Thursday, July 02, 2020

Video shows park ranger shoot and kill unarmed Carlsbad Caverns visitor

Recently released videos from a body-camera worn by a National Park Ranger at Carlsbad Caverns National Park reveals the park visitor who he tased, then shot and killed did not provoke the use of force and was unarmed. Charles “Gage” Lorentz was traveling from his work site in Pecos, Texas on March 21. 2020 intending to head to his family’s home in Southwest Colorado. A report from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Department noted that he detoured at Carlsbad Caverns National Park to meet a friend. The report states National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell stopped him for speeding on a dirt road near the Rattlesnake Springs area of the park. The lapel video shows Ranger Mitchell ordered Lorentz to spread his feet and move closer to a railing. Lorentz is seen complying with those orders. But when the ranger orders Lorentz to turn around, Lorentz is seen in the video not complying and dancing to nearby music playing from someone’s vehicle. Ranger Mitchell commanded Lorentz to take his hands out of his pockets, and without warning or an announcement that force will be used; Ranger Mitchell deployed his Taser at Lorentz. The video abruptly ends when the Taser is deployed. Twenty-six seconds of the video is missing, but when the video resumes, the video shows Ranger Mitchell on top of Lorentz. That’s when the ranger shot him twice with his service gun...MORE

Democrat hypocrisy: Private Security for Themselves, Defund Police and Banning Carrying Concealed Handguns for Others

John R. Lott, Jr.

Do you want to understand what defunding the police really means? Just look at the looting and violence that happened when police were ordered to stand down during recent riots.
Liberal Democrat council members voted unanimously on Friday to defund the police and have opposed private citizens carrying guns for protection. But perhaps Minneapolis City Council members actually do understand the safety concerns of their city’s citizens. After all, they have a solution when it comes to protecting themselves: private security guards.
Indeed, the council has spent $63,000 over the last three weeks to provide security for three members. That is $7,000 a week per council member. The mayor has his own security detail provided by the police department. 
...The city council has been very vocal in its advocacy for strict gun control, supporting seemingly every gun control policy that has been put forward. These politicians prevent citizens from protecting themselves at a time when police protection cannot be depended on. Not everyone can afford to spend $7,000 a week on their own private security guards.

More New York Times Insanity: Hawaiian Shirts as Symbols of Extremism

P.J. Gladnick

The New York Times has identified a new villain in their insane cancel culture wars. Hawaiian shirts. I kid you not.
On Monday, freelancer Nathan Taylor Pemberton targeted Hawaiian shirts because some undesirable people wear them. His warning about the dire associations connected with that ubiquitous article of clothing came in "What Do You Do When Extremism Comes for the Hawaiian Shirt?"
It’s one of the most discussed street styles of the spring: tactical body armor, customized assault rifles, maybe a sidearm and helmet, paired with the languid floral patterns of a Hawaiian shirt.
While it’s not uncommon to see heavily armed white men toting military-grade gear on American streets, the addition of the Hawaiian shirt is a new twist. It turned up in February at gun rights rallies in Virginia and Kentucky, then in late April at coronavirus lockdown protests in Michigan and Texas.
Think of the shirts as a campy kind of uniform, but for members of extremist groups who adhere to the idea of the “boogaloo” — or, a second civil war in the United States. If that sounds silly to you, consider that these groups settled on the Hawaiian shirt thanks to a string of message board in-jokes.

Breakdown: The unwinding of law and order in our cities has happened with stunning speed

It took several months for the first iteration of the Ferguson Effect to become obvious. Michael Brown was fatally shot by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in August 2014, triggering local riots and a national narrative about lethally racist police. Officers backed off proactive policing in minority neighborhoods, having been told that such discretionary enforcement was racially oppressive. By early 2015, the resulting spike in shootings and homicides had become patent and would lead to an additional 2,000 black homicide victims in 2015 and 2016, compared with 2014 numbers.
Today’s violent-crime increase—call it Ferguson Effect 2.0 or the Minneapolis Effect—has come on with a speed and magnitude that make Ferguson 1.0 seem tranquil. George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May was justly condemned—but the event has now spurred an outpouring of contempt against the pillars of law and order that has no precedent in American history. Every day, another mainstream institution—from McDonald’s to Harvard—denounces the police, claiming without evidence that law enforcement is a threat to black lives.
To be sure, the first manifestation of the Black Lives Matter movement had a mouthpiece in the Oval Office, lacking now. It doesn’t matter. Presidential imprimatur or no, the reborn Black Lives Matter has gained billions of dollars in corporate support, more billions in free round-the-clock media promotion, and a ruthless power to crush dissent from the now-universal narrative about murderous police bigots. During the two weeks of national anarchy that followed the death of George Floyd, cops were shot, slashed, and assaulted; their vehicles and station houses were firebombed and destroyed. American elites stayed silent. Since then, police have continued to be shot at and attacked; the elites remain silent. Monuments to America’s greatest leaders are being defaced with impunity; anarchists took over a significant swathe of a major American city, including a police precinct, without resistance from the authorities. And a push to defund the police gains traction by the day.
The rising carnage in the inner city is the consequence of this official repudiation of the criminal-justice system. The current tolerance and justification for vandalism and violence; the silencing of police supporters; and police unwillingness to intervene, even when their own precincts are assaulted—all send a clear message to criminals that society has lost the will to prevent lawlessness. In Minneapolis, shootings have more than doubled this year compared to last. Nearly half of all those shootings have occurred since George Floyd’s death, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune analysis. On Father’s Day, a mass shooting on a crowded street uptown struck 11 people. The next day saw a chain of retaliatory shootings—the first next to a park filled with children, the next, 90 minutes later, on a notorious gang-dominated street intersection. In nearby St. Paul, reported firearms discharges have more than doubled. The same gangbangers are getting shot repeatedly. One 17-year-old boy has been shot in four different events over the last month and a half.
In Chicago, 18 people were killed and 47 wounded in drive- and walk-by shootings last weekend. The fatalities included a one-year-old boy riding in a car with his mother (the gunman drove up alongside and emptied his gun into the vehicle) and a 10-year-old girl struck in the head inside her home; a group of youth on the street outside her house had started shooting at another group of youth nearby. The previous weekend in Chicago, 104 people were shot, 15 fatally. The deceased included a three-year-old boy riding in a car with his father on Father’s Day—his gangbanger father was the intended victim—and a 13-year-old girl shot in her head in her home.
New York City’s homicide rate is at a five-year high; the number of shooting victims was up over 42 percent through June 21 compared with the same period in 2019. The number of shootings in the first three weeks of June was over twice that of the same period in 2019, making this June the city’s bloodiest in nearly a quarter century, according to the New York Times. At 4 a.m. last Sunday, a 30-year-old woman was shot in the head in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at a house party. On Saturday afternoon, a man and a woman were shot to death outside a Brooklyn home. Early Friday morning, a 19-year-old girl was shot to death in the heart of Manhattan, near Madison Square Park, on East 26th Street.
Milwaukee’s homicides have increased 132 percent. “In 25 years, I’ve never seen it like this,” a Milwaukee police inspector told the Police Executive Research Forum, referring to the violence and the low officer morale. Shootings are spiking in Indianapolis. Other cities will show similar increases once their crime data are published.
By now, these drearily mindless gang shootings echo one another. Another three-year-old boy was shot in Chicago with his gangbanger father on another Father’s Day, this one in 2016; the boy is paralyzed for life. The young children recently shot inside their homes also recall Ferguson 1.0 incidents. In August 2016, a nine-year-old girl was shot to death in Ferguson on her mother’s bed while doing homework. The gunman was a 21-year-old felon on probation from a robbery conviction who deliberately shot at least six bullets into the home, located near a memorial for Michael Brown. But the pedigree of these domestic drive-bys is longer and more ominous. In New York, children used to sleep in bathtubs before Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton began restoring lawfulness to the city in 1994; we are fast returning to that pre-Giuliani era.
So far this year, more people have been killed in Baltimore than at this point in 2019, which ended with the highest homicide rate on record for that city...


Universities Sowing the Seeds of Their Own Obsolescence

Victor Davis Hanson

When mobs tore down a statue of Ulysses S. Grant and defaced a monument to African American veterans of the Civil War, many people wondered whether the protesters had ever learned anything in high school or college.
Did any of these iconoclasts know the difference between Grant and Robert E. Lee? Could they recognize the name "Gettysburg"? Could they even identify the decade in which the Civil War was fought?
Universities are certainly teaching our youth to be confident, loud and self-righteous. But the media blitz during these last several weeks of protests, riots and looting also revealed a generation that is poorly educated and yet petulant and self-assured without justification.
Many of the young people on the televised front lines of the protests are in their 20s. But most appear juvenile, at least in comparison to their grandparents -- survivors of the Great Depression and World War II.
How can so many so sheltered and prolonged adolescents claim to be all-knowing?
Ask questions like these, and the answers ultimately lead back to the university.
Millions of those who graduate from college or drop out do so in arrears. There is some $1.5 trillion in aggregate student debt in the U.S. Such burdens sometimes delay marriage. They discourage child-rearing. They make home ownership hard -- along with all the other experiences we associate with the transition to adulthood.
The universities, some with multibillion-dollar endowments, will accept no moral responsibility. They are not overly worried that many of their indebted graduates discover their majors don't translate into well-paid jobs or guarantee employers that grads can write, speak or think cogently.
One unintended consequence of the chaotic response to the COVID-19 epidemic and the violence that followed the police killing of George Floyd is a growing re-examination of the circumstances that birthed the mass protests.
There would be far less college debt if higher education, rather than the federal government, guaranteed its own students' loans. If universities backed loans with their endowments and infrastructure, college presidents could be slashing costs. They would ensure that graduates were more likely to get good-paying jobs thanks to rigorous coursework and faculty accountability.
Taxpayers who are hectored about their supposed racism, homophobia and sexism don't enjoy such finger-wagging from loud, sheltered, 20-something moralists. Perhaps taxpayers will no longer have to subsidize the abuse if higher education is deemed to be a politicized institution and thus its endowment income ruled to be fully taxable.
If socialism has become a campus creed, maybe Ivy League schools can be hit with an annual "wealth tax" on their massive endowments in order to redistribute revenue to poorer colleges.
It is hard to square the circle of angry graduates having no jobs with their unaccountable professors who so poorly trained students while enjoying lifelong tenure. Why does academia guarantee lifetime employment to those who cannot guarantee that a graduate gets a decent job?

NY Times Takes Aim at Mount Rushmore as Racist

Joining the U.S. resistance chorus condemning the Mount Rushmore national landmark before
President Donald Trump’s July 3 celebratory visit, The New York Times labels it racist, too.
...But the Times makes a case Mount Rushmore might be a target for destruction.
“Native Americans have long criticized the sculpture, in part because it was built on what had been Indigenous land,” the Times wrote. “And more recently, amid a nationwide movement against racism that has toppled statues commemorating Confederate generals and other historical figures, some activists have called for Mount Rushmore to close.
“Critics of the monument have also taken issue with the men whose faces were etched into the granite,” it continued, noting “each of these titans of American history has a complicated legacy. Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders. Roosevelt actively sought to Christianize and uproot Native Americans as the United States expanded.
“. . . And although Lincoln was behind the Emancipation Proclamation — a move some have characterized as reluctant and late — he has been criticized for his response to the so-called Minnesota Uprising, in which more than 300 Native Americans were sentenced to death by a military court after being accused of attacking white settlers in 1862.”

Law prof wants to scrap US Constitution's 'racist' and 'gendered' language

Maria Copeland

A law professor is calling for changes to the “outdated” language of the Constitution.
Richard Albert, a professor of law and government at the University of Texas-Austin, denounced the Constitution in an op-ed for The Hill published Tuesday, saying that “its gendered and racist words stand in the way of true reconciliation in this divided country and have no place in any modern society.”
Albert cites the 13th Amendment as an example of racism in the Constitution, saying that although it abolishes slavery it still includes the Fugitive Slave Clause; which, remaining in the Constitution, is “a painful reminder of America’s original sin.”
The Constitution’s language also discriminates based on gender, Albert says. It uses exclusively male pronouns when referring to the presidency, he points out, admitting that this did not prevent Hillary Clinton from running in 2016, but suggests that the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives -- Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.), 100 years prior to Clinton’s candidacy -- faced disapproval merely because the Constitution’s language only allowed for male leaders.
“Imagine how schoolchildren must feel when they read the Constitution in their basic civics course. Some will be made to feel less than welcome in their own country… The highest law of the land creates a hierarchy of citizenship.”
...“The Constitution is replete with obsolete and outdated language that weakens rather than enhances the feeling of belonging that a constitution should generate among a country’s citizens,” he concludes. “It is time to update the Constitution to reflect America’s modern values of equality and inclusion.”

EDITORIAL: Let states have more power to regulate meat processing

What is it they say about roads paved with good intentions? 
For about 50 years now, most of the meat we buy and sell in America is regulated by the federal government. You can slaughter any livestock you own and eat all the meat you get from it, but if you want to sell the meat, federal regulations come into play. 
The intention of the laws was to make meat safer for people to eat, but like so much the federal government does, even when the intent is sound, the outcomes are full of unintended consequences. 
In order for a meat processor to sell across state lines, its facilities need to be federally inspected. State-inspected facilities can only sell within Wyoming, which greatly limits their markets and therefore, their potential revenues. This creates barriers for new local butchers to set up shop, and so it’s not surprising they sometimes take orders months in advance.
It’s even more expensive for a facility to comply with the requirements of federal inspection, which opens up the facility to interstate markets. 
For this reason, smaller slaughterhouses that meet these requirements are exceedingly scarce. In a state that boasts 1.3 million cattle, Wyoming only has two federally inspected facilities that slaughter cattle, and both of them have come online only in the past few years. 
According to a Wyoming Business Council study released in February, the total estimated annual slaughtering capacity for state and federally inspected facilities in the state is about 21,000 animals. Federally inspected facilities account for about a third of that. Only about 10% of the state’s total meat processing capacity is in the Big Horn Basin. 
Federal law requires that state regulations be at least as strict as the federal ones, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that state-inspected facilities can’t sell across state lines. 
With the paucity of local meat processing, cattle ranchers are largely at the mercy of four large conglomerates, which process 80% of all beef in America. At a time when beef prices are soaring at the supermarket, processors are paying less than ever. 
In May, attorney generals in Wyoming and 10 other states asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the four big meatpackers for predatory pricing. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, it’s treating a symptom of a much wider problem. So long as federal regulations make it cost-prohibitive to invest in local processing, the big four meatpackers are going to control most of the market in this country. 
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., introduced the Expanding Markets for State-Inspected Meat Processors Act of 2020, which would allow state-inspected facilities to sell meat across state lines. If passed, it would not only expand the markets available to existing local meatpackers, it would encourage investment in new ones. 
This would create jobs, bring down meat prices and create a lot more competition against the big meat packers, without making our meat any less safe for consumers. 
The federal government needs to relax its grip on meat processing and put more oversight in the hands of the state. The free market will do the rest. 

Trump planning NEPA unveiling

 From Politico newsletter this morning:
TRUMP PLANNING NEPA UNVEILING: President Donald Trump is expected to reveal final changes to a bedrock environmental permitting law at a mid-July event in a battleground state, industry sources told ME. The sources said the White House hasn't decided exactly where to unveil alterations to the National Environmental Policy Act, which outlines the process for environmental permitting reviews for federal projects. They said the administration believes the public appearance will underscore a desire for Trump, who participated in a January event on proposed changes, to channel his inner builder.
The NEPA changes cleared the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs this week, but it will take some time for the Federal Register to process the changes. Industry sources said it's not exactly clear what has changed between proposed and final versions, adding that Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Mary Neumayr has kept deliberations completely internal. White House spokesman Judd Deere said the White House has no scheduling announcements at this time and would not comment on ongoing rulemaking.
Many expect proposed measures intended to streamline environmental reviews to remain in the final version, said Chad Whiteman, vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has taken the industry lead on NEPA. Those items include deadlines on environmental impact statements and the less cumbersome environmental assessments, more clearly defining what agencies must consider as part of their reviews and designating lead agencies for projects rather than have individual departments each conduct their own separate reviews.
Democrats and Republicans alike have complained of the long permitting process beleaguering everything from renewable power transmission lines to pipelines. But environmentalists and Democrats are concerned the rule could eliminate public input. They're also worried that the proposal's cutting the need to weigh the "cumulative" effects of projects would eliminate climate change considerations, and exacerbate existing environmental justice issues, Christy Goldfuss, the former Obama CEQ chief now at the Center for American Progress, said in Senate testimony on Wednesday.

Burger King, Cargill and WWF Launch Grassland Restoration Project

As global demand for protein increases, ranchers, agribusinesses, restaurants and conservation partners are coming together to feed a growing population, address climate change and protect the planet. Burger King® restaurants and Cargill are teaming up with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and ranchers within the Northern Great Plains to launch a three-year grasslands restoration program. This initiative brings together two major companies who deliver beef to Americans to support the rehabilitation of less productive soil into thriving ecosystems– with cattle playing a critical role. Through reseeding, the program aims to convert nearly 8,000 acres of marginal cropland throughout Montana and South Dakota to ecologically diverse grasslands with beef cattle as the primary grazers in the ecosystem to maintain it. If successful, the program is projected to save the carbon equivalent of driving nearly 70 million miles in an average passenger vehicle. “We recognize the powerful opportunities we have to advance sustainability in food production together. Through our parent company’s Restaurant Brands for Good framework, we have showcased our commitment to implementing more sustainable business practices,” said, Matthew Banton, Global Head of Innovation and Sustainability for Burger King. “Via the Grasslands Restoration project, we are proactively engaging with our peers, experts and industry stakeholders to help advance beef sustainability and mitigate the effects of climate change.” According the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the North American beef supply chain is already more than 35% more efficient from a GHG perspective than the global average. The project builds on the strong leadership of farmers and ranchers in this region, by providing additional opportunities to expand their grazing land...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Mine, All Mine by Jimmy Wakely (1948) is our selection today. THE WESTERNER


Wednesday, July 01, 2020

House approves $1.5T green infrastructure plan

House Democrats on Wednesday passed a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan that would surge funding to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges while setting aside funds for broadband, schools and hospitals. The legislation was approved in a largely party-line 233 to 188 vote after the White House issued a veto threat. President Trump criticized it as “full of wasteful ‘Green New Deal’ initiatives,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not expressed an interest in bringing it to the Senate floor. “Naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate,” the leader said on the Senate floor Wednesday. Much of the $500 billion in transportation funding in the Moving Forward Act is tied to green measures that require states to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and make other climate conscious efforts. “We are going to deal with the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States of America here and now, today, this week. We're starting,” House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said, noting that the legislation comes as the country faces a severe economic recession. “We're going to need millions of good paying jobs, and these aren't just construction jobs. They’re design, they’re engineering, they’re small business, they're manufacturing. There's a host of people, everybody will be touched by this bill, and the investments will provide returns, many, many times over.” The bill’s focus on carbon reduction efforts marks a significant shift in transportation funding. In addition to highway funding, it gears more money toward public transit, rewarding systems with more frequent service — a key metric for recruiting riders — rather than low operating costs. It includes a large suite of tax breaks for renewables and other clean energy efforts, and offers grant funding for zero-emissions buses, electrifying the postal service fleet, and retrofitting schools and other large buildings while offering up weatherizing assistance for homeowners...MORE

Ex-George W. Bush officials launch new group supporting Joe Biden

A group of former George W. Bush administration and campaign officials has launched a new super PAC to mobilize disaffected Republican voters for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The group, launched Wednesday under the name "43 Alumni for Biden," "seeks to unite and mobilize a community of historically Republican voters who are dismayed and disappointed by the damage done to our nation by Donald Trump's presidency," according to a release. The formation of the group is the latest example of efforts being made by anti-Trump Republicans to defeat the President in November. Karen Kirksey, the director of the committee and who worked on the Bush 2000 election campaign and in the Labor and Agriculture Departments, said the endorsement of Biden is "not necessarily in full support of his political agenda but rather in full agreement with the urgent need to restore the soul of this nation." Kristopher Purcell, who worked in the Office of Communications in the White House and in the State Department during the Bush administration, told CNN that about 200 former officials and those who were part of the Bush campaigns have joined the group. "A lot of us who worked in government, who have held positions of public integrity, we know what normal is," he told CNN. "We're seeing now what abnormal is and we're seeing the damage it can do to the country. We're seeing the way it can divide the country." "The reason we're supporting former Vice President Biden," he continued, "is we believe he can bring stability to the country and honor and integrity back to the White House. The leadership and moral authority of the United States has been incredibly damaged."Last month, a group of Republican operatives launched "Right Side PAC," that, according the group's founder Matt Borges, will work to turn "that group of Republicans who feels that Donald Trump is an existential threat to the country and this party." A group called Republican Voters Against Trump launched a $10 million ad campaign in May targeting GOP-leaning voters in top swing states to encourage them to support Biden. And a group of "Never Trump" Republicans formed the Lincoln Project in late 2019 and have run negative ads that have drawn the ire of Trump...MORE

This, even more than the Romney group, demonstrates the establishment types in the party are definitely part of the deep state.  It also demonstrates these swamp dwellers care more about their party than, say, who gets appointed to the Supreme Court. In other words, they care more about the party than they care about protecting an individual's liberty and rights under the Constitution.

Coal's black cloud has a silver lining for the arid American west

The transition from coal power to natural gas and renewables in the West is picking up steam. That shift has important implications for carbon mitigation, but it also has produced an often overlooked yet suddenly significant development: the release of water previously needed for cooling coal-fired power plants for other uses. Access to water, in large part supervised by the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management, is perhaps the major issue in the arid West. Unlike in the water-abundant East, where property owners are free to draw at will from streams, rivers, and lakes, in the West, water is allocated under a prior appropriation doctrine, which assigns water rights to people located upstream, provided it is taken for “beneficial use.” Conflict is inevitable without well-functioning markets for water rights. As coal plants across the West, from Arizona to Oregon and Washington, continue to close as a result of competition from cheap natural gas and subsidies for solar and wind power, small towns like Craig, Colorado, located on the western slope of the Rockies with nearly 9,000 residents, hundreds of whom work in the coal industry, will have the option of buying the coal plant’s water rights when it is mothballed in 2030. Craig’s local economy can be transformed by the availability of new water supplies. The same possibility is opening in many other cities and towns throughout the West. The transformation is underway at a time when water conservation is an unusually high priority because years of drought have left rivers, lakes, and reservoirs alarmingly low. Cooling a coal plant uses huge amounts of water. The one in Craig consumes an average 16,000 acre-feet of water every year, sucking up water that could supply as many as 32,000 households. The bad news from coal’s demise is that thousands more coal industry workers nationwide will lose their jobs. (Industry employment is down by roughly 100,000 since the late 1980s). The good news is that once the last western coal plant is closed, more water will be available for residential and recreational use as well as for ranching and farming...MORE

Earl Scruggs mural painted in downtown Shelby, NC

Shelby, NC, the birthplace of Earl Scruggs and the home of the Earl Scruggs Center, has set aside funding for murals of both Scruggs and country legend Don Gibson, also a hometown boy. Destination Cleveland County and Uptown Shelby Association announced the project today, along with news of the completion of the Scruggs portrait, which emblazons the pedestrian alley side of Newgrass Brewing Company, just one block from the Earl Scruggs Center. Patrons of the brewery will sit at outdoor dining tables alongside the mural, which is taken from one of the most iconic photos taken of Earl as a young man when he first joined the Blue Grass Boys. Eagle-eyed banjo aficionados will note that he is playing a style 11 banjo, before he acquired the Hearts & Flowers Granada so commonly associated with him during his time with Flatt & Scruggs. Work on the Gibson mural is set to begin soon. It will be located on the building that houses Miss Molly’s Boutique, which was the one-time residence of Don’s wife, Mrs. Bobbi Gibson. Scott Nurkin of The Mural Shop in Chapel Hill, NC, is the painter for both projects, as a part of the North Carolina Musician Murals Project. He says that it gives him great pride to be able to remember them in this way...MORE

FBI gun background checks set new record in June amid coronavirus, rioting fears

Background checks for gun sales surged again in June, smashing the record for the highest number of background checks in a single month, according to FBI data released Wednesday. The FBI said it conducted 3.9 million checks in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), shattering the previous record of 3.7 million checks in March. And the number of checks represents a 70 percent increase over June 2019. NICS checks are a rough estimate of gun sales. Fueled by fears over the coronavirus and, more recently, the violent riots that followed the death of George Floyd in late May, the FBI is close to smashing last year’s record for most background checks. Through the first six months of the year, the FBI has recorded 19 million background checks in NICS. That’s more than was recorded during the first 14 years of the system, which began in 1998. The FBI recorded 28 million background checks last year. Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting, which tracks gun industry data, estimates that 2.3 million guns were sold in June, which would be a 145.3 percent increase from June 2019...MORE

Farmers dial back crop plantings as COVID uncertainty rocks markets

U.S. farmers planted nearly 5 million fewer acres of corn this spring than estimated by the U.S. government in March, the biggest cut in 37 years, as the coronavirus pandemic roils demand for the crop. The drop in corn seedings, as well as an 11.1% cut in cotton plantings, accounted for the bulk of the U.S. Agriculture Department's 7.2 million-acre reduction to its estimate of the amount of major crops seeded this spring. Soybean plantings fell below market expectations, with export demand in focus due to uncertainty about purchases from China arising from trade tensions. Both corn and soybean futures soared to multi-month highs after the closely watched report was released. "We were planting into peak fear," said Ted Seifried, chief ag market strategist of the Zaner Group. "There was poor pricing, poor outlook in the market ... some guys not able to get into the fields - and we were in the middle of the pandemic."...MORE

Tiny Weed-Killing Robots Could Make Pesticides Obsolete

Clint Brauer’s farm outside of Cheney, Kansas, could be described as Old MacDonald’s Farm plus robots. Along with 5,500 square feet of vegetable-growing greenhouses, classes teaching local families to grow their food, a herd of 105 sheep, and Warren G—a banana-eating llama named after the rapper—is a fleet of ten, 140-pound, battery-operated robots. Brauer, the co-founder of Greenfield Robotics, grew up a farm kid. He left for the big city tech and digital world, but eventually made his way back to the family farm. Now, it’s the R&D headquarters for the Greenfield Robotics team, plus a working farm...When Brauer started thinking about which weed to target first, pigweed was an obvious first enemy. The pain-in-the-ass weed, also known as Palmer amaranth, claims the annoying weed holy grail — it is invasive, adaptive, and herbicide-resistant. A single plant, undeterred, can grow over six feet tall and produce up to half a million tiny seeds. It distributes easily, and young seedlings continue to germinate even after the cash crop is planted. Farmers have to keep working to get rid of it even after their crop starts growing, otherwise, it quickly takes over. Because it has become glyphosate-resistant, desperate farmers have increasingly turned to more aggressive chemical solutions. On a whim, Brauer threw a mower on his tractor and took it to a field that had been overtaken by the weed. He discovered that if mowed repeatedly, a few inches off the ground, the pigweed would eventually give up the fight and die. But when you mow down a field of pigweed, you’re mowing everything down. Including, technically, the crop you’re trying to grow. A standard-size tractor and mower won’t fit between rows of soy, corn, cotton, or any other broadacre crop, which are typically seeded in rows 30 inches apart. And a heavy tractor and mower can’t go into fields when it’s too wet, or they risk the catastrophe called “planting your tractor” — otherwise known as getting stuck. Plus, staying in front of pigweed’s lightning-fast growth rate would require an almost nonstop mowing regime. So, Brauer turned to robots. Autonomous mowing machines were small enough to fit between rows, light enough to work in muddy fields, and, the best part — they could do it by themselves. Better yet, a whole fleet of them could...MORE

Colorado GOP rep ousted in primary by “pistol-packing businesswoman”

...Even more surprising was the fact that they delivered some final results in relatively short order despite all of the pandemic madness, absentee ballots and general unrest. One race produced something of an upset when the Centennial State’s Third District Republican congressman, Scott Tipton, fell to his primary challenger. The victor was “pistol-packing businesswoman” Loren Boebert. Her pro-gun, pro-freedom and pro-Trump campaign appeared to resonate with voters, despite the fact that Tipton had largely been a staunch supporter of the President all along...One fun side note about Ms. Boebert involves her restaurant, the Shooters Grill. There is (or at least was) a prominent sign on the wall reading, “Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered, unless the need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated.” The restaurant also hosts certified concealed carry classes...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Slim Whitman - North Wind (1953) is our tune today. THE WESTERNER

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Democrats’ New Climate Plan Will Kill Endangered Species, Environmentalists Fear

Congressional Democrats today unveil a “Climate Crisis Action Plan” similar to the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last year, which sounded like a dream to many progressives and climate activists. At the heart of the proposal are billions in new subsidies and a federal mandate to achieve 100% renewables. The top item on the Democrats’ plan is, “Support rapid deployment of wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other zero-carbon energy sources and construction of new transmission infrastructure to deliver clean energy to homes.” There has already been widespread attention to the high economic cost of renewable energy mandates. University of Chicago economists found that “consumers in the twenty-nine states paid $125.2 billion more for electricity” because of them. But now, in response to a growing number of lawsuits and regulations, and a new Michael Moore documentary about the environmental impacts of renewables, the wind industry increasingly finds itself on the defensive. “Birds have evolved over hundreds of years to fly certain paths to migrate,” said New Hampshire-based environmentalist Lisa Linowes. “You can’t throw a turbine up in the way and expect them to adapt. It’s not happening.” “Democrats have been sold a false narrative by the industrial wind industry,” said Kevon Martis, a Michigan-based environmentalist and co-founder of the Energy and Wildlife Coalition with Linowes. “Many Democrats somehow imagine that industrial wind farms, which take hundreds of times more land than a natural gas plant, are better for the environment,” he added. Martis and other environmentalists are successfully stopping industrial wind farms across the US...MORE

Romney campaign veterans turn on Trump and GOP, back Biden

Veterans of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign are eyeing an alliance with Joseph R. Biden, looking to make a splash in announcing they have turned their backs on the GOP this year and will support the presumptive Democratic nominee instead. Micah Spangler, who was a staffer in southern Florida for the Republican Party during the race, told fellow campaign vets in emails Friday and over the weekend that he is working with the Biden team “to cultivate a network of Romney alums that want to help elect Joe in November.” In a separate email to The Washington Times, he said he has received an outpouring of support over the first few days but wouldn’t say what motivated him to flip. “Dozens and dozens of Romney 2012 staffers have ‘signed up’— and there’s plenty more outreach to do,” he said in the email. But some Romney campaign folks were indignant at the idea that anyone would leap from Mr. Romney to Mr. Biden, who as vice president was on the ticket in 2012 running against Mr. Romney. “I wish my former Romney teammates no personal ill-will. But I question the patriotism and wisdom of supporting Joe Biden, who would be a cultural and economic disaster for the country,” said Brett Doster, who was a senior adviser for Mr. Romney’s Florida effort in 2012. “The Biden leftists can’t wait to flush free markets, the Constitution and unborn babies all down the same socialist sewage pipe.” Andrew M. Bonderud, a lawyer who worked on the Romney campaign in Florida, said he didn’t remember Mr. Spangler but figured he was “probably a bit of an opportunist,” looking to capitalize on the possibility of a Biden victory. “I think it’s madness,” he said. “I suspect it’s going to have a small audience. Most of the people with whom I worked on the Romney campaign are supporting Trump.” What the effort does, though, is put Mr. Romney in a tricky spot. He was the GOP’s White House nominee in 2012, losing his bid to unseat President Obama in an election that Republicans had thought was winnable. He would go on to win a Senate seat from Utah in 2018, and in February he became the first senator in history to vote to convict and remove a president of his own party, siding with Democrats in their impeachment effort...MORE

U.S. Supreme Court allows public money for religious schools in major ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the separation of church and state in a major ruling on Tuesday by endorsing Montana tax credits that helped pay for students to attend religious schools, a decision paving the way for more public funding of faith-based institutions. In a 5-4 decision with the conservative justices in the majority and the liberal justices dissenting, the court backed a Montana program that gave tax incentives for people to donate to a scholarship fund that provided money to Christian schools for student tuition expenses. The ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, represented the court’s latest expansion of religious liberties, a priority of its conservative majority in recent years. The court sided with three mothers of Christian school students who appealed after Montana’s top court invalidated the tax credit for violating the state constitution’s ban on public aid to churches and religious entities. Thirty-eight states have such constitutional provisions. The justices faulted the Montana Supreme Court for voiding a taxpayer program merely because it can be used to fund religious entities, saying such action violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protection for the free exercise of religion. “A state need not subsidize private education,” Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”...MORE

Thorny issue: Ancient cacti uprooted for border wall construction

The Trump administration has been accused of destroying hundreds of ancient saguaro cacti in Arizona as Donald Trump’s border wall construction continues across the state. Environmental activists allege that “hundreds and hundreds of ancient saguaros” have been pulled down since border wall construction began. That includes saguaro uprooted within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an International Biosphere Reserve home to the protected cacti. Arizona state law prohibits anyone from harming, shooting or removing saguaros, which can grow to more than 45 feet in height and live up to 200 years, according to the US National Parks Service. Still, the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS) has uprooted hundreds along the border wall some 100 miles south of Yuma, Arizona, where president Trump celebrated 200 miles of wall being completed last week. An ex-Organ Pipe park contractor who now works with The Centre for Biological Diversity, Laiken Jordahl, has documented the destruction online...MORE

Oil major Shell to write down up to $22 billion of assets in second quarter

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell said on Tuesday it will write down the value of its assets by up to $22 billion in the second quarter, after revising down its long-term outlook for oil and gas prices. It comes after the energy company announced in mid-April an ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Shell said in a statement to investors that it had reviewed a significant portion of its business given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the “ongoing challenging commodity price environment.” It said it would take aggregate post-tax impairment charges in the range of $15 billion to $22 billion in the second quarter...MORE 

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Its Country Roots with the Blue Sky Boys performing I"m Troubled, I'm Troubled (1936). THE WESTERNER