Sunday, November 29, 2009

City Manager Selection; Airport Public Records Act Request, and Etc.


- City Manager Selection

- Airport Public Records Act Request (Photos Added 11/30/09)

- Rudyard Kipling Quote


City Manager Selection

Word has it that the two finalists for the City Manager job may appear in a special meeting of the City Council on this coming Tuesday, December 1, 2009. I haven't seen any notice of this on the Baker City website, so, please don't rely on my word for it. Just a heads up. I was given this information over a week ago by a Councilor, and things may have changed since then.

My understanding was that one or both finalists may appear, and that there is a good chance the selection will be made at the meeting if background checks have been completed.

The two finalists are Tim Johnson and Clarence Hulse.

Baker City Municipal Airport

Airport Public Records Act Request

On November 23, 2009, I sent in a Public Records Act request to Baker City (Jennifer Watkins and Tim Collins). This request springs from the fact that the city, according to the most recent budget, is spending $85,288 from the general fund on the airport. I simply think that I, and the Baker City taxpayers, need to be clear about where the money is going, who the beneficiaries are, and just how much money the airport is bringing in from those who use it. (That is, "Who benefits--Who pays?)

Here us a text of the request:

November 23, 2009

Christopher Christie
1985 15th Street
Baker City, OR 97814

Mrs. Jennifer Watkins
City of Baker City
PO Box 650, 1655 First Street
Baker City, OR 97814

Public Information Act Request - Baker City Municipal Airport Information

Dear Mrs. Watkins,

Pursuant to the Oregon open records law, ORS 192.410 to 192.505, I write to request the following information:

1) The annual amounts of money spent by the City of Baker City for each of the last five years to support the Baker City Municipal Airport.

2) The annual amounts of money spent by other publicly funded governmental entities for each of the last five years to support the Baker City Municipal Airport.

3) The total annual operating expenses of the Baker City Municipal Airport for each of the last 5 years.

4) The lease rates for each hangar and other building as well as the total annual amount realized by the City for all leases.

5) The annual total number of flights for each of the following: private flights, publicly operated flights, and flights related to the public health and safety (Medically oriented, law enforcement, fire, or otherwise clearly related to public safety and disasters), for each of the last five years.

6) The names of all individuals who have leased hangar space, tie-downs on a monthly basis, or other buildings on land owned by the City of Baker City during the last four months (July 23 to November 23, 2009.

If your agency does not maintain these public records, please let me know who does and include the proper custodian's name and address.

I request a waiver of fees because the information requested will be used to inform the public and is in their interest to know how their airport is used. If an electronic copy is available in Word.doc or other common format, I would prefer to receive the documents as e-mail attachments, however, I agree to pay any reasonable copying and postage fees of not more than $10.00. I am willing to come to City or airport offices and extract the information from existing records to save on costs, but as this is information the City should be interested in so as to protect the public's interest, I'm assuming it will be readily available. If the cost would be greater than $10.00, please notify me. Please provide a receipt indicating the charges for each document.

If you choose to deny my request, please provide a written explanation for the denial including a reference to the specific statutory exemption(s) upon which you rely. If some of these records are disclosable and others are exempt, please provide the disclosable records and let me know the exemption(s) preventing disclosure of the rest.

Please understand that I seek these records for the purposes of public interest, public disclosure, and transparency in governmental operations. I hope that the spirit of openness in Oregon government will prevail.

Thank you for your assistance.


Christopher Christie

Here is the response from Mrs. Watkins (Typos are mine, not Jennifer's):

City of Baker City, Oregon

P.O. Box 650
Baker City, OR 97814-0650
541-523-6541 Voice/TDD
541-524-2049 FAX

November 25, 2009

Mr. Christopher Christie
1985 15th Street
Baker City, OR 97814

Dear Mr. Christie:

Thank you for your recent public records request received on November 23, 2009. The City of Baker City has in place a system for how these requests are processed. This letter will outline the process to get us started.

Baker City follows the Oregon Public Records Law, which indicates that we can only provide those documents that are in existence at the time of the request. In other words, no new records need to be made, in order to satisfy a records request. It also states that we have a "reasonable" amount of time to provide the information, based on how much time it may take to conduct a search. Finally, it allows organizations to charge a fee for the time it takes to collect the data and any copy charges incurred.

Some of the information is readily available. I will attempt to answer those questions here. Others may require additional work and some clarification as to exactly what you are seeking. For anything that we need to research, we will estimate the amount of time and calculate a fee accordingly.

Questions 1, 2 and 3 will take approximately one (l) hour to pull together.

Question 4: the lease rate we currently charge is $0.12 per square foot for private use and $0.16 per square foot for commercial use. We still have a few lease contracts under the previous rate of$0.10 per square foot. However, those leases are nearing termination and will be raised to the current rate as adopted by Council in Resolution No. 3593. The total revenue expected from ground leases and hangar rent in the 2009-2010 fiscal year is $16,000.

Question 5: these records are not kept by the City. The Fixed Base Operator does keep track of the number of flights, but most likely not the category (public, private, medical, etc.).

Question 6: I need some clarification from you on this item. Would you like a list of any new leases during the four-month time frame, or a list on any leases that were in place during that time frame? If it's the former, we didn't execute any new leases between July 23 and November 23. lf it's the latter, it will take us approximately one (1) hour to put that information together for you.

In summary, it appears that the request could take up to two hours to complete, depending on the information you need. Resolution No. 3593 sets the public records search fee at $26.00 per hour, plus $0.25 per copy. Should you wish to proceed, please deposit your check of $52.00 (or $26.00, if you do not need any more information on Question 6). Any copy charges will be computed and due in full upon retrieval of the

If the above items take less time than anticipated, you will be provided with a refund for the remaining time. If we find that it will take more than two hours, you will be contacted for permission to continue.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me at 524-2032. We appreciate that this is important to you, and will do our best to meet your needs.


Jennifer G. Watkins
Assistant City Manager/City Recorder
Cc: Tim Collins, City Manager Pro-Tem


Anybody got 50 bucks? ( I would have thought this information would be readily available if the city was looking over their operations.) Stay tuned. . . .
Cessna 172 Skyhawk Practicing Takeoff and Landing At Airport (corrected caption, 12/2/09)

Rudyard Kipling Quote:

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man [or woman] is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." - Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Manufacturing Consent For An Attack On Iran


- Obama's Nuclear Spring

- More News on Israel

- Bill Moyers To Retire; PBS Cancels “Now”


Obama's Nuclear Spring [Israel Lobby's Wishful Thinking & Anybody's Guess]

An Israeli attack on Iran's atomic "weapons plants" rests on one thing – the US president's approval

By Benny Morris

[My comments are in brackets [. . . .]]

[Benny Morris is considered an evenhanded and talented, yet "revisionist," Israeli historian. His earlier works, (like Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 were more truly evenhanded and truthful, but like many of us, he has become more conservative, (and, unfortunately, in his case, protective of the illegal and inhumane Israeli Zionist project) in his older (declining?) years. Even back in July of 2008, he was predicting that Israel would attack Iran's nuclear POWER facilities. See Nader Page comments: (And if you doubt the seriousness of the situation, check out Israeli historian Benny Morris' recent Op-Ed in the New York Times in which he predicts that Israel will bomb Iran within four to seven months. Please keep in mind that Israel, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (Iran signed it, bringing them much grief), has something like 200-500 nuclear bombs. The Palestinian lands of the West Bank and Gaza are occupied illegally by Israel, as are all of the Israeli settlements. See Also: Report Ties Dubious Iran Nuclear Docs to Israel and The Grim Picture of Obama's Middle East]

November 24, 2009 "The Guardian" --

The talk in Israel, explicit and open – including in the country's leading daily, Haaretz, last week – is about a war in the coming spring or summer. The skies will have cleared for air operations, Israel's missile shields against short- and medium-range rockets will at least be partly operational, and the international community, led by President Obama, will palpably have failed to stymie Iran's nuclear weapons programme. And the Iranians will be that much closer to a bomb.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister [Both War Criminals], will then have to decide if Israel can live with a nuclear Iran and rely on deterrence. But if they judge the risk of a nuclear assault on Israel too great, Israel's military will have to do what it can to destroy Iran's nuclear installations, despite the likely devastating repercussions – regional and global.

These will probably include massive rocketing of Israel's cities and military bases by the Iranians and Hezbollah (from Lebanon), and possibly by Hamas (from Gaza). This could trigger land wars in Lebanon and Gaza as well as a protracted long-range war with Iran. It could see terrorism by Iranian agents against Israeli (and Jewish) targets around the world; a steep increase in world oil prices, which will rebound politically against Israel; and Iranian action against American targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf. More generally, Islamist terrorism against western targets could only grow.

But it is not only Israel's leaders who will have to decide. So will Obama, a man who has, in the international arena, shown a proclivity for indecision (except when it comes to Israeli settlements in the West Bank)
[See]. Will he give the Israelis a green light (and perhaps some additional equipment they have been seeking to facilitate a strike) and a right-of-passage corridor over Iraq for their aircraft? Or will he acquiesce in putting atomic weaponry in the mullahs' hands?

It is clear – and should be by then to all but the most supine appeasers [give me a break!] – that the diplomatic approach is going nowhere [ the diplomatic approach is to tell Iran not to defend themselves against the Israeli nuclear threat--or else], with the Iranians conning and stonewalling and dragging their feet, all the while enriching more uranium. And Tehran is laughing, as it were, all the way to Armageddon. Ahmadinejad and the mullahs know full well that the west will never impose the only sanctions that could work (a complete boycott of Iranian oil and cessation of the export to Iran of all products).

Some in the west blithely hope that the Iranians are aiming for a low-key and shadowy "bomb in the basement", rather than immediately usable atomic bombs, and that this reduces the necessity of a pre-emptive military strike. My guess is that Iran has not taken this giant gamble in order to achieve a dubious, implicit capability: it will not stop short of actual, usable atomic weapons with which to overawe and gain hegemony over its neighbours, deter the west and, perhaps, destroy Israel. [Israel, having already created nuclear weapons with the help of Great Britain and the US, currently uses those weapons and their fabulous conventional military might "to overawe and gain hegemony over its" Arab neighbours. That's just fine with Morris.]

So Obama is fast approaching his moment of truth. His predecessor, George Bush, repeatedly assured Israel that the US would not allow fundamentalist Iran to attain the bomb. The implication was that America itself would prevent this – at the last resort, by military means.

Today that seems highly unlikely. Obama is enmeshed in two wars in Muslim lands, with Afghanistan looking increasingly unwinnable, and Iraq stumbling either toward de facto partition or growing subordination to Shia Iran. With an American public increasingly tired of war, any war, the US president is unlikely to send in the air force, navy and special forces to smash the Iranian nuclear installations.
[Well, you never know what the "Peace President" will do!]

There is a sad double irony here. The Iranians and their proxies are likely to attack American targets whether or not the US is involved in a strike against Iran. [No kidding! It is America that has provided Israel with the weapons it has used to subdue and oppress the Plalestians and other Muslims in the Middle East!] And while Israel's conventional military capabilities are limited and could probably delay the Iranian acquisition of nuclear arms only by a few years, American conventional might – if brought resolutely and efficiently to bear – could completely halt Iran's nuclear project and thoroughly destroy its military carapace in a few weeks of intensive bombing; indeed, the regime itself might collapse like a house of cards, as did Saddam's under the American onslaught of March 2003.

This is not going to happen. Nevertheless Obama will soon have to decide whether to give Israel a green light, and how brightly it will shine. And soon. For spring is fast approaching.

We live in interesting times.

It will be instructive to see what Obama does regarding the escalation of the illadvised war in Afghanistan. If he chooses to escalate, which is the conventional media wisdom, it is likely that Obama will go along with Israel, and his Jewish advisors, and support an Israeli attack on Iran (If he doesn't allow the American military to do it themselves). It is not clear, however, that Netanyahu actually needs a "green light" from Obama to proceed with an attack, as his government has ignored Obama's supposed objections to the continued expansion of illegal settlements. When it comes to Middle East policies affecting Israel, Obama, as well as the last few administrations, have chosen cowardly subservience instead of moral leadership.


New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind led a group of fifty American Jews to buy property in illegal Israeli settlement

Democracy Now! Nov. 20, 2009

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind led a group of fifty American Jews to buy property in the nearby settlement of Nof Zion, also in East Jerusalem. During a tour of settlement real estate projects, the Democratic Assemblyman said, quote, “Rather than buying second homes in Florida, we want people to buy in Israel.”

DOV HIKIND: To own something in the land of Israel is something very special. I have been dreaming about that all my life, and finally here’s a place that I am in love with. I don’t want to interfere with anyone. I don’t want to displace anyone. I don’t want to kick anyone out of their home. I have no hate, no malice in my heart. I want to live here, and I’m trying to work that out.

[Yes Dov, please try to work that out. So what that if to make room for you and your Jewish friends, Israel has to evict the Palestinians living there, and bulldoze their homes, often on the best available land. You and your friends are worth it, superior so to speak. So very special, Right? Jerusalem was originally proposed by the UN to be a neutral international city for all three religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), and the Palestinians have long sought to establish East Jerusalem as their Capital in an ever elusive "Palestinian state." Israel, in opposition to UN resolutions, has made Jerusalem the center of their national affairs, and has continued to annex Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem and in other Palestinian areas of the "West Bank."]

Bill Moyers Journal
October 23, 2009
The Goldstone Report On Israeli and Hamas War Crimes

The Journal:

. . . . "There could not have been a more thankless job in the world this year than investigating allegations of war crimes between Israelis and Palestinians. You're about to meet the man who shouldered that task after others had turned it down. And sure enough, he is at the center now of a raging controversy.

Judge Richard Goldstone was born and raised in South Africa, where he came to prominence investigating the vicious behavior of white security forces during apartheid. . . .

Time and again he has placed himself in harm's way and smack in the middle of controversy, but a few months ago he took on what was to become the greatest challenge of his legal career. It came after years of Hamas militants firing their missiles from the Gaza strip into southern Israel. Israel retaliated last December with Operation Cast Lead: 22 days of military action targeting Gaza, those 139 square miles between Israel and Egypt that are recognized as Palestinian territory. More than twelve hundred Palestinians died. Three Israeli civilians were killed and 10 soldiers, four of them the result of friendly fire.When Israeli forces withdrew, Gaza was left devastated and reeling. Not only had military targets been destroyed but thousands of homes as well as hospitals, schools and mosques. The United Nations Human Rights Council called for an investigation. And Goldstone agreed to lead it, but only after expanding the fact-finding mission's mandate to include charges against Hamas as well as Israel.

Over the next several months, Judge Goldstone and his team would thread their way through a minefield of accusation and denial.

In September, he submitted their report, 574 pages, scorching in their detail. The report accused both the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. While condemning Palestinian rocket attacks, the report's harshest language was reserved for Israel's treatment of civilians in Gaza.

RICHARD GOLDSTONE: These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes. The government of Israel obviously has a duty to protect its own citizens. That in no way justifies a policy of collective punishment of a people under effective occupation, destroying their means to live a dignified life and the trauma caused by the kind of military intervention the Israeli government called Operation Cast Lead.

The report and the angry debate surrounding it have exposed Goldstone to strident and bitter criticism. Nonetheless, late last week, the UN's Human Rights Council officially endorsed his findings.Richard Goldstone joins me now. Currently a visiting professor at Fordham Law School in New York, last spring he received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award for International Justice. His books include "For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator."


In another development, Bill Moyers is "retiring" from PBS and his show, Bill Moyers Journal, and PBS is canceling another newsworthy Friday Night program, "Now" by David Brancaccio. Not much reason to watch PBS to find alternative opinions anymore.

Bill Moyers To Retire; PBS Cancels “Now”

And in media news, Bill Moyers has announced his retirement from weekly television. The last broadcast of his show Bill Moyers Journal will air on April 30th 2010. That day will also mark the final episode of “Now” hosted by David Brancaccio, which has been canceled by PBS.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Predators and Cows--Which Threatens You?


- Who's afraid of the Big, Bad, Cow?

- Baker City Population Growth


Whose afraid of the Big, Bad, Cow?

Back in January of 2006, I wrote a letter to the Editor to the Baker City Herald that was posted to ( It concerned the hysteria over the threat by cougars and other predators. In that letter, I noted that:

"Additionally, in an apparent effort to boost hunting license revenues and income to the predator control bureaucracy, ODFW and other interests are creating near hysteria over the threats posed by allegedly ever increasing cougar populations. Keep in mind that one is about 33 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a cougar in the U.S. According to Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, “not one fatal attack [by cougars] has been reported in Oregon.” The facts are that people are more likely to be killed by a collision with a deer, by a bee sting, or even by the neighbor’s dog, than they are by a cougar.

I encourage readers to engage the facts so as to avoid falling prey to anti-predator hysteria

Left out were deaths caused by human interactions with cows.

After revisiting those facts today, and given the current turmoil over wolf reintroduction, I wondered: "What is the comparison between human deaths caused by predators in general, including wolves, and human deaths caused by cattle?'

I can recall at least a few human deaths caused by collisions with cows roaming on public roads and highways here in Baker County in the last few years, so I pulled up some searches on Google. Turns out that only one wolf caused death has been recorded in North America. Cows are estimated to be involved in about twenty deaths to Americans alone every year. (Perspective: In 2006, there were about 18,600 homicides and 42,600 deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the United States.)

Here are just a few results. They do not include deaths to wild critters from habitat destruction, like neo-tropical migrant birds or fish (think steelhead and salmon and missing nesting sites), from cows.

Wolf attacks on humans:

One Person Has Been Killed By Wolves in North America

"Should we fear wolves? No, not if we maintain a sense of perspective. Wolves have not been nor are they about to become the marauding savage killers of folklore, fairy tale, legend, and story. “Mr. Carnegie’s death is a terrible tragedy,” said wolf biologist Dave Mech, “but one fatal wolf attack in the recorded history of North America does not warrant widespread alarm.”

Extensive research turned up 26 incidents of nonfatal wolf attacks on this continent. Two common elements pertain to these attacks: a majority resulted in minor injuries and 80% (21 of the attacks) involved food-habituated wolves. Also interesting to note: all but five attacks occurred after 1970. During the past three decades, the wolf population has grown, human numbers have increased dramatically, and the wildland-urban interface spreads ever outward as people continue to transform wildlands into backyards, homes, and gardens. “These were habituated garbage eating wolves,” said Ed Bangs who coordinates the gray wolf recovery effort in the northern Rockies for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “Wild wolves do their damnedest to stay away from people.


Other Reports of Attacks in North America

[In North America since historic settlement] "In modern times, as humans begin to encroach on wolf habitats more contacts are being recorded. Often the contact is because the person is walking their pet dog, and the wolf pack considers the dog a prey item, inciting an attack. Retired wolf biologist Mark McNay compiled 80 events in Alaska and Canada where wolves closely approached or attacked people, finding 39 cases of aggression by apparently healthy wolves, and 29 cases of fearless behavior by non-aggressive wolves."

"Cougars, Coyotes and Reporters, Oh My!
A Fact Based Look At Wildlife-Related Causes of Human Mortality in Oregon
by Bob Sallinger, Urban Conservation Director"

In part:
"Horses were the most common cause of animal related mortality accounting for a total of 41. Bees, wasps and spiders accounted for 13. Cows and bulls accounted for 9 and domestic dogs accounted for 5. One person died as a result of being kicked by a sheep and another died after being kicked by a mule. One man was gored to death by his pet buffalo, another was consumed by his pet lion, and an infant was killed by a pet ferret. The only deaths that can be described as “wildlife related” during this time period were caused by a car collision with a black-tailed deer and a fatal bite from a rattlesnake. Significantly, there has never been a single death over the entire history of Oregon attributed to either of the two species that get the most press coverage, cougar and coyotes.[1]

It is often suggested that increased hunting could reduce the risk from cougar and coyote. However it is also worth noting that in Oregon alone between the years 1990 and 1994, 67 people were injured and 14 people were killed in hunting related accidents.[2]

Nationally the numbers are not much different. Over the entire history of the United States there has only been one documented death attributed to a coyote. This occurred in Glendale, California in 1981. A family punctually put out food for a wild coyote each day between 4:00 and 4:30. Unfortunately one day their toddler-aged daughter wandered out “to greet the coyote” before her parents had a chance to put the food outside. The coyote consumed her instead.[3] Cougar account for a slightly higher death toll. Between 1970 and 2000 cougar accounted for 73 attacks and 13 deaths across the North American Continent. [4]

The most common wildlife related cause of human mortality in the United States is not associated with a predator species, but rather with white-tailed deer. A report recently published on the CNN Website cited US Department of Transportation Statistics that car collisions with white-tailed deer account for an average of 130 human deaths per year. [5] Domestic animals take an even higher toll. According to the US Department of Health an average of 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. 800,000 of these bites require medical attention, 10,000 require hospitalization and an average of 18 people die each year from their dog-related injuries.

Deaths From Interaction between Cows & Humans:

Vale man dies after car hits cow on I-84
Lisa Lednicer, The Oregonian
September 26, 2009, 1:47PM

A 62-year-old man from Vale was killed Friday night after the car in which he was riding struck a cow on Interstate 84 approximately 30 miles east of Baker City.

Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, 12, 168 174 (2001)
Occupational fatalities due to animal-related events
From the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Section of Human Ecology and Epidemiology, Raleigh, NC.

Objective.—To better understand the extent of animal-related fatalities in the workplace.

Methods.—This study utilized Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries files from the US Department of Labor for the years 1992–1997 to describe the events surrounding human workplace fatalities associated with animals.

Results.—During the 6-year time period, 350 workplace deaths could be associated with an animal related event. Cattle and horses were the animals primarily involved, and workers in the agricultural industry experienced the majority of events. Many deaths involved transportation events, either direct collision with the animal or highway crashes trying to avoid collision with an animal. Exotic animals, primarily elephants and tigers, were responsible for a few deaths. A small number of workers died of a zoonotic infection.

Conclusions.—We found that approximately 1% of workplace fatalities are associated with ananimal-related event. Methods to decrease the frequency of an animal injury are suggested.

Sep 26,2007
Motorcyclist killed in collision with cow
by Bend Weekly News Sources

"A Milwaukie, Oregon-area man was killed and his wife injured Monday night after their motorcycle collided with a Black Angus cow on Highway 7 about 35 miles southwest of Baker City. The cow was also killed in the crash, Oregon State Police (OSP) reported."

87-Year-Old Farmer Trampled To Death By His Cows

VERNAL, Utah - "A farmer from Vernal who was trampled by his own cows last week has lost his fight to survive. 87-year-old Cecil Holmes of Vernal died after a week in the hospital."

AUGUST 03, 2009
Death by cow
A TierneyLab blog post explains that “about 20 people a year are killed by cows in the United States.”

One of the many reasons why it’s better to be an officer worker than a farmer.

August 03, 2009

Conclusion: cows are dangerous! To put the 20-death figure in perspective, dog attacks result in less than twice the number of human deaths (33 in 2007) despite the fact that human contact with dogs is vastly greater than with cows.

In addition, as far as I can tell from the article the 20 deaths do not include vehicle collisions with cows. Those would probably account for some additional deaths, especially in western "open range" areas where cattle on the road can be quite a hazard.

Posted by: Peter | August 03, 2009 at 11:57 AM

VERNAL, Utah - A farmer from Vernal who was trampled by his own cows last week has lost his fight to survive. 87-year-old Cecil Holmes of Vernal died after a week in the hospital. The family believes it’s because two of the cows have calves and they become very protective and must have thought they were in danger. But this is a man who spent his entire life on a farm and was very familiar with how to deal with cows. Out in the open range 170 miles east of Salt Lake City sits a farm that has belonged to the same family for nearly 100 years.

The only human death from wolves I could find was from Canada, and even that one was susect:
Four Wolves Suspected in Man’s Death in Remote Area of Canada

By Jess Edberg, Information Specialist -- International Wolf Center, 12/12/2005

OK, hit me with your savage stories of days gone past, but I'm thinking cows kill more people than wolves.


"Open range" doctrine does not prevent lawsuit against owners of bull that wandered onto highway and caused accident

Larson-Murphy v. Steiner, - P.3d -, No. 98-441, 2000 WL 1835580 (Mont. Dec. 14, 2000).

The Montana Supreme Court held that, despite the state's traditional "open range" doctrine that permits livestock to wander freely, a motorist who struck a bull on a public road could proceed with her personal injury claim against its owners.

Larson-Murphy was injured when she struck a bull while driving on a public highway. She filed a negligence suit against the owners of the bull and the owner of the roadside land where it had been pastured. The trial court ruled for defendants.

Reversing in part, the state high court said that the traditional "no-duty" rule under Montana's "open range" doctrine-which precludes suits against owners of livestock for allowing their animals to roam freely-does not apply to the legal relationship between livestock owners and motorists on highways. The assumption that an individual's livestock may wander upon public areas does not translate into blanket immunity for that individual from subsequent negligence suits. The owner must still exercise ordinary care, the court determined.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. . . Cows, horses and deer are more important than wolves, other predators, or people.

Baker City Population Growth

The growth button

The Herald has explained their view on population growth in Baker City, and it is worth reading:

"We’re concerned, though, that residents, after reading “Inventing the Future," will believe that if Baker City’s population continues its post-World War II stagnation, then the fault will lie with city leaders who refused to push the growth button.

There is, fortunately, one paragraph in the report that exposes the fallacy; we only wish the paragraph were given more prominence.

The issue is whether the population growth in the preferred No. 3 scenario — rising from 10,000 to 20,000-25,000 over 20-25 years — is “even a possibility.”

The report goes on: “That is, even with a coordinated effort and consensus vision supported by the community [?], what were the odds that even modest growth and economic development could be achieved? In truth, this is a far more relevant consideration than a concern that the community could be overrun by growth. The real issue for Baker City, put into economic terms, is that deflation is far more a risk to the community than inflation.”

In other words, there is no growth button.

To reiterate, we credit the city for trying to involve citizens in thinking about the future of their town.

But we hope our fellow residents aren’t misled into believing that “economic development” — that favorite prescription for whatever ails small towns — is an omnipotent force that’s exempt from economic reality

The first sentence indicates that they are worried that "if Baker City’s population continues its post-World War II stagnation, then the fault will lie with city leaders who refused to push the growth button."

The truth is that some city leader are pushing the "growth button." That's why we are spending so much money on “economic development.” Fortunately, pushing the "growth button" hasn't worked . . . so far.

The last sentence of the editorial is worthy of consideration. All I can add is that we need to highly value what we have, and to seriously consider the costs to our quality of life that we face from too much poulation growth.

See Also: Calculating Growth, Doubling Times, and etc.:
Edited for clarity and information added on 11/24/09.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wolves Expanding in N.E. Oregon

In this Issue:

- ODFW Documents 10 Wolves East of Joseph, OR (Video)

- Grazing concerns fueling debate over Ore. land transfer

- More Environmental News


ODFW Documents Oregon Wolf Population Expansion

Back in early September I had called Russ Morgan, ODFW Wolf Coordinator to inquire about why the fladry and other non-lethal protective measures had been removed from the Jacobs Ranch just a few months prior to the final predation by, and killing of, our only documented Baker County wolves. He indicated that wolves might become accustomed to the fladry and sound devices if they were to remain there permanently and that wolves seemed to be staying away from the ranch area for a long time.

At the time he assured me that there were at least two wolf packs in Oregon, in the Wenaha Wilderness area and the Imnaha area. He also felt they would likely spread into the upper Grande Ronde watershed north and west of Anthony lakes at some time in the future. Today, ODFW released the following information which indicates the Imnaha pack is doing quite well.

Alpha Male of Imnaha Pack-ODFW Photo

From ODFW:

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Contact: Michelle Dennehy (503) 947-6022
Fax: (503) 947-6009

Nov. 19, 2009

Video shows10 wolves in the Imnaha pack

A video taken by ODFW on Nov. 12, 2009 in the Imnaha Wildlife Management Unit (east of Joseph, Ore. in Wallowa County) shows at least 10 wolves make up a pack that ODFW has been monitoring since June 2008. The video was taken from an adjacent ridge across a canyon and shows a mixture of gray and black individual wolves moving upslope.


Also found here:

“ODFW has been regularly monitoring this pack but until this video was taken, we only had evidence of a minimum of three adults and three pups making up the pack, says Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. “Pups can be difficult to distinguish at this distance, but it appears there may be as many as six pups in the video.

Wolf litters generally average around five pups, but more is not uncommon,” he added.

The alpha female of the pack is B-300, a wolf first observed in Oregon in January 2008. Her radio collar stopped working in Fall 2008 but ODFW re-collared her in July 2009 and wildlife managers continue to track her and other members of the pack.

ODFW will continue to monitor this pack and another pack in the Wenaha Unit (Wallowa County) to count their pups during the month of December. For a pack to be defined as a “breeding pair” (an important step in wolf conservation) it must produce at least two pups that survive to December 31 of the year of their birth.

Under Oregon’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider delisting wolves from the Oregon Endangered Species List when four breeding pairs for three consecutive years have been documented in eastern Oregon.

The video is more evidence that wolves are establishing themselves in northeast Oregon.

Wolves throughout Oregon are protected by the State Endangered Species Act., They are also protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act west of Highways 398/78/95.

Photos of B-300 and alpha male in Imnaha wolf pack:

ODFW Wolves Slide Show:

Gray Wolf (Canis lupis) [USF&WS Photo]

More BakerCountyBlogs on Wolves:
Oregon Wolves

This story came to me from at Yahoo Groups (
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 2:38 PM
Subject: Land Letter: Grazing concerns fueling debate over Ore. land transfer

Grazing concerns fueling debate over Ore. land transfer (11/19/2009)
Scott Streater, E&E reporter

A proposal to transfer thousands of acres of national forest in southern Oregon to the National Park Service has renewed debate over whether the Forest Service should control some of the nation's most environmentally sensitive lands.

The controversy stems from a bill sponsored by two of Oregon's senior Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio, that would transfer 4,070 acres from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to the adjacent Oregon Caves National Monument, managed by the Park Service.

The lawmakers argue the Park Service is better equipped to maintain forest trails and campgrounds, and that the Forest Service has failed to protect the land from the effects of grazing, including the polluting of the monument's drinking water source with livestock manure.

But the "Oregon Caves National Monument Boundary Act" highlights much bigger problems for the Forest Service, including years of steep budget cuts and the redistribution of tens of millions of dollars from national forest upkeep and maintenance programs to firefighting accounts.

The bill also points to ongoing concerns about the Forest Service's multiuse mission, which holds that the agency must manage its holdings for timber harvesting, energy development, grazing and recreational activities while also implementing sound conservation practices across 191 million acres of public land.

"I think it's both a budget issue and a question of whether a multiuse agency can effectively manage these fragile natural sources," said Ron Tipton, senior vice president for policy at the National Parks Conservation Association, or NPCA. "The Forest Service does it well in a few places, but not in many."

Joseph Walsh, a spokesman at the Forest Service's headquarters in Washington, D.C., declined to comment on the legislation or the issues behind it. Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest supervisor, Scott Conroy, also declined comment, saying it was inappropriate to discuss "pending legislation."

Following Washington's lead

But the Oregon Caves National Monument proposal is not the first time Congress has sought to transfer national forest land to the Park Service.

Lawmakers from neighboring Washington have sought to transfer management of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, deep within the 1.3-million-acre Gifford Pinchot National Forest, from the Forest Service to the Park Service, in part to provide the monument with direct appropriations from Congress and end the Forest Service's practice of raiding its budget to meet other priorities (Land Letter, March 26).

But the Forest Service, an agency of the Agriculture Department, has shown no willingness to cede its land holdings in either state to another agency and department.

In testimony this week before a House subcommittee, Forest Service officials resisted ceding control of the Rogue River-Siskiyou acreage, arguing instead for more time to develop a cooperative monument management plan with the Park Service.

"We believe inter-agency cooperation would carry out the purpose of the bill to enhance the protection of the resources associated with the monument and increase public recreation opportunities through a joint public involvement and review process, to ensure that public concerns and desires are addressed," said Lenise Lago, deputy regional forester for the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest region.

Steve Whitesell, NPS associate director for park planning, facilities and lands, testified at the same hearing that it could cost the agency as much as $750,000 a year to manage and maintain the additional 4,070 acres.

But issues of sufficient funding and preserving sensitive lands, while central to the Forest Service's land management mandates, cannot be solved by any inter-agency agreement, said Sean Smith, policy director for the NPCA's northwest regional office in Seattle.

"We're supporting this transfer proposal because we believe it's better for the resources, recreational opportunities and the regional economy," Smith said. "The benefits would outweigh any of the costs."

Saving a cave stream

From near the peak of Mount Elijah in the Siskiyou mountain range, Cave Creek flows downhill through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and into the Oregon Caves National Monument before eventually emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Along the way, Cave Creek provides drinking water for monument visitors, but officials say that is not at the core of the debate over which agency should manage the river and its broader watershed.

Rather, the 4,000-acre section of national forest is supposed to act as a kind of buffer zone for the creek as it emerges from the mountains and winds its way toward the cave. But Park Service officials say pollution from cattle grazing on the national forest property threatens to erode water quality in the monument.

To the chagrin of Park Service officials, the Forest Service granted permission to a local rancher to graze hundreds of head of cattle in the Cave Creek watershed. In exchange for the grazing allotment, the rancher is supposed to erect fences and other physical barriers to keep the cattle out of the monument property and far away from from where the creek enters the caves.

"But the Forest Service has never gotten the rancher to implement that part of the agreement," said Vicki Snitzler, the monument superintendent in Cave Junction, Ore.

That raises the possibility of cow manure, dirt and other polluted runoff being deposited into the creek. By transferring the 4,000 acres to the Park Service, the government could buy back the grazing allotment, estimated to be worth about $200,000.

"The main purpose of the expansion [legislation] is to draw a boundary around the watershed, to protect water in the cave as well as the drinking water for monument visitors," said Snitzler. In fact, the general management plan for the Oregon Caves National Monument, finalized in 2000, includes a stipulation that the Cave Creek land be transferred from the Forest Service to the Park Service.

"We don't see that rancher as a bad guy at all. But in order to protect the stream, they need to put an end of grazing," said Smith, the NPCA's regional director.

Extending NPS's reach

Shifting control of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest property to the National Park Service also would support the findings of a recent sweeping study that recommended expanding the national park system.

The report, entitled "Advancing the National Park Idea," was commissioned by the NPCA and written by a panel of distinguished luminaries, including former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr., and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Among other things, the report notes that the Interior Department's failure to expand the 84-million-acre park system has fostered conditions whereby "familiar open landscapes are disappearing before the relentless advance of suburban sprawl and big-box commerce" (Land Letter, Sept. 24).

"There's a growing sense that the NPS is not complete and that some of the areas that belong in the national park system are currently managed by either the Forest Service or the BLM," said Tipton, the NPCA policy director.

Scott Streater writes from Colorado Springs, Colo.
Should private cattle graze on public lands?

A lawsuit has been filed to protect John Day River fish, but ranchers say they are dependent on that federal land

By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin

Published: November 19. 2009 4:00AM PST

MADRAS — It's a battle that has ranchers pitted against environmentalists. An ongoing legal dispute over grazing practices in the Malheur National Forest has many Eastern Oregon ranchers worried about their livelihoods and the future of their ranches. Environmentalists are concerned grazing on certain parts of the public forest is degrading habitat for threatened fish.

On Wednesday, ranchers from Central Oregon showed their support for their eastern counterparts at the Central Oregon Livestock Auction yard in Madras.

One-by-one, as cattle entered the auction floor, their weight was registered and the announcer started the bidding.

But once the animal was sold, the buyer immediately signaled he was returning the animal.

And so, the bidding started again on the same animal. It was an effort to raise money for the nearly $450,000 in legal fees the group known as Five Rivers Grazing Defense has incurred while trying to hold on to grazing permits on forestland.

Approximately 80 animals were donated for the fundraiser, which collected about $46,000 for the group.

The auction, which included the sale of other cattle, not just those in the fundraiser, started at 9 a.m. and was scheduled to last until about 10 p.m.

Land use lawsuit

The dispute was sparked by a lawsuit filed by the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association against the U.S. Forest Service. ONDA would like to see the Forest Service remove grazing in certain areas along Forest Service land along the John Day River, an area important for steelhead habitat.

The ranchers found out the only way to have a voice in the debate was to file a lawsuit. So, they are also suing the Forest Service, whose representatives did not return calls for comment.

Steelhead are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Brent Fenty, the executive director of ONDA, said grazing ruins riparian areas, kills cover that shades streams and keeps the water temperatures low, which fish need to survive.

“For us, it's straightforward,” Fenty said. “Our expectation in the short term is we want the U.S. Forest Service, charged with managing grazing, to comply with their own laws and regulations to protect stream health and native fish. In the long term, we hope to protect the most important areas of fish habitat.”

Fenty was quick to point out that he doesn't believe this is a precedent-setting lawsuit.

“I've heard other folks say this is a huge precedent for throughout the West,” he said. “This lawsuit hinges on specific data collected on the ground about conditions on specific allotments. And the Forest Service wasn't enforcing their own rules and regulations. It's less a question of public lands grazing across the West and more specific conditions on these allotments and whether the Forest Service is enforcing (management) to allow threatened steelhead and bulltrout populations to recover.”

Ranchers worry

But Trent Stewart, co-owner of the Central Oregon Livestock Auction in Madras, disagreed with Fenty.

That's why he agreed to host the fundraiser and donate all proceeds to the Five Rivers Grazing Defense fund. He said Central Oregon ranchers are also dependent on public lands, such as in the Ochoco National Forest, for survival.

“If they get started, it's not just going to happen there. Here in the West, we're dependent on public ground for grazing,” he said.

Jack and Katie Johns' Fox Valley ranch has been in their family for more than 100 years. They depend on the grass in the Malheur National Forest every year to feed their cattle. Without it, they would have to cut their cattle operation in half, and they worry about what would happen in the future to their family ranch.

Ken Holliday is another Five Rivers Grazing Defense rancher in Grant County.

“This isn't just going after grazing permits,” he said. “This is going after our ranches. ... It's not just public grazing but our livelihood. It's going after the next generations, our kids, our son. If (we lose), it's a done deal.”

Holliday said he believes ranchers are good stewards of the land and it's in their benefit to do so.

Historically, grazing has been used as a tool to manage forestland, he said. It helps prevent forest fires and helps create habitat for wildlife.

Federal study

Fenty doesn't disagree the lawsuit could make management tougher for ranchers.

“It goes back to this underlying question of what is the primary and best use of our public lands,” he said. “And I think for well over a century, grazing has been the priority use for public lands in the West. And I think changing social values recognizing preserving and restoring healthy fish populations is something we value our public lands for. ... I would hate to ... presume that just because it's historically been a priority, we assume it's a priority use in the future.”

Fenty said the National Marine Fisheries Service found steelhead populations in the middle, south and upper forks of the John Day were not viable and identified grazing as degrading the water quality.

The ranchers pointed to the large horse and elk populations and say they are responsible for trampling the area more than domestic cattle.

Elizabeth Howard, the Portland-based lawyer representing the ranchers, said the methodology used by the National Marine Fisheries Service to measure bank damage is erroneous.

“They go out and look for hoof prints along a certain area of stream,” she said.

“The problem is there is no correlation of hoof prints along the stream and impact to steelhead. ... They have never connected the dots,” she said.

Lauren Dake can be reached at 541-419-8074 or at

Western Watersheds Project
Online Messenger #163
Idaho Land Board Finally Throws in the Towel
~ Jon Marvel

Western Watersheds Project was created in 1993 to bid for expiring grazing leases on Idaho State School Endowment Lands. The legal fight for this seemingly simple desire for open competition as required by the Idaho State Constitution has taken over 15 years, but finally, it now appears to be over.

With the legal settlement described in the Associated Press story included below, the State of Idaho has thrown in the towel and accepted conservation leasing as well as fair and open competition for expiring grazing leases.

The final blow to the Land Board was their legal liability under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 Section 1983 that prohibits government agents from denying citizens their civil rights and equal protection under the law.

WWP is grateful to Lazy Y Ranch and their attorney Laird Lucas for bringing this successful civil rights litigation that ensures fairness for citizens and a fair return for the school children of Idaho !>

Here’s the AP story:

Idaho to pay $50K to settle grazing lease lawsuit
By John Miller, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho agreed Tuesday to pay $50,000 and pledged to follow anti-discrimination rules to settle a federal lawsuit against state officials who awarded grazing leases to ranchers, not the environmentalist who had offered more money.

The Idaho Board of Land has also committed to revising its rules to allow conservation groups to lease state endowment trust lands, a big change after years of fierce litigation. The board's five members are the governor, state controller, secretary of state, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction.

In 2006, Washington state businessman and environmentalist Gordon Younger was the high bidder on seven Idaho grazing leases, but lost when the Board of Land with then-Gov. Jim Risch gave the leases to livestock owners. Younger, who planned to manage the lands to restore what he called "their degraded streams and wildlife habitats," sued in U.S. District Court on grounds he was the victim of discrimination.

Laird Lucas, attorney for Younger's Lazy Y Ranch Ltd., said Tuesday he's optimistic this settlement and the Board of Land's revised leasing rules represent a departure from the past, when conservation groups were bullied out of winning state grazing leases and left no other option than to sue.

"If someone is willing to put up money for conservation on state lands, we want them to be treated fairly," Lucas said. "This is the first time we've achieved reform in how state lands are managed."

The state's new leasing rules, whose changes address more issues than just this lease dispute, await final approval in the 2010 Legislature.

There, they could still face opposition from livestock-industry advocates.

If the rules are rejected, Tuesday's settlement allows Younger to refile his claims against Idaho.

But "if legislative ratification does occur, Lazy Y waives, forfeits and otherwise relinquishes any and all right to refile such claims," according to the pact, which also requires Board of Land members to "recognize their obligation to apply applicable statutes and rules consistent with federal or state equal protection requirements."

The Idaho Constitution demands Board of Land members carefully preserve state endowment trust lands, to secure the maximum long-term financial return to benefit public schools.

Ranchers have contended their industry's impact on local economies should also be taken into account, but that argument has failed to persuade judges: Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group to which Younger is a contributor, in 1999 won unanimous Idaho Supreme Court decisions rejecting grazing-lease preferences for ranchers.

Clive Strong, a deputy attorney general and natural resource law specialist, said Idaho's new leasing rules will help create a level playing field for all parties interested in securing a lease - and help the state avoid costly lawsuits.

"The Land Board recognized the current process was not working and was leading the way to litigation," Strong said. "It was determined to find a better process."

According to Tuesday's settlement, state officials didn't acknowledge wrongdoing, but will pay $50,000 to cover the Lazy Y's litigation fees. Lazy Y, meanwhile, held open the possibility of bidding for the 10-year leases again when they become available.

Jon Hanian, a spokesman for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, and David Hensley, Otter's staff lawyer, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment.


Of the many sections of the Ku Klux Klan Act, the most influential today is the little debated section 1983. The section provides in part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

The language of the statute is much the same as it was in 1871. Interestingly, the 1874 revisions resulted in the apparently inadvertent insertion of the words "and laws," which has resulted in a large expansion of the statute's coverage. Reference to the District of Columbia and to territories was added in 1979.

Section 1983 allows people to sue for state and local violations of the Constitution and federal law. It enables private citizens to affirmatively enforce these rights. Lawsuits may be brought in federal or state court, and the remedies available for violations include damages and injunctive relief. A key to Section 1983's revitalization was when the Supreme Court breathed new life into the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court developed an extensive theoretical framework for the due process and equal protection clauses, under which it recognized a wide variety of federally protected rights. Also, in Monroe v. Pape (1961), the Supreme Court interpreted Section 1983's "under color of law" requirement to cover cases in which state and local officials were not acting in accordance with state law but in violation of it. This was the beginning of a series of interpretations that loosened the judicial stranglehold on civil rights legislation that had been passed during the Reconstruction era.


Center For Biological Diversity
Endangered Earth Online

No. 487, November 19, 2009

Suit Kills Wolf-killing Policy
Three California Species Win Habitat Protection
Suit Challenges Grand Canyon Uranium Mining
Rare Green Sturgeon Earns Recovery Roadmap
Center: Las Vegas Fouling Its Own Drinking Water
Flying Squirrel vs. Bush: 54th Suit Filed Against W's Horrid Legacy
Utah Lead-bullet Ban Gaining Steam, Help Save the Condor Today
The Rebirth of Environmentalism: New Book Examines Rise of Center for Biological Diversity
Center Polar Bear Ads Ranked 10th in Nation
U.N.: Free Condoms to Combat Climate Change

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Israel and the US is getting you ready for attack on Iran.

How do I know you say? Well, you know I can’t know with any certainty.

At my age, I confess a feeble memory, but. . . . I remember the buildup to the war in Iraq, and I saved important stories leading to the buildup and attack. Using press reports by influential Israeli sympathizers in the “American” press, I predicted the war a year before it occurred. Without even reviewing those tapes, I remember the important role played by Public Broadcasting’s “Frontline” in promoting the tragic, ill-advised, and illegal war--Their matter of fact, yet emotion laden, official sounding monotone reports, demonizing Saddam and the Iraqi regime. Regime, Regime, Regime—the word was used over and over with charges of torture and murder, and imprisonment, or bad treatment of demonstrators. No matter that Nixon killed peaceful demonstrators at Kent State during the VietNam War, or that we isolate, spy on and imprison demonstrators on a regular basis, or that we have killed innocent civilians in other countries willy-nilly for decades.... Tonight I hear the same words of evil intent repeated over and over on “Frontline,” the official propaganda channel to American so-called informed “liberals,” the peaceful warmongers.

You may have heard many previous reports of looming war--the supply of missiles by the US to Israel, the joint military exercises, and etc.--but whether you watched tonight’s “Frontline” or not, I am tempted to bet my minor reputation as a predictor of war, that you will witness an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, or worse, before Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, leaves office. I believe it will be by either Israel or our own pathetically immoral country, or both. It will occur with the stated objective of stopping Iran from possessing the very nuclear weapons possessed by the US and the Western powers, but in reality, the objective will be to protect the colonial state of Israel and to increase our control over the area that possesses 60% of the world's oil reserves. We, with our energy wasting ways, have only 2% of the world"s oil reserves.

I prefer not to place bets, but everything points in the direction of war. I think you can count on it, and that you need to keep your sons and daughters safe from any more imperial wars by a declining and desperate country whose foreign policy in the Middle East is directed by the Israel lobby.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Afghanistan & Bolivia--two different situations, two different paths...

In This Issue:

- Obama's Decision: What About Afghanistan?

- Bolivia Re-invents Democratic Socialism

- Too Fearful to Publicise Peak Oil Reality

- Roots of Terrorism


Obama's Decision: What About Afghanistan?
Monday 16 November 2009
by: William Rivers Pitt, t r u t h o u t | Columnist

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier. - Rudyard Kipling

All the presidents in my lifetime share one common characteristic: each one aged rapidly, visibly and dramatically over the course of their administrations. Nixon appeared to be melting by the time he boarded that last helicopter. Ford's stay was brief, but it left its stamp on his face. Carter quickly came to resemble the peanuts he was associated with. Reagan already looked like the eagle from "The Muppet Show" when he took office, but was positively wizened when he left. Bush Sr. became an old man before our very eyes, and Clinton ballooned at first before hardening, wrinkling and whitening. Even George W. Bush, who left a lot of the heavy lifting to the gremlins who staffed his administration, looked like a hickory stick before mercifully departing for the motivational-speaker circuit.

The trend is no different for President Obama. Seeing how they gray has overtaken his hair in less than a year has been like watching time-lapse photography of autumn leaves changing color. The lines have deepened around his eyes and mouth, and the furrows in his brow have deepened and spread. He is still a young and vital man, especially compared to the opponent he vanquished to become president, but there is no doubt that, as usual, the job is taking its toll.

There's no mystery behind the phenomenon, of course. It's the decisions a president has to make, the risk-versus-reward calculations, the body count considerations, the political geometry involved, and all too often, the Hobson's Choices where any decision is going to be wrong and dangerous and potentially calamitous. Every president gets their fair share, and Obama has already endured two full terms worth in ten months, thanks in no small part to the aged men who came before him. The Middle East, national security, civil liberties, international relations, economic catastrophe, environmental peril: These are but a few of the lines on Obama's daily crisis sheet.

The decision looming largest over president Obama at present does not concern health care reform or the economy. He has a call to make soon regarding our present and future role in Afghanistan. What to do about an eight-year war that has accomplished little? This is the largest, and worst, Hobson's Choice Obama has faced, for there are no bloodless and peril-free decisions in this one, no matter how many generals and advisers and pundits pitch in with their opinions.

It is going to be an anguished, agonizing and costly choice no matter what he decides. A family in Massachusetts mourning their son, who died in Afghanistan trying to save another soldier is the distilled essence of this truth. The mother of this fallen soldier, quoted by a local Boston news station, said, "It's time we do something. This has gone on too long. They either need to come home or we need to end it."

There it is. Come home or end it, period. Those are the choices, and either will come with a cost.

Some very pressing points in recent history, along with a number of present day concerns, illuminate the dangers involved in coming home. Beginning in 1978, the US invested itself into making Afghanistan into the USSR's own version of Vietnam by arming, funding and training Afghan "freedom fighters" to attack the Afghan government, which, at the time, was a puppet of the Soviet government. The idea was to trick the Soviets into invading Afghanistan in order to protect their satellite regime there, and it worked when the Soviets invaded in 1979.

Zbignew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser and author of the plan, said in a 1998 interview, "That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap. The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam war."

He has since come to regret the sentiment, as well as the operation, for the ones he helped to arm and train became the Taliban, and became al-Qaeda. After the Soviets withdrew in defeat from Afghanistan in 1989, the US did the same, having achieved our geo-strategic goal of undermining the USSR. Afghanistan collapsed into a state of civil war until 1996, after which the Taliban emerged as the dominant force, and the rest is, unfortunately, history. Our involvement and subsequent withdrawal precipitated the creation of the very opponent we face there today, and if we withdraw before having ended what we caused, Afghanistan could easily become a full-fledged narco-state fueled by heroin profits and hatred for the West.

This lesson from the past stands in combination with a serious concern for the present: Pakistan. Afghanistan's closest neighbor is in a state of turmoil, with mass murders and suicide bombings taking place on a daily basis. The government is barely hanging on to power, which puts the state of command and control over their nuclear weapons very much in play. If the US and NATO withdraw, and the chaos in Afghanistan finally overwhelms and topples the regime in Pakistan, we will be faced with the potential of loose nukes in a region that shares borders with nuclear-armed India and China, and the doomsday scenarios that spin off from this are too numerous and ghastly to contemplate.

In saying "end it," that mourning, Massachusetts mother meant "win it." The decision to stay and try to fight the war to some reasonable or meaningful conclusion is, however, fraught with peril. The region is already exploding with violence, which has been bleeding across the border into an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan for some time. The Taliban has been making strong inroads in both countries, winning over large swaths of the populace, who have grown weary and furious with the occupying NATO/US forces that have been there for most of a decade now. This has been the bloodiest year for coalition troops in Afghanistan - 288 American soldiers killed out of 468 NATO soldiers killed, with more than 1,800 Americans wounded - a trend that will only continue and increase with the introduction of thousands of more troops.

Finally, there is little actual evidence to suggest an increase in troop presence will make any appreciable difference. We have been there for eight years, and matters have remained the same only in the areas where they have not gotten appreciably worse. Afghanistan is, and has always been, the eater of armies. No amount of technology or troop superiority can overcome the natural advantages held by those who know the ground, and who already know how to defeat a superpower, something many of those fighting us there have already done in their lifetime. We could stay there for another eight years and find ourselves in exactly the same position, or even worse off than before.

These are but a few of the issues the Obama administration must wrestle with in coming to a decision on Afghanistan. It is no wonder the president is aging before our eyes.

Cost of War in Iraq

Cost of War in Afghanistan

Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 1,519

Bolivia Re-invents Democratic Socialism

[Democratic Socialism is a political form that is perhaps most developed in Europe, but the systems vary in the degree of social benefit. This is the form now chosen by the developing country of Bolivia. It will not come without environmental costs, a problematic increase in population, and much oppositional pressure from the powers that be in the United States... Chris]

By Judy Rebick

November 16, 2009 "Rabble" -- On December 6, Bolivia will hold a general election where Evo Morales, the first Indigenous President in South America will no doubt be re-elected. His party, the MAS, has recently released an election programme that Susan Harvie has kindly summarized and translated. Bolivia is reinventing democractic socialism. They are in the process of creating a plurinational state with equal rights for all nations and people, redistributing land, providing free health and education for everyone, creating what they call a pluri-economy that includes public, private, co-operative and communitarian. In four years of power they have eliminated illiteracy, reduced extreme poverty by 6%, insituted a senior's pension for the first time, nationalized hydrocarbons and achieved a 6.5% economic growth. They are showing that a government that acts in the interests of the majority really can succeed and that an alternative is truly possible. The full list of achievements and election platform for the next four years is below:

Too Fearful to Publicise Peak Oil Reality

The economic establishment accepts the world soon won't be able to meet energy demands, but wants to keep quiet about it

[The "Peak Oil" warning has been heralded for many years now, and thanks to the Guardian of London (and Information Clearing House) for publishing a piece that asks serious questions about why mainstream media and government have avoided the issue.] - Chris

By Madeleine Bunting

November 16, 2009 "The Guardian" --- It is very hard for the average person in the street to come to a sensible conclusion on peak oil. It's a subject that prompts a passionate polarisation of views. The peak oilists sometimes sound like those extraordinary Christians with sandwich boards proclaiming that the end of the world is nigh. In contrast, the the international economic establishment – including the International Energy Agency (IEA) – has one very clear purpose in mind at all times: don't panic. Their mission seems to be focused on keeping jittery markets calm.
Faced with these options the majority of people shrug their shoulders in confusion and ignore the trickle of whistleblowers, industry insiders and careful analysts who have been warning of the imminent decline in oil for over a decade now.

Remember the Queen's question – that uncannily accurate and strikingly obvious question she put to economists at the London School of Economics a year ago after the financial crisis: did no one see it coming? Apply that question to peak oil and the answer is that many people did see it coming but they were marginalised, bullied into silence and the evidence was buried in the small print.

Take the 2008 edition of World Energy Outlook, the annual report on which the entire energy industry and governments depend. It included the table also published by the Guardian today, and the version I saw had shorter intervals on the horizontal axis. What it made blindingly clear was that peak oil was somewhere in 2008/9 and that production from currently producing fields was about to drop off a cliff. Fields yet to be developed and yet to be found enabled a plateau of production and it was only "non-conventional oil" which enabled a small rise. Think tar sands of Canada, think some of the most climate polluting oil extraction methods available. Think catastrophe.

What made this little graph so devastating was that it estimated energy resources by 2030 that were woefully inadequate for the energy-hungry economies of India and China. Business as usual in oil production threatens massive conflict over sharing it.

Now, this all seemed pretty gigantic news to me but guess where the World Energy Outlook chose to put this graph? Was it in the front, was it prominently discussed in the foreword? Did it cause headlines around the world. No, no, no. It was buried deep into the report and no reference was made to it in the press conference a year ago.

The fear is that panicky markets can cause enormous damage – panic-buying that prompts fights over resources, which in turn could lead to power cuts in some places and other such mayhem. But so far in facing this huge challenge, our political/economic system seems unable to cope with reality. We are forced to carry on living in an illusion that we have so much time to adapt to post-oil that we don't even need to be talking or thinking much about what a world without plentiful oil would look like. Reality has become too dangerous.

So in reply to the Queen's question of a few years hence, we did see it coming but we chose to ignore it.

Shining a Light on the Roots of Terrorism
By Ray McGovern
Retired CIA Officer, Political Activist See:

. . . .
Creative Editing
[FCM = Fawning Corporate Media]

If you’ve read down this far, you will not be surprised that the FCM ignored the Defense Science Board findings for two months. On Nov. 24, 2004, the New York Times, erstwhile "newspaper of record," finally published a story on the report – but only after some highly instructive surgery.

Thom Shanker of the Times quoted the paragraph beginning with “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom’” (see above), but he or his editors deliberately cut out the following sentence about what Muslims do object to, i.e., “what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights” and support for tyrannical regimes.

The Times did include the sentence that immediately followed the omitted one. In other words, it was not simply a matter of shortening the paragraph. Rather, the offending middle sentence fell victim to the "delete" key.

Similarly creative editing showed through the Times’ reporting in late October 2004 on a videotaped speech by Osama bin Laden. Almost six paragraphs of the story made it onto page one, but the Times saw to it that the key point bin Laden made at the beginning of his speech was relegated to paragraphs 23 to 25 at the very bottom of page nine.

Buried there was bin Laden’s assertion that the idea for 9/11 first germinated after “we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American-Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.”

There is other evidence regarding the Israeli-Palestinian motive behind 9/11.

Though Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was not allowed to talk to the attorneys in the 2006 trial of 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, the judge did allow into the official record a statement by Mohammed on the "Purpose of the 9/11 Attacks," which was drawn from "numerous written summaries of Sheikh Mohammed’s oral statements in response to extensive questioning."

The following statement from Sheikh Mohammed appears on page 11 of Defense Trial Exhibit 941 from United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, Criminal No. 01-455-A:

"Sheikh Mohammed said that the purpose of the attack on the Twin Towers was to ‘wake the American people up.’ Sheikh Mohammed said that if the target would have been strictly military or government, the American people would not focus on the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel against the Palestinian people and America’s self-serving foreign policy that corrupts Arab governments and leads to further exploitation of the Arab/Muslim peoples." . . . .

Friday, November 13, 2009 Still Waiting for Health Care

Still Waiting for Health Care

The House of Representatives debate on the health insurance “reform” is over with the Democrats failing the people and the Republicans disgracing themselves as having left their minds back in the third grade (with apologies to third graders).

House Democrats were determined to pass any bill with a nice sounding name, such as “The Affordable Health Care for America Act”. Single payer, full Medicare for all was never on the table even though a majority of citizens, physicians and nurses support that far more efficient, free choice of health care professionals, system.

There are no effective cost containment or prevention measures in the bill. The public option is so weak it will be a receptacle for the sickest of patients among the meager number of people who qualify for its coverage. There are no provisions to reduce the number of people (100,000) who die annually from medical malpractice in hospitals.

Nor is there a major program to reduce the tens of billions of dollars that is stolen yearly out of Medicare from criminals inside and outside the medical profession.

The cover story in the November issue of the AARP Bulletin is on the elaborate but detectable schemes to swindle Medicare with phantom services, phony rentals of equipment, stolen Medicare numbers and the like. The author, Jay Weaver, writes: “So lucrative, and so low-risk, the FBI reports, that a number of cocaine dealers in Florida and California have switched from illicit drugs to Medicare fraud.”

Although more money is finally going for prosecutions, there is nowhere near enough for this corporate crime wave. Medicare’s office of Inspector General asserts that every dollar of law enforcement will save $17 of theft.

Computerized billing fraud and abuse takes anywhere from $250 billion to double that estimate by the General Accounting Office. (The GAO said ten percent of health care expenditures are going down the drain.) The reason why the estimates cover such a broad range, according to Professor Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, is that there are inadequate resources to document the huge hemorrhaging of the nation’s health care budget and come up with better data.

Apart from the impoverishment of the debate, there is the actual doing of harm. The bill, if enacted, doesn’t take effect until after the presidential elections in 2013, mostly to let the drug and health insurance industries adjust, though they can scarcely believe their good fortune at being delivered all those profitable customers paid for by taxpayers with scarcely any price restraints.

The American Journal of Public Health has just published a peer-reviewed study by Harvard physicians-researchers that estimates 45,000 Americans lose their lives yearly because they cannot afford health insurance to receive diagnosis and treatment. Strange how cool the House is to giving these fatalities a four year pass.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading single payer advocate, voted against this legislation for many reasons, most notably the Obama-driven omission of his amendment to clear the way legally for states to pass their own single payer laws. Several states, such as Pennsylvania, are in the process of moving legislation in this direction, but are concerned that the health insurers will claim federal pre-emption.

The victims of medical malpractice – estimated by the Institute of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health to be about 100,000 deaths a year – escaped having to overcome more hurdles before they have their full day in court. Helping to beat back the Republicans, who define “medical malpractice reform” as letting the negligent perpetrators get away with their lethal consequences, was Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA).

Rising on the House floor he delivered a factual plea for patient safety. Hardly had he started to speak with Republicans started shouting “trial lawyer, trial lawyer” referring to his previous profession of representing wrongfully injured people before local juries in Iowa. This rare display of shouting by opponents was punctuated by one of their unleashed members rushing down the aisle shouting “You’ll pay for this.”

During this overall debate on the bill, Republicans stood up one by one, as prevaricatory dittoheads, to often scream and howl (like coyotes) that this is “a government takeover of one sixth of the economy,” “would destroy the economy,” “put 5.5 million people out of work,” “destroy the doctor-patient relationship,” “be a steamroller of socialism,” “force millions of seniors to lose their current health coverage” (meaning, Medicare?) and, in a passionate appeal to the Almighty, Congressman John Fleming (R-LA) declared “God help us as the government takes over your day-to-day life.”

Never mind that this bill is just an expansion, however misdirected, of government health insurance designed to increase corporate profits and increase the corporate grip over the day-to-day decisions regarding who, when and how people get their health care or get their bills paid.

To top off the madness, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an ever maturing political hermaphrodite, reneged on his assurance to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and imperiously announced on Fox News Sunday that “if the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote.”

For media-centric Joe, his motto seems to be “L’Senat c’est moi.” ["The Senate is me."}]