Saturday, November 18, 2017


GOP Backs Zinke’s Plan To Totally Reshape The Interior Department

Michael Bastasch

Top Republican lawmakers are backing the Trump administration’s efforts to reshape the agency tasked with managing more than 635 million acres of public lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is planning a major reorganization of the Department of the Interior (DOI). He is currently considering moving at least three DOI agencies’ headquarters outside Washington, D.C. GOP lawmakers on the House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees the DOI, are fully behind the plan to move headquarters out west to be closer to the bulk of lands they manage. “Any thoughtful DOI reorganization should give serious consideration to relocating select agencies away from Washington,” GOP committee members wrote in a letter sent to Zinke Thursday. “Simply put, federal employees should know and live around the people, lands, and economies they regulate,” natural resource committee members wrote. Zinke may move Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Utah is the home state of natural resources committee chairman GOP Rep. Rob Bishop. Zinke is also considering moving U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation headquarters out west to Denver...more

 Some want to keep the current centralized system of resource management. Others propose transferring the majority of these lands to the states, or some other form of decentralized management. Zinke appears to be proposing a sort of halway house, transferring the managers instead of the resource. My thought is that as long as the federal laws (ESA, FLPMA, NEPA, etc.) remain as currently written and interpreted, the same poor results will occurr no matter where the federal managers are located. Further, much prescious time will be taken up debating where the federal landlords are stationed, rather than focusing on the real problem and potential solutions. 

If your grazing permit is cancelled or your private lands are taken as a result of a critical habitat designation, will you really care whether the decision-maker is in Denver or DC?

Why Netflix’s ‘Godless’ is the Western you’ve been waiting for - video


“Godless” begins with five horsemen riding out of the windswept New Mexico landscape of 1880 into an old West town. Where everyone’s dead. We then see a lone rider approaching a ranch cabin. A woman, Alice, (Michelle Dockery) points a rifle at the approaching man, tells to stop. He doesn’t; she shoots. Later, outlaw Frank Griffin (played by Emmy Award winner Jeff Daniels) shows up at a doctor’s house in the dead of night, his arm shot up. The doc has to amputate...For “Godless,” executive producers Casey Silver and Steven Soderbergh took Scott Frank’s screenplay, which was originally written as a film, and expanded it into a seven-part limited series for Netflix. The series is a wild ride, an old-fashioned Western with a contemporary edge. It carries the sweep and breadth of a grand tale with the larger-than-life ornery characters you expect to find living and dying in that rugged, lonely land. The entire series – which plays like a seven-hour movie – was directed by Scott Frank from his screenplay. He keeps the tension throughout without over-hyping scenes. Death is bad enough. Using natural light, the cinematography from Steven Meizler, who has filmed for Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh, infuses the scenes with the unease of vulnerability. “Godless” is the Western you’ve been waiting for...more

Here is the official trailer:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Malheur standoff figure Duane Ehmer sentenced to prison

One of the men convicted in the second trial involving occupiers of an Oregon wildlife refuge has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison. Duane Ehmer of Irrigon was found guilty in March of depredation of government property - for digging a trench on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. At Thursday's sentencing, Ehmer said he dug the hole for protection, fearing the government was about to violently storm the refuge. But U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said Ehmer was trespassing, so there was no reasonable excuse for damaging property that also contained artifacts important to the Burns Paiute Tribe...more

China Tops Canada As Lead Buyer of U.S. Ag Goods

Tensions are rising when it comes to the future of trade. As leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States are in the midst of round 5 of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 2.0 negotiations, new numbers from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show China is now the top buyer of U.S. agricultural goods. For the fiscal year 2017, China purchased $22 billion of agricultural products from the U.S, which is a large jump from the $19.2 billion bought in FY16. That also allowed China to secure the No. 1 spot. The United States’ NAFTA partners showed an increase in the value of goods purchased, coming in at No. 2 and 3. Shipments to Canada were valued at $20.4 billion, which is a slight increase from the $20.3 bought in 2016, but bumps Canada from the top buyer of goods. Mexico’s shipments reached $18.6 billion, a six-percent gain from last year. In total, USDA says exports reached the third-highest on record, reaching $140.5 billion, a jump of $10.9 billion. As farmers sit on a record corn crop and the protein sector continues to post impressive growth, economists say it’s going to take bigger export demand to chew threw the amount of product that’s being produced...more

The Pentagon Has Avoided Audit For 27 Years

Not sure where your tax dollars are going? Nobody really is.

By Michael D. Ostrolenk

On Tuesday, the U.S. Representatives passed a Pentagon budget that called for $700 billion in defense spending—more than what even the Trump administration had asked for, and tens of billions more than the current defense spending caps. To achieve this budget, which is expected to sail through the Senate after the Thanksgiving break, Congress will have to raise the caps set into place during the Budget Control Act. But if there is a will—which there certainly is, considering the powerful defense industry lobby, coupled with members’ own special interests for their districts—there is a way. But how indeed does this money get spent? An open secret in Washington is that the Pentagon, by far the largest if not most byzantine agency in the federal government, has never been audited. Sure, Congress mandated in 1990 that it be audited, but not surprisingly, the leviathan agency never complied, with no consequences to speak of. Reports abound about bureaucracy, contractor pushback, and at least one “historic” Marine Corps audit in 2015 that turned out to be less than thorough due to internal politics. Bottom line, the audits just aren’t happening.
There is a movement among Congress’ few but determined reformers to force the Pentagon’s hand. Congressman Michael Burgess, a conservative Republican from Texas, recently introduced H.R. 3079, the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2017...more

EPA Blew $690,000 on Parking Spaces No One Was Using

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wasted $690,000 over two years to pay for an empty parking space, according to a federal audit released this month. The same audit also found that the EPA blew $840,000 on parking fees for employees in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., despite federal rules prohibiting such subsidies. Those rules, by the way, are meant to discourage commuting by car in order to protect the environment. The EPA's Office of Inspector General found that 29 percent of the parking spaces at the agency's D.C. headquarters were unused from January 2015 to December 2016, while 27 percent of parking spaces at the regional office in Atlanta were empty during the same period. Each of those spaces cost taxpayers about $290 per month, according to the report. During the two-year period examined by the audit, the EPA paid about $1.6 million to rent parking spaces from the General Services Administration (GSA) in the parking garage attached to the Ronald Reagan Office Building. Employees at the D.C. office paid about $850,000 in parking costs. In Atlanta, the EPA paid more than $41,000 to rent spaces in a parking garage attached to the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, where employees parked for free. Other regional EPA offices do not provide free or subsidized parking for employees and many federal agencies do not either. "In an age of dwindling federal resources, the EPA's use of taxpayer money—over $840,000 in a 2-year period—to fund employee parking may not be an effective use of federal resources and may take funds away from mission-critical public health and environmental initiatives," the auditors' report says...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

TGIFF! Its Fiddle Friday and we have Walk Along John by the Quebe Sisters (Hulda, Sophia and Grace). The tune is on their 2003 CD Texas Fiddlers.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

EPA's Scott Pruitt drains the swamp like no one else in Washington

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is a man who gets things done. Despite resistance from within his own agency and an environment lobby bent on stopping him, he’s doing his part to drain the swamp and return government to the people. He’s bringing what citizens demand of a federal agency: Transparency and reasoned, fact-based decision-making resting on sound statutory footing.
Take the contentious issue of global warming. Pruitt called for a reasoned debate. But his critics mocked the suggestion, claiming it would be an outrage to place “fringe” views on an even platform with “established, peer-reviewed research.” But it is tyrants and mobs — not reasonable policymakers intent on serving the public — who ridicule debate and discussion. It undercuts arbitrary rule and fear, their chief weapons.Consider Pruitt’s recent directive prohibiting scientists from serving on one of the agency’s three main advisory panels while they are receiving EPA grant funding. It applies to the three main advisory boards at the EPA: The Science Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), and the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC).Pruitt made the case that the directive is necessary to ensure the agency’s research programs are informed by independent experts with no financial ties to the programs. As he noted, advisory board members have received $77 million in grant money over the past three years — half of the total amount allotted. “When we have members of those committees that received tens of millions of dollars in grants at the same time that they are advising this agency on rulemaking, that is not good,” Pruitt said. His directive is prudent, and it is the type of common-sense safeguard that citizens expect in a self-governed republic. In contrast, the resistance of the EPA’s bureaucracy and its apologists shows arrogant contempt for the citizen. Board member and chair of BOSC, Deborah Swackhamer, seemingly unfazed by these relationships, labeled Pruitt’s directive as “clearly political” and suggested it is an attempt to effectively stack the committees with members who disagree with her (although she didn’t put it quite that way). What’s really going on at EPA is the swamp draining that needs to happen across the federal bureaucracy. It is a death-fight (meant figuratively) for bureaucrats intent at reshaping society according to their world-view. To do so, they need to maintain an appearance that scientific consensus supports their views...more

Watchdog says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to properly document travel

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has failed to keep complete records — and in some cases, kept none at all — of his travel since taking office, the agency’s watchdog told department officials this week, saying that management of Zinke’s travel was “deficient” and lacked oversight. A rare alert Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall sent to the secretary’s office Wednesday, obtained by The Washington Post, said her investigation into allegations of improper travel practices by Zinke has been stymied by “absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips.” Interior lawyers and ethics officials also have not shown evidence to investigators that they have been able to “distinguish between personal, political and official travel” or cost-analysis documents to justify his choice of military or charter flights, Kendall wrote. The memo reveals that the inspector general is also scrutinizing the travel of Zinke’s wife, Lolita, who often accompanied him on official trips. Kendall wrote that the department’s documentation was so lacking that investigators cannot determine “the full extent” of her travel and how it was paid for...more

This EPA nominee may be the first Trump appointee to be defeated by Congress

Despite the drumbeat of opposition to President Trump's political nominees, Senate Democrats haven't been able to do much to stop Congress from confirming them. Fourteen Trump picks to executive branch jobs have withdrawn their names after being selected, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. Each of those nominees removed themselves from consideration before a Senate committee had the chance to vote. Thus far, no Trump nominee, however, has actually been defeated by the full Senate -- it only takes 50 votes, remember, to reject a nomination because Senate Democrats when they last held the majority changed the rules to require just a simple majority to approve executive branch and federal judicial nominations (minus the Supreme Court). Yet, that is. This week, North Carolina’s two Republican senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, said they would oppose Michael Dourson’s nomination as the top chemical safety official at the Environmental Protection Agency. The senators raised concerns about Dourson’s track record as a consultant for chemical companies, a role in which the University of Cincinnati professor has often produced research finding little or no human health risks for their products. Specifically, Burr pointed to contaminated water documented at a North Carolina military base and an unregulated compound known as Gen X, used to produce Teflon and other products, that was discovered in the Cape Fear River...more

Keystone oil pipeline leaks in South Dakota, as Nebraska weighs XL

TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO) shut part of its Keystone oil pipeline system after a 5,000-barrel leak in South Dakota, the company said on Thursday, four days before neighboring Nebraska was set to decide on the company’s long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline. Opponents of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline seized on the spill, saying it highlighted the risks posed by the XL project - which has become a symbol for environmentalists of fossil-fuel pollution and global warming. TransCanada said in a statement it discovered the leak in the town of Amherst at 6 a.m. on Thursday after systems detected a drop in pressure, and that it was working with authorities as it investigates the cause...more

Last ride for ‘Longmire’; final season starts streaming Friday - video

By Adrian Gomez
Walt Longmire and his crew are about to take their last ride. The New Mexico-based series’ 10-episode final season will begin streaming Friday on Netflix. And what a journey it’s been. “Longmire” began filming in New Mexico in 2012. “Longmire” is a contemporary crime thriller set in Wyoming. It is based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson. The story follows Walt Longmire, played by Robert Taylor, the sheriff of fictional Absaroka County, Wyo. Freeman plays Cady Longmire, Walt Longmire’s daughter. The series stars Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Adam Bartley and A. Martinez.. Shephard added, “I honestly had no idea that ‘Longmire’ would engender such a massive following. When I set out developing Craig Johnson’s books for television over 7 years ago with Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny, my interest was in reinstating a romantic hero in an otherwise overpopulated landscape of antiheroes. I personally longed for a character who reminded me that there was still decency and nobility in mankind. I wanted the man of Walt Longmire and his beloved West to transport me to a better, hopeful place. I guess there were a lot of other people who wanted the same thing.” The series began shooting the final season in March and ran through mid-June in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Valles Caldera, Pecos and other locations in northern New Mexico...more

Here is the official trailer for the final season:

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Our selection today is Grandpa Jones - Down In Dixie (Where They Say You All). The tune was recorded in Cincinnati on Oct. 29, 1951.