Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spending talks nearly done, $1.3T bill soon to be unveiled (10% increase for agencies)

Talks over a $1.3 trillion government spending bill neared completion Wednesday as the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats ironed out deals on a first round of funding for President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. GOP aides said early Wednesday that Trump would win $1.6 billion for border wall and other physical barriers along the border, which would construct older wall designs, but that he would be denied a more recent, far larger $25 billion request for multi-year funding for the wall project. Democrats said just $641 million would go to new segments of fencing and walls that double as levees. The bill would give Trump a huge budget increase for the military, while Democrats would cement wins on infrastructure and other domestic programs that they failed to get under President Barack Obama. Battles over budget priorities in the huge bill were all settled, while a handful of non-budget issues remained, including a GOP effort to fix a poorly drafted section of the recent tax cut law that is harming Midwestern grain companies. The measure on the table would provide major funding increases for the Pentagon — $80 billion over current limits — bringing the military budget to $700 billion and giving GOP defense hawks a long-sought victory. Domestic accounts would get a generous 10 percent increase on average as well, awarding Democrats the sort of spending increases they sought but never secured during the Obama administration. Democrats touted almost $4 billion in total funding to fight the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, an almost $3 billion increase. More than $2 billion would go to strengthen school safety through grants for training, security measures and treatment for the mentally ill. Medical research at the National Institutes of Health, a longstanding bipartisan priority, would receive a record $3 billion increase to $37 billion. Community development block grants, which are flexible funds that are enormously popular with mayors and other local officials, appear set for a record increase despite being marked for elimination in Trump’s budget plan. And an Obama-era transportation grant program would see its budget tripled to $1.5 billion instead of being eliminated as Trump requested. Agencies historically unpopular with Republicans, such as the IRS, appear likely to get increases too, in part to prepare for implementation of the Republicans’ recently passed tax measure. The Environmental Protection Agency, always a GOP target, would have its budget frozen at $8 billion. The bill would add $143 billion over limits set under a 2011 budget and debt pact that forced automatic budget cuts on annual agency appropriations. Coupled with last year’s tax cuts, it heralds the return of trillion-dollar budget deficits as soon as the budget year starting in October. Republican conservatives are dismayed by the free-spending measure, which means Democratic votes are required to pass it. That gave Democrats leverage to force GOP negotiators to drop numerous policy riders that Democrats considered poison pills...MORE

Employee of liberal activist group charged with assaulting Zinke staffer

An operative for American Bridge 21st Century, a pro-Democrat political action committee, has been charged with assaulting a staffer working for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, according to The Associated Press. Wilfred Stark was charged with simple assault after he allegedly approached Zinke, yelling at him, outside of a hearing. Stark then “used his full body to push” Zinke's spokeswoman, Heather Swift, as she moved to leave the room, according to the police report cited by the AP. “He is a big guy. He came up behind me fast, aggressive and very physical,” Swift said in a statement to the AP on Monday, calling the encounter "terrifying." “Who knows what this lunatic was thinking?” she said. “But being physically targeted and assaulted brings it to another level,” she continued. “This violent action only strengthens my desire to serve my president and my country.” “Democrats claim to support women but they allow their operatives to assault women,” Swift said. “They need to immediately denounce this type of violent behavior.”...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Let's have some rockabilly to get you through hump day. That's Where I Went Wrong is a 2007 recording by the Starline Rhythm Boys.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fixing what is broken: A bipartisan solution for our national parks

Infrastructure plays a larger role in our national parks than most people realize. The sheer amount and scale of assets owned by the NPS helps put the significant need to reduce the maintenance backlog in perspective. For instance, there are roughly 5,500 miles of paved roads in our parks (more public road miles than in the state of Hawaii), 1,700 bridges and tunnels (more than New York City), more than 17,000 miles of trails, and nearly 1,300 campgrounds. The NPS maintains more than 24,000 buildings (including over 500 visitor centers), 425 park lodges and hotel buildings, and 3,870 housing units all lit by more than 500 electrical systems. All of this is undergirded by 1,000 miles of water pipelines serving 1,500 water systems, 1,800 wastewater systems and 3,700 restrooms.
It’s obvious that the NPS’ infrastructure is massive. But much of it is languishing due to neglect, old age, and decades of misplaced priorities in Washington. We must do something to tackle this problem soon. With the recent NPS centennial spurring visitation, national parks are becoming more popular than ever, with 331 million visitors in 2017 alone.
...All sides agree that maintenance should be our top priority right now. That’s why Congress, the Department of the Interior, and the White House are coming together to support legislation to tackle this national challenge. After all, this isn’t a partisan issue; this is about prioritizing maintenance of the parks we all love and want to preserve for future generations.
Part of the solution is the creation of a dedicated fund that would draw a stable revenue stream from energy leases the federal government owns, as has been proposed in the President’s FY2019 budget. While some may object to using oil and gas leasing revenues to promote conservation, this isn’t a new idea. It has been a longstanding policy and priority of the United States to be good stewards of the revenues created by energy production to further conservation efforts. In fact, this is a similar type of funding method used in the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

There is always "bipartisan" support for spending more.
Before we do that, some questions need to be answered.
Over the same amount of time this maintenance backlog was accruing, how much was spent for land acquisition?  Where would the backlog stand if all the money for land acquisition had been spent on maintenance? And how much of that $11 billion is attributed to these new acquisitions?
Shouldn't there be a trade off here? No moneys for acquisition until the backlog is met? After all, lands could still be acquired by exchange.
Further, we know there are many Parks that aren't really deserving of that designation. They are only there because a particular Rep. or Senator  was in a powerful enough position  to have them so designated.  We have a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) to address this issue for military bases. Isn't it time we have a  PRAC to review our national parks and monuments?
Congress should consider both of the above as part of any proposal to increase spending for our park system.

The desert, divided

...Bruce Bracker’s grandparents moved to Nogales and purchased an Army surplus store in 1924. Over time, Bracker’s evolved into one of Ambos Nogales’s best-known department stores, selling tailored men’s clothing, evening dresses, fur coats. (Grijalva purchased his first pair of Levi’s there.) But in the fall of 2017, Bracker shuttered his store... For three generations, Bracker’s business relied on the easy flow of shoppers across Arizona’s southern border. But more restrictive border policies meant his customers couldn’t reach his store anymore. Eighty percent of them came from Mexico, Bracker said, and the other 20 percent earned their income there. The store was 100 percent dependent on Mexico. “We made it through the Depression, but we could not make it through the last eight years,” he said. With more than 300 vacancies, Nogales has some of the most severe port of entry staffing shortages, according to the union that represents Border Patrol agents. The lines to enter the U.S. for a day have become so onerous that shoppers with money to burn are turning to Mexican stores instead, Bracker said. In the Borderlands, commerce goes two ways, a reality that outsiders sometimes miss.
“The commerce coming into the country, the travelers coming into the country through these ports of entry, are really what create economic security in the border states,” said Bracker, who is now a supervisor for Santa Cruz County, in southern Arizona. While the country debates stopping the flow of people across the U.S.-Mexico border, Bracker works to make that flow more efficient. He focused first on renovating ports of entry in Arizona, and now he wants more Border Patrol agents so that more lanes can stay open. But Border Patrol’s staffing troubles create a shortage that’s throttling local commerce.
...The border backup is just one problem that Bracker is wrestling with these days. He and other Borderlands county commissioners have organized a committee to pressure the state to help deal with these issues. Bracker worries about maintaining roads and rerouting traffic when he has the tax base of a rural community and the road traffic of one of the region’s largest overland ports of entry. And road maintenance is absolutely essential: At the height of the busy season, 1,400 trucks per day carry winter vegetables through town. Thousands of eighteen-wheelers rumble down these roads each year, moving produce and supplies both north and south of the border. But Bracker also doesn’t want Mariposa — the Nogales port of entry used by trucks — to lose shipments to Texas or California. Bracker recalled learning of much shorter wait times at other states’ ports of entry and realizing, “We’re gonna get our a--...” He stopped himself, noted that I was recording his words, and tried a different analogy. “Houston, we have a problem.” In 2010, Arizona broke ground on an updated Mariposa port of entry in Nogales. Bracker believes average wait times for trucks have gone down from three or four hours to under one hour, although I could not confirm this, because the Border Patrol does not accurately measure wait times for trucks crossing the border.

New evidence for plume beneath Yellowstone National Park

A pair of researchers from the University of Texas has found what they claim is evidence of a plume beneath Yellowstone National Park. In their paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Stephen Grand and Peter Nelson further propose that the plume is part of a zone that runs to the park all the way from Mexico. A plume is a still theoretical abnormality that lies at the boundary between the Earth's core and the mantle, and rises through the mantle into the crust—an abnormality that would exist as a vertical stream of magma. As the researchers note, the prospect of a plume beneath Yellowstone has been strongly debated—some have suggested a plume would explain the source of the heat that drives so much surface activity in the park. Others disagree pointing out that it could just as easily be explained by shallow subduction or lithospheric processes. In this new effort, the researchers have taken a new approach to studying the hot spot—they used seismic data obtained from EarthScope's USArray—a project that placed geologic listening stations across North America. The researchers found what they describe as "a long, thin, sloping zone" (approximately 72 by 55 kilometers in size) inside of the mantle where seismic waves were traveling slower than the areas around them—this suggests a section of the mantle that is approximately 600 to 800° C degrees warmer than surrounding areas, and offers strong evidence of a plume..MORE 


Dozens of activists protest Las Cruces City Council vote on gun resolution

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - After more than three hours of heated debate, the Las Cruces City Council voted to table vote on a gun control resolution. Monday, dozens of Second Amendment activists crowded the Las Cruces City Hall ahead of the vote. The resolution that was in question, to "better ensure the safety of students in Las Cruces schools," will not have any immediate effect on City policy. It was proposed by City Councilman Greg Smith, who represents district two. While dozens were against it, some supported the resolution because of shooting threats at Las Cruces schools and around the country. Multiple gun advocates carried semi-automatic rifles into the city council chambers, which is not against any city law. "We've gotten your attention with this resolution," Smith said, acknowledging the packed city council chambers. "My hope is we get the attention of our legislators when it goes forward."...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

The Andrews Brothers and their 1955 recording of Hot to Trot is our selection for today.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tribe clashes with Zinke on need for Mexican border wall

A Native American tribal leader whose territory straddles the Arizona-Mexico border is criticizing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his suggestion that building a wall would increase security, saying it would have "substantial negative impacts." The chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation said in a letter to Zinke on Saturday that the tribe opposes a "fortified" wall, adding that the tribe has enacted dozens of resolutions against it. "It is equally clear to us that construction of a wall simply will not further the objective of security the border," Edward Manuel, the tribe's chairman wrote. "Accordingly, the construction of a wall along the Nation's border will waste taxpayer money that would be much better spent on more effective safety measures." The comments followed Zinke's visit to the Arizona border on Saturday. While there, he tweeted a number of photos thanking Border Patrol agents, as well as one that called his meeti theng with Manuel "productive" and said the two had a shared interest in building a wall...MORE

 As one reads the Chairman's comments, keep in mind the Tohono O’odham reservation has served as a major pathway used by the cartels to move illegal immigrants and drugs. See here and here.. And is even an area where there has been a documented incursion by the Mexican Military.

Ryan Zinke under fire for using Japanese term to greet Dem lawmaker: How could saying ‘Good morning’ be bad?’

Tom Tillison

The pettiness of hypersensitive progressive Democrats knows no bounds when it comes to obstructing the governing ability of the Trump White House. Interior Secretary finds himself the target of such pettiness after using the Japanese greeting “konnichiwa,” as he responded to a question from a lawmaker with Japanese ancestry. Zinke used the greeting at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee in an apparent show of respect for her heritage after Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, asked about funding for the Japanese American Confinement Sites program. “I think it’s still ‘ohayo gozaimasu,’ but that’s okay,” Hanabusa said, correcting the secretary. Democrat lawmakers and their media allies were immediately outraged, saying that Zinke was advancing negative stereotypes about Japanese Americans. Learn more about RevenueStripe... Hanabusa was quick to play the race card, comparing the remark to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two — which took place under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “When @SecretaryZinke chose to address me in Japanese (when no one else was greeted in their ancestral language), I understood ‘this is precisely why Japanese Americans were treated as they were more than 75 years ago. It is racial stereotyping.” she tweeted. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, also got in on bashing the Trump administration official. “The internment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans is no laughing matter, @SecretaryZinke. What you thought was a clever response to @RepHanabusa was flippant & juvenile,” she tweeted...more

When will Zinke quit playing nice-nice with these dem. legislators?

Michael Martin Murphey's WestFest 2018

Michael Martin Murphey's WestFest 2018

WestFest returns to Red River, NMJuly 4-8, 2018
A celebration of the arts, culture, and music of the old and new west since 1987.

A Prairie Home Invasion

An old-fashioned “WANTED” poster hangs in the Capitol Hill offices of Senator Mike Lee. Rather than a notorious criminal, this one features the cartoon image of a Utah prairie dog. To most visitors this might seem like a joke. But for many of Senator Lee’s constituents in southwestern Utah, the rodent is no laughing matter.
The Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens) is one of five types of prairie dogs and is only found in southwestern Utah. Like other species of the rodent, Utah prairie dogs build extensive networks of burrows and tunnels, which provide their colonies shelter and a place to hibernate for four to six months of the year.
The species was pushed to the verge of extinction in the first half of the 20th century by a combination of human development and a federal extermination campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That campaign proved a bit too effective, however, and the species was listed as endangered as soon as the Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973.
With fecundity similar to rabbits, the population grew to more than 20,000 over the next decade, and its status under the act was changed from “endangered” to “threatened.” The population has exploded since then, with state surveys estimating it at around 90,000 today.
However, today’s population of Utah prairie dogs is very different from the one that existed a hundred or more years ago. The rodent’s natural habitat is semi-arid shrubs and grasslands. But these days they seem to prefer the suburbs and farmland, which provide abundant food and protection from predators. As of 2010, approximately 70 percent of Utah prairie dogs reside on private property, thanks in large part to the impacts of human development on the species.
The prairie dog’s affinity for residential and agricultural areas has predictably led to conflict. But fault does not lie with the prairie dog. The true culprit is an Endangered Species Act regulation that pits property owners and prairie dogs against each other.
That regulation broadly prohibits any activity that affects a single member of the species, even on private property, without a federal permit. However, most private property is categorically ineligible for permits. The regulation even forbids state biologists from moving prairie dogs from residential areas to state conservation lands, on pain of substantial fines and imprisonment. Consequently, the regulation blocks people from engaging in activities that most of us take for granted in our own communities—including building homes in residential neighborhoods, protecting private gardens, and enjoying public parks—and forbids the state and local governments from mediating conflicts.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Its Swingin' Monday and from their Tribute to Bob Wills we have Leon Rausch & Tommy Allsup and Honeysuckle Time In The Valley.