Sunday, November 30, 2008

Buyer beware - seller, too
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Julie Carter

The holiday season, shopping frenzies, sales galore and all that goes with that. The crowds begin to swarm the retail outlets for the bargain of the century, but let me caution you about regular-looking cowboy types, wearing worn, tattered clothing, who are out to make a good deal.

Jess was an honest man, but he had been in the cattle business a long time. Long enough to know that when you go trading, a man needed every advantage he could get. That accounted for his apparel when he left the ranch.

Today's objective was to trade a saddle he didn't use for one that suited both him and his horse a little better. Both were big old boys. He also had in mind to look at a new horse trailer while he was in town.

The Western store, more than city block long, stocked everything from bling T-shirts to horse trailers. This prestigious place carried quality inventory and took pride in their customer service.

Jess walked in and, as luck would have it, the owner was standing by the front counter. Not a rookie at wheeling and dealing, the owner, under usual circumstances, would have immediately recalled an intervening commitment when he saw Jess coming.

However, this particular day, he was somewhat tethered to the spot by his own knee-high kid hanging to his leg.

"Need to swap you a wonderful saddle that I just cannot use for one that wouldn't be anywhere near this good, but would fit me," Jess said as he put forth the saddle he'd carried in the door.

The storeowner got a gleam in his eye, thinking today might just be the day he could make a good deal with Jess. "Let's see this old saddle you got."

Jess allowed that it wasn't really an old saddle - it was one he had won, but he just hadn't used because it was a little small.

"Well, we can't really sell trophy saddles," said the storeowner, "nobody wants something they didn't win themselves."

"Got that figured out," Jess said. "Took that burden off you. I would let your saddle man back there swap out the fenders on this new wonderful saddle for the fenders on one of your new saddles here in the store. Wouldn't cost you any boot or anything."

The light went on in the owner's head. This wasn't going to be any easy trade. His inventory in the story included top-shelf, expensive saddles. While he was figuring his next move, his kid pulled on his leg. "Daddy, I'm ready to go home."

The trade banter went on awhile, and they were getting pretty close to the finish when Jess threw in the comment that he needed a bunch of things from the other side of the store.

This was where the hats, boots and high-dollar clothes, tack and trailer accessories were displayed. The owner looked Jess over, noted that his hat was showing some "experience," and his boots had duct tape holding them together.

With that added information and the fact his kid now needed to go to the bathroom, he came down another hundred dollars on the trade.

They continued jarring a little longer and finally the storeowner set his heels.

Jess then pulled out his ace. He was also planning to look at a new trailer that day. The owner caved and offered a figure that Jess already had determined.

They shook hands and while they were walking up to the counter to write up it up, the owner asked him, "Now, what was it you needed from the other side of the store?"

"Two feed buckets and a pooper scooper," Jess replied.

"That's it?" blurted out the merchant. "I thought you were going to get a new hat, new boots and a trailer."

Knowing he'd been had, the owner wobbled on off, suddenly needing to take his kid home. The girls behind the counter wrote up the ticket and Jess told them, "Now, don't you all forget me in case I lose this ticket. I'll be back in a little bit to pick up my saddle when they get the fenders swapped."

The girls laughingly assured him no one in the store would forget him. In the meantime, Jess went on down the road and bought a two-horse-slant aluminum trailer from the competition.

He still had on his trading apparel, but that's another story.
‘I’m Shocked, Shocked To Discover Land Use Going On Here’

Vin Suprynowicz

Once you’ve passed through the entrance gate to one of America’s magnificent national parks or monuments, what do you see?


In most cases, mile upon mile of nothin’.

The sweeping grandeur of the Grand Canyon is not visible from any common entrance point to the national park of that name. Expect to drive several miles before you see the first signs directing you to various hotels and overlooks. (Entering from the north, LOTS of miles.)

Florida’s Everglades area the same way. Yes, the historic wetlands have been shrunken by unwise water projects further north, but many a child has gazed out upon the sweep of mostly dry grasslands after passing the “now entering” sign, asking, “Where’s the swamp? Where’s the gators?”

The traveler does not come upon these scenic wonders immediately, because those who planned these vast impoundments understood the concept of a “buffer zone.” With few exceptions, the scenic vistas are surrounded by five to 10 miles – or more – of empty space. This was done so that those enjoying the scenery would not have to gaze upon carnivals and trailer parks and used car graveyards teetering at the edge of Bryce Canyon or Yosemite Falls.

Outside the parks and monuments, the federal government may control even vaster acreage. But those lands are turned over to the U.S. Bureau of land Management, which has a different mission, seeing that those less sensitive lands are used in ways that benefit the nation.

Yet listen now to the green extremists, complaining that mining or tree-cutting or grazing is “allowed, only one valley away” or “once ridge line away” from a national park or monument.

On Nov. 4, the BLM announced that on Dec. 19 they will auction off the rights to drill for oil or gas on more than 50,000 acres of BLM land close to or adjoining three national parks in Utah: Arches, Dinosaur, and Canyonlands.

“This is a fire sale,” shrills Stephen Bloch, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, “the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.”

“We find it shocking and disturbing,” says Cordell Troy, chief National Park Service administrator in Utah. “That’s 40 tracts within four miles of these parks.”

Read it again. Four miles outside the parks’ existing buffer zones.

Franklin Seal, spokesman for the environmental group Wildland CPR, contends “If you’re standing at Delicate Arch, like thousands of people do every year, and you’re looking through the arch, you could see drill pads on the hillside behind it. That’s how ridiculous this proposed lease sale is.”

See people earning an honest wage, working to heat our homes and fill our gas tanks … by using binoculars, perhaps?

In an era when economically struggling Americans actually celebrate when gasoline prices fall below three dollars a gallon – when this nation needs to develop all its domestic resources to reduce its dependence on foreign oil – there’s nothing “silly” about creating wealth and real jobs by allowing entrepreneurs to risk their own capital developing our own resources.

If the borders of the Arches National Park were not properly drawn to create an adequate buffer, it’s odd no one noticed this before. In such specific cases, the BLM might certainly compromise on a parcel or two.

But these protests are like complaining someone “almost broke” the 65 mph speed limit by driving 63 mph, or that they “almost violated” the drinking age by serving beer to a 23-year-old.

“I’m puzzled the park Service has been as upset as they are,” Selma Sierra, BLM director for the state of Utah, tells The Associated Press. “There are already many parcels leased around the parks.”

Details, details. What does that matter, when there’s serious posturing to be done?

Soon we’ll be hearing about unsightly land uses “within a hundred miles of a national park!” Since many national parks sit in closer proximity to each other than that, here in the West, such an “exclusionary zone” would bar millions of acres of deserts scrub from any productive use.

Which, one begins to suspect, is precisely what the green extreme has in mind.

Vin Suprynowicz [send him mail] is assistant editorial page editor of the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of The Black Arrow.

A Turkey



Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Great Thanksgiving Hoax

Richard J. Maybury

Each year at this time school children all over America are taught the official Thanksgiving story, and newspapers, radio, TV, and magazines devote vast amounts of time and space to it. It is all very colorful and fascinating.

It is also very deceiving. This official story is nothing like what really happened. It is a fairy tale, a whitewashed and sanitized collection of half-truths which divert attention away from Thanksgiving's real meaning.

The official story has the pilgrims boarding the Mayflower, coming to America and establishing the Plymouth colony in the winter of 1620-21. This first winter is hard, and half the colonists die. But the survivors are hard working and tenacious, and they learn new farming techniques from the Indians. The harvest of 1621 is bountiful. The Pilgrims hold a celebration, and give thanks to God. They are grateful for the wonderful new abundant land He has given them.

The official story then has the Pilgrims living more or less happily ever after, each year repeating the first Thanksgiving. Other early colonies also have hard times at first, but they soon prosper and adopt the annual tradition of giving thanks for this prosperous new land called America.

The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

In his 'History of Plymouth Plantation,' the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with "corruption," and with "confusion and discontent." The crops were small because "much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable."

In the harvest feasts of 1621 and 1622, "all had their hungry bellies filled," but only briefly. The prevailing condition during those years was not the abundance the official story claims, it was famine and death. The first "Thanksgiving" was not so much a celebration as it was the last meal of condemned men.

But in subsequent years something changes. The harvest of 1623 was different. Suddenly, "instead of famine now God gave them plenty," Bradford wrote, "and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God." Thereafter, he wrote, "any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day." In fact, in 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were able to begin exporting corn.

What happened?

After the poor harvest of 1622, writes Bradford, "they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop." They began to question their form of economic organization.

This had required that "all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means" were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, "all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock." A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.

This "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that "young men that are most able and fit for labor and service" complained about being forced to "spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children." Also, "the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak." So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.

To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609-10, called "The Starving Time," the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.

Then the Jamestown colony was converted to a free market, and the results were every bit as dramatic as those at Plymouth. In 1614, Colony Secretary Ralph Hamor wrote that after the switch there was "plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure." He said that when the socialist system had prevailed, "we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now."

Before these free markets were established, the colonists had nothing for which to be thankful. They were in the same situation as Ethiopians are today, and for the same reasons. But after free markets were established, the resulting abundance was so dramatic that the annual Thanksgiving celebrations became common throughout the colonies, and in 1863, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.

Thus the real reason for Thanksgiving, deleted from the official story, is: Socialism does not work; the one and only source of abundance is free markets, and we thank God we live in a country where we can have them.
* * * * *

This article originally appeared in The Free Market, November 1985.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ranchers frustrated as wolves run wild Loren Giem's ranch manager, Ken Wigen, first heard the howling Sept. 20 near a pasture in the Big Hole River valley. The wolves' chorus made the hair on the back of Wigen's neck stand up. His dogs went nuts. Giem was nervous. But like his father and grandfather before him, Giem is a rancher and rotates almost a thousand head of black Angus cattle through the pastures they use on 20,000 acres here. Most of it is Giem family land, bought throughout the years since his grandfather moved here in the early 1900s. Last week, slowly bouncing his Dodge truck east down the ranch road toward his pastures, Giem pointed toward the mountains. Up ahead, in a corner of one of his pastures about a mile off the main road, the sagebrush was trampled into dirt and the fence is pushed outward. “The cattle were balled up on the fence. We were sure we had wolf activity,” Giem recalled. They called Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' wolf management program, looking for advice, and a site visit turned up wolf tracks. Three days later, on Oct. 9, Wigen found the first dead mature cow. A government trapper, Graeme McDougal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, confirmed wolves took it down. “Numerous wolf tracks, various sizes indicated a pack, i.e. adults with YOY (young of year) at carcass and immediate area,” McDougal wrote in his report. “Torn and uprooted sagebrush, several areas of blood indicate a struggle, attack, of approximately 30 yards in length. “Canine marks present on external surface of hide on left front elbow region and right rear above fetlock Hindquarters and internal organs totally gone from feeding and scavenging. All signs consistent with wolf predation.” Within two weeks, Giem lost five more cows to wolves, and one was seriously injured....
Scientist spends days delving into carnivores' decomposition Deep inside Lubrecht Experimental Forest, death lies inside an electrified fence. For more than two years, a pack of carnivores has been decomposing under the watchful eye of Carleen Gonder. Piles of maggot casings rim shiny skulls, fangs bared before mummified fur faces. Yes: There's a field manual showing how to tell the time of death for most major game animals. It's full of stomach-turning photos showing how quickly insects start laying eggs, how soon flesh starts bloating and when it stops. There are bizarre tricks for hooking muscles to car batteries to see if they're less than four hours dead, and charts to test the reflectivity of drying eyeballs. A good investigator can get almost the hour of death on a carcass less than 4 or 5 days old. The only thing missing from the field guide is whether all these techniques also work on the carnivores that hunt game animals. The potential cases are limited only by experience. There's the rancher who claims that he shot a wolf that was harassing his cows. Does the time of death match the time he was running cattle in that area?....
Farmers evaluate Klamath agreement to remove four dams Depending on their water source, farmers and ranchers near the California-Oregon border have differing views of a recent decision by Oregon-based hydroelectric power company PacifiCorp to remove four of its dams along the Klamath River. For Klamath Project irrigators, the agreement comes as a critical step, whereas irrigators downstream in the Scott River and Shasta River valleys see it as a potential threat to their own water supplies. PacifiCorp, the state of California, the state of Oregon and the federal government agreed in principle on Nov. 13 to remove the dams, to give threatened coho salmon and other fish species access to 300 miles of habitat in the river and improve water quality. The agreement would dovetail with a plan by 26 Klamath Basin stakeholders released in January-- the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, a comprehensive solution for the region's water needs that expressed support for dam removal. Stakeholders include irrigators represented by the Klamath Water Users Association, as well as environmentalists, tribes, fishing groups and government agencies....
Feds not liable in Hayman fire Terry Barton acted as an angry spouse — not a government worker — when she started the 2002 Hayman fire in the mountains west of Colorado Springs and the government can't be held responsible for her actions, a federal judge in Denver decided Tuesday. Attorneys for several insurance companies that covered the losses from the Hayman fire sued the U.S. Forest Service, asking for more than $7 million in damages and claiming that Barton was negligent in her duties as a Forest Service employee. Chief U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel denied that claim in a written decision. "When Barton violated the fire ban, she was not doing the work assigned to her, what was necessarily incidental to that work, or what was customary in the Forest Service's business," Daniel wrote. "Barton violated the fire ban and contravened the established policy of the Forest Service when she lit the letter or grass in the campfire ring. Thus, she acted outside the scope of her employment."....
Greens fear last push by Bush After eight years of government that unabashedly placed development over conservation and recreation over environment, watchdog groups say the Bush administration’s last-gasp efforts likely mean more of the same for the northern Rocky Mountains. While this flurry of presidential maneuvering is far from unprecedented – Clinton was accused of similar actions in favor of conservation – environmental groups say Bush’s last-minute changes could have an inordinate impact on public lands in Greater Yellowstone. These changes include efforts to delist the gray wolf, attempts to relax gun laws in national parks and changes to weaken the Endangered Species Act, just to name a few. Ruch said one good candidate for the Congressional Review Act is a regulation that would allow power plants and other big polluters to affect the air in Class I airsheds such as national parks and wilderness areas. But lawmakers might avoid hot-button issues such as guns in parks for fear of political consequences from voters or pro-gun lobbies....
N.D. ranchers file suit against Colo. feed company Two North Dakota ranchers say a Colorado company sold and mixed a liquid feed supplement that poisoned their cattle and led to the deaths of two cows and two calves. Lonnie and Todd McPeak, of Sterling, N.D., have filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against Cattleman's Choice Loomix, accusing the business of negligence. The Johnstown company denies the allegations and says the suit should be thrown out. The McPeaks said one of the dealers for the company improperly mixed the feed and caused the release of dangerously high levels of sulfur and nitrogen. Cattleman's Choice said any damage to the cattle was caused by "misuse or abuse" of the product by the ranchers and was not the company's fault. The lawsuit said the reaction to the mixture stunted the growth of about 350 calves, causing an auction house to advise people against buying the cattle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama Transition

I meant to post this Sunday but for some reason didn't. As a result, it is already slightly dated.

The following are excerts from a memo prepared by a Washington DC group. I don't have the date of this memo, however I just obtained it today and AP is reporting that Governor Richardson will be the Sec. of Commerce. The memo covered all Depts. plus White House and VP staff. Here are the excerpts relevant to the issues posted on The Westerner:

...The Transition Team is divided into two areas: Personnel and Policy. The Personnel division will be tasked with finding, vetting and hiring Cabinet Secretaries, sub-Cabinet appointees and other Obama Administration staff. The Policy division will consist of policy experts from across the country, who will advise President-Elect Obama during the transition period and develop policies to be implemented following Obama's Inauguration.

We understand that the transition effort has been organized into roughly a dozen teams. The ethics code governing the process prohibits staff from working on subjects that could be deemed a financial conflict of interests, either to that member or that member’s family....

The following is a compilation of top Obama campaign operatives, Senate staff and names floated in press circles as likely participants in the Transition Team and potential high-level appointees in an Obama Administration.

This list is, by no means, official, definitive or exhaustive. Although the Transition Senior Staff has been finalized, all other names are merely educated guesses.

The phone number for the transition headquarters is 202-540-3000. The official website for the transition is

• Energy and Natural Resources Team Leads
o David J. Hayes. (LEAD)
o Bart Chilton. Department of Agriculture
o Carole Jett. Department of Agriculture
o Elgie Holstein. Department of Energy
o Elizabeth Montoya. Department of Energy
o Sue Tierney. Department of Energy
o Cecilia V. Estolano. EPA
o Lisa Jackson. EPA
o Robert Sussman. EPA
o Rose McKinney-James. FERC
o Keith Harper. Department of Interior
o John Leshy. Department of Interior
Energy and Natural Resources Team
Department of Agriculture, Douglas Jake Caldwell
Department of Agriculture, Carol Clifford
Department of Agriculture, David Lazarus
Department of Agriculture, Mary McNeil
Department of Agriculture, Karen Stuck
Department of Agriculture, Michael Taylor
Department of Agriculture, Dallas Tonsager
Department of Agriculture, Christopher Wood
Department of Energy, Henry Atkinson
Department of Energy, Lucy Blake
Department of Energy, Carolyn Green
Department of Energy, Skila Harris
Department of Energy, Cynthia Quarterman
Department of Energy, Gregory Watson
Department of the Interior, Robert Anderson
Department of the Interior, Deanna Archuleta
Department of the Interior, John Echohawk
Department of the Interior, Edward Farquhar
Department of the Interior, Molly McUsic
Department of the Interior, Shirley Neff
Department of the Interior, Renee Stone
Department of the Interior, Mark Van Putten
EPA, Julie Anderson
EPA, Kenneth Berlin
EPA, Jonathan Cannon
EPA, John Darin
EPA, Daniel Esty
EPA, Jonathan Fox
EPA, Janice Mazurek
EPA, Amelia Salzman
EPA, Nancy Sutley
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner

Possible Cabinet/Department Appointments

• Tom Vilsack. Former Governor of Iowa
• Collin Peterson. Congressman from Minnesota
• Tom Buis. National Farmers Union.
• Charles Stenholm. Former Congressman from Texas.
• Jim Leach. Former Congressman from Iowa.
• Calvin "Cal" Dooley. Former Congressman from California.
• Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Congresswoman from South Dakota
• Carol Browner. President Clinton's EPA Administrator.
• John Podesta. Executive Director of the Center for American Progress; former Clinton Chief of Staff
• Ed Rendell. Governor of Pennsylvania.
• Daniel Esty. Yale environmental law professor; EPA under Bush.
• Daniel Kammen. U of California (Berkeley) energy & public policy professor
• Elgie Holstein. Campaign senior energy policy advisor.
• Robert Sussman. Center for American Progress; EPA under President Clinton; Latham & Watkins.
• Jason Grumet. Heads campaign environment policy committee; president of Bipartisan Policy Center; former Executive Director of the National Commission on Energy Policy.
• Howard Learner. Executive Director of Environmental Law and Policy Center.
• Ken Berlin. Attorney at Skaaden, Arps.
• Julie Anderson. Bipartisan Environmental Policy Center.
• Kathleen McGinty. Chair of Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Protection; Former Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.
• Jonathan Lash. President of the World Resources Institute.
• Brad Campbell. Former Commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection; EPA under President Clinton and White House Council on Environmental Quality.
• Frank Loy. State Department under Presidents Clinton, Carter and Johnson; boards of several national green groups.
• Heather Zichal. Former Kerry Legislative Director and Energy policy advisor.
• Todd Atkinson. Senator Obama’s energy policy aide.
• Arnold Schwarzenegger. Governor of California (Possible Secretary of Energy) (Has said he will not accept position).
• Jeff Bingaman. Senator from New Mexico (Possible Secretary of Energy) (Has said he will not accept position).
• Lincoln Chafee. Former senator from Rhode Island. (Possible EPA Administrator)
• Dan Reicher. Former Assistant Secretary of Energy under President Clinton.
• Steve Westly. Former California State Controller.
• Jim Rogers. Duke Energy CEO.
• John Leshy. Former Department of the Interior Solicitor.
• Donald J. Barry. Former Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks at Interior.
• David B. Sandalow. Former Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science.
• Kathleen Sebelius. Governor of Kansas.
• Al Gore. Former Vice President.
• Jennifer Granholm. Governor of Michigan.
• Mary Nichols. Chair of California's Air Resources Board.
• Lisa P. Jackson. Commissioner of New Jersey EPA.
• Philip Sharp. Former Congressman from Indiana; president of Resources for the Future.
• Jerry McNerney. Congressman from California.
• Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
• Ian Bowles. Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs of Massachusetts.
• Franz Wuerfmannsdobler. Aide to Senator Dorgan.
• Jay Inslee. Congressman from Washington.
• Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
• George Miller. Congressman from California.
• Tony Knowles. Former Governor of Alaska.
• Bill Richardson. Former Energy Secretary under President Clinton, Governor of New Mexico.
• Ken Salazar. Senator from Colorado.
• John Kitzhaber. Medical doctor and former Governor of Oregon.
• John Leshy. Former Department of the Interior Solicitor.
• Brian Schweitzer. Governor of Montana.
• Jamie Rappaport Clark. Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife.
• Mike Thompson. Representative from California.
In Alaska, The Drill Is Gone Remember those 68 million acres House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the oil companies had to use or lose? According to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, they can't drill there either. When President Bush lifted the executive order banning oil and gas exploration in federally protected offshore areas, Speaker Pelosi called the action a giveaway of "more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they've already leased." We thought it was nonsense to accuse the oil companies of sitting on profitable oil resources waiting for sky-high oil prices to rise even higher. We still do. With gas prices having fallen back to earth, her vast oil-rig conspiracy theory seems to have fallen flat. Proving it was so much hot air was Royal Dutch Shell's recent expenditure of $2.1 billion to acquire oil leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska and spending $84 million to buy leases in the Beaufort Sea. Clearly they weren't sitting on anything and wanted to drill and wanted to get these oil and gas reserves into the hungry American economy. Last Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a major drilling effort in the Beaufort Sea, ruling that federal officials failed to properly address environmental concerns when they granted permission to Shell Oil to drill there. The decision followed a temporary order issued last year that halted Shell's drilling at Sivulliq, 16 miles off the coast of northern Alaska....
The Water Authority's Cash Cow In the fertile fields of the Spring Valley, the Southern Nevada Water Authority is a colossus. It spent $80 million in public dollars to buy up most of the ranches in the valley at prices three to four times the going rate for land, and millions more in support of the operation. In acquiring these 23,000 acres, SNWA also acquired 4,000 sheep, 1,700 cattle and an alfalfa farm. Four full time employees were hired. They in turn hire subcontractors. SNWA is operating the ranches so it can legally hang on to the water rights while waiting for the pipeline to be built. "SNWA did not buy these ranches to operate them as a profit. They are a tool to manage the environment and the watershed," said SNWA Deputy General Manager Richard Wimmer. The water authority's Dick Wimmer says the plan is to pump thousands of acre feet of groundwater but to leave the surface water without harming the land. If the plan is to not make money, it's working. Records obtained by the I-Team show the ranches spend an average of more than $45,000 each month to operate, sometimes more than $80,000 a month. In the first year, the overall loss was a projected $731,000. SNWA expects a small profit in the coming year. Area ranchers who were already critical of the pipeline plan are not impressed. "They are in over their heads, that it takes more than a belt buckle and a new pair of boots and a Stetson hat to run one of these ranches," said Hank Vogler. "This is going to be a financial disaster, but money doesn't mean anything to them down there," said Dean Baker. For example, when SNWA learned it needed its own brand for livestock, it assigned the task to its staff which considered 17 different designs over nine months at a cost of more than $5,000. Not exactly how a typical rancher would do it....
Property rights guru fathered unlikely wilderness bill Supporters of Sen. Mike Crapo's Owyhee Initiative Bill are going to have to wait at least another few months before the brainchild of Fred Grant finally comes to fruition. Grant, an adviser to Owyhee County, had worked alongside the late Rep. Helen Chenoweth fighting federal control over public land ranchers. He worked with her husband, the late Wayne Hage, in pushing federal courts to recognize private property rights on public lands like water, fences and other improvements. Owyhee County dodged a bullet in 2001 when President Clinton decided not to turn more than a million acres of the county's breathtaking canyonlands and valuable sagebrush steppe habitat into a national monument. but Grant knew the issue wouldn't go away. The Western Watersheds Project headed by Jon Marvel was successfully forcing ranchers to cut back their grazing to protect endangered species and water quality in court. Even with Republicans in control of the White House and nearly in control of Congress, Grant was doubtful they could protect Owyhee County's ranchers and keep them in business. So he persuaded Owyhee County commissioners to convene talks between willing environmental groups, cattlemen, local officials, outfitters, motorized recreationists, the Air Force and eventually the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe. He took his idea to the Idaho Congressional delegation. Only Sen. Mike Crapo answered....
Rahall Statement on Chairmanship and Committee Agenda for the 111th Congress This week, the House Democratic Caucus re-elected Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) to serve as Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources for the 111th Congress. Rahall released the following statement on his goals for the 111th Congress along with a copy of a new agenda entitled "America the Beautiful - Our People, Our Natural Resources - Fulfilling Stewardship and Trust Responsibilities", intended to guide the work of the Committee over the next two years. The text of Rahall's statement is below, followed by the agenda....
Shoshone Indians Sue to Stop Barrick's Nevada Gold Mine Five tribal and public interest parties filed a lawsuit in Nevada Federal Court on Thursday, seeking an immediate injunction to stop one of the largest open pit cyanide heap leach gold mines in the United States - the Cortez Hills Expansion Project on Mt. Tenabo. Canadian Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company, plans to construct and operate the mine in an area that the lawsuit states is "located entirely within the territory of the Western Shoshone Nation." The permit was granted on November 12, and the $500 million mine construction project could begin as early as this week. "After years of determined opposition from Western Shoshone, the U.S. Department of Interior, through its Bureau of Land Management approved one of the largest open pit cyanide heap leach gold mines in the United States on the flank of Mount Tenabo," the plaintiffs said in a joint statement. The Shoshone maintain that Mt. Tenabo and its environs are part of the ancestral land of the Western Shoshone, which has never been legally ceded to the federal government. Nevertheless, U.S. politicians and multinational corporations ignore the 1863 treaty between the U.S. government and the Western Shoshone, treating sacred land as a public resource to be mined for gold, the tribe says....
BLM, Park Service renew ties Utah Bureau of Land Management officials said they made a mistake in not keeping the National Park Service in the loop on an upcoming oil and gas lease sale. The two agencies decided Monday to renew a 1993 document that stated that they agreed to meet annually to discuss common interests and concerns. The so-called memorandum of understanding stipulated that the BLM must give the Park Service advance notice of oil and gas developments on public lands near national parks. That advance notice didn't happen with an oil and gas lease sale planned for Dec. 19 in Salt Lake City. After getting last-minute notice about the BLM's plans, the Park Service objected to the BLM's offering of parcels that border Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument. BLM state director Selma Sierra and the Park Service's regional director Mike Snyder are expected to announce Tuesday which of the more controversial parcels bordering the parks and monument will be pulled from the sale....
Final version of federal energy corridor plan released Federal agencies involved in designating the proposed West-Wide Energy Corridor have scaled back the number of national wildlife refuge and wilderness area crossings contained in the 2007 draft, but total acreage has increased from 2.9 million to 3.3 million acres in the final version released Thursday. The four-volume Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement analyzes the environmental impacts of designating more than 6,112 miles of energy corridors on federal land in 11 western states, including New Mexico and Arizona. The final document indicates the total corridor length increased by less than 60 miles, the number of national wildlife refuge crossings dropped from 12 to two, wilderness area crossings decreased from 27 to zero, and roadless areas from 17 to five. The overall 12 percent increase in corridor area is due largely to an increase in the width of some corridor segments. In Arizona, 16 corridors covering 650 miles would encompass 386,567 acres. Of that, 579 miles are located on existing utility or transportation rights of way. In New Mexico, four corridors encompass 293 miles and 121,064 acres, with 256 miles located on existing rights of way. The agencies chose a standard corridor width of 3,500 feet as a starting point to provide flexibility for siting multiple rights of way, though some corridors could take in more or less footage depending on a specific project....
Technology reduces ag’s environmental footprint The efficiencies American farmers and ranchers have implemented in the last 60 years have done more to help the environment than hurt it, said an American Farm Bureau Federation environmental specialist. Our ability to increase our efficiencies in feed conversion, our ability to in-crease the genetics of our herd and increase the meat per animal, has basically reduced our environmental footprint, rather than increased it," said Don Parrish, AFBF Senior Director for Regulatory Relations at North Dakota Farm Bureau Convention and Exposition informational session. Compared to 1948, across all production in agriculture, animals produce 25 per-cent less manure. At the same time, each animal we raise produces 700 percent more meat than it did in 1948. “That’s phenomenal,” Parrish said. “We’ve got to be able to articulate that message.”....
"I Donated My Life to a Cow" Have you ever known a good storyteller? A good storyteller can captivate the attention of anyone within listening distance – and then make them want to hear more and more. Dean Walck, author of “I Donated My Life to a Cow,” possesses this rare kind of storytelling talent, and has taken it a step further by translating his stories into a book about his experiences as a long-time cattleman and rancher on the Western Slope of Colorado. Walck, born of a pioneer family who homesteaded on the Western Slope in the late 1800s, has ranching in his blood. He has lived and breathed it all his life, working alongside his brother, Scott Walck, who has also written articles for the Fence Post on occasion. The title page of Chapter 2 states the intent of Dean’s book in true “Dean Walck style”: “Remembering special people, places and moments from 60+ years of following an old cow around the Plateau Valley and elsewhere.” The entire book is written in this delightful style, straight and to the point, but is filled with humor, tenderness, excitement, and above all, recorded history of the hard work involved with running cattle over the years....
Lake Valley offers look at silver mining life There is one ghost town tucked away on the back roads of Sierra County that shines like the silver in the hills that put it on the map. In fact, few folks had even heard of Lake Valley until 1878. Today, it is one of the best preserved ghost towns in America, one that people from all over the world make a special trip to see. What happened in 1878 is the stuff legends are made of. A blacksmith named John Leavitt took out a lease on a claim and two days later discovered one of the largest lodes of silver the world has ever known. He called it the "Bridal Chamber." It was a hollow in the hillside with walls of solid horn silver. A railroad was constructed to the Bridal Chamber to haul out the loot. The find turned out to be worth almost $3 million, quite a sizable chunk of change today, but especially so in 1878. Well, it's a sure bet ole George W. Lufkin was crying in his beer. That's because he sold the claim that the Bridal Chamber was found on to the Sierra Grande Mining Co. for a hundred grand. The company later leased part of the claim to Leavitt, and it's also a sure bet he hung up his blacksmith tools for good after the discovery. As the story goes, Lufkin died broke and is buried in the Lake Valley graveyard. Lake Valley was first called Daly, named after ancient lake beds nearby. The town grew into a fairly lively place with about 4,000 folks, 12 saloons, three churches, a couple of newspapers, stores, hotels, stamp mills and smelters....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Environmental groups optimistic, industry wary about Obama Here's the question: What does a community organizer from Chicago who spent four years in the Senate before being elected president know about spotted owls, endangered salmon, mountain bark beetles, Western water rights, old-growth forests and the maintenance backlog in the national parks? The answer: Probably not much. President-elect Barack Obama has offered only scattered clues as to where he stands on the most pressing public lands and endangered species issues. In reading the tea leaves, however, environmental groups are optimistic, timber industry and land-rights groups are wary, and an influential lawmaker is excited about having an ally in the White House. "This guy is a quick study and I'm sure he will find competent people," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who as chairman of the House Appropriations interior subcommittee oversees nearly $28 billion in annual funding for the Interior Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. "We will be able to work with him. Anything will be better than (President) Bush." When it comes to the environment, Obama has focused his attention almost exclusively on global warming and clean energy. There are few references on his campaign Web site to on-the-ground issues, especially those specific to the West. Obama received an 86 out of a possible 100 in the environmental scorecard for members of Congress published by the League of Conservation Voters. He was also a co-sponsor of a bill that would have protected about 58 million acres of federal lands....
Green Obama’s official limo is a gas guzzler On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to get a million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015. His own new presidential limousine will be far from green, however. The Obamobile being prepared for the president-elect is said to be a monster gas-guzzler made by General Motors, the troubled car giant. It will look like a black Cadillac but is built like a tank. A spy photographer who tracks down future car models for magazines snatched pictures of the heavily disguised first-car-in-waiting when it was being road-tested last summer. While security is paramount - the car is built to survive roadside bombs as well as gunfire - there are hybrid four-wheel drives on the market, such as Ford’s Mercury Mariner, which some critics believe could have been adapted for the president....
Oil Woes for the DOE So, US crude oil production increased 182,000 barrels (or .01 percent) in 2007 compared to 2006. Good news, right? It would be, if that were not the first time production has increased since 1991, and only the tenth time that annual oil production has grown since it peaked in 1970. In fact, production has never reached the 1970 number of 3.52 billion barrels, and has lost an average of 1.8 percent per year in production since 1985. So why are we allotting a $24 billion budget to the US Department of Energy – which was set up specifically to reduce dependence on foreign oil – when, clearly, no progress is being made? Great question. The statistics on oil imports are equally discouraging. Crude oil imports reached an all-time high in 2005 at 3.696 billion barrels. Except for a sharp decline in the 1980s, petroleum imports to the US have been on the rise, from around 1 billion barrels in 1970 to 4.4 billion in 2007. Last year, there was a 75 percent deficit gap of 5.7 billion barrels of petroleum between production and consumption, which was attributed to the rising number of imports and record lows in crude oil inventory. Such a bleak picture of the oil industry should raise scepticism about the effectiveness of the Department of Energy in carrying out its objectives. The US has become significantly more dependent on foreign oil instead of less. The oil production numbers have dramatically decreased since the founding of DOE. It is almost comical that the goals its sets are reliable, affordable energy and US economic competitiveness in the oil industry. Since its beginning in 1977, the Department of Energy has only negatively impacted the United States' ability to compete worldwide. And with no change in sight, it will continue to waste billions of government funds a year - sounds like a familiar tale indeed.
Taking the American Dream Off Carbon Fuels The presidential election of 2008 found Americans voting as if convinced that the concurrent once in a hundred years financial crisis was unrelated to political ambitions to hasten getting America off carbon fuels. The collapse of housing values underlying the global deleveraging of the financial system seemed self-evidently due to a bubble inflated by irrational exuberance and inadequate regulation. No one seemed to connect the sharp rise in gasoline prices to the economic plunge that followed it. The current crisis and deterioration of economic activity seem based on collapsing housing and transportation equipment industries. The energy crisis connection for transportation equipment seems obvious enough, but there is also a strong and hidden connection to the housing crash. Baby boomers, after all, represented a very large cohort realizing their American dream as commuters from suburbia. Joseph Cortright published a rigorous study in 2008 showing that the rise in gasoline prices is what popped the housing bubble. Analyzing statistically along several lines, he showed that commuters' fuel prices forced abandonment of purchasing houses that required distant commutes from work. Where did the energy crisis come from? Philip K. Verleger, Jr. published a 2006 paper predicting $100 oil and the recession it would cause. He explained that environmental regulations were increasingly constraining fuels supplies - including regulations restricting sulfur content in diesel fuel and legislation effectively eliminating MTBE from gasoline. Regulatory specifications prevented importation of more fuel from abroad. Poor profitability discouraged investment in refining capacity as regulation diverted large expenditures toward regulatory compliance instead of capacity augmentation....
Louisiana Court to BBI Spies: Testify or Else A ruling by a Louisiana court could shed further light on the shadowy work of Beckett Brown International (BBI), the now defunct private security and investigations firm that spied on Greenpeace and other targets on behalf of corporate clients. On Monday, state appeals court judge Kent Savoie ordered two of the firm's former officials, Tim Ward and Jay Bly, to testify or face potential contempt charges in a case related to a massive spill of ethylene dichloride in Lake Charles, Louisiana by chemical manufacturer Condea Vista. Working for Condea in the late 1990s, BBI mounted a wide-ranging operation to gather intelligence on the company's opponents, including local activists and lawyers suing the chemical maker on behalf of clients harmed during the cleanup of the 1994 spill. In addition to tailing activists and obtaining the phone records of Condea opponents, BBI installed a mole inside a Lake Charles environmental group to report inside information about the organization's strategy and campaigns....
Behind House Struggle, Long and Tangled Roots With Representatives Henry A. Waxman and John D. Dingell locked in a fearsome struggle for the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, was trying to broker a truce. Two days after Mr. Waxman announced his challenge this month, Mr. Hoyer asked if he would be willing to wait two years, to allow Mr. Dingell, the longest-serving House Democrat, a graceful exit and to preserve the Congressional seniority system. Mr. Waxman said no. Mr. Hoyer, of Maryland, then asked Mr. Dingell, of Michigan, if he would accept the deal: two years and out. Emphatically, no, Mr. Dingell said. If Mr. Waxman, of California, the darling of environmentalists and the liberal wing of the party, wanted the Energy and Commerce crown, he was going to have to take it by parliamentary force. And that is precisely what he did on Thursday morning, by a vote of 137 to 122, with the decisive votes coming from the large California delegation and the newest members of the Democratic Caucus. The roots of the Dingell-Waxman clash go back years, even decades, and have both personal and substantive causes....
Grijalva in Running for Interior Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has emerged as a leading contender for Interior Secretary in the next administration, according to sources familiar with the transition. Grijalva's experience and background meshes nicely with some of the Obama team's top requirements. The son of a migrant worker who grew up in Tucson, Grijalva boasts a strong environmental record and chairs the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Choosing the congressman, who was just re-elected to his fifth term, would please both Latino advocates and the environmental community. Grijalva boasts a 95 percent lifetime score with the League of Conservation Voters, and he oversaw a federal study that linked oil and gas development on public lands with the decline in Western hunting habitat. He has also questioned the cheap grazing permits the Interior Department has leased to ranchers in the West....
Looking for a Million Acres Madeleine Pickens told Charlie Gibson of ABC News during a Person of the Week interview that she is in negotiations to buy a million acres as a sanctuary to house those 30,000 mustangs she is adopting. The only thing she wouldn't say is where it would be. She dropped a clue by saying that she hopes to be able to lease BLM land adjacent to her ranch. "If all these cattlemen have access to all this BLM land, what if I bought a ranch and I can get access to the BLM land and then we shared it. They can have their land and we'll have ours for our horses." This appears to be an end run around the BLM's claims that if they did not remove the mustangs, "the result would be an ecological disaster for Western public rangelands," according to a recent fact sheet Paying for supplemental grazing does seem more logical than paying out the $21.9 million to keep the horses eating hay in pens all year like the BLM. It is often drinking water that is the limiting factor for animals on the range....
Program created to help keep an eye on forest land The program was designed in the late 1890s to entice city residents into the newly created national forests. The hope was they would be the eyes and ears of the Forest Service, helping give the agency a heads up on fires or other problems in the little-used lands, said Joni Packard, regional coordinator of the Recreational Residence Program. Some families traveled great distance on rough roads in primitive vehicles to build small cabins. The one-year permit allowed at the time made cabin construction a risky investment, and the program was only marginally successful, according to a history by the National Forest Homeowners, a lobbying group of cabin owners. That changed in 1915, when Congress passed a law allowing the agency to give multi-year permits. The change spurred growth in the program because the cabins could be passed through inheritance to family members or sold, with the Forest Service retaining the underlying land. At its peak, the program authorized about 20,000 cabins. Approximately 5,500 cabins were later taken out of private ownership through land exchanges, Forest Service policy changes or loss....
Gold miners slam rules designed to save fish Ed Levesque heads into the Wenatchee Mountains every weekend with the same fever that lured his forebears here during the gold rush of the 1870s. "There's lots of gold in this creek," said the 63-year-old miner. "In the old days, you could come up here and dredge to your heart's content." But these days, the quest that beckoned people West more than a century ago is running headlong into a more recent Western goal: the survival of fish. To protect fish and fish eggs during critical spawning periods, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is limiting the time when miners can dig or dredge for gold in certain creeks, streams and rivers using motorized equipment, including suction dredges that resemble shop vacs. Fish and wildlife officials say dredging in spawning areas can disrupt stream bottoms, disturb sediment and harm habitat for fish already on the brink of extinction, such as bull trout and chinook salmon. But many of the state's 2,000 small-scale prospectors view the new rules as another assault on their rights under the General Mining Law of 1872 to explore public lands for minerals....
Tree-sitters: Remote sits prove to be less effective Where have all the tree-sitters gone? The acts of civil disobedience that were such a publicized part of the Northwest "timber wars" of the 1980s and '90s have tapered off. There are still tree sits every now and then, but they are not as frequent as they were. It's been six years, in fact, since a group made front-page news when they camped 30 miles from Portland in the Mount Hood National Forest to protest the Eagle Creek timber sale. The U.S. Forest Service eventually canceled the disputed logging contract, but not because of the protest, and one of the sitters, a 22-year-old woman, fell 150 feet from a tree perch soon after the cancellation and died. If a recent event in Salem is any indication, tree-sitting might be staging a comeback, albeit in a form tweaked to address a new mind-set and a never-ending news cycle. Who sits in a tree these days, and why do it?....
Contention growing over public lands The vast open spaces of Western states like Arizona, California and Nevada offer millions of Americans room to play, provide land for raising cattle and growing crops, and are a rich source of fuels for an energy-hungry nation. But exploding population growth, coupled with increasing energy demands and diminishing natural resources, is making it difficult for the federal government to efficiently manage the country's public lands for multiple uses. In recent years, officials with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have had to make increasingly unpopular decisions about whether to leave some tracts in their natural state and where to allow mining, oil drilling and cattle grazing. In many cases, their choices have angered conservationists, who say the federal government has failed to protect these open spaces from environmental damage. They hope a new administration, under President-elect Barack Obama, will provide new legal protections for national parks and wildlife....
Forest Service Arson Investigator Suspected of Setting Fires An arson investigator for the U.S. Forest Service may be responsible for dozens of suspicious fires in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Michael Karl McNeil is currently in jail for allegedly threatening public officials. An investigative report, written by a Forest Service special agent, says the former USFS fire technician was suspiciously near numerous arson-caused fires in the Beaumont area after he moved there. The report said McNeil had used matchstick starter devices similar to the one that triggered last year's Esperanza Fire, which killed five firefighters near Idyllwild. But McNeil is not charged in that case or any other arson. The USFS investigation says McNeil has a criminal record for making threats against co-workers in 1998, and is in a Los Angeles County jail on charges that include threatening several public officials, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs. The confidential report, written in July 2008, says McNeil "may possibly be associated" with at least four fires that match dates and circumstances of blazes that Oyler is charged with setting during 2006 in the San Gorgonio Pass, at the same time and place where Oyler is accused of setting fires. The report also says McNeil is possibly associated with as many as 20 fires near Beaumont, from May 16 to Oct. 22 2006....
Wolves, elk destroy farmers' animals, property Last year, Joe Wilebski’s cattle were attacked by timber wolves. He has graphic photographs of maimed and devoured calves as evidence. This year, his livestock operation’s biggest problem was elk. He has beautiful photos of 19 majestic elk munching his alfalfa as evidence. Although the photographs are opposite images, he hopes they will serve the same purpose. That purpose is to show legislators and policymakers that something needs to be done about the financial hardship suffered by he and his neighbors because of the jaws of wildlife. “I have relatives who are tree-huggers who used to be in favor of saving all of the wolves,” he said. “But once they saw those pictures of calves all torn up, they knew something has to be done. As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words.”....
It's All Trew: Dad had a ball with newfangled electric Today, when we need electrical power an electrical outlet is usually within reach or at least in reach of an extension cord. I can remember when this was not always the case. Our family progressed from kerosene lamps to an electrical generator before the REA finally reached our farm home. But, even then, electrical outlets were few and far between because of the cost of installation. Immediately after store-bought REA electricity arrived, salesmen began calling at the farm. Each had newfangled electrical tools, appliances or gimmicks to demonstrate that we couldn't do without. Each time Dad bought a new electrical tool he had to buy mother an appliance or kitchen gadget in order to keep the peace. At our house my favorite was the electric fans to move the hot summer air across our bedrooms. Dad's favorite was the trouble lights used to work on equipment. For a period of time after electrical power came onto the scene, not everyone was blessed with the convenience. Remote areas had to wait another year or so for electrical power. My father had a Western dance band called The Perryton Playboys all through the Depression years most of which was before the arrival of electrical power. In about 1936 he purchased a public-address system complete with a microphone the size of a gallon bucket, an amplifier that weighed 50 pounds and a 12-inch speaker mounted in a wooden case. The unit was made by Gibson, the guitar people. It was not powered by the modern 110 volts but by 6 volts provided by our car battery. Each dance, after the instruments were unloaded, the car was parked by a window near the bandstand. Jumper cables were attached to the car battery and extended inside to the amplifier....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Invite a stray to Thanksgiving dinner
Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Julie Carter

Here comes Peter Cottontail. Wait! Wrong critter. This is the holiday we give thanks and make a turkey a centerpiece.

OK, now I'm on track. Every year these holidays get closer and closer together and the memories blur from one to another. Where was I, who was there and what did we eat and why so much?

Was it only a year ago I was watching it rain in torrents through the holiday in Central Texas at the gathering of strays at Sam's Place? Unbuttoning the top button of my jeans at sundown to make room for yet one more of the 12 desserts sitting on the side table. That was a dangerous Thanksgiving.

I'm sure the year before that I managed to be somewhere as well. Somewhere where someone else had to cook.

Not so clever this year. My daughters reserved the day to converge on my home with their families.

Just to make sure it happened, they let me know sometime last summer that they were coming, ready or not. I thought I had taught them better.

Truly, it's good to have them come home again. It doesn't happen often and so we enjoy it. I get to play with the grandchildren while the daughters wash the dishes. See, I can make plans, too.

I am a product of my raising and holidays are no exceptions. Growing up, we were a big family with not a lot of options of places to go from our middle of nowhere home along the mountain range in Colorado.

So we pulled out the big oak table, added a half dozen leaves, drug up any thing a person could sit on, piled the table full of food and through the noise of a dozen kids and at least that many adults, we shared the day.

Those memories remain vibrant in my mind when many holidays since then are not so three-dimensional. I know my mother didn't set out to "make a memory."

She simply was following tradition with what she had to work with and in the process, signed herself up for a huge amount of work. I hope it matters to her that it made a difference for me and my life.

I'm fortunate to live in a community that still has those kinds of family values so it's not a rare sight. However, I have also lived long enough to see a fractured world with a good number of people with no place to go. In this, they find melancholy in a holiday that should be filled with reverent thanks and much joy.

I'm making my list for the grocery store, planning menus for the visit that will last several days. In the process, I am finding what I am truly thankful for and it's not the day, not the turkey and not the pumpkin and pecan pies, although all that certainly counts for something - usually about 5 pounds.

I am thankful for my family, thankful for this wonderful country we live in where we can work, buy groceries and have a home to find safety and warmth. Our abundance of bounty should never to be taken for granted.

The Pilgrims shared the first Thanksgiving with the Indians and each other. In it they found peace and new friendship. If you have those things to offer, don't keep them to yourself. Spread it around a little.

If your life is bountiful, share it. Invite a stray to Thanksgiving dinner. It could make a difference.

Julie, an occasional stray, can be found through her website at
Eric Holder, not so great on guns and ganja You can probably toss out those fondly held hopes for drug-law reform under the incoming Obama administration. Eric H. Holder, Jr., President-Elect Barack Obama's choice for Attorney General, is undoubtedly a competent nominee with significant Justice Department experience under his belt, but he's an enthusiastic supporter of drug prohibition even when it comes to simple marijuana possession. And if you were bitterly clinging to Obama's professed support for the Second Amendment, let the scales fall from your eyes. The likely AG-to-be is a long-time opponent of the right to bear arms. Before he became Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno in 1997, Holder was United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In that office, he complained to the Washington Post that laws against marijuana in the nation's capital were too lenient. The Washington Times reported on his charges that D.C.'s repeal of mandatory minimum sentences was "misguided" and his plans to make marijuana distribution a felony. He proposed "setting minimum sentences of 18 months for first-time convicted drug dealers, 36 months for the second time and 72 months for every conviction thereafter." Holder is just as hostile to firearms possession as he is to the use of marijuana. As Deputy Attorney General, he put forward Clinton administration proposals for imposing draconian restrictions on private individuals who want to sell a gun or two from their personal collections at gun shows and flea markets. "Under our proposal, Brady background checks would be required for all guns that are sold at gun shows, even if the gun is sold by a vendor who is not licensed." Even after he left government, Holder signed on to former Attorney General Janet Reno's amicus brief (PDF) in the case of D.C. v. Heller, opposing the position that the Supreme Court finally adopted: that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms....
Securing the Homeland with Hope and Change The HopeandChange™ Anti-Gun Dream Team keeps getting bigger and "better," with the newest addition being Arizona's Governor Janet Napolitano as the next Secretary of Homeland Security. What's her stance on guns? Well, in 2007, she vetoed Arizona SB 1302, which would have made Arizona's "Stand Your Ground" law retroactive. This could have made the difference for Harold Fish, who is serving a prison sentence for second degree murder, despite the fact that a strong case was made for the argument that he fired in self-defense. Napolitano said that her veto came out of concerns that reopening all the cases that could be affected by the change in law would overburden the court system. That makes sense--we certainly wouldn't want to give innocent people a chance to get out of prison if doing so would be inconvenient. Early this year, she got the veto pen out again, and killed a bill that would have made carrying a concealed firearm without a permit a petty offense, rather than a Class 3 felony. It would also have prohibited the confiscation of the firearm....
How the Second Amendment Was Restored On the last date of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 spring session, justices declared by a 5-4 decision in D.C. v. Heller that, yes, the Second Amendment does secure an individual right to keep and bear arms. With that, the high court voided the District of Columbia’s extreme regulations on gun ownership, which had amounted in practice to a complete ban on any usable weapon for self-protection, even in the home. In retrospect, D.C. v. Heller seems almost inevitable, because of shifting public and academic attitudes toward gun rights. But victory came only after a protracted struggle, with many pitfalls along the way. It was pulled off by a small gang of philosophically dedicated lawyers—not “gun nuts” in any stereotypical sense, but thoughtful libertarians who believe Second Amendment liberties are a vital part of our free republic. Together they consciously crafted a solid, clean civil rights case to overturn the most onerous and restrictive set of gun regulations in the country. In the process, they set the stage for further legal challenges to other firearms restrictions from coast to coast....The article linked to is an excerpt from the book Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle Over the Second Amendment by Brian Doherty.
Disarmament on the high seas The piracy case in Somalia is a perfect example of victim disarmament at sea. Most merchant ships are forbidden by their countries' laws from having weapons on board (a ban which is enforced by rigorous inspections), which leaves a 20.000tn ship worth hundreds of million of dollars vulnerable to a pirate dinghy with a crew of five armed with AKs and RPGs worth a few hundred bucks. So do we allow owners to spend a few thousand dollars on weapons and private security on board? God forbid! No, much better to send a carrier group....
TSA's 'behavior detection' leads to few arrests Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped. A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs, the TSA said. The TSA program trains screeners to become "behavior detection officers" who patrol terminals and checkpoints looking for travelers who act oddly or appear to answer questions suspiciously. Critics say the number of arrests is small and indicates the program is flawed. "That's an awful lot of people being pulled aside and inconvenienced," said Carnegie Mellon scientist Stephen Fienberg, who studied the TSA program and other counterterrorism efforts. "I think it's a sham. We have no evidence it works."....
CIA Withheld Details On Downing, IG Says An internal CIA probe has concluded that agency officials deliberately misled Congress, the White House and federal prosecutors about key details of the 2001 downing of an airplane carrying U.S. missionaries in Peru, according to a senior lawmaker who called yesterday for a new criminal inquiry into the case. The agency's inspector general said CIA officers repeatedly ignored rules of engagement in a joint U.S.-Peruvian campaign to halt airborne drug smugglers, resulting in the downing of at least 10 other aircraft without proper warnings. Afterward, CIA managers concealed the problems from lawmakers and the Justice Department, the agency watchdog said. Even the White House was kept in the dark, as agency officials and lawyers withheld key details while cautioning their staff to avoid putting anything in writing that might be used later in a criminal or civil case, the inspector general said in a report....
Convicted Ex-Border Agents Hope for Pardons From Bush Supporters of two former Border Patrol agents facing years in prison for the shooting of a fleeing drug smuggler are urging President Bush to commute their sentences. And if that fails, their lawyers plan to take their case to the Supreme Court. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, former Border Patrol agents, were convicted two years ago of assault, discharge of a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence, deprivation of civil rights and tampering with an official....
UK: Councils to be banned from using anti-terror laws against litterbugs The Government is planning action to stop local councils using surveillance powers designed for terrorism and serious crime to deal with trivial offences like dog-fouling, a Home Office minister said today. Vernon Coaker admitted that council snooping on people who overfill bins or drop litter was undermining public support for the anti-terror law, and promised action 'in the near future'....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Huge foe of global warming efforts is ousted from post It's the end of an era -- Michigan Democrat John Dingell has been officially toppled from his post as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a secret ballot, Dingell was voted out by the Democrats 137-122 and replaced with Rep. Henry Waxman, a notable critic and aggressive investigator of the Bush Administration as chairman of the House Oversight Committee. The vote is a victory for environmentalists and a huge new blow for the US auto industry. Dingell was one of the auto industry's biggest supporters -- his wife Debbie is a lobbyist for General Motors and is a descendant of the founding family -- and a consistent for of tighter fuel efficiency [CAFE] standards for automobiles. Dingell and his wife are pictured above right....
The Waxman Wane What could hurt a hurting economy more than an environmental extremist as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee? Meet Rep. Henry Waxman of Beverly Hills. It was a slim margin of 137-122 on Thursday when Democrats voted to buck seniority for next year's session and strip the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, Michigan's John Dingell, of the chairmanship of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Long known as "The Truck," the much-feared auto industry partisan chaired that powerful panel during the entire Reagan administration, George H.W. Bush administration, the first two years of Bill Clinton, and for the last two years — nearly three decades as the committee's top Democrat. Dingell is liberal, but he at least fought against excessive emission standards and other Greenpeace wish list items — simply to protect domestic carmakers. Replacing him is a notorious ideological witch hunter who will bully businesses that resist radical environmentalist groups' demands. The naming of Henry Waxman left green groups beside themselves with joy. "Ding-dong the Dingell is gone," cheered the climate blog for the Center for American Progress, the think tank of Obama transition chief and former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta. Waxman's election "shows that a majority of the House Democrats are ready to work with the incoming Obama Administration on effective global warming legislation," according to Clean Air Watch — an organization that seems to want NASCAR racing banned because its exhaust fumes are "putting millions of spectators and nearby residents at unnecessary risk of suffering serious health effects." As Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Chris Horner quipped, "Funny how Dems elected a guy to chair Energy and Commerce who opposes both."....
New environmental cast in D.C. signaled by election today of Waxman, Stevens' defeat To hear some tell it, this is a whole new day for environmental causes in the U.S. House of Representatives, with the election of California's Henry Waxman as chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee. That's because Waxman defeated John Dingell of Michigan in the Democratic caucus' vote, 137-122. Dingell, of course, is a vigorous defender of the auto industry and loathe to lay down mileage standards that would upset Detroit. Waxman, OTOH, is promising to tackle global warming quickly with his version of Cap'n Trade. Waxman's elevation is causing quite a stir among those that follow D.C.'s green politics. Frinstance, the expensive-but-worth-it Greenwire news service had five reporters' names on its story. (At least that's what I've heard. Greenwire is too expensive for Dateline Earth's corporate overlords.) Want more proof of the significance? Listen to Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute: This should provide a loud wake-up call to American business leaders that the 111th Congress is not going to play nicely with them on energy rationing policies. I hope that those who have counseled that "if you're not at the table, you're on the menu," will now realize that they are on the menu and they'd better get as far away from the table as quickly as they can.
New Senate to get major global warming bill Top Senate Democrats on Thursday said they would introduce major global warming legislation early next year, saying Barack Obama's election meant a "sea change" in the battle against climate change. The announcement came just two days after president-elect Obama, in one of his first major policy pronouncements since his historic victory two weeks ago, warned that denial of global warming would no longer be US policy. Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee which will frame US global warming efforts, said the bill would be consistent with Obama's campaign promises for large cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The California senator said one new bill in January would be designed to cut global warming gas emissions by spending up to 15 billion dollars a year to spur clean energy innovation and the development of advanced biofuels. The other piece of legislation will direct the US Environmental Protection Agency to set up a cap-and-trade system to stem greenhouse gas emissions....
U.S. intel office adds warming to warnings A U.S. intelligence report coming out Thursday — and likely to grab President-elect Barack Obama's attention — is adding a new variable to the "traditional" mix of factors expected to destabilize the world into the near future. Issued by the National Intelligence Council, the "Global Trends 2025" report includes warnings tied to climate change, the man behind the report said this week and in recent speeches. The overall theme of the report is that the United States will have less influence across the globe at a time of growing climate, water and energy stresses, Thomas Fingar, chairman of the NIC and deputy director of national intelligence, indicated in recent weeks. The fourth of its kind since 1997, the report is meant to help U.S. administrations think strategically and long-term about potential future trends and how they should be dealt with. Obama on Tuesday pledged to act quickly and with international partners to curb emissions tied to global warming as soon as he takes office on Jan. 21....
Interior may get hand in climate rules The Interior Department could play an unprecedented role in shaping the new administration’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Some environmentalists say President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is eyeing the Endangered Species Act, a 1973 law largely overseen by the Interior Department, as a backdoor vehicle to help jump-start the regulation of global warming emissions.If Obama officially recognizes the connection and pushes for action, it would draw a definitive link between industrial emissions and the threat to a declining species, likely necessitating new emission regulations and pressuring Congress to move ahead with cap-and-trade legislation. The quandary is drawing attention to two key appointments: those of the secretary of the interior and the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who’ll play an integral role in how aggressively the policy is applied. If Obama clarifies the global warming link, environmentalists say he would be jump-starting a process that should have happened years ago....
New Rule Would Discount Warming as Risk Factor for Species The Bush administration is finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure that federal agencies would not have to take global warming into account when assessing risks to imperiled plants and animals. The proposed rule changes, which were obtained by The Washington Post, are under review by the Office of Management and Budget and are close to being published in the Federal Register. The latest version of the rule goes further than the language Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne issued in August by explicitly excluding climate change from the factors that would trigger an interagency consultation. The move is significant because the administration has listed polar bears as a threatened species under the act on the grounds that their sea-ice habitat is shrinking, but Kempthorne has repeatedly argued that this move should not trigger a federal curb on greenhouse gas emissions linked to the melting of sea ice....