Wednesday, May 2, 2007



There they go again…! Last night’s (5/1/07) Herald had another example of the sort of anthropocentric environmental insensitivity and general nonsense we can continue to expect from the Herald and their editorial board. While the rest of the world is beginning to understand the damn damage that dams have done to our riparian and aquatic ecosystems—as acknowledged by the Herald’s admission that the trend is toward removing dams, not building them--the board goes against the flow and plays to local backward, anti-environmental sentiment by supporting the County appointed “Water and Stream Health” (WASH) Commission’s efforts to build one or more new dams in Baker County.

I am told the WASH Commission was formed to explore options to improve local stream health. Hey, guess what Herald--Guess what WASH. According to the World Commission on Dams, THE CONSENSUS AMONG RIVER ECOLOGISTS IS THAT DAMS ARE THE SINGLE GREATEST CAUSE OF THE DECLINE OF RIVER ECOSYSTEMS!

Chinook Salmon

One concern voiced by the editorial board is that “billions of gallons of water” are escaping from the “county without doing a lick of useful labor on the way.” Yeah, we've got lazy water right here in Baker County. God forbid that water should just be allowed to run its course. The facts are, that left to its own devices, the water flow regime in streams and rivers works for us in many ways. Services include maintenance of water quality, aquatic, riparian and floodplain habitat, including the organisms dependent on them like fish and birds, as well as water flows to enable successful fish migration and reproduction. And thinking about the latter, who comes first, native fish or a few Johnny come lately irrigators wanting even more of what should be a public resource. Many streams in the West are already de-watered every year by irrigators, so while the water may not be serving its natural function, it is certainly working overtime for irrigators such as ranchers and farmers.

The natural rush of snow melt and rainwater in spring is what signals salmonids to migrate up river. To them it is not a “surplus” (as the herald puts it), but a necessity. But not to worry, because the Herald says that a dam or two will “nourish our [actually their--Ed] crops and sustain our fish” and that our “rivers and streams don’t harbor federally protected salmon or steelhead” so there shouldn’t be any “environmental controversy that could kill such a project outright or delay it for years….”

Well, actually, the North Powder does still contain protected bull trout, and just because the Bureau of Reclamation, FERC, power generators and users have helped to destroy the local native salmon and steelhead fishery by constructing dams, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any salmon or steelhead populations clinging to life down stream—populations that will need minimum and seasonally appropriate flows of their water to survive.

Bull Trout

But once again--not to worry. Those flows will be OK because the Herald says that “Storing water in a reservoir isn’t the same as stealing the water from downstream users . . . . Irrigation water seeps into the soil and much of it eventually trickles back into a stream or river . . .” The questions of course are how much water will be impounded, how much gets back to the stream or river, and is it in the river or stream when the fish need it the most? If these were to be very small scale, low volume projects, water loss may not be much of an issue, but as the plans have not been finalized, it is hard to know. There are some straight forward realities though.

Simple fact: impounded water evaporates at a greater rate than it would in the same length of natural stream due to increased surface area. It is estimated that Lake Powell in Utah loses 163 billion gallons of water a year just to evaporation.

Simple fact #2: Irrigation through fields and furrows increases water surface area, which leads to increased rates of evaporation—up to a 50% loss.

Simple fact #3: Irrigated plants use irrigation water—that’s why people irrigate. Plants transpire large amounts of water into the atmosphere.

So I beg to differ. Storing water in a reservoir is the same as stealing from downstream users, struggling salmon and steelhead in particular. A lot of water disappears into thin air.

There is also the issue of restoring the natural salmonid fisheries that once existed in both the Powder and Malheur River watersheds. In early April, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld U.S. District Judge Redden’s rejection of the Bush administration’s laughable plan to save salmon, leaving open the possibility that hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River could come down in an effort to help restore them. Take out a few more, including Hell’s Canyon and Oxbow, and you can begin to reclaim stolen upstream habitat to restore salmon and steelhead to Pine Creek, Powder River and the Malheur. Additional dams would likely hurt that effort. Let’s not dream about making water available to a few irrigators and recreationists, let’s dream about reclaiming water and stream habitat for steelhead, salmon and future generations.
Steelhead Trout

As for project delays, according to the County Water Master, those wanting to use the impounded water will have to apply for new water rights, which, he says, is a pretty lengthy and rigorous process involving many studies and lots of delay time. That is as it should be. The State and concerned citizens have a right to attempt to protect the environment from profit driven expropriators of what is a God-given resource for all to share, including natural ecosystems. We can be thankful if we can look to a fair and rigorous State and Federal process, and not to the Herald, to determine whether additional dams of any size are appropriate in today’s depleted world. The Herald’s old argument of “invigorating the economy” with new expropriations of our natural capital is just a tired and dangerous corollary to the “multiply and subdue the earth” paradigm that we have been enmeshed in for centuries—its time to back off, to reduce human populations, to give back, and to restore.

ONDA Wins a Big One

Cows Destroy Public Lands

Ungrazed Creek Inside Exclosure

On April 17th, the Oregon Natural Desert Association won a rare victory in the difficult battle to protect public ecosystem from cattle abuse by private ranching outfits operating on public lands. The case specifically dealt with the biological opinions (BiOps) rendered by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concerning threatened fish and the Forest Service’s management of grazing on allotments in the Malheur National Forest, just across the County line in Grant County. As one who has worked on grazing issues for a number of years, I can’t over emphasize how difficult it is to bring “change on the range” by fighting the Feds and powerful ranching interests in court.

Cow-Bombed Area on Malheur National Forest
(Area inside fence on uper left is protected from grazing)

Here is a summary prepared by an ONDA representative (arbitrary and capricious = arb/cap):

-The court found the BiOps not moot because the short length of the biops make them "capable of repetition yet evading review."

-The court found NMFS' steelhead critical habitat determination to be arbitrary and capricious. NMFS improperly relied on the Forest Service's grazing management strategy and their claim of "near natural rates of recovery" because "NMFS has failed to evaluate whether short-term habitat degradation caused each grazing season will reduce the steelhead's ability to survive and recover." The court also noted the history of noncompliance with standards and the BiOps' "vague statements about what, if any, administrative corrective action will be taken against noncompliant permittees."

-The court found NMFS' steelhead no-jeopardy determination to be arb/cap because "there is no indication in the BiOps that NMFS considered any effects of grazing on the species in arriving at its no-jeopardy conclusion." While NMFS recognized the possibility of cattle directly stepping on redds (Fish "nurseries"), it "does not describe any effects on habitat caused by grazing in its allotment-specific analysis and, more importantly, does not indicate that it considered how the admitted habitat degradation would affect the survival and recovery of steelhead...."

-The court upheld the FWS BiOp's bull trout no-jeopardy determination.

-The court found NMFS' incidental take statement arb/cap because it did not consider whether incidental take from habitat degradation would occur. "Without an evaluation of indirect effects of grazing on an allotment by allotment basis, as discussed above, and given these admitted effects of grazing," NMFS' reasoning was arb/cap.

-The court found FWS' incidental take statement arb/cap becaause its take proxy authorizes a level of take that is reached only when "the project itself is complete" and is "coextensive with the project's own scope."

The hope is that the victory will inspire the Forest Service and ranchers to clean up their act, forest-wide.

Stream Outside an Exclosure
(Note lack of streamside vegetation and trampling of banks)

Contrast at Exclosure Fenceline
(Cows remove all palatable vegetation, exposing banks to erosion & leaving little cover or shade for fish & wildlife)

From Democracy Now! 5/1/07

"Israeli Whistleblower Vanunu Convicted For Speaking to Media
The Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu might be heading back to jail soon for speaking to the international media. In 2004 Israel released Vanunu after he spent18 years in jail for disclosing information that proved Israel had a stockpile of nuclear weapons. After he was released, Israel barred Vanunu from speaking to the foreign press but Vanunu defied the order. He spoke to several foreign outlets including Democracy Now. On Monday an Israeli court convicted him of violating the terms of his release from jail."

Now that's my kind of "democracy." No wonder neighboring countries might think they need nuclear weapons. Israel, an illegally occupying power, isn't even a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that we use to browbeat countries like Iran.


Two people sent me the following quote from Lee Iacocca, the ex-Chrysler CEO—definitely worth repeating:

"Had Enough?
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course." Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for."
More Quotes:

From Anti-Capitalism in Five Minutes or Less

By Robert Jensen

We know that capitalism is not just the most sensible way to organize an economy but is now the only possible way to organize an economy. We know that dissenters to this conventional wisdom can, and should, be ignored. There’s no longer even any need to persecute such heretics; they are obviously irrelevant.

How do we know all this? Because we are told so, relentlessly — typically by those who have the most to gain from such a claim, most notably those in the business world and their functionaries and apologists in the schools, universities, mass media, and mainstream politics. Capitalism is not a choice, but rather simply is, like a state of nature. Maybe not like a state of nature, but the state of nature. To contest capitalism these days is like arguing against the air that we breathe. Arguing against capitalism, we’re told, is simply crazy.
. . . .

TGILS: Thank God It’s Last Sunday

We have been gathering on Last Sunday precisely to be crazy together. We’ve come together to give voice to things that we know and feel, even when the dominant culture tells us that to believe and feel such things is crazy. Maybe everyone here is a little crazy. So, let’s make sure we’re being realistic. It’s important to be realistic.

One of the common responses I hear when I critique capitalism is, “Well, that may all be true, but we have to be realistic and do what’s possible.” By that logic, to be realistic is to accept a system that is inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable. To be realistic we are told we must capitulate to a system that steals our souls, enslaves us to concentrated power, and will someday destroy the planet.

But rejecting and resisting a predatory corporate capitalism is not crazy. It is an eminently sane position. Holding onto our humanity is not crazy. Defending democracy is not crazy. And struggling for a sustainable future is not crazy.

What is truly crazy is falling for the con that an inhuman, anti-democratic, and unsustainable system — one that leaves half the world’s people in abject poverty — is all that there is, all that there ever can be, all that there ever will be.

If that were true, then soon there will be nothing left, for anyone.

I do not believe it is realistic to accept such a fate. If that’s being realistic, I’ll take crazy any day of the week, every Sunday of the month.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center . His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at His articles can be found online at

Why there was no exit plan

By Lewis Seiler, Dan Hamburg
There are people in Washington ... who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they're looking for 10, 20, 50 years in the future ... the reason that we went into Iraq was to establish a permanent military base in the Gulf region, and I have never heard any of our leaders say that they would commit themselves to the Iraqi people that 10 years from now there will be no military bases of the United States in Iraq. -- former President Jimmy Carter, Feb. 3, 2006

04/30/07 "SFGate" -- -- - For all the talk about timetables and benchmarks, one might think that the United States will end the military occupation of Iraq within the lifetimes of the readers of this opinion editorial. Think again.

There is to be no withdrawal from Iraq, just as there has been no withdrawal from hundreds of places around the world that are outposts of the American empire. As UC San Diego professor emeritus Chalmers Johnson put it, "One of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave."

"For in every city these two opposite parties [people vs aristocracy] are to be found, arising from the desire of the populace to avoid oppression of the great, and the desire of the great to command and oppress the people....For when the nobility see that they are unable to resist the people, they unite in exalting one of their number and creating him prince, so as to be able to carry out their own designs under the shadow of his authority." (Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. IX)

"Protest that moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence." Wendell Berry

Major Decision:
There is a time in everyone’s life when they have to decide: Will they seek the truth and tell it like it is, or will they remain silent and suck ass for personal gain. The deteriorating world you see around you was shaped by the powerful because the majority of less fortunate souls chose to suck ass. – Guess Who?