SocraticGadfly: Fighting with High Country News over something besides wokeness

September 06, 2022

Fighting with High Country News over something besides wokeness

Contributing editor Jonathan Thompson, with whom I battled before in the past, when he was an in-house editor and HCN stopped running the likes of Jeff St. Clair, Jim Stiles and Felice Pace.

So, I quoted to him his:

So, banning alfalfa is not the answer.

And went from there, and am expanding on it.

Thompson gave me several links from his Substack. I grokked the first. And, here's my thoughts back to him, expanded.

Even short of an outright ban, not using all tools to push (legally, if needed) farmers away from alfalfa, needs to be part of the answer.

I think, from your quote, I reasonably extrapolated from your mindset. As for the first link?

I one-starred John Fleck's first book, not just because the book was so crappy it didn't even mention climate change until the last chapter, but because he and his co-blogger on his blog loved dissing Marc Reisner. And, I also one-starred it because Fleck seems to think "Kumbaya" is the normal answer to solving water rights and usage issues, when it is is not, as he ignores the whole history of the Southwest that legal hammers, or at least threats of them, are almost always how they're fixed. And, also, speaking of climate change, per that first link, can we have our cheeseburgers and water, too? Fleck is no Marc Reisner, but he is thin-skinned.

I'm not a vegetarian, but, per Robert Mitchum and the old NCBA commercials and other things?

"Eat less beef!" Or "Beef: It needs to be not so much for any meal."

And, while not a vegetarian, because of climate change, I have steadily curtailed my eating of meat in general and beef in particular for a full decade.

The US, even without going full vegetarian, needs to cut its beef by 25 percent. And, since federal Western grazing rights are well below market value, that means more than 25 percent of that cut falls on Thompson's beef from the San Juans.

Contra his link, we also don't need to replace alfalfa with sorghum, which largely gets used as dairy cow fodder. Between the craptacular US price supports system, where Canada's government-controlled production quotas is much better, and other factors, we already have too much milk floating around the system.

Until Thompson gets serious about this, no, he doesn't think alfalfa is part of the problem. He just thinks current alfalfa growing methods are part of the problem. That's even though he admits that western public beef grazing is WORSE than feedlots.

As for the "what would happen" to fallowed fields? This is strawmanning:

Buying and drying alfalfa farms would free up water to send to cities or to leave in streams, but what would become of the fallow fields? Would nature reclaim them? Or would they be overrun by houses or strip malls or dollar stores?

No, what would happen, as I told Thompson in my first email, is that most the Western Slope would "depopulate" more. With the depopulation, neoliberal hypercapitalists wouldn't have a serf class to wait on them, so no McMansions unlike in Teton County, Wyoming.

As for lined irrigation ditches eliminating small-scale marsh-like environments? Shit, next, Thompson will be defending "Mr. Reclamation" Wayne Aspinall. It's happened elsewhere, and needs to happen in yet more places.

And? The High Plains have depopulated for decades. Enough of that, and we could revisit broken Indian treaties and send some land back. Given how HCN raises Indian land issues regularly, and rightly, before burying it in wrongful wokeness, Thompson should applaud this!

Beyond all that, his claim near the end of that link that water, alfalfa, etc., don't have to be a zero-sum game shows to me that he's smoked too much John Fleck. 

So, no, Thompson, my "damned" reading comprehension isn't broken. Just as my damned analysis of magazine editorial decisions wasn't broken nearly a decade ago

Thompson later sent a second email (to which I didn't respond), noting how much lower Basin alfalfa is grown by Saudis (which I knew from HCN, and elsewhere), how much of alfalfa is used for dairy fodder (which I knew 25 years ago from the lower portion of the Rio Grande and Pecos in New Mexico), and other things (while not telling me that the sorghum or milo he mentions in his Substack has the same use and other things). 

Update: Colorado state Sen. Cleave Simpson, a Rethuglican no less, who farms in the San Luis Valley, admits alfalfa is unsustainable in the long term. Thompson, it's time to get over your alfalfa romance.

Sidebar: Thompson is wrong about something else. SCOTUS did not remove all power to address climate change from presidential hands. It's just that Biden doesn't want to test what else it might remove, plus, he's a Democrat, not a Green or beyond. And it's not just me that disagrees with Thompson; Grist is in my blog post about that.

And, even the BEZOS POST says that Biden has room for plenty of executive orders and related actions. For example, it suggests USDA pursue antitrust actions against the biggest of Big Ag. That DOJ bring more civil and criminal cases against polluters. (The legal hammer on other pollutants, if not specifically against CO2, would lower CO2 as a sidebar. And, given methane as emanating from landfills, it too would get lowered as a sidebar.)

And, straight from the executive orders playbook? It notes Biden could declare a climate emergency.

All of this and more, though, if #TeamBlue pretends they can't be done, won't be done. Like with Dear Leader Obama, if you don't push from the left ...

And, per Pro Publica, not just Status Quo Joe, but the former Mayor Pothole, Gavin Newsom, need to be pushed from the left, or from somewhere. I think Thompson wants to have his status quo and eat it, too. The other phrase for that comes from Louis XV: "Apres moi, le deluge."

It's all part of a "love-frustration relationship" with HCN, which hit higher speed when you first started coddling the Trump Train, then broke the ice on the current wrongfully woke editorial stance when you printed the lies of Melanin Base Camp.

It's been six years and counting since I dumped my subscription for the second time, after first starting one 20 years ago. And, despite, or because of, wrangling with Thompson over that, too, and other things, my frustration has grown and love has diminished more and more over that time. At some point, I would be benefited, other than passing up the opportunity for low-hanging blogging fruit, by unsubscribing from HCN's email alerts.

Before I got Thompson's second email, I realized he's in love with a romantic slice of the old West. Hence my reference to It permeates the magazine in general, no matter its editorial direction otherwise. It's why Paul Larmer or some other older publisher defended staying in Paonia, Colorado, even while acknowledging the West is the most urbanized region of the US. It's why Thompson defends the smell of alfalfa and doesn't connect its growth in the high country to grazing on BLM and Forest Service land for those same cows that he knows is destructive. It's why the woke-angled folks only want to look at a legendarily pristine American Indian past as ultimate formulator of their views while ignoring capitalist oil-drilling Indians of today and other things.

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