Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rant of the week: On the ground at the Sand Wash wild horse gather

Back in July I ranted about wild horses and mentioned that the BLM would have a horse gather in October. I got to get out for a day to watch the gather and I thought I’d share the experience will you all.

The BLM figured there are around 420 wild horses in the Sand Wash basin herd. Through monitoring studies, BLM concluded that the Appropriate Management Level (AML) of horses in Sand Wash is from 165 to 365 animals. Wild horses have a 20-25% recruitment rate, so every four years or so, BLM has to round up the excess horses to return the herd back to 165.

BLM hires one of two companies from Utah to perform all wild horse gathers in the west. Their teams are made up of cowboys, called wild horse wranglers, and a helicopter. The chopper is used to round up the horses, flying low to guide the horses into a trap, which funnels them into the corrals. The cowboys utilize a trained horse to entice the wild horses into the funnel. The horse is aptly called the “Judas Horse.” Right when the horses are about to enter the trap, a cowboy releases the Judas Horse, which runs into the trap. The wild horses naively follow along, only to realize once in the corrals that they were duped.

Once in the corrals, they aged, sexed and sorted into groups. Typically, there are 3 main groups: 1) Horses to be removed from Sand Wash and transported to the holding facility Canyon City. These horses are typically the older horses (which would die quicker and therefore cost less to hold) and horses that aren’t likely to get adopted. 2) Horses to be put up for adoption in Craig after the gather, which include younger attractive horses that are more easily trainable. 3) Horses to be returned to Sand Wash, which include a variety of ages and types.

As I mentioned in July, BLM is trying some new things to reduce horse numbers, and thereby reducing costs and hardship to horses. So for the first time in Sand Wash, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) assisted the BLM in applying fertility control to the mares released back into the Herd Management Area. The contraceptive drug is applied to the mares every couple years thereafter (by dart gun I believe) to slow or halt reproduction in the herd.

From Friday October 17 though October 23, the contractor gathered nearly every horse they could from the basin. Last I heard, 238 were transported to the holding facility at Canyon City, 20 were held for adoption (the guess is that 5-10 will be adopted), 51 studs and 62 mares were returned to their home on the range. BLM figured 15 – 40 horses might have escaped capture, putting the new Sand Wash herd at about 130 – 150 animals.

Check out this video of horses coming into the trap. Notice the Judas Horse on the left, which is released once the wild horses approach the trap.

Helecopter herding in wild horses into the trap (Craig Daily Press photo)

Horses being aged and sexed in the corrals.

A pair of foals sorted for adoption.

Read a 7 News article about the gather and watch their video here.

Read a Craig Daily Press article on the gather here.

Read a Craig Daily Press article on the adoption here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two rants of the week

Barack Obama is running an absolutely stellar campaign

Although I thought the Dems were a bit slow getting the campaign going, they have done everything right since the DNC kicked off. I think his campaign has learned important lessons from 2000 and 2004. He’s responding to personal attacks perfectly, but not responding in kind. He’s quick on his feet when responding to policy attacks. His campaign has studied the bloggosphere and this knowledge is reflected in his responses.

Obama is spending his boatloads of campaign contributions well. His television ads are amongst the best political ads I’ve seen. Sure, some stretch the truth, but I think there’s some legitimacy to the position that “everybody does it,” and unfortunately, the public can believe these ads. If you don’t put out a few of your own, you could take a hit. (I thought it was pretty funny how McCain was all bent out of shape in the 3rd debate. “Your ads lie!” he whined. Um, John, take a look at 90% of your ads, then get back to us). His positive ads where it’s just him talking to the camera, providing solutions, are a huge difference maker. Americans do want to talk about the real issues, and there’s clearly only one campaign doing so.

Obama has debated well. There were a few instances where I thought McCain left an opportunity for Obama to respond, but he didn’t take it up. I have to defer to his campaign’s thoughts on those issues, because I’m sure he’s been briefed on anything McCain would say and how to respond, if at all. I thought the debates went a long way in alleviating a lot of fears about Obama.

Ever since throwing his hat into the ring, Obama has run an efficient grass-roots campaign unlike any other in our history. O has used the internet extremely effectively in fund raising as well as networking supporters. Obama is offering to put your name in a drawing to meet him if you canvas 30 houses or call 70 phone numbers. Obama has energized young supporters in unprecedented numbers, who in turn help register new voters, the majority of who support Obama. They’re actually organizing car pools for Election Day to make sure everyone who wants to can get to a polling station. This grassroots network shows Obama’s commitment and engagement with the voters.

I am very hard pressed to come up with any mistakes that the Obama campaign has made to date. Anybody? Props to Obama, Axelrod and the rest of the crew.

A recent poll: Where I was wrong and where I was right

The other day I was out in the field with a coworker that I’ve never discussed politics with before. Turns out he’s a registered Republican, mostly so he can vote in the primaries in Moffat County (the Republican candidates usually run uncontested in the general election, so the Republican primaries are the only time many Moffat County residents get to make a choice between candidates). Like many open minded folks around here, he’s a fiscal conservative but liberal on social issues. He’s moderate and most importantly, undecided in the presidential race.

He told me how he’s always been a fan of the “maverick” McCain and was read to X his name in November. However, one thing has turned him off: the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. He saw her as vastly unqualified and it worried him to think Palin could be our president one day. He was sickened by her vicious personal attacks on Obama. This, of course, reflected on the decision making of John McCain. I didn’t ask my coworker outright whether Palin made him switch his vote from McCain to Obama, but it did provide some proof that Sarah Palin could be John McCain’s biggest mistake in this election.

I did write in an earlier post that selecting Sarah was a smart move. I am now happily eating my shoe on that one. There is more proof than personal communication. Last week a CBS/New York Times poll came out, showing a growing lead for Obama. They were asked, “Why has your view of McCain gotten worse?” 21% answered his selection of Sarah Palin as VP.

That’s very significant. But so this: 23% said his attacks on Obama were the reason they soured on McCain. This is where I was right. Even neocon William Kristol called for McCain to end the attacks. I’ve been contending this election year that finally negative attacks are proving counterproductive. In past elections I’ve been holding out for the American public to say “enough!” and punish these nasty attacks by voting the other way in November. If these poll numbers are any indication, this is finally the election. In an important Senate race in Colorado, Republican Bob Schafer has run the most vile attack campaign seen in the state. Tons of oil and gas money are buying attack ad lies against Democrat Mark Udall. The more vicious the attacks get, the more Udall leads in the polls. This time the Karl Rove distraction tactics are not working. Now, the only question which remains is if the guilty parties are indeed punished, will campaigns abandon attack tactics next election? At least I can naively hope so.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rant of the Week: The Vice Presidential Debate

First of all, I thought Palin did a good job for the level of her knowledge. She is a confident speaker, and she came off quite well. The problem, though, is that she’d been studying talking points on many subjects and instead of answering questions, she could only reproduce those talking points. When a she got a second chance to talk about the same issue, she repeated the same talking points. She simply does not have the breadth of understanding needed to answer tough questions and counter Biden. But she did well, and I do like the Palin I saw last night much better than the one that dwelled in a sewer of lies and insults during her RNC speech.

Sarah Palin is not prepared to be VP. This is not a huge issue in itself. I don’t she’ll have much to offer McCain’s administration, but I don’t think she’ll hurt things. What’s more important here than Palin’s lack of qualifications is McCain’s decisions making. What does this say for how he will select his cabinet? Will he again defer to the evangelicals when nominating Supreme Court appointees? McCain either showed a lapse of judgment or showed that he’ll cave to interests within his party. Both possibilities are extremely dangerous for our country.

You know what sickens me is the excuses Repubilcan cheerleaders are giving for Palin’s performance. Check this quote out from the Denver Post forum:

Palin was short changed by the fact that a black woman (another jealous one) Obama supporter was the commentator. From the get go, Palin had a nick against her and it set the tone of her being on her heels. How dare them pull that stunt. It was disgusting that Gwen somehow weasled in to that role. What a joke.

I KNEW this excuse would come. There is absolutely no question Gwen ran a fair debate; this assertion is completely unfounded. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m hearing it. Making silly excuses doesn’t help their case. What is their excuse going to be when she meets with leaders from China? Are they going to cry and whine, “It’s not fair! They don’t like her! They’re hard on her.” She could be the vice president people. Do you expect everyone to treat her with kiddie gloves and if they ask her tough questions will they whine some more? Using “the black woman” excuse is extremely cheap, pitiful, and cowardly.

Fact is, Gwen’s debate format helped Palin. While Jim Lehrer let the candidates go back and forth and respond to each other as much as they wanted, Gwen cut off the debate on the question after only one response. Palin does not do well when she’s pushed on a topic. This was quite apparent during the Couric interview when Katy pushed her on legislation, what she reads, how McCain voted for regulations, etc. In this format, Gwen didn’t push her for more specifics and neither did Biden. Palin would have looked a lot worse in a Jim Lehrer formatted debate. Right wingers all should be thanking Gwen.

Joe Biden was on point. I’d never seen him debate this well. He did exactly what he needed to: attack McCain, not Palin; show a good grasp of the issues; propose solutions that the Obama campaign would implement; he was respectful and not condescending. In fact, he passed up many chances to nail Palin on her record; he passed up every one. When Palin gave the wrong name of the commander in Afghanistan, Biden didn’t even correct her. And at least Biden answered the questions.

After watching both debates, I can see a pattern forming. Obama and Biden proposed solutions for many issues. Nearly every time they talked, they said, “We should do X, Y, and Z.” If anyone contends that they don’t know Obama’s platform, that he doesn’t propose solutions, only catch phrases, they’re either not listening or they’re lying through their teeth.

Any observer can contrast that sharply with what McCain and Palin have been offering in speeches and debates. First of all, they peddle fear that Obama is going to raise taxes (only for the 5% of Americans who make more than $250,000) and that Obama would sit down with Ahmadinejad (false again—he said he would meet with Iran representatives, not Ahmadinejad). Both Palin and McCain invoked both these falsehoods again and again. They talk about their records and their competitors’ records, but rarely talk about what solutions they would put in place. They don’t even have a response for the Democrats’ charges, they just deflect the question and repeat the same talking points.

Whether you like them or not, there is zero question which party is offering the solutions here. I’m hoping Americans are tired of fluff and dodging tough questions and issues.