Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Professional Rant of the Week - How Obama Became Acting President

This bit from Frank Rich has been the "most emailed article" from the NYTimes since it was published on Sunday. Lots of good stuff in here you're not hearing about McCain.

How Obama Became Acting President

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rant of the Week - Wild horses

I’ve been feenin’ to rant about wild horses, but I was kinda waiting until the Little Snake Field Office does its wild horse roundup, scheduled for this October. The Sand Wash Herd Management Area (HMA) has an Appropriate Management Level of 163 to 362 animals. There are currently more than 450 horses there. However, this front page article in the Denver Post this morning made me decide to push up my timeline on my wild horse rant. Recently, BLM deputy director Henri Bisson presented euthanasia as a solution to a meeting of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. This sparked all kinds of outrage. I’d contend that besides the dog, no animal is more revered in America than the horse.

Management of wild horses should be built upon this premise: Wild horses are an exotic species. I don’t care if they were in North America 10,000 years ago. If that’s our definition of “native,” then elephants are native, too. They are relatives of feral horses, set lose by ranchers. They should be managed as such, not on par with native wildlife. Yes, ranching interests do have the upper hand on public land and yes, livestock do cause more damage to the range—but only because there are more. One horse does a lot more damage than one cow. Horses have top and bottom teeth, which allow them to snip off vegetation right at the ground, killing the plant instead of allowing it to regrow next year. Additionally, livestock can be managed when environmental impacts are imminent. The BLM can, and does, force ranchers to move or remove cattle and sheep from the range. Nothing can be done about horses, except the roundups which occur every 4 to 5 years.

Horses are very destructive, yet wild horse advocate groups argue there should be no management of wild horses; they should be allowed to run free and never be rounded up. Not only that, but they ask that horses are returned to areas they were removed from (because of mixed land ownership and lack of water and/or forage). In addition to the significant environmental damage that would cause, there would eventually be a huge wild horse die off. That’s not my idea of limiting animal cruelty. Not many environmental groups favor wild horses. Environmental interests and wild horse interests are very different in many respects. They don’t dovetail often (except to fight oil and gas development, and occasionally, livestock grazing), largely because the wiser environmental orgs know the damage this introduced species does. When was the last time you heard the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Environmental Coalition, etc speak out in favor of wild horses? If you want massive numbers of horses on the range, you’re going to see significant deterioration of the range and many starving horses. They reproduce like rabbits, and within 10 years we would have a massive ecological problem on our hands. Native vegetation and native wildlife would suffer greatly.

Wild horses are still really neat animals, and I support them being managed on public lands. Whether they’re native or not, they are still powerful and beautiful symbols of the west. But we can’t let radical animal rights groups dictate wild horse policy. “No easy fix” is correct. Euthanasia should be the absolute last resort, and I’m not sure we’re their yet. Fertility control sounds like a good compromise to me, and it we should be trying this approach in many areas. But even this is opposed by horse interest groups. In 2005, the Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition and the Cloud tried unsuccessfully to stop the BLM from experimenting with chemical contraception in Montana’s Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. I’ve dealt with many interests in natural resources, and none are more radical or uncompromising than wild horse advocates. The condition of the range should be the #1 objective, and to me that means fewer cows, sheep AND horses.

Let me close with this fact: The Interior Department spends almost $40 million on wild horses and burros, while it invests just $74,472 trying to keep the average threatened or endangered species in existence. Sorry, but that’s just plain wrong.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rant of the Week - Debunking the Obama - Odinga Connection

It shouldn’t have surprised me. I should have seen this one coming. I read this post on the Denver Post forum the other day:

Yahoo "Raila Odinga Sharia Law". Obambi campaigned for this murdering thug knowing he had signed a pact to institute sharia law in Kenya if elected. This thug is behind the violence going on in Kenya now.

(Here's the tread. I post as 'niko.' You can tell the idiot worked me up, as I'm usually never this agressive.)

Here are two blogs which flesh out these lies. They're quite entertaining (albeit frustrating).

Despite the fact that a Google search turns up more lies than truth, there is little in this statement that is true. Obama's perceived support for Odinga may have arisen from a speech he gave to university students in Nairobi during his 2006 visit. Obama spoke out against corruption in President Kibaki's government. Because Odinga is Kibaki's main political rival, Obama's criticism was misconstrued to mean that he had endorsed Odinga.

Obama did meet with Odinga, but there’s no proof of any endorsement. Obama has much support in Kenya, where he also enjoys a rock-star status. Raila took advantage of this for his campaign and tried to portray Obama's trip to Kenya as a personal endorsement. He even claimed Obama was his cousin, which is also false, showing a pattern of lying to make himself closer to Obama than what’s really the case. So although it may have been possible that Obama supported Odinga, there’s no proof of Obama “campaigning for” him.

The bit about signing an agreement to institute sharia law in Kenya is also unsupported. There is a doctored document on the internet, but wikileak refutes the allegation, adding:

Wikileaks’s analysis aside, it doesn't take very advanced math, wikipedia or googling skills to recognize that risking up to 80% of the vote (Kenya's Christian majority) to cater to a minority of 10% (its Muslims) doesn't add up.
There are claims from these idiots Odinga is a radical Muslim, which illustrates the pundits’ level of understanding of the subject.

Okay, so these assertions are lies. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say he did support Odinga’s presidential bid. The important thing to remember is that in 2006, while Odinga was a typical corrupt politician, his hands were fairly clean at this point. Obama even spoke out against tribal politics during his visit:

Ethnic-based politics has to stop. It’s rooted in a bankrupt idea that the goal of politics is to funnel as much of the pie as possible to ones own family, ones own tribe, or ones own circle of friends with little regard for public good.

Ethnic violence erupted in Kenya over a year after Obama’s visit and any fantasy endorsement. There is no proof of who facilitated the deaths of over a thousand innocent Kenyans. However, there’s little doubt, in my mind at least, that Odinga was a major orchestrator of this violence, along with President Kibaki and other prominent politicians. So calling Odinga a thug after the election is a fair analysis. However, no one even bothers to make up lies about how Obama might have shown support for Odinga after his hands were bloodied. The only evidence of any communication is when Obama took time off his campaign in New Hampshire to make a five-minute phone call to Odinga, urging him to talk with President Kibaki in order to avoid more bloodshed. So the only connection was that Obama was urging Odinga to stop the volence. That doesn’t sound like supporting a thug to me.

After searching through the first few pages of my Google search, I blelieve this is the first blog post stating the truth about Obama’s connection to Odinga. That’s fucking whacked. Thankfully, there are a few news articles that state the truth:



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Professional Rant of the Week: In Praise of the Maligned Sweatshop

I have a real treat for you guys this week--one of my all-time faves. This article was orginally printed in the New York Times, but was back when they were requiring a subscription to read their op-eds. It sure caught my attention and I’m sure it resulted in many folks bunching up their panties in a wad. This is the reason Nick Kristof is one of my favorite journalists. He writes from a real understanding of being on the ground in developing countries and doesn’t pull punches. Enjoy.


Here's an earlier article about "sweatshops" (hey, they're factories--he just uses the dirty S word to catch our attention) in Asia:


Rant of the Week: Enviros

Rant of the Week: Environmentalists

I used to consider myself a pretty radical environmentalist in college. I underwent a pretty significant wakeup call living in Kenya, but the story of that transformation is for another post. Additionally, working with many local, regional and national conservation groups through my job with the BLM has also changed my perception of the environmental movement. I’ve seen many examples of what I would deem “good environmentalism” and “bad environmentalism.” I still consider myself an environmentalist, and unfortunately, many of the practices of western conservation groups work against protecting the environment. What follows is 5 tips for enviros working in the western US.

5 tips for enviros working in the rural west:

1. Work with the community from the grassroots, not against them from the top down.

The thing that most harms the environmental movement in the rural west is imposing environmental “fixes” on local communities from Denver or Washington DC. A conservation group should truly understand the issues locals have to deal with. To do this, they need to station an employee on the ground in rural towns so they can work from the grassroots up. By living and working on the ground in small communities, a representative of an environmental group can forge important relationships and gain critical insights. This helps gain the trust of the locals, and even if some folks never agree with them, they respect where they’re coming from. Fortunately, environmental groups in the west are catching on to this pretty quickly. Small citizens groups are sprouting up in conservative pro-use towns. Larger national or state organizations are putting folks on the ground in these areas, and I have no doubt they’re seeing more results than directing things from Denver and San Francisco. The Nature Conservancy has a good reputation in this regard and is often referred to in my part of the west as “not one of those radical environmental groups” even though they’ve actually had more success in preservation/conservation than more “radical” enviros. Also, the grassroots opposition to drilling the Roan Plateau was downright impressive and gives the Bush Administration a red face in saying they will support local views in natural resource-related issues.

2. Go redneck

So you need some folks on the ground; you’d better send the right ones. The absolute worst thing an enviro group could do in a rural town in the west is to bring in some Birkenstock-wearing dreadlocked kid from Boulder to lecture the locals about their harmful ways. It is very important not to push some outsider on the community and expect to get anything but dirty looks. Groups should hire people with western backgrounds. The best type of environmentalist to introduce to a small community is one that rides dirt bikes and hunts. He or she should drive a beat up Ford pickup, not a Subaru. Someone familiar, even sympathetic to rural western viewpoints has a much greater chance of recruiting locals to help address environmental issues. A fellow “redneck” is better able to mobilize ranchers, hunters and other atypical environmentalists to rally to the cause.

3. Collaborate, compromise where appropriate, and keep your promises

So once you have your hunter enviro on the ground, come to the table when collaborative opportunities present themselves. Collaboration is a good way to gain respect in a community and to make yourself known. Talking face to face often strips away stereotypes and angry feelings. After getting to know someone, even if you disagree with their position, you respect them as a person. In my experience, enviros often find it harder than other interest groups to compromise. This is fine in some situations, but I think it would help their standing if they did move a little on some issues. Unfortunately, enviro groups need money to survive, and they’re damn good at getting it. They don’t get large sums of money from rich liberals in New York and L.A. by compromising; they get it for being stubborn on issues, even when they could cut a deal that better benefits the environment than stalling or suing. Finally, groups need to stick to the deal. When a gray wolf was sighted in northern CO a few years ago, the Division of Wildlife put a broad-based group together to develop a plan for the gray wolf. Enviros and ranchers actually agreed on a plan, which did not include reintroduction of wolves. However, when the state administration became friendlier to their interests, they began to sound the drums for reintroduction. How do you think that made the ranchers feel? Never again will those folks sit down with enviros to hash out a deal. The reintroduction effort is going nowhere and now the enviros are left holding only remnants of burnt bridges.

4. Don’t exaggerate, lie, or use scare tactics.

This one is by far my biggest pet peeve. I see it nearly every day. Again, enviro groups see it as an unfortunate necessity to drum up money from people in New Jersey who don’t know a goddamn thing about what goes on in resource-dependent communities. I could fill eight posts with examples. Just Google any newspaper article that quotes an enviro and you’re probably going to see some fear mongering and spin. The problem with this is they lose a lot of credibility with people who are knowledge about the issues. The lies, exaggerations and scare tactics surrounding the Roan Plateau issue was almost enough to sicken me to the point of not supporting their cause. Some enviros claimed that the gas resource could be tapped by directional drilling from the base of the plateau while they knew very damn well that you can’t directionally drill 3 miles laterally (2,500 to 3,000 ft is the realistic distance). They claimed that a 1% surface disturbance threshold would “devastate” the plateau’s wildlife and that the plateau would be “unrecognizable.” Um, 350 acres of development with rolling reclamation in a 35,000 acre area is going to spell the end to the mule deer? Excuse me? Enviros have lied about protections in resource management plans, about how a BLM plan would “destroy” cultural resources on a piece of state-managed land, and often contradict themselves. Exaggerations may shock people and get them to open their checkbooks or show up for a rally, but I would contend they’re also losing a lot of potential supporters by not being truthful.

5. Don’t just veto every project; provide solutions

Few things drives people nuts as much as enviros who veto every and all development proposals. Oil and gas development? Nope. Coal? No. Nuclear? No way. Solar panels or wind farms all over the west? Sorry. Well then can you please tell me how you think America should meet her energy needs? Many enviro groups are conscious of this problem and are good about saying “we’re not against all development, we just want responsible development in the right places.” While that may or may not actually be the case, at least they’re paying lip service. Here’s another point regarding this issue: one enviro org might not veto every project, but when many NGOs are in the same room, nearly all projects and areas are off limits. Let me give you an example. When the BLM was working with a community group to develop a resource management plan, the mediator handed out maps to everyone and asked them to ciricle areas they wanted off limits to oil and gas development. Well, the Wilderness Society circled all their lands with wilderness qualities, which might have amounted to 30% of the planning area. Okay, not bad. But then Colorado Mountain Club wants all the places they like to hike off limits, and Center for Native Ecosystems wants all critical big game and sage grouse habitat off limits, etc. When we combined all the maps, nearly 90% of the planning area was off limits. Sorry guys, but that’s not balance and it’s no way to meet our energy needs. I realize enviros aren’t a monolithic entity and that they have a diversity of concerns. But it wouldn’t it be great if they could get together and hash out a plan together that is realistic? If not, at least when enviros veto the next project, I’d like to hear a realistic counter proposal.

Recipe of the week: Fish Taco Platter

The fish marinated in buttermilk and Tabasco is good enough, but with the tomatillo sauce and the pickled jalapenos, it’s the bomb.

Fish Taco Platter