Coyote n. A small wolf (Canis latrans) native to western North America.



The Old Coyote's alter ego is:

Anthony A. (Swen) Swenson

Mild-mannered archaeologist by day..

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A Coyote at the Dog Show

Thursday, May 31, 2007- - -  
Well, bless their pointy little heads!
The good news: The folks up in Jackson Hole will be doing their bit for the climate by turning the thermostats in their 10,000 square-foot McMansions down to 65 degrees.

The bad news: Only in the summer.
A very interesting article in today's Casper Star on energy conservation efforts in Teton County and surrounds. Some folks are putting on the hair shirts -- living in 800 square-foot houses, scrounging used cooking oil from restaurants to run the Saab, heating water with propane and the patience of Job -- all in an effort to stave-off global warming. 'Course then they jet back to their winter homes in California.

In the article I've linked above they're putting on a push to reduce energy consumption in Teton County 10% by 2010 (and I shouldn't be snide, they're sincere, it's a worthwhile effort, and probably an achievable goal). At the least they should be lauded for living the energy-efficient lifestyle they espouse. They do have a way to go to see eye to eye with some of their fellows though.

10% isn't nearly enough for these guys. They're calling on Congress to cut carbon emissions 80 percent nationwide by 2050, at least partially to save the glaciers in the Wind River Range, where they make their livings as climbing and skiing guides. As part of the effort, they're skiing Gannett Peak (highest point in Wyoming) to 'highlight individual lifestyle choices that can reduce pollution'. Okay, I will be snide here: Their livelyhood depends on people jetting out to Wyoming to hire them for guided backcountry trips. They depend on the lifestyle of conspicuous consumers who toss down $1000-a-day for a "wilderness experience", but by god they want the government to force the rest of us to live like Chinese peasants. That's just too precious for words.

Update: I should point out that living in Jackson Hole is not a particularly earth-friendly lifestyle choice: Jackson is a long way from any main transportation corridor. Everything the residents consume must be trucked in over the mountains at considerable expense. And that's the stuff they don't fly in, got to have fresh mahi mahi ya know. The Hole itself was prime elk winter range before it was Privatized! and Subdivided! Now they have to feed the elk because they have no winter range. If Halliburton had a hand in its development we'd be urged to shun the place as an environmental disaster area. Say.. you know, Dick Cheney lives there, at least when he's not huntin' quail in Texas. That alone ought to have the Californians staying away in droves. Go figure.

@5:45 AM

Wednesday, May 30, 2007- - -  
Something else to make you say Hmmm..
Here's a non-intuitive idea on predator management that makes a good deal of sense. If true, a lot of the effort going into predator control is only exacerbating the problem. But hey, it's a government program, should we be too surprised by that?

@5:54 AM

Tuesday, May 29, 2007- - -  
Things that make you say Hmmm..
I'd foolishly assumed that all the recent interest in predator control, and the $6 million in new funding from our legislature (scroll down), was in preparation for a major reduction in the wolf population. So why does it sound like when the last dog is hung it's going to be a coyote (1, 2, 3)?

@6:16 AM

Monday, May 28, 2007- - -  
More predator control in the news
The legislature has pumped big bucks into the effort:
Working under the auspices of the 8-year-old Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board, the predator districts got a big boost last year when the Wyoming Legislature approved a $6 million expansion of predator control efforts.

A huge chunk of those dollars will go to the 17 local predator control boards to help fund a variety of projects over the next few years, officials involved in the effort said.

In the past, local control boards haven't had the money to do anything more than just manage predators in order to protect livestock.

To do more -- such as controlling skunk populations that are prone to rabies outbreaks or managing predators to help other wildlife -- required a much more significant revenue stream than local boards had access to.
As the article notes, studying wildlife populations will be a big priority. I'm glad to see that they aren't simply ramping up efforts to eradicate predators. There's good reason for further study too, the predator/prey/habitat relationship is complex and there are many side issues, as outlined in this second article.

@5:50 AM

Sunday, May 27, 2007- - -  
Not so quiet on the western front
There have been so many articles in the Casper Star on wolves and predator control in the last couple of days that it's hard to keep up with them. Plus, there's more in the print edition that's not been posted on-line as yet (at least that I can find).

First, we've got an article that appeared in the print edition a couple of days ago, discussing various groups' reactions to the deal that's being struck between Wyoming and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. If the measure of a good compromise is that no one likes it, then they've definitely got a winner. The Wyoming Wool Growers and Stock Growers hate the plan, but understandably, they weren't going to like any agreement that allowed for any wolves at all. On the other side of the fence, the National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are opposed to delisting and to ""wildlife apartheid," or the dual classification of wolves as predators in one region of the state and trophy game in another." Oddly enough, many of these groups appear to be based in Colorado and Montana. Their voices are heard at the federal level but it's unlikely that Wyoming's politicians and Game & Fish Department are going to pay them much mind; they don't vote here.

A second article discusses the concessions made by Wyoming and the USFWS. Thanks to our Governor sticking to his guns, the feds did most of the conceeding. Our only real concessions are allowing wolves to stay at all, and agreeing to a permanent wolf management area where wolves will be managed as trophy game animals. Even there we're not really conceeding, as Governor Fruedenthal has pretty much promised we'll revisit the management area issue after wolves are delisted. In the print edition this article also includes a bulleted list of the issues contained in the deal. Unfortunately, that's not on-line as yet, and I'm too darn lazy to type in the whole thing. We'll give 'em some time.

Meanwhile, we've got no less than four articles on predator control that illuminate the path from here forward.

State eyes 'ultimate predator': Until that management handoff takes place, management responsibility for wolves in Wyoming is expected to remain with the federal government. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services for now will continue to handle control actions for wolves that prey on livestock, and that agency expects to see a big increase in the amount of hours spent on managing wolf predation in the next few years.

The number of wolves in Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park jumped by 31 percent in 2006, going from 134 to 175. With that increase, 123 cattle were reportedly killed by wolves, more than has ever been recorded in Wyoming since wolf reintroduction. In response, 44 wolves were killed, which is also a record for that time period.

Officials said wolf predation has been increasing in areas of intense sheep operations in Lincoln, Sweetwater and Uinta counties in recent years as wolf populations grow larger.
The Department of Agriculture? What happened to the USFWS? Hmmm.. The USDA Wildlife Services are the guys who've been poisoning prairie dogs. They were aerial gunning for coyotes before aerial gunning was cool. They know how to service wildlife.

Sounds like the wolf problem is spreading too. Uinta County is in the far southwest corner of the state, with Sweetwater County bordering it to the east and Lincoln County to the north, more than a bit outside the Greater Yellowstone permanent wolf management area.

Being a federal agency, the USDA Wildlife Services won't have to wait until wolf management is handed to the state. And just because they're a federal agency doesn't mean that Wyoming can't slip them a little cash, a pretty good indication that they meet the approval of the Wool Growers and Stock Growers:
Historically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services has taken the lead in predator management in Wyoming. In 2006, Wildlife Services received $2.1 million in federal funding and $787,000 in cooperative program funding for Wyoming.

While the
[Wyoming] Legislature's two-year, $6 million appropriation to the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board for increased predator control will be spent on state programs, it will help federal efforts in Wyoming as well.


[Rod Krischke, Wildlife Services state director] said Wyoming's $6 million contribution to predator control will free up some of his agency's funding so that it can be spent on more personnel, equipment and training.


The increased funding is allowing the agency to add two new airplanes to the fleet this year and to nearly double their hours in the air, from 2,700 hours in 2006 to an anticipated 4,500 hours in 2007.

"Now the weather, not money, will be the limiting factor for aerial work," he said.
The article goes on to say that this is "not a business for the squeamish", and yet another article explains why. Aerial gunning is positively humane compared to trapping, denning (killing pups at the den), and poisoning. Along the way they do a little predator calling (I've never heard it called "critter calling". Whatever.), and they even hunt with hounds.

Wildlife Services generally responds when predators have killed livestock and, as noted above, wolves aren't immune even now, nor are they safe in the permanent wolf management area. A final article goes into detail on how the predator is identified: Different predators leave different forensic signatures on their prey. However, short of trailing the actual killers with dogs, how do they know which wolves are responsible? Well.. I suspect they won't. Practicing guilt by association, they'll just fly the area and shoot all the wolves they see, just as they do with coyotes. Traps, snares, and M44s are even less discriminating. It's the code of the west re predators: Shoot first and ask questions later. Better yet, don't ask any questions, there's things you don't want to know.

@5:56 AM

Saturday, May 26, 2007- - -  
Ten Sleep Citybillies!
Let me tell you a story about Jed and June,
they caught the tail end of the boom.
Sold their stock 'fore it all went bust,
pulled the kid from public school and opened up a trust.

City kids that is!
Snotty little bastards mostly of 'em.

Well next thing you know old Jed's a millionaire.
June says "Jed, let's move away from here!
Says Wyoming is place we ought to be,
build a big ugly mansion and enjoy the scenery!"

Hills that is!
Privatized! subdivided!

Well Jed built his mansion with a big garage,
traded off the Saab for a Hummer and a Dodge.
And ol' Jed plays golf on his redwood deck,
June ran for council 'cause the town was just a wreck.

Bunch of gun-totin' rednecks, 's what it was!
Don't these people ever mow their lawns?
And what's all them blocks all their cars are up on?
Dogs should have to wear diapers in the park!
And no minorities on the streets after dark!

Well Jed and June stayed about nine months,
winter was a mother, they'd only do it once!
They moved away and left us with a tear,
and a big ugly mansion to remind us they were here!

-- Jalan Crossland at Nowoodstock VI
Man, that's just too true. We are a bunch of gun-toting rednecks, best get used to it.

@4:55 PM

Friday, May 25, 2007- - -  
Will wonders never cease?
Today's Casper Star tells us that Gov. Freudenthal's office has submitted a draft wolf management plan to the USFWS and they say the plan "appears to be complete". Not quite the same as saying they'll accept it, but I'd be very surprised if they don't. I'm just speculating, but I'd also be very surprised if this plan differs much in any significant detail from the original plan Wyoming submitted back in 2004.

Rather, I suspect that this is a nice touch of good grace from our Governor. It lets the feds save face -- they can say they forced Wyoming to revise our unacceptable management plan -- and it lets them off the hook in controlling the burgeoning wolf population. The USFWS wanted nothing to do with the sort of radical measures that will probably be required, but I doubt they wanted to preside over the demise of the northwest Wyoming elk herds*.

Assuming for the moment that our revised plan differs little from the rejected 2004 plan (and it shouldn't, the feds had caved on almost all details in the mean time), I'm rather hoping no one will look too closely at the similarities. Best to let the USFWS go away quietly, just so long as they go away. I'm afraid that won't happen though, as our urban bunny-huggers have been threatening lawsuits to stop wolf delisting. Clearly, the wolves are here to stay and wrangling over them has only begun.

Nothing in the article about how soon we'll be able to start bringing the wolf population under control, but I'd also bet there's been an agreement on that sticking point -- There had to be a quid pro quo and the Gov has made it clear that rapid turn-over of management to the state was required for any agreement. No need to advertise that our Game & Fish is servicing the airplanes and stocking up on #4 Buck. It's my understanding that turning over wolf control to the state requires only a revision of the USFWS' internal rules, which could happen very quickly if the feds were so inclined.

The elk are calving now and reducing the predator pressure on them quickly could affect elk populations for years to come. And the wolf population could be reduced quickly, just shoot all the wolves not wearing radio collars. A trifle unsporting perhaps, but it's nice of the wolf managers to seed their furry friends with Judas goats.

*Regardless of the fact that the elk may still have been a bit overpopulated for the drought-blighted range, you can bet that any further reduction in elk populations is going to be blamed on the wolves. Also, hunting is a very big business in northwest Wyoming and with elk populations dropping many folks aren't inclined to share with wolves we didn't want.

Update: How bizarre. We shouldn't look too hard at the sausage factory that is the Casper Star. A little farther along they've published a longer version of the same article I linked above. It appears that most of my speculations are correct. All of the conditions placed on wolf delisting by the state remain in place. Meanwhile, the usual environmental suspects are lining up to whack any agreement like a big pinata. Most interesting, it appears that the USFWS actually produced the new plan and presented it to the state. No doubt they want out.

The new plan still includes private lands in the somewhat larger than desired northwest Wyoming wolf management area, but there are private in-holdings all through the Forest Service lands, and even a few in the Wilderness areas. It would be tough to create a plan that detailed these lands and distinguished them with separate management considerations. It probably is best to revisit this at a later time.

Much later: The Casper Star's lead editorial notes:
Gov. Dave Freudenthal's obstinate approach to wolf management is looking smarter all the time. Thanks to an agreement announced Thursday, resolving the state's dispute with the federal government may not take years of expensive litigation after all.
Quite a change considering that they were chastising the Gov for his stubborn ways not so long ago.

@6:56 AM

Thursday, May 24, 2007- - -  
But could you run it on beans & beer?
The InstaPundit has another bit on the "air-powered car", which would draw power from a compressed air cylinder. Sounds like a great idea from a smog-control viewpoint, but I'm not sure it would actually save any fossil fuels, as the air has to be compressed somehow and that probably means an electric compressor.

@1:57 PM

Given the InstaPundit's recent comments on the 2nd Amendment right to "keep and bear" meaning only the right to own guns and not the right to carry them, I though this bit from a very long and thoughtful analysis of the historic context of the 2nd Amendment by Robert H. Churchill, also linked by the InstaPundit, to be particularly interesting:
The Tennessee Supreme Court offered the fullest discussion of the contours of the "right to keep and bear arms" in the 1840 case Aymette v. State.89 The case concerned the constitutionality of a Tennessee statute prohibiting the carrying of concealed knives. The court began by discussing the disarming of the English population under the game laws and the quartering acts imposed by James II. The Second Amendment and the corresponding provision of the Tennessee Bill of Rights were framed, the court declared, to redress these deficiencies in English law. Having followed Tucker and Rawle's analysis of the purposes for which the right to keep and bear arms was protected in the state and federal constitutions, the court engaged in lengthy analysis of the meaning of the phrase:
As the object for which the right to keep and bear arms is secured, is of general and public nature, to be exercised by the people in a body, for their common defence, so the arms, the right to keep which is secured, are such as are usually employed in civilized warfare, and that constitute the ordinary military equipment.... The citizens have the unqualified right to keep the weapon, it being of the character before described, as being intended by this provision. But the right to bear arms is not of that unqualified character. The citizens may bear them for the common defence; but it does not follow, that they may be borne by an individual, merely to terrify the people, or for purposes of private assassination.90 73
On this basis, the court upheld the statute prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, and the case has thus been cited as a precedent favorable to gun control.91 But the court also identified within the state and federal constitutions two distinct rights: to keep arms and to bear them collectively for the common defense. The court thus provided the fullest articulation for an interpretation first offered by Scribble Scrabble and Senex half a century before. The court found within the constitutional right to keep and bear arms an individual citizen's right to own guns, grounded in an American rejection of English precedent.
Clearly, the Tennessee Supreme Court saw "bear" to mean "carry", although they had no problem with a prohibition of concealed carry. They also had no problem with a prohibition of bearing arms for the purpose of committing assault or murder which, while a bit redundant, also seems quite reasonable.

Do read Churchill's discussion if you have any interest in the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately, he focuses on the right to "keep" arms and doesn't discuss historic views on the right to "bear" arms at any length, although it's clear that he distinguishes "keep" as the right to own and "bear" as the right to carry weapons. Most interesting is the common early interpretation of the 2nd Amendment as specifying not only a right to keep and bear arms, but a duty of the citizen to do so, which derived from the militia laws that often required citizens to purchase and maintain weapons and ammunition. Oddly enough, I rather like that interpretation of the 2nd. Sure would put a different wrinkle on the "gun a month" laws, huh?

@12:51 PM

Ah! This explains the "40-acre ranchette"
It seems that a state law passed in Wyoming back in the mid-70's allows "... the subdivision of land into parcels larger than 35 acres with no county regulation ..." The article explains a few of the reasons why that law is a bit boneheaded, but doesn't touch on a big one: Folks buy these 40-acre ranchettes and then try to graze six horses on them, in a country where it takes 80-100 acres to graze one animal. In no time flat the land is grazed to bare dirt. Put a bunch of these ranchettes butt-up against each other and you can get some pretty devastated rangelands.

@6:01 AM

Wednesday, May 23, 2007- - -  
I too am writing this in a room entirely lit by CFLs and, not only is the light just fine, I can see no difference from the old incandescents (except a noticably smaller electric bill). However, I certainly agree with the InstaPundit when he says that "... people whose first instinct is to force this kind of change are people who have a serious character disorder."

@6:14 PM

If there is any justice..
Surely, surely there is a special place in hell for the inventor of Powerpoint. Never before has it been so easy for some numbskull to cram 10 minutes-worth of information into a glitzy all-morning presentation. Or not so glitzy as the case may be. It used to be that a slide presentation took extra effort. Now I'm seeing folks type the outline of their speech onto Powerpoint slides and then simply read the slides to the audience. Instead of providing graphics to enhance a presentation, Powerpoint has made it possible for complete morons to give an hours-long presentation that's near-devoid of useful information. That senior management tolerates this crap says something about the quality of senior management too..

Um, yeah, you can probably guess how I spent my day yesterday.

Update: It occurs to me that part of the problem is probably lowered expectations. We're a bunch of social sciences yahoos -- archaeologists, historians, and the like -- and most federal managers have hard sciences and business backgrounds. They don't expect much from their social sciences departments and they get what they expect. Of course, most in the audience own or manage businesses, or are geologists and engineers for energy companies. So we sit there and roll our eyes at our bureaucratic brethren. Let's just say that the energy company folks aren't much impressed that these are the people making the rules that cost them millions for compliance every year.

@5:39 AM

I should take a photo of my desk.. except you can't actually see the actual desk. Order, dragged screaming and kicking from the chaos!!

@5:31 AM

Monday, May 21, 2007- - -  
If you thought Big Brother was bad..
It seems that Big Sister is coming to Denver. Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, is spearheading the Metro Denver Health and Wellness Commission's attempts to shrink the obesity epidemic in Colorado. But David Harsanyi says "our waistlines are none of Big Brother's business".

@6:32 AM

Sunday, May 20, 2007- - -  
I read this interesting piece on the Colorado Corn Craze in yesterday's print edition of the Rocky Mountain News. Seems a lot of farmers are banking (literally!) on ethanol being the next big thing. It better be really big, because, with the exception of a few fields of winter wheat planted last fall, virtually every field around Ft. Morgan is planted in corn.

The production of ethanol for motor fuel is heavily subsidized, and this bit in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the financial rug could be pulled out from under these guys any minute.

Of course the big question here is: How could a Washington lobbiest possibly introduce himself as the representative of the National Chicken Council and keep a straight face?

Update: The InstaPundit links to this skeptical piece at the Christian Science Monitor. I found this bit particularly interesting:
President Bush has set a target of replacing 15 percent of domestic gasoline use with biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) during the next 10 years, which would require almost a fivefold increase in mandatory biofuel use, to about 35 billion gallons. With current technology, almost all of this biofuel would have to come from corn because there is no feasible alternative. However, achieving the 15 percent goal would require the entire current US corn crop, which represents a whopping 40 percent of the world's corn supply. This would do more than create mere market distortions; the irresistible pressure to divert corn from food to fuel would create unprecedented turmoil.
Of course, as the Rocky Mountain News notes, the US corn crop isn't static:
Yuma County officials estimate farmers will plant corn in 40 percent more dry-land acres and 10 percent more irrigated acres than in previous years. Those extra acres will be pried mostly from wheat and dry beans.

The trend is the same nationally, with farmers planting the most corn in the United States since World War II. Ethanol production is expected to double from the year before and jump eightfold from seven years earlier.
Growing more corn will require more water, which is in short supply in many areas of the west. Drought or blight could place the motor fuel supply in peril. As the Wall Street Journal piece notes, more land will be going under the plow, leaving less for wildlife habitat. The repercussions will be far-ranging, and all that to replace 15% of domestic gasoline with an inherently less reliable ethanol supply.

I've a feeling the price of pork chops just went way up. We hit Applejack's a couple days ago and I laid in a Big Supply of whisky just in case..

@7:30 AM

If Homer Simpson did the weather*
It would probably read something like this:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Temperatures and precipitation in the Midwest have an equal chance of being above or below normal in June, the National Weather Service said in its latest monthly forecast released on Thursday.

That pattern could linger through August for the nation's key grain growing regions, U.S. weather forecasters said.

Regions which could have a hotter-than-normal summer include the East and West Coasts and the coastal areas on the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, June precipitation on the coasts could be either above or below normal, the Weather Service forecast.

The government forecast dovetailed with recent private forecasts which predicted that temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest, both big natural gas consuming regions, were expected to vary on either side of normal for next week.
And they say you can't predict the weather!

HT: James Taranto

*Homer: Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that's remotely true!

@6:20 AM

Saturday, May 19, 2007- - -  
An odd thought..
The latest on this whole wolf reintroduction business raises an interesting question: When we have, on one hand, a duly elected state government that's debated and passed a law, and on the other hand, a bunch of unelected federal bureaucrats who've pretty much admitted that they're acting in their own political interests, who wins? I know who I think should win and I think it passing strange that a bunch of bureaucrats can dismiss state law with a wave of their hand.

@7:35 AM

Friday, May 18, 2007- - -  
Spare no expense where politics are involved!
Via the InstaPundit:
The big problem is the GOP leadership's loss of credibility on this subject [immigration] in recent years. As reader C.J. Burch emails: "Various boosters would have been better off explaining to the boostees that the fence should have come first. Would a fence have been merely a symbolic gesture? Probably, but its construction would have been a sign that Repubs weren't cynically saying one thing and doing they're doing now. Like they did on the judges. Like they did on spending. Like they did on pork. Like they did on ethics reform. Like they're doing with Iran. Like some of them are hoping to do with their support for the troops. Etc., Etc. ad infinitum. " Indeed. [emphasis added]
"Indeed"? We should cynically spend many millions of dollars on a symbolic gesture to avoid appearing cynical? How cynical is that? I know we're a rich country, but this seems a bit over the top.

@6:45 AM

Thursday, May 17, 2007- - -  
Wolves are in the news again
We're still wranglin' over wolf management and the Casper Star has three more articles in the last couple of days that make it pretty clear that there's a lot of politics and darn little science involved. First, we've got a petition from a bunch of scientists:
JACKSON (AP) -- More than 230 scientists have signed a letter opposing plans to remove wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho from Endangered Species Act protection.


The letter criticized plans for maintaining at least 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs across the three states.

"This recovery goal is not based on any biologically relevant information such as demographic or genetic data," the letter stated.


Some 1,300 wolves now roam central Idaho, northwestern Wyoming and western Montana, more than a decade after they were first reintroduced to the region.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that figure is more than four times the number of wolves needed to consider removing a species from federal protection.
So we've got a bunch of scientists saying the USFWS' wolf population target was not based on "biologically relevant information". Yes, way back when wolf reintroduction money became available, the USFWS decided to grab the cash and go ahead with reintroduction without a whole lot of study. Obviously, protection of endangered species wasn't high on their list of priorities back then.

Rather, it seems that the USFWS has been playing politics and bowing to their "East Coast constituents". Mitch King, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Denver-based Mountain-Prairie Region has said as much. So it's no surprise that our state legislators feel they get no respect. Of course, this isn't getting the USFWS anywhere:
Rep. Colin Simpson, R-Cody, said Wyoming's wolf management plan is clearly spelled out in the new state law.

"There's gamesmanship that continues to go on," Simpson said. "It looks to me, and the only way we're going to satisfy Fish and Wildlife, apparently, is to do exactly what they want. And that's not what the Wyoming Legislature chose to do."
Yep, we really don't care what the USFWS' problems might be vis their big city constituents. Their big city constituents don't have to live with the wolves.

So the stand-off continues. I'm actually starting to feel a little (very little) sorry for the USFWS schmucks. They rejected Wyoming's wolf management plan because it called for treating wolves outside the Greater Yellowstone Area as predators. But then they bowed to reality and now conceed that managing the wolves as predators, which they are, is the only realistic option. But they've painted themselves into a corner. After roundly rejecting Wyoming's plan they can't very well reverse themselves and have their big city constituents see them allowing wolves to be shot on sight.

Meanwhile, the wolf population continues to grow, and managing those wolves continues to be the feds' problem. And an expensive problem it is. Funny that the grizzly reached its population target years ago and the feds are just now getting around to considering removing them from the endangered species list, yet wolves were just reintroduced a little over a decade ago and the USFWS can't wait to wash their hands of them. It couldn't be that the grizzly has caused few problems, while the wolves are becoming a major pain in the butt, could it? Time is on our side. Gov Dave is still staring down the feds and our legislature is backing him up. All that remains is to negotiate the terms of their surrender. Because that surrender will be darn near unconditional, the feds are squirming, but I suspect they'll come around soon.

@4:33 AM

Wednesday, May 16, 2007- - -  
Anthropogenic global warming has officially jumped the shark..
Even that reliable old lefty Ed Quillen is skeptical. Better yet he concludes:
In the meantime, the things we're supposed to do to combat global warming - reduce emissions, use more renewable energy like wind and solar, improve efficiency, grow more food close to home, walk more and drive less - are all things that would make us a more prosperous, secure and healthy society.

In other words, they're things we should do anyway, whether global warming results from our emissions or variations in solar radiation. So why can't we just do them?
Why indeed?

@6:34 AM

Now this is strange..

ESTES PARK, Colo.- With 14,259-foot Longs Peak as a backdrop, members of Colorado's congressional delegation said Monday they will introduce legislation designating nearly all of Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness.


Under the bill, 249,339 acres would be classified as wilderness—about 95 percent of the park—and 1,000 acres would be also added to the existing Indian Peaks Wilderness south of the park, keeping the land free of logging, mining and vehicles.

Land in the park that's already developed, including Trail Ridge Road, the nation's highest continuous paved road—would be exempted, along with the path of a proposed bike path along Grand Lake.


Park superintendent Vaughn Baker said the designation wouldn't change much at the park because it is already largely being managed as a wilderness area. But he said it would make sure that the practice continues despite changes in administration and it would prevent any development.
A photo caption in the print edition suggests that this measure will keep Rocky Mountain National Park free of "logging and development", but unless they've changed the rules while I wasn't looking I don't think logging and mining are allowed in any National Park, and development is generally tourism related, such as the proposed bike path that's exempted from this legislation. I suspect that when those who know what they're talking about say they're keeping the land free from "logging, mining and vehicles" they're referring to the 1,000 acres being added to the Indian Peaks Wilderness south of the park, but the DenverPost implies that the park itself was in peril.

The only effect I can see this legislation having is to bind the hands of future park superintendents when they want to expand a campground or build a new interpretive center. Of course the M-I-L is convinced that this will stop that damn Bush administration from drilling for oil in the park. I don't know where she got that idea, but it's more than strange: Rocky Mountain NP is high in the -- yes -- Rocky Mountains in largely Precambrian basement rock, while oil & gas are generally found in the sedimentary deposits of the basins and plains. There might be some potential for hard-rock mining up there, but I wouldn't expect there to be a lot of interest in its oil & gas potential.

I'll have to look into this at greater length (we're going to Estes Park on Saturday, I'll be interested to quiz the locals on this), but I'm tempted to suggest that someone here is pandering to a gullible public by dragging out an all-purpose bogey man.

@5:45 AM

Tuesday, May 15, 2007- - -  
Let's not be too hasty..
The InstaPundit links to a discussion of possible geoengineering solutions to climate change. If I recall correctly, back in the '70s there was talk of spraying black carbon on the polar ice caps to fend off the coming ice age. Doesn't seem like such a good idea now and fortunately it got nixed then. As Reynolds notes, we don't know nearly enough about the earth's climate and the mechanisms that drive it to be tampering.

@7:01 AM

Is that unethical?
Seems that attorney Hank Lacey has had his law license suspended in Arizona. He admits to taking $565.99 from a foundation promoting legal ethics, of which he was a member.

@6:48 AM

Sunday, May 13, 2007- - -  
Shoulda called it the "wopper"
It seems that an Italian restaurant in Louisville is being forced to remove a menu item that they've offered ever since Michael and Emira Colacci opened the eatery in 1919. Yes, the wopburger is no more. "It was, Michael and Emira's granddaughter would insist 88 years later, "A nickname. It just meant they were Italian, proud to be Italian.""

Well, that might have been how you showed your Italian pride in Louisville, but when James Gambino, "a "transplanted East Coast Italian-American" came in and saw the menu he "really raised a stink." The stink spread from there and, being down-wind, the restaurant caught it.

They'll continue to serve their "sausage patty with melted cheese served with sauce", but will it still have the same zing as an "Italian burger"?

@8:40 AM

Saturday, May 12, 2007- - -  
He's not that kind of guy!
Awhile back I made the comment that Gov. Dave Freudenthal, behind the wheel of S1, had blown by me a couple of times on the interstate. In light of this, I should make it clear that I don't think he was speeding. Rather, my big ol' truck cruises best at about 68 mph, so just about everyone passes me.

@4:26 PM

Things that make you say @#$^%!!
A few days ago the NRA was getting beat up because they opposed a measure forbidding those on the Terror Watch List from purchasing firearms. Now we hear that the Alabama Department of Homeland Security thinks libertarians are terrorists "... because they are opposed to gun control and think the federal government is too large, oppressive, and non-constitutional." Suddenly, the NRA doesn't seem quite so off the wall.

HT: InstaPundit

@10:41 AM

On a brighter note..
Old Faithful is still working just fine. It's not as big as I remember, but then when I first saw it I was only half as tall and it seemed amazingly huge.

In this photo it's starting to wind down -- it erupts for a minute or so -- but I liked the clouds and lighting of this shot.

@10:19 AM

The mud pots are busted
One of the interpretive signs we saw last fall told us that the mud pots start out in the spring watery and slowly dry up through the summer. However, they were just as dried up yesterday as they were last fall. Pretty disappointing, but I suppose it shouldn't be surprising. Yellowstone is extremely geologically active and many of the thermal features we see today have appeared only recently (like in the last 50 years). All of the thermal features change constantly so I shouldn't be disappointed that the mud pots aren't quite what I remember from 40 years ago.

Incidentally, I didn't take this photo, I stole it from a sign at the Artist's Paint Pots. I've seen this photo many times in posters and displays around the park and it shows what the mud pots looked like in their prime.

@9:59 AM

Interesting developments on the energy front
The Department of the Interior is developing a plan which will address environmental, social, and economic impacts of commercial oil-shale development on federal lands in western Colorado, eastern Utah, and southwestern Wyoming. Currently, the governors of Colorado and Wyoming are asking for more time to study the plan and Utah may also ask for an extension.

On the one hand, it seems a bit premature to be preparing a comprehensive plan for major development when the technology for oil-shale extraction is in flux: The energy companies are experimenting with everything from strip and shaft mining to various sorts of in situ extraction techniques. The potential environmental impacts, the workforce required, and the costs of development vary wildly between these techniques.

On the other hand, energy development has a tendency to get out of hand. By the time the BLM had developed an environmental impact statement for the first 1000 coalbed methane wells in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming they'd permitted 3000 wells and they've been scrambling to catch up ever since. Any plan now, no matter how necessarily vague, is better than the best plan in the world executed years after the fact. These things generally cover a range of contingencies anyway and it might actually be better to have a plan that addresses a wide range of potential activities rather than one that addresses in detail something that didn't happen when the plans changed.

@9:09 AM

Friday, May 11, 2007- - -  
OxyContin addicting?
Jeez, who'd a thunk that a powerful painkiller might be abusable and addicting? Just wait until Rush gets done suing them!

@6:44 AM

Yea Gods!
I haven't been following the on-going saga of Platte County (Wyoming) Attorney Mary Eikenberry too closely, but it just continues to get more bizarre. Since taking office last january there had been complaints that she was dismissing too many cases. This article from March 9th says only four criminal charges had been filed since the first of the year, and 28 cases had been dismissed.

Much hubbub ensued. The county tried to hire an attorney to investigate, Ms. Eikenberry tried to block the hiring of the outside attorney. Her entire staff resigned on April 30th. Then Ms. Eikenberry tendered her resignation on May 2nd, only to withdraw her "offer to resign" two days later. Ironically, that same day she missed a hearing prompting the judge to dismiss felony charges of child abuse and domestic violence. Good job there!

Today we're told that the Platte County Commission has voted unanimously to accept Ms. Eikenberry's resignation. Elsewhere we're told that one of her former staff has been appointed by the Platte County commissioners to handle prosecutions until a new county attorney takes office. We're also told that the interim prosecutor says she quit working as a deputy to County Attorney Mary Eikenberry because of unethical behavior in the office and because she didn't think Eikenberry was competent to do the job she was elected to do. Unfortunately, she won't elaborate on those statements.

And that ain't the half of it. Truly stranger than fiction. Stay tuned, I'm sure there'll be more. For one, no one seems to have asked the state Bar Association their take on all this..

@5:51 AM

Off to Jellystone!
As I noted below in whining about 3-way CFLs, we've got to see the mud pots while they've got mud in them. The mud pots are by far our favorite thermal feature, totally bizarre, but they dry up through the course of the summer.

According to this, all the main roads in Yellowstone should be open as of today. They've also got this to say:
Road construction is perennial in Yellowstone National Park. In general, park roads have either been recently repaired or reconstructed, or are scheduled for repair or reconstruction. Approximately 80% of main park roads (about 185 mi or 295 km) are in a structurally deficient state, with poor quality road bases failing under the weight, speed, and volume of modern traffic for which they were not designed. Harsh winter weather and short construction seasons provide additional challenges.

These needs are now being addressed under a 20-year, $300 million Federal Lands Highway Program for Yellowstone National Park. In addition to the major construction addressed below, park road repair crews will be working in other areas of the park throughout this and subsequent seasons. Thank you for your patience with our road construction efforts.
Except for the stretch between Canyon and Tower Falls, which is truly wretched, I thought the roads were in fairly good shape when we toured the park last fall. They are, however, generally quite narrow with nothing resembling shoulders or an emergency lane in most areas, so they're right to say that the roads are entirely inadequate to handle upward of 3 million visitors each year.

I wonder what ever happened to the idea of closing the roads and building a monorail system?

@5:20 AM

Kermit was right..
It's not easy being green. My wife likes to sit in the livingroom to read and has a lamp with a 3-way bulb strategically placed. The old incandescent bulb burned out. Well! Time to replace it with a new compact fluorescent 3-way, right? So it was off to Ace Hardware.

Gaaarrrh! First, they had no GE soft white 3-way CFLs, only GE energy smart 3-ways. But these energy smarts are packaged with a new yellow and green cardboard insert so the packaging looks like the GE soft whites. We'd noticed this at Walmart too, where they had tons of energy smart bulbs in the new packaging but no soft whites whatsoever. What th' F***? I got burned once buying GE energy smarts in the old blue packaging and considering what these things cost I was a bit reluctant to shell out $11 for a 3-way bulb that might only see use in the basement. But, the energy smart 60W, 75W, and 100W equivalent bulbs in the new yellow and green packaging have a different product description code than the 60W, 75W, and 100W equivalent energy smarts in the old blue packaging that were so nasty. The product description on the new bulbs is also different from that on the old soft white 60W, 75W, and 100W equivalent bulbs. They're apparently a new type of bulb. Careful reading of the stats on the new bulbs suggests that they're much the same as the soft whites.

What to do? Well, I crossed my fingers and bought one of the new energy smart 3-ways, knowing the good folks at Kennedy Ace would take it back if it was truly bad. Took it home and.. it doesn't fit! AAarrrrgh! The old incandescent GE 3-way bulb was 5" high. The new CFL 3-way is 6-1/2" high. They won't fit in a standard lamp with a bracket that holds a shade. $%^#^%#$!! But out of curiosity I took the shade bracket off and screwed it in, turned it on and voila! Nice, soft, yellow light. Very similar to a soft white incandescent. And the package does say that I'll save $121 on electricity and bulbs over the life of this bulb. That's amazing, and worth a little effort to make the darn things fit.

So.. my next job is to find some way to modify the lamp's shade-holding bracket to accomodate the longer bulb. That job will have to wait until tomorrow, we're going to Yellowstone today where, in theory, they have all the roads plowed out as of today. Got to see the mud pots while they've got mud in 'em (they dry out over the summer).

Oh, and I know I can modify the lamp. If all else fails, two short pieces of 1/4" or 3/8" ID copper tubing will extend the bracket. I've got to wonder how many people will go to that much trouble though. What the heck are they thinking making these things too big to fit in a standard lamp?

I'll get back to you with some instructions for retrofitting lamps. Grr!

@3:42 AM

Thursday, May 10, 2007- - -  
My dad is incorrigible. He sends the following:
One day, a man came home and was greeted by his wife dressed in a very sexy nightie. " Tie me up, " she purred, " and you can do anything you want."

So he tied her up and went fishing.

@6:36 PM

Politics trumps science?
You don't say! Of course it cuts both ways, but gets a lot more press when the politics favor industry.

You'd hardly guess that there were politics involved in this choice piece of non-scientific claptrap on the "Red Desert". You see, the Red Desert Basin is a defined physiographic region of Wyoming. It lies at the center of the Great Divide Basin (if you look closely you can even see the town of Red Desert along Interstate 80 on the south margin of the Great Divide Basin, it extends about 30 miles north-northwest from there). Oddly enough, all the scenic places being touted in the Casper Star's Exploring Wyoming's Red Desert article: Adobe Town, the Boar's Tusk [there's only one], Atlantic Rim, the Killpecker Dunes, the White Mountain Petroglyphs, Powder Rim, the Jack Morrow Hills, the Pinnacles, Honeycomb Buttes, Flattop Mountain, the Cherokee Trail, none of them are actually in the Red Desert Basin.

The Jack Morrow Hills, Honeycomb Buttes, The Pinnacles, and Atlantic Rim are at least close. The first three are on the northwest margin of the Great Divide Basin, although the Jack Morrow Hills are generally considered to be their own physiographic region. Atlantic Rim forms the western margin of the Rawlins Uplift, the physiographic region just to the southeast of the Great Divide Basin. None of them are actually in the Red Desert Basin but, to be charitable, at least you can see the Red Desert Basin from there.

Adobe Town, Powder Rim, and the Cherokee Trail, which runs through the Powders, are all on the south margin of the Washakie Basin, clean down on the Colorado border. The White Mountain Petroglyphs are on the east side of White Mountain just north of Rock Springs, in the Green River Basin on the west side of the continental divide, and the Boar's Tusk is just northeast of White Mountain, also in the Green River Basin. Finally, Flattop Mountain is just north of Baggs, on the far southeast margin of the Washakie Basin.

Our "environmental advocates" (some would call them anti-development buffoons) have expended a great deal of time and energy trying to convince people that the Red Desert is this hallowed place unlike anything else on earth*. They don't want anything built anywhere near anything, thus, it suits their interests to redraw the boundaries of the Red Desert to take in as much real estate as possible. Unfortunately, the city kids at the Star Tribune aren't from around here and wouldn't know the Red Desert from the Grand Teton (I bet they wouldn't recognize a "golden hawk" either! (It's a Golden eagle, ya goofs!)), so they don't notice the wide loop being thrown. Judging from the gushing coverage they tend to give our "environmental advocates", it would also appear that their environmental agenda and the politics of the half-glassed Casper Star reporters are pretty much in line, so why ask any difficult questions?

*Frankly, even if you allow their ever-growing definition of the Red Desert, it's pretty much like the rest of Wyoming. Yeah, it's pretty darn scenic. I also suspect that it's only a matter of time until the "Red Desert" grows in their minds to encompass the entire state.

Update: Grr! I'd intended to post a map showing where all these places are in relation to the Red Desert Basin, but the New! Improved!! Much More Reliable!!! Google-Blogger isn't accepting images today. In fact, with the New! Improved!! Much More Reliable!!! Google-Blogger it's only taken me since 6 this morning to post this at all. Most annoying. I'll try to post an update with the map as soon as the New! Improved!! Much More Reliable!!! Google-Blogger allows. Asshats. [Sigh] And I accept no responsibility for the fact that some paragraphs of this post may be repeated and others may not appear at all. Blogger is totally stonkered at the moment.

Ps. Incidentally, "the proposed Northern Red Desert National Conservation Area" mentioned in the Red Desert article is being proposed by the "Friends of the Red Desert Coalition". Not quite the same as if it were being proposed by the land managing agency or considered in congress.. Hey! I know! I'll propose that all of Wyoming be declared a "Seriously Scenic Area"! And my dad assures me that I'm just as legitimate as the Friends of the Red Desert Coalition, even if I do look kinda like the milk man.

@6:38 AM

Wednesday, May 09, 2007- - -  
More death in the desert..
I finally picked up a book I'd bought down in Terlingua, The Devil's Highway: A True Story. The book chronicles the events surrounding the border crossing of 26 illegal immigrants through the Cabeza Prieta between Yuma and Ajo, Arizona. Only 12 survived. As it's cover notes, the book was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and deservedly so. You should read it for its literary merit.. and for its graphic description of death by dehydration and hyperthermia. (And why am I back on this topic so soon?)

I was pleased to learn that our friend Natalie Sudman features in the acknowledgements. That woman gets around. I suppose after a sojourn in Antarctica she needed some time in the desert southwest to thaw..

At any rate, a very good book and Luis Alberto Urrea manages to present all sides of the story with balance and sympathy.

@6:44 PM

Tuesday, May 08, 2007- - -  
How bizarre
It seems that The Tennessean has taken down its list of Tennessee concealed-weapon permit holders, leading the InstaPundit to applaud. Andrew Sullivan wonders why anyone would feel the need to hide the fact that they own a gun, and the InstaPundit responds with a couple of good reasons. He leaves out another darn good reason why we don't want lists of gun owners to be published: Guns are relatively valuable for their small size. They're easily stolen and easily resold. A list of gun owners could be very handy to a professional burglar. Whatever.

What prompts this post is this bit in Reynolds' response:

... I should also note that there's a difference between owning guns (the "keep and bear" business) and carrying guns, which is what the whole CCW permit thing is about. That distinction is explained at some length here.
I'd love to read his lengthy explanation, but this isn't the first time he's made this claim and I've tried to access his paper without success. Tsk. I've included his link, perhaps you'll have more success.

Now I'm not a lawyer, nor a constitutional scholar, but this seems a rather tortured definition of "keep and bear", and we carry guns all the time without any requirement for a concealed carry permit (CCW). We do this whenever we take to the field or range with rifle, shotgun, or handgun to hunt or target shoot. There's generally no requirement that a hunter have a CCW because the ol' 12 gauge can't very well be concealed, eh? Nor is there generally a requirement for a CCW to carry any other legal weapon openly.

Furthermore, I can't believe that our founders meant the 2nd amendment to insure our right to keep and bear arms at home, empty, and safely locked up. Where would the "bear" part come in there? If the founders had meant only to insure a right to own arms I think they'd have said as much. Nor can I believe that they intended that we only be allowed to carry arms with the permission of the government. In fact, I rather suspect that our founders would be appalled by CCW licensing or any other sort of government licensing of gun owners. But then I'm not a lawyer so I probably don't see all the penumbras and eminations of the term "keep and bear".

Update: Following up the InstaPundit's link to Eugene Volokh, I find Volokh's very interesting interpretation of the 2nd amendment. He makes it clear that he views the 2nd as an individual right and notes that the Bill of Rights was intended to protect the citizen's rights from government infringement. Strange then that we've come to the point where we must have a license from the government to fully exercise a right ennumerated in the Bill of Rights, no?

@8:05 PM

Hey! I thought Denver was "gun-free"!
From the DenverPost:
A man called police Monday night about a home invasion as he chased the suspect in his car, exchanging gunfire while on Interstate 70.


It is not clear if there were any injuries.
Get that guy some shootin' lessons.

@7:17 AM

I didn't know it was legal to drive a Volvo in Missouri..
Apparently, the (Thermopolis Hot Springs) Independent Record reported on May 3 of three individuals sunning themselves sans clothing on April 27.


The woman, Sarah Reid, 22, of Missouri, told deputies she didn't know it was a crime to be naked in a river in the U.S., the paper reported.

The three, when asked, all complied and put their clothes back on and piled back into their Volvo, where deputies found a small bud of marijuana, the paper reported.
Must have been from Columbia, huh? I mean, that was pretty apparent.

@6:38 AM

Monday, May 07, 2007- - -  
Drowning in a bathtub..
Today's Casper Star has a very interesting article on the Park Service's growing dependence on volunteers. As of 2006, there were about 20,056 full-time Park Service employees and 154,000 volunteers, more than seven volunteers for every full-time employee.

Feelings are mixed. With 88% of the workforce being volunteers, Kathy Kupper, a Park Service spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., acknowledges the obvious, saying “Without volunteers, these visitor programs might not be there.”

Other Park Service employees are less sanguine:

Owen Hoffman, ... calls volunteerism in the parks “a double-edged sword,” because it can be used to provide for “that extra margin of excellence,” or can be used as “merely a means to achieve a lower margin of survival.”

He warns that while volunteerism is great, “it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to make inroads to privatization and reduce the work force.” Budgets have been getting so bad that the Park Service can’t operate without volunteers, he said.

Hoffman and other observers understand that baby boomers will soon hit retirement age and swell the ranks of volunteers. What, they ask, happens as the baby boomers die off or eventually become too old and ill to volunteer?


[Volunteerism is] not necessarily a good thing, according to Randy Erwin, legislative director for the National Federation of Federal Employees. “There is no getting around the fact that volunteers take away work from paid Park Service workers, and when good government jobs leave an area, it is bad for the economy.”

Bill Willers, emeritus professor of biology at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, goes even further in his criticism of a growing dependence on volunteers. He noted the famous quote by Republican activist Grover Norquist, that government should be starved of funds until it can be "drowned in a bathtub."

“To the extent that volunteers can fill voids left by the defunding of governmental programs, the corporate and political forces wishing to drown government can use the work of volunteers to justify further shrinking of government,” Willers said.
I've remarked before on how run down many of the facilities in Yellowstone are, and it's a shame that the "crown jewel" of our National Park system isn't better maintained. We found facilities in Big Bend to be in generally better shape, but then they have a lot fewer facilities and a lot fewer visitors. So there's something to the complaint of lack of funds. Still, a good deal of the tension here seems to be between those who want to provide park visitors with a good experience, and those who appear to view the parks as primarily a source of jobs.

I can't help but recall one of my oilfield clients' observation on government employment as being 'no better than going on welfare.' In the grand scheme of things it's hard to see how more government employees, supported by our tax dollars, could improve the overall economy. Thus, I don't buy Randy Erwin's argument at all. It's tourism dollars that make or break the economies of the regions surrounding the national parks, evidenced by the fact that Park Service employees can't afford to live in the tourist towns like Jackson Hole!

I also can't help but observe that a lot of the better facilities in the parks were constructed by the WPA back in the '30s, so there's nothing new about viewing the parks as a jobs provider. If you'll pardon my snark, we've also got a lot of wolf biologists who'd probably be flippin' burgers if it weren't for a certain program in Yellowstone. Whatever.

The boomer issue runs deeper than we see in this article. I've heard that the parks are having a hard time attracting young folks to work as summer temporary employees, and I suspect that it's a part of the urbanization of our population: 'There's no shopping mall, no cell phone access, no Gap, and no Starbucks!' are the complaints I've heard from young kids coming to Wyoming to work summers for me. I suspect they have the same complaint with park employment. When I was a young boomer college student there were long waiting lists for summer jobs in the parks and it was considered incredibly cool to land a job in Yellowstone, even though you spent the summer hauling the trash for minimum wage. You worked in Yellowstone, man!

Now, a lot of those same folks are retiring and returning to work as volunteers, while seeing someone under 30 working in a park is rather unusual. In fact, seeing someone under 30 visiting the parks -- not accompanied by their grandparents -- is rather unusual. The outdoor experience doesn't seem to be valued as it was 30 years ago. And we're seeing the same phenomenon in other areas. The big Girl Scout camp southeast of Ten Sleep closed a few years back for lack of interest. [Kids nowadays! He says with a sigh.]

That isn't to say there aren't any kids in the parks. We encountered occasional groups of Boy Scouts and small groups of young backpackers and river rafters in Big Bend. They were, however, greatly outnumbered by the 50-somethings everywhere we went. Unfortunately, the only under-30 park volunteer or employee we saw was a downy-cheeked law enforcement ranger. Almost without exception all the volunteers, employees, and concessionaires fell in the 45-60 age range.

Ultimately, the success of the parks depends on the quality of the park experience. For whatever reason, the experience the parks currently provide seems most attractive to the boomer generation. They're the ones who work and volunteer in the parks, and they're the ones who visit. Unless the parks can find some way to attract the younger generations they're going to have bigger problems than an out-balanced volunteer work force and shrinking budget. Without visitors they'd as well lock the gates and go home.

Were I a park employee I'd quit griping about the volunteers and start wondering how to attract younger customers.

@6:11 AM

Sunday, May 06, 2007- - -  
While I'm at it..
Ilya Somin, blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy, gives a short review of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Children of Hurin. I just finished it and also enjoyed it, although it's certainly a dark tale.

@12:45 PM

Paging Dr. Bonkus..
In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting there's been a lot of talk about getting people like Cho off the street. Here's an interesting bit by Bernard Harcourt, guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy:
How accurate are these prediction instruments and how will they affect the profiled populations? John Monahan, a leading authority on prediction instruments, a proponent of these instruments (in fact co-author of the new COVR software), and the director of the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment project, offers a nuanced assessment. Writing in The Observer, Monahan asks: “How good are psychiatrists and psychologists at distinguishing which people with a mental illness will be violent? Research shows professionals are better than pure chance, but not much. Predicting harmful behaviour is like predicting bad weather. An inaccurate prediction doesn't necessarily mean the clinician or the meteorologist has 'missed something'; it may just mean the science of forecasting has a long way to go.”
So.. the state of the art is slightly better than the ol' magic 8-ball. This doesn't build my already shaky confidence in the ability of the mental health profession to offer a solution to mass-shootings.

Harcourt has written a series of very interesting essays and analysis on this topic. Here's his parting shot, with a list of links to his earlier writings. Very, very interesting and he provides enough links to keep you reading for a week.

@12:27 PM

Saturday, May 05, 2007- - -  
On da horns of da lemma
It seems that the NRA is urging the Bush administration to withdraw support of a bill that would prohibit those on the Terror Watch List from buying firearms. At first gasp this seems like a no-brainer; of course we don't want suspected terrorists to have guns. The coverage in the legacy media is making the NRA look very bad. On further consideration though I'm afraid I've got to agree with the NRA (lord forgive me). This is a constitutionally enumerated right that shouldn't be abridged just because someone is 'suspected' of something.

And what's with this "Terror Watch List" anyway? If a citizen is sufficiently suspect of terrorism that their constitutional rights should be abridged, how about starting with their right to liberty? Charge them, try them, and lock them up. If you don't have the evidence to charge them with any crime then I'm very uncomfortable with circumscribing their civil rights, especially those ennumerated in the Bill of Rights. If we can deny them their 2nd amendment rights, how about denying them their 4th and 5th amendment rights? Is that also okay? I've got to wonder if those who seem perfectly comfortable trusting George Bush's administration with this power would be equally comfortable handing the same power to Hillary Clinton's administration. Somehow I think not.

@10:30 PM

The InstaPundit doesn't like clamshell packaging and says it demonstrates "... that the manufacturers don't really care about their customers." Well, I don't like the stuff either, who would? But don't forget that the purpose of clamshells and blister packs is to make shoplifting and employee theft more difficult. Here's what has to say:
Inventory shrinkage, a combination of employee theft, shoplifting, vendor fraud and administrative error, cost United States retailers over $31 billion last year according to the latest National Retail Security Survey report on retail theft, which analyzed theft incidents from 118 of the largest U.S. retail chains.

According to University of Florida criminologist Richard C. Hollinger, Ph.D., who directs the National Retail Security Survey, retailers lost 1.7 percent of their total annual sales to inventory shrinkage last year. The surveyed portion of the retail economy transacts over $1.845 trillion dollars annually, making the loss worth over $31.3 billion. Total inventory shrinkage was down slightly from $32.3 billion in 2000.


Hollinger warns that it isn't just retailers who should be concerned about retail theft. Retail theft impacts everyone. Ultimately it's consumers that are hurt the most in the form of higher prices.
[emphasis added]
So yeah, all that difficult to open packaging is annoying as hell, but it makes shopping more convenient by allowing small, expensive stuff to be displayed in the open rather than in locked cases, and it saves us money when properly employed. Of course, when a 29-cent item is displayed in $1.29-worth of plastic packaging, not entirely unusual, we have a different story.

@1:43 PM

Things that make you say Hmmm..
My cousin sends a link. Seems they're marketing a new conversion kit to turn hybrids into plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs):
The applicable market in the US for standard production hybrids will be approaching 1 million through the course of this year. With almost two dozen hybrid models expected by the end of 2008, there will be 5 million standard hybrids on the road by 2010. At an initial 40 mile module installed price of $10,000 supported with a $3,500 tax credit, the payback period for a fleet owner with $3.00/gallon gas is 2.5 years, against an expected life of 10 or more years. The payback period for the average commuter driving 11,000 miles per year would be 5.5 years. These calculations place no value on the net reduction of approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide and other emissions over the life of the vehicle and take no account of the cost reductions which could accrue from additional materials research and increasing production volumes.
This according to the guy who's marketing the conversion kits. Not to be a wet blanket, but I can't help thinking that for every ton of carbon dioxide the car won't be emitting there'll be another ton generated by some coal-fired electric plant somewhere. Also, the 5.5-year payback for this conversion is probably on top of the premium the driver pays for the hybrid in the first place. Given that these hybrids don't get that much (if any!) better mileage than a similarly-sized gasser, I'm not sure these things are really economically or environmentally competitive. Especially if you have to drive the POS for ten years to break even. There's a certain environmental hair shirt snob appeal to driving around with your knees in your ears, but that's about all I can see here.

@9:31 AM

"We literally saw tumbleweeds in the streets"
And he's not kidding. We were living in Rock Springs in those days and when we left to return to college in 1987 there really were tumbleweeds blowing down Dewar Drive. I remember hitting the top of college hill on I-80 and seeing one burned out single-wide, left alone in the middle of the huge trailer court on the northeast side of town that had housed hundreds of oil workers a couple years before. The standing joke was "last one out turn off the lights!"

The oil industry is a boom and bust business and it's not pretty when an area goes bust. Read what happened in Grand Junction, a cautionary tale.

@8:08 AM

Friday, May 04, 2007- - -  
"It didn't have to happen.."
No kidding. When I first read about this a couple months ago I'd intended to comment, but we were too busy hiking in the desert. Oddly enough we didn't die. Or even suffer. But this guy did:

BOULDER, Utah -- By Day 2 in the blazing Utah desert, Dave Buschow was in bad shape.

Pale, wracked by cramps, his speech slurred, the 29-year-old New Jersey man was desperate for water and hallucinating so badly he mistook a tree for a person.
After going roughly 10 hours without a drink in the 100-degree heat, he finally dropped dead of thirst, face down in the dirt, less than 100 yards from the goal: a cave with a pool of water.

But Buschow was no solitary soul, lost and alone in the desert. He and 11 other hikers from various walks of life were being led by expert guides on a wilderness-survival adventure designed to test their physical and mental toughness.

And the guides, it turned out, were carrying emergency water on that torrid summer day.


Noting Buschow signed liability waivers, the school said: "Mr. Buschow expressly assumed the risk of serious injury or death prior to participating."

Garfield County authorities declined to file charges, saying there was insufficient evidence the school acted with criminal negligence. The prosecutor said participants knew they were taking a risk.

"Expert guides" teaching wilderness survival by having their clients hike through the 100-degree heat of a July day with no water. They may not have been criminally negligent but they were certainly criminally ignorant. Staying out of the sun and avoiding the heat of the day is rule #1 for desert survival.

Also, I am not a lawyer, but I've got to wonder if that liability waiver isn't something like a "Beware of Dog" sign, a tacit admission that the school was endangering its students. Coupled with the practice of hiking in the middle of the day with no water, I've got to think that the family has serious cause for a lawsuit, and shutting these idiots down would be a public service.

@10:50 AM

Another flawed poll..
The InstaPundit has a poll up this morning, asking "Did last night's debate change your assessment of the Republicans' chances in 2008?" The choices are 'better than I thought', 'worse than I thought', or 'no change in my opinion'. Unfortunately, 'I don't waste my time watching this idiots a year-and-a-half before the election' wasn't an option.

Interestingly, 13% of Californians watched the debate according to this Survey USA poll. I find it surprising that the number is that high. But then I suspect I'm going to get very tired of politics before the next election, so I'm not going out of my way to get an extra dose. Given the rank goofiness in Washington over the last few years I'm about ready to wish a pox on all their houses, and on the media that cover Washington and politics in general.

At this rate, I predict that in another ten years we'll have people running for the 2020 elections before we've had the 2018 elections. Idjits will be running for re-election before they've been elected. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the skill set required to win an election and the skills required to govern aren't remotely the same.

@7:01 AM

Wednesday, May 02, 2007- - -  
It's far, far, far, far, far more sinister than they think..
The InstaPundit links to the very, very, very, very, very scary Truther take on the recent Oakland Freeway fire.

But they're missing the most damning evidence of this elaborate plot: Could there have been a practice run? On March 27th, almost exactly one month before, another fiery crash destroyed an interstate overpass!! The 3/27 crash was on I-80. The 4/29 crash was on I-80. COINCIDENCE? There were no Jews on the Oakland overpass. There were no Jews on the Lyman overpass. In fact, there were no Jews in the entire State of Wyoming on 3/27!! I ask again, could this be a MERE COINCIDENCE? Were these SIMPLY ACCIDENTS?? Or an evil plot against INTERSTATE COMMERCE!!

Google it people!!! You be the judge!!!!

And stay tuned, I'm sure Rosie will have more on this very, very soon!

@8:09 AM

Tuesday, May 01, 2007- - -  
I blame Marvin
Mars is being hit by rapid climate change and it is happening so fast that the red planet could lose its southern ice cap, writes Jonathan Leake.

Scientists from Nasa say that Mars has warmed by about 0.5C since the 1970s. This is similar to the warming experienced on Earth over approximately the same period.

Since there is no known life on Mars it suggests rapid changes in planetary climates could be natural phenomena.
"Could be" a natural phenomenon? What on earth.. err, Mars, could it be if not natural? And how inconvenient that Mars is warming about the same amount at the same time as Earth.

(The InstaPundit blames Halliburton, but I'm pretty sure he's joking too.)

@7:41 AM

Excellent book!
The InstaPundit links a review of Snow Treasure, one of my favorite books as a kid.

@7:31 AM

The thrill is gone, Baby!
PINEDALE -- Rep. Monte Olsen, R-Daniel, was in the intensive care unit of an Idaho Falls hospital Monday after he was struck by a vehicle in what investigators called a "domestic situation."

Arrested and charged in connection with the Saturday incident was his wife, Lisa Glenn, 37, a Pinedale optometrist, according to court documents filed Monday.


According to an affidavit filed by Sublette County Sheriff's Deputy Nathen Gorternaker, Olsen was trapped under a Suburban at his Daniel residence when officers arrived there Saturday night. The Suburban was owned and driven by Glenn.


Olsen was taken by air ambulance to the Idaho Falls hospital. Glenn was placed under arrest.

On Monday, she appeared in Sublette County Circuit Court, charged with a misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment. She was released on a signature bond.
What? No parking ticket?

@7:10 AM

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