Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sweet Sharon went out to her Chicken McMansion this morning to feed her chickens and gather eggs. She had gathered the eggs, when, even though its kinda dark in there with no lights, she noticed an egg down low. She bent over and reached for the egg…but stopped, as she wondered, “Why is that egg staring back at me?” Turns out the egg was in the mouth of a bull snake.
After considering her options for, I don’t know, maybe half a second, she decided to just let the damned ol’ snake have the egg. I surmise this was not good for Sweet Sharon’s blood pressure.
The whole episode must have affected the snake too. When Sharon went out later the snake was gone, but the egg was left there.
That wise old snake figured out what I learned a long time ago: You don’t mess with Sharon or her things!
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Backing away from attempts at censorship, the National Park Service on Friday released a report charting the risks to national parks from sea level rise and storms. Drafts of the report obtained earlier this year by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting showed park service officials had deleted every mention of humans causing climate change. But the long-delayed report, published Friday on the agency’s website, restored those references. The scientific report is designed to help 118 coastal parks plan for protecting natural resources and historic treasures from the changing climate. Maria Caffrey, the study’s lead scientist, said she was “extremely happy” that the report was released intact...MORE
Two Farmington schools were placed on lockdown this morning when a juvenile male accused of making two weapons in welding class at the Career and Technology Education (CATE) Center fled school grounds. A 15-year-old male student was arrested by Farmington Police Department officers and accused of felony counts of carrying or making a weapon on a school campus and larceny, along with a petty misdemeanor count of interference with the educational process, according to spokesperson Georgette Allen. He is accused of making two hatchets in a welding class at the CATE Center at 901 N. Court Ave., Allen said. A teacher confronted the student about the weapons, and he then fled school grounds. The CATE center was placed on emergency lockdown, and Farmington High School was placed on a preventive lockdown around 9:58 a.m., according to the Farmington Municipal School District and Farmington High School Facebook pages. The student was taken into custody by Farmington police around 10:25 a.m. The lockdowns then were lifted, according to the Farmington High School Facebook page. The student was apprehended at his residence...MORE
In April, President Trump pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr., top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted in an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. Now the president should do the same thing for Dwight L. Hammond, Jr., 76, and his son Steven Dwight Hammond, 49, long-suffering ranchers in rural Oregon.
...The Hammonds are the victims of one of the most egregious, indefensible and intolerable instances of prosecutorial misconduct in history. Their situation cries out for justice that can come only from President Trump.
The Hammonds’ crime? They set a legally permissible fire on their own property, which accidentally burned out of control onto neighboring federal land. Normally, that is an infraction covered by laws governing trespassing, and the guilty party is subject to paying for damages caused by the fire – if the neighboring land belongs to an ordinary citizen.
But not when a vindictive federal government is involved.
In the “high desert” environment of Harney County – and throughout the West – federal, state and private landowners use controlled or prescribed burns for prairie restoration, forest management and to reduce the buildup of underbrush that could fuel much bigger fires.
But sometimes the controlled fires get out of control and sweep onto neighbors’ land. That is legally deemed a trespass, and the landowner who set the fire is liable for any damages.
Only the federal government has the power to cite the trespasser criminally for his or her actions. That is what happened to the Hammonds.
It did not happen in a vacuum. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long coveted the Hammond Ranch for inclusion in its surrounding Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The federal agency pressured members of the Hammond family for decades to follow all of their neighbors in selling their property to the federal government.
...In 2001, after alerting the Bureau of Land Management, the Hammonds set a legal fire to eradicate noxious weeds. It spread onto 139 acres of vacant federal land. According to a government witness, the fire actually improved the federal land, as natural fires often do.
In 2006, Steven Hammond started another prescribed fire in response to several blazes ignited by a lightning storm near his family’s field of winter feed. The counter-blaze burned a single acre of federal land. According to Steven Hammond’s mother, “the backfire worked perfectly, it put out the fire, saved the range and possibly our home.”
The Bureau of Land Management took a different view. It filed a report with Harney County officials alleging several violations of Oregon law. However, after a review of the evidence, the Harney County district attorney dropped all charges in 2006.
The Bureau of Land Management did not give up. In 2011, federal prosecutors – referencing both the 2001 and 2006 fires – charged the Hammonds with violating the ‘‘Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996,” which carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years.
...In 2012, the Hammonds went to trial. As the jury was deliberating, they agreed not to appeal the jury verdicts in exchange for the government dismissal of a slew of ancillary charges, including “conspiracy” to commit the offense.
The jury found both Hammonds guilty of the 2001 fire and Steven Hammond guilty of the 2006 blaze; he was acquitted on charges the 2006 fire did more than $1,000 in damages.
At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan concluded the fires did not endanger people or property. He declared that the law the Hammonds were convicted of violating was aimed at more serious conduct than their case involved.
Hogan added that the Hammonds had “tremendous” character, and stated that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – barring “cruel and unusual punishment” – justified a sentence below the statutory minimum sentence.
Consequently, Judge Hogan sentenced Dwight Hammond to three months in prison and his son to a year and a day. Both served their sentences and then returned home.
But the federal government was not finished. Federal prosecutors, contending the agreement did not bar them from further action, appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which, without oral arguments, quickly issued a terse ruling reversing the Oregon federal district court.
...Congress passed the 1996 law under which the Hammonds were convicted in response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City and the 1995 federal building bombing in Oklahoma City in order to “deter terrorism.” Lawmakers did not have in mind a rancher’s efforts to eradicate noxious weeds or to prevent the spread of a lightning fire onto valuable crops.
That apparently did not matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and officials who are supposed to provide adult supervision to prevent personal animus, agency vendettas and prosecutorial abuse.
...Now it’s up to President Trump to deliver justice to the Hammonds – something the federal government has long denied them.
William Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver and author of "Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle With Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today" (Regnery, 2013).
A big THANK YOU to Pendley for this column. Amongst all the hub-bub over the Malheur and related events, the plight of the Hammonds and this total miscarriage of justice continues to fly below the radar. Let's hope that Pendley's exposure of this issue on Fox News will catch the eye of someone in the White House.
Friday, May 18, 2018
A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a blow to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration. The House leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes. But their gamble failed. The vote was 213 to 198, with 30 Republicans joined 183 Democrats in defeating bill. With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill. The farm bill itself broke open partisan House divisions as Democrats abandoned negotiations with Republicans over the food stamp changes, which would require adults to spend 20 hours per week working or participating in a state-run training program as a condition to receive benefits. Democrats argue that a million or more people would end up losing benefits, because most states do not have the capacity to set up the training programs required...MORE