Monday, December 31, 2012
An elderly couple, who were both widowed, had been going out with each other for a long time. Urged on by their friends, they decided it was finally time to get married. Before the wedding, they went out to dinner and had a long conversation regarding how their marriage might work. They discussed finances, living arrangements and so on. Finally, the elderly gentleman decided it was time to broach the subject of their physical relationship. "How do you feel about sex?" he asked, rather tentatively. "I would like it infrequently," she replied. The old gentleman sat quietly for a moment, adjusted his glasses, leaned over towards her and whispered, "Is that one word or two?"
New Year make’em and break’em resolutions
By Julie Carter
What do you know about the New Year’s celebration except it is when you make resolutions you won’t and don’t keep?
January 1st wasn’t always the day celebrated for the New Year although the celebration is one of the oldest of holidays.
It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. Around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23. It made more sense in that it was the time of year that spring began and new crops were planted. There is no astronomical or agricultural significance for January 1st.
The Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1st to be the beginning of the New Year and Julius Caesar did the same in 46 BC for the Julian calendar.
George Washington began the custom of holding a party on New Year's Day where everyone was welcome. This became known as having an "open house" and the tradition continues today with the additional entertainment of football games on television.
Regional foods help welcome the New Year in various parts of America. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck. In the South the custom is to eat black-eyed peas. More often now, people use Tylenol to cure their celebration pain.
Making resolutions on the first day of the New Year dates back to the early Babylonians. While popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking (again), the Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.
In cowboy country, resolutions would include a solemn promise to never eat Brussels sprouts, tofu, skinless chicken breasts, spinach-anything or fermented cabbage.
On the upside, that same cowboy might dream of swearing off breaking ice, shoveling manure or owning any horse named Bronc. High on that dream list would be riding shorter days, sleeping longer nights followed by never having to use a pitchfork or do any work that requires a shovel or a mechanic’s tool box.
Of course all those dream resolutions come because the thought is -- if you are going to make yourself promises you can’t keep; you may as well make big ones.
I would like to resolve to be more disciplined with my work, smile more often when I’d really rather not, and first look to find praise for someone or something before I find criticism. I would like to act better today than I thought possible yesterday and set a higher standard for tomorrow.
I resolve to not mention the words exercise, diet, or botox in the same sentence with my name. Health and beauty (inside or out) should be a natural daily process, not a resolution.
I will continue to remind myself that January 1st is the day after December 31st and the day before January 2nd. Nothing more. I will strive to remember that everyday is a gift, tomorrow is never promised to us, and that the people in my life are precious. If they aren’t, then I need to look again.
I live an abundant blessed life and want to never fail to recognize that. But most of all I want to resolve to be resolute-- firm in purpose, belief and unshakeable determination.
With or without resolutions, may the coming year bring to you all of what you need and even some of what you want.
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The State of New Mexico
The state of the United States Forest Service
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
Frank Lucas, Representative from the State of Oklahoma and Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, announced on Friday, December 21, 2012 the subcommittee chairs from his committee for the 113th Congress. Five names were presented by Representative Lucas with the following statement:
“I am pleased to announce the Committee’s leadership team for the next Congress. Our Subcommittee Chairmen have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the success of American agriculture and rural economies. I look forward to working with them as we address the important issues our agricultural producers and rural constituents face.”
Representative Lucas is most likely a reasonable fellow or his fellow Okies wouldn’t have reelected him November 6. His words must be true, but, to many Westerners, words just don’t seem to have the same tone and timbre as they should. For example, to those folks who live in the states of the West where the federal government controls over 50% of the land mass the suggestion of successful rural economies is simply confounding.
More specifically, the announcement of the ‘Subcommittee’ chairs shouldn’t create nearly as much interest as the complexity and expanse of jurisdiction assigned to those leaders. For starters every one of those names comes from states without federal ownership dominion (Iowa, Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arkansas). A Westerner might have a much different perspective and just may not agree that a federal committee should be micromanaging any industry in the manner our government is evolving.
The minutia of control is staggering. The list includes authority over Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition Jurisdiction; Agency oversight, review and analysis, special investigations, food stamps, nutrition and consumer programs; General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Jurisdiction; Program and markets related to cotton, cottonseed, wheat, feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice dry beans, peas, lentils, the Commodity Credit Corporation, risk management, including crop insurance, commodity exchanges, and specialty crops; Conservation, Energy, and Forestry Jurisdiction; Soil, water and resource conservation, small watershed program, energy and biobased energy production, rural electrification, forestry in general and forest reserves other than those created from the public domain; Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture Jurisdiction; Fruits and vegetables, honey and bees, marketing and promotion orders, plant pesticides, quarantine, adulteration of seeds and insect pests, and organic agriculture, research, education and extension, biotechnology and foreign agriculture assistance, and trade promotion programs, generally; Livestock, Rural Development , and Credit Jurisdiction; Livestock, dairy, poultry, meat, seafood and seafood products, inspection, marketing, and promotion of such commodities, aquaculture, animal welfare and grazing, rural development, farm security and family matters, and … WHEW! … agricultural credit.
Should believers of the 9th and 10th Amendments have reason for headaches?
The State of New Mexico
New Mexico is a sizeable chunk of real estate. It covers 77,819,520 acres of creation that rancher Don Thompson reverently reminds his land steward colleagues, “There is no land on earth that gives more, and … expects less than New Mexico.”
The state has strong rural ties.
Unfortunately, $.36 of every dollar now extracted and placed in the state’s budget comes from the United States Treasury. That is a troubling reality. The magnitude of such federal reliance should make every New Mexican wince especially with the pending financial crisis that looms for this nation in 2013.
Despite those woes, New Mexico still appears to be on track to maintain a balanced budget. Historically, the state has been a model of fiscal conservatism with enviable budget surpluses. The big revenue production has come variously, but oil and gas have fueled the state’s coffers.
The state’s budget for 2013 is $5.6 billion. If the entire budget was applied to ‘risk, management, and return to land’, the outlay would represent $71.96 per acre, but, of course, there is much more in the budget than managing the state’s land, in general, or state trust land, in particular.
The management of state trust land, though, does provide the basis of a broadening theme. The New Mexico State Land Office (SLO) oversees nine million acres of state trust surface land and some 13 million acres of subsurface rights. Based on 2012 numbers, the SLO is on track to distribute to $657.7 million to a list of beneficiaries of which education is the major recipient.
That total represents an impressive net return to the state of $4,355,629 per SLO employee. Stated another way, the SLO trust land return per acre to New Mexico is about $29.89 per acre.
The state of the United States Forest Service
An interesting comparison is to seek a federal agency that has a similar budget to the State of New Mexico and then compare the relative wealth contribution to the nation. Implicit in the comparison is the suggestion that any single agency that has the financial clout of a sovereign state of the United States must contribute substantively to the wellbeing of the nation. The comparison is found in one of Representative Lucas’ oversight responsibilities, the United State Forest Service (Forest Service).
That agency mirrors the State of New Mexico’s $5.6 billion budget with a $5.5 billion counterpart.
Net revenues stemming from Forest Service timber sales, grazing fees, and mineral extraction for 2013 are expected to be $108,790,000. If ‘land management’, recreation, and ‘other’ are added to that total, revenue harvest from permits, leases, and gate receipts is expected to net $421,573,000. That contribution to the agency still equates to a $28.49 loss for every managed acre. It also equates to a whopping $160,584 net loss per employee!
There is extensive narrative in the agency’s budget presentation regarding ‘theme’. The pillars of that theme are restoration, communities, and fire. Notwithstanding those words, the budget sets forth something much different.
What can be gleaned from study is a broad generalization that the agency has become a behemoth that manages three pillars of modern purpose. The first and only activity that reflects historical effort is fighting fire. The modern day fire, however, is catastrophic fire.
The second pillar is litigation and legal settlement dispensation. To actually determine how much money the agency sinks into this black hole is impossible to discern by merely reviewing the budget. Anecdotal suggestions by former officials claim it runs between 25 and 30% of the budget.
The third pillar is what must be categorized as concentrated environmental assignments. Enhancement of domestic forest productivity is nonexistent. Expenditures include money and efforts spent internationally guiding forest management practices of third world countries. Programs also include and expand United Nation conceptualized projects of sustainability. Part of that is acquisition of more federal holdings.
In 2013, the agency has budgeted no less than $59.1 million for acquiring land. Those acquisitions are represented to be vital for critical habitat and expansion of theme issues. Without introducing diseconomies of scale, the nation has every reason to believe for every acre added to the Forest Service’s portfolio another $28.49 annual operational loss will result. Recent year budgets verify the trend and there is no substantive conceptual strategy that counters it.
New Mexico’s SLO is run by the state constitutional mandate for securing revenues for educational funding. The Land Commissioner position is an elected position. Every candidate who runs for the position represents himself as the best friend education can have, and the results cannot be denied. The SLO of the State of New Mexico annually collects a quarter of a billion dollars more from state trust land activities than combined efforts of the Forest Service. That is done on 11% of a comparative land mass.
Using the same results and duplicating the metrics, the SLO should contract to the United States to assume Forest Service management. The difference would be stark. It would take an additional 1,325 state employees (which would reduce the federal counterparts by 32,925). Rather than a $5.5 billion black hole, the U.S. Treasury would receive $5.769 billion or a minimum swing of $11.26 billion.
Skeptical are you?
The State of Arizona did better. In a SLO that manages trust lands for a reported $.17 per acre, that agency projects a return to its state of $30.74 per managed acre in 2012.
If management of the federal lands was returned to the states, the hysterical outcry would be the health of the environment, but, citizenry who deal with private, state and federal lands know that productive land is healthy land. New Mexico and Arizona state trust lands are vital to Customs and Culture and they lag only private lands in total investment. State and private lands are healthy or the expanding revenue harvests wouldn’t occur.
The question is how unhealthy are federal lands? Their budget suggests monumental problems.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The West has lost multiple generations of investments and enterprise improvements because of constraints imposed by federal land management. Representative Lucas could do the nation a great service if he led an effort to return management decisions to local and state controls.”THE WESTERNER sez:
Wilmeth raises an interesting issue - who has jurisdiction over the Forest Service.
Wilmeth writes about Frank Lucas and the House Ag Committee. An excerpt from their jurisdiction as published by House Rule:
Forestry in general, and forest reserves other than those created from the public domain.
Matters relating to the development, use, and administration of the National Forests, including, but not limited to, development of a sound program for general public use of the National Forests consistent with watershed protection and sustained-yield timber management, study of the forest fire prevention and control policies and activities of the Forest Service and their relation to coordinated activities of other Federal, State, and private agencies; Forest Service land exchanges; and wilderness and similar use designations applied to National Forest land.
Well, what about the House Natural Resources Committee? Going to that committee's jurisdiction page we find:
Forest reserves and national parks created from the public domain.
· Mineral land laws and claims and entries thereunder.
· Mineral resources of public lands.
· Mining interests generally.
· Petroleum conservation on public lands and conservation of the radium supply in the United States.
· Preservation of prehistoric ruins and objects of interest on the public domain.
· Public lands generally, including entry, easements, and grazing thereon.
Wilmeth does an excellent job writing about the Forest Service budget. Who has jurisdiction over their budget?
The House Appropriations Committee, and more specifically the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
Go to their jurisdiction page and you will find that one of the "related agencies" is, you guessed it, the Forest Service.
So again I ask, who has jurisdiction over the Forest Service? I'm sure the D.C. Deep Thinkers will reply, "it's shared".
Fifty-two Panhandle cattlemen decided on Dec. 29, 1885 to call the attorney general’s bluff by indicting themselves on charges of “illegal fencing” on public land.
By the 1880’s, most people in the eastern half of Texas believed beef barons in the faraway Panhandle were exploiting the public domain for their own private gain. Pressure mounted on the legislature to curtail the custom of letting the cowmen graze their herds for free on government land.
A bill was passed in 1883 that mandated competitive leasing of the public range at a minimum rate of four cents an acre. To enforce the new law, a State Land Board was created composed of the governor, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer and commissioner of the General Land Office.
But the ranchers flatly refused to bid against each other for grazing and water rights or to offer more than the minimum. The Land Board retaliated by doubling the price to eight cents an acre and branded the obstinate pioneers as trespassers subject to eviction at gunpoint.
Attorney General John Templeton demanded that the Panhandle prosecutor seek indictments against the big ranchers for “illegal enclosure,” private fencing of public pasture. Caught in the middle and fearing the worst, the district attorney reluctantly obeyed.
To his amazement, the grand jury cheerfully complied. Following the lead of Charles Goodnight, the biggest rancher of them all, the cowmen returned a total of 76 indictments against themselves and practically every beef producer in the region. The attorney general’s bluff was officially called.
Rare was the prospective juror in the sparsely settled Panhandle whose livelihood did not depend in one way or another on the cattle industry. The dozen that sat in judgment of the accused were either working cowboys or their employers, and, as expected, the short trial ended in a verdict of “not guilty.”
But the attorney general would not call it quits and immediately went after Goodnight as the ringleader of the resistance. Templeton obtained a temporary injunction in May 1886 that for all practical purposes put Goodnight out of business.
The injunction was soon overturned by a judge named Willis, the same magistrate who had presided over the controversial acquittal. Adding insult to injury, he awarded cash damages to Goodnight. Badly beaten at his own game, the humiliated attorney general was content to complete his term without going another round with the rough-and-tumble ranchers.
In a dramatic attempt to force the Land Board to honor the original four-cent lease, Goodnight and the owners of the T Anchor Ranch traveled to Austin. Loading a wheelbarrow with more than $100,000, they pushed the fortune up Congress Avenue to the office of the flustered state treasurer. Although he refused to accept the cold cash, the ranchers made their point and gave even their sharpest critics a good laugh.