Thursday, December 12, 2019

Let's not lose this opportunity to permanently fund land and water conservation

In America our public lands are our greatest national treasure. They are the inheritance that we all share equally, no matter who we are or from where we come. They not only encompass our national forests, national wildlife refuges and wilderness areas; they also provide us with access to some of the most awe-inspiring hunting, angling and recreational opportunities in the world — majestic places where the game and fish are plentiful, where memories are made and where lifelong traditions are formed.
The need for programs like the Land Water Conservation Fund, one of our greatest assets in conserving key areas and expanding access to our public lands, has never been greater. Right now funding for LWCF is uncertain and we are facing a critical moment to protect it.
Congress is just weeks away from the next funding deadline and if we don’t act Congress could allocate less than half the full funding level of $900 million, proposals that would rob communities and starve our public lands of critical investments. 

In America our public lands are our greatest national treasure.

That's right, these folks actually believe federal lands are more important than the Declaration of  Independence  or the U.S. Constitution.

expanding access to our public lands

You will notice the phrase "land acquisition" never appears in these type of pleas. If this is so popular why are they hesitant to accurately describe it? Why hide behind "expanding access" instead of honestly stating "expanding the federal estate"?

The other words you won't hear are "land exchange".  If Congress appropriated zero dollars to the LWCF, environmentally sensitive lands could be acquired using the authority already granted to these agencies to enter into land exchanges. The same holds for acquiring lands to "expand access". Ah, but that would require giving up some of the 640 million acres under federal control, and that is just unthinkable. Why exchange less valuable lands for lands of higher value when Congress will let you keep what you have and permanently fund acquiring additional acreage?

...Congress could allocate less than half the full funding level of $900 million, proposals that would rob communities and starve our public lands of critical investments. 

My, my. If you only spend half of what they demand you are a robber and guilty of causing starvation. This is pure, Grade A, b.s. How on earth did we survive from 1792 to 1964 without the LWCF? I don't must have been a miracle.

Farmworker bill clears House, on way to Senate

The House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act on a 260-165 vote on Dec. 11, sending the bill to the Senate. The bill balances the interests of agricultural employees and workers, making it easier for farmers to hire workers by simplifying the H-2A application process and increasing the availability of green cards and visas for year-round workers. It also establishes a program for workers who have been engaged in agricultural work for at least two years and plan to continue working in agriculture to earn legal status. Critics dismiss the bill, calling it an amnesty measure. “A true Farm Workforce Modernization Act would encourage mechanization and automation through subsidies, not amnesty illegal aliens and guarantee a steady flow of cheap foreign labor,” RJ Hauman, head of government relations at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told Fox News. Similarly, American Farm Bureau Federation doesn't support the legislation as passed by the House, saying they will continue to work to improve the legislation as it heads to the Senate. “At a time when the farm worker shortage has reached a crisis in parts of the country, it is deeply disappointing that the House blocked any possibility of improving the legislation designed to address the problem, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "Several amendments addressed our principal concerns, but were blocked from consideration. Farmers need meaningful reform that addresses the concerns of both workers and growers.” The dairy industry, however, commended the bill. “The passage of legislation that helps address dairy’s unique workforce challenges is certainly a milestone and an opportunity we must pursue to the fullest,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF...MORE

Trump Signs Phase One China Trade Deal, Avoiding Brutal December Tariffs

Topline: President Donald Trump has signed off on a phase one trade deal with China, crucially avoiding a looming December 15 tariff deadline, after negotiators from both sides agreed upon terms earlier on Thursday, Bloomberg first reported.
  • The U.S. and China agreed upon terms for the so-called phase one deal, with Trump signing off on the deal later in the day, leading Wall Street investors to rejoice.
  • After months of drawn out negotiations to hammer out the terms of the phase one deal, first announced in October, the news sent the stock market surging to new records: The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Average were both up by around 0.80% on Thursday.
  • The deal reportedly includes promises by China to buy more U.S. farm goods, Bloomberg reported.
  • According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, U.S. negotiators have offered to slash existing tariffs, which cover roughly $360 billion of Chinese goods, by 50%.
  • The U.S. will also cancel the next round of China tariffs, planned to take effect on another $156 billion of Chinese goods on December 15, the report said.
  • Included in the deal is a promise made by China to do more to stop intellectual property theft, and both sides agreed to refrain from purposely manipulating their currencies...MORE

TIME Bombshell Blows Up Sondland Testimony

Rush Limbaugh

RUSH: There was a bombshell in TIME magazine yesterday. A bombshell story, and it’s been referenced this morning in the hearings. Don’t know if you’re watching them anymore. Wouldn’t blame you if you’re not. A bombshell from TIME magazine. I almost couldn’t believe it. It totally takes the entire foundation of the Schiff-Nadler impeachment proceedings out from under them. It totally destroys the basis on which they did all of this.
...The only witness with firsthand knowledge of anything close to a quid pro quo was Gordon Sondland. Gordon Sondland testified that he told president Zelensky’s adviser, Andriy Yermak, that he thought — he couldn’t remember for sure — he amended and revised his testimony at this point after hearing from Bill Taylor and Yovanovitch and some of the others.
He thought, he presumed that Trump wanted Zelensky to make a public announcement about investigating Burisma before he, Trump, would release the aid. Sondland then told Bill Taylor and others that, yes, he had told Yermak that. So then this gets passed around. Sondland therefore become the source for the story that Trump demanded a quid pro quo, and it was aid in exchange for Zelensky announcing the investigation into Burisma. Not starting it. Not doing it. Just announcing it.
These people claim Trump didn’t even care whether the investigation actually happened. He just wanted it announced. He wanted the announcement from Ukraine that they finally were gonna be looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.
Well, this has all blown up because TIME magazine went and talked to Andriy Yermak. Yermak, again, is Zelensky’s adviser, and he’s the guy that Sondland thinks — he said to this guy, “I think Trump wanted Zelensky to make a public announcement.” He wasn’t sure. He presumed so. Yermak told TIME magazine that Sondland never told him that. In fact, Andriy Yermak says the two of them never even spoke. Except for a few innocuous remarks in passing, they never had any kind of a private conversation ever.
...But it does more than cast doubt. It blows the entire case against Trump out of the water, because this was it. Gordon Sondland testifying that he thought Trump wanted Zelensky to make a public announcement — Sondland amended his testimony — now, we’ll get into what’s going on with Sondland here in a minute. But Sondland testified after he amended his testimony that he thought — he didn’t even say with certitude — he told Yermak that he thought Trump wanted Zelensky to make a public announcement. He presumed it based on other things that he had heard, but he didn’t know it for a fact.
Yermak has come along and said he didn’t even tell me that. We never had a meeting. We ran into each other coming off of an elevator. He never said a word to me about anything to do with a meeting, with an investigation. And TIME magazine knows this is bad. This is very bad. These comments cast doubt on an important moment in the impeachment inquiry’s reconstruction.

Lawmakers strike spending deal to avert shutdown

a Lawmakers reached a deal in principle Thursday on 12 annual spending bills to fund the government and avoid a shutdown. Appropriators reached agreement on a number of contentious issues, including how to fund President Trump's proposed border wall. “We had a very good meeting, and there’s a meeting of the minds, and we’re going to look through some of the details, but I feel confident that we’re going to have a product very shortly,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said following days of negotiations. Details of the legislation remain under wraps, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he expects to bring the legislation up for a vote on Tuesday, likely grouped into at least two packages. Democrats say they have received assurances that Trump will sign the bills once they pass, averting a shutdown after the Dec. 20 funding deadline. Though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been involved in meetings, including one on Tuesday and two on Thursday morning, lawmakers said the White House took a hands-off approach to the final round of negotiations. “They’ve been involved,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), “but we have to make the decisions."...MORE

While lawmakers said Thursday that the major issues had been buttoned up, the details of the agreement were not expected to be made public until Monday.  

Made public on Monday, vote on Tuesday. Not much time for "deliberation" or input from the public.

Committee staffs are expected to work through the weekend to finalize language and smaller issues ahead of the likely Tuesday vote.

That tells you who is really writing the bill. No word on what, if anything, is in there on BLM reorganization.

The agreement on $1.37 trillion in spending follows months of wrangling. Over the summer, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal to increase overall defense and domestic spending levels by billions of dollars, averting scheduled cuts that were enshrined into law.

Once again demonstrating that Congress will not comply with legislation that purportedly limits spending. They will simply amend the statute and spend away.

But despite slow-going talks over the past week, appropriators stayed determined to hammer out a deal in order to pass all 12 bills before the Christmas holiday. They feared that failure to do so would result in a months-long stopgap lasting until after a likely impeachment trial in the Senate. 

What is it that they fear? The only thing both parties fear: a delay in increased spending.

Greta Thunberg is Time's 2019 Person of the Year

Greta Thunberg sits in silence in the cabin of the boat that will take her across the Atlantic Ocean. Inside, there’s a cow skull hanging on the wall, a faded globe, a child’s yellow raincoat. Outside, it’s a tempest: rain pelts the boat, ice coats the decks, and the sea batters the vessel that will take this slight girl, her father and a few companions from Virginia to Portugal. For a moment, it’s as if Thunberg were the eye of a hurricane, a pool of resolve at the center of swirling chaos. In here, she speaks quietly. Out there, the entire natural world seems to amplify her small voice, screaming along with her. “We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she says, tugging on the sleeve of her blue sweatshirt. “That is all we are saying.” It’s a simple truth, delivered by a teenage girl in a fateful moment. The sailboat, La Vagabonde, will shepherd Thunberg to the Port of Lisbon, and from there she will travel to Madrid, where the United Nations is hosting this year’s climate conference. It is the last such summit before nations commit to new plans to meet a major deadline set by the Paris Agreement. Unless they agree on transformative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature rise since the Industrial Revolution will hit the 1.5°C mark—an eventuality that scientists warn will expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. For every fraction of a degree that temperatures increase, these problems will worsen. This is not fearmongering; this is science. For decades, researchers and activists have struggled to get world leaders to take the climate threat seriously. But this year, an unlikely teenager somehow got the world’s attention...MORE

Greta Thunberg Is the Perfect Hero for an Unserious Time

David Harsanyi
Who better than a finger-wagging teen bereft of accomplishment, or any comprehension of basic economics or history, to be Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019? Greta Thunberg’s canonization is a perfect expression of media activism in a deeply unserious time.
Has there ever been a less consequential person picked to be Person of the Year? I doubt it. I mean, Wallis Simpson, 1936’s Person of the Year, got King Edward VIII to abdicate the throne. Thunberg can’t even get you to abdicate your air-conditioning.
These days we celebrate vacuous fire and brimstone. “Greta Thunberg” — the idea, not the girl — is concoction of activists who have increasingly taken to using children as a shield from critical analysis or debate. She’s the vessel of the environmentalist’s fraudulent apocalypticism-as-argument. Her style is emotion and indignation, histrionics and fantasy. She is a teenager, after all.
...Perhaps a better question is, What kind of parents, editors, producers, or U.N. officials would thrust a vulnerable child with Asperger, no less, into a complex and contentious debate? I have great sympathy for her. It’s her ideological handlers who have stolen her childhood.
Surely we should be allowed to consider the positions of Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year? Because the problem with Greta Thunberg — the idea, not the girl — is that she proposes not only that the people of her native Sweden abandon modernity but that billions of people in Asia and Africa remain in destitution as well. Greta, unlike many of her ideological allies, does not hide the truth of modern environmentalism. She believes that wealth and economic growth — modernity — are the problem.
Shamefully, radical environmentalists have convinced Greta and millions of others that the world is on the precipice of “mass extinction.” Even poor Prince Harry struggles to get out his Kensington Palace bed and start the day, so crushed is he by the weight of “eco-anxiety.” (You know, I have some ideas on how he might may be able to lower his carbon footprint.) Like Joan of Arc, as Greta’s mother tells it, she experienced her first vision in her early teens, going months without eating properly. Greta, her heart rate and blood pressure indicating starvation, stopped talking to anyone but her parents and younger sister.
Rather than helping Greta overcome this irrational dread, her parents sacrificed her childhood to Gaia. Now, Greta is a child warrior, unrestrained by fact or reason, the human embodiment of years of fearmongering — in our schools, in culture, in our news — over progress, technology, and wealth.
Greta is merely repeating “unassailable science,” Time claims. “Oceans will rise. Cities will flood. Millions of people will suffer.” The unassailable truth is that climate deaths have plummeted dramatically and billions of people have been lifted from abject poverty by the system that Greta assails. There is no “unassailable science” that tells us how the future looks: what technologies humans will devise, how they will adapt. One imagines a magazine such as Time, which once published pieces about now-discredited predictions of a “population bomb” and global cooling, might understand that the future is always more complicated than we imagine.
And, as I’ve noted elsewhere, the reality is that Thunberg was bequeathed the healthiest, wealthiest, safest, and most peaceful world that humans have ever known. She is one of the luckiest people ever to have lived...


'Constitutional dilemma': Dershowitz says nothing impeachable as case heads to Senate

House Democrats are creating a "constitutional dilemma" for the Senate, where any impeachment trial would be held, contends Alan Dershowitz. The professor emeritus at Harvard Law School wrote in a column for the Gatestone Institute that the two grounds cited by House Democrats, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, are not "among the criteria specified for impeachment." "Neither one is a high crime and misdemeanor. Neither is mentioned in the Constitution. Both are the sort of vague, open-ended criteria rejected by the framers," he said. "They were rejected precisely to avoid the situation in which our nation currently finds itself. "Abuse of power can be charged against virtually every controversial president by the opposing party. And obstruction of Congress — whatever else it may mean — cannot extend to a president invoking privileges and then leave it to the courts to referee conflicts between the legislative and executive branches." The founders, including Alexander Hamilton, "feared that vague criteria would allow a majority of the House to impeach a president from the opposing party just because they had more votes than the president's party." Hamilton called that "the greatest danger." "Madison worried that open-ended criteria, such as 'maladministration' would give Congress too much discretion and power, and turn our republic into a parliamentary democracy in which the chief executive serves at the will of the legislature," Dershowitz wrote. "House Democrats are simply ignoring these words and this history, because they have the votes to do so. They are following the absurd notion put forth by congresswoman Maxine Waters that when it comes to impeachment 'there is no law,' and the criteria are anything a majority of the House wants it be, regardless of what the constitution mandates."...MORE

New way to monitor snowpack could be critical in the arid West

At a time when monitoring mountain snowpack is crucial for communities throughout the American West, has the next generation of measuring snow depth arrived? Some top researchers seem to think so. “We really feel we have the next evolution for water management,” said Jeffery Deems, a research scientist for the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In the early 2010s, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory teamed with the California Department of Water Resources to create the Airborne Snow Observatory to develop a new way of tracking snowpack in the mountains, looking to Light Detection and Ranging (lidar), a 3D scanning system, as a possible answer. Lidar is not new technology. For years, it has been outfitted on planes to send beams down to earth to map elevations on the landscape, evaluate flood plains and even find the remnants of archaeological ruins underneath the ground. But researchers started wondering if it could be applied to measuring snowpack. The first flights were conducted in California in fall 2012 to create a baseline model of the mountains without snow, flying about 20,000 feet off the ground for five to six hours in a back-and-forth pattern. Then, after a few storms, planes took flight again, and researchers were able to subtract elevation amounts to determine precise snow depths through high-resolution maps. “We see it as moving from a sparse-point base network (with Snotel) to a system that can map the entire snowpack in a river basin,” Deems said. “It is really an enabling technology.”...MORE

Judge blocks law that would stop 'fake meat' from marketing with 'real meat' terminology

Veggie burgers are safe for now after a federal judge temporarily blocked Arkansas legislation banning the use of meat-related terminology to describe meatless products. The state's "truth in labeling" bill made it the latest in a string of states to pass laws controlling how meat-substitutes are marketed. The bill's authors say it's an effort to "protect consumers from being misled or confused." But a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and veggie-meat maker Tofurkey argues that the measure violates the First Amendment as well as other parts of the Constitution. Judge Kristine Baker's Wednesday ruling blocks the law from being enforced while the lawsuit is being argued. "The State appears to believe that the simple use of the word 'burger,' 'ham,' or 'sausage' leaves the typical consumer confused," Baker wrote in the ruling. "That assumption is unwarranted," she added. According to the bill, plant-based "meats" such as those made from soy, tempeh, wheat or lab-cultured ingredients are not classified as meat. Companies found to misrepresent a vegetarian item as a meat product could be fined $1,000 per violation...MORE

Virginia Democrats float prosecution, National Guard deployment if police don't enforce gun control

Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill say local police who do not enforce gun control measures likely to pass in Virginia should face prosecution and even threats of the National Guard. After November's Virginia Legislature elections that led to Democrats taking control of both chambers, the gun control legislation proposed by some Democrats moved forward, including universal background checks, an “assault weapons” ban, and a red flag law. Legal firearm owners in the state, however, joined with their sheriffs to form Second Amendment sanctuary counties, which declare the authorities in these municipalities uphold the Second Amendment in the face of any gun control measure passed by Richmond. Over 75 counties in Virginia have so far adopted such Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in the commonwealth, the latest being Spotsylvania County. The board of supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution declaring that county police will not enforce state-level gun laws that violate Second Amendment rights. Virginia Democratic officials, however, already say local law enforcement supporting these resolutions will face consequences if they do not carry out any law the state Legislature passes...Democratic Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin suggested cutting off state funds to counties that do not comply with any gun control measures that pass in Richmond. “They certainly risk funding, because if the sheriff's department is not going to enforce the law, they're going to lose money. The counties' attorneys offices are not going to have the money to prosecute because their prosecutions are going to go down,” he said.
McEachin also noted that Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam could call the National Guard, if necessary...MORE

Former FBI official calls revelations in IG report on FISA abuses 'terrifying'

So, what's the big deal about FISA warrants?

Here is former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker:

"These are serious abuses. FISA is the most intrusive technique you can use. You can put a microphone in someone's house, you can put a camera in their house. You can intercept their phone calls, you can intercept their emails, their texts, you can mirror their hard drives," he explained.
"You can look at every aspect of someone's life with a FISA order. It's extremely intrusive and to find out there were 17 different errors, omissions and unsupported assertions in there, is absolutely is terrifying to me," he concluded.
Now you know

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Its time for Christmas tunes on Ranch Radio and we'll begin with Bob Wills - Christmas On The Range. The Westerner

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Retired BLM leaders head to Capitol Hill to block HQ move

Retired senior Bureau of Land Management leaders are ratcheting up efforts to stop the agency from relocating its headquarters and hundreds of senior positions out West. A coalition that includes Bob Abbey, who served as BLM director during President Obama's first term, and Henri Bisson, who served as deputy director of operations during the George W. Bush administration, is visiting with congressional leaders and staffers today through Thursday to express concerns with the relocation plan. The campaign comes just days before Washington, D.C.-based staffers must decide whether to move or leave BLM. The coalition organized by the Public Lands Foundation, a BLM retirees' group, is scheduled to meet with House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), as well as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) — a vocal proponent of the plan to move BLM's headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo. The coalition also includes former BLM Wyoming directors Mary Jo Rugwell, who retired in August, and Don Simpson, who retired in 2015; Ray Brady, who retired in 2015 as manager of BLM's National Renewable Energy Coordination Office; and Jenna Whitlock, who retired in 2017 as acting deputy director of operations. They are set to meet this week with Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), as well as Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The goal of the "outreach meetings" with lawmakers and their staff — including staffers with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee — is to prompt Congress to add language in any Interior appropriations bill blocking the relocation plan and the use of federal funds to pay for it...MORE

Many will remember the ethically- challenged Abbey, see

Former BLM chief may share $528,000 payday from land sale he backed

Henderson lawsuit links developer Milam, ex-BLM chief Abbey

Rolling Stone: An Inspector General’s Report Reveals the Steele Dossier Was Always a Joke

Matt Taibbi

...If the report released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz constitutes a “clearing” of the FBI, never clear me of anything. Holy God, what a clown show the Trump-Russia investigation was. Like the much-ballyhooed report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Horowitz report is a Rorschach test, in which partisans will find what they want to find. Much of the press is concentrating on Horowitz’s conclusion that there was no evidence of “political bias or improper motivation” in the FBI’s probe of Donald Trump’s Russia contacts, an investigation Horowitz says the bureau had “authorized purpose” to conduct. Horowitz uses phrases like “serious performance failures,” describing his 416-page catalogue of errors and manipulations as incompetence rather than corruption. This throws water on the notion that the Trump investigation was a vast frame-up. However, Horowitz describes at great length an FBI whose “serious” procedural problems and omissions of “significant information” in pursuit of surveillance authority all fell in the direction of expanding the unprecedented investigation of a presidential candidate (later, a president). Officials on the “Crossfire Hurricane” Trump-Russia investigators went to extraordinary, almost comical lengths to seek surveillance authority of figures like Trump aide Carter Page. In one episode, an FBI attorney inserted the words “not a source” in an email he’d received from another government agency. This disguised the fact that Page had been an informant for that agency, and had dutifully told the government in real time about being approached by Russian intelligence. The attorney then passed on the email to an FBI supervisory special agent, who signed a FISA warrant application on Page that held those Russian contacts against Page, without disclosing his informant role. Likewise, the use of reports by ex-spy/campaign researcher Christopher Steele in pursuit of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authority had far-reaching ramifications. Not only did obtaining a FISA warrant allow authorities a window into other Trump figures with whom Page communicated, they led to a slew of leaked “bombshell” news stories that advanced many public misconceptions, including that a court had ruled there was “probable cause” that a Trump figure was an “agent of a foreign power.” There are too many to list in one column, but the Horowitz report show years of breathless headlines were wrong. Some key points: The so-called “Steele dossier” was, actually, crucial to the FBI’s decision to seek secret surveillance of Page. Press figures have derided the idea that Steele was crucial to the FISA application, with some insisting it was only a “small part” of the application. Horowitz is clear: We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order.  The report describes how, prior to receiving Steele’s reports, the FBI General Counsel (OGC) and/or the National Security Division’s Office of Intelligence (OI) wouldn’t budge on seeking FISA authority. But after getting the reports, the OGC unit chief said, “receipt of the Steele reporting changed her mind on whether they could establish probable cause.” Meanwhile, the OI unit chief said Steele’s reports were “what kind of pushed it over the line.”  There’s no FISA warrant without Steele. Horowitz ratifies the oft-denounced “Nunes memo.”Democrats are not going to want to hear this, since conventional wisdom says former House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes is a conspiratorial evildoer, but the Horowitz report ratifies the major claims of the infamous “Nunes memo.” As noted, Horowitz establishes that the Steele report was crucial to the FISA process, even using the same language Nunes used (“essential”). He also confirms the Nunes assertion that the FBI double-dipped in citing both Steele and a September 23, 2016 Yahoo! news story using Steele as an unnamed source. Horowitz listed the idea that Steele did not directly provide information to the press as one of seven significant “inaccuracies or omissions” in the first FISA application...MORE

Forgive the lengthy excerpt, but this is significant as it was published in the left-leaning Rolling Stone. I encourage you to read the complete column.

We Just Got a Rare Look at National Security Surveillance. It Was Ugly.

When a long-awaited inspector general report about the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation became public this week, partisans across the political spectrum mined it to argue about whether President Trump falsely smeared the F.B.I. or was its victim. But the report was also important for reasons that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump. At more than 400 pages, the study amounted to the most searching look ever at the government’s secretive system for carrying out national-security surveillance on American soil. And what the report showed was not pretty. While clearing the F.B.I. of acting out of political bias, the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and his team uncovered a staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process in how the F.B.I. went about obtaining and renewing court permission under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. “The litany of problems with the Carter Page surveillance applications demonstrates how the secrecy shrouding the government’s one-sided FISA approval process breeds abuse,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “The concerns the inspector general identifies apply to intrusive investigations of others, including especially Muslims, and far better safeguards against abuse are necessary.” A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know. Congress enacted FISA in 1978 to regulate domestic surveillance for national-security investigations — monitoring suspected spies and terrorists, as opposed to ordinary criminals. Investigators must persuade a judge on a special court that a target is probably an agent of a foreign power. In 2018, there were 1,833 targets of such orders, including 232 Americans. Most of those targets never learn that their privacy has been invaded, but some are sent to prison on the basis of evidence derived from the surveillance. And unlike in ordinary criminal wiretap cases, defendants are not permitted to see what investigators told the court about them to obtain permission to eavesdrop on their calls and emails. Civil libertarians for years have called the surveillance court a rubber stamp because it only rarely rejects wiretap applications. Out of 1,080 requests by the government in 2018, for example, government records showed that the court fully denied only one...But the inspector general found major errors, material omissions and unsupported statements about Mr. Page in the materials that went to the court. F.B.I. agents cherry-picked the evidence, telling the Justice Department information that made Mr. Page look suspicious and omitting material that cut the other way, and the department passed that misleading portrait onto the court...MORE

Progressive groups unhappy with articles of impeachment

Rep. Tlaib
Liberal firebrand and longtime impeachment advocate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Tuesday that the articles of impeachment against President Trump do not go far enough. The same sentiment coursed through progressive circles, as liberal activists and far-left lawmakers bristled that Mr. Trump got off easy. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said she’ll settle for the two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — that were unveiled on Tuesday. “Of course, I am in the camp where I feel that there should have been more articles. I think obstruction of justice absolutely should have been an article. I’m also supportive of emoluments being included in the articles,” the freshman New York Democrat said. “I understand that the caucus is where it’s at and it took so long for us to get to this point that I’m glad that we have two.” Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat who earlier had introduced articles of impeachment against the president three times, felt similarly, telling The Washington Times he conveyed as much to his colleagues in a recent memo. However, he wouldn’t say whether he planned to try to introduce additional articles before the House votes. “We can wait to see if the Senate will convict and remove. But if they don’t, then there’s still work to be done,” he said. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who went viral for telling supporters on the night of her election that Democrats would “impeachment the m–––-r,” also criticized the scope of impeachment resolution as insufficiently racial. “Let’s be very clear: It’s *racist* abuse of power,” the Michigan Democrat tweeted. “This President targeted people solely based on their ethic background, their faith, disability, sexual orientation and even source of income.” Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez are members of a group of liberal freshman Democratic women known as “The Squad.” The group put pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, to pursue impeachment long before the Ukraine scandal that led to the articles announced Tuesday...MORE


On this date in 1914 war raged in Europe. America was not yet directly involved, but the conflict provided an economic opportunity. European imports would fall during the course of the war, which opened the door for American business as Americans had to buy American. The Washburn Leader predicted that American shoppers would continue that habit after the war. But there was another opportunity. This one was for American farmers and ranchers. The British Army needed horses and mules. Armies at that time ran primarily on real horsepower, and Europe was not able to provide all the horsepower needed. Horses and mules were crucial in World War I. They carried troops into battle. They pulled artillery and supplies to the front. They pulled the ambulances that evacuated the wounded. Nearly everything pulled or carried was attached to a horse or mule. British buyers were headquartered in Canada, but Canada did not have enough animals. So, the buyers ventured south to the United States. Being right on the Canadian border, North Dakota was well positioned to welcome them. Most of the more than one million American horses and mules in the war served before the United States officially joined the fight. North Dakota farmers and ranchers could demand high prices from the Europeans. The desperate buyers did not require animals to be well-trained. Many, in fact were what was called “green broke,” barely trained to lead with a halter. Physical ability was more important. Any sign of illness or physical deformities like swollen knees, breathing problems, or deformed hooves would be enough to disqualify an animal. Since it was apparent early on that cavalry would play a small role in the fighting, most of the animals were to be used as draft animals, so size was important. American cities had started to shift to motorized vehicles, but farmers still relied largely on real horsepower, so horses remained commonplace. Most of the buyers went to the Great Plains to look for animals, and while there is no breakdown on how many horses and mules came from each state, the need of the European armies had become an unexpected business opportunity for North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers. Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher

Colorado Ranchers Are Excited For The NAFTA Replacement, But Trade Experts Aren’t Sure It Will Change Much

Congress and the Trump administration are on track to finalize a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The new deal is known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA for short. This is welcome news to some folks in the state's agricultural sector, including Terry Swanson, who owns a ranch and a farm in southeast Colorado. "Mexico being our closest partner, and the comparative advantage to shipping things to Mexico is huge,” Swanson said. “The rising tide floats all boats. Everybody will be better with some good, solid trade agreements." Swanson said a number of factors over the last year have injected a lot of uncertainty into his livelihood. Todd Inglee agrees. He's the executive director of the Colorado Beef Council. "It's been a difficult year,” Inglee said. “There's been a lot of different things that have put pressure on ag producers whether it's been weather or these trade wars." Colorado exported $886 million worth of beef last year, up from $794 million in 2017. Inglee said Canada and Mexico are among the state's top export markets. But Philip Luck, a trade expert with the University of Colorado Denver, is less optimistic. "It's basically NAFTA 2.0,” Luck said. “In most ways, it's not a substantial change to NAFTA policy." The new deal would give the U.S. access to Canada’s dairy market, but Luck said that’s about all that would change for the agricultural industry...MORE

R-Calf Blasts New Nafta as Other Farmers Cheer

The American agriculture industry generally applauded a move to finalize the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free-trade agreement, with one notable exception. In a statement Tuesday, cattle producer group R-CALF USA blasted the deal, saying the failure to restore country of origin labeling, or COOL, on beef allows imported supplies to continue undercutting U.S. ranchers. The group said COOL rules for beef and pork that were repealed in 2016 would have allowed U.S. ranchers to “compete against the duty-free, cheaper and undifferentiated cattle and beef flowing into our country and depressing our markets.” Opposition to the deal was relatively limited as U.S. farmers should largely gain from tariff-free access to the neighboring countries. One big beneficiary would be beleaguered U.S. dairy farmers, who would get new access to Canada’s market Crop handler and processor Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. said USMCA will provide “meaningful benefits for agriculture and food industries in all three countries.” Meanwhile, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which represents cattle farmers and feeders, said: “There is no higher policy priority for America’s beef producers than maintaining our duty-free access to Canada and Mexico.” Yahoo

Probe clears Interior secretary after accusations of interfering with pesticide assessments

An internal watchdog investigation on Tuesday found no wrongdoing on the part of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt after he was accused of interfering in an assessment of the effects of pesticides on endangered species. The probe by the Interior Department's inspector general found that Bernhardt told a Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) team looking at possible effects of pesticides to change its methods and that he reviewed a draft opinion, according to a synopsis. Bernhardt had been the department's deputy secretary at the time. "This change has delayed the completion of the opinion, but we found no evidence that Bernhardt exceeded or abused his authority or that his actions influenced or altered the findings of career FWS scientists," the report said. "We also found no evidence that Bernhardt’s involvement in this matter violated his ethics pledge or Federal ethics regulations."...MORE

Barr thinks FBI may have acted in 'bad faith' in probing Trump campaign's links to Russia

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Barr essentially dismissed the findings of the Justice Department's inspector general that there was no evidence of political bias in the launching of the Russia probe, saying that his hand-picked prosecutor, John Durham, will have the last word on the matter. "I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press," Barr said. "I think there were gross abuses …and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI." "I think that leaves open the possibility that there was bad faith." Barr said he stood by his assertion that the Trump campaign was spied on, noting that the FBI used confidential informants who recorded conversations with Trump campaign officials. "It was clearly spied upon," he said. "That's what electronic surveillance is … going through people's emails, wiring people up." Barr portrayed the Russia investigation as a bogus endeavor that was foisted on Trump, rather than something undertaken by career civil servants who were concerned about whether a foreign power had compromised a political campaign. "From a civil liberties standpoint, the greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state … both to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of an election," Barr said. He added that this was the first time in history that "counterintelligence techniques" were used against a presidential campaign...MORE