought in the U.S. since the fifties, ranchers are cutting back or going out of business, and Obama is sending water to Mexico for "native habitat" and "migratory wildlife".


Healthy forest bill gains some momentum

Two Colorado county commissioners testified Thursday in favor of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act at a House subcommittee hearing. The bill would increase state control over forest management on federal lands and allow governors to designate areas as “high risk” and take collaborative action with federal officials to prevent wildfires. Tipton, R-Cortez, introduced the bill in the 112th Congress in July, but it died without coming to the House floor for a vote. Tipton reintroduced it in this Congress, the 113th. On Thursday, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation cleared the bill to make its way to the full House Natural Resources Committee for markup. “This bill allows those who are most directly impacted by wildfire to take proactive measures to be able to address the problem and mitigate the root causes of catastrophic wildfire,” Tipton said at the hearing. “The status quo is no longer good enough. The status quo has given us decades of declining forest health. The status quo has given us years of increasingly catastrophic wildfires. The status quo puts people, communities and the ecosystems at risk.” More than 9.3 million acres of land burned last year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center...more

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dead horses, cows found dumped in Lea County lot

About a dozen dead horses, cows and goats were found on a vacant lot in southeastern New Mexico that appears to have been used as a dumping ground for unwanted animals, officials said Tuesday. Lea County officials have launched an investigation and will work to clean up the carcasses that could pose a health risk, County Environmental Health Department Director Lorenzo Velasquez said. "It looks like they were dragged out there," he said of the animals. The cleanup will start Wednesday, even though authorities have yet to determine who was responsible for dumping the animals. The New Mexico Livestock Board has also been contacted. Gov. Susana Martinez recently signed legislation to create a horse rescue shelter fund that will be financed through donations as well as a check-off option on income tax returns. The money will go to the Livestock Board, which would then issue grants to licensed horse shelters around the state. The program is modeled after a similar effort in Colorado that brings in about $100,000 annually...more

FBI shows up at teenager's home to ask about his Ron Paul school report

A 16-year-old high school student’s video report for his American Government class earned him an A+ from his teacher. It also yielded a visit from the FBI. Justin Hallman says that a project he put together for school that included information on the National Defense Authorization Act, Rep. Ron Paul, Anonymous and the Occupy Wall Street movement was well received in the classroom, but wasn’t exactly praised by others. After agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation saw a copy of Hallman’s finished work on YouTube, they paid a visit to his own home. The boy’s mother says the FBI showed up at their home one month after the class project was first turned in and told her, "We need to talk to your son." Once inside, Justin Hallman says he was drilled about his thoughts on an array of issues included in his project...more 

Did you have a happy tax day? Quotes on taxes

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger
on that article of the Constitution
which granted a right to Congress of expending,
on the objects of benevolence,
the money of their constituents."
-- James Madison
(1751-1836), Father of the Constitution for the USA, 4th US President
Source: 1792, in disapproval of Congress appropriating $15,000 to assist some French refugees

"People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can't live within its income."
-- Robert Half

"Every time you cut programs, you take away a person who has a vested interest in high taxes and you put him on the tax rolls and make him a taxpayer. A farmer on subsidies is part welfare bum, whereas a free-market farmer is a small businessman with a gun."
-- Grover Norquist

"In levying taxes and in shearing sheep it is well to stop when you get down to the skin."
-- Austin O'Malley

"I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money."
 -- Arthur Godfrey

"Taxation with representation ain't so hot either."
-- Gerald Barzan

"The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets"
-- Will Rogers

New life for Idaho treasures as national monuments?

In the waning days of the Bush administration, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne prepared draft proclamations for President George W. Bush to issue the declaration for two of Idaho's most scenic areas. He saw his monument study as a natural step in his conservation legacy. As Boise's mayor, Kempthorne helped protect Hull's Gulch. As Idaho governor, he began the state's roadless national forest review and sought to expand state parks. Interior documents obtained by the Idaho Statesman show that Kempthorne pushed Mesa Falls protection into December 2008 before deciding that he didn't have the time to build local support. Kempthorne eventually backed off recommending the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in Central Idaho and the caldera plateau around Mesa Falls as national monuments. Fast-forward to 2013. In March, President Barack Obama designated five national monuments using the powers of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives the president the ability to create monuments with the stroke of a pen. His action gave conservation groups hope that his administration will reconsider the areas Kempthorne recommended to Bush. Kempthorne told the Statesman last week that back in 2008, he didn't want to recommend the Boulder-White Clouds and the Owyhee Canyonlands unless sponsors of separate bills to protect the areas - Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo, respectively - approved. Crapo and Simpson both told Kempthorne that they were confident they could get their bills through Congress, so they said no to monuments. But only Crapo got his bill passed, designating 512,000 acres of wilderness and 315 miles of wild and scenic rivers. Simpson's bill stalled in Congress...more

Hunting takes a bite out of wolf populations in 3 western states

Aggressive gray wolf hunting and trapping took a toll in much of the Northern Rockies last year as the predator's population saw its most significant decline since being reintroduced to the region two decades ago. Yet state and federal wildlife officials said Friday that the population remains healthy overall, despite worries among some wildlife advocates over high harvest rates. Its range is even expanding in some areas as packs take hold in new portions of eastern Washington state and Oregon. Overall, biologists tallied a minimum of 1,674 wolves in 321 packs across the six-state Northern Rockies region at the end of 2012. That marks a 7 percent decline. "We expected the states to bring the population down and that's what's been happening," said Mike Jimenez, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "They are bringing it down gradually."  Wolf management was turned over to the states when the animals lost their federal protections over the last two years. Hunters and trappers legally killed a combined 570 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming last year.  The year-end numbers show Wyoming's wolf population down 16 percent from 2011, to 277 animals. Montana's numbers fell 4 percent to 625 and Idaho's dropped 11 percent to 683. That was partially offset by population gains in eastern portions of Washington and Oregon, where wolf numbers have been climbing rapidly over the last few years but still remain low compared to other parts of the region. Oregon now has 46 wolves in the eastern third of the state and Washington 43. Combined, that's almost double the 2011 numbers. The government's original recovery goal, set in the 1990s, was at least 300 wolves across the region. Despite last year's decline, the latest figures show the population remains at more than five times that level...more

Five times their original goal and the states are just now getting control of wolf management!

Apply that to the goal for Mexican gray wolf recovery and we'd need 510 of the critters.

Focus on Dairy Farmers in Immigration Debate

When the letter arrived at Jeff True’s dairy farm here in western New York, it was, he recalled, “like getting sucker punched right in the gut.” A federal audit had found that 12 of his 14 workers were immigrants who had provided Mr. True with false work documents, the letter said. The immigration authorities ordered him to dismiss those workers. Mr. True, whose family has been dairy farming for two centuries, scrambled around the clock with his relatives to milk their 1,100 cows, hire and train new workers and keep the farm in business. Most of his workers are immigrants from Latin America, and he now dreads that he could receive another letter at any moment. “My biggest fear is my labor is not going to be here tomorrow,” he said. “Most of us live in fear of that every day.” The struggles of the dairy industry in western and central New York, one of the nation’s leading dairy regions, have become an unlikely focus of the national debate over immigration policy. Delegations of local farmers, including Mr. True, have made trips to Washington to lobby for an expansion of the guest-worker program for agriculture, or the creation of a new one, to help ensure a reliable supply of labor. Dairy farmers are generally not able to hire foreign workers through the existing guest-worker program for agriculture because it is only for seasonal workers, and milk production is year-round. A bipartisan group of senators negotiating a comprehensive immigration reform bill have struggled with the details of an agricultural workers program. Late Friday, however, they announced they had reached an agreement over terms of the program. Officials involved in the talks said the dairy industry’s concerns were addressed in the deal...more

Udall, Heinrich and Pearce approve of potential natural gas deal with Japan, environmental group ‘disappointed’

At least three members of New Mexico’s Capitol Hill delegation are in favor of potential natural gas expansion to Japan — including Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, who have enjoyed support from environmental organizations that oppose increased production. “The export of U.S. natural gas to allies such as Japan would economically benefit states like New Mexico because we’re rich in the resource,” Sen. Udall said in an e-mail to New Mexico Watchdog, adding that “strong state and federal standards” would be needed. “I’ll continue to support creating new opportunities to sell natural gas into global markets and access overseas customers, which could help smooth out historical boom-bust cycles,” Sen. Heinrich said in an e-mail. “Realizing stable natural gas prices will help create jobs in New Mexico.” Earlier this week, Watchdog reported on preliminary talks aimed at dramatically increasing production in the natural gas-rich San Juan Basin in the northwest corner of New Mexico by sending it through pipelines, liquefying the gas and shipping it by tankers to Japan. Japan — home to the third-largest economy in the world — has virtually shut down its nuclear program after the 2011 disaster at Fukushima and, as a result, is looking to satisfy its demand for energy through natural gas, which is four times less expensive in the United States than in Japan. Joining Udall and Heinrich in support is the New Mexico delegation’s lone Republican, Rep. Steve Pearce.  When asked in the e-mail about fracking concerns from environmentalists, Heinrich wrote, “In New Mexico, we’ve seen that fracking can be done safely and responsibly. Fracking can open reserves of oil and natural gas, but regulations need to be in place to ensure there is proper oversight and that our water is protected.” Bravo said her organization is “very disappointed” with Udall and Heinrich’s support of a possible LNG deal with Japan. “They are our environmental champions … They don’t have all the facts … They don’t know the longer and long-term ramifications.”...more

Justices Refuse Case on Gun Law in New York

The Supreme Court said Monday that it would not weigh in on a major Second Amendment question that has divided the lower courts: May states bar or strictly limit the carrying of guns in public for self-defense? The justices turned down a case concerning a New York State law that requires people seeking permits for carrying guns in public to demonstrate that they have a special need for self-protection. In urging the justices to hear the case, the National Rifle Association called the law “a de facto ban on carrying a handgun outside the home.” In November, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, upheld the law. California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey have similar laws. As is their custom, the justices gave no reasons for declining to hear the case from New York. Additional cases presenting essentially the same question are likely to reach the court in the coming months...more

This is your brain on music

Whether you are rocking out to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in your car or reading with Bach in your bedroom, music has a special ability to pump us up or calm us down. Scientists are still trying to figure out what's going on in our brains when we listen to music and how it produces such potent effects on the psyche. "We're using music to better understand brain function in general," said Daniel Levitin, a prominent psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal. Three studies published this month explore how the brain responds to music. The quest to dissect exactly what chemical processes occur when we put our headphones on is far from over, but scientists have come across some clues. Listening to music feels good, but can that translate into physiological benefit? Levitin and colleagues published a meta-analysis of 400 studies in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, suggesting the answer is yes. In one study reviewed, researchers studied patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The results: The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. Levitin cautioned that this is only one study, and more research needs to be done to confirm the results, but it points toward a powerful medicinal use for music. "The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and it's easier on the body and it doesn't have side effects," Levitin said. Levitin and colleagues also highlighted evidence that music is associated with immunoglobin A, an antibody linked to immunity, as well as higher counts of cells that fight germs and bacteria. So music is good for us, but how do we judge what music is pleasurable? A study published in the journal Science suggests that patterns of brain activity can indicate whether a person likes what he or she is hearing...more

Monday, April 15, 2013

Government of the government by the government for the government

by Michael Swickard

    Nearly a hundred years ago Walter Lippmann wrote about the sickness of an over-governed society. Good thing he is not alive today. He would find more than a sickness with today’s society. It is reasonable to ask: when is too much government really too much?
    Early in the life of our country Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” Especially in the last one hundred years our government really gained ground on liberty. We certainly see the distorting influences of too much government in our lives.
Americans are heading toward a society of tyranny. Perhaps we not living in a completely totalitarian society, but it is easy to answer: are we Americans heading toward more liberty or more tyranny?
    When government tells us how many ounces of soda we can purchase at any one time, this is tyranny. Further, people in business tell horror stories about government workers who operate with the force of a dictator. Example: we have Constitutional Rights except when a government functionary says we do not. Can I keep from incriminating myself with the IRS via the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights? No, therefore it was goodbye U. S. Constitution regardless of Supreme Court rulings.
    What should government be doing? Walter Lippmann wrote, “In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs.” The legitimate role of government in a free society is focused only on justice and the defense of our nation both externally and internally.
    Further, while I grumble at many “Nanny State” regulations I do see a smidgen of value in seatbelts and helmets since they mitigate the damage I do to those citizens when I, myself, drive in error. That is justice to me that if people drive on the road and I cause an accident, I do not kill them.
    That said, government has taken the few valid interventions and made a command and control society where all citizen actions are controlled by the government. It is now government of the government by the government for the government. We know where we want to start to have the government intervene in the lives of citizens. Can we say where government intervention should end?
    For anyone in a family, command and control by the leader rarely works. The male elephant can trumpet to the herd, but the herd will decide ultimately through voluntary decision making what the herd will do. Our economy is stifled by all of the rules. It is a wonder we still have anyone in business. Most of what people in business do is try to have voluntary exchange and do so in some work-around for all of the command and control government rules.
    This is tax week. Actually, for our society every day, hour, minute and second is tax time. But this week is the deadline to file taxes which makes us focus on the command and control nature of our government. Many of the decisions I make in business are in reaction to rules and regulations such that I must do two things: comply with the government rules/taxes/regulations, and still stay in business.
    What a strange society we live in where many citizens and businesses decide where to live in our country by tax policy. This is that distortion of our country by a society that is over-governed. How strange it is when tax policy sends jobs to other states and jobs to other countries. Strange indeed is this American Life where citizens are reactive to government rather than the other way around.
    The most powerful force in American business is government. And government seems oblivious to common sense. Example: our country could be a net exporter of energy. There is enough money in those untapped energy resources to deal effectively with our financial crisis, if, our Congress does not just spend all of that extra money as past Congresses have tended to do.
    We have a workable resolution of our financial crisis. However, government will not use that energy solution. So is our country moving toward more liberty or tyranny?

Dr. Michael Swickard hosts the syndicated radio talk show News New Mexico six to nine a.m. Monday - Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. Email: 

Gotta love that title and there's no doubt which direction our country is moving.

Obama-Supported Fisker Motors Sued for Non-Payment of Bills

Through President Obama's loan guarantees, the American people gave hybrid car-maker Fisker Automotive millions of tax dollars. Now Fisker is on the verge of bankruptcy, facing lawsuits from at least three different groups for not paying its bills.In the first week of April, lawyers for Fisker's former employees filed suit saying that the government supported company had fired workers without due notice as required by state and federal laws. The law firm, Outten & Golden, won a similar lawsuit against green energy company Solyndra, another Obama-supported company that went bankrupt. Not long after Outten & Golden filed its suit on behalf of the fired employees, the company that owns the property on which Fisker's Anaheim, California headquarters sits also filed suit, warning the flailing car company that it must pay it's April rent or vacate the premises. The landlord, WWG Canyon Corporate Owner, says that Fisker owes $174,000 for April's rent and if left unpaid has "five days" before eviction. A third company, too, is suing Fisker claiming unpaid bills...Fisker received approximately $200 million of the $529 million in federal loan guarantees awarded it in 2009 by the Obama administration. The hybrid car company has only $30 million cash on hand and owes the federal government a $10 million loan payment on April 22. With bankruptcy looming, it seems unlikely much of this will be paid...more

The Outrageous Statements of Obama’s EPA Nominee

by Rachael Slobodien

Today the Senate held a confirmation hearing for Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Heritage has provided its own questions for nominee McCarthy.

If confirmed, and if her past statements are indicative of future actions, McCarthy’s tenure at the EPA will continue to lead our nation down a path of stifled energy and job creation, a federally micromanaged economy, and restricted consumer choice for little to zero environmental gain.

Here are a few of McCarthy’s most egregious statements and Heritage’s response:

On the role of the EPA:But I will tell you that I didn’t go to Washington to sit around and wait for Congressional action. Never done that before, and don’t plan to in the future.”
Heritage’s take: This activist mentality is not appropriate for an agency administrator and indicates that the EPA will continue go around our elected officials to implement costly and burdensome regulations. Using the EPA’s conservative estimations, its 20 “major regulations” will cost over $7 billion in initial compliance costs alone. Of course, the EPA is notorious for understating costs and overstating benefits.

On hydraulic fracturing (fracking): “Because these [EPA air emissions] regulations rely on technologies and practices that are already in use by some companies and required by some states, they are practical, flexible, affordable and achievable. Natural gas is key to our clean energy future.”
Heritage’s take: The EPA and Department of Interior’s proposed fracking regulations will weigh down one of the most productive sectors of the American economy with rules that duplicate what states are already doing to manage the practice.

The bold buckaroo: An exhibition of mystic and bona fide cowboys

According to Price, the cowboy — and the cowgirl for that matter — is still out there: riding the range, roping steer, and moving cattle to market, even if by pickup truck or railroad car. Price is guest curator of the New Mexico History Museum’s exhibition Cowboys Real and Imagined, which opens Sunday, April 14, and runs 
for 11 months. Price delivers an opening-day lecture at the museum. The cowboy has long been an integral character in the mythology of both the American West and the United States as a whole. In the late-19th and early-20th century, cinema, radio, advertising, and publications — primarily dime novels and later comics — hijacked the working-class cowboy and turned him into a gun-toting superhero capable of righting wrongs on the range while warbling corny tunes or engaging in John Wayne-type acts of valor.That image is still strong. A current T-Mobile commercial plays up the cowboy myth with a bunch of mean-looking hombres riding into a dusty trail town hellbent on causing trouble — until one of them displays true cowboy independence by breaking away from the rest in an effort to provide better mobile phone service. Cowboys Real and Imagined features nearly 1,000 artifacts, including historical clothing, tools, saddles, blacksmith accouterments, chuck wagons, windmills, water tanks, and sombreros. The show also has more than 200 photographs, tintypes, and artistic renderings of the cowboy way of life. It follows the evolution of the old cowhand from his humble, hardworking roots to his status as a pop-culture hero. The exhibition makes room for radio commercials and musical jingles, advertising imagery (the Marlboro Man was a cowboy, remember), gaudy rodeo attire, and movie posters. “The cowboy has undergone a metamorphosis of image, and that is the theme of this show,” Price said by phone from his office in Oklahoma. “The show covers the origins of the cowboy hero and how he has been utilized for every purpose from politics to advertising...more

Taping of farm cruelty is becoming the crime

On one covert video, farm workers illegally burn the ankles of Tennessee walking horses with chemicals. Another captures workers in Wyoming punching and kicking pigs and flinging piglets into the air. And at one of the country’s largest egg suppliers, a video shows hens caged alongside rotting bird corpses, while workers burn and snap off the beaks of young chicks. Each video — all shot in the last two years by undercover animal rights activists — drew a swift response: Federal prosecutors in Tennessee charged the horse trainer and other workers, who have pleaded guilty, with violating the Horse Protection Act. Local authorities in Wyoming charged nine farm employees with cruelty to animals. And the egg supplier, which operates in Iowa and other states, lost one of its biggest customers, McDonald’s, which said the video played a part in its decision. But a dozen or so state legislatures have had a different reaction: They proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms. Critics call them “Ag-Gag” bills...more

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Early in NYC Mayoral Battle, Carriage Horses Are Drawn Into Race

As a political issue, it has legs. Four legs. A surprising flash point — animal rights — has erupted in the early weeks of the race for New York City mayor, complete with boldface endorsers, voluble protests, and a generously financed attack ad. New York’s animals, from Central Park horses to rescue shelter dogs, have one of the city’s most clamorous lobbying groups, with thousands of motivated supporters and celebrity champions like Alec Baldwin, Lea Michele and Gloria Steinem. And in a robust show of political muscle, a group of horse lovers is helping to back the first major advertising buy of the 2013 race: a $1 million attack on Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, who, despite being a dog lover, has been a longtime target of animal rights advocates because of her support for horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. Ms. Quinn’s rivals in the Democratic primary have taken notice. Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, has promised that on his first day in City Hall, if elected, he would ban the famous carriages. He described the conditions of the horses, which have trotted through Central Park for decades, as “inhumane.”...more

Obama Moves to Block Horse Slaughter

The Obama administration has included a proposal in its 2014 budget that would effectively ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption. Technically, the proposal would prevent money from being spent on inspection of horse slaughtering facilities. Without inspections, facilities could not legally operate. The proposal was greeted enthusiastically by horse lovers and animal advocacy groups.  "This administration is wise to reject that path and to embrace the idea, even indirectly, that horses belong in the stable and not on the table," said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, which contends that horses are given medicines that would be detrimental to humans who consume them. But it was met with dismay by those who have been working to get slaughtering facilities up and running again...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Ranch wife 101 revisited

by Julie Carter

Another generation of young ranch wives is hitting the scene in rural America and I feel it is my duty to help educate them to the idiosyncrasies of being Mrs. Cowboy. 

I first launched this list years ago and it quickly went viral through the world of cowboy wives. Along the way, it lost my name as the author and when it came back around, I often had to prove I’d actually written it.
Fortunately for me, I had witnesses. Two other ranch wives helped me hatch this advice as we threw our personal experiences in a hat and pulled out this curriculum. 

While this is by no means a complete guide, it is as true today as it was eight years ago when my pals and I laughed heartily over seeing our collective wit and wisdom in print.

Ranch wife 101 guidelines

·         Always load your horse in the trailer last so it is the first one to be unloaded. By the time he’s got his horse unloaded, you will have your cinch pulled and be mounted up ready to go -- lessening the chance of him riding off without you with your horse trying to follow while you are still trying to get your foot in the stirrup.

·         Never and I repeat, never, ever believe the phrase “We’ll be right back.” When he has asked you to help him doing something out on the ranch, those echoing words, “this will only take a little while” should evoke sincere distrust in every cowboy’s wife who hears them. The only promise in those words is you won’t be back until long after dark.

·         Always know there is absolutely no romantic intention when he pleadingly asks you to take a ride in the pickup with him to go around the ranch while he checks waters and looks at cattle. What that sweet request really means is -- he wants someone to open the gates.

·         He will always expect you to quickly be able to find one stray yearling in a 4-section brush-covered pasture but he will never be able to find the mayonnaise jar in 4-square feet of refrigerator.

·         Count every head of everything you see—cattle especially but sometimes horses, deer, quail or anything that moves. Count it in the gate, out the gate or on the horizon. The first time you don’t count is when he will have expected that you did. That eyelash-batting blank look you give him when he asks “How many?” will never be acceptable to him.

·         Know that you will never be able to ride a horse or drive a pickup to suit him. Given the choice of jobs, choose throwing the feed off the back of the pickup. If he is on the back and you are driving, the opportunity for constant criticism of speed, ability and your eyesight will be utilized to the full extent. “How in the *@*# could you NOT see that hole?” he will demand.

·         Never let yourself be on foot in the alley when he is sorting cattle horseback. When he has shoved 20 head of running, bucking, kicking yearlings at you and then hollers “Hold’em, hold’em” at the top of his lungs, don’t think that you really can do it without loss of life or limb. Contrary to what he will lead you to believe, firing yourself and walking back to the house is always an option.

·         Don’t expect him to correctly close the snap-on tops on the plastic refrigerator containers but know he will expect you to always close every gate, always. His reasoning, the cows will get out; the food will not.

·         Always praise him when he helps in the kitchen -- the very same way he does when you help with the ranch work -- or not.

·         Know that when you step out of the house you move from the “wife” department to “hired hand” status. Although the word “hired” indicates there will be a paycheck, and there won’t be, rest assured you have job security. Free is a price he likes. And most of the time you will be “the best help he has,” because you are the ONLY help he has.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Snakes, Lightning and Baseball - Life before Television

Snakes, Lightning and, then, Baseball
Verbal Artistry
Life before Television
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             Families will remember 1957 for many things not the least of which the Braves played the Yankees in the World Series for the first time … in American living rooms.
            Life surrounding family gatherings remained much the same for awhile, but that would change. No longer would the card games and formal conversation be as important as television expanded its influence into family events. A basic form of verbal history would pass from American households.
            Memories of those gatherings seem to occur more frequently these days. I miss the elegance and the artistry of the story telling by family elders.
             The Prelude
            My paternal grandparents never had a home big enough to get everybody into the same room, but we didn’t recognize that as a problem. A game of pitch would be hotly contested in the living room and the cooks would be banging pans and laughing in the kitchen.
             The kids would be outside catching something to ride, shooting at minnows in the Mangus, or engineering something else that seemed important at the moment. We took care of ourselves.
            When it was time to eat, Grandma’ would make the announcement and the process would start. I can still taste her mashed potatoes and berry cobblers.
            You ate at the table only if you were young enough to rate such preferential treatment. Everybody else ate wherever you could find a place to sit. The porch steps were always a good place to sit, visit, and … eat cobbler. 
            The Cardinal Event
             The card games may or may not continue based upon the intensity of the discussion. Attention would start building around the orators. If Roy Wilmeth was present, a recount of his latest great horse would be in the offing. His commentary would describe how athletic the prospect was or how easy he was to break. His horses were good enough to get him mentioned in the second book of legends. 
            If Howard Wilmeth and Dick Manning had been at it for any amount of time, their fiery debates would take center stage. Logic and reason would be developed in exchanges that would tend toward the esoteric rather than group friendly. Both of them would ultimately gain almost a cult following outside of the family circle.
            If Hap McCauley was tuned, it was an engineering feat that was on the edge of reason. We loved Hap, especially when his tone and demeanor got low and smooth.
            My dad, Billy Arnspiger, Scotty and Darrell, and an odd visitor or two always rounded out the edges, but center stage would be Grampa’. 
            Albert Wilmeth was, without equivocation, his own man. He was one of 16 children, and … 16 Republicans in the entire Cliff precinct. His values and his principles were never questioned. He was so no nonsense that a laugh from him would prompt one from everybody much like the attention from an orchestra when the conductor steps to the rostrum and taps his baton.
            He was the consummate story teller. With that big head of hair, sunburned face, and those blue eyes he would go off on a subject that would draw the entire audience into the drama. His subjects were adventurous, exposed to risk, and real. They were encounters with life lived in the sun and rocks with thunder rolling away to the horizons.
            Rising Crescendo
            Without fail, a portion of the session was devoted to storms. Storms were basic to his existence. His lightning stories would put you out there on the edge of your seat. They were always first hand, but in the most profound story he would drop away and let somebody take it up. 
            It was the account of the day he and Bill McMillan were struck by lightning. They were coming up a draw with a bunch of cows and they knew with an approaching storm and their location they wouldn’t finish the drive that day. They had been riding along together discussing their options and actually touched stirrups.
            Grampa would relate that the next thing he remembered was trying to regain his senses. Ol’ Jerome was trying to get to his feet shaking off the effects of the strike. Bill was wedged under the little gray horse he had been riding and both appeared to be dead. They had taken the direct hit.
            As the cowboys rolled the horse off Bill, Grampa was at his side trying to get a response. There was none.
            For five minutes, they worked frantically on him. When the cowboys moved silently to the horse to take Bill’s saddle off, Grandpa made one more attempt. It was then that Bill sucked in a breath and his eyes blinked open … and shut. 
            “Albert?” he asked.
             “Yea, Bill . . .”
            “Albert … I gotta’ spit …Where can I spit, Albert?” Bill would ask with his mouth still full of tobacco. 
            Sitting back on his haunches, but still touching Bill McMillan, Albert Wilmeth had said, “Anywhere you want to, Cowboy … you’ve got the whole world, now.”
            Once, when that story had been told in the presence of Bill McMillan, a little misty eyed kid had asked, “And, Grampa … he really did live?”
            Eyeing Bill to get his response, Bill had sputtered, “Huh, no, he didn’t make it . . . and he was going to be such a good little horse.”
After a pause, they had laughed at the kid’s expression …and their own unexpected emotion.
            A pause was always imminent as coffee cups were filled and more pie was cut. It was then back for the encore. It was time for snakes.
            Snakes were such a part of their life. There was something eerie how the people of that generation were so infatuated with snakes. All the kids were gathered around in a tight circle by that time.
            Hap was front and center in the snake stories. His specialty was snake dens. He would recount how he had eaten lunch one day while hunting in the Moonhull drainage and discovered he was surrounded by snakes. They were everywhere and the stench was penetrating.
            It was then back to the den that Roy finally decided to kill. He lugged a case of dynamite to the outcropping and lit what he thought was a long fuse. He had run only to have the mountain come down around him. 
            “Snakes everywhere,” was his memory. 
            It wasn’t the falling rocks and brush that had him spooked. “I’ll tell you one thing,” he continued. “I won’t ever pull that little stunt again!”
            “Probably would have been just fine with a stick or a stick and a half,” was Hap’s objective assessment. 
            Everybody was laughing but Uncle Roy.  He was reliving the horror of those snakes coming down around him.
            Into the night and future
            By the time us kids needed to get to bed without more threat of nightmares, we would be lined up kissing Grandma and saying goodbyes. Out into the dark we would go discussing the stories.
            Now, years later, those stories ring nostalgic. Most of the orators are gone, but not their memories. What a shame modern generations didn’t get to live before television when people sat together and practiced verbal artistry. They knew even then there was nothing better. 
             “Did he really live … Grampa?”
            “Yes, son … he lived … we lived … we sure did.”

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “We are the sum total of folks in this story and others like them. Their lives, like ours, were full of trials and tribulations. They showed us the way and gave us a point of reference.” 


Television has changed the American child from an irresistable force to an immovable object...Laurence J. Peter 

Now, of course, its those damned "smart" phones.

But, as Johnny Carson once said, if it weren't for television we'd be eating frozen radio dinners.