Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Category — Politics

The Endless Road to the White House

I filled in my ballot and took it to the Clerk’s office yesterday. I feel like a great weight has been taken off my shoulders and the noise level is subsiding. Don’t know about you, but the election has been driving me crazy. Vote for this amendment. Vote against that candidate. Mostly the latter. You might think that campaign advertising would have hit rock bottom long ago, but you would be wrong.

The TV commercials from both our U.S. Senatorial candidates from Colorado are so slimy I was tempted to vote for neither. Ads for and against state amendments don’t explain what the amendments are about, just that you should or shouldn’t vote for them. They aren’t just misleading; in most cases they are just plain lies.

If you’re voting on Nov. 4, make sure to familiarize yourself on the issues and take a cheat-sheet with you to your polling place; it could save you a lot of time and keep you from making mistakes, easy on a ballot that take up four large pages.

A lot has been made of the twenty months that Barack Obama has spent pursuing the presidency. Think of it. More than a year and a half in full-time quest of a four- or possibly eight-year job.

But there is a scarier element. You just somehow know that, come November 5, there will be people already making plans for 2012, first steps on the long, now endless road to the White House.

Illustration from Fufu Snax.

October 23, 2008   No Comments

Common Sense Should Dictate Wolf Policy, But No …

The federal government has been trying to turn over management of gray wolves to the individual states where the restored carnivores reside. One of the stumbling blocks to getting them under state control is that Wyoming’s management plan placed wolves in two categories, depending on where the wolf was at a given time. Inside Yellowstone National Park, they would be managed as trophy game animals, with hunting seasons and regulations like any other hunted animals. Everywhere else they would be listed as predators, and could be killed for any reason by anybody who could get close enough with a rifle.

Utah and Montana, the other two states with wolves, classify wolves as trophy game animals. Wyoming’s insistence on the two classifications was a major reason that a federal district judge recently overturned U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting plan. The judge rightly noted that classifying 90 percent of Wyoming wolves as predators might isolate them from other wolves, a genetic guarantee that wolf populations would plummet below the numbers necessary to keep the species thriving, which would trigger another listing, etc. ad nauseum.
The solution seems so simple, yet opinion is split in Wyoming over what to do. Rep. Keith Gingery of Jackson has actually proposed the sensible solution: Make the wolf a trophy species state-wide. But there are others, says the Casper Star-Tribune , who would prefer suing the government to force it to accept the state’s plan.

Evidence that Gingery’s proposal is the right choice and his opponents are still living in a 19th-century mindset can be found in federal government records, which I found through Ralph Maugham’s indispensable Western news aggregator.

The Wyoming Wolf News Report for Oct. 13-17, includes this item: “On 10/18/08, Wyoming Wildlife Services investigated a dead calf in the Big Horn Mountains near Ten Sleep, WY. The calf died from causes unrelated to wolves; however, a wolf was seen scavenging the calf carcass. One set of wolf tracks was found near the carcass. A local resident recently took a photograph of a single black wolf walking through his cattle in the same area. Trapping efforts to radio collar this wolf will proceed after big game hunting season ends.”

This seems a reasonable response, from the perspective of the rancher and the wolf alike. But under the management plan that the state of Wyoming had in place after delisting, the outcome likely would have been different; that wolf could have been killed by the resident who took the photo or anybody else, for that matter. And since the wolf was scavenging the carcass, the killing of the calf could be blamed or at least associated with the wolf, in this case guilty of nothing more than following its nose to a possible meal site.

Here’s another item: “On 10/18/08, Wyoming Wildlife Services confirmed a calf injured by wolves in the Upper Green River drainage. On 10/20/08, WGFD confirmed a second calf injured by wolves in the same area. The calf was later euthanized due to the severity of the injuries. Control actions are ongoing to remove the 2 wolves that were involved in several depredations in the Upper Green River drainage this summer.”

Again, this would seem to be a sensible way to proceed. But under Wyoming’s management plan, the entire pack could have been hunted and exterminated and branded cattle killers.
Or this: “On 10/11/08, a local coyote trapper caught a yearling female wolf in the Upper Green River drainage, and reported the incident to the WGFD warden in the area. Wildlife Services was able to place a radio collar on the wolf and release it unharmed. The USFWS appreciates the help and coordination between the trapper, WGFD, and Wildlife Services.”

Again, the outcome would almost certainly have been different under the state’s management plan. The trapper could have legally killed the wolf as it struggled in the trap.
The Billings Gazette reports  that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to have another plan in place by next year.

If defies common sense that Wyoming wouldn’t draft a proper management plan that balances protection and management. Then again, don’t hold your breath, either.

October 22, 2008   No Comments

Bush’s Cry-Wolf Strategy Finally Falls on Deaf Ears

I don’t claim to know any more or less than anybody else about the current financial mess, who is to blame or how it gets solved. But at least one reason why lawmakers, most of them Republican, rejected the modified bipartisan proposal to save the economy Monday is because George Bush couldn’t convince the country that action in less than a week would doom us.

Not that the ploy wasn’t painfully obvious. The original document presented to Congress last week — the one that apparently even I read before John McCain – asked for extraordinary executive power to contain the credit crunch and promised complete collapse of the financial markets if not enacted with as little deliberation as humanly possible.

As Jon Stewart reminded us on a Daily Show sketch, the president’s speech mirrored the one he gave to talk Congress into invading Iraq before Saddam took out Denver with weapons of mass destruction. His words were as vacuous as the ones he used to tell us to go shopping in the wake of the 9/11 attacks while he and the boys took care of the terrorists.

Television commentators, each one as clueless as the rest of us, kept reminding us throughout the week of the grim consequences if Congress didn’t pass some version of the Bush plan. But bullshit detectors went off in all corners of the country and even, thankfully, in the halls of Congress.

And guess what? On Monday, Congress blinked. It took almost eight years, but today even Republicans see the Bush administration for what it is, bankrupt, in its death throes, crying wolf again, hopefully for the last time.

September 30, 2008   No Comments

Diamond Thieves Coming to a Location Near You

Billie and I have often driven from Boulder to Yellowstone National Park. It is always an extraordinary trip, but one of the most scenic parts is Highway 287 north of Ft. Collins to Laramie. The road winds steadily uphill through a gorgeous canyon before peaking at the Wyoming border, where the landscape becomes more open and the winds begin to blow. The colors and rock formations of the Red Feather Lakes region have become a unique and special part of that trip.

Last time we drove through, we learned from Roadside Geology of Wyoming that diamonds had been discovered along the Wyoming/Colorado border in 1975, and that the area is one of only two stretches in the United States – the other is in Arkansas – that conceivably might produce commercial diamonds in this country, although the book calls mining profitability “doubtful because diamonds are not abundant and the cost of mining them is too high.”

Map of Proposed Mine

Map of Proposed Mine

So the hairs on the back of my neck went up while reading a story making the rounds this morning about a proposal by DiamonEx, a mining company, seeking a permit to begin exploratory drilling for diamonds in a three-acre area in North Rabbit Creek Valley, about nine miles west of 287 near the little town of Livermore, which is the turn-off point for the Red Feather Lakes region. DiamonEx leased surface and mineral rights to explore in 2007 and says it believes that the valley might yield hundreds of thousands of diamonds.

Its website boasts that DiamonEx is a supplier of DLC coatings and CVD diamond products, based on its “proprietary technologies for manufacturing polycrystalline and amorphous diamond and related materials utilizing advanced chemical and physical vapor deposition processes.”

The move has residents who live in the valley very frightened, and for damned good reasons. The first being that open-pit diamond mining produces the largest waste-rock-to-product ratios of any commodity, and the second corollary is that expanded operations would bring a steady stream of heavy trucks and equipment into a rural residential area along small dirt roads that couldn’t handle it. It is also very close to the Cache la Poudre River, a popular, scenic watershed for brown trout fishing, paddling, hiking and camping.

They have started a non-profit group called Leave Our Valley Alone Forever, and a website to provide information about the proposal. Check it out.

DiamonEx, based in Australia, opened a huge diamond mine in Botswana earlier this year. Asia Business Newswire published a Commissioning Update on the company’s mine in Botswana, dated 22 August 2008, that says the Lerala Diamond Mine is today operating at 100 tons per hour on its way to a full production target of 200 tons per hour.

The only commercial diamond mine in the United States operated north of the proposed site in the valley for a few years. The Kelsey Lake Mine went into operation in June of 1996 and went bankrupt two years later, opened again in 2000 and closed again in 2002. According to geology.com, the mine produced four carats of diamonds per 100 metric tons, and more than 50 percent of the diamonds were gem quality.

Besides the environmental chicanery something like this would produce, the rest of the drive to Yellowstone only underscores the inevitable fallout of mining’s boom/bust cycles. Near-ghost-towns like Jeffrey City are scattered across Wyoming, flowing but mostly ebbing, and always discarded when no longer useful to mining operations that just move on to the next boom.

According to the group’s material, “a commercial dig could expand to 24 acres, generate 586 trips daily on the skinny Larimer County Road 82E and consume 26,415 gallons of water per hour, along with 12 giant diesel generators operating 24 hours a day.”

Even if that’s the worst-case hypothetical scenario, it is another reason this is a monumentally bad idea for everyone except perhaps DiamonEx.

September 22, 2008   2 Comments

Election Blues Approximately

Here we are more than a year from the next presidential election, and already I’m tired of the whole thing.

Let me rephrase that a bit more precisely. I haven’t really been following the “campaign,” although it certainly seems like Hillary Clinton and Obama Barack have been running for president since, well, the last vote was counted in the 2004 election. But really, despite the barrage of publicity, most of us are only now getting around to even thinking about who we will support in next year’s election. So at least as far as this voter is concerned, they have wasted the last couple of years of campaigning. Until next year, I really don’t give a shit.

Except for some clips on YouTube and The Daily Show (love the fly on that Republican candidate’s hair), I haven’t watched a second of the dozens of forums or debates, and why should I? I generally tune in to the presidential election about the time of the Iowa or New Hampshire primaries, and already pundits claim that Hillary Clinton has wrapped up the nomination for the Democrats. Does this make any sense whatsoever?

When Jon Stewart asked this question of Sen. Joe Biden, who’s running a low-key campaign far in the shadow of Clinton, he said that he thinks people have real lives to take care of (or, out here in Denver right now, imaginary lives through the Colorado Rockies), and don’t really have time to think about the next president until, oh, next year.

If you read the media or watch TV, it’s a whole different world. Already, black leaders have complained that certain Repubs snubbed their forum and inferred that it’s because they don’t care about blacks. Commentators spent more time analyzing Hillary Clinton laugh than her health plan (and isn’t that a bit early to release something like that?). Fred Thompson has been criticized for not getting in early enough and, by inference, not spending enough money. Can a person be president if he doesn’t wear a lapel pin with an American flag? More than a year to go, and we’re down to this, folks.

Everything that the candidates say will be scrutinized, overanalyzed and trivialized. And whenever they slip up and say something suspicious, there’s YouTube so we can all overanalyze and trivialize it. Whoever we elect, we’re gonna be sick to death of them.

October 13, 2007   No Comments