CAN THE NPS SABOTAGE A TRUMP PRESIDENCY?Normally, an attempt on the part of a government agency to deliberately sabotage a presidency would border on sedition or treason.
However, these are not normal times, and a Trump Presidency would not be a normal presidency. For example, it will be the patriotic duty of every Department of Interior bureaucrat to block Republican plans to "Convey certain federal lands" to the various states as promised in the Republican Party Platform.
Fortunately, stopping this land piracy this will not be difficult.
The reason is that unlike his friend, Vladimir Putin, President Trump will not have the medieval power of life and death over his citizens. We still have the rule of law.
We realize it will be frustrating to President Trump, but there are limits to the President's writ.
Mr. Trump is fond of stating that the "First order of business on Day One" of his administration will be to do some ignorant, cruel, brutal thing. (You may choose from a long list.) Mr. Trump apparently believes that his ukase will be implemented as fast as he can speak. Not so.
Former President Harry Truman, upon the accession of former general Dwight D, Eisenhower to the presidency, remarked "Poor Ike! He will give an order and expect immediate action. He doesn't know how the Federal Civil Service works."
Fortunately, Ike was a quick learner and a decent chap and soon learned how to work with the bureaucracy. Trump, on the other hand, is an ignorant thug who will irritate and antagonize the federal Civil Service.
Let us take a hypothetical situation.
Eric Trump, Donald's son and noted African Big Game hunter, has expressed an interest in becoming Secretary of the Interior. He is eminently unqualified (but so was Albert B. Fall, and look how well he worked out!)
Realizing that on the ground experience will be needed in managing the fractious agencies of the Department of Interior, Eric will nominate Cleven Bundy as Director of The Bureau of Land Management and Chuck "Rent a Riot" Cushman as Director of the National Park Service.
Now Eric's advisors will point out that Mr. Bundy may have previous commitments in that he is likely to be convicted of federal crimes that will occupy his time for more than President Trump's term of office.
"Not to worry," says Eric. "My father has the power to pardon him."
Eric is correct. One of the very few powers that the President shares with dictators is the power to commute prison sentences.
Although President Trump commutes the sentences of Bundy and his poisonous brood, it is all for naught. The Senate refuses to confirm Mr. Bundy.
No problem. The West is full of lunatics. Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) graciously accepts the nomination for Director of the BLM and Chuck "Rent a Riot" Cushman is appointed Director of the National Park Service
Chuck Cushman can be counted upon to eagerly accept the Directorship of the National Park Service, with the goal of "Taking Care of What We Have" by selling off under visited parks and putting the park concessioners in charge of most park functions and appointing a board of park in holders to oversee the rest.
Chuck might helpfully point out to President Trump that the pesky Antiquities Act of 1906 is a double edged sword: that while a president can create a national monument with the stroke of a pen, a subsequent president can also remove a national monument with the stroke of a pen. That presumably would include not only the controversial new national monument in Maine, but also ALL national monuments, including the very first one, Devil's Tower
So, is the environment doomed?
Not at all. There will be relatively little change.
First of all, there is bureaucratic inertia. It takes time for a government agency to move, even when the goal is commendable: Consider if the National Park Service was tasked with implementing something desirable; say, the Second Coming of Christ. There would be multiple Environmental Impact Statements, Finding of No Significant Impact, Safety Evaluations, etc. Even Jesus might become impatient.
Now that's normal bureaucratic inertia. Consider what the would happen if the Civil Servants actively disliked, indeed, loathed, the new administration. There would be active pushback and sabotage of the administration's initiatives. Nothing that could be proven as insubordination, mind you, but nothing would get done.
For an idea on how this would work, you might consult the British television program, "YES, MINISTER! A BBC comedy describing the plight of a hapless politician thwarted at every turn by an oleaginous civil servant.
But couldn't Donald and Eric simply fire defiant civil servants? Not as easily done as on Trump's television show. For better or for worse, Congress had made it rather difficult to fire a permanent federal employee; Donald and Eric are going to have to show probable cause, indeed quite a bit of it. The federal government will be tangled up in lawsuits far more numerous than pythons in the Everglades.
Indeed, it will be difficult to get a divorce during the Trump presidency.
"Why?" you ask incredulously.
Because most of America's lawyers will be occupied gleefully filing lawsuits against Trump, and his appointees, often on contingency or pro bono basis, on every destructive action or inaction the Trump administration proposes to take.
Considering Trump's civil track record, many of his proposals will be either criminal, immoral or both. Civil servants will be duty bound to point this out to the Trump appointees in their agencies. (Naturally, they will also be duty bound to leak every bit of nefarian Trump activity to the ravening media.)
Finally, they will be duty bound not to obey, using Bartleby The Scrivener's famous response "I prefer not to."
Of course, there will be a small number of opportunists who believe Trump is the best thing since E cigarettes. These folks will remind you of Vitkun Quisling, the Norwegian turncoat whose last name became a noun for traitor during the Second World War. History buffs may recall that Quisling and his French counterpart, Pierre Laval, were tried and shot after the war.
You have the duty to remind such Quislings that (A) The Trump regime will not last forever and (B) The excuse of "I was only obeying orders" proved to be no excuse at all. (One can envision NPS photo ops with President Trump in which the reluctant park people are holding their smokey bear hats in front of their faces.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our new BLM director, Rob Bishop, may find unexpected pushback from the BLM's ranchers who recall the board game MONOPOLY, that sometimes, it is better to rent than to own, especially when you have a genial, forgiving landlord like Uncle Sam, who charges grazing fees far lower than the private land meanies.
So, do not despair. In addition to the law, the courts, and the media, the NPS will have a very big ace in the hole (or if you prefer, an 800 pound gorilla.) That would be the American people.
Not to get squishily sentimental, but the Americans really do love their parks, and by extension, the National Park Service. It would be very bad joss to seriously mess with the agency on or about its 100th anniversary. Even Trump understands this.
Then again, it might be best to avoid all this potential trouble by simply not electing Donald Trump.
While working at Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve I had a ringside seat at Louisiana Politics.
Edwin Edwards, former governor of Louisiana, who had just been released from prison for malfeasance, was running for governor against David Duke, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Naturally, this confrontation between evil and evil spawned a number of clever bumper stickers.
My favorite was:
VOTE FOR THE CROOK, NOT THE WIZARD.
You could update this slogan to:
VOTE FOR THE LIAR, NOT THE LUNATIC
MAGICAL THINKING AT GRAND CANYON"Magical Thinking" can be defined as "wishful thinking that can make a problem go away."
You see, Grand Canyon National Park has an interesting problem that some believe require Magical Thinking.
Tucked away in a remote valley in the remote North Rim area of Grand Canyon is a band of around 800 hairy ungulates. No one seems to know for sure exactly what they are.
Not so fast, Kimosabe. The big brown ungulates may LOOK like Bison or "Buffalo", but appearances can be deceiving. It seems that around the turn of the 20th century an enterprising cattleman, Charles "Buffalo" Jones obtained some Bison from various sources. And bred them with cattle, probably the Scottish Galloway breed, in the fond hope of producing an ungulate that had the tasty beef characteristics of domestic cattle, AND the Bison's ability to forage without additional feeding, fend off predators, and generally take care of its self with little cost to its owner.
The resulting wonders creature would be called a "Beefalo."
At that time, The US Department of Agriculture encouraged these free wheeling experiments with Nature. (KUDZU! The Asian wonder plant! Grows anywhere! Stops erosion! Requires little or no care or fertilizer! Leaves make good livestock feed! Root provides endless human food, as it can't be killed! Plant it now!)
For a variety of reasons, the Beefalo scheme did not quite pan out and Mr. Jones walked away from the project. He did not have either the time or the inclination to round up all the resulting Bison hybrids.
Now all this happened before the establishment of Grand Canyon National Monument or Grand Canyon National Park. The land was "open range" and anybody could do anything on it or to it. The idea of rare and endangered plants or ecosystems was an idea far in the future.
The now feral herd of beefalo grew slowly. Their numbers being kept down by hunting (not the most challenging sport, sort of like shooting dairy cattle, but, hey! there's 800 pounds of meat for the taking!)
Over the years, the beefalo came to realize that there was a place where they would not be hunted; that would be the newly established Grand Canyon National Park, so they very sensibly moved there.
As the plant life on the North Rim of Grand Canyon had not evolved in company with large hooved ungulates, the flora started to take a beating.
Now the Department of Interior and the NPS has always had a problem with exotic animals, particularly if they are cute and/or charismatic. (Obviously there are exceptions: Virtually NOBODY identifies with the Burmese Pythons of Everglades National Park: The idea of having little Jennifer snatched off the boardwalk and strangled by one of these creatures is too creepy to contemplate!)
"Misty "and "Brighty" however are exotics of an entirely different color.
"Misty" is the fictional personification of one of the feral pony's that inhabit the barrier island of Assateague National Seashore (NPS) and Chincoteague National Wildlife Preserve (US Fish & Wildlife).
Together, the two federal agencies manage these two herds of exotic animals (and rather cleverly, it must be said)
To the best of my knowledge, Assateague National Seashore is the only NPS site where feral exotics are the main attraction of the park.
Then, of course, there was "Brighty" of Grand Canyon, yet another obnoxious exotic immortalized by the same Marguerite Higgins who gave us "Misty".
"Brighty" represents the feral burros whose ancestors were used by pre-park mineral prospectors to transport food and equipment. Eventually, it dawned on even the most optimistic prospectors that there must an easier way to make a living than pounding rocks in Grand Canyon. However, a bond had formed between man and beast and most prospectors were loath to shoot their four footed companions and simply released them into the Grand Canyon Wilderness. Nature then took over.
These two children's books, "Misty" and " Brighty", made it difficult to manage these two exotics. (In addition, fundamentalist Christians noted that there is a hair growth pattern on the backs of burros that happens to be in the shape of a cross; a souvenir from the first Palm Sunday when Jesus rode his rent-a- burro into Jerusalem.)
Pony overpopulation on Asseategue was solved by the timely perfection of a dart administered birth control serum which means the equine population can now be managed within the carrying capacity of the park and the delight of little girls of all ages.
"Brighty" & friends was a more difficult nut to crack. The obvious and cheapest method of burro control would be rifle fire. However, due to the aforementioned public relations problem, the "obvious and cheapest" solution was out of the question.
The burro problem was solved, not by the NPS, but that National Park Deus ex Machina, the eccentric millionaire, who appears from time to time to save the Park Service's bacon; examples being Stephen Mather, Horace Albright, and the Rockefeller family in general.
The eccentric millionaire in the case of the Grand Canyon burros was a Boston blue blood by the name of Cleveland Amory. Mr. Amory read the children's horse novel, BLACK BEAUTY at an early age, and never recovered.
He became a life long foe of cruelty to animals and once remarked "What this world needs is another kind of army-the Army of the Kind." He also put his money where his mouth was.
When the NPS announced they planned to shoot the Grand Canyon burros at an estimated cost of $57,000, Amory asked permission to round up the burros and take them to his Black Beauty Ranch, an animal sanctuary in Texas.
Some very smart people, including the Governor of Arizona, Bruce Babbitt, scoffed at this sentimental idea. The NPS pointed out that the Grand Canyon possessed some of the most difficult terrain in North America, and besides, the Park Service had tried rounding up the burros and failed miserably.
Amory persisted and a reluctant Park Service granted him a permit to remove as many burros as he could catch and set back to watch the Eastern dilettante waste his money and make a fool of himself.
Amory proceeded with a clever plan that involved the very new and very old.
Now from the standpoint of a burro, a helicopter looks like the biggest horse fly that God ever invented. It was a burro's buzzing, flapping nightmare, and the burros would run desperately in the opposite direction.
To where? That would be a relatively flat, spacious area where world champion ropers Dave Erickson and Jerry Owens awaited to ply their ancient trade. Once the burro's legs were tied, they were loaded into slings beneath another helicopter and airlifted to the Canyon rim to waiting trucks that would transport them to Black Beauty Ranch.
All in all, around 580 burros were rescued. An awed Bruce Babbitt said, "I was a skeptic, but it was a splendid job!"
It also cost Cleveland Amory $500,000, mainly for helicopter time. The burro rescue also provided some scientific evidence that should (but won't) give pause to "wild" horse and burro enthusiasts who cheerfully want to hammer the public range into near desert status. It seems that burros in captivity (that is, getting fed on a regular basis) live to around 45 years of age. Of the 580 burros rescued, less than 20 were over 6 years of age, which might mean that the wonderful "free" life on the range might not be so wonderful after all.
Now of course Amory didn't get all the burros, but he reduced the numbers down to a public relation's level where a ranger on "routine" patrol could blast the occasional burro without telling the NEW YORK TIMES. The Superintendent could, if asked, tell an inquiring reporter, that "Yes, an occasional exotic burro is "culled", but ONLY to provide food for the critically endangered native California Condor, which the NPS is trying to reintroduce to the Grand Canyon." (The only group more vociferous and numerous than the "wild" burro crowd are America's bird watchers who can be reliably counted upon to come down on the side of the Condors.)
Now that the burros are being successfully managed, this leaves only the Grand Canyon Beefalo exotics to be dealt with.
So far, Grand Canyon has decided to punt. That is, engage in a bit of Magical Thinking; that the Beefalo are not really exotics as they were in residence before the park was established.
That is a hair splitting argument. One can look to the example of the "Clevin Bundy Memorial cattle herd" now grazing in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Rest assured, that herd will not become a part of the Lake Mead NRA ecology even if Bundy wins his court case.
The Beefalo are quite simply "strayed domestic livestock" and should be treated as such (Word to the wise: Never, ever call feral livestock "wild" or allow a media reporter to do so without correction. If you allow people to call strayed horses "wild" you will unleash a torrent of sentimental nonsense and romantic legend (The Assasteague ponies are supposed to be the survivors of a Spanish treasure ship) that will make managing these creatures difficult in the extreme.
In the case of Grand Canyon National Park, it might be best to follow Arizona rules for strayed livestock: Trap and pen the animals, place notices in the local newspapers, track down the living descendants of Buffalo Jones, the original owner, and politely tell them to come and get their livestock.
After due diligence on the part of the Park Service and no one stepping forward with a legitimate claim to the Beefalos, the government could proceed with an auction of the Beefalos as surplus government property.
Then is the NPS off the hook with the Beefalos removed and the landscape returned to natural biological succession?
You see, Beefalos are an historic American breed of cattle and the Grand Canyon Herd is the original herd of Buffalo Jones' experiment in cattle breeding (There were other strains, but this is the original herd, kept pure by isolation.) Therefore, the NPS is charged with maintaining a historic breed. Examples would be Devon cattle at George Washington Birthplace NHS, and Longhorns at Chickasaw NRA and Grant-Kohrs NHS.
Exactly how many Beefalo would have to be retained by the NPS (but not at Grand Canyon) in order to maintain herd integrity would best be left to the experts.
With a small pure breeding herd selected, elements of that Beefalo heard could be shipped off to Grant-Kohrs, Chickasaw, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park?
Don't see why not, neighbors.
Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the creation of yet another of the NPS's eccentric millionaires, Congressman John Seiberling (D-OH), heir to a tire fortune, formidable foe of the Viet Nam War, and champion of wilderness in Alaska and all sorts of liberal ideas. He came up with the very original idea of Cuyahoga National Recreation Area outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
Among other things, the Congressman wanted to preserve the farming life style in Ohio as well as provide recreation to the people of the Greater Cleveland Area.
I was surprised to find that farming was not only tolerated but also actively encouraged, so your kindly editor called up the retired congressman and inquired as to what was going on.
The Congressman did not suffer fools gladly.
"Are you dumb or lazy"? He inquired.
Now that's a difficult choice to make, neighbors.
"Have you read Cuyahoga's enabling legislation?
I had to admit I had not.
"Then I suggest that you do so." He said tartly.
In the absence of my doing my homework, I inquired if the NRA would be doing some sort of "traditional or "living history" type of farming with horse drawn equipment, heirloom crops, etc.
"You can't make any money with that", he growled. What he (and subsequent NPS managers) envisioned was state of the art, niche type agriculture that took advantage of Cuyahoga's proximity to the Greater Cleveland market. The prospective farmer would come up with an idea, say an organic vineyard and winery, a board would vote on the feasibility and if approved, the NPS would lease him/her the farmland. A most original idea.
Now neighbors, as we speak, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has two tracts of farmland up for lease. They might be just the place for a Beefalo ranching project.
TIME FOR MORE WYOMING NATIONAL MONUMENTSOne of the many problems with environmentalists is they are always defending something; they never seem to go on the offensive. The problem with environmental defense is that the bad guys have to only win once, whereas the good guys have to fight one defensive battle after another.
It is now time to ruffle reactionary feathers and carve a few new national monuments out of public lands in the state of Wyoming.
Well, why not?
Using the fabled Antiquities Act of 1906, President Obama could establish any number of national monuments, as Wyoming does not lack for scenic beauty and/or scientific interest.
So, why not.
Well, for one thing, it would presently be illegal.
You see, in order to get the enabling legislation for Grand Teton passed, it was necessary for environmentalist to make a reluctant devil's bargain with the state of Wyoming allowing Wyoming to "opt out" of the provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906, thus preventing Harry Truman or any future president from setting aside public land for national monuments in the state of Wyoming.
Now the premier NPS historian and former Keeper of the National Register, The honorable Jerry Rogers, has some doubts about the constitutionality of this "opting out" provision in the Grand Teton enabling legislation.
So do I.
It may be necessary to test the constitutionality of this provision before the Supreme Court in which the next president would establish an "illegal" national monument in Wyoming and wait for a Supreme Court determination.
First of all, we are going to have to get some candidates for national monument status in Wyoming. This should not be difficult as pubic lands beauty and scientific interest abounds in the state.
This is where you come in.
Nominate your favorite candidate for national monument status in Wyoming.
You might prefer to carve out a piece of the Red Desert for preservation, or a favored geoform in the Big Horn Range, or part of the Wind River Range, or maybe the Sunlight Basin.
"THEM AS HAS, GITS."Now neighbors there is a lot of truth in the above cynical folk saying: If you start with a large inheritance, such as Donald Trump's, chances are that your good fortune will increase.
How so? Let us discuss real estate, namely Bureau of Land Management (BLM) real estate.
Recently, Senators McCain and Flake (R-AZ) introduced legislation called "The Mohave County Federal Land Management Act" that would allow the BLM, "in consultation with Mohave County, Arizona, to select 6,000 acres of land that has already been identified as suitable to leave federal ownership, to be sold through a public process at fair market prices."
Now neighbors, Mohave County, Arizona is an acquired taste. It contains some of the most forbidding, desolate landscape in the United States. Its stark scenery, its "nothingness" is not for everyone.
70% of Mohave County is federally owned, including chunks of Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The rest of the public land in Mohave County is owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
As you are aware, (and most Americans are not) the BLM is the largest public landowner in the US; larger than the National Park Service, larger than the Forest Service. Quiet and diffident almost to a fault, the BLM goes about its business as low key as possible; trying not to irritate its clientele of cantankerous ranchers, mineral extractors and lunatic Republican Congressmen. The BLM has never had publicity prone directors on the order of the Park Services Stephen Mather, Horace Albright or George Hartzog and apparently does not want one.
By default, the BLM has acquired a number of national monuments, which in the bad old days of liberal government, would have fallen into the dread, evil hands of the National Park Service. (You are excused if you do not know the location of BLM's 188,619 acre Iron Wood National Monument: You can't miss it. It's right outside Tucson and, in addition to preserving Ironwood; it serves the useful function of curtailing growth sprawl in Tucson.)
Contrary to statements made by reactionary Rocky Mountain Congressmen, the BLM is not interested in acquiring more land. On the contrary, (and to the horror of certain environmental groups) the BLM is actively divesting itself of some of its holdings and selling these lands to private parties, just as the Republicans suggest.
To be sure, the BLM carefully vets these lands to make sure that the lands in question have no unique archeological, historical, biological, or scenic values not present in millions of other acres administered by the BLM, and that the American people would suffer no loss if these lands were privatized as Senators McCain and Flake suggest.
THUNDERBEAR agrees with McClain and Flake that the American people will not miss the 6,000 acres that the BLM also agrees should be subtracted from the national patrimony.
Except for one thing: The method of disposal. "Them as has, gits".
It is far more likely that a Donald Trump-like real estate corporation or individual would have the where withal to purchase these "surplus public lands" than would an ordinary American citizen.
What to do?
How about a variation on Abe Lincoln's Homestead Act?
The variation would be that every disabled American veteran would get 160 acres of surplus federal land, free of charge, exact amount of acreage to be determined.
We could call it the McCain disabled veterans Act as McCain is disabled due to the activities of some truly nasty people and would be eligible for the 160 acre grant.
Now it is true that no one can make a living on 160 acres of desert land. (Although Cliven Bundy was able to parlay his 160 acre homestead into what he claims as a 400,000 acre property.)
The 160 acres would largely be a symbolic "Thank you" to the disabled veteran on the part of the nation. However, if the disabled veteran's parcel lay in the path of a Western city's growth, the disabled veteran may be in for a real windfall.
Then, of course, there would be possibility of minerals beneath the property.
Would there be objections?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Opposition would lead to some strange bedfellows; say cooperation between welfare ranchers and the Sierra Club for example.
Environmentalists will object on general principles
But remember, the land is going to be privatized. The BLM doesn't want it so it might be nice to give it to someone who has sacrificed for the country rather than sell it to a Donald Trump surrogate.
THE SAFETY MESSAGEYes! Your search has been rewarded! You have located the all-important safety message; your sole permissible reason for reading THUNDERBEAR on government time! This issue we shall discuss the importance of The Contingency Plan.
How important is a Contingency Plan? Loads of importance, neighbors, loads!
We have only to consult history for examples.
Consider May 1940. The Second World War had been in progress for around 9 months. Poland had been Blitzkreiged into submission, but for now, the armies of both sides were stationary. Everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Suddenly, the German army struck. They outflanked the much-vaunted Maginot Line and were streaming through the "impassable" Ardennes Gap. The French President telephoned the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to inform him that the war was lost.
"Nonsense" exclaimed the ever-optimistic Mr. Churchill, who immediately flew to Paris to meet with the President and the French general staff. Upon arrival, he consulted the maps and the ever changing (and grim) update.
"We have them now!" he said confidently to the French. He believed (correctly) that the German armor was overextended and low on fuel and ammunition. "Now is the time to implement the Contingency Plan. We must commit the Mobile Reserve!"
Haltingly, the French high command told Churchill that there was no Contingency Plan and no Mobile Reserve. Why? Because no one thought this possible.
If it is possible for anything to go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible moment so you had better have a Contingency Plan.
Another case in point is the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Now one of my best friends in the NPS is good old "Ed". He is a retired park superintendent and, like many, a devout Republican. If an inquiring reporter were to inquire as to his political faith, he would, with a straight face, tell the reporter that he was an "Independent", carefully weighing each candidate on merit, not political party.
That, of course, is bullshit.
"Ed" is a doctrinaire, right wing Republican, always thinking evil of God's Party, the Democrats. He keeps me well supplied with a daily stream of screeds "proving" that Obama was born in Kenya or Hillary killed Vince Foster.
No matter. He is a good guy who saved many a life and nurtured many a park in his long career. Despite his eccentric politics, and I am pleased to call him a friend.
As Trump began to plow through the Republican primaries, I noticed a certain uneasiness in "Ed"s" e-mails to me. Like the German Blitzkrieg of 1940, Trump was running a completely unorthodox campaign. He was making personal attacks on the other contenders, discussing the size of their sexual organs and the largeness of his own. He noted the alleged ugliness of the only female Republican candidate.
As the summer wore on and normal Republican candidates continued to fall like nine pins, "Ed" wrote me "PJ, Trump is an Anal Aperture" (Or words to that effect.) "I'm not sure I'll be able to vote for him this fall."
"Ed", I wrote confidently, "Donald Trump will NOT be the Republican nominee."
"How do you know that?" he wrote doubtfully.
"Because the Republican National Committee are professionals Whatever their moral faults and they have many, they run a smooth operation and they are not going to allow the Republican Party to be hijacked by a vicious thug. They have a Contingency Plan.
"A Contingency Plan? You know this for sure?"
"Is the Utah Congressional Delegation Mormon? I replied confidently.
"Then what is this Contingency Plan? e-mailed "Ed."
"In the middle of the Convention, just before it looks like a wrap for Donald Trump, doors will be flung open and some very serious men will enter the hall. They will be retired Joint Chiefs of Staff and as well as some prominent Wall Street people. They will demand to speak. Each will detail how Trump would be a disaster not only for the nation but the world.
The last speaker will introduce "The next President of the United States, General Stanley McCrystal!" who will rise to give a stem-winder of a speech-denouncing Trump as a bully and a coward.
Now, McCrystal has some faults, but he has the overwhelming advantage of not being Donald J. Trump.
"You know this to be true? "Ed asked, doubtfully.
"Of course!" I lied.
Now in truth I did not know the exact nature of the RNC Contingency Plan, but I knew they must have one. After all, they had been observing this evil clown for more than a year, how could they NOT have a contingency plan?
Turns out they didn't. Trump rumbled on to victory, without breaking sweat.
In retrospect, what the RNC needed was a good Safety & Loss Control person who would tell them they needed a Contingency Plan to prevent a disaster like Trump from happening.
So, time to review your park's Contingency Plan. It's important! Look what happened to the RNC.
SEX EDUCATION FOR BUREAUCRATSNow that we have your undivided attention, we are going to talk about...Journalism!
You see, for the longest time, the National Park Service was the despair of America's tabloid press. We were dull! We were no fun at all! Just a bunch of unimaginative Dudley Do Rights, rushing around putting out forest fires and saving children from raging rivers; nothing of prurient interest.
Not Any More!
Today's Centennial Park Service can vie with Hollywood as a source for tabloid titillation. These days, a headline writer for a Tabloid such as THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER can write a headline "PARK RANGERS KEEP SEX SLAVE CHAINED IN DUNGEON UNDER RANGER STATION!" And not be far from the truth.
"America's Most Beloved Federal Agency" had been caught with its collective hands in the ..........well, let's not go into that. Suffice it to say that Congressmen Cynthia Loomis (R-WY) and Jason Chaffetz(R-UT) were shocked, shocked, by non-consensual sexual behavior on the part of NPS staff, and were gleefully going to get to the bottom of it.
Now neighbors, anytime you see the letter "R" before the name of the state of an "outraged" congressman, you can usually be sure that the thing he/she is "outraged" is actually a pretty good idea.
Not in this case.
Now it is true that there is often consensual "romance" between staff members of a similar grade and if they do get horizontal without benefit of clergy and, while God may not ignore it, the NPS will.
However, the cases described by Cynthia and Jason were not consensual, but rape or attempted rape pure and simple. The usual suspects were rounded up; Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon; all of whom seem to have an unwritten "culture" of violence against employees.
What is surprising is that employees do not seem to understand their rights under federal law and supervisors their duties to employees, particularly female seasonal staff members.
So, the NPS will have to institute a yearly SEX EDUCATION FOR BUREAUCRATS course aimed at informing staff, great and small of their rights and duties and the resources available to obtain justice. (If the course title is too sniggering inducing, we might call it "THE NPS EMPLOYEE'S BILL OF RIGHTS".)
But what of retaliation for whistleblowing? The NPS has a long and ignoble history of reprisal against employees. Can you really go up the chain of command to obtain redress? After all, the next link up the chain of command was the chap that hired the sexual harasser, they might have common interest.
What about the Department of Interior Inspector General? The IG seems to be a mixed bag. Some people report favorable results, some don't. One person memorably described the IG as "Looking like the cavalry riding to the rescue, but then you find that they are really more Indians dressed up as cavalry".
So who does Congress rely upon for the Truth; that slippery commodity?
That would be the General Accountancy Office, the GAO.
Unlike the IG, the GAO has no axe to grind and any friends or acquaintances in any agency; they are faceless bureaucrats in a faceless agency that answers only to Congress.
Most Americans became acquainted with the GAO in the aftermath of the Mayaguez Incident; an incident that occurred near the end of the Vietnam War in which Cambodia detained one of our merchant vessels. The US Army, Navy, Marine Corp and Air force engaged the Cambodians in a disastrous and humiliating battle.
The various Services engaged promised a "through investigation". Congress would have none of it and sent in the GAO which has unlimited funds and authority to get at the truth. They did.
It might be useful if the services of the GAO could be extended to all victims of rape, bullying and harassment throughout the Federal government and military; though granted, it would soon become one of the largest agencies in the government.
ECUADORI was taking a stress test in Bethesda, Maryland, plodding along on a treadmill, dreading the periodic minute increases in speed and angle of the treadmill. The purpose of the stress test was to determine the likelihood that I could survive living at 9,500 feet for four months.
9,500 feet is the elevation of Quito, Ecuador and the Central University of Ecuador. My wife, Joan had been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the University and the University's Dean of International Relation of the university asked if I could help them with their new Department of Eco-tourism. I could try.
That is, if I could pass this test. I had several cardiac "Incidents" a decade ago, so it was not a slam-dunk.
"Do you think you can keep the pace for two more minutes?" My cardiologist asked. I allowed, between gritted teeth, that I could.
As you all know, that last two minutes is an eternity, but finally, he said "Done!" and the treadmill began to slow.
I rested, waiting for the results.
"You're good to go," he said jovially.
"Just remember, no lifting or strenuous activity, running, climbing stairs for the first two weeks."
"Excellent" I said, turning to go.
"By the way" Is you wife really an anthropologist?
"Of course!" I said, puzzled, "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I don't know" he said with a twinkle in his eye "You folks are always going to remote destinations and anthropology and geography are good covers for the CIA. My favorite was a patient who said he had always wanted to see Afghanistan in the winter and check out the glaciers."
I laughed and thanked the doctor for a good story to share with Joan.
On September 27 we flew out of Ronald Reagan Airport on American with a Miami connection to Quito. Once we were on the Quito leg of the flight, we experienced Living History; a hot, inflight meal, even in economy class! Nowadays, the domestic flight attendant hands you a bag of peanuts; fly enough on SOUTHWEST and you begin to feel like a monkey.
After an uneventful flight (You really don't want an eventful flight.) we arrived in the darkness of a Quito evening. Joan, ever the anthropologist, had been practicing her trade. She shared a row with two Ecuadorian young women, sisters. One was a doctor, the other an engineer. This was unusual as the two professions are considered macho and machismo is still alive and well in Ecuador. What was even more unusual is that the women, in their 30's and quite pretty, were not married and apparently had no intention to do so soon.
This, according to Joan, was the secret to world population control; simply educate all women to the absolute limit of their natural capacity and the problem takes care of itself. The women become proud, resourceful and goal oriented (and that goal is no longer having the most children in the block).
We bid farewell to the two happy spinsters, passed easily through Customs (No firearms, explosives, or cocaine for us!), hailed a cab and proceeded to our hotel.
The next morning, we reported to Fulbright House for paperwork and orientation to the Fulbright Mission, which is basically to facilitate scholarly contact between the US and other peoples and to provide knowledge that will help the host countries.
Our two fellow Fulbrighters, Emily and Tippi, exemplified such knowledge.
Emily would set up designing and producing relatively inexpensive prosthesis devices for Ecuador's handicapped. Tippi, a biologist would work on poisonous algal blooms caused by the effects of shrimp farming in the Gulf of Guayaquil. Tippi's task would involve as much diplomacy as biology as farmed shrimp is one of Ecuador's leading exports and they do not want it messed with.
The Fulbrights are named for the modest Senator J. William Fulbright who set up the program in 1946. Think of it as a precursor to the Peace Corps.
We were now free for two days to find housing and stock up on groceries and start acclimatizing to 9,500 feet.
We then were to report to the American Embassy for our security briefing and orientation by the Cultural Affairs attaché.
Unlike most embassies, which are located on Embassy row in the heart of the city, the American Embassy is located on the outskirts of town. This is not because the State Department loves Nature, (I'm sure they do.) but because its takes time for an anti-American mob to muster and march on the Embassy. This gives the Marine Guard time to stand by to repel boarders.
The embassy is a new modernistic, quite good looking building, surrounded by a 12 foot tall steel pole fence designed to repulse truck bombs and human intruders.
After presenting our passports and driver's licenses, we were escorted to the briefing room where we were updated on Security in Ecuador.
We were informed that the State Department has four levels of threat assessment for each country in the world: LOW (Probably the Vatican), MEDIUM, HIGH, and CRITICAL.
Ecuador is rated as CRITICAL; right up there with Somalia and South Sudan.
"There is no place in Ecuador that is really safe," our instructor informed us. "There are entire provinces that are off limits" to U.S. government personnel. Violent crimes against American are on the rise. These crimes include rape, armed robbery, car jacking, home invasion, assault, murder, kidnapping, and burglary.
Most of the suggestions for threat avoidance boiled down to what a US college girl should know; Don't get drunk, Don't wander off with strangers, Don't walk down dark streets at night. Avoid the bad parts of town.
None of the threats seemed particularly unusual. (Good luck to the Ecuadorian who decides to walk down certain streets in Washington, DC at 2 in the morning!)
I was surprised by the strong injunction against taking public transport in Quito. (Seems that the buses are unsafe and the drivers don't give a damn)
However, there was one sinister, scary crime that I had not considered (but Ecuadorian criminals obviously had).
(TO BE CONTINUED)
PJ Ryan can be reached at: