Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Congress Takes Positive Steps to Protect Property Owners From Asset Seizure

Jason Snead

The House of Representatives has moved to defund the controversial civil forfeiture practice known as “adoptive” seizures. Last week, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve three amendments to the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, all of which would prevent federal funds from being used to implement Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ July order to restart adoptive forfeitures. This makes the 2018 appropriations bill—which passed the House last Thursday—one of the most significant federal legislative actions on civil forfeiture in years. Adoptive forfeiture is the process by which property allegedly tied to criminal wrongdoing can be seized by state and local law enforcement officials, and then handed off to federal authorities for forfeiture under comparatively lax federal law. If a forfeiture is successful, the original seizing agency can expect to receive up to 80 percent of the resulting proceeds through the “equitable sharing” program. This program has come under tremendous pressure in recent years as states began to rein in civil forfeiture, afford property owners greater due process protections, and restrict how much forfeiture revenue may be retained by local law enforcement authorities and how those funds may be spent. Critics contend that adoptive forfeitures made it all too easy for local and state agencies to circumvent these protections. One 2011 study concluded that an inverse relationship exists between state forfeiture laws and federal equitable sharing payments—that is, the more a state attempts to limit police self-financing, the more agencies turn to federal forfeiture to make up the shortfalls...more

Other FBI agents at scene of LaVoy Finicum shooting testified before grand jury; Shell casings missing

By Maxine Bernstein

Other members of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team involved in the stop of refuge occupation spokesman Robert "LaVoy'' Finicum testified before a federal grand jury that returned an indictment against their colleague, Agent W. Joseph Astarita. Prosecutors have asked the court for permission to share transcripts of the agents' testimony with a nationally recognized ballistics and trajectory expert who they may call as a witness at trial. Astarita is accused of firing two shots at Finicum or his truck and then lying about it. The shots didn't hurt Finicum. State police fatally shot Finicum a short time later. Finicum appeared to be reaching for a gun at the time, investigator said. He had a loaded gun in his inside jacket pocket, they said. The government's case against Astarita rests on videos taken by an FBI airplane flying overhead and cellphone video from Shawna Cox, a passenger in Finicum's truck, as well as ballistics and trajectory evidence developed by the state police crime lab and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the prosecutors said in a recent court filing. "The central issue in this case is whether defendant fired two rounds at Finicum or Finicum's truck then lied about doing so to both the FBI and to Oregon State Police detectives who were investigating Finicum's death,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Sussman wrote in a motion seeking the grand jury transcript disclosure. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert A. Jones granted the request. Prosecutors noted that their expert, who wasn't named in court papers, has agreed to abide by the court's protective order prohibiting sharing of the information...more

And then there was this disclosure:
Last month, one of Astarita's lawyers told a judge that no one reported that they saw or heard Astarita fire and no direct evidence existed linking any bullet or shell casing to Astarita's rifle. Prosecutors countered that the investigation was continuing and revealed for the first time that not only are shell casings from Astarita's alleged shots missing, but so are shell casings from some of the Oregon State Police shots fired at the Jan. 26, 2016, roadblock.

A law enforcement officer is being charged, and evidence in possession of law enforcement suddenly disappears. How convenient.

Cowboy Artists of America Art Show & Sale - Join us October 5 - 7, 2017

~ CAA Mission Statement ~ 
To authentically preserve and perpetuate the culture of western life in fine art. The CAA is the longest surviving organization of fine art artists; the Active, Emeritus, Deceased and Honorary Members have enjoyed enduring success due to the foresight of the Founding Fathers who had a clear vision and defined the organization in 1965.
We would like to invite you to join us for the 52nd Anniversary of the Cowboy Artists of America Art Show! Once again, the CAA's are showing in conjunction with the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA's) to celebrate the Cowboy Crossings Show.

We wanted to let you preview a selection of NEW original paintings and sculptures for the show at the National Cowboy and Western & Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City October 5 - 7, 2017.

In November, 1964, Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye and John Hampton went on a cattle roundup in Magdalena, Mexico, together and came out with an idea to start and artists group together.  For the past 52 years, the group has gone to many ranches to bond as friends and family.

Camp - These are a couple of the tents the Cowboy Artists of America used at the 2017 Trail Ride at the Sun Ranch, Cameron, MT   Our gracious hosts were RICHARD C ADKERSON, CHARLES GOODYEAR AND ROBERT PATRICK. 
Please let us know if you are unable to see the photos below. Click on each artist's work to see their show as of today.

Police Search For ‘Mad Pooper’ Who Dumps And Runs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Police are searching for a woman who has been seen repeatedly defecating in a neighborhood while out running. Cathy Budde says her kids saw the woman mid-squat and came running back in the house to tell her. “They are like, ‘There’s a lady taking a poop!’ So I come outside, and I’m like … ‘are you serious?'” Budde said to the runner. “‘Are you really taking a poop right here in front of my kids?!’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, sorry!'” Budde says the runner is doing it in her neighborhood at least once a week for the last seven weeks, so they nicknamed her “The Mad Pooper.” “Two other times we’ve caught her – caught her yesterday – she changed up her time a little bit because she knew I was watching.” Now the Colorado Springs Police Department is involved, and say the runner could face charges of indecent exposure and public defecation. “It’s abnormal, it’s not something I’ve seen in my career,” Sgt. Johnathan Sharketti said. “For someone to repeatedly do such a thing … it’s uncharted territory for me.” According to the Budde family, there are plenty of restrooms less than a block away from where the woman is running, and so believe “this is intentional.”...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Today we’ll go back and add Old Shep by Red Foley to our video library. Foley had recorded the tune twice before, but this is the version I grew up listening to. It was recorded in NY City on July 31, 1946.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Environmental, outdoor groups vow to fight national monument reductions

Environmental and outdoor recreation groups threatened Monday to sue if President Donald Trump adopts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's leaked proposal to alter nearly a dozen national monuments, while grazing, fishing and other groups welcomed the recommendations. University of Colorado law professor Mark Squillace, an expert in the Antiquities Act, said in an email that Zinke's proposal raises a host of legal issues given that no president has considered making so many changes to previous designations. "Decisions to protect certain objects (and not others) involve judgment call that courts have shown an inclination to respect," he said. "The significant legal issues aside, if we allow presidents to second guess the judgments of their predecessor there would no end to the mischief that would create." Although Zinke has proposed amending all 10 monuments' proclamations to shift the way they are managed, the majority of the management plans for these monuments have not been finalized because they take between five and six years to complete. Randi Spivak, public lands program director for the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, said any proclamation change "would be subject to challenge" and "any proposed management plan changes will need to formally go through the same legal and administrative processes again, subject to the same administrative appeal and litigation requirements." "This process will be very legally vulnerable because it will have to deal with all the scientific, environmental and social conclusions produced during the first round of management plan creation," she said. "This would be a massive hurdle for the administration."...more

There is one bright spot in all this:

 Grazing advocates also welcomed the idea of providing ranchers with more access on five different monuments, including not only Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Gold Butte but also the New Mexico monuments Rio Grande Del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.

Both NM monuments have terrible anti-grazing language in them. What remains to be seen is how Interior proposes to fix this issue. It would appear to me they have three options:

° Revise the proclamation to include language like that in the Basin and Range Proclamation, which makes it clear the monument designation has no impact on livestock grazing

° Revise the proclamation to remove the consistency language but still leave it vague as to how the proclamation affects livestock grazing, or

° Not  revise the proclamation and claim they can fix the issue through policy memos and internal guidance.

If they truly want to protect the ranching families in these monuments, they will pursue the first option.

The second option will give these families a better chance of surviving the designation, but still leave them vulnerable to lawsuits or other negative actions

The third option is a total cop out. The consistency language will remain causing great vulnerability to lawsuits and anti-grazing policies of future administrations.

We will be watching to see what Interior's real intent is with respect to the future of ranching in these monuments.

And let's take a look at the statement of the law professor:

 "The significant legal issues aside, if we allow presidents to second guess the judgments of their predecessor there would no end to the mischief that would create."

Let's think carefully of what that would mean. If a President orders troops into a war zone, it would be inappropriate for a subsequent President to "second guess the judgements of their predecessor" and withdraw those troops? We'd be involved in a perpetual war with no options? What a ridiculous statement to make.

Bishop Statement on Dan Love Employment Status

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 18, 2017
Parish Braden, Molly Block, Katie Schoettler (202) 226-9019

Washington, D.C. – Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement on the employment status of Senior Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement Manager Dan Love:

“The previous administration turned a blind eye to corruption and promoted a culture of mismanagement at the Department of the Interior. I applaud Interior for taking a strong stand and reasserting the basic principle that there are consequences for federal employees who blatantly disregard the law and steamroll elected officials and public trust. Love’s exit is welcome.”


The Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Inspector General released a report on August 24, 2017 titled “Investigative Report of Misconduct by a Senior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Law Enforcement Manager.”

The report looked into multiple allegations including the mishandling of evidence from a criminal case, which Love eventually gave as gifts to several people. DOI OIG substantiated most of the allegations including that Love instructed his employee to remove four moqui marbles from the evidence room and that he violated Federal security and records management policy in addition to various regulations related to the conduct of federal employees.

Chairman Bishop sent a letter to Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall requesting an unredacted copy of the report, which was received by the Committee on August 24, 2017. Click here to read the full letter. 

Read more about Love here.

Floating Horses – The Life of Casey Tibbs”

FORT PIERRE SD  – “Floating Horses – The Life of Casey Tibbs” documentary will debut in Casey Tibbs hometown area tonight, September 14, 2017 at the Riggs High School Theater in Pierre. This is the new 2017 documentary about Casey Tibbs personal and professional life produced by South Dakota Native Justin Koehler.
Showings will be at 4pm and 7pm (central time) at the Riggs High School Theater, 1010 E. Broadway, Pierre. This is the kickoff of Fort Pierre’s Bicentennial which continues to run September 15-17th. The event is open to the public with a free will offering to assist the three years of production costs as well as theater rental. Seats limited to 1,000 for each showing. Due to high level of interest in this film debut it’s recommended to get in line early. Doors open at 3:30 for first showing and at 6:30 for second showing.
Koehler travelled over six states interviewing Casey’s family and friends including Singer and Instrumentalist Charlie Daniels, Actor and Musician Red Steagall, former Miss South Dakota and former wife Cleo Harrington, Cowboy, Poet Baxter Black and about two dozen other people.
The film has been shown from Colorado to Arizona and New York to California this summer. “We have had many inquiries about this highly anticipated film debut over the last three years,” said Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center Director Cindy Bahe. “People are coming from across the state and neighboring states to attend the Pierre event.”

Pearce: Interior Recommendation Falls Short


Contact: Keeley Christensen


Washington, DC (September 18, 2017Congressman Steve Pearce today released the following statement after the White House made public Secretary Ryan Zinke’s national monument review, which included recommendations for both the Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico. 

"Secretary Zinke's recommendation fails to provide the solutions New Mexico needs. Since 2008, I have been working with the local community to establish a compromise that protects the Organ Mountains Desert Peak National Monument (OMDP) while preserving the multiple uses that public lands provide. By designating this monument under the Antiquities Act, the Obama Administration ignored this work and created an overly burdensome and harmful footprint – roughly 500,000 acres extending roughly 59 miles from corner to corner. The size and complexity of the Organ Mountains raises serious economic, security, and access concerns that cannot be appropriately addressed without resizing the monument’s footprint. 

This decision blatantly ignores local businesses, Border Patrol agents, and outdoorsmen to protect sites that should not be protected under the Antiquities Act. The Secretary even mentioned the WWII bombing craters in his summary as one of the more egregious examples of an over-expansive monuments – yet he left these ranges in the Monument. Even as a former Air Force pilot, I fail to see any value protecting this land over supporting historical ranching and economic growth. The Antiquities Act makes it clear that protected sites must be of historic or scientific interest, yet the OMDP is home to hundreds of thousands of acres without legitimate purpose.

Additionally, the Monument does not respect or protect private property rights. The current footprint surrounds thousands of acres of state and private lands, creating a number of access concerns that will significantly devalue these parcels. This will most likely lead to landowners being forced to sell off their properties to the federal government, something the previous Administration likely intended.

Over the course of this debate, nearly 800 businesses and organizations in the community expressed serious concerns over regulations and limitations that come with a monument of this size. By simply unleashing nearly two-thirds of the land that are irresponsibly choked off, the same natural treasures would remain protected – thwarting any concerns raised by the tourism industry – while the economy and culture of ranching, recreation, and multiple use that enriches the western traditions of southern New Mexico would be restored. It’s greatly disappointing that Secretary Zinke ignored a large cross-section of the community. I urge the Trump Administration to roll back the damage done by the previous Administration, and resize of the Organ Mountains Desert-Peaks to preserve the natural beauty of New Mexico’s land, while supporting the rights of local ranchers, farmers, and outdoorsmen," stated Rep. Pearce.

The following statements are from local New Mexicans who directly addressed their concerns to Secretary Zinke, but remain overlooked by this recommendation:

Frank DuBois, former NM Secretary of Agriculture:

“Changing the grazing language will help but does not answer all the concerns of the ranching community. For instance, the language in the Proclamation that prevents off-road travel, even by nonmotorized means, is a great hindrance to the day-to-day operations of a ranching family. How do they get fencing supplies to a fence line? How do they get a trailer to a sick cow or horse? How do they transport equipment needed for an existing range improvement? In addition, the language in the Proclamation limiting new right-of-ways will certainly put a stop to new range improvements like water pipelines, and in some instances prevent them from getting power to their property.”

Jerry Schickedanz, Dean Emeritus, NMSU CAHE:

“In order for the Antiquities Act to be accurately followed, the objects are to be named first and then land can be set aside to properly protect and preserve the named object.  Because this was not done in the proclamation for the OMDP National Monument, I firmly believe that the designation was done illegally. This proclamation drew the boundaries from old legislative proposals and then looked for objects to protect.  The monument designation fails the first two criteria to be reviewed by the E.O. signed by President Trump.  I am disappointed that the Secretary of the Interior did not follow the review criteria in his recommendation for downsizing to President Trump.

I am disappointed that the monument was not reduced in size to the footprint of the Organ Mountains which would have maintained the iconic backdrop to Las Cruces that everyone cherishes.  It would still bring tourists to see the monument and any economic revenue can be still be accrued to the designation. 

Because the monument was not downsized, there will still be problems with rights of way to private and state trust land for development, access for border security, flood control, and watershed management.  There will be problems of trespass of monument visitors looking for objects that were named in the proclamation and reside on private and state trust land.  They were not part of the monument, but in the rush to get PresidentObama to sign the proclamation, they were illegally named as objects to be protected.”

Stephen Wilmeth, Rancher

“I have invested my livelihood in my ranch. While changing the grazing language may alleviate some of the burden, my future existence depends on the reduction of the monument. Without a reduction, the future operating plan will limit access and eventually eliminate my ranch and other ranches within the monument borders.”

Carol Cooper, Rancher

“The current boundary of the OMDP National Monument surrounds a number of ranches that have significant state or private lands. Without changing the footprint, private land and State Trust Lands will, inevitably, be controlled by the Federal government.  Reducing the footprint of the monument is the only way to protect individuals, businesses, and our community from the negative effects of the Monument designation.”

Wesley Eaton, Rancher

“Changing the grazing language will help stakeholders that have ties to these lands that span generations, but it will fail to protect the thousands of acres of private and state properties that are within the monument. Those who will be forced to operate on private and state land within the Monument will have significant difficulty in obtaining rights of way to do basic maintenance activities. The Antiquities Act specifically states that objects with historic or scientific interest should be protected. In no way was the OMDP National Monumentcreated with that in mind. These overly expansive designations must be remedied, but unfortunately, the necessary changes have not recommended.”

John Keck, Rancher

“Our family currently has 3 parcels of private deeded land within the monument boundaries as well as many, many acres of State of New Mexico grazing leases which together with the Federal BLM land make up our 90 section ranch. Failing to reduce the monument's footprint will create a "taking" of our private deeded lands and our State of New Mexico grazing leases, which will destroy our operation and diminish the tax base and income not only for us but for the two counties in which we are located and the State of New Mexico.”


McMaster says no redo on Paris climate deal decision

National security adviser H.R. McMaster denied Sunday that President Trump is reconsidering his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord but said the door remains open to a better agreement down the road. “That's a false report,” McMaster said of published reports over the weekend that the administration might not pull out of the deal after all and might seek new terms instead. “The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it's a bad deal for the American people and it's a bad deal for the environment,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” The Wall Street Journal and Agence France-Presse had cited a top European climate official as saying that the United States was seeking ways to remain a party to the deal. The White House denied those reports in a statement Saturday, and McMaster underscored the U.S. position Sunday. “The president's ears are open if, at some point, they decide they can come forward with an agreement that addresses the president's very legitimate concerns with Paris,” McMaster said. Trump had announced in June that the United States would begin a three-year process of withdrawal. He said then that he could revisit the decision if the United States could renegotiate terms he sees as unfair...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Its Swingin’ Monday. I have three versions of the instrumental Spanish Bells, all recorded in 1947 or 1948, by Porky Freeman, Cliffie Stone and Ramblin’ Jimmy Dolan. I’ve selected the one by Dolan and His Texas Ramblers. It just swings a little more and has the superior fiddle break. The tune was recorded in Hollywood on December 18, 1947 and that is Marvin Stone on fiddle and Victor Davis on piano.


Trump's Navy Seal enters battle on national monuments...and sounds retreat

From the Washington Post:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump modify 10 national monuments created by his immediate predecessors, including shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post. The memorandum, which the White House has refused to release since Zinke submitted it late last month, does not specify exact reductions for the four protected areas Zinke would have Trump narrow — Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou — or the two marine national monuments — the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll — for which he raised the same prospect. The two Utah sites encompass a total of more than 3.2 million acres, part of the reason they have aroused such intense emotions since their designation. 

Of the 27 National Monuments Zinke was instructed to review, he is proposing significant changes to only three, or 11% of the total.

Those are the two in Utah, where he knew he had to make changes, and one in Oregon where they are being sued because it contains O&C lands.

The environmental groups who said this whole review was a "sham", were correct. Zinke used the review process to take care of a political problem in Utah, and the rest is window dressing.

The politcal ineptness of this is amazing. Even though Zinke has agreed with almost 90% of what Clinton and Obama wrought, Trump will still be subjected to the same amount of enviro and media criticism as if he made significant corrections.

Zinke's hero, Teddy Roosevelt, may have charged up San Juan Hill, but the Secretary has retreated behind the barricades of the establishment bureacracy.

Trump has said he wants to "drain the swamp", but Zinke has only offered the President a thimble to work with.

Overall, a shameful, politically foolish and cowardly recommendation for nonaction.

Embedded below is the proposed Document of Surrender:


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy (revisited)

Hundred-year dialogue - Ranch wife 201

Julie Carter

It is simple and it's predictable. The following is an upper-classman study for the ranch wife that has graduated from Ranch Wife 101, and is in the golden years of her tenure at the ranch.

When he says:

· "There is nothing in this house to eat."

That suggests that the aluminum foil covering the very many dishes in the refrigerator left from yesterday's branding, are making them invisible. The same foil will not have that affect if covering a pie or cake on the counter.

· "I'll get that heavy box for you - just give me a minute."

This comes with the same flexible time span as his, "We'll be right back."

· "We're going to have a good calf crop this year. You should go with me and look at them, they're so cute now."

Translated, that reads: Bring those little hands of yours, we likely have some calves to pull after last night's 4-foot snow.

· "You're really getting to be a good hand horseback. You deserve a better horse now." Dead giveaway for his plan to buy a new horse that he's eyed and then promote you to something he's already worn out.

· "You can always see what is going wrong with my roping. Would you come out to the arena with me and help me figure it out?"

A master at subterfuge, he is saying the neighbor that he was counting on to run the chute has canceled out.

· "Since you're going to town anyway to get supplies for the cattle working, would you pick something up for me?"

Certifiably, this list will require possibly two pages of a Big Chief tablet and will include something large and covered with grease, going by the bank to sign a heart-stopping bank note, vaccines that must be kept cold and beer with the same requirement, a couple of new ropes of a particular lay which every store in town will not have, and a widget, for which he has forgotten the correct name, from the NAPA store.

· "How much do we have in the checking account?"

This is not actually an inquiry of the current financial status, but has two possibilities of translation.

1. He's found something he cannot exist without, has already written a check for it and is looking for a good way to let you know the account is likely already overdrawn.

2. You are backed in the roping box, focused on some earned R & R, but he is tired of heeling for you and is wrangling a way to go do something he'd rather do.

· "What did you do with my ..." Fill in the blank here. This could be anything from the D-9 cat used to push brush to a small gizmo fix-it for the roping chute.

In reality, it indicates he has misplaced something and would like help finding it. In any event, absolutely the only answer you can give is that you never saw whatever it is, in your entire life.

· "I'll eat some of that if it would make you feel better."

Sometimes his efforts made you feel so good, it required making another, whatever it was, to feed the company it was intended for in the first place and who are arriving within the hour.

· "Did you open (or shut) all those gates when you moved the cattle to the back pasture this morning?"

This usually comes right after you have gotten to bed at the end of a long, long day.

The guarantee is that it will make you lay awake all night and question yourself.

It will also reveal that after the first 100 years of marriage, he still thinks you don't have enough sense to do things right and actually thinks you would admit to it if you didn't.

I have been told there is a measurable amount of dignity in silence. I am still working on that dignity thing.

The Real Deal

The Real Deal
Photographs and Memories
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I came to town after I finished “running waters”.
            With black widows in every valve box, it was time to get some moth balls. The clerk asked me what I was going to do with them and I told her I was going to drop some in my fuel tank and boost the diesel octane. That was met with 500 acres of open space in her eyes which prompted me to feel a bit guilty of my flippant remark. Retreating to the truth, I informed her I was going to wrangle some black widows and change their pastures.
            With her look of complete incredulity, I thanked her and left with my moth balls.
            The Westerner sent me a link to an article about a Jordan Valley corral project. He knew I’d be interested in the story since we have debated variously how ranches and ranching infrastructure have as much historical significance as any objects in the federal West.
            The story described how the BLM was going to host a “two-night car-camping trip” in the wilds with the intent to rebuild a set of old pens at the Birch Creek Historic Ranch. A group called Friends of the Owyhee are going to attend to the repairs. The BLM is going to provide the necessary equipment. The news release didn’t say anything about gloves or sun screen nor did it mention any pre-work safety orientation, but surely the agency wouldn’t sanction this without a training session into the use of crowbars, shovels, hammers, saws, and 32 penny nails.
            What it did mention was that the corrals were going to be preserved so future generations of urbanites can see the cultural significance these structures were to the history of the landscape of Malheur County. It didn’t say anything about current cultural significance so one must assume the permitee who built those corrals without the provision of federal tools is no longer in the picture.

            The article brought up the racial aspect of the “historical” ranch with a reference to the “significant role of Basque immigrants. I thought immediately about our friend, Mayie and her great Wool Growers restaurant in Bakersfield. Her lambchops, pickled tongue and French Pyrenees bread washed down with short glasses of hearty Burgundy are worth driving nine hours for, but she would be the first to agree with me. After a cowboy has worked in a pen of calves all morning, it is impossible to determine if he was Basque, Scotch, Irish, Okie, Mexican, Italian, black, Indian, or plain old American by the smell of his countenance. It wouldn’t matter, either. If he was worth his salt among his peers, the whole crew would be color blind.
            The reference to the “historical” nature of the ranch was troubling. How did this ranch gain such significance? Is there some agency model that scores historical versus non-historical? Is there a distinction from a Basque ranch from that of an Okie? Each of them created historical places by their actions and their sacrifices.
In short, the political correctness of this little camping adventure into the wilderness, into the domain of a past steward who labored under inconceivable constraints without even suggesting a name, isn’t surprising, but it is … tedious.
            Photographs and Memories
            Sitting and looking out onto the ocean at McClintock’s at Pismo on California’s central coast one afternoon, a bit of an epiphany struck me. Into the crowd walked an American rancher. He was easily identified. His dress and his demeanor gave him away, but perhaps only three or four people in the whole place could have made that deduction.
            McClintock’s is one of the great steak houses in the world. It is made that way not just by the food that is prepared and presented, but also by the d├ęcor and the ambience. It is a trip back into old California, the haciendas, and the ranches. People of all walks go there to enjoy the experience, and those that have no ranch connections certainly outnumber the few that do. Why do ranch experiences through that kind of venue create such fascination while the real thing gets relegated too often to public scrutiny and disfavor? Put in another way, why does it take the disappearance of the rancher to regenerate the interest in his way of life and customs?
            Other restaurants present the same cultural phenomenon. Jocko’s down at Nipomo offers a glimpse of that same mysterious past. Guadalupe’s old Far West Tavern with its steer hide curtains and that incredible bar mural was a favorite place for cowmen who came to town to ship calves at the railhead and has since become a place for urban tourists. As noted above, Mayie’s place with the pictures of working men and families is a tribute to that same culture. The display at the entrance to Cattle Baron’s here in Las Cruces is not different. Walking around looking at the historical pictures on the walls has become far more inviting than ever before. Immensely interesting those places have become and the visitors accept them and embrace this rich history.
            The most important thing in McClintock’s that afternoon, though, was that old cowman. His hands, his dress, and the way he presented his heritage without pretense was breathtaking. The trappings hanging on the walls and the ceilings were the things that he and his predecessors created from need and curiosity. There is no doubt in my mind he had built corrals like that one in the Jordan Valley that will be repaired by those people, but he had built them through actual experience in working cattle and adjusting those lessons into something better and more efficient.
             He was the one that shaped history. He is the one who put steaks on the tables. He was the real deal, and he has … a name.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “I am blessed to reside amidst living history.”

Myles Culbertson - To Stop A Runaway

Back in 1979, I was one of a group of a couple dozen young cattlemen that met in Washington DC with various legislative and executive branch leaders.  From farms and ranches across the country, all in our 20’s and 30’s, most of us were encountering top levels of federal government for the first time.  At USDA, we joined together in a conference room with the Secretary of Agriculture and several of his senior personnel for a revealing and, for us, troubling insight into the political mindset of an administrative state.

The Secretary sat polite and quiet at the head table while several senior personnel on his right and left began an orchestrated lecture to our group of young cattle producers about how it was no longer agriculture’s department of government.  “The new USDA is now the department of the consumer,” one said, and declared the interests of the country’s agricultural producers were no longer the agency’s focus.  The mostly one-sided discussion was condescending, bordering on hostile, and our group was more than a little caught off guard by the tone.  Meanwhile, the Secretary, the President’s man in the room, sat timid and compliant.

During the short question and answer exchange, I raised my hand:  “Being that this is an election year and considering the positions you have laid out today, what happens to all this if there is a basic change, in other words if the sitting President is not re-elected?” I had not intended it to be a provocative question, but they took it that way.  The crusty old high-ranking career type on the Secretary’s right took the question, declaring, “presidents come and presidents go,” and, rudely pointing his thumb toward the Secretary, he continued, “and it doesn’t matter who is sitting in that chair.  We are the ones who run the department, and we’re not going anywhere.”

It turns out he wasn’t entirely correct about where he was not going.  A new President was elected that year, and apparently this official had gained the attention of more than just our little bunch of cowboys.  I eventually learned the new Boss transferred him to a remote inspection station at a minor border crossing in Minnesota, where he finished out his career.

Although much of the administrative state as we know it had its beginnings in the FDR days, I believe we were witnessing, in 1979, an aggressive acceleration that was even eclipsing the president’s own agenda at the time, analogous to a horse “cold-jawing” and running off.  In the decades since, there have been piecemeal attempts to bring the bureaucracy to heel, but the curve has always trended upward to the point that the administrative state is now not just an instrumentality of government, but in many ways the government itself, unaccountable, with its own executive, legislative and judicial functions formerly reserved to, and separated between, the branches set forth in the Constitution.                                                                                                

Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many dedicated professionals in government, true public servants, men and women who do their country proud.  However, many of the agencies they work for have suffered decades-long mission creep, growing into an overall bureaucracy whose reach is excessive and whose appetite demands hundreds of billions of dollars each year from an irresponsible Congress that, in some ways, resembles the timid Ag Secretary of that 1979 meeting.

The natural gravitational pull of human nature causes people and organizations to invade spaces when no boundaries are set.  In government, such voids are created by a Congress that has become accustomed to passing legislation that reads more like platitudes than laws, providing funding with non-existent dollars, and instructing the agencies to write their own rules.  With no mechanism for serious legislative review, the legislators simply write the hot check and hurry off to the next fashionable topic, casting accountability and restraint aside.

The results are as suffocating as they are predictable. At the time of our meeting in 1979 the national debt was $827 billion (31% of GDP). Today it is $20.4 trillion (107% of GDP).  Each man, woman, and child in the United States owes a stifling $60,000 piece of this debt that will ultimately come due in one devastating form or another.  Prosperity and productivity strangle, while government continues to grow, regulate, dominate, and “spend like a drunken sailor” as I used to say, until an old sailor reminded me that, in his day, when he ran out of money he would quit drinking. 

Over the past several years, the unelected regulators were turning out more than 80,000 pages of new regulations yearly, causing an annual $1.88 trillion in lost economic productivity & higher prices, costing each household almost $15,000.  New major regulations were outpacing new laws by a ratio of 16 to 1. (Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2014).  In 2015, regulation’s direct cost to the economy amounted to $197 billion, and forced 127 million paperwork burden hours on America’s businesses and families (American Action Forum). 

But, at the end of the day, is the bureaucracy alone to blame? 

Today, we shake our collective fist at the 440-plus federal agencies and their 1.4 million employees; however, the administrative state is only a product of those who construct and feed it.  Simplistically pointing the finger at the bureaucracy is not unlike blaming an overweight housecat for eating everything the owner gives it.

Ideological presidents have often misused the powers of the executive branch to pursue their agendas, but the legislative branch has done little to slow the runaway.  When Congress became a career choice rather than a term of service, the natural rules of self-interested human nature took over.  As a result, the combination of ambitious presidents and a pandering, self-dealing Congress has delivered to the American people not only a stifling regulatory environment, but a crushing national debt that will eventually fall to the American people for collection.

Those who make up the Legislative Branch have repeatedly proven they will not limit themselves, force accountability on the government, or restrain their own profligate spending.  Without concise constitutional direction they will refuse to change their ways.  The corrosive combination of career politicians, debt, and regulatory over-reach would appear to be unstoppable, casting America into permanent decline with no possibility of returning to its exceptional past, but that isn’t the case.  The nation’s original rulebook, the Constitution, holds the key to a solution as big as the problem. 

Interestingly, and fortunately, concise constitutional direction can be imposed.  The founders of our nation and the framers of its Constitution took into account the fact of human nature, acknowledging that both virtue and vice exist concurrently among those who govern.  Checks and balances were built into the articles of the Constitution to deal with such human frailties, and for times like these, the mechanism in Article V provides the means to propose amendments in order to clarify and strengthen the Constitution’s fundamental intent.  The Constitution has been amended 27 times, all proposed by Congress and ratified by at least ¾ of the states.  Other amendments have been proposed by Congress but defeated by the states; and one, prohibition, was repealed by the states.

In their wisdom, the framers also anticipated times when Congress, succumbing to human nature, would be unwilling to propose amendments that threaten the self-interested motives of its members.  With that in mind, language was included in Article V to give the states themselves the authority to convene for the purpose of proposing amendments for ratification, bypassing Congress.  Two thirds (34) of the state legislatures can bring together a national convention to consider amendments limited to the common language set forth in the respective states’ resolutions. 

A rapidly growing movement has taken root across the country to call for a convention to consider amendments that would impose fiscal restraint, limit the power & jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits on federal officials.  Some two million citizens have signed on to the effort, residing in every state legislative district in the United States.  To date, 12 states have passed identical resolutions calling for a convention.  Another 23 have active legislation in play this year. 

This is no mere flash in the pan. Known as the Convention of States Project, the traction is evident, pushing toward the reality of a convention to be called under the constitutional authority of Article V, with all fifty states in attendance, to discuss, develop debate, and propose amendments to the American people for their ratification.

The scope of the Convention’s deliberations will be dictated, and limited, by identical language contained in resolutions of a minimum of 34 states:  “(1) impose fiscal restraint, (2) limit the power & jurisdiction of the federal government, and (3) set term limits on federal officials.”  Nothing may be considered outside that scope.  Any proposals arising from the convention will have to run the gamut of at least 38 of the fifty states to be ratified as amendments.

In 1979, we observed at our USDA meeting, as well as in conferences with the legislators, that congressional indifference had already allowed a degree of erosion of the Founders’ intended form of government. However, I doubt anyone on either end of the political spectrum would have believed that, less than 40 years later, federal regulation would seize such a broad stranglehold, or that the direct national debt would exceed the country’s Gross National Product, or that the total unfunded liabilities added in would increase the obligation by a factor of five, or that our elected officials, more concerned about their careers than the country, would allow any of this.  But, here we are in 2017, facing all of it.

The framers of the Constitution recognized the possible scenario of an out of control government, and so provided the simple language of Article V:  The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress”

If the Convention of States Project succeeds, and it very likely will, Americans will have an opportunity to reign in this cold-jawed runaway and force accountability on those who were sent to serve, not to rule.  It will be accomplished by using the exact mechanism prescribed by the framers.  Those in the deep-rooted political and administrative establishment may presently believe they are not going anywhere but, like the fellow whiling away his days at that remote border crossing, they should not be so certain about where they think they are not going. 

Information on the Convention of States Project can be found at www.conventionofstates.com .

A topic which should be of interest to many. Check out their Real Answers to Article V Questions and let us know your thoughts. 

Baxter Black: Triangles (video)

Triangles have a unique place in our world. Engineers use them to build bridges. Pythagoras used it to create his theorem and they shortstop uses it to make a double play.

Triangles strengthen structures. Baxter Black sees this structure when it comes to equine therapeutic riding programs between a woman, child, and a horse.

Watch Baxter Black weekends on U.S. Farm Report.


Lee Pitts: Non-refundable

My friend Frank was facing an all-too-common problem: he owned a beautiful ranch that his kids wanted no part of. His son in California is a budding entrepreneur (he builds hothouses for pot growers), and his daughter is a vegan/animal rightist who hates cows and cowboys. So Frank responded to an ad for anyone wanting a free meal at a fancy resort to come learn about 1031 exchanges. Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? He even took his wife who constantly complains he never takes her anywhere nice to eat.

The lawyer hosting the meet-and-greet made it all sound so easy. They could transition out of their hard life as ranchers into a leisure retirement financed by rent checks just by swapping their ranch for apartments. And all the income from the sale of the ranch would be tax free!

Now, two years later Frank is deeply depressed despite being named customer of the month by Home Depot for buying truckloads of drywall and spackle to repair all the holes in the walls left by vacating tenants. Instead of playing golf Frank is patching roofs and replacing water heaters. He has recurring nightmares about leaky faucets. (Did you know that no two are the same?) His once peaceful life has turned into one giant honey-do list.

"It's got to be physically less demanding than ranching," I said.

"I had a stroke last year from the stress. And I miss my cows! I swear, my apartments are like a miniature United Nations and I don't speak any of the languages. I have to keep my dog on a short leash for fear she'll get eaten. And you never know when a renter will vacate the premises in the middle of the night and leave behind an old gross couch on the street for you to haul to the dump and an apartment that looks like a bomb went off in it. The cleaning deposit doesn't come close to cleaning things up. They say that when you do a 1031 Exchange it has to be for "like" property but there's nothing alike about ranching and owning apartments. They are as alike as New York City and Chugwater. When I sold my cattle at the auction market I got paid the same day. Most of these folks are four months behind!"

"Was the 1031 exchange a mistake then?"

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

We have Tim O'Brien's new 2017 CD, Where The River Meets The Road, and from which Drunkard's Grave will be our gospel tune today.