Tuesday, March 30, 2010

1) Western Wildlife and 2) New Cole Hearing Set

[Edited 3/31/10, information added.]
In This Edition:

Western Wildlife
- Bighorn Sheep
- Bald Eagle Cam
- Tundra Swans
- Sage Grouse

New Cole Hearing Set; Release Conditions Modified


Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)

In an earlier blog (MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2010--Baker Bighorns "Blinking Out", the threat to our Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep populations in Hells Canyon from disease transmitted by exposure to domestic sheep operations was discussed. The following is an assortment of other information about bighorn sheep, including sub-groups from Utah to Oregon and south to the Peninsular Ranges of California and the Trigo Mountains of Arizona. I will try to keep it brief with links to knowledgeable sources for the curious. The main point is that the several sub-populations of bighorn sheep are particularly sensitive to disease (the primary source being domestic sheep operations), hunting pressure, competition with both domestic animals and feral burros/horses, and habitat loss due to our ever expanding human activities.

Peninsular Bighorn Sheep

The photo above of endangered Peninsular Bighorn Rams was taken near Borrego Springs, in the western edge of the Colorado desert of California, while I was on a wildflower trip back in the spring of 1998. Unlike our northern bighorns, they have evolved to exist in a very difficult and increasingly endangered habitat in a desert environment close to burgeoning populations in people smothered Southern California. The following account from the Center For Biological Diversity explains some of the pressures they face.

Peninsular bighorn sheep can get water from cacti, splitting the spiny barrel cactus with their horns and eating its watery insides. But thanks to sprawl and agribusiness, both sheep and succulent are increasingly rare: Up to 2 million bighorns roamed North America at the turn of the 20th century, but now only 70,000 remain. Peninsular bighorns, a so-called “distinct population segment” of these, number only in the hundreds. Still, their population has grown since they were federally protected, and thanks to the Center, they currently lay claim to nearly 850,000 acres of critical habitat. In 2007, we scored a big victory for part of that habitat when we won an injunction preventing development-associated grading in California’s Chino Canyon.

Unfortunately, the Peninsular bighorn’s critical habitat is in jeopardy. Responding to development pressure and a 2005 tribal lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to dramatically reduce the area of land set aside for bighorn recovery, and its 2009 critical habitat proposal axed the original area by 55 percent — so the Center and four allies sued in October 2009.

But the Center won’t let this bighorn perish. Most recently, we joined the Sierra Club in suing the city of Palm Desert and California Fish and Game Department over a housing project that would affect the Bighorn Institute, a federally recognized recovery center for the sheep. In 2000, we won protections for the bighorn and more than 50 other endangered species in Southern California’s national forests; in 2001, we helped end off-road vehicle use of Dunn Road, illegally built in bighorn habitat — and we later challenged a plan to allow commercial vehicles on that road. We also advocate for protection of Peninsular bighorn in the central and southern parts of their range, including challenging off-road vehicle use in the Desert Cahuilla/Truckhaven area and fighting the expansion of a large gypsum mine, both in critical sheep habitat. We’re working to curb off-road vehicle impacts in the Yuha Desert and other border areas that provide a link to bighorns in Mexico

While populations of "Mexican bighorn" on the east side of the Colorado in the Trigo Mountains of Arizona are said to be fairing better, I will never forget encountering the carcass of a large ram, minus the ever sought after head and horns, alongside a jeep road there in the 1990's. I have a photo somewhere, but it would take some time to locate it in my old boxes of photos, where ever they are. A major threat there, besides hunting, is the competition with feral burro populations that resulted from the burro's abandonment by miners in the earlier portion of the 20th century. The burros drain the lifeline of the sheep's water supply by drinking from and fouling the seasonal small "tanks," or rock-lined reservoirs created by spring and summer rains, and they feed on many of the same plants needed by the bighorn.
Burro or African wild ass--Cute, but Very Destructive to Native Ecosystems

Rocky Mountain Bighorn with young ones at Flaming Gorge, Utah

Sheep Creek Bay on what is now Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green River in north east Utah is a pretty interesting place to visit. Besides the outsized geology and Kokanee spawning runs up Sheep Creek, it can be a good place to view transplanted Rocky Mountain bighorns. The following is a video with an old "Hi-8" Sony camera of some ewes and young ones from a visit there in July of 1994. Not spectacular footage, but somewhat enjoyable watching the lambs romp.

Again, Google Blog cuts off the right side of this wide screen video, so for the full view, go to:
Baby BigHorns on a Romp.m4v

These Sheep Creek bighorns are currently threatened with possible pneumonia infection from a herd on Goslin Mountain, some 15 miles away. The following article about the eradication of the Goslin herd by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, indicates that there are not yet signs of infection in the Sheep Creek herd, however, Ken Cole's article on the WAFWA report (WAFWA report summarizes pneumonia outbreaks in bighorn sheep) indicates the herd may already be infected. Note also that the bighorn transplants on Goslin Mountain were acquired from herds in Montana, several of which have been infected with pneumonia due to proximity to domestic sheep activities or allotments. Given that disease transmission from domestic sheep to bighorns has been documented for well over a decade, one wonders why the state wildlife agencies have not been more alert to the possibility of transplants spreading disease to wild bighorn.

Disease forces DWR to kill bighorn sheep
By Brett Prettyman
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 03/10/2010 10:31:18 AM MST

. . . . Wildlife biologists are shooting the entire bighorn sheep population on Goslin Mountain in the state's northeastern corner in an effort to stop a fatal and contagious disease from spreading to other nearby wild herds.

Twenty-five Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from the Goslin Mountain herd have been shot by biologists in the steep canyon country north of the Green River and east of Dutch John in the past month. Many more have died from bacterial pneumonia, a malady that is striking a severe blow to bighorn herds in Montana, Nevada and Washington.

"Some states let the disease take its course when the herd is isolated, but we have documented cases of rams from the Goslin herd contacting other sheep and we don't want to risk infecting nearby herds and having a much larger die-off," said Leslie McFarlane, the wildlife disease specialist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR)
. . . . .


California Bighorn in Burnt River Canyon

Bighorn Ewe in Burnt River Canyon

The Baker City office of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) tells me that the Burnt River population of introduced California bighorns is in pretty good shape, with high pregnancy rates and good lamb and young adult survival, and may be more resistant to disease than the Hells Canyon Rocky Mountain bighorns. The photos of the ewe, having just watered at the river, were taken last weekend. ODFW expects them to be lambing soon near the higher rocky and cliff areas that comprise their escape habitat above the river. Northern and north eastern populations of bighorn lamb in May and June, but this population finds April more suitable. They estimate the ewe in the photo to be "at least a few years old," with the typical, spring shedding, ratty coat.

One wonders how these magnificent animals can cling to the narrow perches and near vertical surfaces of cliffs, while seemingly appearing a bit too self-assured in their movements from one impossible perch to another. The answer appears to be in the "cork-like," "spongy," or "rubbery," hooves, with each half, or toe, being separately controllable. Ungulates like deer and elk, on the other hand, have harder hooves that would tend to slip on steeply angled surfaces. See the photo below of the hooves of the same bighorn shown above, the "dew claws" also being spongy.

Spongy hooves allow sure movement on steep and perilous terrain.

You can find a good deal of information from ODFW on Oregon Bighorn Sheep here:
Oregon's Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goat Management Plan

See also:
WAFWA report summarizes pneumonia outbreaks in bighorn sheep
March 29, 2010 — Ken Cole
[Many good links here.]


Bald Eagle Cam

Bald Eagle With Eggs in Difficult Conditions

Check out the Bald Eagle Cam. Jan Taylor told me about this and it is now my home page on most days. This morning (Tuesday), the poor parent to be was pretty much completely covered with snow, protecting the developing new generation. I will try not to complain about the snow and cold again, but being a snow wimp, that scenario is unlikely. I just looked at the cam as I write on Tuesday night, and the nest is completely covered with snow, but the steadfast eagle is hunkered down, keeping the eggs warm as best he/she can. Frankly, I'm worried! Check it out.

Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus)

The Baker City Herald had a delightful photograph of tundra swans in flight overhead a week or two ago, as they are migrating through the area on their way to their breeding grounds on coastal High Arctic Tundra. A few days previous, on March 14, I saw 750 - 800 Tundra Swans on Unity Reservoir while doing my raptor count for the East Cascades Bird Conservancy. Here is a photo of but a few of them in the north arm of the reservoir. A key feature for identification purposes is the yellow "spot" near the eye in most adult tundra swans, which is lacking in the trumpeter swans found more often to the east (eg. Yellowstone) or the the north west coastal regions of Oregon and Washington in winter.

Tundra Swans on Unity Reservoir

Here are a few more from Baker Valley back in March and April of 2008.

Tundra Swans on "UPS/Freeway Ponds" (Northern Shoveler duck on left)

The following were photographed on a small pond along Lindley Road:
Pond along Lindley Road


As sage grouse strut their stuff, debate over future rages
By Brett Prettyman
The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:03/31/2010 10:18:11 AM MDT

Everyone agrees the amazing mating ritual of the greater sage grouse is unique and entertaining. At issue is whether the bird is in need of federal oversight.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently found greater sage grouse in North America a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but decided against pursing the listing because it deems other species to have higher priority. Now three environmental groups say they intend to sue the federal government, charging that the Interior Department isn't doing its job.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors and Western Watersheds Project made the joint announcement this week. There are about 250 species listed as candidates for protection, and some have had that status for decades. The Interior Department assigns priority rankings from 1 to 12 for species on the list and the sage grouse was given an 8 ranking.
Environmentalists say protection is vital. Opponents, including Utah biologists, believe the state's management efforts are sound and that protection would unduly harm ranching, farming and energy interests.

"The only good place for a sage grouse to be listed is on the menu of a French bistro," Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz said in a statement. "It does not deserve federal protection, period."

For Salt Lake City teacher Jim Carter, the birds provide an opportunity to watch a wonder of the wild close to home.
"I have driven to the end of the earth to see birds, but I've never seen anything like it," Carter said after a recent pre-dawn trip to a lek -- the traditional mating grounds of the grouse. "They would stand and look eye-to-eye and puff up their chest and make a drumming sound. If one didn't back down they would bash each other until one ran off. The females didn't seem very impressed."

Whether you view them as a wonder or a main course, Utah's two species of sage grouse are currently strutting their stuff on leks across the state. . . . .
[See link above for more]

Groups vow to sue because sage grouse unprotected

Associated Press Writer

Three environmental groups announced Monday they intend to sue the Interior Department for not protecting sage grouse as an endangered or threatened species.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Desert Survivors and Western Watersheds Project said the department violated the Endangered Species Act by classifying sage grouse not as threatened or endangered but merely as candidates for such protection.

Some of the roughly 250 species considered candidates for protection have been on the candidate species list for decades. The groups pointed out in an intent-to-sue letter Monday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that relatively few species in recent years have been gaining protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The average during the Clinton administration was 65 a year, the groups wrote, while the average since 2005 has been just three a year.

At that rate, they wrote, sage grouse are unlikely to be protected any time soon.

"This is an agency dragging its feet," said Rob Mrowka, an ecologist in Las Vegas for the Center for Biological Diversity.

An Interior spokeswoman declined to comment, citing department policy for matters in litigation.

Sage grouse are a mottled brown, football-sized bird found in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, California, Colorado, Utah, Washington, Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota and Canada.

Wyoming is believed to host about half of the birds but much of their sagebrush habitat in the state's vast basins also is prime country for oil and gas drilling. In Nevada, sage grouse are threatened by cheatgrass, an invasive species prone to wildfires that burn native sagebrush.

The Interior Department announced March 5 that protection for sage grouse is warranted but precluded by higher priorities - other species deemed in greater need of protection. The department announced the same finding for the distinct Mono Basin sage grouse population along the California-Nevada line.

The oil and gas, wind and ranching industries greatly feared an endangered or threatened listing, which would have restricted many activities on public land across the West.

The Fish and Wildlife Service assigns each candidate species a priority number between one and 12, with lower numbers being higher priorities for protection. The sage grouse across its 11-state range was assigned a number eight. The Mono Basin population got a three.

About half of all candidate species are ones and twos, meaning even the Mono Basin sage grouse are halfway down the priority list, said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Sage grouse are in "a purgatory that could last literally decades," Greenwald said.

Sixty days' notice is required ahead of filing a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act. Western Watersheds Project already has filed a complaint over sage grouse, a case in Boise, Idaho, that led to the candidate species finding.

Western Watersheds Project contested the candidate species finding three weeks ago by filing a supplemental complaint in its case. Executive Director Jon Marvel suggested the other groups could join Western Watersheds Project lawsuit or file elsewhere.

Mrowka said the groups haven't decided where they might sue.

© 2010 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

New Cole Hearing Set to Hear Motions to Supress; Release Conditions Modified

Yesterdays pretrial conference in the Brian Cole sex abuse case resulted in papers being filed with the Circuit Court that indicate a "motions to suppress" hearing is set for Circuit Court on May 21, 2010, from 9 AM to Noon, and from 1:30 PM to 5 PM. The clerk's office indicates that such hearings are public. While the one page notice doesn't explicitly state what is to be suppressed, normally a motion to suppress seeks to suppress evidence gathered by the prosecution during the investigation. A formal motion with more details is to be filed with the court by April 15th. Hopefully the hearing will actually take place and move this case towards a long delayed trial.

On March 24th, in papers filed the 26th, Circuit Court Judge Gary Reynolds modified Brian Cole's release conditions.

The new order requires Mr. Cole to first submit travel plans to the Attorney General's office before traveling out of state, and also requires he sign a "Waiver of Extradition" which he has done. It also allows Mr. Cole to have contact with his minor daughter, "but he shall not have contact minors [sic] or be in places where minors congregate such as schools, parks, churches, or shopping malls unless supervised by his wife. . . ."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Baker Bighorns "Blinking Out," "Lords of Nature," plus Hillary Clinton on the "Jewish State"

[Edited, info added 3/23/10]
In This Issue:

- Baker Bighorns "Blinking Out"

- Bob Beschta & "Lords of Nature" in Baker City Tonight & Tomorrow

- Hillary Clinton Validates a "Jewish State" in Palestine (Hmmmmmmm)

Baker Bighorns "Blinking Out" - Payette National Forest Bighorn Plan

Bighorn Ram (photo from ODFW)

Our Hells Canyon bighorn sheep are suffering severe population declines from contact with domestic sheep that were, and are, presently allowed to be in the proximity of domestic sheep on public forest lands in the Payette National Forest across the river in Idaho.

According to "Bighorn Sheep in Hells Canyon: Historical Background and the Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project,"Originally published in the summer 2002 issue of Wild Sheep Magazine, the official publication of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (Tim Schommer):

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were native in much of the mountain and canyon country, which currently comprises northeast Oregon and western Idaho. Historical accounts indicate that bighorns were numerous in and around Hells Canyon, main Salmon River, and the Wallowa Mountains. The Nez Perce Tribe has written that bighorns were the most plentiful large animal in the big river canyons of northeastern Oregon and west Idaho prior to European settlement.

The archeological records in Hells Canyon shows that the Nez Perce people had an extended and extensive history of using bighorn sheep. We know they constructed stone corrals for the capture and containment of bighorns and stone blinds for hunting. They used the animals for their meat, hides for warmth, and the horns for spoons (ewes) and bow making (rams). Most petroglyphs and pictographs in Hells Canyon depict scenes of hunters and bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep were a significant ungulate food item as well as of great cultural value to the Nez Perce Tribe in Hells Canyon.

As European people settled the west, many of the activities either directly or indirectly had a negative impact on native bighorn sheep populations. In Hells Canyon, settlers quickly claimed every flat area with good soil, especially near the water. They brought with them flocks of cattle, horses, and domestic sheep. The flat areas were irrigated and turned into hay fields, while large gardens and orchards were adjacent to their homes.

Domestic herds grazed most of the year on adjacent “Unclaimed Lands” (now mostly public lands). The mild climate in Hells Canyon usually provided year-round grazing. Most homesteaders greatly increased the size of their flocks to take advantage of free grazing and increase revenue. Grazing soon became out of control and severely damaged soil, vegetation, and water quality. One settler wrote in 1901 that if he was not the first one to get to the grass after the snowmelt, they got none there the rest of the year (Langston, 1995). Range wars were common, especially between cattle and sheep producers. By the turn of the century, the situation demanded desperate measures. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt convinced Congress to establish the National Forest Reserves. The main purpose of the reserves was to stop uncontrolled grazing and timber harvest, and improve and sustain quality soil and water conditions. Also in 1905, the Wallowa Cheifton reported there were over 300,000 domestic sheep in Wallowa County (northeast Oregon), most of which grazed on National Forest. . . . .

Unregulated hunting, competition for forage with domestic livestock, and parasites and diseases introduced by domestic livestock were all factors which lead to the elimination of bighorns in Hells Canyon. Today, research has shown that pneumonia caused by a biotype of bacteria called Pasteurella, which is transmitted from domestic sheep to bighorns, was the principal reason for the disappearance of bighorns in Hells Canyon and throughout most of the western United States (Martin et. al., 1996).
See this article's title link above for more. . .

Recently, a Baker City neighbor told me about the abundant bighorn population, as well as viewing and photography opportunities that existed down in Hells Canyon from below the Hells Canyon Dam to the Sheep Mountain area of Oxbow Reservoir and around Brownlee Dam. After a futile search recently for these bighorn, I spoke with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to see if I could improve my chances. That’s when I learned just how bad things had become since I’d seen my first Hells Canyon bighorn 8 or 9 years ago.

According to ODFW, the Sheep Mountain population is on the verge of “blinking out” and there were only six or so bighorn left in the Hells Canyon Dam area, which I believe is the “Upper Hells Canyon” population. ODFW had recently completed their winter bighorn minimum population census and found that there were only about nine sheep left in the Sheep Mountain herd, falling to this level from a high of 87 animals in 1999, after the initial transplant of 30 animals in 1991. ODFW indicated since disease issues related to domestic sheep allotments started in 1999, only 2 offspring have survived, with most dying within a month or two of birth.

According to a 2006 report by the Payette National Forest, Risk Analysis of Disease Transmission Between Domestic Sheep and Bighorn Sheep on the Payette National Forest, bighorn sheep are dying in the Hells Canyon area because of disease transmitted by domestic sheep, kept, and herded by, a few sheep allotment permittees on the Payette National Forest. The report states:

Perhaps the most important reason bighorn sheep populations have recovered poorly is that bighorn populations have been negatively affected by disease to a much greater extent than have populations of other wild ungulates such as mule deer and elk (Goodson 1982). Bighorn sheep is a New World species closely related to domestic sheep (Ovis aries). Domestic sheep, an Old World species, has likely evolved resistances to important diseases as a result of domestication
and intense artificial selection. Because they are so closely related, bighorn sheep are thought to be highly susceptible to diseases carried by domestic sheep.

An extensive body of scientific literature on the effects of disease on bighorn populations has accumulated. The literature indicates the following:

1) numerous examples of bighorn die-offs due to disease have been documented;
2) bighorn die-offs were documented as early as the mid 1800s and have been documented in every state in the western U.S.;
3) bighorn die-offs typically follow known or suspected contact with domestic sheep;
4) under experimental conditions, clinically healthy bighorn sheep have developed pneumonia and died within days to weeks following contact with clinically healthy domestic sheep;
5) a variety of diseases and pathogens have been implicated in die-offs, but most commonly the disease implicated in the die-off is bacterial pneumonia (Pasteurellosis) caused by Mannheimia haemolytica (formerly Pasteurella haemolytica) or other species of closely related Pasteurella bacteria;
6) there is consensus among wildlife biologists and veterinarians experienced in bighorn sheep management that
domestic sheep and bighorn sheep must be kept separated in order to maintain healthy bighorn populations (e.g., Foreyt and Jessup 1982; Goodson 1982; Onderka and Wishart 1988; Foreyt 1989; Desert Bighorn Council Technical Staff 1990; Callan et al. 1991; Cassirer et al. 1996; Martin et al. 1996; USDI Bureau of Land Management 1998; Bunch et al. 1999; Singer et al. 2000a, 2000b, 2000c, 2000d; Monello et al. 2001; Schommer and Woolever 2001; Singer et al. 2001; Dubay et al. 2002; Garde et al. 2005).

So, once again, the American people are sacrificing their wildlife heritage for the profit of a few public lands grazing permittees, their employees, and any taxes to be derived therefrom, minus the huge costs associated with managing the allotments.

Comments were due today on the updated Payette National Forest draft supplementary environmental impact statement on their plans for management of domestic sheep allotments in the area inhabited by bighorns.

You will have an opportunity in the future to comment on the final supplementary environmental impact statement. With regard to the draft, I sent them the following hurried comments, such as they are:

March 22, 2010

Christopher Christie
1985 15th Street
Baker City, OR 97814

Suzanne C. Rainville
Forest Supervisor
Payette National Forest
Attn: Bighorn Sheep Comments
800 W. Lakeside Ave.
McCall, ID 83638

Re: Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Bighorn Sheep Viability—Comments

Dear Supervisor Rainville:

These are my comments on the Payette National Forest’s (“PNF”) Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Bighorn Sheep Viability (“DSEIS”).

I cooperate with the Hells Canyon Preservation Council (HCPC), the Western Watersheds Project (WWP), and the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA). I am aware of the views of HCPC and WWP and agree with their view that Alternative 7E should be selected. I have read the comments by Debra Ellers and the WWP. I agree with and support those comments.

Since my early youth, I have been fortunate to become acquainted with bighorn sheep through observation while traveling in the western U.S. and Canada. I have been concerned about their viability and ultimate survival since becoming aware of the struggles for survival of endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep during my years in California.

In 2001 or 2002, while on a jaunt to Hells Canyon from Prairie City, Oregon, I encountered a collared and bedraggled looking ewe on a trail along the rim in what was the Mc Graw herd area. While aware of disease transmission between domestic sheep, other livestock, and bighorns at the time, I had no idea of the tragedy that had been inflicted on the re-introduced Hells Canyon populations, including the McGraw herd, through contact with domestic sheep in the 1990’s and earlier parts of this decade.

After I moved to Baker City, my neighbor told me about the abundant bighorn population and opportunities viewing and photographing them down in Hells Canyon from below the Hells Canyon Dam to the Sheep Mountain area of Oxbow Reservoir and around Brownlee Dam. After a futile search recently for these bighorn, I spoke with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to see if I could improve my chances. That’s when I learned just how bad things had become since I’d seen my first Hells Canyon bighorn 8 or 9 years ago.

According to ODFW, the Sheep Mountain population is on the verge of “blinking out” and there were only 6 or so bighorn left in the Hells Canyon Dam area, which I believe is the “Upper Hells Canyon” population. ODFW had recently completed their winter bighorn minimum population census and found that there were only about nine sheep left in the Sheep Mountain herd, falling to this level from a high of 87 animals in 1999, after the initial transplant of 30 animals in 1991. ODFW indicated since disease issues started in 1999, only 2 offspring have survived, with most dying within a month or two of birth.

After reading the Risk Analysis of Disease Transmission Between Domestic Sheep and Bighorn Sheep on the Payette National Forest, (Payette National Forest, February 6, 2006), it appears that contact with domestic sheep on allotments or driveways within the Payette National Forest, is responsible for these unnecessary population declines.

According to the observational narrative in the report on pp. 7 and 8, some animals in the McGraw herd were crossing over to the Idaho side domestic sheep allotments and becoming sick from pneumonia. It also says that the McGraw herd began dying in the fall of 1999, and that two of them had also been observed mingling with Oregon’s Sheep Mountain herd that year, the year the Sheep Mountain herd die-off began. (The assumption being that the individuals from the McGraw herd could have transmitted the disease contracted originally from domestic sheep, to the Sheep Mountain herd.

Figure 3-6, Telemetry Data and Observations of Bighorn Sheep near the Payette National Forest, on p. 3-16 of the recent Update to the DSEIS (Update), confirms that two modes of transmission are possible: One of direct contact between bighorn and domestic sheep, and another of inter-herd re-transmission from bighorn to bighorn.

Evidence that inter-herd mixing of bighorns is fairly common and widespread between far-flung herds can be seen in the telemetry data represented in Figure 3-6. The data represented there, also suggests that the Upper Hells Canyon bighorns could have contracted disease by contact with domestic sheep on the sheep driveway that existed in previous years on the western slope of Cuddy Mountain in Idaho, after having crossed over at Brownlee Dam, with subsequent infection of the bighorns of the Sheep Mountain herd. The Update also states on p. 2-14, that” In addition, bighorn sheep foray in and out of domestic sheep allotments located on the Payette NF, often returning to the HCNRA.”

These things lead me to believe that the Payette National Forest (PNF) should choose Alternative 7E, which would not allow domestic sheep grazing or trailing routes within the PNF, because that alternative offers the best chance for maintaining bighorn viability and compliance with the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

There is also other information in the Update that clearly points to Alternative 7E being the reasonable, rational, and legally supportable choice:

- It is the only alternative that prevents interspecies contact, thus preventing re-initiation of disease cycles from the original and major source for disease transmission. In discussing the Contact Model on p. 2-11, the Update states that “Alternative 7E is the only alternative that prevents interspecies contact,” which eliminates the original and recurring source of the disease problem. The preferred Alternative 7G does little to remedy the contact problem, as the Update admits on p. 2-11: “Alternatives 1B257, 346, 7G and 7L have moderate to high contact rates that involve four to seven of the populations.” Over half (56%) of the nine alternatives do a better job of preventing contact than the preferred Alternative 7G.

- 7E maximally reduces the probability of external domestic sheep initiated disease outbreaks in the affected herds. In discussing 7E in the Disease Model on p. 2-12, the Update states that “Alternative 7E (no allotments) was not included. The probability of a disease outbreak for all herds under this alternative is 0.” Under even moderate probability of contact assumptions, the preferred Alternative 7G results in a high probability of extirpation for four herds, including Upper Hells Canyon. (Update p 2-12: Under moderate assumptions for contact leading to a disease outbreak; Little Salmon, Main Salmon S. Fk. and Upper Hells Canyon have a high probability of extirpation under Alternatives 1B257, 346, 7G and 7L.)

- In the Update, on p. 2-13, under the heading “Summary and Determinations,” it states: “ Alternative [7]E provides the greatest protection to bighorn sheep habitats, the least likelihood of contact, and the highest probabilities of persistence for all bighorn sheep populations. For bighorn sheep, as a sensitive species, this alternative would have a Beneficial Impact.” This statement reiterates some of the conclusions above, and clearly shows that Alternative 7E provides the best chance for bighorn viability and survival. On the other hand, the preferred Alternative, 7G ranks 6th in “probability for bighorn sheep persistence,” and is one of the alternatives with “the highest risks of contact and protect the least amount of source habitats, [and] would likely not insure bighorn sheep populations on and adjacent to the Payette National Forest. . . .[and also] Will Impact Individuals or Habitat with a Consequence that the Action May Contribute to a Trend Towards Federal Listing or Cause a Loss of Viability to the Population or Species.” (Update p. 3-13)

- On p. 2-16 of the Update, it states that “Alternative 7G eliminates domestic sheep grazing from the Payette National Forest system lands within the boundary of the HCNRA. It also eliminates domestic sheep grazing at least 6 air miles from the boundary of the HCNRA. Only a small sliver of the core herd home range is within suitable area for domestic sheep grazing. Elimination of domestic sheep grazing in HCNRA and surrounding area is compatible with the HCNRA Act and its implementing regulations by providing for the protection, restoration, and maintenance of bighorn sheep and their habitat.” This last statement, as it applies to 7G, does not appear to be true because telemetry and other data in the Update shows that the bighorn in question travel much further on their forays than 6 miles, which would likely lead to further disease transmission. Even WAFA recommends a 9 mile buffer. Additional disease transmission hardly qualifies for protection of bighorn under the act. The Update also notes on p. 3-73 that: “Keeping an adequate spatial buffer between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep is the most reliable method of preventing contact between these species (Desert Bighorn Council Technical Staff 1990, Schommer and Woolever 2001, Singer et al. 2001), but spatial buffers are not always adequate given the distances bighorn sheep rams will travel (Wehausen et al., unpublished data). Clifford et al. (2009) recommended that if eliminating the risk of interspecies contact (thereby eliminating the probability of respiratory disease transmission to bighorn sheep from domestic sheep) is a management goal, at a minimum, domestic sheep grazing should not occur within the known population utility distribution of the bighorn sheep.”

- On p. 2-16 of the Update, it also states that “Alternative [7]G is in compliance with the HCNRA CMP by maintaining a separation between bighorn and domestic sheep that is likely to keep the two species apart at the current population levels. If the population levels of bighorn sheep increase, the likelihood of contact may increase and this evaluation may need to be revisited.” First, I found no evidence in the update that supports the first assertion, even at current population levels (please point it out if it is there). Additionally, keeping the populations at their current depauperate levels can hardly be seen as complying with the HCNRA Act or “its implementing regulations by providing for the protection, restoration, and maintenance of bighorn sheep and their habitat.” It is already clear that some populations, like the Sheep Mountain population are doomed to extirpation in the short term. Restoration implies an expansion of at least some populations, so dealing with the eventuality is best addressed by Alternative 7E, not by promising to revisit the subject at some future date.

- On p. 2-16 of the Update, with reference to 7G, it also states that “Monitoring should be conducted to assess future locations of bighorn sheep and assure no contact occurs with domestic sheep on permitted allotments.” Yes, on most livestock allotments, monitoring “should” be conducted, but it rarely is adequate because of USFS budgets. Clifford et.al. (2009) state: Husbandry practices such as removing domestic sheep well before the onset of rut, following vigilant herd management to reduce strays, and responding to wandering bighorn sheep, are other methods to separate the species and reduce risk, but extensive monitoring efforts are required and are not always effective (DSEIS IDT and Cooperators 2007, 2008).” I think everyone can agree that “monitoring efforts are required and are not always effective.”

- The economic analysis of portion of the Update on beginning on p. 3-89, particularly that under the heading “Income, from Sheep and Lamb Production in Idaho,” p. 3-92&94, while interesting, seems woefully inadequate, and/or irrelevant in many areas. The analysis needs to focus on the income (including income of the permittees), and taxes, derived from the use of the allotments in question, not on what comes from some counties or the whole state. It should also focus on actual use, not permitted use. It should compare the economic benefits of the sheep allotments to all the costs, including program administration cost, environmental rehabilitation costs, and to the loss of recreational tourist dollars in both Oregon and Idaho (among other costs), and show them clearly in a table, so that readers don’t become lost in pages of seemingly irrelevant statistics.

Having started very late on these comments, there is simply no time left for more of them. Again, I agree with HCPC and WWP that Alternative 7E should be implemented by the Payette National Forest to best provide for bighorn protection, viability, and restoration.

Thank you for consideration of these comments. Please keep me on your mailing list for any further communications, and particularly, the Final SEIS.


Christopher Christie

Endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, 1998

Bob Beschta & "Lords of Nature" in Baker City Tonight & Tomorrow

Talks on March 24 in Baker City and in Enterprise

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is hosting a talk on "Carnivores and Sustainable Ecosystems", by Oregon State University Professor Emeritus, Dr. Bob Beschta, on Wednesday March 24 at two locations and times:

Baker City - 9:00 a.m., Whitman Ranger District, 3285 11th Street.

Enterprise - 3:00 p.m., Wallowa Mountains Office, 88401 Highway 82.

Dr. Beschta has taught and conducted research on a wide range of natural resource issues related to forest and rangeland ecosystems for over 36 years. Since 2001, his research has focused on the role of large predators and trophic cascades in western ecosystems. His presentation will summarize the results from six widely separated National Parks, including Yellowstone, where large predator removal/displacement occurred and the potential implications of these results to other public lands in the West.

Each talk will be 45 minutes to one hour long, followed by a 30-minute question and answer period. The public is invited to attend.

For additional information call Suzanne Fouty at 541-523-1944 (Baker City) or Trisha Johnson, at 541-426-5572 (Enterprise).

photo courtesy of Green Fire Productions

Lords of Nature Showings March 23rd and 24th
in Baker City and Enterprise.

The film by Green Fire Productions "Lords of Nature: Life in a Land of Great Predators" will be shown in:

Baker City on Tuesday March 23rd at the Eltrym Theatre (1809 1st Street) at 7 pm

Enterprise on Wednesday March 24th at the OK Theatre (208 W. Main St.) at 7 pm

Both showings will be followed by a panel discussion, with:
Dr. Bob Beschta, Oregon State University
Russ Morgan, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW)
Jesse Timberlake, Defenders of Wildlife
Gary Miller, US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Both screenings are free and open to the public.
photo courtesy of Green Fire Productions

Israel's occupation of Palestine:
Hillary Clinton Quote While on Annual Pilgrimage to AIPAC (American Israeli Political Action Committee Conference on March 21, 2010

". . . we are determined to keep moving forward along a path that ensures Israel's future as a secure and democratic Jewish state living in peace with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors." -Hillary Clinton at AIPAC Conference, march 21, 2010"

Can you imagine what what the response would be from the mainstream media and others if a white gentile Christian leader had suggested to Americans that "we are determined to keep moving forward along a path that ensures America's future as a secure and democratic Christian state living in peace with its neighbors"?

Some articles showing basic responses to the subject of America as a Christian state or nation:

ADL Urges Sen. McCain to Withdraw Statements Describing U.S. as a 'Christian Nation'

New York, NY, October 1, 2007 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged Senator John McCain to reconsider and withdraw his statements describing the United States as a "Christian nation" and a "nation founded on Christian principles." The remarks were made in an interview posted on Beliefnet.com.

"Senator McCain's statements were disappointing and disturbing to say the least," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "We would have thought that a senator as experienced and respected as John McCain would place himself above such divisive appeals to religious intolerance. His remarks were inaccurate and ill-advised for any candidate seeking to lead a nation as religiously diverse as ours."

In a letter to Senator McCain, ADL said that he was correct to note in the interview that the Founding Fathers unequivocally believed in the separation of church and state.

However, the letter went on to say, "Absolutely nothing in the Constitution establishes that the U.S. is a Christian nation, nor is it accurate to say that this nation was founded on Christian principles." The League called on McCain to reconsider and withdraw his statements to that effect.

"Appeals to voters based on religion are invariably divisive and contrary to the democratic ideals upon which our nation was truly founded," the letter said.

As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization, ADL is non-partisan and does not endorse or oppose any candidates for political office.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
January 22, 2009, 6:38pm
Obama and the Christian-Muslim-Jewish Nation
By Nathan Guttman

One staple of any great speech is that everyone hears it in a different way. For some, President Obama’s inaugural address was all about hope and optimism; for others, it was about the nation’s resilience. For the Zionist Organization of America’s Morton Klein, it was all about one sentence: “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.”
Turns out that it’s all about the sequence, and Klein, the ZOA president, feels that Jews were unfairly downgraded to third place. In a press release, Klein reads into Obama’s decision to put Muslims before Jews (and Hindus and non-believers) in his speech.

“Throughout its history, the United States has always been known as a nation based on Judeo-Christian values and heritages,” he argues, quoting former president Bush’s 2001 inaugural address in which he put “synagogue” before “mosque.”

According to Klein, it is not a matter of prestige but of numbers, and since Jews outnumber Muslims in the United States, they should rightly hold on to their second place. “This is not a Muslim-Christian-Jewish nation, it is a Judeo-Christian nation,” he told the Forward.

But if numbers and sequence do matter, here is a point Jewish observers who are worried about Islam beating Judaism for second place in the president’s eyes, should look at: A day after the inauguration, Obama attended the national prayer service, and guess what: There were three rabbis and only one Muslim representative.
Is America a Christian nation, as many conservatives claim it is? One American doesn't think so. In his press conference on April 6 in Turkey, President Obama explained: "One of the great strengths of the United States is … we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
This next article distinguishes between a state and a nation:

The United States of America is not a Christian country or state. The writers of the Constitution said, very wisely, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In other words, there will be no state church (such as the Church of England), but the people may worship according to their wishes, anytime and anywhere. A "country" is a geographical area inhabited by a certain people under a particular political government.

However, the United States of America is a Christian nation. A nation is an aggregation of people bound together "by common ideals and a common purpose. A rich inheritance of memories and the desire to preserve those memories ... a nation is a spiritual entity brought into existence by complex historical conditions, by similar traditions and a similar imagination."
NPR: Debating America's Christian Character
A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

Published: October 7, 2007
Correction Appended

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”


The Last Resort
Don Henley
"The Eagles", from "Hell Freezes Over" album, 1994

Go to this link to View:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Protesting What America Has Become: Iraq--Seven Years After

In This Issue:

- Iraq--Seven Years After the Invasion
- Selling Corporate Welfare as Healthcare "reform"

& Others
(Edited 3/21/10)

Iraq--Seven Years After the Invasion

Rational & Reasonable Americans Protesting Lead-up to Iraq War in Winter of 2002

On the first day of Spring, I had wanted to do another blog on Baker Birds of the season, but another important commemoration is occurring. Today, all across the country, in places like Portland, OR, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington DC, Americans are protesting America's illegal wars and the aggressively homicidal nation we have become. The protests, which began on Thursday, were timed to coincide with Friday's seventh anniversary of the War on Iraq, but also include protests against Obama's war on Afghanistan, Israel's illegal occupation and abuse of Palestinians, and other US inspired military transgressions around the world. Signs carried by protestors reflected familiar popular themes like "Troops Home Now," "War is not the answer," "Healthcare--Not Warfare," "Books--Not Bombs," "End These Wars," "Justice for Palestine," "Jobs, Healthcare, Education--Not War & Occupation."

Ron Kovic (Photo from AnswerLA)
Wheel-chair bound Viet Nam Veteran Ron Kovic, urging people to attend today's protests, said:

“Like many Americans who served in Vietnam and those now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and countless human beings throughout history, I had been willing to give my life for my country with little knowledge or awareness of what that really meant. I trusted and believed and had no reason to doubt the sincerity or motives of my government.

“It would not be until many months later at the Veterans Hospital in New York that I would begin to question whether I and the others who had gone to that war had gone for nothing. Nearly 42 years have passed since then and the tragic lessons of Vietnam continue to go unheeded. The same old patterns of war, lies, aggression and brutality continue to repeat themselves. Another country, another occupation, another reason to hate and fear, but in the end it is the same crime being committed over and over again, the same innocent civilians being killed, the same young men and women returning home in caskets and body bags and wheelchairs.

“We can no longer remain silent. Too many have died already. How many more senseless wars, flag draped caskets, grieving mothers, paraplegics, amputees, stressed out sons and daughters, innocent civilians slaughtered, before we finally begin to break the silence of this shameful night?

“Many of us trusted and believed that change would come, that these wars would end, and that finally we would be listened to but that is not at all what has happened. We have been tragically misled. We have been deceived and betrayed. We had been promised peace and we have been given war. We had been told there would be change but nothing is changing. The same patterns repeat themselves. Rather than learning the lessons from the disastrous fiasco in Iraq our government continues down the path of destruction, brutality, aggression and war, dragging us into another senseless and unnecessary conflict in Afghanistan.

“America is headed in the wrong direction, and I want to encourage everyone to join with us on Saturday, March, 20th to once again proudly and passionately fill the streets of our country and raise your voices on behalf of peace and nonviolence and an end to the war in Afghanistan. War is not the answer. Violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible.”

--Ron Kovic, Vietnam Veteran, author, "Born on the Fourth of July"

“Everything for the Rich—Nothing for the People.”

Answer LA, a Los Angeles peace group posted the following on their web page:

The March 20 action recognizes that only the people can end the wars and occupations being carried out by the U.S. or its proxies against the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, the Philippines, Pakistan and elsewhere. Contrary to its “anti-war” image, the Obama administration has called for a major increase in the obscene, trillion-dollar military budget, and the escalation of the war on Afghanistan.

In the United States, millions of people have lost or will lose their homes, jobs and health care due to the economic crisis. Funding for schools, colleges, health care and other programs has been slashed. At the same time, the White House and Congress handed over trillions of dollars to the biggest banks, insurance companies and investors—the same ones who caused the crisis through their wild risk-taking in search of ever-greater profits. Another trillion will go to the military-industrial corporations.

The real motto of the government should be: “Everything for the Rich—Nothing for the People.”


Thousands march in D.C. war protest
Thousands are protesting in the nation's capital on the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, carrying signs reading “Indict Bush Now” and flag-draped cardboard coffins.

Protesters gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House and planned to march through downtown. Stops on the route include military contractor Halliburton, the Mortgage Bankers Association and The Washington Post offices.

The protest, organized by military veterans and activists Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan, was expected to draw smaller crowds than the tens of thousands who marched in 2006 and 2007. But organizers say momentum is building as peace protesters have become disenchanted with President Obama's decision to send more troops into Afghanistan.

--Associated Press

Anti-war protests held near White House
Sat, 20 Mar 2010 18:38:38 GMT
Large crowds of anti-war demonstrators have gathered in the US and several other countries to mark the 7th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

In the Washington DC, thousands of people gathered near the White House in the largest demonstration against the extra deployment of US troops to Afghanistan.

The coalition of anti-war groups was led by military veterans as well as high-profile activists such as Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan.

Despite promising to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan during his campaign, US President Barack Obama recently approved the deployment of some 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

The move would increase US presence in Afghanistan to more than 100,000 troopers.

Similar rallies were also held in Japan, where around 600 protesters called for the complete withdrawal of US-led troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the Philippines, protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Manila to demand an end to the American occupation of the two war-torn countries.
Thousands in U.S. protest against war; seek troop withdrawal:

On the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands of people from across the United States today converged on Lafayette Square, opposite the White House in Washington DC. The rally then marched through downtown DC, halting en route at the premises of military contractor Halliburton, the Mortgage Bankers Association and The Washington Post offices.
Article was later removed from Website.

Linking War to the Lack of Affordable Health Care

On Thursday, responding to a question from AMY Goodman on Democracy Now! about how the lack ofhealthcare was linked to war, Ralph Nader responded:

Well, just the cost of the war in Afghanistan, which is expanding rapidly, is more cost to the taxpayer than the supposed yearly cost of this health insurance bill that’s about to pass. So that’s just one country. That doesn’t even count Iraq. Joe Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, whom you’ve had on the show, estimates the Iraq war to cost $3 trillion.

But how about the human costs? Two countries blown apart, millions of people dying, many millions refugees from their own country—such as Iraq, four million refugees out of 25 million people—more people displaced, more people sick, injured, our soldiers dying, coming back traumatized with illnesses, family split apart. This is madness! And the American people have got to really come together here. Nobody is going to do it for them. Dennis Kucinich is not going to do it for them. Nobody’s going to do it for them. They have got to start marching. And there’s going to be a big rally on Saturday—I hope Dennis will be there—in Washington, DC, in opposition, among other things, to Obama’s war in Afghanistan.

You know, Eisenhower was so prescient when he warned the American people in 1960 about the military-industrial complex. It’s devouring over half of our operating federal budget. The Pentagon budget, which is over half of the federal operating budget in Washington [Nader may have misspoke, but it is around half. - Chris], isn’t even auditable. The General Accounting Office of the Congress every year declares it’s not auditable. You know what that means. That means there’s no control on how the money is spent, and so they’re hiring private contractors, as the New York Times reported, to engage in homicidal activities and military activities, totally unaccountable, in the dark shadows of the war in Afghanistan.
From ProsperityAgenda.US

So the key question, Amy, is, how do we motivate the American people to start acting on what they already believe, that these are wars that are eating at the heart of America and damaging its status all over the world, and that we’ve got to bring those soldiers back home, and we’ve got to shut down these wars, because all they do is fuel the insurgencies, as General Casey and many others have said over the years? Our military occupation in Afghanistan is fuelling the insurgency. It’s producing huge sectarian revenge animosities and killings, and it’s propping up a very corrupt government that is loathed by most of the people in Afghanistan. And all this on the back of the taxpayer, while we don’t have any money to fix the Americans’ public works and all the things that Dennis has talked about. How do you get the American people angry? http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/18/dennis_kucinich_and_ralph_nader_a

Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide

Friday, marking the anniversary of the beginning of the War on Iraq, Dr Gideon Polya posted the following on Countercurrents.org:

In the period 1990-2010 Iraqi violent deaths totalled 1.6 million, non-violent excess deaths from deprivation totalled 2.8 million, under-5 infant deaths (90% avoidable and due to US Alliance war crimes in gross violation of the Geneva Convention) totalled 2.0 million and refugees totalled 5-6 million.

This is an Iraqi Holocaust and an Iraqi Genocide as per Article 2 of the UN Genocide Convention (cf WW2 Jewish Holocaust, 5-6 million killed, 1 in 6 dying from deprivation).

See Also: Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide

Iraqi Refugees

Along these same lines, according to Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now!, "Iraq is suffering the worst refugee crisis in the world today. According to the United Nations, more than 4.2 million Iraqis have fled the country, many of them to neighboring Jordan and Syria. Another 1.9 million are internally displaced."

That's 6.1 MILLION people, over one and one half times the population of Oregon or the city of Los Angeles, almost one fourth of the population of Iraq living as refugees due to our illegal war.

Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan

DN! On Anniversary of US Invasion, Iraq Is No Different Under Obama than Bush:


Selling Corporate Welfare for "Big Pharma" & Insurance Industry as Healthcare "reform"

The following articles and snippets help explain the hoax of Health Care "Reform," "the best we can get" from our corporate run "free enterprise" system.

Published on Friday, March 19, 2010 by Creators Syndicate
What's the Matter with Democrats?
by David Sirota

Ever since Thomas Frank published his book "What's the Matter With Kansas? " Democrats have sought a political strategy to match the GOP's. The health care bill proves they've found one.

Whereas Frank highlighted Republicans' sleight-of-hand success portraying millionaire tax cuts as gifts to the working class, Democrats are now preposterously selling giveaways to insurance and pharmaceutical executives as a middle-class agenda. Same formula, same fat cat beneficiaries, same bleating sheeple herded to the slaughterhouse. The only difference is the Rube Goldberg contraption that Democrats are using to tend the flock.

First, their leaders campaign on pledges to create a government insurer (a "public option") that will compete with private health corporations. Once elected, though, Democrats propose simply subsidizing those corporations, which are (not coincidentally) filling Democratic coffers. Justifying the reversal, Democrats claim the subsidies will at least help some citizens try to afford the private insurance they'll be forced to buy - all while insisting Congress suddenly lacks the votes for a public option.

Despite lawmakers' refusal to hold votes verifying that assertion, liberal groups obediently follow orders to back the bill, their obsequious leaders fearing scorn from Democratic insiders and moneymen. Specifically, MoveOn, unions and "progressive" non-profits threaten retribution against lawmakers who consider voting against the bill because it doesn't include a public option. The threats fly even though these congresspeople would be respecting their previous public-option ultimatums - ultimatums originally supported by many of the same groups now demanding retreat.

Soon it's on to false choices. Democrats tell their base that any bill is better than no bill, even one making things worse, and that if this particular legislation doesn't pass, Republicans will win the upcoming election - as if signing a blank check to insurance and drug companies couldn't seal that fate. They tell everyone else that "realistically" this is the "last chance" for reform, expecting We the Sheeple to forget that those spewing the do-or-die warnings control the legislative calendar and could immediately try again.

Predictably, the fear-mongering prompts left-leaning Establishment pundits to bless the bill, giving Democratic activists concise-yet-mindless conversation-enders for why everyone should shut up and fall in line ("Krugman supports it!").

Such bumper-sticker mottos are then demagogued by Democratic media bobbleheads and their sycophants, who dishonestly imply that the bill's progressive opponents 1) secretly aim to aid the far right and/or 2) actually hope more Americans die for lack of health care. In the process, the legislation's sellouts are lambasted as the exclusive fault of Republicans, not Democrats and their congressional majorities.

Earth sufficiently scorched, President Obama then barnstorms the country, calling the bill a victory for "ordinary working folks" over the same corporations he is privately promising to enrich. The insurance industry, of course, airs token ads to buttress Obama's "victory" charade - at the same time its lobbyists are, according to Politico, celebrating with chants of "we win!"

By design, pro-public-option outfits like Firedoglake and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee end up depicted as voices of the minority, even as they champion an initiative that polls show the majority of voters support. Meanwhile, telling questions hang: If this represents victory over special interests, why is Politico reporting that "drug industry lobbyists have huddled with Democratic staffers" to help pass the bill? How is the legislation a first step to reform, as proponents argue, if it financially and politically strengthens insurance and drug companies opposing true change? And what prevents those companies from continuing to increase prices?

These queries go unaddressed - and often unasked. Why? Because their answers threaten to expose the robbery in progress, circumvent the "What's the Matter with Kansas?" contemplation and raise the most uncomfortable question of all:

What's the matter with Democrats?

© 2010 Creators Syndicate
David Sirota is a bestselling author whose newest book is "The Uprising ." He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network-both nonpartisan organizations. Sirota was once US Senator Bernie Sanders' spokesperson. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota .


From Ralph Nader: Basic Progressive Critique of the Dems Health Care "Reform" bill and of Poor Dennis Kucinich.

- corporate Democrats crushing progressive forces both inside their party and against third parties
- doesn’t even kick in until 2014, except for one or two items
- 180,000 Americans who will die between now and 2014 before any coverage expands
- does not provide universal, comprehensive or affordable care to the American people
- It shovels hundreds and billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the worst corporations who’ve created this problem
- doesn’t require many contractual accountabilities and other accountabilities for people who are denied healthcare in this continuing pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world
- It doesn’t require Uncle Sam to negotiate volume discounts
- allows these new biologic drugs, under patent, to fight off generic competition—that’s a terrible provision
- it doesn’t allow reimportation from countries like Canada to keep prices down
- No real Public Option support
- so the American people have got to say, no, this isn’t it . . . . they really have to mobilize now, at the state level, try to get some of the state bills through and demonstrate the effectiveness of full Medicare for all with free choice of doctor and hospital
- There’s all kinds of exploitations that the health insurance companies and drug companies are going to be free to continue their ravenous ways over people who are at their most vulnerable situation
- the system costs twice as much per capita, about $7,600 per capita, than similar—than single-payer systems in Canada and Germany and France. They cover everybody for half the price per capita that we’re paying here, when 50 million people aren’t covered and thousands die every year. Eight hundred die every week, because they can’t afford health insurance to get treatment and diagnosis. And we’ve got hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- And let’s say there are more people covered, right? Well, they’re being forced to buy junk insurance policies. There’s no regulation of insurance prices. There’s no regulation of the antitrust laws on this.
- and of course, while not explicitly stated, there's no Single Payer (which Obama did not campaign for)

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Congress member Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who will be voting for the healthcare reform bill, and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Both of them, Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, have run for president of the United States several times.

Ralph Nader, your response to the healthcare reform bill and Congress member Kucinich’s position?

RALPH NADER: Well, this is the latest chapter of corporate Democrats crushing progressive forces both inside their party and against third parties. There’s nothing new here. It’s being pointed out in my former running mate’s autobiography, the late Peter Camejo, which is coming out in a couple weeks from Chicago.

What we’re seeing here is a legislation that doesn’t even kick in until 2014, except for one or two items on staying with your parents’ insurance policy until you’re twenty-six. That means that there will be 180,000 Americans who will die between now and 2014 before any coverage expands, and hundreds of thousands of injuries and illnesses untreated. This bill does not provide universal, comprehensive or affordable care to the American people. It shovels hundreds and billions of dollars of taxpayer money into the worst corporations who’ve created this problem: the Aetnas, the CIGNAs, the health insurance companies. And it doesn’t require many contractual accountabilities and other accountabilities for people who are denied healthcare in this continuing pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world.

For the drug companies, it’s a bonanza. It doesn’t require Uncle Sam to negotiate volume discounts. It allows these new biologic drugs, under patent, to fight off generic competition—that’s a terrible provision. And it doesn’t allow reimportation from countries like Canada to keep prices down.

Congressman Kucinich’s points are not respected, either. There is no public choice or public option in order to keep prices down, so it’s an open sesame for these giant insurance companies that are concentrating more and more power, in violation of the antitrust laws, over the millions of American patients. And it doesn’t safeguard the states from the kind of litigation that’s heading toward Pennsylvania and California, that are now trying single payer.

So what we should recognize is nothing is really going to happen in this bill, if it’s passed, until 2014, because there’s a gap here, including a presidential campaign and the contest in 2012 and a congressional elections in 2010, for the single-payer supporters in this country. Majority of the American people, majority doctors and nurses, support single payer. They’ve supported Dennis Kucinich all over the country on this. They have supported singlepayeraction.org, which I hope a million people will visit in the next few days in their outrage over what’s happening here.

So I think what we have to do, Amy, is see this as a four-year gap before this bill kicks in and try to get the single payer as a major issue in the 2010 campaign and as a major issue in the 2012 campaign and try to save some of those 180,000 Americans that will die because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed or treated. And that figure comes from Harvard Medical School researchers.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ralph, I would like to ask you, though, what about the issue that Representative Kucinich raises, that at least if this bill is passed, there will continue to be debates and battles in Congress over reform of it, whereas if it was to be defeated, then the likelihood is that for years down the road there would not be another effort at healthcare reform?

RALPH NADER: I think both—you know, the Democrats are basically saying, if you don’t pass this bill, we won’t have a chance for another ten and fifteen years. And if the bill is passed, they’re going to say, “OK, that’s behind us. We now have to pay attention to all the other issues on our plate.” So the mindset of the Pelosis and the Hoyers, the people who run the House of Representatives, is that this is it for ten or fifteen years.

And the American people have got to say, no, this isn’t it. Now, Dennis is—you know, Dennis is subject to retaliation if he didn’t support this bill in the House of Representatives. And, you know, you have to have empathy with him on that. He’s got a subcommittee. He’s got to live with these corporate Democrats. But the American people are not subject to that kind of retaliation, and they really have to mobilize now, at the state level, try to get some of the state bills through and demonstrate the effectiveness of full Medicare for all with free choice of doctor and hospital. There’s no free choice of doctor and hospital under this. There’s all kinds of exploitations that the health insurance companies and drug companies are going to be free to continue their ravenous ways over people who are at their most vulnerable situation, when they’re sick and injured. So, you know, we really have to look at this—

RALPH NADER: Imagine, the system costs twice as much per capita, about $7,600 per capita, than similar—than single-payer systems in Canada and Germany and France. They cover everybody for half the price per capita that we’re paying here, when 50 million people aren’t covered and thousands die every year. Eight hundred die every week, because they can’t afford health insurance to get treatment and diagnosis. And we’ve got—

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, what about the fact that—

RALPH NADER: —hundreds of billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the—

RALPH NADER: Really, it’s time for the American people to get upset.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, what about the fact that thirty more million people will be covered under this, no matter how much you feel it is lacking, under this healthcare reform bill?

RALPH NADER: First of all, that won’t even begin until 2014, 180,000 dead Americans later. Second, there’s no guarantee of that. The insurance companies can game this system. The 2,500 pages is full of opportunities and ambiguities for the insurance companies to game the system and to make it even worse.

And let’s say there are more people covered, right? Well, they’re being forced to buy junk insurance policies. There’s no regulation of insurance prices. There’s no regulation of the antitrust laws on this. Everything went down that Dennis was fighting for. There’s no regulation that prevents the insurance companies from taking this papier-mâché bill and lighting a fire to it and making a mockery of it. There’s no shift of power. There’s no facility to create a national consumer health organization, which we proposed and the Democrats ignored years ago, in order to give people a voice so they can have their own non-profit consumer lobby on Washington.

Best Kucinich Defense:

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: If I can respond, what I’d like to say is this—if I may respond, you know, I think that with three years left in the Obama presidency, we have to continue to encourage him, but we’ve got to be careful that we don’t play into those who want to destroy his presidency and say—you know, the birthers and others who say that, you know, he should have never been president to begin with. This is—you know, there is a tension that exists, and I’ve—you know, I’ve been very critical of the administration on the war, on the so-called cap and trade, and on a whole range of other issues. But at the same time, we have to be just very careful about how much we attack this president, even as we disagree with him. We have to be careful about that, because we may play into those who just want to destroy his presidency.

And he’s—you know, like it or not, he’s the president, he’s what we have, and I’m going to continue whatever I can do, just as one person, to try to keep trying to influence a different direction. But, you know, it’s not easy. He’s made his position different than, you know, what many of us would go along with.

See DN! Video Above

Moyers Talks to Dr. Marcia Angell About Health Care Reform

March 5, 2010
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.
. . . .
BILL MOYERS: So, has President Obama been fighting as hard as you wished?

MARCIA ANGELL: Fighting for the wrong things and too little, too late. He gave away the store at the very beginning by compromising. Not just compromising, but caving in to the commercial insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. And then he stood back for months while the thing just fell apart. Now he's fighting, but he's fighting for something that shouldn't pass. Won't pass and shouldn't pass.

What this bill does is not only permit the commercial insurance industry to remain in place, but it actually expands and cements their position as the lynchpin of health care reform. And these companies they profit by denying health care, not providing health care. And they will be able to charge whatever they like. So if they're regulated in some way and it cuts into their profits, all they have to do is just raise their premiums. And they'll do that.

Not only does it keep them in place, but it pours about 500 billion dollars of public money into these companies over 10 years. And it mandates that people buy these companies' products for whatever they charge. Now that's a recipe for the growth in health care costs, not only to continue, but to skyrocket, to grow even faster.

BILL MOYERS: But given that, why have the insurance companies, health insurance companies been fighting reform so hard?

MARCIA ANGELL: Oh, they haven't fought it very hard, Bill. They really haven't fought it very hard. What they're fighting for is the individual mandate. And if they get that mandate, if everyone does have to buy their commercial products, then they're going to be extremely happy with it.

BILL MOYERS: But this is all about politics now. It's not about pure health care reform. So given that reality, what would you have the President do?

MARCIA ANGELL: Well, I think you really do have to separate the policy analysis from the political analysis and I'm looking at it as policy. And it fails as policy. Moreover, a lot of people say, "Let's hold our nose and pass it, because it's a step in the right direction." And I say it's a step in the wrong direction.

You're right. Politics is different and there are a lot of people who say, "Look, it's a terrible bill. Even a step in the wrong direction as policy goes. But we need to get Obama elected again and we need to continue with the Democratic majority in Congress. And so we need to give Obama and the Democrats a win. If we don't, the Republicans will come in and take over Congress in the fall, and then the White House in 2012. But the problem with a political analysis is sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. And Democrats and particularly liberals have a history of outsmarting themselves.

And I'm not so sure that if this bill goes down, it's going to make it any harder for them politically. So I think it's difficult times for the President and for the Democrats. But if you look at it as a matter of policy, the President's absolutely right that the status quo is awful. If we do nothing, costs will continue to go up. People will continue to lose their coverage. Employers are dropping health benefits. Things will get very bad. The issue is will this bill make them better or worse? And I believe it will make it worse.
( See title link for rest of article)

From Wikipedia: Marcia Angell, M.D. (born 1939) is an American physician, author, and the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). She currently is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]. Dr. Angell is the author of The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It

Other Views:

Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster
by Norman Solomon

For many, the available coverage would be bottom-of-the-barrel quality -- and even then, given thin personal finances, would cause added strains to pay for premiums. In the absence of public-option health insurance run for purposes other than maximizing profits, the built-in unfairness of an individual mandate becomes magnified.

What's more, the very concept of healthcare as a human right will be fundamentally undermined by placing the health-insurance burden on individuals. Many who receive government subsidies will routinely struggle to make ends meet, while making do with shoddy health plans as part of a new configuration of healthcare apartheid. And, inevitably, the extent of government subsidies will be vulnerable to attacks from politicians eager to cut "entitlements."

On a political level, the mandate provision is a massive gift to the Republican Party, all set to keep on giving to the right wing for many years. With a highly intrusive requirement that personal funds and government subsidies be paid to private corporations, the law would further empower right-wing populists who want to pose as foes of government "elites" bent on enriching Wall Street.

With this turn of the "healthcare reform" screw, the Democratic Party will be cast -- with strong evidence -- as a powerful tool of corporate America. But the Democrats on Capitol Hill and the organizations eagerly whipping for passage are determined to celebrate the enactment of something called "healthcare reform."

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," Alice replied, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," Humpty Dumpty responded, "which is to be master -- that's all."

Many well-informed and insightful people are now hoping that the current healthcare bill will become law and then lead to something better. But few backers want to dwell on its requirement that everyone get health coverage from the private insurance industry -- a stunning, deeply structural transfer of humongous power and wealth that would greatly boost the leverage of an already autocratic corporate state.

NY Times Reporter Confirms Obama Made Deal to Kill Public Option
Miles Mogulescu
My Congressman, Bart Stupak, Has Neither a Uterus Nor a Brain
by Michael Moore

This one, by a gifted "salt of the earth" writer, challenged me, as I too, after giving meager sums to Ralph Nader in the last Presidential election, flip-flopped at the last minute to vote for Obama out of fear that McCain would win. Previously, I had been excoriated for voting for Ralph Nader in the contest that the conservative Supreme Court gave to George W. Bush over Al Gore, even though my vote in Oregon did not affect the outcome. (At this point, I do not know if militarist McCain would have been worse.) I only add this because as humans we are sometimes emotionally and intellectually frail, and Dennis Kucinich has demonstrated that even the most progressive among us are subject to choosing between the worst of choices. I cannot say what I would have done had I been in his position.

Everybody Knows The Deal Is Rotten
by Christopher Cooper

Lest anyone think I support the Republicans or Tea Party folks on health care--I don't. Here is the Republican Plan:

Republican Back-up Health Care Plan: Die Quickly

Rational & Reasonable Americans Protesting Lead-up to Iraq War in Winter of 2002