letters, opinions, editorials
re: Yuletide nuts
Dear Friends Back East,
Your thoughtful Christmas presents were received with the same mixture of astonishment and gratitude as in previous years.
Books are always welcome gifts, and the coffee table-sized tome you sent, The Big Book of Snake Bites, is truly a marvel. I’ve never come across a compilation of post-snake bite photos, all in living (I use that term advisedly) color. These images are as motivating as they are polychromatic, e.g. the full-page glossy aftermath of an adult prairie rattler perforation of human calf muscle tissue on page 371 may render me a complete shut-in during the spring and summer months. Your kindness is unrivaled.
More appealing is the three-volume biography of Rachel Ray. Thank you so much! I’ve already begun Volume I (“The Very Early Years”), and am finding it thought-involving.
In your notes, you failed to mention the books I sent you. I’d hoped you might find some value in the Idiot‘s Guide to Coping with Subway Flatulence, but may have been mistaken. But I know you’ll enjoy poring over the book of aerial photos of Perth Amboy.
I’m glad you were able to enjoy at least a few of the delicious biscochitos I sent you before their discovery by your resident roach populations. The biscochito is the state cookie of New Mexico, and they are obviously appreciated by all creatures great and small. Better luck next time, amigos.
The large supply of catnip you sent was more than appreciated by Patrick. He had been peeved at me for resorting to a small artificial Christmas tree this year and, apparently in the devilish grip of catnip euphoria, completely dismantled the fully decorated creation one night as visions of sugar plums danced in my head. The next morning, the sad little green plastic structure lay on the tile floor with its phony, lush, wire-filled “branches” awkwardly splayed out and misshapen. The chile pepper lights and all the ornaments had been completely removed and scattered about with the exception of a dog in a Santa outfit I found in the toilet.
I wasn’t overly pleased with an artificial tree myself, and my anger at Patrick was short-lived. I’ve since hidden the remaining herb in an odor-proof location and remain thankful the little beast has been unable to manipulate the car keys or reach the garage door opener.
Thanks again, my friends, for making another Christmas memorable.
—Your Friend Herb, Placitas, New Mexico
re: Overlook subdivision developers attempting water rights grab against El Cerro Negro landowners
There has been a new twist in the eleven-year-old water rights lawsuit between Lynn Montgomery, a farmer in the Las Huertas Creek area, and the developers of the Overlook subdivision.
The Overlook developers, Garden Path Associates and Lomas Altos, received an unfavorable ruling from the New Mexico Supreme Court in this matter. In order to secure rights to continue pumping from their deep well, they are trying to get the county to forfeit the water rights of individual landowners in the El Cerro Negro area of Placitas through an abandonment proceeding. El Cerro Negro landowners probably seem like an easy target to their lawyers, as we do not have a homeowners association or water authority.
At least one domestic well has gone dry in our area since the Overlook began pumping nearby. I, Jack Bates, have performed a lot of research into this situation and obtained qualified legal counsel. If you are a landowner in El Cerro Negro, or can prove that you are an interested party on my side of this issue, I would like to share my information with you.
I can be found most Friday evenings having dinner at the A&E Cafe in the Homestead Village shopping center, or feel free to contact me via the means listed below. No phone calls please. Email: email@example.com or visit http://tiltedplacitan.net/waterrights.html.
—Jack Bates, Resident landowner El Cerro Negro, Placitas
re: government intervention, not market failure, explains crisis
Jason Clemens and Robert Murphy hit the nail squarely on the head with their assessment of the current economic crisis. There is plenty of blame to be doled out, but no one willing to accept any responsibility. What a surprise! Could the Bush administration have done more? Of course, but they were not the sole instigator as many Americans have been led to believe.
What is so disturbing is that the very people who caused it (Dodd, Frank, Waters, and the like) ran for reelection on the platform of fixing the problem and that an uninformed electorate returned them to office. These nitwits have given billions in blank checks to the likes of AIG, but want the auto industry to jump through hoops for a mere $25 billion. Ask yourself, would we be any worse off today if AIG had gone through bankruptcy? Probably not.
It is likely that the Washington congressional jerks will screw up the bailout for years to come. Those of us who are retired and have seen our savings shrink at an alarming rate will just have to hunker down and ride it out. No more “I want it all and I want it now,“ as the commercial says. Perhaps a simpler, more satisfying way of life will come out of this for us all. That would be a good thing.
—Don DeMart, Placitas
re: government intervention, not market failure, explains crisis
The letter to the editor (the Gauntlet, December 2008), “Government intervention, not market failure, explains [financial] crisis”, was not a letter from a friend or neighbor, or a concerned New Mexico citizen, but in fact a press release from The Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a Libertarian think tank based in San Francisco, California.
The purpose of the article was to deflect blame for the current economic crisis away from President Bush and the conservative members of congress, and onto those in congress who believe that more, not less, regulation of the financial industry is called for. PRI’s explanation of the cause of the financial crisis is controversial at best.
Pacific Research Institute’s website states, “[In 2007, PRI] produced more than three hundred op-eds. That equates to roughly one op-ed in an American newspaper for every business day.” Furthermore, the website informs that in 2007, PRI “reached an audience of nearly one billion through print and online media…“ and “averaged more than one hundred articles citing PRI’s research published each month.”
Clearly these are people with an agenda. And a very revisionist agenda at that.
—Gary W. Priester, Placitas
Obama picks a moderate for Interior Secretary
—Rocky Barker, Writers on the Range
It’s not surprising that Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity and Jon Marvel of the Western Watersheds Project are disappointed in Barack Obama’s choice for Interior secretary, Colorado Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar.
The two activists have tapped the federal courts for the last two decades in their efforts to stop overgrazing, logging and other activities on public land. Suckling, of Tucson, Arizona, and Marvel, of Hailey, Idaho, have made frequent use of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
They, and some other small environmental groups, were hoping that Obama would pick an Interior secretary willing to buck the political power of the states and Congress and leap over all other barriers to the achievement of their goals. Instead, they got in Salazar, a nominee whom Interior Department solicitor Bill Myers describes as “a cowboy hat-wearing, Western Democrat in the mold of (former Interior Secretary) Cecil Andrus." In other words, a moderate.
Salazar, a former Colorado attorney general, is also the former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He’s a fifth-generation Hispanic Coloradan who grew up on a farm and owns a ranch. As a senator, he has fought against oil and gas drilling on Colorado’s Roan Plateau, and he challenged the Bush administration’s gung-ho efforts to spur oil shale development. He’s a great example of “Next West” Democrats who have expanded the party’s influence across the region.
He’s also pro-gun, and he’s not Raul Grijalva, the Tucson congressman that many environmentalists hoped would get the job. Marvel, who says one of his goals is pushing livestock grazing off the public lands altogether, put it clearly: "We’re not very happy with Ken Salazar. After all, he’s a rancher.”
On the other hand, national environmental groups have all praised Obama’s choice. Their power base is in Washington, D.C., and they have lots of alumni on Obama’s transition team and in his inner circle.
They are confident Salazar will help them advance an environmental agenda that includes transforming the American economy to combat climate change. This is a mind-bogglingly ambitious agenda that can only be completed by legislative changes in Congress, in the states and even in local governments.
That is why Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, which represents 95 grassroots groups in the state, thinks Salazar is a good fit. "It could be that a centralist like Ken Salazar can get more done because he’s not a lightning rod, and he can work with all sides,” Jones said. “He’s not going to draw a backlash from traditional commodities industries."
Western Democrats have expanded their power by appealing to the new urban and exurban residents attracted to the region by its beauty, and by gaining some support from people in traditional industries like agriculture and mining. Obama’s re-election could hang on how well he keeps this uneasy coalition together.
Fixing the economy, fighting two wars and addressing climate change are bound to be higher priorities than the traditional Western land battles over endangered species, motorized recreation, logging and mining. This could give Salazar a wide berth to make decisions in the next two years.
He will be tested soon by his decision whether to list as endangered the sage grouse, a bird that signals the health of millions of acres of sagebrush steppe habitat across 11 western states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by May whether to list the bird in a case filed on behalf of the Western Watersheds Project, Marvel’s group.
If the sage grouse is listed, it could have the same kind of impact on public-land ranching that the spotted owl had on logging in the Pacific Northwest's old-growth forests in the late 1980s. It also could limit the development of wind, geothermal and solar energy across the Western deserts, as well as new utility line connections to spread-out alternative energy developments.
In 2004, scientists said that the sage grouse decision could have gone either way. Now, with west Nile virus killing thousands of grouse, the Bush administration’s determination to quickly bring on oil and gas, and fires destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat, many environmentalists believe that the agency will have no choice but to list.
If that happens, Salazar will earn his keep if he can find common ground among a lot of ornery Westerners.
Rocky Barker is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is the environmental writer for IdahoStatesman.com in Boise, Idaho, and the author of Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America.