Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!




Amazing Grace



Gift through Mary
Amazing Grace
The conversion of John Newton
By Stephen L. Wilmeth


            How many of us consider the gift that has come through the name, Mary?
            The first came from our relationship with the first Mary. After all, she is the blessed mother of our Lord and Savior. She was the original, and, often, those of her namesake continue to remind us of the simple virtues that are basic to our existence.
            In January, a celebration and memorial of the life of Mary Agnew was held in Grant County.  Many friends and family assembled to be with Mary for the last earthly gathering we would share with her. She had a lasting and positive impact on our lives. Never could there be a more uplifting experience than to seek her for a word or a laugh.
            As the service concluded, Mary’s own hymn selection was grandly appropriate.  The second verse, though, was more subdued as the emotion and the words of the first impacted the crowd.
            From the row behind us, arose a young voice with clarity and strength that rallied everybody. The young man was a relative of Mary like so many others present. In an instant, there was a reminder that another elder will emerge to fill her role.
            That leader will urge the return to the strength and courage of the first verse when we sang:
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now could see.  
            John Newton
            A very human character born in England in 1725 became a lasting reminder that God’s grace is endless. In fact, a good place to start would be to consider the final words of his diary entry in 1772. He wrote:
“Blinded by the God of this world until mercy came to us not only undeserved but undesired … our hearts endeavored to shut Him out ‘till he overcame us by the power of his Grace.”
As so much of his work reveals, he was prone to write in first person. In fact, the lyrics of “Amazing Grace”, John Newton’s timeless hymn, was centered on first person. He was writing about himself.
Pastor John Newton was born to a Catholic shipping merchant and a devoutly but congregationally independent mother. What is known about her was she did have hope her son would someday consider the clergy. She didn’t live long enough to see that happen. She died when he was six.
That traumatic experience launched John into an abyss of tumult and chaos. Insolent, disobedient, and unmanageable, he was first sent off to boarding school. That ended after he was beaten and humbled to no avail at age 11. His father put him on his sailing ship and proceeded to treat him like the vile urchin he was. By the time he was a middle teen even his father had lost all patience and banned him from his own ship for insubordination and wanton behavior. 
He landed in the English Navy and a growing and persistent pattern of his life emerged. He demonstrated a fatalistic pattern of near death experiences followed by an examination of any relationship with his deity followed by a relapse of unbridled chaos.
Incarcerated following a desertion, he was stripped of his rank and whipped publicly. The humiliation did nothing but redouble his impertinence and rage. He would later write he didn’t commit suicide or kill somebody, especially his captain, because he was concerned a young lady by the name of Polly Catlett would think unfavorably of him.
Who was this young lady who entered into John Newton’s life? She was one of the three most powerful influences of his life, and, ultimately, she would become his wife. Before that occurred, though, Newton would be assigned to a slave ship where its captain would record he was the most profane man he had ever encountered.
  Openly defying all authority and mocking the captain with uninterrupted contempt he was imprisoned at sea and starved. He was then off loaded and rendered a slave on a plantation in Sierra Leone. It was there his father learned of his plight and rescued him.
It was on the ship that assisted in his rescue, the Greyhound, the first step in his monumental transformation began. On the outbound voyage, a great storm nearly sank the ship. Lashed to the bilge pump, Newton was purported to say, “If this will not do (pumping frantically), then Lord have mercy on us.”
He would rest and return to duty at the wheel. For eleven hours he would remain at war against the storm and his own soul. He pondered his divine challenges, and … survived.
The transformation
With horrified and distraught parents, Polly conceded to John’s insistence and married him. The toughest of the toughs, though, he would not immediately remain ashore. Becoming the captain of a slaver himself, he would continue that trade until he collapsed of what might have been a stroke at the age of 30.
He found employment as a customs agent by 1756. It was then he began an educational and spiritual journey that would prompt him to seek the course his mother had desired of her son, the ministry.
He first sought sponsorship from the Bishop of York, but that fellow saw his record and refused. It was the Earl of Dartmouth who found his case interesting. The good Earl took a chance that remains one of history’s most insightful leaps of faith. He agreed to sponsor him. Under his guidance and authority, Newton was ordained.
By 1764, Polly and John were preaching in the small community of Olney. Two profound things happened at Olney. First, Newton’s style of preaching matured. He increasingly concentrated not on an impersonal orthodox delivery, but in first person, up close and personal. After all, he was the sinner of his sermons. He was the modern day miracle!
The other influence was the arrival of William Cowper. Cowper’s life mirrored John’s in terms of disappointment and suicidal tendencies. Together, they not only supported one another’s weakness, they stoked creative genius.
Starting a weekly bible study, they embarked on the attempt to create a new poem or hymn each week. That work would be parlayed into the weekly lesson.  They were preaching to congregants who shared trials and tribulations of everyday life. They became hugely popular among their following.
It was from this effort the lyrics of Amazing Grace in 1772.  It was presented for the first time on the first Sunday in 1773.
The Olney Hymns
Their work, described as the Olney Hymns, became widely popular. The creators of the work, however, were criticized by the prevailing Anglican establishment.
In a scathing assessment, a critic wrote,” (he is) unabashedly (a) middlebrow lyricist writing for a lowbrow congregation.” He substantiated the rebuke reminding his readers that only 21 of the words in the verses had more than a single syllable!
History has shown Newton’s approach to first person was brilliant. His insistence on faith in salvation, wonder of God, Grace, love for Jesus, and his own earthly transformation were the synopsis of Christianity.
Where England failed to accept the popularity, America was a sponge ready to absorb it. It was there the hymn became the anthem of the religious reawakening of the 19th Century. Out of the spiritual grassroots of Kentucky and Tennessee it emerged, caught fire, and swept the country.
It is little wonder and immensely important to note the hymn is a dynamic miracle that has reached beyond the Olney impact.  For example, a following verse often sung today was not from the pen of Newton, but the very slave descendents he carried to America generations earlier.
For some 50 years, many slaves sang this different verse. That one is now the verse that is so often difficult to sing after singing the emotionally charged first one.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining of the Sun
We’ve no less days to see God’s praise
Than when we first begun
Today
It is unfortunate that John Newton’s name is not more widely known. His gift that remains so powerful every time it is sung remains the spiritual banner hymn for rural folks who must defend their very existence.
We are not alone. The Cherokees sang the hymn translated into their native tongue as they endured the tyrannical tragedy of their dislocation.
In the end, the song embraces original values without trumpeting triumph. It is sung by young and old, rich and poor, Presbyters and Catholics, and Mary Agnew’s friends and family.
She would remind each of this blessed Easter morning … HE HAS RISEN!
HE HAS RISEN INDEED.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Mary Agnew was one of two people who suggested a word now and then from this saddle shop should be shared. God bless her soul and God Bless … our America.”

First Lady Turns Easter Egg Roll Into White House 'Fat Camp'

This year's White House Easter Egg Roll has been turned into a "fat camp" to inflict exercise and the First Lady's "Let's Move!" healthy meal plans on kids who want just want to celebrate the season on the South Lawn. An e-mail from the "Let's Move!" campaign says the Easter Egg Roll has been turned into a "Let's Move! Social": "We're excited to announce that our next White House Social will be a Let's Move! Social here, at the White House. On Monday, April 1st, 2013, the First Family will host the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll with the theme 'Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!'" The First Lady's "followers" will be there to preach to kids about their eating habits: "We are invitingLet's Move! followers on Twitter and Facebook and their children, ages 5 - 13, to join the fun on the South Lawn and of course to share their experience with their followers!" There will even be a physical activity regime, something called "sports courts," and cooking demonstrations to "educate families," the White House Easter Egg Roll web page says...more:

White House Easter Egg Roll party to include a 'Yoga Garden'


The White House announces that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will include a “Yoga Garden” for children and their parents who attend the traditional Easter Egg Roll festivities on Monday. “Come enjoy a session of yoga from professional instructors,” reads the announcement, reminding participants that the event’s theme is “Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!”...more

Pope trims back Easter vigil

Pope Francis celebrated a trimmed-back Easter Vigil service after having reached out to Muslims and women during a Holy Week in which he began to put his mark on the Catholic Church. Francis processed into a darkened and silent St Peter’s Basilica at the start of the service, in which the faithful recall the period between Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday. One of the most dramatic moments of the Easter Vigil service that usually follows – when the Pope would share the light of his candle with others until the entire basilica twinkled – was shortened this year as were some of the Old Testament readings. A scaled-back vigil – and one that started earlier than usual – was just one of the novelties of this Holy Week under an Argentine Jesuit pope who just two weeks ago stunned the world by emerging from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica after his election with a simple “Brothers and sisters, good evening”. He riled traditionalists but endeared himself to women and liberals by washing and kissing the feet of two young girls during a Holy Thursday Mass at a juvenile detention centre in Rome, when the rite usually calls for only men to participate. A day later, Francis reached out with friendship to “Muslim brothers and sisters” during a Good Friday procession dedicated to the suffering of Christians from terrorism, war and religious fanaticism in the Middle East...more

Hey, Isn't That the Spring Bunny?

Because this is the holiest week of the year on the Judeo-Christian calendar, it might be useful to look at how theology is faring in the age of secularism. As you may know, there is a movement in America to remove the word "God" from the currency, to replace the word "Christmas" with "winter" and to replace the word "Easter"' with "spring." On Long Island, where I live, one school is running a "spring egg hunt" with a special appearance by the "Spring Bunny."  Of course, this kind of stupidity is insulting to Christians, but it's been going on for years. Committed secular folks feel no shame or fear whatsoever in attempting to diminish Christian celebrations. Recently at Florida Atlantic University, communications instructor Dr. Deandre Poole ordered his students to write the name "Jesus" on a piece of paper, drop the paper to the floor and stomp on it. Poole contended the exercise was necessary in order to develop "critical thinking." Ryan Rotela, one of the students and a Mormon, refused the order. He was quickly disciplined by the university and removed from the class. After my TV program began investigating the situation, FAU quickly reversed their decision, apologized to Rotela and allowed him to continue in the class without answering to the instructor, who, incredibly, is a Democratic Party official in Florida. What struck me about this case was the lack of outrage by the Christian community in Florida. Rotela's story was reported in the local media, but nothing really happened until it got to the national level...more

War on Easter? Schools, Cities Planning Another Round of ‘Spring Egg Hunts’

In our increasingly politically-correct society, Christmas isn’t the only holiday too hot to handle for school districts. Easter, another holiday rooted in Christian faith, is now being marginalized by governmental entities.
School districts and cities across America are holding “Spring egg hunts” and similar events, frequently omitting the word “Easter” from calendars and public announcements. Consider these:
• On March 16th, Flat Rock Elementary School in Anderson, South Carolina is holding a “Community Egg Hunt.”
West Shore School District will be holding its “PTO Egg Hunt” on March 16th.
• New York’s East Meadow Schools will be holding its “Spring Egg Hunt” on March 19.
• The Prospect Heights Public Library District in Illinois is holding its “Spring Egg Hunt” on March 26th.
• California’s Manhattan Beach Unified School District has its “Spring Egg Hunt” in late March.
• The City of Upland, California will hold its “Spring Egg Hunt” March 30.
There are many, many more examples. Does it matter that they’re detaching “Easter” from “egg hunts”? After all, the original significance of the day has nothing to do with bunnies, candy or hunting painted eggs.
It does, because “culturally sensitive” bureaucrats are further secularizing America by wiping Christian names off traditional community events...more

Alabama School Bans Word 'Easter'

Fox News: Boys and girls at an Alabama elementary school will still get to hunt for eggs – but they can’t call them ‘Easter Eggs’ have the principal banished the word for the sake of religious diversity. “We had in the past a parent to question us about some of the things we do here at school,” said Heritage Elementary School principal Lydia Davenport. “So we’re just trying to make sure we respect and honor everybody’s differences.” Television station WHNT reported that teachers were informed that no activities related to or centered around any religious holiday would be allowed – in the interest of religious diversity. “Kids love the bunny and we just make sure we don’t say ‘the Easter Bunny’ so that we don’t infringe on the rights of others because people relate the Easter bunny to religion,” she told the television station. link

No Liberal Easter Basket Is Complete Without One Of These


Friday, March 29, 2013

test

Rap Battle - Babe Ruth vs Lance Armstrong



http://youtu.be/YtO-6Xg3g2M

FBI ‘flying saucers’ N.M. memo bureau’s most viewed

A single-page FBI memo relaying a vague and unconfirmed report of flying saucers found in New Mexico in 1950 has become the most popular file in the bureau’s electronic reading room. The memo, dated March 22, 1950, was sent by FBI Washington, D.C.- field office chief Guy Hottel to then-Director J. Edgar Hoover. According to the FBI, the document was first made public in the late 1970s and more recently has been available in the “Vault,” an electronic reading room launched by the agency in 2011, where it has become the most popular item, viewed nearly 1 million times. The Vault contains around 6,700 public documents. Vaguely written, the memo describes a story told by an unnamed third party who claims an Air Force investigator reported that three flying saucers were recovered in New Mexico, though the memo doesn’t say exactly where in the state. The FBI indexed the report for its files but did not investigate further; the name of an “informant” reporting some of the information is blacked out in the memo. The memo offers several bizarre details. Inside each saucer, “each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture,” according to the report. “Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed fliers and test pilots.”...more

Homeland Security buying pricey ammo as department-wide cuts take hold

The Department of Homeland Security is spending more and more on pricey hollow-point bullets for law-enforcement officers -- even as it plans to enforce furloughs and other cuts on Customs and Border Protection employees due to sequestration. The Department of Homeland Security plans to buy more than 1.6 billion rounds over the next five years for training and on-duty purposes. They cite the numerous law enforcement agencies contained within the department with employees who carry weapons. But the purchases have led to criticism that the agency is spending money on bullets that can cost twice as much as regular ammo -- and questions over whether those bullets are really needed for training purposes. "Obviously you want to know how a hollow point is going to cycle through your weapon," Scott McCurley, manager for Maryland-based Horst and McCann firing range and a former soldier for the U.S. Army, told FoxNews.com. "But I don't think there's much of a difference when training. One box of rounds per gun is enough. The cost outweighs the purpose." It's unclear how many of the total rounds sought would be hollow-point, but a recent solicitation specifically called for 360,000 rounds of hollow-point bullets. "With more than 100,000 armed law enforcement personnel in DHS, significant quantities of ammunition are used to support law enforcement operations, quarterly qualifications, and training, to include advanced firearms training exercises," the department said...more

Bullets fly off store shelves over purchase limit fears

The caller wanted to know whether Lloyd Cook had any 9 mm ammunition in stock. “I asked him how much did he want,” said Cook, owner of an Independence gun range, “and he said, ‘All of it.’” Across the country, bullets are flying off store shelves as people stockpile ammunition. The big question: Why? “There is no good answer for this,” said Kevin Jamison, a Gladstone lawyer and spokesman for the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance. “Panic buying seems to account for some of the shortage, but I don’t believe it can be all of it.” Some point to concerns that the government might limit ammo purchases in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Others blame the Department of Homeland Security, which has a big purchase in the works. The rush to buy isn’t rational, said Larry Swickard, a member of the Western Missouri alliance. “But it seems to be having a ripple effect in that when people see a significant number of people buying up all the ammo they can find, they follow suit for fear of being left out with none for themselves,” Swickard said. Before Christmas, Cook said, you could buy a brick of .22s — 500 rounds — for $18. “Now I’m hearing people paying $60 or $70 for one,” he said. Retailers still can’t keep those small-caliber bullets in stock. “We haven’t got any .22 calibers — we’re out,” Cook said. “I don’t know who has any. Anytime anyone gets some, customers buy ’em up within a day.” Wal-Mart stores are limiting sales to three boxes per customer per day. The amount of ammunition in each box varies by caliber, a Wal-Mart spokesman said, such as a 25-count box for 9 mm bullets and a 50-round box of .45s. At Blue Steel Guns & Ammunition in Raytown, the ammo truck rolls into the parking lot on Fridays. Last week, a crowd of customers was waiting for the shipment, and all 60 boxes of .22-caliber and 9 mm ammunition — thousands of rounds — were gone in 18 minutes...more

Conservative, DC-based website goes after Heinrich

Getting elected the U.S. Senate has increased the profile of Martin Heinrich but it’s also attracted attention from a conservative website with a national audience. The Daily Caller, which is based in Washington D.C. and founded by pundit Tucker Carlson, has posted a story about Sen. Heinrich with the headline: Democratic New Mexico senator worked closely with convicted eco-terrorist...

The Westerner linked to the Daily Caller article here.


Back in 2008, when Heinrich first ran for Congress, the Albuquerque Journal looked into the issue:
Foreman helped found the radical environmental group Earth First! in the 1980s. But Heinrich said he never condoned that group’s methods.

    “There have been times when even on that board we argued very different approaches on how to do things. I think I had a relatively beneficial impact on them in taking a very mainstream approach.”

    Heinrich prefers to call himself a “conservationist” rather than environmentalist.

    “I’ll be the first to fault some environmental organizations for not being good compromisers,” he said, “for not getting what they want done by reaching out to people who are different.”
Let's hope the Senator is still willing to reach out to folks who are "different".  My recollection of his service on the House Resources committee is that he did the bidding of the environmental community.  By that I mean him taking the leadership in proposing an Omnibus Public Lands bill, and even voting against hunters being able to use a simple game cart  in a Wilderness area.  The  enviros were appreciative of his efforts:

The Daily Caller story reported that the Sierra Club spent $2 million in negative ads against Wilson and that the “League of Conservation Voters was Heinrich’s largest campaign contributor during the 2012 election cycle, donating $154,374.”

Will Senator Heinrich reach over or around the enviros to other groups?  Time will tell.








Ranchers fear expanding scope of ESA

The federal government wants to clarify the Endangered Species Act with two upcoming policy changes that ranching interests fear will greatly increase the law's scope. In both cases, the Obama administration is attempting to resolve legal disputes over language in the act -- and appears to side with arguments that would interpret its authority more broadly. Ranchers would be affected by a more expansive understanding of the ESA's scope, as many rely on public lands for grazing and own property potentially inhabited by protected species. The combined effect of the policies would be to subject more land to ESA restrictions while relieving the government from considering the law's full economic impact, according to rancher advocates. The first policy deals with how the government deals with a species that faces varying levels of danger across its range. Under the ESA, protections are extended to a species that is endangered or threatened "throughout all or a significant portion of its range." The Bush administration understood the law to mean that protections may only apply to the "significant portion" where the species is threatened or endangered, not to areas where it's healthy. However, two federal judges disagreed with that approach because it excluded some members of a listed species from ESA protection. The Obama administration withdrew the previous policy and has proposed a replacement to resolve "tensions and ambiguities" in the law. The proposed policy states that if the viability of a species is at risk in a significant portion of its range, protections will apply across all of its range. One practical effect of the new policy will be to open more of the landscape to designation as "critical habitat," said Karen Budd-Falen, an attorney who represents ranchers and other natural resource industries. "It will be more designations and bigger designations," she said...more

FAA on 'Drone Zone' Locations: Nothing Is Ruled Out

Drone tests may soon be carried out over a city near you. In response to Breitbart News queries about the limitations on the location of so-called “drone zones” – zones specifically designated to test commercial and military drones under Federal Aviation Administration regulations – FAA Pacific Division Public Affairs Manager Ian Gregor told Breitbart News, “I don’t believe anything is ruled out.” This means that even heavily populated areas will be considered for possible drone zones. Gregor added, “The Congressional mandate states the FAA must consider ‘geographic and climatic diversity’ and ‘the location of ground infrastructure and research needs’ in selecting [unmanned aircraft system (UAS)] test sites ... The FAA does not believe the planned test sites need to be identical. It is possible that the size of the sites as well as the research work performed will vary from site to site.”...more

EPA Forces Man to Spend $200K to Expand Lake, Doesn't Grant Permit To Do It

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has launched a new campaign called "Victims of Government" that details how onerous government has destroyed people's lives. To launch the effort Senator Johnson posted a video yesterday in which he describes the plight of Stephen Lathrop from Granite City, Illinois. According to a letter from Senator Johnson and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to the Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Lathrop's town has a severe flooding problem that the Army Corps of Engineers was ordered to fix in 1965 but never did. In light of this, Mr. Lathrop decided to buy a local dump, invest $100,000 of his own money, and build a lake to alleviate the flooding in his neighborhood. That's when the trouble started. Shortly after Mr. Lathrop built his lake, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the dump he had put the lake on was a "wetland" according to the Clean Water Act and he would have to drain the lake. When Mr. Lathrop couldn't afford to do that the Corp referred him to the EPA for prosecution. While this was going on another incident of sever flooding occurred in the area. Granite City and its outlying areas were flooded and declared a disaster area by the federal government. However, Mr. Lathrop's lake prevented the same thing from happening to his neighborhood...more

Feds Spending $880,000 to Study Benefits of Snail Sex

The National Science Foundation awarded a grant for $876,752 to the University of Iowa to study whether there is any benefit to sex among New Zealand mud snails and whether that explains why any organism has sex. The study, first funded in 2011 and continuing until 2015, will study the New Zealand snails to see if it is better that they reproduce sexually or asexually – the snail can do both – hoping to gain insight on why so many organisms practice sexual reproduction. So far, the grant has paid out $502,357, according to NSF, and could pay out the full $880,000 between now and 2015. The study is funded through what NSF calls a continuing grant meaning that it agrees with the researcher to fund a certain amount, but can end up spending more on the grant if NSF agrees that more money is warranted...more Time to sequester some snails.

EPA to unveil plan to clean up tailpipe pollution that critics say would raise gas prices

The White House is planning to unveil a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency that aims to clean up gasoline and automobile emissions, a plan officials say will lead to cleaner air but also higher gas prices. The so-called Tier 3 standards would reduce sulfur in gasoline by more than 60 percent and reduce nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, by expanding across the country a standard already in place in California. It would go into effect in 2017. The oil industry, Republicans and some Democrats have pressed the EPA to delay the rule, saying it would be unwise to impose such a standard while many are still struggling in a bad economy. An oil industry study says the rule could increase gasoline prices by 6 to 9 cents per gallon. The EPA says the potential increase in gas prices would be slight, estimating the rules could increase gas prices by less than a penny per gallon and add $130 to the cost of a vehicle in 2025. Additionally, the agency argues the plan will yield billions of dollars in health benefits by slashing smog- and soot-forming pollution come 2030...more

Renewed interest in heirloom cattle from Florida

An ancient and hearty breed of cattle from Florida could be your next healthy meal. Known as Cracker Cattle, they are descendants of animals that arrived in Florida with Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521. While little-known outside the Sunshine State, ranchers say the cattle are experiencing a renaissance of sorts in Florida, mostly because the animals are easy to care for and less expensive to maintain than other breeds. They seem to be made for Florida's harsh terrain: they thrive on low-quality grass and in hot, humid and swampy climates. They were dubbed "Cracker" cattle after the nickname for the state's earliest settlers who cracked whips to drive the cows. "At one point, they ran feral in Florida, well into the forties," said Dr. William Broussard, who owns the state's largest Cracker Cattle herd at his ranch in St. Cloud. "They had to adapt." There's also a renewed interest in the cattle due to the state's celebration of its 500th anniversary. Although the cattle did not arrive on Florida shores during the Spanish explorer's first voyage in 1513, they were brought by de Leon on his second voyage to the new world. Historians say de Leon brought a small herd of Andalusian cattle from Spain with him, but when the Calusa Indians forced de Leon back to his ship, the cattle didn't follow. They are believed to have run wild into the swamps around de Leon's landing site south of present-day Fort Myers, according to Stephen Monroe, Florida's Cracker Cattle expert for the Department of Agriculture. Similar events happened on Florida's Panhandle in 1540, and when St. Augustine was founded in 1565, some 200 calves were shipped there to help feed soldiers. Soon after Jesuit and Franciscan friars began large-scale ranching, said Broussard, who is a 10th generation cattleman whose family raised cattle in Louisiana. "Large scale ranching was invented in Florida, not Texas," he said...more

Thursday, March 28, 2013

John Stossel tonight - Green Tyranny (9PM ET on FBN)

Tyranny is the stuff of dictatorships. We call this week's show "Green Tyranny" because government's regulations always go too far. At first, the EPA did good things. Environmental standards brought us cleaner air and water. Then government should have said, "stick a fork in it! It's done." But government never does. It just spends more and more. The Endangered Species Act seemed like a good idea. But now, Jim Burling from the Pacific Legal Foundation, says the ESA puts animals, like prairie dogs and frogs, above the interests of the people. Europe has spent billions to support "green" energy, but Bjorn Lomborg points out that Germany and Spain are now cutting back. Then, he debates Brian Wynne, the President of an electric car lobbying group (The Electric Drive Transportation Association). Celebs' like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio jumped on the electric car bandwagon - but are electric cars really all that green? Lomborg doesn't think so. My mayor, Michael Bloomberg, now wants yet another ban-Styrofoam. He says it's "environmentally destructive." But Angela Logomasini, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that banning foam products hurts consumers without helping the environment. Science writer, Matt Ridley, argues that fossil fuels are actually good for the environment. Finally, a debate on global warming. If you can even call it that - We asked a dozen scientists who are concerned about man causing global warming to debate Roy Spencer, a skeptical climatologist at the University of Alabama. Most refused. Gavin Schmidt, a NASA scientist, was willing to talk, as long as it was not a debate. We found a weird compromise.  John Stossel

And from PLF:

Tonight’s show will highlight two cases of abuse that PLF is challenging:

Feds pit prairie dogs against people.  In Cedar City, Utah, residents are overwhelmed with an infestation of prairie dogs digging up yards and parks, blocking development of land, and threatening the health of the community — yet federal officials won’t permit commonsense control measures, because they’ve labeled the rodents as “threatened.”
Feds grab private land for a phantom frog.  In St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, federal officials have imposed restrictions on more than 1,500 acres of private property by labeling the land as “critical habitat” for the dusky gopher frogeven though there aren’t any frogs on the property.  In fact, there aren’t any dusky gopher frogs in the entire state!

Mexican vigilantes seize town, arrest police

Hundreds of armed vigilantes have taken control of a town on a major highway in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, arresting local police officers and searching homes after a vigilante leader was killed. Several opened fire on a car of Mexican tourists headed to the beach for Easter week. Members of the area's self-described "community police" say more than 1,500 members of the force were stopping traffic Wednesday at improvised checkpoints in the town of Tierra Colorado, which sits on the highway connecting Mexico City to Acapulco. They arrested 12 police and the former director of public security in the town after a leader of the state's vigilante movement was slain on Monday. A tourist heading to the beach with relatives was slightly wounded Tuesday after they refused to stop at a roadblock and vigilantes fired shots at their car, officials said...more

Mexican immigrant scales 18-foot fence and jumps across US border – just a few yards away from four US senators who were on a fact-finding tour

Mexican immigrants illegally enter the United States every day, often scaling 18-foot-tall fences in the hope of finding work or, in some cases, trafficking drugs. But one woman picked the wrong day and the wrong place to cross over, jumping into America just a few yards away from four US senators who were visiting the Arizona border as part of a fact-finding tour. Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Democrat Michael Bennet of Utah and Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York were near the town of Nogales when the illegal immigrant made her mad dash and ended up in the waiting arms of US Customs and Border Patrol officers. McCain tweeted the surprising event Wednesday afternoon. 'Just witnessed a woman successfully climb an 18-ft bollard fence a few yards from us in #Nogales,' he wrote. 'Border Patrol successfully apprehended her, but incident is another reminder that threats to our border security are real.'...more

Drug war's toll in Mexico is guesswork as bodies vanish

REYNOSA, Mexico - Heavy gunfire echoed along the main thoroughfare and across several neighborhoods for hours, leaving burned vehicles scattered across the border city. Social media exploded with reports of dozens dead. Witnesses saw at least 12. But the hours of intense gunfights in Reynosa on March 10 gave way to an official body count the next day of a head-scratching two. The men who handle the city's dead insist the real figure is upward of 35, likely even more than 50. Ask where those bodies are and they avert their eyes and shift in their seats. Drug cartel members, they say, are retrieving and burying their casualties. "Physically, there are no bodies," said Ramon Martinez, director of Funerales San Jose in Reynosa, who put the toll at 40 to 50. If Reynosa is an example, even the government can't count how many are dying. The Felipe Calderón government stopped counting in September 2011...more

Mexico: 67 Journalist Killed & 14 Missing, Since 2006

As Mexico's drug cartels fight for dominance, reporters have fallen victim to physical threats, even murder. Testifying last summer, a special prosecutor said 67 Mexican journalists were killed since 2006, making them among the most targeted reporters in the world. Another 14 disappeared. Under the new president, the attacks appear to have increased. They’ve even led to news blackouts along the border. The Committee to Protect Journalists has consistently named Mexico as one of the deadliest places in the world for reporters. Carlos Lauria runs the organization’s Latin America program. "Many reporters and media are cowing to silence because they fear reprisal from organized crime and corrupt public officials," Lauria said. In the last two months, a newspaper and a television station in Ciudad Juárez were attacked in drive-by shootings. A reporter in the border town of Ojinaga was gunned down. Then five employees of a Coahuila news agency were kidnapped. Threats were spelled out on banners along a highway. The news agency announced it will no longer cover organized crime. In Reynosa, a gunfight reportedly happened with as many as 30 dead. The only account was in a U.S. newspaper. To the CPJ’s Lauria, the pattern is simple: Those trying to stop newsgathering, are winning...more

Agents Warn Budget Cuts Will Leave the Border Unprotected

While Homeland Security officials stick to their claim that the border is as "secure as it’s ever been," this week the Border Patrol effectively cut some 4,000 agents from its force due to budget cuts — 20 percent of its total manpower. The cuts, meant to close a $250 million shortfall due to “sequestration,” forced Border Patrol brass to make some tough choices. One option included putting agents on furlough two days a month — but agency administrators instead opted to eliminate overtime, according to Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council. While the overtime cuts could be seen as inconsequential, agents insisted it’s actually quite a blow. In many border areas, agents don't actually live in the immediate border region. They drive from home to headquarters, which in Tucson is more than an hour from the border, about the same as in San Diego. For agents in Casa Grande, Arizona, the commute is closer to 2 hours. For the agency, the drive time is treated as overtime, thus allowing line agents to put in a full eight-hour shift actually patrolling the border. However, effective April 7, agents will be forced to leave the border after a five- or six-hour shift in order to make it back under the mandated eight hours. Agents said the down side will be that areas of the border will be left unprotected for hours at a time. "This is best thing that could happen to smugglers and coyotes and drug smuggling organizations,” said Moran. “They already know the border patrol is looking at staffing cuts.” In some sectors, managers will increase the number of shifts to cover the overtime cuts, but they recognized that will mean fewer agents on patrol. In Arizona, elimination of overtime equates to 700 fewer agents on a daily basis — nationwide it’s 3,000 to 4,000...more

Western environmentalists oppose wolf delisting

Western environmental groups say they're alarmed that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a plan to end federal protections for gray wolves in vast areas where the animals no longer exist. The groups say ending federal protections would keep wolves from expanding their range back into states that could support them, including Colorado and California. The Fish and Wildlife Service could announce as soon as this spring whether it will propose a blanket delisting of wolves in most of the lower 48 states. Wolves in the Northern Rockies and around the Great Lakes, where reintroduced populations are well-established, are already off the Endangered Species List. Chris Tollefson, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, DC, said Tuesday that the agency hasn't made any decision yet whether it will propose the blanket delisting. An agency report last year proposed dropping wolves from the endangered list in most areas where they're known not to live. Even if the Fish and Wildlife Service ends federal protections, Tollefson said states would be free to cultivate their own wolf populations. "It's fair to say that there wouldn't be a prohibition, it would simply be left to the states to determine how to manage wolves in their boundaries," he said. Tollefson said his agency regards the wolf recovery efforts in the Great Lakes states and Northern Rockies as enormous successes. "Our view, and that of the biological community is that those populations are thriving and no longer require the protections of the Endangered Species Act," Tollefson said. "Obviously, we'll be discussing other areas as we move forward on that."...more

Most grizzlies still in mountain dens; long-term, Front bears appear to be emerging sooner

Most grizzly bears along the Rocky Mountain Front remain in their dens, which is typical for late March, but over the long-term, grizzlies seem to be emerging sooner due to warmer and drier weather, according to a bear specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “I’ve been here long enough to be able to see it does appear to me bears in general are emerging earlier and earlier,” FWP’s Mike Madel said. Madel took a flight from the Sun River to Glacier National Park searching for signals from radio-collared bears Tuesday. During the flights, which are conducted every two weeks, bear researchers collect information on home ranges, habitat use patterns and survival and reproduction necessary to move the grizzly bear, currently designated as threatened, toward delisting. At this time of year, residents always are eager to know whether grizzlies are out of their dens, Madel said. “I would say the majority of the bears are still in their dens or still back in those mountainous environments,” Madel said. Madel picked up signals from six radio-collared females but no male grizzly bears. Of the six radio-collared females, four still were in the dens and signals from two were picked up very close to the dens. It’s typical for bears to spend five to 10 days near the dens when they first emerge lethargic, Madel said...more

Western News Roundup


Another Colorado lawmaker receives threats over gun debate, man arrested

Colorado gun lobbyist says he did nothing to warrant an ethics charge

Cow tail protection defeated for year in Colorado

Wyoming Gov. Mead vows to fight federal mineral royalties cuts

Grand Teton National Park achieves $700K in savings

Montana - Backers, opponents of Flathead water compact flood hearing

Oregon - Coal export foes vow to fight Port Westward industrial park expansion

Biologists spot wolf at central Washington ranch where cow died

Oregon - FDA meeting on food safety in Portland draws consumers, farmers, regulators

Oregon - Wolf OR-7 feeding on an elk carcass in Jackson County

Oregon - Judge stops Willamette National Forest timber sale

Western Oregon BLM lands get new environmental group website extolling their virtues

 

Interior Department cuts mineral payments to 35 states

The U.S. Department of Interior is cutting federal mineral payments to 35 states by about $110 million this fiscal year as part of the automatic federal spending cuts that started this month. Gov. Matt Mead announced this week that Wyoming faces the biggest cut — at least $53 million during the next five months. Wyoming is the nation's leading coal-producing state and last year received nearly $1 billion in federal mineral payments. The federal government paid a total of $2.1 billion last year to the states, representing their share of revenue from energy and mineral production that occurred on federal land within the states, as well as offshore. New Mexico will take the next-biggest hit, a loss of $26 million. The reduction for New Mexico, a leading natural gas and oil producer, represents about 0.5 percent of the total revenue the state expects to collect in its main budget account in the current budget year. Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of the New Mexico State Senate committee that handles the budget, said he was concerned that the $26 million is the "tip of the iceberg" of potentially larger federal cutbacks to states. "As far as being able to ride the storm out right now in the short-term, obviously we can do that with the reserves that we are forecasting," Smith said. New Mexico should have a financial safety net of about $570 million at the end of this budget year, with those cash reserves roughly equal to 10 percent of the state's spending. Other states hit hardest include Colorado, which is losing $8.4 million, and California, which will get $5.5 million less. The states' losses range all the way down to $7 for North Carolina...more

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prospects good for N.M. oil, gas boom

by Kevin Robinson-Avila 

Preliminary results from Mancos shale wells in northwestern New Mexico are boosting industry excitement about a new oil and gas boom in the region.
    Companies must learn a lot more about the shale formation before any gushers explode, but some of the 22 exploratory wells drilled to date have shown solid commercial potential for oil and gas production, according to industry executives who attended a conference this week in Farmington to discuss production potential in the Mancos play, a previously untapped section of the San Juan Basin.
    WPX Energy Inc.’s director for the San Juan Region, Ken McQueen, said two horizontal wells that WPX drilled in a dry natural gas section of the Mancos are some of the company’s best wells anywhere. Oklahoma-based WPX is one of the nation’s 10 largest natural gas producers.
    “These two wells are in the top 10 best wells drilled by WPX to date,” McQueen said. “They’re quite extraordinary for us.”
    The wells, drilled in 2010, have produced 2 billion cubic feet of gas so far, and will ultimately produce between 5 and 6 billion cubic feet each, McQueen said. That’s substantially more than the 4 billion cubic feet needed for commercial viability.
    “That makes for a very attractive target for WPX to pursue,” McQueen said.


Although the WPX wells are producing dry natural gas, companies are particularly upbeat about prospects for liquid natural gas, and for oil, in other sections of the Mancos, which is snuggled between soft sandstone layers in the San Juan Basin that producers have been exploiting for decades.
    The sandstone layers contain mostly dry gas. The Mancos, however, is divided into three sections in New Mexico — the dry gas zone that WPX is exploring, a “wet” or liquid gas region, and an oil zone.
    Until recently, those Mancos layers eluded producers because of the high cost of drilling into hard shale rock, and the difficulty of accurately pinpointing hard-to-reach pockets of hydrocarbons.
    But modern drilling techniques are helping to crack the Mancos open. That includes three-dimensional imaging to pinpoint “sweet spots” for oil and gas before drilling begins, hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — whereby operators pump water and sand at high pressure into wells to bust up tough shale rock, and horizontal drilling to penetrate sideways into the shale to reach trapped oil and gas.



Drought makes bigger fires

Without rains, and substantial rains, the 2013 fire season is likely to be nasty. The forest fuel specialist for the Lincoln National Forest's Smokey Bear Ranger District, Kim Kuhar, said long-term drought has changed things. "We're dealing with a different animal now than 20 or even 30 years ago on what fires are doing," Kuhar said. "The ERCs (energy release component -the heat release value at the head of a fire based on the moisture content of fuels, both live and dead), when they're up in the 80s, that's when we can expect large fires, one of those things we can plot out and look at over time and make some predictions. But what you want to look at is what was extreme in the '70s and '80s is now really more moderate now. That's telling you that things have dried out. It has nothing to do with vegetative density. It has nothing to do with the distribution of vegetation on the land. It has to do with how dry it is." Kuhar said history shows fires on the Lincoln National Forest became more plentiful and larger during the 2000s. "We're in climate change for whatever reason and things are drying out and we're seeing these large fires. In 1988, everybody remembers the Yellowstone Fire - it burned a million acres. And wow, that was a biggie then. Well, in 2002 we had the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in Arizona. And you have to think of it like this: The fires in Yellowstone started in July and they were a million acres in September. The Rodeo-Chediski started and in 10 days it was a half-million acres. So that's what we're dealing with is really, really large-scale changes, not only in the size of our fires but how frequently they happen." History Historic data for the Lincoln National Forest showed from 1971 to 1980 there were three fires of more than 1,000 acres forest-wide. The number doubled to six from 1981 to 1990, and 1991 to 2000. From 2001 through 2012 there were 16 large fires. During the 2000s, there also was a significant increase in ERCs. Fire sizes also increased significantly during the 2000s, with the largest fire of the decade in 2002. The Pepin Fire on the Capitan Mountains consumed more than 64,000 acres. In 2012, the Lincoln National Forest recorded 31 wildfires. A fire of 100 acres today, could be 30,000 acres by tomorrow morning, Kuhar said in an apparent reference to last year's Little Bear Fire...more

NY Times: New Mexico Farmers Seek ‘Priority Call’ as Drought Persists

by Fellicity Barranger

    Just after the local water board announced this month that its farmers would get only one-tenth of their normal water allotment this year, Ronnie Walterscheid, 53, stood up and called on his elected representatives to declare a water war on their upstream neighbors.
    “It’s always been about us giving up,” Mr. Walterscheid said, to nods. “I say we push back hard right now.”
     The drought-fueled anger of southeastern New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers is boiling, and there is nowhere near enough water in the desiccated Pecos River to cool it down. Roswell, about 75 miles to the north, has somewhat more water available and so is the focus of intense resentment here. Mr. Walterscheid and others believe that Roswell’s artesian wells reduce Carlsbad’s surface water.
     For decades, the regional status quo meant the northerners pumped groundwater and the southerners piped surface water. Now, amid the worst drought on record, some in Carlsbad say they must upend the status quo to survive. They want to make what is known as a priority call on the Pecos River.
     A priority call, an exceedingly rare maneuver, is the nuclear option in the world of water. Such a call would try to force the state to return to what had been the basic principle of water distribution in the West: the lands whose owners first used the water — in most cases farmland — get first call on it in times of scarcity. Big industries can be losers; small farmers winners.
     The threat of such a move reflects the political impact of the droughts that are becoming the new normal in the West. “A call on the river is a call for a shakeout,” explained Daniel McCool, a University of Utah political scientist and author of “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers.”
     “It’s not going to be farmers versus environmentalists or liberals versus conservatives,” he said. “It’s going to be the people who have water versus the people who don’t.” And, he said, the have-nots will outnumber the haves.
     Dudley Jones, the manager for the Carlsbad Irrigation District said that water law and allocation practice have long diverged. “We have it in the state Constitution: First in time, first in right. But that’s not how it’s practiced.” In New Mexico’s political pecking order, his alfalfa farmers, despite senior priority rights dating back 100 years, have little clout. The state water authorities, he said, “are not going to cut out the city.”
     “They’re not going to cut out the dairy industry,” he added. “They’re not going to cut off the oil and gas industry, because that’s economic development. So we’re left with a dilemma — the New Mexico water dilemma.”
     A priority call, said Dr. McCool, “will glaringly demonstrate how unfair, how anachronistic the whole water law edifice is.”
     He added, “The all-or-nothing dynamic of prior appropriation instantly sets up conflict. I get all of mine, and you get nothing.”
     Despite the support Mr. Walterscheid got from two of the Carlsbad Irrigation District’s five members, however, the March 12 meeting produced not a priority call, but an ultimatum: The Legislature should give Carlsbad $2.5 million to tide it over, or the water district will make the call and start a traumatic legal and scientific battle.
     The prior appropriation system on the Pecos has its beginnings in the late 19th century. Its waters flow about 925 miles from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico, ending up in the Rio Grande in Texas. It has been a focus of conflict.



How blocking Cabinet nominees became common practice

Over the past few weeks, three senators have put three nominations by President Barack Obama — for head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Interior Department and Labor Department — in jeopardy. In none of these instances — CIA Director John Brennan, interior secretary-designate Sally Jewell and labor secretary-designate Thomas Perez — did the senators suggest the president’s nominees were unqualified. And in the case of Jewell, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s objection had nothing to do with the nominee herself. So the question is this: Why has it become so common for senators to throw up roadblocks in the confirmation process? Because threatening a high-profile nomination has become one of the best ways senators can now achieve their policy objectives. Scott Segal, head of the policy resolution group at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, puts it this way: “Confirmations mark one of the few times that the president can be vulnerable to congressional pressure. … So confirmation battles provide one of the few mechanisms for senators to leverage their support to focus executive branch attention on particular home-state concerns.” Take the example of Jewell, whose nomination finally cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 19-3 vote Friday. Murkowski, R-Alaska, held up her nomination to pressure the outgoing interior secretary, Ken Salazar, to approve a road through a wilderness area in Alaska. The Fish and Wildlife Service determined last month that putting a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge would threaten an ecologically important wetland. But Murkowski wants the road to allow the 792 residents of the remote village of King Cove easier access to an all-weather airport in case of medical emergencies. On Thursday, Salazar issued a memo pledging to dispatch one of his department’s top officials to Alaska to investigate whether the road was needed. While it remains unclear whether Murkowski will prevail in her effort to push through a road the Interior Department has resisted for decades, environmentalists described the agreement as a dangerous concession by the administration...more

Note the underlined quote.  Congress has delegated so much authority to the Executive branch that they now have to wait for an opportunity, like a nomination, to have an influence on policy.

News Roundup

Communities raise money to open Yellowstone's Wyoming entrances

 Water a life-and-death issue for Snake Valley 

 Senator Mike Lee vows to filibuster gun-control legislation

 Lower North Fork fire victims accuse Colorado Attorney General of delaying payment

South Dakota Sen. Johnson to retire, cites health and age

Oregon river swirls with biggest return of smelt in a decade