Wednesday, September 30, 2015

kurtz agenda advancing slowly

I began playing in Jerry Apa's illegal poker games in the basement of the Bodega in Deadwood somewhere around 1985. It was a seminal time in bringing gaming to the Gulch. The late Mike O'Connell was a founding father and a Democrat as were Chuck and Bernie Williams.

One frequent player was Walter Dale Miller even after he became Lt. Governor Miller. After poker became legal he played while governor and even after Bill Janklow shafted him forcing him from politics he came to Deadwood to play. This reporter has been in Texas hold 'em games where Gov. Miller, Mark Hollenbeck's dad, Bud, and Kevin Costner were also playing.

Miller was horrible at poker sometimes pouring thousands into a game. He liked being called Walt.

My eldest daughter, a feminist and staunch Democrat, is a Rapid City Central grad and has almost finished her education degree at Black Hills State University. She has begun the process of joining the San Diego school system. Her fiance and two other young Democrats are looking forward to living in a blue state. My younger daughter, a top athlete and Democrat, is fleeing Rapid City for Chicago.

Why? Because teaching in South Dakota sucks.
A new study ranks South Dakota as one of the worst ten states in America to be a teacher. WalletHub looked at a range of factors including average starting pay. The state came in 2nd to last: 50th overall, in median annual salary for teachers, and 39th in public school spending per student. [Black Hills Fox]
While nutcases like Fred Deutsch are crusading for an end to women's civil rights the state is hemorrhaging educators.

Want to reverse the exodus?

South Dakota should listen to Paula Hawks, Bernie Hunhoff and Cory Heidelberger and pass a corporate income tax.

Reduce the number of South Dakota counties to 25, turn DSU into a community college, and adopt my cannabis template: the kurtz solution painted on a thumbnail.

Read more about the GOP war on public education here.

Recall that after years of financial problems Miller's son and daughter-in-law, Randy and Mary, were convicted of tax crimes then served time in federal prison.

Mark Hollenbeck is up to his tits. Bud was a shitty player, too.

My obsession with poker and power wiped out a career and destroyed at least two of my marriages so, i haven't played for over ten years.

Going into a restaurant where poker is on teevee causes my mind to replay images of the past and renders me unable to take my eyes off the screen.

Imagine the number of lives touched by video lootery.

The specter of Janklow operatives sabotaging Governor George Mickelson's plane still haunts me.

It took the lobbying of Lt. Governor Walter Dale Miller, Democrats Bill Walsh and Tom Blair to bring legal gaming to Deadwood to finance historic preservation; but, Republican greed has turned it into the prostituted cultural wasteland that it is today.

Cannabis in South Dakota, rewilding through expanding bison range, fire being used to reduce ponderosa pine overgrowth restoring aspen habitat, tribal nations being recognized as counties in a non-contiguous 51st State, raising awareness of Republican failures in protecting watersheds, shining flashlights into GOP recta, pulse crops instead of corn, restoring Lakota names to geographical features and teaching American Indian languages in public schools have taken decades of effort by a team of thought leaders advancing a progressive agenda for a red moocher state.

We still have much to do.

We need Democratic butts in every county chair, we need to raise money, we need candidates in local elections like city council, county commission and mayor, we need to talk more about the things that we want and do not have like protecting women's rights, reversing the horrors of the Janklow/Rounds/Daugaard years, and raising the revenue to make South Dakotans' lives better.

I'm plowing the road to get to those things.

Join me. Let's make South Dakota safe for Democrats again.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Paper: suppressing every wildfire “dangerous, expensive, and ill advised”

Mixed pine, fir and aspen stand after Las Conchas Fire

We all know this, right?
“We are in the middle of this 30,000-acre, near-treeless hole,” said Craig D. Allen, a research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey. If historical patterns had held, the remaining pines would by now be preparing seeds to drop and start the cycle of regrowth. The trees in too-dense forests are already competing for water that the historically more sparse stands of trees might have found adequate; as drought increases, the stress will kill many trees outright and weaken others to the point that they become more vulnerable to predators like aggressive bark beetles. In an increasing number of cases, said Malcolm P. North, a research scientist with the United States Forest Service Pacific Southwest research station in Davis, Calif., “after the satellite trucks leave and everyone goes home, you have a charred condition on the landscape that does not have a historical precedent.” In a paper published last week in the journal Science, Dr. North and colleagues argued for ending the national policy of fighting every fire, and for making more concerted effort to thin forests so more fires might only scorch trees without destroying them. The authors called the traditional policy of trying to suppress every fire “dangerous, expensive, and ill advised.” [excerpt, John Schwartz]


Ortiz Mountains from burn

Friday, September 25, 2015

Boehner to resign as Speaker: what does that mean for white earth haters?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Earth is too precious for a Republican president

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads Senator Bernie Sanders 43% to 22% in a new survey conducted by Public Policy Polling.
PPP's new Iowa poll finds Donald Trump continuing to lead in the state with 24% to 17% for Ben Carson, and 13% for Carly Fiorina. Trump's recent comments about President Obama waging a war on Christianity don't hurt him much with the GOP base.
Read the results here.

Clinton has renounced TranCanada's ecocidal Keystone XL pipeline and the Bakken oil fields with their man-camps are becoming ghost towns.

Dams on the Missouri River are causing the extinction of pallid sturgeon which feed on invasive species like the zebra mussels now infesting the system.

The Obama administration has passed over the Greater Sage Grouse for endangered species protection but has expanded the preservation of habitat with the biggest land protection initiative so far in the Obama years and in all of US Bureau of Land Management history.

A panelist on WAMU'S Diane Rehm Show remarked that Vice President Joe Biden is right: "Sunnistan, Shiastan, and Kurdistan" is the eventual outcome for Iraq.

So, fellow Dems: if Bernie Sanders is unelectable and you believe Clinton is a political millstone, would you like to see Al Gore in this race?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Today's intersection: meth and plutonium

New Mexico Republicans are getting caught doing stupid stuff.
Probably the best political ad on TV in this state last year was Tim Keller’s spot, filmed in front of the Albuquerque car wash used in Breaking Bad for Walter and Skyler White’s meth money-laundering scheme. Then the ad showed a photo of Keller’s Republican opponent, Robert Aragon, over Breaking Bad’s opening logo with a yellow cloud of methamphetamine smoke as an unseen narrator blasted Aragon for past problems (none of which involved dealing methamphetamine). As I noted in a story a couple of weeks ago, beleaguered Secretary of State Dianna Duran could be the first public official to have all or part of her pension taken away from her if she is convicted of any of the 20-plus felonies included in the 64 charges she is facing. (The remaining charges are misdemeanors.) By the way, that narrator in the Keller ad was none other than Steven Michael Quezada. [excerpt, Steve Terrell, New Mexico politicos keep on breaking bad]
Republicans are Hell-bent on keeping Iran from enriching uranium but in New Mexico weapons-grade plutonium is looking for a place to go.
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Carlsbad leaders recently re-entered a long-running national debate about what the country should do with tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium – staking opposing views. The shuttered southeast New Mexico nuclear waste repository known as WIPP has been floated as a potential final resting place for the nuclear material – an idea to which the Department of Energy has warmed in recent years and which Richardson, a former U.S. energy secretary, opposes. The U.S. has designated about 50 metric tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium that it wants to get rid of in such a way that it cannot be accessed again for nuclear weapons – and can be kept out of the hands of terrorists, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. [Albuquerque Journal]
In a newly-completed study 78 percent of groundwater samples found with unsafe concentrations of uranium were also contaminated with nitrates from industrial agriculture.
The researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln estimate that nearly 2 million people in California and the Great Plains live over groundwater that has been contaminated with uranium, which can cause health problems. Data from roughly 275,000 samples from two of the nation's largest aquifers — the High Plains aquifer and the Central Valley aquifer in California — were examined for the study. Those two underground stockpiles supply water for irrigation and many communities rely on the aquifers for drinking water. The High Plains Aquifer stretches underneath some 174,000 square miles in parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. [Mitchell Daily Republic]
At Crow Butte near the headwaters of the White River above Crawford, Nebraska Canadian-based Cameco, Inc. has obtained rights to use 9,000 gallons of water per minute to extract raw uranium ore through 8,000 holes bored into the Ogallala and Arikaree Aquifers.

The foreign miners have already pumped about half a billion gallons of radioactive waste water into disposal wells and have rights to bury more. Two years ago Cameco, the world’s largest uranium producer, paid a million dollar fine for environmental damage in Wyoming.
In 2011, the total water stored in the aquifer was about 2.96 billion acre-feet, an overall decline of about 246 million acre-feet (or 8 percent) since pre-development. Change in water in storage from 2009 to 2011 was an overall decline of 2.8 million acre-feet. The overall average water-level decline in the aquifer was 14.2 feet from pre-development to 2011, and 0.1 foot from 2009 to 2011.
The High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Ogallala Aquifer, underlies about 112 million acres (175,000 square miles) in parts of eight states Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. The USGS, at the request of the U.S. Congress, has published reports on water-level changes in the High Plains Aquifer since 1988. Congress requested these reports in response to substantial water-level declines in large areas of the aquifer. --news release, US Geological Survey, links added.
A breach like one at the Gold King Mine in Colorado would send toxic, radioactive waste into the Oglala Lakota Nation and into the Missouri River.

Read more about indigenous action from Debra White Plume's piece at Indian Country Today.

At least one South Dakota Republican calls it the "fed's war on energy" when it's really Big Energy's war on the Earth.
Debra White Plume (Wioweya Najin Win), Executive Director of Owe Aku, is an Oglala Lakota grandmother and water rights activist who is taking on Cameco, the world’s largest producer of uranium, near her homeland on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. From traveling through the lands, providing training camps, speaking engagements, strategic planning meetings, prayer circles with the Cheyenne Nation, Lakota Nation, Diné Nation, Apache Nation, Annishanabe Nation (Canada), Gila River Nation and Palestinian allies, the message is out there to continue to resist, to engage, to empower, to act collectively, to never give up.
Read it here.
Powertech/Azarga proposes a uranium mine split between Fall River County and Custer County threatening water uses and availability in those areas. This project is loaded with red flags for both water and public health. The economic fate of the Black Hills is at stake. The EPA has proposed rules changes for In Situ Recovery to protect valuable water resources. They recognize that ISR activities use significant volumes of water and state "the ISR process does directly alter groundwater chemistry, posing the challenge of groundwater restoration and long-term subsurface geochemical stabilization after the ISR operational phase ends." They also acknowledge that the lixiviants used can liberate other elements, particularly heavy metals, and that the migration of these outside the production zone can potentially contaminate surrounding aquifers. [Letter, Rebecca Leas]
With uncanny accuracy Gary Heckenlaible predicted the failure of the Gilt Edge Mine south of Deadwood now a Superfund site. He was also a strong champion for reproductive rights and a valiant opponent of the Dewey Burdock uranium mine.

The President of South Dakota School of Mines is a crook.
To clinch the contract extension, Sandia labs officials hired high-priced consultants — including Heather A. Wilson, the former New Mexico congresswoman, who allegedly was paid $226,000 — to write up a “contract extension strategy.” Among the tactics allegedly suggested by Wilson was “working key influencers” by targeting then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s staff, his relatives and friends, and his former colleagues at another federal lab — all with the goal of keeping Lockheed Martin in charge of Albuquerque-based Sandia. Lockheed “engaged in deep and systemic corruption, including paying Congresswoman Heather Wilson $10,000 a month starting the day after she left office for so-called consulting services that had no written work requirements.” [Washington Post]
Wilson wants to bury radioactive waste in South Dakota.

Volcanic clays like bentonite mined near Belle Fourche make radioactive waste repositories such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico possible. Bonus: the railroad from Belle goes right into Brookings, brought to you by Kristi Noem!

Huh, one of Heather Wilson's favorite benefactors, Albuquerque-based Valero Energy, gave Tike Mike Rounds $10,000 last cycle.
If stacked appropriately, all the used fuel we have generated in the U.S. so far would cover a single football field about 7 yards deep. Although the amount of used fuel is not much of an issue now, possible growing demand for nuclear power might test that assumption. Tasks such as replacing coal or natural gas, producing hydrogen or electricity to power vehicles, desalinating water, or actively removing carbon from the atmosphere will require a lot of carbon-free nuclear energy. But we could then reprocess the used fuel to reduce the amount of waste requiring storage in a permanent repository. [LTE, Robert McTaggart, GenXer]
Interim really means forever.

When Black Hills Corp. greases candidates like Heather Wilson while South Dakota's Board of Minerals and Environment makes conflicts of interest harder to find and the Public Utilities Commission is stacked with Republicans, the blur of the revolving door is vertiginous.

Heather Wilson is the Mike Ehrmantraut of GOP nuclear fixerhood.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Who won the earth haters' debates?

Keep the nuclear launch codes from Carly and Lindsey: they look like empress and queen.

Trump persevered. Jeb is a lying sack of shit from a family of liars and murderers: he lost the debate. Rand Paul is leading the GOP toward legal cannabis. Chris Christie is a slimy crook. Rubio pretended to be the voice of reason. Kasich's posture suggests he's weak and in poor health. Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are unelectable. Ben Carson is qualified to be Surgeon General, maybe. Scott Walker is clueless. Jindal and Santorum are next to exit the building.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pope Frank scaring the bejeezus out the GOP

Update, 16 September, 1153 MDT: Joe Kurtz is Generalissimo at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. He and Pope Frank aren't saying the same climate change Mass.


Ahead of a visit to the US and an address to Congress by Jorge Mario Bergoglio several Republican US House members are calling for action on anthropogenic climate change.

Now His Eminence is backing President Obama's groundbreaking action with Iran.
In a statement presented before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday, the Catholic Church’s effective foreign minister offered his strongest support yet behind the agreement. That could put Republicans — all of whom have opposed the Iran deal — in an awkward position. The pope has previously been expected to discuss the need to combat climate change and wealth inequality, which could mirror Democratic policy positions.
Read more at The Hill.

Half of Florida voters think catholics Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio should drop out of the Trump Show.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Aspen returning to Jasper Fire zone

Wildfire severity is about average this season
and low compared to the 1930s but county commissioners are still allowing development into the urban/wildland interface where records are being broken for loss of private property to fires.

The Mountain Pine Beetle is still vigorously opening view sheds and doing its part to keep even Box Elder and False Bottom Creeks running as September overtakes the Black Hills.

Smoke and haze from wildfires burning farther to the west made conditions for photography less than optimal on the 29th of August but I captured some eighty images of returning greenery in the 2000 Jasper Fire north of Jewel Cave National Monument.

Click on any image to make it easier to see.

Bill Janklow's Kodos moment probably came at the Jasper Fire where he became the story:
But federal firefighters point out that the governor has no fire training and therefore does not understand the ramifications of his decisions. Janklow himself admits he never had been on a wildfire before the summer of 2000.
Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today penned a vivid sketch of the still-dead former Republican governor. Here's a snip:
Governor Bill Janklow, always a hands-on governor, was bewildered and flabbergasted by the fires and in many ways interfered with the Incident Commanders (your’s truly included) which at times created serious safety problems. On the Jasper Fire the Type 1 Incident Commander placed a resource order for U.S. Marshals who stood by at the Incident Command Post ready to put a halt to any actions by state employees that put firefighters in danger, such as setting backfires and running dozers out ahead of the fire without coordinating with the Incident Commander or the Incident Management Team. The next year Governor Janklow created the Division of Wildland Fire Suppression and hired [Joe] Lowe to run the agency. [Gabbert]
Cheatgrass is still a feature where the uncountable number of cattle graze in the Upper Limestone but within the fire zone it was nowhere to be seen: a testament to the importance of fire intensity in some biomes.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Today's intersection: religious freedoms and personal liberties

Bob Newland got me thinking again about how humans developed a technology to ingest the smoke of native plants.
From hallucinogenic mushrooms and cacti to alcohol-infused enemas and psychoactive dried toad skins, the array of consciousness-altering substances that people in the early Americas used was wider than thought, a new report suggests. At least 54 hallucinogenic mushrooms in the genus Psilocybe were used by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, and those mushroom species can still be found today in Mexico, according to the report. "Ritual use of peyote in the Americas dates back more than 5,000 years, to prehistoric times," the report said. Traces of the drug have been found in Mexico and in the Shumla Cave in Texas, according to the study. Reports by 16th-century historians say that the Maya added tobacco and the dried skins of a common toad in the Bufo genus to their alcoholic beverages to make the drinks more potent. [LiveScience]
DNA analysis has confirmed that quids made of yucca fibers bearing teeth marks and human saliva indicate that ancestral Puebloans chewed or sucked on small wads filled with tobacco according to a recent paper published in the Journal of Field Archaeology. Personal pleasure was cited as a reason to chew tobacco-filled quids but there other possibilities, including appetite suppression or treating intestinal parasites.
A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled, “Ritual drinks in the pre-Hispanic U.S Southwest and Mexican Northwest,” scrutinizes how widely caffeine was used at different time periods. The caffeine was consumed in two types of drinks. One was a cacao-based chocolate drink. The other was made from a particular species of holly, used to make what Native Americans in the southeastern U.S. called black drink. The new research used sherds from jars, bowls, and pitchers found at archaeological sites throughout the Southwest. In all, 177 sherds were tested and caffeine was found in 40 of the samples. [University of New Mexico Newsroom]
The concept is simple enough: imagine seeing a horn or an antler smoking in a lightning-caused fire looking like a novel way to move fire from place to place.

Smoking mixtures came with humans as they passed through Beringia:
Prehistory: In 2010, tobacco was found that dates to the Pleistocene Era 2.5 million years ago. Paleontologists from the Meyer-Honninger Paleontology Museum discovered the small block of fossilised tobacco in the Maranon river basin in northeastern Peru. 
Prehistory: As far as human use of tobacco, although small amounts of nicotine may be found in some Old World plants, including belladonna and Nicotiana africana, and nicotine metabolites have been found in human remains and pipes in the Near East and Africa, there is no indication of habitual tobacco use in the Ancient world, on any continent save the Americas.
c. 6000 BCE: Experts believe the tobacco plant, as we know it today, begins growing in the Americas.
c.1 BCE: Experts believe American inhabitants have begun finding ways to use tobacco, including smoking (in a number of variations), chewing and in probably hallucinogenic enemas (by the Peruvian Aguaruna aboriginals).
c. 1 CE: Tobacco was "nearly everywhere" in the Americas. (American Heritage Book of Indians, p.41).
470-630 CE: Between 470 and 630 A.D. the Mayas began to scatter, some moving as far as the Mississippi Valley. The Toltecs, who created the mighty Aztec Empire, borrowed the smoking custom from the Mayas who remained behind. Two castes of smokers emerged among them. Those in the Court of Montezuma, who mingled tobacco with the resin of other leaves and smoked pipes with great ceremony after their evening meal; and the lesser Indians, who rolled tobacco leaves together to form a crude cigar. The Mayas who settled in the Mississippi Valley spread their custom to the neighboring tribes. The latter adapted tobacco smoking to their own religion, believing that their god, the almighty Manitou, revealed himself in the rising smoke. And, as in Central America, a complex system of religious and political rites was developed around tobacco.
600-1000 CE: UAXACTUN, GUATEMALA. First pictorial record of smoking: A pottery vessel found here dates from before the 11th century. On it a Maya is depicted smoking a roll of tobacco leaves tied with a string. The Mayan term for smoking was sik'ar
White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the pipe to the Plains cultures. Among the first pipes fashioned by the human hand depicted animal species important to tribes:
Today, state laws and legal precedents hold manufacturers more liable for the effects of their products. And the old legal defense of "contributing negligence" -- which prevented lawsuits by people with some measure of responsibility for their own condition -- is no longer viable in most jurisdictions. Instead, a defendant can be held partially liable and forced to pay a corresponding percentage of damages. Finally, the notion of "strict" liability has developed; this means a defendant can be found liable whether or not they are found negligent. If a product such as tobacco causes harm, the company that produced it can be held responsible, even if it wasn't aware of the potential danger.
Enforcing tax codes on tobacco is not about the money:
This media brouhaha is the result of a recent court decision out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, holding that Indian merchants selling cigarettes to non-Indians in Indian country have to collect sales tax for the State of New York. In its ruling, the Second Circuit purportedly weighed the state/tribal interests, finding that New York’s “valid interest in ensuring compliance with lawful taxes that might easily be evaded” outweighed the tribes’ interest in inherent sovereignty. In other words, the State would rather invade the sovereignty of tribal governments, in order to obtain less than one-tenth of the amount due to it, than to make efforts to enforce its own laws against its own citizens.
Big tobacco adds ingredients to its products that do not exist in most Native-produced brands. Now the health results of a century of corporate control over an essential part of indigenous culture has led to a crisis in hospital care throughout the US.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 prohibits the federal government from imposing substantial burdens on religious practices without a compelling reason.
The bipartisan measure was passed to counteract a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the government to penalize acts that were religious practices — such as American Indians’ ritual use of peyote — as long as it used neutrally worded laws that did not single out religions for punishment. [San Francisco Chronicle]
It should come as no surprise that the industrial tobacco companies are major campaign contributors to Republicans.

I converted to a pipe in 2003. Since then it has become obvious that smoking keeps flying insects at bay when i'm in the woods. Nicotine has long been used as an insecticide; my blood likely doesn't taste very good to mosquitoes. Birds react to my pipe. Predators and other animals in the woods know when i'm in their space.

Thomas Jefferson would not plant tobacco because he believed it to be bound to the capitalism he abhorred and chose cannabis as his crop of choice for its utilitarian applications. Jefferson invokes natural law in many of his letters: the best interpretations of his creed.

Citing freedom of expression protection, the Supreme Court upheld the rights of minors to use violent video games but adults still cannot smoke cannabis legally in most states yet a Kentucky homophobe appeals her jailing for not doing her fucking job.