5/30/24

Crashed fighter jet has John Thune's fingerprints all over it

As if it isn't bad enough that Senator John Thune (Earth hater-SD) is a tool of the military/industrial complex in a state where Ellsworth Air Force Base aids and abets pilots who kill children he wanted to bring a doomed fighter to Sioux Falls in 2015 after contractor Lockheed Martin gave him $40,000

During a 2017 hearing Sen. John McCain called the fighter platform cost a scandal after the military revealed that a $400,000 pilot's helmet is part of the F-35 as history's first trillion-dollar weapons system.
Almost since its inception, the F-35 has been criticized by acquisition experts and politicians from both parties for its soaring costs. Longtime chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain called it a “poster child for acquisition malpractice” as he took the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin to task for delays and cost overruns. [Lockheed Martin defends F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after criticism from Defense chief]
Investigators aren't yet certain what caused a $145 million Marine Corps F-35B to crash in Albuquerque but it's clear that America is no safer with politicians like Mr. Thune and rank mercenaries funding and manipulating the military.

5/29/24

Co-stewardship is really just US babysitting tribes

Our neighbors to the west, the Cochiti and Zia Pueblos, the Santo Domingo and San Felipe reservations, were hit hard by the Trump Virus where tribal authorities have been restricting travel for non-members. New Mexico is home to twenty three Indigenous nations.

Ahead of the 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit and as part of the Cobell settlement the Interior Department's Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, some three million acres in fifteen states are being returned to Tribal trust ownership. In February the Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the use of $31 million so the Klamath Tribes can acquire nearly 90,000 acres of private land within their historic reservation boundaries for ecosystem restoration and economic development. 

But, Republicans in Arizona and Utah are challenging President Joe Biden's authority to limit grazing permits and uranium mining on Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni — Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument and on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. 

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act and the America the Beautiful initiative President Joe Biden has moved to create the 400,000-acre Dolores River Canyon Country National Monument in Mesa and Montrose counties in Colorado but imagine the blowback if Pres. Biden remands that land back to the Ute Nation. 
Co-stewardship is a broad term that describes agreements made between federal agencies and tribal nations to hash out shared interests in the management of federal lands. Co-management refers to a stronger tribal presence and decision-making power. In 2022, the federal government agreed to co-manage Bears Ears National Monument with the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni. For the first time ever, tribal nations worked with federal agencies to draft a resource-management plan that would dictate how a national monument should be run. [What’s the difference between Indigenous nations co-managing or co-stewarding their land? A lot.]
Established by Pres. Bill Clinton in 2001, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is very popular in New Mexico but remains closed because it’s co-managed with the Cochiti Pueblo who is still challenged by COVID-19 exposure

But, the de facto repatriation of one tiny parcel to an Indigenous community is hardly monumentizing gone wrong. In fact, it could be a giant leap toward reconciliation.

5/27/24

Today's intersection: AI and LANL

The US Department of Energy has set a goal of producing 80 new plutonium pits a year by 2035, enough to fully replace the triggers in every existing thermonuclear warhead by 2105.
Just days before Microsoft agreed to invest $1 billion in and partner with the research company OpenAI, which was cofounded by Elon Musk to develop artificial general intelligence, Garrett Kenyon, speaking at the Science on Tap series said artificial intelligence (AI) doesn’t exist. “AI doesn’t exist,” Kenyon told the Los Alamos Reporter prior to his talk. “It’s kind of a myth. It’s this word everyone uses. It’s utterly abused.” He mentioned Elon Musk and his righthand man, Tesla’s director of AI, Andrej Karpathy, who he called a very smart guy. “I respectfully disagree. I admire Elon Musk – he’s a visionary guy – but I think he’s wrong on this one. [2019, Physicist And Neuroscientist Garrett Kenyon Says There’s No Artificial Intelligence]
Since New Mexico has statutes prohibiting direct car sales and repairs, Tesla sells its vehicles on the Nambé and Santa Ana Pueblos.
A day before expounding on a global stage his fears about artificial intelligence — at least where the competition is concerned — Elon Musk got a peek at AI development at one of the most advanced research facilities in the country: Los Alamos National Laboratory. AI is in use by “effectively all of Los Alamos’ missions,” according to the lab. Wednesday wasn’t Musk’s first time in New Mexico to visit a high-profile facility. In 2021, Musk was on the ground at Spaceport America when Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson made his successful flight to the edge of space aboard his passenger rocket ship, VSS Unity. ['A lot of science': Elon Musk takes private tour of Los Alamos National Laboratory]
If humanity doesn't destroy the planet there will come a time when it will be routine to launch waste too hot for humans to handle into the sun and maybe from Spaceport America.

5/25/24

Trump loving bikers threatening New Mexico, defying police presence in Red River

Red River, New Mexico is a town of about 600 souls that gambled on some 28,000 bikers but was terrorized by members of rival gangs in 2023 so the mountain hamlet is no longer advertising its Memorial Day event as a motorcycle rally destination. 

Nevertheless, New Mexico State Police and other members of law enforcement have a large presence in the village and at least one Red River business is holding its own Revive the Ride bike rally. Las Vegas, New Mexico canceled its motorcycle rally as the US Marshals Service and other federal law enforcement agencies warn of heightened, even unprecedented violence among outlaw motorcycle gangs or OMGs. 

Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) is raising the alarm as increasing threats from OMGs spill into Pueblos and reservations in New Mexico. 

Cops' lives suck. Little wonder those in the law enforcement industry abuse their families, alcohol, drugs, food, power, detainees and occasionally murder their wives. In California, a deputy sheriff for San Bernardino County and a member of the Mongols is facing ten felony counts after he traded firearms for fentanyl. 

Trump worshipping OMGs traffic the bulk of fentanyl and meth in the US including in South Dakota and Montana where a faction within Bandidos MC called the Ghost Dancers operates on reservations. The Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence pose a serious national domestic threat according to the US Department of Justice.

Police in Denmark have banned Bandidos MC as the Danish government mulls the dissolution of the cartel.

In Belgium and in other parts of Europe the Bandidos drive a white nationalist front.

5/23/24

ACLU South Dakota: want to fix prison overcrowding? Legalize cannabis.

So, what’s not to like about six (seven? eight?) month winters, rampant racism, chilling effects on civil rights, an extremist legislature, living in a chemical toilet, sacrifice zone, perpetual welfare state and permanent disaster area. In South Dakota freedom is just another word for nothing left to choose.

5/22/24

Scientists concerned about Earth haters and the farm bill

Earth haters have a disproportionate influence on the farm bill and to nobody's surprise it's the usual suspects who spend the most money.

More than even the defense lobby lavishes on politicians the US Chamber of Commerce, Bayer, American Crystal Sugar, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Koch cabal flood Republicans in congress with cash according to research compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, Representative Glenn Thompson (Earth hater-PA), introduced HR 84676, the "Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024," in Congress on Tuesday. He leads all comers in campaign cash harvested from the worst offenders.
Congress should center the needs of small and midsize farms, historically marginalized farmers, food workers and farmworkers, and consumers—not just the needs of giant corporations and industry groups—when writing the next food and farm bill. There are also other steps policymakers can take to blunt the undue power of corporate giants in the food and agriculture industries, and to provide greater public transparency into the ways deep- pocketed industry interests are shaping food and farm policies. [Cultivating Control: Corporate Lobbying on the Food and Farm Bill]
But, in 2023 the Trump-packed SCOTUS reversed environmental protection for a majority of American citizens and enabled the corporatocracy to pollute at will and the two main drivers of wetlands loss in the West are drought and cattle grazing.

5/21/24

Deadwood casino complex tainted by EB-5 swindle sold

Republican South Dakota former Governor now US Senator Mike Rounds began courting Chinese money in 2004 but so far has escaped a thorough probe of EB-5 crimes committed on his watch. 

During a photo shoot in 2011 when construction on the Bendagate-financed Deadwood Mountain Grand resurrected from the Homestake Slime Plant went obscenely over budget the following was heard by a city employee uttered by Big Kenny Alphin as he handed a check for $5 million to Mike Gustafson.
This is the last goddamned check I'm going to write to you assholes!
On advice of counsel Rounds has never released the names of his Future Fund and Bendagate scandal cronies because he's shielded by South Dakota's lack of ethics oversight. In 2014 Republican former Deadwood mayor Chuck Turbiville fled an economic development post ahead of a lawsuit seeking information about criminal activity committed during Gov. Rounds' administration resulting in the suspicious death of Richard Benda. Turbiville died in 2018 but not before endorsing Marty Jackley for governor.

China hates South Dakota because the state screwed Chinese job creators out of at least $100 million and in 2019 after 64 of the 65 investors received visas and gained permanent residency a settlement was reached.
Dale Morris, Tentexkota’s managing member, reached settlements with the Chinese investors as well as with seven other men who guaranteed the loan, according to Kasey Olivier, a Sioux Falls lawyer who represented Tentexkota. Those seven included Kenneth “Big Kenny” Alphin, a member of the country music duo Big & Rich, as well as Timothy Conrad, Michael Gustafson, George Mitchell, Marc Oswald, Ronald Wheeler and Dwight Wiles. The Chinese investors, known collectively as SDIF Limited Partnership 2, filed a civil suit, seeking their money as well as interest and legal fees. The case came before federal Judge Charles Kornmann in Aberdeen, who ruled that the money was indeed owed, rejecting arguments made by Tentexkota. [Deadwood Mountain Grand lawsuits settled]
Now, the massive casino complex that includes the DMG has been sold to gambling cartel Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc. as part of a $105+ million deal.
Simultaneous with the acquisition, GLPI and Strategic Gaming Management will enter into two cross-defaulted triple-net lease agreements, each for an initial 25-year term with two 10-year renewal periods. GLPI also provided $5 million for capital improvements for a total investment of $110 million. The initial aggregate annual rent for the new leases is $9.2 million, inclusive of capital-improvement funding, and represents an 8.4% capitalization rate. Rent is subject to a fixed 2% annual escalation beginning in year three and a CPI-based annual escalation beginning in year 11 of the greater of 2% or CPI capped at 2.5. GLPI also secured a right of first refusal on the real estate related to future acquisitions until Strategic’s adjusted EBITDAR related to GLPI-owned assets reaches $40 million annualized. [Deadwood Casinos Sell As Part Of $105 Million Deal]
This deal just goes to show that in South Dakota crime not only pays, it's baked into Pierre's pay to play pie.

Enslaved Chinese immigrants built the railroads from the West Coast to the Rocky Mountains in the 1800s and Deadwood gambling was legalized with a promise to preserve all the history in the Gulch where archaeologists still unearth Chinese opium pipes.

Mike Rounds is part owner of 10 leisure properties spread across Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
 
ip image: a thunderstorm looms above the parking garage at the foot of the Deadwood Mountain Grand.


5/19/24

Despite Biden administration concessions Barrasso would log public forests into the dirt

Before he retired in 2022 Bob Beck was Wyoming Public Media's News Director for thirty four years. In 2012 he began an interview with Senator John Barrasso (Earth hater-WY) asking the question: "Senator, why do you hate the environment?" 

During remarks to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2021, US Forest Service Chief Randy Moore outlined a plan to ship logs from as far away as California to sawmills owned by Hulett, Wyoming's Neiman Enterprises. Now, Chief Moore is seeking a 6.5% increase in 2025 funding beyond the $12 billion in annual appropriations to hire additional firefighters.

On Thursday Barrasso and Moore clashed as lumber prices crash and sawmills face a glut driven by wildfires, especially in Canada, flood markets with timber salvage in part due to human influences on global climate patterns. Barrasso is seeking the Republican Senate whip position backed by career criminal, Donald Trump who would compel the Forest Service to rake millions of ecoregion acres to clear woody debris. 

The Forest Service relies on provisions in the emerging farm bill for funding including, "an extension of the Landscape Scale Restoration Program through 2029, providing competitive grants for large-scale forest restoration projects that span across jurisdictions, an authorization for Regional Foresters to appoint individuals to local Resource Advisory Committees enhancing local cooperative resource management activities and provisions in the Wood Innovation Grant Program that would prioritize proposals that include the use or retrofitting of existing sawmill facilities in counties in which the average annual unemployment rate exceeded the national average by more than 1 percent." 

Nevertheless, Republican governors who rely on socialism like Wyoming's Mark Gordon, sent a letter to President Biden and US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opposing an amendment addressing mature and old-growth plans for units of the National Forest System.

Sen. Barrasso is already notorious for encouraging moral hazard and adding layers of government overreach to the farm bill and subsidies for loggers like Neiman Enterprises who rip up forests in Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado and Oregon. The Bearlodge District of the Black Hills National Forest plans several mechanical fuel treatments that prop up Wyoming Republican lobbyist, Jim Neiman.


Republicans began hating the Earth in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union when the Red Scare became a new Green Scare.

Learn more about US Forest Service efforts linked here.

5/18/24

NM under fire for horse neglect in Socorro County

In 2023, over the objections of sympathetic residents the Sandoval County Commission passed two rules on feeding what they're calling free-roaming horses. The general public is banned from feeding but non-profits may apply for permits in coordination with the county. The horses that can be seen from I-25 near Placitas are scraggly with little forage in that drought-besieged part of the county. 

It's a challenge throughout New Mexico and in Socorro County as many as a thousand mustangs await the state's decision on their future at a ranch it traded with the Navajo Nation now apparently left unattended since 2018.
Kim Nance, a veterinarian, is one of the neighbors who has noticed the wild horse population grow over the years, causing issues with bordering ranches. “There are years when we have really bad drought and the horses have all their ribs showing. You see a lot of them limping, a lot of trauma, broken legs and nobody is there to take care of the animals when they’re suffering,” Nance said, “It’s hard to watch.” [Neighbors say almost 1,000 horses run wild near Alamo]
New Mexico is a fence-out state and domestic horses are considered livestock while wild and feral mustangs are not but those deemed estray is a gray zone. Nevertheless, after finding a veterinarian with extensive experience an area couple raised the money and gelded three stallions. Two of our three Spring foals are colts that will face surgery in a few more months.

After a high of 95,000 in 2020 federal land managers removed some 50,000 protected wild and feral horses and burros from public ground across the West in the last three years or about twice as many as in the previous four years. The US Bureau of Land Management plans to remove some 20,000 of the remaining 73,520 mustangs in 2024. Many will be adopted out but most will be confined to pastures in states like New Mexico that are already over-allotted.

This interested party met with a concerned Placitas area horse lover on Friday.

ip image: a new colt poses for a photographer.

5/15/24

BLM New Mexico, Montana better at stewardship than most: PEER

Livestock grazing isn't a right; it's a privilege and it's ruining public ground throughout the Mountain West.

In 2022 it was reported that cattle grazing of 155 million acres leased on some 21,000 allotments of the 245 million acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in thirteen western states now outnumber horses thirty to one. Over 54 million of those acres failed the BLM's Land Health Assessment according to data released through the Freedom of Information Act to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER.

Little has changed. 

Some 58% of grazing permits on federal land in critical habitat go without review. On the Western Slope development and habitat fragmentation are behind decreasing sage-grouse numbers. Greater sage grouse habitat is disappearing at a rate of some 1.3 million acres per year much of it in Wyoming but the BLM doesn't record results of the degradation on private land although it's known to be extensive. 

Ginned-up belligerents in the so-called "Freedom Caucus" are whining that 8,576 acres or about .02% of a proposed protection area would be locked out to livestock grazing where the current permittee hasn't run cattle for some 27 years. 

PEER is part of a coalition suing the BLM for lapses in oversight.
According to data released today by the nonpartisan Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 56.7 million acres of BLM rangeland fail to meet the agency’s land health standards, primarily owing to livestock grazing. Particularly hard-hit are the high, cold deserts of Nevada, Wyoming and southern Idaho; In Nevada alone, approximately 22 million acres of public grazing land do not meet health standards. There are some bright spots: BLM state offices in Montana and New Mexico, for instance, have done a much better job meeting health standards than some of their neighbors, while 83% of Montana’s assessed acreage meets agency standards. [Federal grazing lands fail their checkup]
Brazen vandalism increases perpetrated by the extreme white wing of the Republican Party on BLM public property are attacks on US propelled by thugs like Donald Trump, Kristi Noem and worse

In most cases President Joe Biden should simply find the money, buy out Republican welfare ranchers, remand the ground to the Nations and rewild the West.

ip image: even under overcast skies and stinging wind the centuries etched in the rock at Diablo Canyon are spectacularly humbling.

5/13/24

Environmental racism, habitat degradation would plague SE Arizona mine

Exploiting the General Mining Law of 1872 Australia-based South32 Ltd. is ripping into Sobaipuri O’odham and Hohokam ancestral lands at Harshaw, Arizona with plans to extract zinc, manganese and nickel. 

In 2019 Our Lady of the Arroyo and her man motored to Oracle, Patagonia and Bisbee from Santa Fe and were shocked by the ravages of surface mining in SE Arizona where operations owned by Morenci and Miami are despoiling water supplies and reducing entire mountain ranges to piles of waste rock. 

In 2023 Trump appointees rejected a lawsuit that would have blocked mineral exploration in Arizona's Patagonia Mountains despite the resultant acid mine drainage that puts wildlife at risk and half of all migratory birds in North America move through the nearby avian sanctuaries at Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Patagonia Lake.

Now, as the US Forest Service wades through the thirty day public scoping period and the forty five days expected for completion of the Environmental Impact Statement, Santa Cruz County is concerned that the 78% of residents who speak Spanish as a first language will be unfairly impacted by the dust, noise and traffic.
“It is not only beneficial to USFS and the Biden Administration, it is beneficial to the Santa Cruz County to employ an engagement process that ensures the entire community has been effectively educated and fully understands the impacts of the Hermosa Project, as well as, informed of the range of possible alternatives that mitigate adverse impacts.” Robin Lucky, president of the Calabasas Alliance, a watchdog conservation group located in Santa Cruz County says many residents remain distrustful of the process. [Forest Service begins public scoping period for South32 Hermosa Mine Project]
Learn more at the Patagonia Regional Times.

Zinc is one of the most recoverable and recycled materials on the planet so mining the Phoenix and Tucson landfills seems a far more Earth-friendly endeavor than blowing up the Sky Islands does.

5/12/24

WTF is wrong with Newell?

In February, white Republican Newell High School spectators attacked Tiospaye Topa School student athletes with hateful racial epithets then after the Butte County basketball game they physically assailed the visiting Native American team and parents. 

Wendel Hiland was a Newell-area handyman and self-styled 'sovereign citizen' who faced 300 years in prison after he was arrested and charged in 2013 with 30 counts of abuse of a minor over the age of seven. He raped a minor, forced her into child marriage and has called Attorney General Marty Jackley "as crooked as they come." Hiland now lives in Moyie Springs, Idaho in the bowels of the American Redoubt.

Wendel Hiland, Travis Ismay and now Darrell Wayne Goins are Newell, South Dakota Republicans who clearly hate American democracy. 
Darrell Goins, 42, of Newell, South Dakota, is charged in a criminal complaint filed in the District of Columbia with six felony offenses, including civil disorder; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; and entering and remaining, disorderly or disruptive conduct, and act of physical violence in a restricted building or grounds using a dangerous weapon. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota. [South Dakota Man Arrested for Assaulting Law Enforcement and Other Charges During Jan. 6 Capitol Breach]
Just say it: radical christianic terrorism; but now it’s time to add stochastic to that tagline, too. 

But sure, migrants fleeing oppression and seeking asylum in the United States are criminals according to Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere who also accompanied Howdy Doody Dusty Johnson at the State of the Union address. Western South Dakota is a de facto portion of the American Redoubt where white christianic Republicans are holed up for the End Times.

Donald Trump's attempted takeover of the United States and his followers' attack on the US Capitol was a climax of the movement driven by the John Birch Society. 

Republicans want a police state, Libertarians want anarchy and Democrats just want a good ol’ fashioned representative democracy with its warts and all.

5/11/24

Lost paradise: when holocaust is art

One person's holocaust is another's foreign policy solution.

On orders from President Franklin Roosevelt one of the largest concentration camps in the United States was built in Santa Fe in 1942 and imprisoned some 4,555 people of Japanese heritage. During World War II National Guard units from New Mexico became trapped on the Bataan peninsula where they experienced torture at the hands of soldiers of the Empire of Japan. Then under orders from war criminal, Harry Truman four Los Alamos scientists armed the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and killed over 200,000 children, women and men.

After visiting New Mexico in 1931 and living at Ghost Ranch during the Manhattan Project, already-wealthy artist Georgia O'Keeffe bought a dilapidated hacienda for $500 in Abiquiu, New Mexico from the Santa Fe Diocese then beginning in 1946 she spent a small fortune and over three years rebuilding it. The village is what is left of the colonial war on the Apache, Comanche and Navajo where detribalized but converted Puebloans who were captured by the Spanish or sold to the colonizers lived to work as slaves and servants. 

On Wednesday, accompanied by several others, Our Lady of the Arroyo, her man and a guest from Pennsylvania toured the sprawling but minimalist 7000 square foot villa. Our guide, Michelle conducts several visits a day from March through November. The tour ended on the edge of the mesa overlooking the Rio Chama where O'Keeffe had built a bomb shelter.
O’Keeffe moved in for good in 1949 – the year that the Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear test in Kazakhstan. Throughout the 1950s, nuclear tests took place all over the New Mexican desert, and O’Keeffe would have known about the infamous “Trinity” test that took place in 1945. According to Pita Lopez, Project Director for the Abiquiú Historic Properties, O’Keeffe built hers in the early 1960s because she “wanted to be around to see what the landscape would look like if there was ever a catastrophe.” [Georgia O’Keeffe’s Subterranean Fallout Shelter]
ip image: across the plaza from the O'Keeffe property is the abandoned El Piñon Theater.

5/10/24

Canada joins passenger rail expansion that could connect with El Paso

Imagine a time when portions or all passenger rail in the United States are elevated for wildlife egress and a corridor between Mexico City and the Amtrak station in Shelby, Montana is a route to the Yukon River in Alaska intersecting with a bridge over or a tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting South and North America to Russia and the rest of Eurasia.
Upon crossing the border by Coutts into the U.S., those on board would have the option of finishing their journey in the Montana communities of Shelby, Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman, or Livingston. [Alberta-Montana passenger rail service proposed]
Cheyenne, Wyoming is on board with Colorado for expanded Front Range passenger rail that would connect El Paso to Shelby. I-25, especially from Pueblo, Colorado to Fort Collins through Colorado Springs and the Denver metro, sucks at biblical proportions as does flying into Denver International Airport so growth on the Front Range is driving planners to pick up the pace on passenger rail.
A newly formed Cheyenne Passenger Rail Commission created under Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins’ guidance has been formed to help with the local effort. Most significantly, it would help passengers avoid congestion on the busy I-25 corridor when traveling down to the Front Range. As long as travel times could be made comparable to or better than driving in a car to Fort Collins or Denver, the passenger line could serve as a legitimate alternative. [Push For Wyoming-Colorado Passenger Rail Service Gaining Momentum]
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is working for restoring the North Coast Hiawatha and finding funding for the next phase of the project through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill while his Small Community Air Service Enhancement Act boosts airport improvements in eastern Montana counties. Treasure County was the latest to join the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority as nineteen Montana counties, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Northern Cheyenne and Apsáalooke Nations bring the former North Coast Hiawatha to life. 
More passenger rail through Montana isn’t just a hope and a dream, it’s a plan that’s chugging its way to reality, according to a report this week from the Big Sky Rail Authority. And Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is on board. “The bottom line is, passenger rail is something we believe in … we’ve done it before in this country, and we’ve done it well, and there’s no reason we can’t do it again,” Buttigieg said. [Big Sky Rail Authority: ‘We are no longer debating feasibility’]
Lewis and Clark County is home to the state capital and has yet to support the concept citing lack of service while Yellowstone County, the state's most populous, is holding out for more money.

5/9/24

Politicians buy NM newspapers from Gannett; pledge centrism

Republicans hate the press and love news deserts. 

Nevertheless, this blog has argued that the Gannett Company should have bought Lee Enterprises which owns the Rapid City Journal and 45 other daily newspapers. It was my rant that Lee Newspapers of Montana would survive as part of a Bismarck Tribune, Rapid City Journal, Casper Star-Trib marriage and not become part of a Gannett takeover. 

In 2015 Gannett acquired the Alamogordo Daily News; Carlsbad Current-Argus; the Daily Times in Farmington; Deming Headlight; Las Cruces Sun-News; Silver City Sun-News and the Ruidoso News in New Mexico and the El Paso Times in Texas. 

A 2019 merger between Gannett and GateHouse Media consolidated papers in my home state of South Dakota sending journalists scrambling to find work in other media and in public relations

Now, the only newspaper Gannett will own in New Mexico is the Las Cruces Sun-News after selling the Daily Times to a publishing company based in Farmington and after El Rito Media LLC acquired the Alamogordo Daily News, Current-Argus and Ruidoso News. The Deming Headlight has fizzled but the Sun-News has survived for now. 

Richard Connor is the editor and publisher of the Rio Grande Sun.
The Rio Grande Sun‘s owners include Ryan Cangiolosi and Harvey E. Yates Jr. of Albuquerque, both of whom have served as chairmen of the Republican Party of New Mexico, and state Rep. Joseph Sanchez, a Democrat from Alcalde. According to a news release from Dirks, Van Essen & April, a media merger and acquisition firm based in Santa Fe that represented Gannett in the sale, Yates is a managing member of the El Rito group. Connor will serve as editor and publisher of the five newspapers. Connor said the group will work to provide a “center” balance when it comes to news coverage with the three new papers. [Gannett sells four New Mexico newspapers, three to 'Rio Grande Sun' owners]
The Santa Fe New Mexican was a Gannett paper from 1976 to 1989. 

The Rio Grande Sun mostly chronicles the woes of living in Rio Arriba County and Española but its version of the sale is linked here.

On Wednesday, Gannett closed at $3.14.

5/7/24

Bird migration underway

Here's a closeup of a scaled or sometimes called a cottontop quail. They have been here for several months in groups as large as fourteen but have paired off to breed now.

Western tanager.

Bullock's orioles have been here before but rarely this early. There is a spotted towhee here but so far no pix.
Northern mockingbird added 10 May.
This rose-breasted grosbeak could be a hybrid as they are out of their range but they will interbreed with black-headed grosbeaks which are in this range. Added 10 May.

5/6/24

Republicans now driving grid attacks

Since the alleged jihadist attacks on September 11, 2001 homegrown terrorists have killed twice as many people in the United States than foreign-influenced militants have. 

But in 2011 and 2012 hackers known as LulzSec took down web sites owned by Rupert Murdoch, Booz Allen Hamilton, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Arizona lawmen, Apple, Sony, the city of Orlando, Florida, and the governments of Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and Iran, among many other targets including Yellowstone County, Montana and the Department of Justice. 

In 2014 among 382 law enforcement agencies 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdictions, according to the New York Times. Former teevee host Ted Koppel was an NPR contributor for decades so to pump his new book he sat for an interview on The Diane Rehm Show in 2015 and told listeners he's convinced that an inevitable cyber attack on the US could take down the grid for days, even months causing food shortages and mayhem

Now, fueled by Donald Trump and Republican politicians like Kristi Noem, Harriet Hageman, Dorothy Moon and Ammon Bundy white christian nationalists are the latest perpetrators of malicious attacks on the grid.
In reports filed to the [Department of Energy], power grid operators identified 200 instances of vandalism, suspicious activity, sabotage or physical attacks in 2023, comprising 58% of all reported incidents. Over the past decade, roughly half of these attacks happened in the West. They planned to use that chaos “to create a favorable operating environment to conduct an assassination.” In the far-right movement, this twisted logic falls under the banner of an ideology called “accelerationism”: the belief that accelerating the collapse of society will enable white people to take over and rebuild the world they want. [How attacks on energy substations play into the hands of extremists]
In 2023 in my home state of South Dakota Riggin Lynn Scheer was unmasked as a Nazi

Now, three people have been arrested in northeastern South Dakota after bombs and firearms were discovered with assistance from the FBI although motives for their use have yet to be determined but entries on Chris Gamble's Faceberg page are saturated with hate-filled vitriol punctuated with input from fellow suspect, John Felice.

5/5/24

Insurance companies, utilities still bilking homeowners in WUI

We all know utilities are not your friends but then neither are insurance companies.

NorthWestern Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric, Xcel, Black Hills Energy, Hawaiian Electric Company and Public Service of New Mexico or PNM are all responsible for massive blazes often causing billions in damages.

Back in 2021 this blog covered the creation of Firebreak Management, a Bozeman, Montana startup that clears woody debris from private properties built in the wildland urban interface or WUI. That same year power lines owned by NWE caused a wildfire that destroyed most of Denton, Montana.
Downhill off Bridger Canyon Drive, a burned tractor, caked in soot, displays a sign for vehicles passing by: “State Farm is Not a Good Neighbor. They Do Not Pay Their Claims.” When Sandy and Paul Strong bought their house up Bridger Canyon in 2022, they didn’t expect to spend so much time thinking about trees. On a sunny mid-April afternoon, Jessica Braun was up at the Strong’s property, touting a chainsaw and a drip torch. Her co-workers were felling trees behind the house, and the land was dotted with scorch marks from smoking piles of burned debris. Now, they are logging, and the wood will be sold to a timber mill to help cover the cost of the work. A skidder will come to take the logs this summer. ['We'd be the torch': Bridger Canyon homeowners work to reduce fire risk]
Xcel Energy is just one utility being bankrupted by insurance companies looking for culprits in human-caused disasters now that it's been determined all-day hurricane force winds drove the 2021 Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado. And they're not small fires either as the Smokehouse Creek Fire Complex spread over 1.2 million acres of the Republican Texas panhandle where sixty counties face disaster declarations.
The pole identified as the cause of the fire had been suffering from decay, and an Xcel contractor designated it in need of replacement, the report said, citing testimony from an Xcel executive. The report, issued Wednesday, also found that Texas does little to regulate the inspection, maintenance and replacement of utility poles. [Texas Lawmakers Fault Xcel Power Pole in State’s Largest Fire]
Utilities, insurers, county commissions, lenders and developers need to be held accountable for building tinder boxes packed so closely together that homeowners can see into each others bathrooms. Counties should be able to fine property owners who fail to create defensible space or clear dry fuels. Well-funded local and volunteer fire departments could conduct prescribed fires and burn road ditches to create buffers where contract fire specialists don’t exist. 

Self-reliance or moral hazard?

5/4/24

Goss: South Dakota's economy sucks less due to Biden "tailwind"

Creighton University's Ernie Goss follows the economies of nine midwestern states including South Dakota's.
"The feds were raising rates, and the economy has still moved along and is improving a bit at least in manufacturing, which is what our survey said," said Goss. "But, when the federal government runs a deficit, which will be about $2.2 trillion this year, it's really hard to move lower when you've got that kind of tailwind, and that's what we've got--an economic tailwind that has shown up in our April survey of manufacturing supply managers." [Goss: April BCI continues to show mixed bag]
South Dakota is at full employment so expect inflation to edge higher in the coming months.

5/2/24

South Dakota should consider partnership with BLM for shooting range

In 2016 South Dakota's Republican senior US Senator called an end to lead contamination in the watersheds that support all life in the United States, "silly." 

But like on so much public ground in the West the Black Hills National Forest and US Bureau of Land Management properties face habitat degradation fraught with lead contamination from unregulated shooting plus off-highway vehicles, grazing, mining and logging. The Victoria Lake area on Beretta Road above Rapid City is a lead Superfund site in the making after decades of unrestricted shooting.

In 2022 on BLM ground south of Lead some 700 pounds of lead were recovered from the Yellow Creek Shooting Range and in cooperation with the City of Deadwood berms were reconstructed then a vault toilet, two new shooting benches, two 50-yard pistol ranges, 100 and 200 yard rifle ranges, new target stands and shooting structures to help with noise reduction were erected.

BLM Montana/Dakotas has been saturating its Faceberg page with pleas to users to end the vandalism and "trigger trash" ruining public access. There's no telling how bad the chaos will get in western states and BLM Montana/Dakotas has been seeking a replacement for South Dakota's Field Manager based in Belle Fourche.

Nevertheless, the US Army Corps of Engineers just denied a permit for South Dakota's shooting range in Meade County because the state ignored federal environmental and cultural protection protocols. But was a facility built on BLM ground ever part of the discussion? It’s been done and being done in other states if there is a need. 

The Fall River Gun Club operates a range on state land about fifty miles south of Rapid City.

South Dakota's current Republican governor should simply end her war on the federal government and enter discussion with the Corps and BLM to build a firing range on public ground.

5/1/24

Early birds

Black chinned hummer.
Western tanager.
Scott's oriole.


Immature black headed grosbeak.