Marching till one falls off the edge of the earth

One of the many March for Science scenes. (AP pix)

March for Science? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

You can march for peace, march for a candidate or march for the exercise, but marching for science is like marching for gravity. Science is. Science is a systematic study of stuff. Marching doesn’t change anything, doesn’t accomplish anything.

And it was just a bit ironic when the AP story on the various marches for science quoted an Earth Day founder as saying the event in Washington was “magical.”

It was also a bit odd that the headline on the story and a cutline used the phrase “march for science,” but the story never did.

Maybe the label was just shortened, because the real purpose seemed to the summed up by one self-identified “scientist,” who was quoted as saying:

“Most people don’t know how much funding for the sciences supports them in their lives every day. Every medical breakthrough, their food, clothing, our cellphones, our computers, all that is science-based. … So if we stop funding scientific discoveries now, in 10 years, whatever we might have had won’t be; we just won’t have it.”

So, it was really a march for science handouts from taxpayers. Never mind that vast majority of scientific breakthroughs throughout history were privately funded.

For a change, President Trump’s comment on the occasion actually made sense. His statement said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

Settled science. Now there’s another oxymoron.

 

 

 

Wild horse lawsuit dismissal outcome is in the eye of the beholder

The lede on the AP story about the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting a lawsuit intended to force the federal agencies in Nevada to actually to do their jobs and reduce the wild horse overpopulation reads:

“Wild horse advocates in Nevada scored a victory Monday in an ongoing legal battle with rural interests they say want to round up federally protected mustangs across the West and sell them for slaughter.”

The lede could just as easily have reported that Nevada ranchers had the value of their grazing rights unconstitutionally taken due to a hair-splitting technicality, a sort of Catch-22. The suit from the Nevada Association of Counties, the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation and others asked the courts to requiring federal agencies to follow the wild horse and burro law, because its failure to do so is starving the very wild horses the law was intended to protect, as well as damaging range land used for grazing and taking private water rights. (9th Circuit wild horse opinion)

Just as a Nevada federal judge had ruled, the 9th Circuit said the plaintiffs failed to cite a “final action” by the land agencies that could be challenged:

The district court did not err in dismissing NACO’s APA (Administrative Procedure Act) claims. Federal courts lack jurisdiction over an APA claim that “does not challenge final agency action.” … Here, NACO has failed to identify a specific final agency action … or discrete action unlawfully withheld … that allegedly harmed it. Instead, NACO seeks judicial oversight and direction of virtually the entire federal wild horse and burro management program … in Nevada. This sort of programmatic challenge is foreclosed under the APA.

That is because there is never a “final agency action.” Everything is fluid, flexible, changeable, appealable. What the Bureau of Land Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service do is deny and delay.

It is not entirely the land agencies fault. They are aided and abetted by Congress.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which NACO and others say is being ignored, specially says, “The Secretary (of Interior) shall cause additional excess wild free roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”

But the federal budget every year since 2009, has stated, “Appropriations herein made shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”

The BLM itself reported in September that the population population of free ranging wild horses and burros was 67,000, even thought the range could sustain a population of no more than 26,700 animals, which means that there insufficient grazing for the horses as well as cattle and sheep.

The AP story quoted two different horse-bugging groups but could not find any ranches to quote.

Nick Lawton, a lawyer for one of the horse lovers was quoted as saying, “We’re pleased that the courts continue to dismiss attempts by these grazing interests to use the judicial system to rewrite federal law that Congress designed to protect wild horses from capture, not to favor the livestock industry.”

The original lawsuit pointed out, “Free-roaming horse and burro herds in Nevada are frequently observed to be in malnourished condition, with the ribs and skeletal features of individual animals woefully on view and other signs of ill-health readily observable.”

Now, who is being humane?

Stallions fighting (Getty Images file photo)

 

 

 

For lack of a copyeditor a bear was killed

This AP story is all over the internet today:

“LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada man is expected to return to court in Las Vegas next week in a grizzly 2011 murder case after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that his earlier guilty plea was illegal.”

A murder can be grisly or horrifying, but a grizzly is a type of brown bear.

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone. (NatGeo pix)

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone. (NatGeo pix)

 

Judge again slaps down PERS for trying to hide retirement records from the public

A Carson City judge has slapped down the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System for refusing to release the names and pensions of 57,000 public retirees under the state public records law, according to The AP.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute sued PERS back in July for again refusing to release those records. The Reno newspaper successfully sued for those records in 2013.

District Judge James Wilson ruled Tuesday that the PERS claim that making these names public would subject the retirees to cybercrime was “hypothetical and speculative.”

After the 2013 ruling, PERS altered the way it kept records, claiming it only had records filed by using Social Security numbers, which are “non-disclosable” by law.

”By replacing names with ‘non-disclosable’ social security numbers in its actuarial record-keeping documents, PERS has attempted to circumvent the 2013 ruling of the Nevada Supreme Court requiring disclosure,” explained Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation at the time of the suit.

In 2015 NPRI requested retirement records to include on its TransparentNevada.com website — a free resource for public-sector administrators and taxpayers interested in learning about the cost of public sector compensation.

The lawsuit itself argued the information was clearly subject to the public records law, which was intended to “foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books and records.”
Additionally, the suit noted that in 2015 state Supreme Court ruled: “When an agency has a computer program that can readily compile the requested information, the agency is not excused from its duty to produce and disclose that information.

“Despite having the clear ability to provide the public with useful and complete records, PERS has deliberately subverted transparency by altering its record keeping, and refusing repeated requests for full disclosure,” NPRI and CJCL noted at the time.

Obama making secret deals with Iran

Obama’s secret dealings with the terrorist state of Iran keep leaking out.

Now we learn that — what a coincidence! — the first $400 million, supposedly of a $1.7 billion settlement that dates to 1979, was secretly airlifted in the form of cash on wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies at precisely the same time in mid-January when four Americans were released by Iran, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Obama announced the release of the prisoners without any mention of the secret cash shipment.

“Iranian press reports have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment,” WSJ relates.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian after being released by Iran following a secret $400 million cash airlift. (Reuters photo via WSJ)

The U.S. has a longstanding policy against paying ransom for the release of hostages/prisoners, lest it encourage the taking of more hostages. Since January the Iranians have arrested two more Iranian-Americans as well as several others with dual European citizenships.

Two years ago the family of a murdered American journalist was threatened with arrest if they had tried to pay ransom for his release. They said a military officer working for Obama’s National Security Council warned they could be charged with supporting terrorism if they paid a ransom to his Islamist captors.

 

Just a couple of weeks ago The Associated Press reported that a secret codicil to the Iranian nuclear deal will let the imams start building nukes years earlier than previously reported.

 

“The confidential document is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public, although U.S. officials say members of Congress who expressed interest were briefed on its substance,” AP reported. “It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.”

Of the latest secret deal, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton accused Obama of paying “a $1.7 billion ransom to the ayatollahs for U.S. hostages. … This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures” of Americans.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford added, “President Obama’s … payment to Iran in January, which we now know will fund Iran’s military expansion, is an appalling example of executive branch governance. … Subsidizing Iran’s military is perhaps the worst use of taxpayer dollars ever by an American president.”

Congress is working on legislation to prevent the Obama administration from making further cash payments to Iran.

The story did not warrant mention in today’s Las Vegas newspaper.

OK, before the defenders of Obama start coming to his defense with the excuse that others did it, too. Yes, Reagan did it, too.

 

Environmental group protest dirt road race route across corner of monument

This is why they are called spoilsports.

A group calling itself Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is raising a ruckus over plans by the Bureau of Land Management to route a short portion of a dirt road race from Las Vegas to Reno through a short span of the newly minted 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument.

Photo by Mark Kariya

The race, called the General Tire Las Vegas to Reno race, is said to be the longest off-highway race in the country, about 640 miles, and usually has about 300 motorcycles, trucks, dune buggies and assorted all-terrain vehicles competing each year. It has been run annually for 20 years by the Best in the Desert Racing Association. It starts near Alamo, has an overnight stop in Tonopah and ends near Dayton,

“BLM’s race plan makes a mockery out of President Obama’s monument declaration,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. “BLM is playing fast and loose with its legal obligations in order to let hundreds of vehicles roar through fragile desert before the monument’s protections can be solidified.”

A complaint sent to the White House and the Secretary of the Interior by PEER accused the BLM of flouting the presidential monument proclamation directive that “motorized vehicle use in the monument shall be permitted only on roads existing as of the date of this proclamation.”

The Las Vegas newspaper carried an Associated Press account of the objection today, but added that it contacted Basin and Range National Monument manager Alicia Styles, who told the paper the proposed route for the race crosses about 40 miles of the monument, all of it on existing dirt roads.

According to the Federal Register, “Except for emergency or authorized administrative purposes, motorized vehicle use in the monument shall be permitted only on roads existing as of the date of this proclamation.”

So what’s the beef?

Also, PEER nor any other self-styled environmentalists so far as we’ve heard have raised objections to the paragraph that precedes that statement about existing roads:

“Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to limit the authority of the Secretary, under applicable law other than this proclamation, to undertake or authorize activities on public land in the vicinity of the sculpture City for the purpose of preventing harm to the artwork, including activities to improve drainage and to prevent erosion, consistent with the care and management of the objects identified above. The management plan for the monument shall provide for reasonable use of existing roads within the monument to facilitate public access to City.”

Art is good? Sport is bad?

City is just a lot of bulldozed dirt that is supposed to look like ancient ruins, we’re told. Construction has been going on for more than 40 years inside what is now a national monument. But that is not damaging to the pristine desert, while driving a few bikes and trucks over an existing road one day a year is devastating.

City — art in the desert?

 

In iPhone/GPS era, FAA still flying by passing out slips of paper

Here is still another example of a bureaucracy mired in incompetence.

The Wall Street Journal reports in an editorial today that the Federal Aviation Administration runs an air-traffic control system with the best technology World War II could offer, while its efforts to upgrade are overbudget and overdue. The FAA is expected to miss its 2025 completion date by a decade.

The Associated Press recently reported that new air control towers at McCarran International in Las Vegas and San Francisco International can’t open and will have to be remodeled because they are built for new technology that keeps crashing. Work spaces will have to be expanded so controllers can handle slips of paper for tracking flights.

Both the AP account and the WSJ editorial report that a bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, would take air traffic control operations away from the FAA and hand it to a nonprofit company run by the aviation industry.

WSJ says it works in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and a Government Accountability Office report found safety either improved or remained unchanged.

Sounds like a better alternative.

New McCarran tower in the foreground and old tower to the left. (R-J photo)