April - September, 2017
PRESIDENT TRUMPCharles M. Blow, a columnist for the NEW YORK TIMES (An effete, elitist East Coast rag) raged in the July 3 issue "A madman and his legislative minions are holding America hostage!"
Now this is an insult to madmen everywhere; a much put upon minority much deserving of our sympathy and help, as they have done nothing to merit their condition.
However, no one desires to be afflicted with mental illness and to reach his present state of vicious selfishness, Donald Trump had to desire it and actively work for it. Being goal oriented, he has succeeded remarkably well.
He is in no sense insane but is simply a cruel, ignorant SOB.
Now there is a difference between stupid and ignorant.
Stupid is what you're born with, and is not your fault, due to a bad choice of parents or a head injury
Ignorance, on the other hand, requires your due diligence and full application.
Trump has that in spades.
Mr. Trump claims to have never read a book in his life, crashing through the problems of life with the sheer weight of his will, illuminated by the brilliance of his intellect.
In spite of this self imposed lack of book larnin', he claims to know how an aircraft carrier operates better than the admirals and how ISIS works better than the fanatics who run that organization.
Trump is not stupid. He has a feral coyote sagacity that upends his foes and delights his many supporters. He is amoral and without scruples. Hillary literally did not know what hit her. Nor did any of the other Republican candidates. There were supposed to be rules; not anymore. To Donald Trump, rules are for losers.
Can he be impeached?
Being a "cruel, ignorant SOB " is not an impeachable offense under the U.S. constitution (or Trump's role model, Andrew Jackson, would have been out on his ear), and, as Trump observed, "I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and no one would care."
In addition, an impeachment trial would be held in the Senate. Unless you are counting on an eruption of civic virtue and responsibility, the vote would be along party lines and, as you are aware, the Republicans are the majority; with 52 Republican Senators against 46 Democrats (plus 2 Independents, who usually vote with the Dems.)
"Ah!" you say, "All that will change with 2018 election! The scoundrels will be turned out of office and saintly Democratic do-gooders will be substituted. They in turn will produce a Bill of Impeachment that will get that poltroon in the White House out of the White House!'
Doesn't work that way, neighbors.
While the Republicans can stand to lose droves of scoundrels in the House of Representatives, the Senate is another matter. There the margin is much tighter.
"Praise Jesus!" you exclaim, "Deliverance is at hand!
You see, according to the Constitution, not all of the Senate stands for election every electoral year. This means the Republicans have only 8 seats to defend, while the unlucky Democrats must defend 23.
Additional bad news for the Democrats is that the Republicans are only 8 seats away from the Holy Grail; the 60 seat majority. The 60-seat majority would stop any filibuster on the part of the Democrats (As well as any unlikely veto on the part of the President should he have an attack of common sense.)
Last, but certainly not least in the impeachment equation, is the President's militia.
That would be the National Rifle Association; 5 million strong and heavily armed, they outnumber the combined armed forces of the United States.
The NRA overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in the last election and will continue to do so. The threat of impeachment would cause Donald Trump to issue a series of dog whistle tweets to his NRA supporters along the lines of "The Second Amendment is in danger! I advise every patriotic American to buy 1,000 rounds of ammo for each of your weapons."
Could the NRA defeat the armed forces and install Trump as maximum leader? No, but they could make a mess; making the U.S look like some sort of banana republic. It is unlikely that a motley band of overweight, middle aged, white men would have much appeal to the general public, or last very long against counterinsurgency forces, but they could still be a supreme embarrassment to the United States.
Seeking to avoid confrontation, Congress would play the impeachment card only if Trump proved to be a spectacular menace to the survival of the nation.
So, barring the unforeseen, (which is a constant given with the Trump administration) we are stuck with Trump until 2021.
By the 2020 election, even NRA members will be fed up with the chaos, fraud, nepotism, degradation of the environment, (Air that you can feel as well as smell), climate change, scandals, trade wars, alienation of allies, and so on.
So, what to do in the interim?
Well, there's always good 'ol civil disobedience, aided by our ever faithful ally, Donald J. Trump. Yup, he's his own worst enemy.
Mr. Trump is thin skinned as a Death Adder and twice as deadly. It doesn't take much to rile him. He will then strike back with an illiterate, ill-considered "Tweet" that terrifies more normal, well-bred Republicans (and everyone else.)
Our job is to keep those Tweets coming.
By preying on Mr. Trump's overwhelming vanity and paranoia.
You will remember from the previous issue 's "Safety Message" that we suggested that Mr. Trump's official portrait might be a safety issue, leading to fights between park visitors if the Trump portraits were prominently displayed in the park visitor centers
On second thought, that might not be a bad idea.
You will recall that the Acting Director of the National Park Service, Mike Reynolds was called on the carpet by Mr. Trump who gloweringly ordered Mr. Reynolds to produce photos of Mr. Trump's inaugural showing that the crowd's were the largest ever. Alas, that was impossible, because, well, they weren't.
Now that was the tip off that Mr. Trump has a personality that is somewhat, umm, special.
In addition to a phobia about blood, (See Megyn Kelly and Mika Brzezinski) Trump has a narcissistic streak taller than the Trump tower; everything that touches him has to aggrandize him or he will throw a temper tantrum.
This is true of the official Presidential photographs (or the lack of them.)
Now the funny thing is that most villains do not look like villains. They look like normal people.
Joseph Stalin, with his big moustache and ready smile, looked like a friendly school janitor; wouldn't hurt a fly.
Adolf Hitler, with his postage stamp moustache and comb over, looked like a comedian.
However, some villains DO look the part: Vladimir Putin really DOES look like a putinKGB villain in a James Bond movie.
Dick Cheney really DOES look like Hollywood's idea of a nasty, slimy, right wing politician.
And Donald Trump DOES looks like everyone's idea of a cruel, greedy businessman.
President Trump can't help it. He just looks the part.
His official portrait resembles that of a slumlord who would turn a rent deficient widow and her children out on the street on Christmas Eve.
Excellent! The portrait is exactly what we need!
The Trump official portrait (along with those, of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the poor devil who accepts the job of NPS Director) should be hung on the wall behind the visitor center desk of every National Park unit, visible to anyone who has a question to ask.
The sight of pictures of Mr. Trump and his minions should start a valuable conversation on federal land management, the environment, the role of government and so on.
The President may not realize it, but he is a valuable interpretive tool. The mere sight of his portrait in a park visitor center will cause a visceral reaction.
However, we fear that the NPS or the GSA has been dragging its feet a bit in getting Trump and Zinke portraits out to the more than 400 park units.
This is understandable. No government agency wants controversy.
There has been a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the display of Trump's photo.
This is where you come in, neighbors.
Its time for a little helpful "Direct Action" on your part.
No, you won't have to chain yourself to the gate of a pipeline company like the former Chief Ranger of Yellowstone, Roger Siglin.
The action we have in mind is a much less dangerous and has the advantage of not getting you arrested.
Since your beloved editor has already performed this "Direct Action" let me describe it to you.
A couple of Sundays ago my wife and I drove up to Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and proceeded to the Big Meadows Visitor Center.
While Joan checked out the wild flower books, I did a through search of the public portions of the visitor center.
Trump's portrait was nowhere to be found.
I got in the question line at the information desk. I drew a personable VIP lass with a very nice smile.
Without foaming at the mouth, I asked her the whereabouts of the Presidential portrait.
The smile faded, replaced with a mixture of horror and concern.
And rightfully so. We live is strange times, neighbors.
Public spaces can be dangerous places. You never know who might walk though the door. The sign on the visitor center door stating that guns are forbidden within is unlikely to be honored by your gun-toting maniac. Was I about to pull an AK-47 with collapsible stock out of my daypack?
How likely is such an event likely to happen?
Significantly, neighbors, significantly.
You may remember the Comet Pizza Parlor incident in Washington, DC.
A gentleman from North Carolina read on the Internet that Hillary Clinton and friends were molesting captive children in the basement of the Comet pizza parlor in the nation's capitol. (Who knew?)
Being a public-spirited citizen, he gathered up the family AR-15 and a sack of ammo, hopped in his truck and sped north to save the children.
Once at the Pizza parlor, he got everyone's undivided attention by firing a round into the ceiling and demanding to be shown the children in the basement.
The pizza manager, one cool customer, allowed as how that would be impossible, as the pizza parlor did not have a basement. Our hero took out his frustration by blasting a bank of computers before police led him away. Miraculously, no one was injured.
Just to demonstrate the bi-partisan nature of mental illness, a demented Democrat then tried to save the nation by shooting up the Republican Congressional baseball team.
As noted, we live in strange times. Your Visitor Center is potentially a hazardous area. Fortunately, most parks have contingency plans to deal with potential threats.
The well-trained VIP recovered nicely from the shock of the question and agreed that the Trump portrait did not seem to be present.
"I believe it is the custom to display the President's Portrait." I said pleasantly.
"We don't seem to have one," she admitted. "Would you like me to find out why?"
Can't beat that attitude with a stick, neighbors! I allowed as how I would like that.
The VIP was off like Virginia lightning while I maintained my amiable, harmless old man demeanor, but with my black daypack looking increasingly ominous.
A friendly, middle-aged lady dressed in the familiar green and grey of the Park Service appeared. She asked how she could help.
I explained my problem.
She said that the portraits in question would probably be at the park headquarters in Luray, Virginia. Alas! It was Sunday and the headquarters would be closed. In short, I was out of luck. In order to gaze upon the sneering, arrogant portrait of our 45th president, the park visitor would have to drive outside the park and on weekdays only. Donald Trump did not seem worth the detour.
I politely thanked the nice Intern ranger, who disappeared, probably to tell the Law Enforcement Ranger that his services would not be needed.
And that's all we would like you to do, neighbors. Simply visit your local national park unit (or those you encounter on your vacation) and check on the location of the Presidential portrait.
Remember, it's not fair to put the Portrait behind closed doors. If the President is to become an effective interpretive tool, the portrait must be exposed to the visiting public.
THUNDERBEAR would be most interested in hearing about your experiences
NORTH KOREA'S BEST IDEAThere is some question of who coined the memorable catch phrase, "National Parks are America's Best Idea." Some credit the phrase to the British Ambassador, Lord Brice, while the majority of opinion slides toward the novelist and environmental essayist Wallace Stegner (Stegner rather graciously, credits Lord Brice, though nothing has shown up in the ambassador's papers as yet to prove authorship.)
Ah well, who cares! If imitation is the best form of proof of an idea's validity, then the national parks are indeed one of our best ideas. (I would still put the Constitution first)
There are some 195 sovereign nations in the world and most of them have national parks. Even the most god-forsaken (or god drenched), famine ridden, drought ravished hellholes, ruled by the most vicious, paranoid dictators, have national parks.
Even North Korea? Yup, even North Korea.
The People's Democratic Republic of North Korea has 6 National Parks.
The largest, oldest, and most spectacular is Mount Paektu National Park.
Located in the far north of the Hermit Kingdom, near the Chinese border, 9,003-foot Mount Paektu is the highest mountain on the Korean peninsula, north or south. It has virgin forests sheltering endangered wildlife such as snow leopard, Siberian Tigers, bears (Brown) and plants found nowhere else in the world.
In addition, it has the highest and most spectacular waterfalls in either Korea and hot springs galore.
At the 7, 182 foot level lies Azure Blue Heaven Lake, famed in Korean mythology as the source of the Korean people. (Just as the Hopi emerged from Grand Canyon, the Koreans emerged from Heaven Lake) The lake is roughly 3 miles across with an average depth of 700 feet. As Heaven Lake is a high latitude as well as a high altitude lake, it is frozen from mid June to Mid October.
The lake has history as well as natural history. According to the North Korean National Park Service, the founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, was born in a log cabin on the shore of Heaven Lake and led the resistance to the Japanese from a redoubt on Mount Paektu (The CIA has a more humdrum version of Kim's nativity and military exploits).
Anyway, again according to the NKNPS, when Kim died in 1994 the ice on Heaven Lake broke up with a roar that could be heard in Pyongyang.
Mount Paektu is North Korea's flagship national park and attracts tourists from around the world (but not from the US, as we tend to wind up brain dead after a visit).
If you believe Mount Paektu is analogous to our own Yellowstone National Park, you would be correct.
In addition to wildlife, waterfalls, lakes, magnificent scenery, history and hot springs, Yellowstone and Mount Paektu National Parks have something else in common.
Both Parks are super volcanoes.
True, it has been a long time between eruptions, but when they happen, the results are quite literally earthshaking.
A USGS geologist told your humble editor that "When Yellowstone blows, you better not be 100 miles away, and you'd better be at least one state away."
Will a Yellowstone eruption destroy the United States?
No, but it will be damned inconvenient.
Most evidence points to the eruption being contained in the Yellowstone caldera, creating a steaming hole in the ground roughly 30 by 50 miles, and necessitating changes in the park interpretive plan.
Does this mean that the park superintendent and 30,000 tourists are going to be blown posterior over teakettle into Montana?
No, the science of volcanology has advanced by great leaps and there will be plenty of warning for an orderly evacuation. The evacuation scenario will be helped by the fact that the Greater Yellowstone area is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the United States. Fatalities will be limited to those who drive past the barriers to "see what's happening," and who should be taken out of the gene pool anyway.
There will be no great flood of lava such as created the Columbian plateau. There may be several (or more) years without a summer due to volcanic ash in the air.
California, America's # 1 agricultural state will be spared significant damage as will as the South and Southwest.
Not so the Midwest, America's breadbasket.
Due to prevailing winds, the Midwest will get 10 centimeters or more of volcanic ash on the ground.
This will make farming in Iowa interesting.
(This is where Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Iowa State University come in to answer the question of "What do you do when your state is blanketed with ash.")
Chuck is going to have to endure the laughter of his senate colleagues by proposing a bill to fund the transport of, say, 160 acre feet of volcanic ash from the Southwest to the research plots at Ames, Iowa for experiments in dealing with volcanic ash in the admittedly remote possibility of a Yellowstone eruption.
Indeed, since Yellowstone's last eruption was some 640,000 years ago, there might be cause for mirth.
Not so with North Korea's Paektu National Park.
It has erupted in historical times (946 AD) and basically took out the northern part of the Korean peninsula as well as a chunk of China. Although the bulk of the population was able to evacuate into the southern part of the peninsula, there were still between 74,000 and 92,000 killed. The explosion was heard in Japan and the ash showed up in Greenland.
Recently, a Peaktu park ranger noticed something, or more likely, felt something. He notified his superiors, who in turn notified geologists from a North Korean state university something seemed awry.
It was time to notify the Dear Leader.
Now dictators do not like to hear bad news and Kim Jong Un is no exception. He has murdered a number of bureaucrats and even relatives who brought, or were bad news. Understandably, there was some trepidation among the geologists.
It was suggested that the eminent Japanese volcanologist, Dr. Taniguchi of Tohuku University be brought in for consultation as volcanism was not the strong suit of North Korean academia.
Japan, on the other hand, is the diamond in the Pacific Ring of Fire with literally more volcanoes than they knew what to do with. They would surely have the answer on whether the monster super volcano was coming to life.
Dr. Taniguchi's findings were terrifying.
According to Taniguchi, there would be a 68% chance of a cataclysmic eruption of Mount Paektu by 2019 and 99% chance of eruption by 2032.
It would be the largest natural disaster in modern times and would destroy North Korea.
These were sobering thoughts for the young monster running North Korea.
Also sort of embarrassing.
For years North Korea has been menacing the United States with threats of atomic destruction.
Now North Korea was faced with an uncontrollable, fire breathing Godzilla of a super volcano!
Why would it be embarrassing?
Put it this way. Suppose you decide to rob a bank. You go to the bank and produce your pistol and a note demanding all the money in the bank. So far so good, but then you suffer a heart attack . You have no choice but to lay your pistol on the counter and ask the bank teller to call 911.
That is roughly the dilemma faced by the young North Korean tyrant. He had been threatening the US with atomic devastation, then along comes this damn volcano!
If Mount Paektu starts acting up on the short end of Dr.Tamiguchi's prediction, then Kim Jong Un might have to eat crow and ask for the U.S. Navy's help in evacuating North Korea's population. (Presumably the atom bombs and other toys would be left behind).
Understandably, The Dear Leader wanted a second opinion.
Fortunately, scientists are naturally curious and Dr. James Hammond of the University of London and Dr Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge and his irrepressible student, the swashbuckling Dr. Kayla Iacovino, of the US Geological Survey were able to put together a team to study Mount Paektu in cooperation with North Korean geologists.
What did they find out?
Tons of stuff, neighbors, tons!
Yes, but what does it mean?
"Paektu requires more study." (Remember, these folks are scientists!)
"But is North Korea going to explode?"
Apparently not in the near future, though the thing is definitely alive and active (Dr Taniguchi's dire prediction, it seems, was based on "incorrect data.")
So, the Dear Leader can happily go back to harassing Uncle Sam without fear of being blown up by Mother Nature, so what else have we learned.
Well, aside from the bromide "Nature always bats last!" we have reinforced the idea that scientific exchange is always better than missile exchange. The North Koreans learned not to dispute facts on the ground. When Dr. Kayla mischievously inquired about the absence of female North Korean volcanologists on the volcano, the North Koreans blandly stated that "Women aren't up to the hard dangerous nature of field work and therefore must stay back in the lab." There was a pregnant pause in translation and then some embarrassed giggles at the cognitive dissonance caused by the presence of Dr. Iacovino.
BOATING ON THE POTOMACThere have always been annoyances with kayaking on the Potomac in the summertime.
There are the mosquitoes and the humidity and the powerboats and the damnable jet skis.
In addition there is now Donald Trump.
"What's he done now?" you ask, irritably,
"Nothing. Just plays golf."
"Why can't you people leave him alone? He's entitled to some recreation."
That's the problem.
You see, when Trump plays golf in Washington, DC, he usually does so at his own golf course, the Trump National Golf Club.
"So? Maybe the greens fees are cheaper for him. You begrudge him that?"
"No, but Trump National Golf Club has a two mile frontage on the Potomac River."
For security reasons, the US Coast Guard decided to close that two mile sector of the Potomac every time the President goes golfing, which can add up to quite a lot of river closures at whimsical times.
Now neighbors, this is the first time the Trump presidency has actually impacted my existence.
Oh, there's global warming, (which really doesn't exist) and health care, and all the rest, but they are rather abstract.
However, closing the Potomac to paddling is in direct conflict with something your editor would like to do. Such governmental high handedness is something that a Trump presidency is supposed to forbid! It's downright un-American!
Can we blame Trump for this outrage?
No, Trump very probably had nothing to do with the river closure.
The Secret Service gets paid to be Nervous Nellies; exploring every scenario in which the President might be harmed.
Let us consider one such scenario: It is a clear summer's day on the Potomac. A kayaker and his craft joins dozens of other boats on two mile stretch of river fronting the Trump National Golf Club. The kayaker paddles leisurely up and down. He stops from time to time, to set a kayak anchor, allowing him to remain stationary. This allows him to reach under the foredeck of the kayak and extract - a fishing rod, as well as a golfing umbrella to shield him from the sun-and prying eyes. Sitting in his kayak and casting from time to time, he looks the picture of retired contentment.
Our kayaker does not appear every day. In fact his appearance is random, very much like the appearance of Donald Trump at his golf club. No matter: Our kayaker has plenty of time.
One fateful day, our kayaker notices something on the golf course; a trademark red cap perhaps. He makes confirmation with a powerful monocular disguised as a beer bottle.
Only then does our kayaker extract a modified L153A sniper rifle from under the foredeck, shielding the move with the umbrella.
Our kayaker has practiced this move hundreds of times on the Indus River in Pakistan. He makes the move with fluid grace. There is already a round in the chamber as he flicks off the safety. He is able to get off one, possibly three shots before SEAL counter snipers take him out.
Now neighbors, your kindly editor made up this scenario: In all likelihood, there is no ISIS sniper training on the Indus River, waiting to be placed.
But, as the Secret Service would say, there could be.
Therefore, they deemed it prudent to "suggest" to the Coast Guard that that stretch of the Potomac be closed to boat traffic
Now the reason we have this problem is the well-known Republican aversion to trees. Not all Republicans of course, but some of them.
Readers will recall the sad case of Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, who decided to cut down trees on an NPS scenic easement to improve his view of the Potomac after first greasing the way with guest football tickets for the director of the NPS. (The case is discussed at length in Rob Danno's book WORTH FIGHTING FOR.)
Donald Trump's aversion to trees became apparent when he purchased what was to become the Trump National Golf Course in 2009.
Prior to Trump's purchase there was a privacy screen of trees along the river frontage of the golf course. This screen provided privacy for the golfer as well as the illusion of the Forest Primeval for the boaters on the river.
For whatever reason, Trump decided to cut down the trees.
Possibly he is allergic to tree pollen, possibly, like Snyder, he simply wanted a river view. Whatever. It was his property free and clear to do with as he wished.
Now the tree cutting happened long before someone jokingly suggested that Trump "Oughta run for President.' So President Trump cannot logically be blamed for the present state of affairs on the Potomac.
However, if the Coast Guard believed that the kayaking community was going to accept river closure with abject humility, they were misinformed.
The kayakers were loud, brash, well organized and well connected.
Now the US Coast Guard is perhaps the most chummy and family friendly of all the armed services. It is the Service that the average middle class American has the most contact with through good-natured boat inspections and the occasional harrowing, well publicized rescue.
Consequently, the Coast Guard cultivates a Dudley Do Right image that is second only to the National Park Service. They do not like bad publicity and acting as enforcer for a not too popular President was not necessarily what the Coast Guard Admirals had in mind for their organization.
How to avoid irritating the kayakers who clearly had the ear of their congressmen and still protect the President; that was question on the minds of the Coast Guard admirals.
The admirals came up with a truly Solomonic solution; they would cut the river in half.
According to Admiral Paul F. Zukunft: "As long as they (Kayakers) stay to the Maryland side of the Potomac River, they can pass clearly when the security zone is in effect .
An admirable solution to a vexing problem, admiral!
However, as Lieutenant Columbo used to say "There's one little thing that bothers me."
There is no "Maryland half" or "Virginia half" to the Potomac River.
You see, Maryland owns the entire Potomac River, bank to bank, due to royal charter.
In 1632, King Charles II granted the second Lord Baltimore, the entire Potomac River "bank to bank" in very precise terms.
The grant was honored through the Articles of Confederation and the early days of the Republic right up to the present. (Though a 2003 Supreme Court Decision allowed Virginia [Fairfax County] to take water out of the Potomac.)
As most state boundary rivers are divided down the middle, Admiral Zukunft (wonder how you pronounce that?) can be forgiven for believing there was a Maryland side and a Virginia Side to the river.
Presumably, the spirit of the regulation can be observed by hugging the Maryland bank of the Potomac during the Presence of Trump.
How will one know if Trump is on the links (Band of angels hovering over the fairway?)
Well no. Trump's presence on the Potomac shore will be announced by the Coast Guard via Marine radio.
Don't have a Marine radio?
A Marine radio is a handy gadget to have around, particularly in a nautical emergency. The Coast Guard monitors marine radio channels and provides up to date weather information. Good item to have to insure a safe paddle. Not cheap, but not expensive, running between $78 and $269.
POLITICAL APPOINTEEA liberal (boo! hiss!) group by the name of "PRO PUBLICA" has made an interesting observation.
According to PRO PUBLICA:
"......While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of the Interior.
Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-called "Beachhead teams" have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities ......The White House said in January that around 520 staffers were being hired. The list that that PRO PUBLICA obtained includes obscure campaign staffers, contributors to Breitbart and others who have embraced conspiracy theories as well as dozens of Washington insiders who could be reasonably characterized as part of the "swamp" Trump pledged to drain.
Much about the role of the "beachhead teams" at various federal agencies is unclear (PRO PATRIA is fair enough to admit that Obama and other Administrations also used such teams) However "If the public and Senate is in the dark about a team created without a Senate confirmation process of their leaders, no one will be permitted to shed light on who is hopelessly conflicted or who is obviously unqualified."
Will this affect the National Park Service?
"Not much" according to one veteran NPS observer, "Ordinarily, political appointees cluster in the Washington Office with a few going to the regional office, with none going to the parks themselves."
This is not entirely true. Political appointees DO on occasion penetrate down to the park level, as your kindly editor can attest.
"The beachhead teams are temporary employees serving for stints of four to eight months, but many are expected to move into permanent positions. " Max Stier of Partnership for Public Policy, suggests that "We need clarity about what they are doing and what their role is going to be."
Couldn't agree more, Max!
As noted, some political appointees DO make it out to the field. Exactly what they are supposed to be doing is often rather vague.
I suspect that some of it may be checking up on the park staff to make sure no one deviates too far from the Party Line.
Is this spying? Such a crude term! Let's just call it "observing."
I recall such an incident down in Louisiana at Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve.
Your kindly editor was discussing a safety & loss control issue with one of the resource managers; seems that the park alligators had developed the disconcerting habit of launching themselves out of the canal and snarfing up the visitors' little toy dogs, putting a terrified visitor at one end of the leash and the alligator at the other.
The resource manager and I were discussing proposed signage to deter visitors from bringing their dogs on the trail.
We pretty much agreed on the signage and I turned to leave the office. I continued a few parting pleasantries as I reached for the doorknob.
I fear I opened the door a bit suddenly, as our GS-11 political appointee who had been raptly listening to our conversation with ear to the door, crashed to the floor.
Now neighbors, you have watched that scene in a dozen B movie comedies: Real life replicates the movies. There is absolutely no excuse that the hapless person can come up with to explain his position on the floor. It is an absolutely hilarious situation.
Therefore, if you happen to be blessed with a political appointee, past or present, perhaps you would like to share your favorite Political Appointee story with the THUNDERBEAR readership.
"IF IN DOUBT, ASK A MORMON"Now neighbors, there is something about President Trump that makes normally sedate people swear or make crude remarks.
Former president George W. Bush, commenting on Trump's inaugural address, said "THAT WAS SOME WEIRD SHIT!" (The 43rd President always had a way with words.)
Then there was that strange character, The Mooch, who seems to have broken the profanity record in the shortest amount of time in dealing with a reporter from hostile liberal magazine.
We appear to be sinking in a sea of vulgarity.
The "F Bomb, once used only in the most stressful of circumstances and then only by people who could claim but an 8th grade education, is now used by college women to describe their boyfriends.
Whether Trump has coarsened the national dialog is something best left to the anthropologists, but there seems to be no getting around it; we are becoming more crude and vulgar.
Can the trend be reversed?
Yes it can, neighbors, but only through careful mentoring by Mormons.
Yes. You see Mormons don't swear (or take the Lord's name in vain!) The closet they come to swearing is a heartfelt "GOLLY DANG ! and then only if a tornado has destroyed their house.
Mormons are, by and large, a polite, kind and gentle people, not given to vulgarity.
Your editor asked his Mormon friend, Julia if the Church could help us Gentiles with our vulgarity problem.
Julia said she didn't know, but she would try (Another strong characteristic of Mormons.)
We met at a Starbucks. Julia had hot cider.
"Actually, it's a mater of substitution" said Julia, getting to the heart of the problem. The Mormons "Golly Dang!" is simply a substitution for another word we won't mention.
Julia grew up on a dairy farm in Washington State and learned many substitutions.
Julia is correct, neighbors, growing up on a farm provides many opportunities for justifiable swearing: things fall on you or poke you or burn you or cut you and animals bite you or try to stomp you, all in a day's work. A farm is fertile ground for swearing.
So how does substitution work in a "swearable" situation? I asked.
"I can only offer the example of my father" Julia replied.
Every so often the day would not go right and a cow would kick him or stand on his foot. Dad would invariably yell "YOU SLUG IN A DITCH!"
"To me as a child, it made perfectly good sense to compare a recalcitrant cow with a slimy banana slug, located in a ditch, about as low as you can go. I took to calling my friends "You slug in a ditch" at school recess until reprimanded by our teacher. I couldn't figure out why she was so upset. I asked Dad and he just laughed."
ARAVAIPA PRESERVERecently my wife and I visited The Nature Conservancy's Aravaipa Preserve in Southeast Arizona. The idea of the Preserve was to save a stretch of perennial riparian ecosystem, perhaps the only such ecosystem in Arizona.
The Nature Conservancy does its usual bang up job. Everything is low key, visitation is small and by permit and The Nature Conservancy prefers to keep it that way. There is no "visitor center" or gift shop. It is impossible to buy a plastic rattlesnake in Aravaipa Canyon.
The canyon is around 12 miles long, maybe a football field or two at it widest, with 1200-foot cliffs at its highest.
Is it as pretty as Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona?
As one Nature Conservancy scientist famously observed: "The Nature Conservancy doesn't do "pretty"; we do science."
They have plenty to observe. With a permanent water supply, Aravaipa Canyon is home to just about everything that can grow in the Sonoran Southwest and Aravaipa Creek has a number of endemic fish.
There is considerable history also. A band of peaceful Apaches living in the Canyon were wiped out in the 1880's, using the Trumpian logic that they MIGHT do something bad sometime.
Later on, Aravaipa Canyon became home to none other than Edward Abbey and his good friend Doug Peacock.
Abbey was hired by an environmental group (Not TNC) to act as Custodian of Aravaipa Canyon. Now there was always considerable difference of opinion on what constituted the terms of employment between "Cactus Ed" and his various employers, private or public. Abbey was quite capable of taking off without a moment's notice should some other part of the environment (or a young lady) require his attention.
No matter. Doug Peacock was available to fill in for Abbey's absences and besides, the environmental group leader was quite sophisticated. He had not hired Abbey for his fence mending or trail building skills, but rather for his skills as a writer. Abbey was perhaps the greatest environmental essayist of his time.
Now Abbey was not universally beloved by his Forest Service or Park Service supervisors who had hired him in the forlorn hope of getting 40 hours of work out of him. Your kindly editor had the pleasure of meeting Abbey's very first NPS supervisor. I asked him if I could interview him for his impressions of working with Cactus Ed. The ranger refused, stating that hiring Ed Abbey was the worst mistake of his entire career.
Clearly, the straight arrows of the land management agencies made a mistake in their handling of a literary treasure such as Ed Abbey.
A visionary Secretary of the Interior would have made him a permanent seasonal GS-5 cougar inspector, charged with following the legend of these elusive cats throughout their range in North and South America; artist in residence, so to speak; his job description to produce essays (government reports if you insist) on a weekly basis.
Edward Abbey's present replacement was a young man who bore a striking resemblance to the original, right down to the beard. He laconically explained the Nature Conservancy's mission in Araivapa Canyon.
Fortunately, it was not about increasing visitation; no TNC manager was going to get promoted or more money by bringing more people into the reserve.
The idea was to restore the area to its natural condition, given the constraints of TNC's partner, The Bureau of Land Management.
Now the BLM is not an evil agency. It's just that its manifesto is that every decent person is a profit making Republican at heart, thus the BLM land must yield tangible, spendable profit; none of this airy-fairy nature stuff.
Now Communist inspired Nature Wowsers have suggested that that environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, The Trust for Public Land, or the TNC simply buy up the grazing rights to the adjoining BLM land and politely retire the land from grazing and let the deer and the antelope roam.
The welfare ranchers have thought of that possibility and headed the socialists off at the pass.
The public lands ranchers lobbyists have inserted regs into enabling legislation that the BLM lands primary use must be for livestock grazing.
Thus, TNC, in order to fulfill its conservation mission, had to become a cattle baron (even though the herd might be only ten or 20 cows and calves.)
Naturally, TNC keeps a close watch on their cattle, stocking their "range" at the lowest possible number, keeping the cattle out of the creek and so on.
Still, there is a partial solution to compulsory cattle ranching, which we hope to bring up at TNC's next board meeting.
The partial solution would be Lowline cattle, an Australian niche breed.
Lowlines are derived from Black Angus cattle. The interesting thing about the Lowline is that while they resemble Black Angus, they are only half the size of the Angus. They are, in a sense, toy cattle.
Now the BLM land use regs do not specify what KIND of breed of cattle would be stocked on the BLM range, just that you graze "cattle." You don't have to be an environmentalist to figure out that half size cattle are going to do only half the damage to the range.
We have described the Lowline as a niche breed. That they are.
Bred to require grass only, they are frugal feeders, very suited to the Australian or other semi desert environment. The grass fed beef they produce is much in demand by organic food consumers. The meat is said to be extra tasty without the toughness of other grass fed beef. In addition, due to the grass diet, the meat is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin A and E, and Beta Carotene, all useful in preventing heart disease, cancer and short-term memory loss,
Think of it! A cow that saves the environment, prevents heart disease and cancer and helps you find your car keys! It doesn't get any better, neighbors!
THE SAFETY MESSAGE
Yes!! It's time to revisit your license for reading THUNDERBEAR on government time, using a government computer; The Safety Message!
Safety is simply common sense observed and practiced.
Rarely is an accident or loss control event something that had "never happened before" or something beyond the realm of human experience (A flying saucer rear ends your car on a lonely road in New Mexico.)
One common sense dictum, often ignored, is "Don't put a body part in unchecked Territory".
One day, seeing that the lawn needed mowing, I went to our garden shed to fetch the lawn mower and an electrical cord. The cord was on a top most shelf, nearly out of sight. I brought the cord down and noticed what appeared to be nearly a yard of silvery plastic material mixed with the cord.
I looked again. It wasn't plastic. It was a snakeskin. It occurred to me that the owner might be about. I had the distinct feeling of being watched. The garden shed was a typical garden shed, full of tools and the stuff you can't bring yourself to throw away. All of which provided ideal harborage for mice, all of whom provided an ideal food source for snakes.
What kind of snakes? That was an interesting question. Fortunately, Maryland is not Australia where the majority of all snakes are poisonous.
The snakeskin probably belonged to a Rat Snake, a sinister looking (jet black) but totally harmless (to humans) and very beneficial constrictor.
On the other hand, suppose it was a Copperhead. There are rattlesnakes in Maryland but if you are in the market for a poisonous snake, you are most likely to be interviewing a Copperhead, they account for the overwhelming number of poisonous snakebites in the Eastern U.S (but not the most deaths.)
Copperhead venom is relatively mild, the snake is not aggressive, and the bite is often of the warning type, in which no venom is injected. Death by Copperhead is rare to non-existent.
Then why are Copperheads the king of the snakebite market?
This is due to the success of the Copperhead's main defensive tool; its camouflage pattern. The snake evolved in deciduous woodlands and has a skin pattern that matches dry leaves to an extraordinary degree. This means that the first time a hiker spots a Copperhead is when he/she steps on it these living landmines then strikes without warning (So would you if a 2 ton giant stepped on you!)
Although Copperhead venom may be "relatively mild," according to mortality statistics, you are in serious trouble if you are bitten. It is NOT "no worse than a wasp sting". Shortly after being bitten you will experience incredible pain, said to be worse than childbirth. In addition to the antivenin, you will require opioid pain relievers and a course of antibiotics to counter the bacteria from the snake's mouth.
Then there's the economic side of snakebite. Treatment can cost somebody between $30,000 to $100,000. Hopefully it will not be you.
So, neighbors, you can understand why I was interested in the snakeskin and who was living in my shed.
Fortunately, the SMITHSONIAN was not far away. I bundled up the snakeskin and mailed it off to the snake people at that venerable institution. Only a few days later, the verdict came back from the SMITHSONIAN.
It was a rat snake.
He was welcome to stay and I could put off tidying up the shed until October.
PJ Ryan can be reached at: