Friday, July 18, 2014

First Lady Tweaks Congress Over School Lunch at Kids’ State Dinner

First Lady Michelle Obama’s battle for school lunch reform continued to heat up Friday as she urged a room full of kids and parents to become advocates for healthy lunch programs, despite “grownups’ ” attempts to block reform. “And while the vast majority of the schools are doing just fine with these new standards, those few complaining voices happen to be the loudest voices and they’re getting the most attention right now,” the first lady said at the third annual Kids’ State Dinner, slamming Congress for “undoing some of the progress” made. With 54 kid representatives from each state and territory attending the dinner after submitting winning recipes, Obama took the opportunity to center her remarks on school lunch, suggesting the voices of parents and children are necessary in the fight for healthy, nutritious lunches. A panel of judges — which included White House chef Sam Kass — picked the tastiest and healthiest recipes among the 1,500 submissions. The nutritious component of the contest prompted recipes such as winning dishes “Grillin’ Out Veggie Style” — a seasoned black bean burger topped with avocado spread and served with a side of carrot salad that was cooked up by 10-year-old Georgian Mira Solomon. Another dish, crafted by Michigan’s Elena Hirsch, 11, was dubbed “Barack-oli and Mich-room Obama-let.” The goat cheese and veggie omelette included “carMALIAized” onions, named after 16-year-old Malia Obama.  After eating some of the dishes and being treated to an exclusive performance by the cast of Broadway’s “Lion King,” the winners made their way to The White House’s Kitchen Garden Project. In the garden, Jane Battle, 10, from Alabama dished about her recipe and talked healthy eating. Battle was the mastermind behind “Veggie Spaghetti with Alabama Gulf Shrimp” which features squash pasta...more

 What, no barbequed brisket and Mountain Dew?

A 10-mile feud between Lisa Murkowski and Interior's Sally Jewell

Jewell's denial of a proposed land swap that would have allowed construction of a 10-mile road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge for emergency medical evacuations for the isolated community of King Cove incensed the Alaska Republican. Murkowski says Jewell chose to save the lives of birds -- the refuge is home to several species of waterfowl and shorebirds -- over the lives of people, noting that 19 have died since 1980 either in plane crashes or because they couldn't get medical treatment in time. It's a row that Murkowski swears won't affect how she deals with Jewell. But unless the ice melts, the relationship will be closely watched if Republicans capture the Senate in November. That's because Jewell would have to plead her agency's cases to Murkowski, who would lead the Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as the Appropriations Committee's interior and environment panel. The King Cove issue touches on a sensitive topic for Alaskans, Murkowski said. It puts a spotlight on how much land the federal government controls in Alaska -- 62 percent, according to a February 2012 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. "I have acknowledged to her and she has recognized that the secretary of the Interior is technically the landlord for us here in Alaska, so much of our land is being held by the federal government," Murkowski said...more

Sheriffs are key to BLM mission, but local politics intrude

When the Bureau of Land Management faced down an angry, armed militia while rounding up rancher Cliven Bundy's cows last April in the southern Nevada desert, missing was a key ally. Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie and his deputies stayed on the sidelines of the conflict, leaving BLM and National Park Service rangers to manage hundreds of protesters, many of whom saw Gillespie, not the agencies, as the area's legitimate law enforcement authority. BLM had tried for months to secure a contract with Gillespie and his Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to assist in crowd control at Gold Butte, but the deal crumbled at the 11th hour. "Sadly, [Gillespie] backed out of his commitment shortly before the operation -- and after months of joint planning and sharing of accurate information," BLM spokesman Craig Leff said. Gillespie declined to be interviewed for this article, but earlier this month he blasted BLM in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. Gillespie accused BLM of being untruthful with him about the circumstances of the cattle impoundment, ignoring his advice to postpone the operation until the fall and using aggressive tactics to quell the crowd. "I think if anybody would look at how they handled the protesting with the use of Tasers and police dogs, anyone who had been in policing would question those tactics," Gillespie told the newspaper. "And I believe that led to the heightened interest and escalating the situation." Gillespie, who is not seeking re-election, was courted both by BLM and the Bundy family in the conflict, though he did not take a side...more

Australia Becomes First Developed Nation to Repeal Carbon Tax

After almost a decade of heated political debate, Australia has become the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse-gas emissions. In a vote that could highlight the difficulty in implementing additional measures to reduce carbon emissions ahead of global climate talks next year in Paris, Australia's Senate on Thursday voted 39-32 to repeal a politically divisive carbon emissions price that contributed to the fall from power of three Australian leaders since it was first suggested in 2007. Australia, the world's 12th largest economy, is one of the world's largest per capita greenhouse gas emitters due to its reliance on coal-burning power stations to power homes and industry. In 2011, daily emissions per head amounted to 49.3 kilograms (108 pounds), almost four times higher than the global average of 12.8 kilograms, and slightly ahead of the U.S. figure of 48.2 kilograms. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who made a pre-election "pledge in blood" to voters and business to prioritize growth above climate shift, delivered on his promise after independent senators with deciding votes in the upper house sided with his conservatives, following a power shift this month that ended years of domination by the pro-environment Greens party. "Today the tax that you voted to get rid of is finally gone, a useless destructive tax which damaged jobs, which hurt families' cost of living and which didn't actually help the environment is finally gone," a jubilant Mr. Abbott told voters in a news conference after the Senate's decision...more

California approves big fines for wasting water during drought

Cities throughout California will have to impose mandatory restrictions on outdoor watering under an emergency state rule approved Tuesday. Saying that it was time to increase conservation in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted drought regulations that give local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day. Many Southern California cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Long Beach, already have mandatory restrictions in place. But most communities across the state are still relying on voluntary conservation, and Californians in general have fallen far short of meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s January call for a 20% cut in water use. The emergency rules, expected to take effect Aug. 1, don’t order cities to slash water use by a certain amount. Rather they direct agencies to — at a minimum — ban wasteful practices such as allowing runoff from outdoor sprinklers, hosing down driveways and sidewalks and using drinking water in ornamental fountains that don’t recirculate...more

Did the VA try to bug Congressional investigators?

When Congressional investigators arrived at the regional VA office in Philadelphia, they probably didn’t expect the red-carpet treatment. However, they probably didn’t expect the Red Scare treatment, either. In testimony before Congress last night, investigators revealed that the VA office initially gave them offices that were wired to record audio and video. They also found a notebook detailing how one manager instructed employees to obstruct the investigation:
Congressional staffers investigating data falsification and whistleblower retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs regional office in Philadelphia were given a workspace there that was wired with activated audio microphones and video cameras, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs said Monday.
Committee investigators also glimpsed a notebook used by the agency’s regional director that bore written instructions to ignore their requests for information, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said during a late-night hearing.
Miller, chairman of the veterans committee, said he is “shocked” by the directives from VA officials to ignore congressional investigators.
“You will not ignore this committee anymore,” Miller said to Allison Hickey, VA’s under secretary for benefits, who testified at the hearing.
The notepad belonged to Acting Director Lucy Filipov, who insisted on putting investigators into a room where computer microphones and cameras had been activated. One handwritten instruction was “ignore Rory,” one of the Congressional staffers conducting the investigation for Miller. Another note listed two of the whistleblowers that were cooperating with the committee...more

Reporter stopped by TSA agent who didn’t know District of Columbia is in US

It's something most students learn in elementary school -- the United States is made up of 50 states and the District of Columbia. But Cox Media Group reporter Justin Gray found out it's a lesson that an Orlando agent with the Transportation Safety Administration seems to have missed. Gray, who lives in Washington, D.C., was flying out of Orlando International Airport when a TSA agent said Gray's District of Columbia driver's license wasn't a valid form of identification. Gray said his license is legal and up-to-date, but the TSA agent didn't seem to know what the District of Columbia was when Gray arrived at the security checkpoint over the weekend. When Gray handed the man his driver's license the agent demanded to see Gray's passport. Grays told the agent he wasn't carrying his passport and asked why he needed it. The agent said he didn't recognize the license. Gray said he asked the agent if he knew what the District of Columbia is, and after a brief conversation Gray realized the man did not know...more

Leaked documents reveal online manipulation, Facebook, YouTube snooping

GCHQ has developed a toolkit of software programs used to manipulate online traffic, infiltrate users' computers and spread select messages across social media sites including Facebook and YouTube. The UK spy agency's dark arts were revealed in documents first published by The Intercept, and each piece of software is described in a wiki document written up by GCHQ's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG). The document, which reads like a software inventory, calls the tools part of the agency's "weaponised capability." Some of the most interesting capabilities of the tools on the list include the ability to seed the web with false information — such as tweaking the results of online polls — inflating pageview counts, censoring video content deemed "extremist" and the use of psychological manipulation on targets — something similar to a research project conducted with Facebook's approval, which resulted in heavy criticism and outrage levied at the social media site. A number of interesting tools and their short descriptions are below...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1246

Here is another of Mom's favorites: Jimmie Rodgers - Blue Yodel (T for Texas).  Recorded on Nov. 30, 1927, this was his first blue yodel

http://youtu.be/5iWnb0VeESI

DHS Tells Senators: $250 to $1,000 Per Day to House Each Immigrant Child

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson shocked senators of both parties when he revealed that it costs $250 to $1,000 per day to house each of the immigrant children who have recently arrived at the border. When Johnson reported that figure, “there was an audible gasp, a bipartisan gasp,” Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) told National Review Online. Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray (D., Wash.) wouldn’t comment on the overall cost of housing so far. “It’s in the president’ request,” she said. President Obama asked Congress to provide $1.8 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services “to provide the appropriate care for unaccompanied children, consistent with Federal law, while maintaining services for refugees.” Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) was one of members of the ’Gang of Eight’ who wrote the comprehensive immigration bill that passed out of the Senate last June, but he identified the housing costs as a reason to remove the children from the United States quickly. “The moral of the story is, turn them around quickly,” McCain told NRO. “Send the message by sending planeloads full of them back to the country they came from, and the parents or whoever who paid the coyotes thousands of dollars to bring them to the United States will think it’s not such a good idea.”...more

Misperceptions about U.S. immigration policy behind surge of illegal children, report says

A new intelligence assessment concludes that misperceptions about U.S. immigration policy – and not Central American violence – are fueling the surge of thousands of children illegally crossing the Mexican border. The 10-page July 7 report was issued by the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), which according to the Justice Department website is led by the DEA and incorporates Homeland Security. Its focus is on the collection and distribution of tactical intelligence, information which can immediately be acted on by law enforcement. "Of the 230 migrants interviewed, 219 cited the primary reason for migrating to the United States was the perception of U.S. immigration laws granting free passes or permisos to UAC (unaccompanied children) and adult females OTMs (other than Mexicans) traveling with minors,” the report said. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told reporters Tuesday, "It's a critical situation and if we don't deal with it urgently but well- done right- then we're facing a crisis of just huge proportions."  Diaz-Balart, who along with other lawmakers just visited Central America, described how human smugglers -- known as coyotes - are exploiting perceived changes to U.S. immigration law after the Obama administration decided in 2012 to practice prosecutorial discretion in cases where individuals were brought into the U.S. illegally as minors. "The violence isn't new. The situation in those countries is not new," Diaz-Balart said. "These cartels have seen a weakness in the system. They've seen statements coming from the administration that they have used in order to just frankly increase the number of people coming over. “Remember this is not a five-year-old or an 11-year-old can't just walk over the border and get to the United States. These are organized coyotes doing this.” The intelligence assessment, which is unclassified but not meant to go beyond law enforcement, also cited data from the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime Statistics saying despite an explosion in the number of illegal minors, crime data for Central America actually showed a dip in violence...more

Child migrant crisis: at least 85 percent of minors released into US

While President Obama has warned Central American parents not to send their children to the United States because they will be returned, at least 85 percent of boys and girls detained recently for illegally crossing the Southwest border have been released from shelters here. Since October, the Department of Homeland Security has referred 50,688 children to the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the latter agency, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied children caught entering the country. Within the same time period, "43,209 minors have been discharged" from federal custody, says HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe in an e-mail. He also cited a 96 percent figure for the share of children who have been released to relatives in the US...more

Human Traffickers Are Asking HHS for Immigrant Children

Individuals associated with human trafficking organizations are asking Health and Human Services officials to hand over the children who have immigrated to the United States during the recent border surge, according to a congressman who toured a facility where the children are being housed. HHS is trying to release the children to sponsors in the United States, but those sponsors aren’t always parents. “There have been cases of people who have attempted to be sponsors actually being identified as associated with trafficking organizations,” Representative Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla) told National Review Online after visiting a housing facility at Fort Sill...more

Illegal immigrants in D.C. fail written driver’s test at 80% rate

Four out of five illegal immigrants seeking driver’s licenses under a new D.C. law have failed a written knowledge test — a rocky start to a program that in its first two months has issued 268 licenses, according to city officials. The failure rate of 80 percent compares with a 58 percent failure rate for people seeking traditional driver’s licenses, the Department of Motor Vehicles told a D.C. Council committee. In addition, a check of the DMV website this week shows a massive backlog in appointments required to apply for the District’s “limited-purpose license.” The first available date for an illegal immigrant to get an appointment is in March, and more than 6,000 appointments are pending. The law, which took effect May 1, allows illegal immigrants to get licenses that allow them to drive and obtain auto insurance, but the cards can’t be used for federal identification purposes. The council passed the legislation last year, and Mayor Vincent C. Gray signed it into law in November...more

Border Crisis - Graphics



The U.S. Border Crisis

The number of unaccompanied children from Central America caught trying to sneak over the U.S.-Mexico border has gone up. Many are fleeing extreme poverty and violence, as well as responding to rumors that children who make it to the border will be allowed to stay. 

Graphics by Christine Chan and Wen Foo


Pushing north
Migrants from Central America travel thousands of miles by road and rail through treacherous terrain to reach the U.S.-Mexico border.


Caught at the border 
The total number of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border has risen in recent years, especially in the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas which rose 58 percent from FY2012 to FY2013. 


Traveling alone
The number of unaccompanied minors (aged 0–17) taken into custody in the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas exceeded 42,000 for the first eight months of FY2014. 

* FY2014 data through June 30, 2014.

Far from home
The map shows the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by origin (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras) from January 1 to May 14, 2014. Over 2,200 children, the largest number, came from San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Unaccompanied migrant children apprehensions by country of origin



* Country-wide data for all years except FY2014. FY2014 data through June 30, 2014, reflects apprehensions at the southwest border only. 


Migrant deaths along the U.S.–Mexico border
Number of deaths by border patrol sector along the U.S.-Mexico border between FY2000 and FY2013.

Deaths on the Arizona-Mexico border
Each red dot represents the body of an illegal migrant, recovered between January 2001 and March 2014. Border deaths have increased as enforcement policies push migrants to cross remote and dangerous terrain to enter the United States. 

More than 2,100 migrants have died crossing the desert through Pima County, Arizona between January 2001 and March 2014. Pima is located within the Tucson border patrol sector and is the only border county that collects geographical data on migrant deaths.


Note: U.S. fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.
 
Sources: U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Congressional Research Service; SEDAC/CIESIN, Columbia University; Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants, Humane Borders; Rodolfo Casillas R.; Reuters.
 
Updated: 17 July 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Look Ma, Jimmie Davis sings in the movies

Fans of my Song Of The Day know that I've restarted the feature after some strong encouragement from my 94 year old mother.  Today's version, #1245, features one of Mom's favorites by Jimmie Davis.  Having a little more fun, here are two tunes from the movie Louisiana starring Davis:  You Won't Be Satisfied That Way and It Makes No Difference Now.

http://youtu.be/TRrmwGdprF4


http://youtu.be/nF4x-7O7MlY



Do you need a "nudge" today from USDA?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is suggesting major changes to grocery stores to “nudge” Americans to purchase healthier foods when they shop. The agency commissioned an “expert panel” to make recommendations on how to guide the more than 47 million Americans on food stamps into spending their benefits on fruits and vegetables. The group released an 80-page report this month presenting their ideas, which include talking shopping carts and a marketing strategy for grocery chains that would feature better store lighting for healthier items. Initial suggestions from the USDA on how to alter the grocery environment include stores offering “SNAP-Ed cooking classes” and consultations with dieticians. Another idea included a point-based system where food stamp recipients could receive movie tickets in exchange for healthy food purchases. Grocery store staff could also be used as “ambassadors” for the USDA’s agenda. “In this role, floor staff has the ability to re-direct consumer purchase towards more healthful choices by explaining the incentive or the nutrition labeling system,” the report said. The USDA said the ideas are “intended to change the choice architecture of the food retail environment to make healthier choices more prominent,” which is in line with first lady Michelle Obama’s stated second term agenda to “impact the nature of food in grocery stores.”...more

Who needs a nudge?  The politicians who keep voting to fund this nonsense, that's who.  But there is more:


The panel came up with six preferred strategies: discount coupons for SNAP recipients; rebates of up to $60 for healthy purchases on EBT cards; buy one get one free deals for SNAP recipients; a targeted marketing plan to promote healthy food; a USDA loyalty card; and new specialized shopping carts. 

I'm sure you noticed this gov't plan to fight obesity, with its discount coupons, rebates and buy one get on free deals, will enable folks to BUY MORE FOOD!  This is the DC Deep Thinkers at their best.  

Then there's those "specialized shopping carts":

The “MyCart grocery cart” would provide dividers for shoppers to make sure they are selecting enough items in each “MyPlate” category, the USDA’s food icon.  The cart would be color-coded, physically divided, and have a system installed so that when the shopping cart reaches its healthy “threshold” it would congratulate the customer. “The algorithm would group the purchases to classify them using the MyPlate designations and to provide consumers with a message of support or encouragement (e.g., “You achieved a MyCart healthy shopping basket!”),” the report said.

I've run the algorithms on this, and they show that all this SNAP stuff, along with your shopping cart screaming at you, will cause folks to be...constipated.  

But never fear, The Westerner is here, and we've got a brand new apparatus.  

Let's call it the USDA, Grade A, MyFart Toilet Bowl.  It too will be "color-coded", be able to provide "a message of support or encouragement", and have a system installed so that when the bowl reaches its "healthy threshold" it will "congratulate" you.  Kind of a Happy Turd Day from the DC Deep Stinkers.  

And folks, my study will cost much less than the one you just paid for:

The panel based this approach on a $999,891 government-funded study entitled “Nudging Nutrition,” arguing the research “suggests an intervention of this sort might be successful in modifying consumer shopping behavior.”

And that leads me back to my original "nudging" recommendation:  Vote those Congressional Crappers out of office!
 

Obama Allocates $10 Million for Tribal Climate Change Adaptation

President Barack Obama on July 16 released another set of climate-change-resilience guidelines, this batch geared specifically toward tribes, and announced the allocation of copy0 million to help tribes cope with climate change. The allocation was one of a number of measures announced at the final meeting of the White House State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, created by Obama last fall. Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota, and Reggie Joule, mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough in Alaska, were the tribal officials designated to serve on the task force. The money will fund the development of resource management methods, climate-resilience planning, and youth education and empowerment. Climate adaptation grants will also be awarded for the development of climate-adaptation training programs, assessment of vulnerability, monitoring and other aspects of learning about the effects of climate change. Adaptation planning sessions will be offered, and tribal outreach will be funded with the money as well, Interior said. Administration officials said such measures are sorely needed...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1245

Ranch Radio's tune today is one of my Mom's favorites:  Jimmie Davis - She Left A Runnin' Like A Sewing Machine.  The number was recorded by RCA Victor on May 27, 1931.

http://youtu.be/Vnae_bQBw8o

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So you trust both parties to spend wisely and they would never come after your pension...if so, read this

If there's anything that can unite Democrats and Republicans in the partisan swamp of Capitol Hill, it's free money. The latest example of free money in Washington is a retread proposal called "pension smoothing" that raises money but doesn't increase anyone's taxes. To some people's way of thinking, that's a win-win situation. But others say lose-lose is more like it, arguing that it's budget fakery at its worst and that it could undermine pension security for millions of workers. Lawmakers reprised the pension provision Tuesday to help find money for a government fund that finances highway construction projects, with both Democrats and Republicans getting into the act. The highway bill passed by a sweeping 367-55 vote. Here's how it works: The pension measure would allow companies to reduce the amount that they contribute to their pension funds now and make up for it later. Since pension contributions are tax deductible, companies would owe more tax revenue in the next few years as more of their earnings are taxed. But in the later years, they would be able to claim higher deductions from larger contributions to their pension funds. Over time, the pension measure doesn't raise revenue. But over the next 10 years — the time frame used to estimate the cost of legislation — it does...more

Pretty crafty, huh.  Messin' with people's pensions, though, and even some of the lefties don't like it:

"It pretends to raise revenue. It doesn't. It'll lose as much money, plus interest, in the future as it gains in the short term," says Len Burman, director of the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the left-of-center Brookings Institution and Urban Institute. "And it undermines the pension security of American workers. Aside from that, it's a great idea. It's outrageous."

Let's see what the conservatives, uh...I mean Republicans in the House have passed:

A plan by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, would raise almost $19 billion over the next six years by extending for another five years a pension smoothing plan enacted to help pay for the 2012 highway bill. But over the final four years of the budget window, roughly two-thirds of that revenue gain is taken back as companies take higher tax deductions from larger pension contributions in the longer term.

That pretty well describes the Republicans when they get a majority - they don't want to raise taxes but they JUST CAN'T STOP SPENDING.

OK, maybe the Dems have a different approach in the Senate.

The Senate's version raises less short-term cash, with a three-year extension of the tactic. Critics shouldn't take heart: The Senate is saving the other two years to "pay for" other must-do legislation such as Forest Service payments to rural schools, underfunded coal miner pensions, and a trust fund for reclamation of abandoned mines.

Coal miner pensions and abandoned mines...The Dem's are apparently really concerned about losing in West Virginia this year, so they will mess with your pension too.

Is this budget fakery really a threat?

And in an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released last week, the nonpartisan scorekeeper said the pension provision "would increase the amount of underfunding" in single-employer, defined benefit pension plans and "would probably cause some plans to be terminated more quickly."

Surely our courageous leader in the House has something to say about this!  Oops, he's defending this fakery:

"Then why would the president be supporting our bill to fix the highway funding over the next year? Why would Democrats be supporting it in both the House and the Senate?" Boehner said. "Listen, these are difficult decisions in difficult times in an election year."

Boehner's only defense is that Obama and the Dem's support it?  Somebody remind me why the "establishment" Repubs are being challenged in primaries.

Oh well, who needs pensions anyway?  Just keep working so they can keep spending.


 

Senators Reid & Heinrich provide laugh of the day

From The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday asserted the southern border is secure despite the massive surge of illegal minors from Central America that has overwhelmed federal agencies.“The border is secure,” he told reporters after the Senate Democrats’ weekly policy lunch. “[Sen.] Martin Heinrich [(D-N.M.)] talked to the caucus today. He’s a border state senator. He said he can say without any equivocation the border is secure.”

If Reid & Heinrich are right, then this this this this this and this must be wrong.  Also this this and this among many others must also be wrong.

Guess its not so funny after all...

A Technological Shift Could Unlock A New Oil Boom In The Permian Basin

Much larger than Eagle Ford and once thought to have reached peak production, new technology has brought us full circle back to the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, where the recent shift to horizontal well drilling has rendered this play the unexpected ground zero. Determining where the next real oil boom will be depends largely on following the technology, and while the Permian Basin has been slower than others to switch from vertical to horizontal well drilling, horizontal has now outpaced vertical, and investors are lining up to get in on the game. Until about 12 years ago, virtually all wells in the Permian were vertical. As of last fall, however, horizontal and directional rig counts — meaning, non-vertical drilling rigs — have now begun to exceed vertical, according to RBN Energy. But what they’re also looking for are developers who are seeing strong economics in both vertical and horizontal wells. It’s all about balance, and this co-mingling of multiple zones — with the ability to complete both horizontal and vertical wells economically — is the best bet for investors. The Permian Basin now boasts the largest rig count in the U.S. Just this week, the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the Permian Basin increased to 560, according to the weekly rig count report released July 10 by Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes. What’s more, according to Bernstein Research, the Permian Basin will top the charts for North American spending growth in 2014, with an amazing 21 percent increase. And 2013 was already a stellar year for the Permian. Permian production last year increased by 280,000 boe/d to 2.3 million boe/d, comprised of 1.4 million b/d of oil and 5.3 bcfd of gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This technology has changed the way we think about the Permian Basin, once the darling of American oil production that became lost in the shadow of Eagle Ford and Bakken. While Eagle Ford and Bakken were viewed as the “bigger plays” at the start of the unconventional boom in the U.S., due to the fact that new technology debuted here harder and faster, the Permian is back and bigger than ever...more
“The Permian Basin is much larger than the Eagle Ford play, and it also contains over 20 potentially productive zones, while Eagle Ford has only one zone,” Parker Hallam, CEO of Crude Energy — a small-cap company, not publicly traded, operating in the Permian, told Oilprice.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1244

This is Benny Barnes and his 1957 recording of Mine, All Mine

b. Benjamin M. Barnes Jnr., 1 January 1934, Beaumont, Texas, USA, d. 8 August 1985, Beaumont, Texas, USA. At the age of 15, Barnes, like his father and grandfather before him, was working in the Texas oilfields. He learned to play guitar and developed a love for country music, and actually played guitar on an early George Jones Starday recording. In 1956, after an oilfield injury, he began singing locally and joined Starday himself. The following year, he enjoyed a number 2 country hit with 'Poor Man's Riches'. This led to him making appearances on the Grand Old Opry and becoming a regular on the Louisiana Hayride, but he found a follow-up hit hard to find. In 1959, he recorded 'Gold Records In The Snow', a tribute to Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens. In 1960, he gave up singing and relocated to Beaumont, where he opened a bar, The Blue Lantern. He gained a number 22 hit in 1961, when Mercury Records decided to release his earlier recording of 'Yearning'. He ran his bar for several years, during which time he wrote a song called 'Bar With No Beer' which, to anybody except perhaps Barnes and his family, was literally nothing but a very slight variation of Australian Gordon Parsons' 'Pub With No Beer' (a major hit, in 1959, for Slim Dusty). However, in the USA, Barnes' 1965 recording achieved some success. In 1970, he moved to California but returned to Beaumont the following year and built his Benny Barnes Melody Ranch, where, with his band the Ranch Hands, he proved a popular entertainer. He made various other recordings, namely for Hallway (1962-65), Musicor (1965-68), Kapp (1968), Mega (1972), Starday (1973) and Playboy (1976). Only 'I've Got Some Getting Over You To Do' on Playboy made the charts - a very modest number 94, in 1977.

http://youtu.be/ST4_lMr3NF8

Great Moments in Government Waste and Inefficiency

by Daniel J. Mitchell

...All true, but here’s my challenge: I also don’t want “efficient government.”

In other words, our goal should be to shrink government, not to make it “work better.” To understand the point I’m making, ponder these questions:

Do we want government to efficiently lure people into dependency?

Do we want government to efficiently socialize health care?

Do we want government to efficiently cartelize the agriculture sector?

I hope the answer to all these questions is “NO,” which is why I generally focus my work on structural changes to shrink the size and scope of government.

But every so often, notwithstanding everything I just wrote, I can’t resist pointing out really absurd examples of wasteful spending. And today we have two jaw-dropping examples.

We know that government bureaucracies like palatial buildings and that cost overruns are the rule rather than the exception. Well, one of the new bureaucracies created by the Dodd-Frank bailout bill is setting records for extravagance with its new headquarters.
The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is renovating the Washington, D.C., headquarters it rents—at a cost per square foot that is more expensive than Trump World Tower in New York City. The CFPB project is estimated to cost taxpayers more than $215 million… Cost projections have increased $65 million in six months and $120 million since last year’s estimate. Some of the building’s extravagant features include a four-story glass staircase, two-story waterfall and a sunken garden.
Now for our second example.

We’ve all heard about how big chunks of education spending get wasted on bureaucracy and don’t get used for classroom instruction.

And we read about how welfare bureaucrats consume a lot of money that supposedly is targeted to help poor people.

This principle also applies to other forms of government spending.

CNN reports that the federal government’s program for emergency food aid around the world is such a cluster-you-know-what that barely a bit more than one-third of money is actually spent on food for crisis-stricken regions.
International typhoons, hurricanes, and earthquakes leave behind devastating scenes of poverty and need. If you had about a $1.5 billion every year to send food to such desperate areas, how would you do it? …The way the U.S. provides international food aid is an antiquated and bureaucratic tangle. Food largely has to be purchased here in the U.S., and then shipped on boats by U.S. cargo carriers to the trouble spots. The Government Accountability Office says that 65% of the money for this aid program is spent on shipping and business costs – not on food. … it’s a system that has helped shipping companies and unions win billions in government contracts, companies like Maersk. …There’s also the transport workers unions. …The two leading maritime unions gave more than “three quarters of a million dollars to members of the current House of Representatives in the 2012 election cycle,” according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Geesh, what a typical example of insider corruption.



Mexico and Guatemala Reach An Agreement "to make it easier and safer" For Illegals

Mexico and Guatemala have reached an agreement that is intended to make it easier and safer for Central Americans, including unaccompanied minors, to enter the United States illegally. Though largely unreported in the U.S. mainstream media, the two nations agreed on July 7, in a presidential-level meeting in Mexico, to make it legal and safe for Central American immigrants, including unaccompanied minors, to cross Mexico’s border with Guatemala and transit Mexico en route to the U.S. border at the Rio Grande. The agreement apparently does not recognize that the result of such trips – entry into the United States – remains illegal. But to facilitate the program, the Mexican government announced plans to issue a new “Regional Visitor Card” that will provide documentation for the Central Americans to remain in Mexico as long as it takes to get to the United States. Under the auspices of a “Southern Border Program,” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Guatemalan President Otto Pérez, in a meeting in Mexico, agreed to take five concrete steps designed to “protect and safeguard the human rights of migrants who enter and transit Mexico, so as to order international routes of passage [in and through Mexico] to increase and develop the security of the region.” The five steps in Mexican “Southern Border Program” included the following action steps: 
1. Mexico established for the Central American migrants transiting through Mexico a new Mexican-government issued “Regional Visitor Card” that instructs the Mexican National Institute of Migration to recognize the holder as having been granted by the Mexican government the right to a “temporary stay” in Mexico. The purpose of the “Regional Visitor Card” is to grant Central American migrants entering Mexico across the border with Guatemala enough time and legal status to complete their journey to the United States.
2. Mexico plans to open 10 new border crossing checkpoints on the border with Guatemala and two more on the border with Belize to function as “Comprehensive Care Centers for Border Transit,” designed to register the Central American migrants with Mexican immigration authorities and to issue “Regional Cards” as part of a formal government processing allowing migrants from Central America to transit into Mexico on an official basis.
3. Mexico has decided to expand throughout the country the five medical care units originally established in Chiapas to give medical aid and temporary shelter to Central American migrants transiting through Mexico, with special attention given to unaccompanied minors.


White House looks at executive actions on immigration reform

...The press secretary said the administration was also examining what it could do “about the population of undocumented immigrants that are already in this country.” “These are individuals who, in many cases, are largely indistinguishable from so many other Americans,” he said. “And the question is, how do you confront that challenge in a way that reflects our tradition as a country of immigrants, but also a country that enforces the law.” It’s thought the administration is examining expanding the deferred action program announced in 2012, which allows certain children who entered the country illegally to remain. It's possible the president could expand the program to include qualifying family members of children who qualified for deferred action. Earnest said that the options were “all very difficult policy problems.” He also said it was “hard to tell” if the current crisis on the border would affect the reception of the president's administrative actions...more

Leaked Data Shows 10-Fold Increase In Obama’s Asylum Approvals

The number of foreigners who successfully filed asylum claims in the United States almost tripled from 2012 to 2013, up to 30,393. That’s 10 times the number from 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected, and it is evidence his immigration officials are agreeing that many people in the growing wave of Central American migrants face a “credible fear” of harm if they are returned. Official approval allows the migrants to file for asylum in immigration court, where judges will approve or reject the asylum request. If you came illegally to the U.S. seeking asylum in 2013, you had better than a four-in-five chance of successfully filing an asylum claim. That’s up from a three-in-five chance in 2008. The migrants include mothers with children, and youths who have been brought north by their parents who are living illegally in the United States. Roughly 240,000 migrants — parents, youths and children — are expected to cross the border by the end of September. The total includes 57,525 unaccompanied youths and children, from October 2013 to June 30, 2014, according to DHS. Because of a 2008 law, unaccompanied youths from countries other than Mexico and Canada don’t have to pass the “credible fear” hurdle, but can directly file asylum cases in immigration courts...more

U.N. seeking to intervene in U.S. border crisis

Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHRC, are “intensely discussing in meetings” the possibility of extending U.N. protection to the thousands of Central Americans crossing the U.S. border with Mexico illegally by defining them as “refugees” who are seeking asylum from political and domestic violence in their home nations, WND has confirmed. Officials privy to the U.N. discussions have explained to WND it’s “a tricky situation,” because the Central American immigrants are not part of any group the U.N. has designated as victims of political or religious persecution. A UNHCR official confirmed Monday to WND via email that a 10-nation meeting in Nicaragua of ministers of the interior from the U.S., Mexico and various Central American countries was held Thursday and Friday. The ministers, according to preliminary reports obtained by WND, concluded the Central American illegal aliens are “refugees” deserving international protection under the auspices of the U.N. as they seek asylum in the U.S. The ministers cited the U.N.’s 30-year-old declaration on the rights of refugees...more

The Odd Book One Texas Rancher Found Near the Border

An Urdu-to-English dictionary was not something Mike Vickers expected to find on the rocky earth underneath the cattle fencing around his 1,000-acre Texas ranch. Yet there it was — dropped, Vickers guesses, when its carrier got zapped by his fence’s electricity, and adding yet another dimension to the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, where tens of thousands of people have been flooding into the United States. Vickers’ property line runs along Highway 281, just 4 1/2 miles north from the Falfurrias Border Patrol station. The station itself is about 70 miles north of the Rio Grande, the first highway checkpoint for vehicles coming from Mexico in an area known for heavy illegal alien and drug trafficking. Instead of moving through the checkpoint, however, Vickers said that up to 30 people cross his property every day to try to evade the Border Patrol. Years ago, it was only a handful a day. While local ranchers have to contend with torn-up fences, broken water lines, contaminated wells and robbery on a daily basis from illegal immigrants streaming through, a Texas Border Patrol agent told TheBlaze there is “no doubt” that among the hordes of Central Americans are also crossers from Pakistan and Afghanistan, raising significant national security concerns. “We have limited resources,” said the agent, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “It’s frustrating for all of us and there’s no doubt that we have OTMs [Other Than Mexicans] coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and other parts of the world that we are very concerned with — these guys won’t be turning themselves into Border Patrol like the family units or children. I expect we’ll see more the OTMs of special interest this year and next, now that they know they can get in easier and they won’t be turned back home.” Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, is also spoken in parts of Afghanistan and India. People coming from these parts of the world are considered persons of special interest because of their potential connections to extremist groups in those regions, the agent said. “We’ve found Korans, prayer rugs and many other unusual items at the border that certainly raise concern,” the agent said...more

U.S. sends first planeload of moms, children back to Honduras

The first lady and her entourage were waiting. So were politicians, camera crews and aid workers in blue vests, ready to hand out suckers and balloons to toddlers pulled along by their frazzled mothers. A chartered flight that landed here Monday was the first carrying only mothers and children deported by the U.S. as it tries to stem a wave of migration from Central America that has overwhelmed U.S. border officials. U.S. officials said there would be many more. While Honduran officials were trying to put the best face on the process, one human rights worker termed the exodus of thousands in search of jobs or safety from rampant violence, and their forced return by the United States, “a great tragedy.” Critics said Honduran government inaction was largely responsible and that the welcome in San Pedro Sula, a city sometimes called the murder capital of the world, was mostly a show. Despite the government's promise of job leads, a $500 stipend, psychological counseling and schooling, returning mother Angelica Galvez said she wasn't expecting much. “They haven't helped me before,” said Galvez, 31, who was traveling with her 6-year-old daughter, Abigail. “Why should I believe them now?” Galvez and her daughter were among the 38 Hondurans on the flight, who had been held at a U.S. detention center in Artesia, N.M. Forty people — 18 mothers, 13 girls and nine boys — had been scheduled to be on the flight, but two fell ill and didn't travel...more

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bipartisan Duo To Introduce Border Bill

After days of arguing that money is not a solution, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, have teamed up to introduce a bill to reform current immigration law in a hope to solve the humanitarian crisis along the border. The bottom line, the bipartisan duo stressed, is that a combination of policy and resources is required to repair the immediate problem. “The border region has been overwhelmed over the past few months by a deluge of undocumented immigrants from Central America,” said Cuellar, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “Today’s legislation strengthens current law protecting unaccompanied children and responds to the crisis while supporting the men and women of Border Patrol. The bill, the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act, to be introduced Tuesday, expedites an immigration court hearing for minors to within seven days of their Department of Homeland Security screening. Within 72 hours of that proceeding, an immigration judge would determine if the child were eligible for relief and able to continue proceedings in the U.S. If they are deemed ineligible, they would be swiftly returned to their country of origin. This differs from the current law, which could see a court hearing pushed months or years out, with minors returned to relatives or placed in foster care...more

The KGB's Successors And The 'Greening' Of Europe

According to NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, Russia’s myriad intelligence agencies, which now include the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the military intelligence directorate, or GRU, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB), and the Federal Protective Service (FSO) are working directly with European environmental groups to fund anti-fracking campaigns. Putin is doing this to slow the spread of the U.S. shale revolution across the Atlantic so Russia can hold on to its monopoly of the European natural gas market. Europe’s energy insecurity – its dependence on Russian gas – has proven to be Putin’s favorite tool of geopolitical blackmail. Until recently, Europe has had little choice but to put up with Putin’s shenanigans, such as turning off the flow of gas through Ukraine in the dead of winter following contract disputes. But the balance of energy power is moving away from petro dictators like Putin, thanks to fracking and surging U.S. production of oil and natural gas from shale. Europeans see U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and U.S. shale expertise as the energy supply alternatives they desperately need. Already, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved seven LNG export terminals. And, shale deposits that have made the United States the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas also lie beneath much of Europe. The Russians may try to slow the development of Europe’s shale resources, but fracking technology cannot be stopped. Shale exploration has begun in Poland and Great Britain; deals with U.S. energy companies have been signed by several eastern European nations, including Lithuania and Romania. So, while it may not happen overnight, Russia’s grip on Europe’s energy supply is beginning to loosen. With his power built squarely upon energy – 52 percent of the Russian state budget comes from oil and gas exports – Putin has been forced to pivot east to Asia for new buyers. Putin can continue to funnel rubles to Europe’s environmental activist groups and hope to slow the spread of the shale revolution. But Russian dominance of the European gas market is on borrowed time...more

Outbreak on the Border

Health authorities at a Navy base in Southern California took steps last weekend to curtail an outbreak of pneumonia and swine flu among illegal immigrant children housed at the facility, according to U.S. officials. The outbreak of disease among several of the nearly 600 immigrant children at the Naval Base Ventura County, located north of Los Angeles, initially was thought to be caused by deadly bacterial streptococcal meningitis, according to one official close to the issue. However, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said he was not aware of any cases of meningitis at the base. The pneumonia cases and meningitis scare last weekend followed two cases of H1N1 swine flu among other child immigrants—one at the California base and another in Texas. The virus caused a global pandemic in 2009, but officials said it is considered less dangerous than the meningitis outbreak that began over the past weekend. Naval officials, along with HHS and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials, sought to block the disease outbreak by quarantines and halting transfers of children into and out of the facility. Several of the children developed symptoms that included fever and were at first thought to be meningitis. The swine flu case, discovered late last week, involved a 16-year-old Salvadoran boy who, like others at the facility, had been transferred recently from Nogales, Ariz. The sick children were moved to local hospitals where they are being treated. HHS spokesman Kenneth J. Wolfe said reports of respiratory illness at the naval base involved minors who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and who had been relocated...more

White House asked to stay away from school nutrition summit

Michelle Obama’s food policy czar, celebrity chef Sam Kass, was once so in with the lunch lady crowd, he landed a guest judge spot on a tearful school lunch episode of Food Network’s “Chopped” and handed out awards at the School Nutrition Association’s convention in Denver. Two years later, when he asked to speak at the group’s annual convention this week in Boston, the answer: “No.” The rebuke shows how ugly the fight has become between the first lady and her supporters, who want kids to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their school lunches, and the organization that represents cafeteria workers and their allies who argue that the federal government is going too far in its push for healthier meals. At stake is the health of millions of kids, an $11 billion school lunch program dominated by big food companies that want to build brand loyalty early, and even the legacy of the first lady — who has made combating the childhood obesity epidemic her primary cause. So while the specifics might look like a food fight, behind the clash are all the big forces that shape major political battles — money, lobbying muscle, big personalities — and an ideological split over the size and role of the federal government, especially when it comes to kids. “Our members are very frustrated,” said Patricia Montague, SNA’s CEO. “Everybody is feeling a little bit stretched and stressed by what they’re facing,” she said, citing an onslaught of policy memos and regulations. Montague acknowledged that Kass, through the Department of Agriculture, asked to speak at SNA’s conference this week “to rally the troops” on the nutrition standards. This year, roughly 6,500 school nutrition professionals are attending the conference, which runs through Wednesday in Boston...more

Uncooperative Federalism: EPA Issues 51st Clean Air Act FIP of the Obama Age

by William Yeatman

Last Friday, EPA issued a pre-publication version of the agency’s 51st regulatory takeover of a state Clean Air Act program, also known as a Federal Implementation Plan (“FIP”). This time, the victim was Arizona. To be precise, the agency imposed visibility improvement requirements, known as Regional Haze, on at a number of stationary sources in Arizona, including: Tucson Electric Power’s Sundt Generating Station Unit 4, Lhoist North America’s Nelson Lime Plant Kilns 1 and 2, ASARCO Inc.’s Hayden Smelter, Freeport-McMoran Inc.’s Miami Smelter, Phoenix Cement Co.’s Clarkdale Plant Kiln 4 and CalPortland Cement’s Rillito Plant Kiln 4. Compliance will cost the affected entities millions of dollars; the “benefits,” alas, are apparitional. The regulation won’t engender a discernible improvement in visibility.

Below, I’ve provided an ongoing analysis compiled by globalwarming.org, of Clean Air Act FIPs rendered by each of the last four Presidents. As is rendered clear by the chart, President Obama has taken a very different view of Clean Air Act cooperative federalism than has his predecessors. Evidently, Obama’s is the age of uncooperative federalism.
Indendence Post

Dead Children Found “Washed Up Along Riverbank” of Rio Grande

Guest post by Kristinn Taylor

A Fox News exclusive reported this morning by Jana Winter inexplicably buried the lede.
Winter reports that several dead children have been discovered “washed up along the riverbank” of the Rio Grande, but fails to note that there have been no reports by the Obama administration on this.
This indicates a pattern of covering up dead illegal alien kids by the Obama administration. It was two weeks before news was reported on the sole child death acknowledged by the Obama administration, Gilberto Ramos, a 15 year-old boy from Guatemala whose body was found in the Texas brush dead from the heat.
From Jana Winter’s report:
“FoxNews.com accompanied Texas lawmaker Louie Gohmert, a former judge and current Republican Congressman, to the site in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday. Gohmert, whose district lies some 550 miles northeast of what has become the most heavily-trafficked people-smuggling route in the world, has been to the location many times, but has never seen it so understaffed and overwhelmed.
““I’m more concerned than ever [that the border is] so seriously undermanned and I’ll be raising hell in Washington,” Gohmert, who invited FoxNews.com to see the situation first-hand, would later tell Border Patrol officials.
“The Border Patrol agents loaded and unloaded their vehicles packed with the newly-arrived illegal immigrants — including women pregnant or nursing infants, and small, unaccompanied children — throughout the evening and early morning hours. At first, they were mostly teenagers, ages 14 to 17, arriving with their mother or brothers or no one at all. Then came the pregnant women. A mother nursing her infant. A small girl with wide eyes clutching a doll.
“A total of 72 came in during the first dark hours of Saturday morning. A third were unaccompanied children.
“The life jackets helped many make it across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, the Mexican city across the water from Mission, just west of McAllen. Sources say they come over on rafts ferried by the so-called “coyotes,” the human smugglers whose means of transport are rendered useless whenever discovered by the Border Patrol. Many don’t make it across the river; multiple sources became emotional when recounting their discoveries of small, lifeless bodies washed up along the riverbank.”
 That is all Winter has to report on the dead children.
More needs to be known about the price children are paying for the Obama administration’s lawless immigration policies.

GATEWAY PUNDIT

More on EPA garnishment of wages

Yesterday I commented on a Washington Times article quoting Senator Barrasso on this issue, noting that Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress when the DCIA passed in 1996.

Here is the letter sent by three Senators:

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

    We recently learned of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) direct final rule on administrative wage garnishment.  The direct final rule purports to allow EPA to garnish—without first obtaining a court order—personal wages for the collection of non-tax debts owed to the government.  We believe the direct rule represents an inappropriate effort to avoid preliminary judicial scrutiny of EPA garnishment proceedings. Through this comment letter, we delineate a clear adverse position and request that EPA withdraw its direct final rule.
    EPA announced its direct final rule on administrative wage garnishment on July 2, 2014.[1]  According to EPA, the direct final rule implements the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (DCIA), which governs procedures for the administrative garnishment of personal wages.[2]  EPA states that “[p]rior to the enactment of the DCIA, Federal agencies were required to obtain a court judgment before garnishing non-Federal wages,” and that the direct final rule “will allow the EPA to garnish non-Federal wages to collect delinquent non-tax debts owed the United States without first obtaining a court order.”[3]
    While we recognize the government’s legitimate interest in efficiently and effectively pursuing delinquent debt, EPA’s new wage garnishment procedures provide an agency prone to regulatory abuses with even more power over individual Americans.  For example, under the direct final rule, EPA will decide for itself whether or not a debtor is entitled to present an oral defense before the agency; EPA need only determine that a garnishment dispute can be resolved by review of the documentary evidence in order to prevent the debtor from making his case orally.[4]  Likewise, the direct final rule authorizes EPA to unilaterally choose a hearing officer for a garnishment hearing without input from the debtor, and regardless of whether the officer is an administrative law judge.[5]
    Thus, EPA has removed initial administrative garnishment proceedings from a neutral court setting to a non-judicial process dictated by the agency.  EPA’s decision to give itself the authority to garnish wages without first obtaining a court order compounds the challenge for individuals who face threats of ruinous fines from the agency.  We note in particular the case of West Virginia farmer Lois Alt, whom EPA threatened with civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day because stormwater which flowed across her property and into a “water of the United States” had come into contact with dust, feathers, and small amounts of manure located on the ground.[6]  We are mindful as well of EPA’s January 2014 compliance order for Andy Johnson of Uinta County, Wyoming.  The terms of the compliance order suggest that EPA is threatening Mr. Johnson with fines of as much as $187,500 per day for building a pond on his private property.[7]  We question whether EPA’s newfound authority to garnish wages without first obtaining a court order is in fact a ploy to make people like Ms. Alt and Mr. Johnson think twice before challenging the agency over its regulatory jurisdiction.  Moreover, we are extremely concerned that a precipitous garnishment of wages by EPA without a court order could instantly crush an individual or family.
    Finally, EPA’s decision to grant itself more power over private citizens is unwarranted given the agency’s repeated failure to manage its own personnel.  The bizarre tale of John Beale and other recent accounts of EPA employee misconduct demonstrate that wasted taxpayer resources and mismanagement permeate the agency.[8]  It would seem to make little sense for EPA to have the authority to garnish wages of private citizens without a court order, when the agency is apparently unable to properly oversee wage payments to its own employees or otherwise restrict the distribution of unearned pension benefits.[9]  Congress and the American people need to be assured that EPA’s internal management issues are resolved before any consideration of such authority.
    The direct final rule indicated that if EPA receives adverse comments by August 1, 2014, “it will publish a timely withdrawal of the direct final rule in the Federal Register and inform the public that the rule will not take effect.”[10]  Based on the adverse comments discussed above, and pursuant to the EPA’s commitment, we ask that EPA withdraw its direct final rule on administrative wage garnishment immediately.

Sincerely,

David Vitter, United States Senate
Mike Enzi, United States Senate
John Barrasso, M.D., United States Senate

-end-


[1] See Envtl. Prot. Agency, Admin. Wage Garnishment, 79 Fed. Reg. 37644 (July 2, 2014).
[2] See id.
[3] Id., 79 Fed. Reg. at 37644-37645.
[4] See 31 C.F.R. 285.11(f)(3)(i), adopted by 79 Fed. Reg. 37644.
[5] See 31 C.F.R. 285.11(f)(6), adopted by 79 Fed. Reg. 37644.
[6]  Letter from Senator David Vitter to Nancy K. Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water re: Alt v. EPA (Nov. 5, 2013).
[7] Letter from Senator David Vitter, et al., to Nancy K. Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water re: Region 8 Compliance Order (April 1, 2014).
[8]  Management Failures: Oversight of the EPA, Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight and Gov’t Reform, 113th Cong. (June 25, 2014) (statement of Sen. David Vitter).
[9]  See Letter from Senator David Vitter to Hon. Katherine Archuleta, Director, Office of Personnel Management re: EPA wage and pension issues (Nov. 5, 2013).
[10] 79 Fed. Reg. at 37644.

As far as Senate letters go, this is a good one, disagreeing with the process set up by the proposed rule and the method of publishing the rule.  You will note the passing reference to the DCIA, the act granting authority to EPA and other federal agencies to garnish wages.  That act passed when R's controlled both the House and the Senate as a result of the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994.  So what we have here is a letter from three Republican Senators saying please don't do what a Republican controlled Congress authorized you to do.  

The fix, of course, would be to legislatively remove that authority.  Do you think they will do it?  Or will they continue to pen letters and issue press releases condemning the agency and playing to the folks back home?



Moffat County, lawmakers speak out against possible designation of Vermillion Basin as national monument

Local and state officials are speaking out against a possible listing of the Vermillion Basin in Moffat County as a national monument. After President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate about 500,000 acres in New Mexico as a national monument, Colorado leaders spoke out against the possibility of the administration making another monument designation in Colorado. The Vermillion Basin is a 77,000-acre landscape rich with natural gas, so making the basin a monument immediately would halt energy production prospects. U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday asking the administration to use the local process when making a decision. “The designation of Vermillion Basin as a national monument would result in a lasting, if not permanent, adverse economic impact on the communities of Northwestern Colorado, including their ability to sustain and create jobs,” according to the letter. “Local elected officials and stakeholders have recently sent letters asking that any consideration of the Vermillion Basin as a national monument be halted until broad consensus and community support from all sectors are secured.” The Moffat County commissioners sent a letter June 17 asking for support on the issue from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mark Udall, D-Colo.; and Tipton. “Moffat County is particularly sensitive to issues around Vermillion Basin. In 2000, Vermillion Basin was proposed as a national monument by various environmental groups with zero input from the local elected officials,” according to the commissioners’ letter...more

The letter asks "that any consideration of the Vermillion Basin as a national monument be halted until broad consensus and community support from all sectors are secured.”  Our experience in southern NM is that Secretary Jewels' statements about "consensus" don't mean spit.  The recent monument designation in Dona Ana and Luna County was opposed by the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the County Sheriff, the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the Dona Ana Soil &Water Conservation District and many other entities.  All to no avail.

And here again you have two R's, rep's this time, saying to the executive please don't do what Congress has authorized you to do.

Here's hoping that some day they will realize the problem is the authority they have delegated to the executive.  Until then, the rest of this stuff is just political theater.
 

Idaho Fish and Game Commission Opposes Monument

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has voted unanimously to oppose the creation of a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument for fear of losing control of wildlife management in the 592,000-acre area. The decision was supported by several area hunters but drew immediate criticism from sportsmen’s groups who long have promoted the monument as a way to enhance habitat for hunting and fishing opportunities under Fish and Game control. “Without state sovereignty, you won’t have hunting, fishing and trapping in any meaningful way,” said Commission Chairman Fred Trevey, of Lewiston. The commission, Idaho Fish and Game’s season- and policy-setting body, consists of seven members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Idaho Senate. The four commissioners at the group’s quarterly meeting in Salmon voted unanimously Thursday to send an opposition letter to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and the Idaho Congressional Delegation. Before the decision, Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth said he is concerned about how federal changes in management would affect Fish and Game’s management of the area. Those concerns include access to motorized and non-motorized trails, maintaining control of wolf and other predators, being able to conduct helicopter surveys and dart game, primacy over noxious weed control, stocking high mountain lakes with fish, and managing fire rehabilitation and seeding. The letter opposes any change in federal designation to the area through an executive order of the president, which is how the Idaho Conservation League, The Wilderness Society and other groups are proposing the monument be created...more

What I find interesting here is the involvement of the Governor and the Game Commission.  To my knowledge, neither the NM Game & Fish Commission or Governor Martinez publicly opposed Obama's designation of two monuments in NM.  They were totally disengaged on how management would be changed on over 700,000 acres in our state. 

Four early Lincoln County teachers describe a different kind of community classroom

by  Dianne Stallings

    Careers in education appear to be on a downslide, based on complaints of low pay, federal over-regulation, lack of parental backing and rules that ban everything from hugging a pupil and exercising discipline to baking cupcakes for classroom celebrations.
     But in 1991, four of Lincoln County's teachers from the 1920s to 1940s, the late Herbert L. and Alice Traylor, Wynema "Meme" H. Tully and Marie Hull Rooney spoke about far more daunting challenges when they gathered to reminisce for an article to appear in the Ruidoso News.
     "School was the center of social life," Rooney said. "We were one big family and we all got along fine. The schoolhouse was the community center at Christmas. We performed plays and music."
    Times were simpler then, because the community was too preoccupied with survival to worry about the problems that come with idle time and extra money.
    "We had no problems compared to what teachers have today," Tully said. "I listen to teachers now and they tell horrible tales. We had a fun time. We played with our students and threw snowballs with them. Then we socialized with their parents at dinners where the best baked pies were served, and we all got together for student plays and programs."
    "And the parents stood right behind you on everything," Alice Traylor added.
    A teacher was responsible to cover all subjects for the two or three grade levels in her or his classroom.    Principals usually doubled and tripled as teachers, school nurses and school janitors, Tully said.
    Rooney, who did not have a college degree, earned $80 a month in 1934, a sum that delighted her.
    "We didn't have any money then and $80 was enough to buy anything I needed," she said.
    Tully, who earned a junior college degree, was paid $110 a month.
    "We worked for a year for half of what teachers get now in one month," Herbert Traylor said.
    The children were willing to put in extra time too. They stayed after school to help clean the classrooms and to learn music from Rooney, the only child of Jack Hull, who attended a music conservatory before moving to Ruidoso. The older children also helped with younger students, because back then no one ever heard of a teacher's aide.



White Oaks school is still standing