September 24, 2021

National Public Lands Day, High Country News woke version

National Public Lands Day is a good day for celebrating our public lands, even though Ken Burns was wrong and they're NOT "America's greatest idea" or that close, and even though, as Olympic National Park shows, as I blogged earlier today, the Park Service looks good only when compared with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. I forgot that six years, ago, in the run-up to the NPS centennial, I had tackled various other shortcomings of the Park Service.

So, it's nice of High Country News to have staffers reminisce about access to public lands.

Or, when I clicked the link, I found out it was "nice."

Two problems with noting the American Indians who once had possession of the land.

First, as Al Runte noted years ago, and I blogged about, being American Indian is no guarantor of being a good environmentalist.

Second, the American Indians in possessions of the land at the time the U.S. government made treaties with them, then broke them, weren't always the possessors. In fact, in the case of Comb Ridge, it was NEVER part of any Navajo Reservation, not the main part and best known part in Utah, vs the southern tip in Aridzona. It's arguably got a better claim from Utes. And Sarah Tory should know that, and she specifically mentions the Utah portion.

Runte also tackled that, quoting T.H. Watkins:

In short, if compensation in 1974 was the proper policy, why limit it to people of European descent? For example, Watkins asked: “If the descendants of nineteenth-century white Americans have a moral obligation to the descendants of nineteenth-century Navajos, do not the Navajos have a similar obligation to the descendents of the Pueblo Indians, whom they forced from their lands in the thirteenth century? If white Americans have a moral obligation to the Chippewas (or Ojibways), do not the Chippewas have a moral obligation to the Lakota Sioux, whose lands they appropriated by warfare in the seventeenth century? If white Americans have a moral obligation to the Blackfeet, do not the Blackfeet have a moral obligation to the Shoshoni, who were driven out of their hunting territory by the Blackfeet in the seventeenth century? If white Americans have a moral obligation to the Cherokees, do not the Cherokees have a moral obligation to the Shawnees, whom they vanquished in the early nineteenth century in a war over which tribe would have a monopoly selling Indian slaves to the South?”

There you go.

I think this is about Reason No. 116 why I haven't, and won't, renew an HCN subscription that's been lapsed for years. (This also is not the first time it's gotten American Indian land issues wrong.)

Sidebar: I do NOT agree with everything Runte writes at National Parks Traveler and elsewhere about preservation in the modern U.S. in general and the modern NPS in particular. I do NOT want light rail, let alone light rail run by traditional rail companies, in the parks, contra his plea. Instead, I want more buses at sites that already have them, with smaller buses running more frequent routes, and buses at places that don't already have them, and I want these buses to be all-electric. No more propane buses. His critics are right that his idea almost certainly means "more development." They're also right about the worrisomeness of him first writing that piece for a "more development in the parks" site. Things like that undercut some of his other insights and make them look politically motivated.

Olympic National Park — still a tenuous hold on the future?

This is an expanded version of an already long Goodreads review of a book I saw while on vacation and got via interlibrary loan after I got home.

Olympic Battleground: The Power Politics of Timber PreservationOlympic Battleground: The Power Politics of Timber Preservation by Carsten Lien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A MUST READ for environmental types who are not familiar with the tenuous past of Olympic National Park, and continuing threats to it from the US Forest Service and possibly from within the National Park Service.

A MUST READ for environmental types who aren't familiar with the largely dirty history of the NPS, and not just in association with Olympic.

This is a fascinating, hugely informative and often HIGHLY infuriating look at the effort to create Olympic National Park, to make sure it was run by the Park Service and NOT the USFS, and then the battle to force the Park Service to act like the people then thought the Park Service would act.

As for the realities of the National Park Service? Having read one book about its history long ago, I had already known that Ken Burns presented a sanitized, even highly sanitized, history in his PBS miniseries. (What’s new? That’s de rigueur for him.)

But, I didn’t realize it was THIS bad. Stephen Mather and Horace Albright not only were development-first people, including hotels, roads, etc. inside parks, and shoot the omnivore and carnivore wildlife if they’re not made to do entertainment, but that they both internalized the Forest Service’s philosophy of “cut the damn trees,” including not wanting old-growth forests in national parks as not being worthy enough. This mentality infused the service for decades.

In addition, many of their underlings didn’t think USFS-run Olympic National Monument was worth of national park status. Others thought it would “compete” with Rainier.

(Many early NPS rangers and even superintendents may have hated "birders" almost as much as the USFS definitely did. Fortunately, the preservation of Olympic preserved plenty of trees for species like the chesnut-backed chickadee.)

Indeed, NPS FOUGHT AGAINST a “large park” when FDR was committed to making Olympic a national park, making it a large one, and taking it out of the hands of the Forest Service. It finally lost due to a public pressure campaign that was arguably even better than the one Dave Brower organized against BuRec to stop the Echo Park dam in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, hacks continued to run the NPS. Cammerer and Drury were both hacks. So was Connie Wirth. (And, contra one other reviewer on Yellow Satan, I knew Drury was a hack even before I read this book.)

AND, using a misinterpretation of the 1916 Organic Act, they let Olympic’s superintendent during the 1940s-1950s, Fred Overly, allow logging, and extensive logging, inside the park. At the same time, NPS leaders as well as the majority of folks at Olympic continued to entertain ideas of getting rid of one southeastern corner of the park, then building a road connecting Quinalt and Dosewallips rivers. (Drury was Overly's boss, and contra the mealy-mouthing of one reviewer, knew — eventually — what Overly was doing and decided "plausible deniability" was good.

(Imagine how the tree at left would look like as a dwarf, surrounded by some of 8-9 feet diameter.)

Yes, you read that right.

Other hacks, or worse?

The “Senator from Boeing,” Scoop Jackson, while still on the House side, never met a tree he didn’t think needed cutting, or a lying lumber company he didn’t think needed more trees to cut. He comes off as a serial liar on anything related to Olympic National Park when not being a hack. (Disgustingly, Wikipedia touts him as an environmentalist.)

It didn’t stop there. In the 1960s, Scoop Jackson, via his flunky Fred Overly, made another run at the west side trees. (Overly had been “exiled” to Great Smokies after the 1950s incident, but eventually got on top-level staff of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, an agency within Interior created in 1962 for rec planning for all Interior agencies. Why Jackson later was a co-author of NEPA, I have no idea. Guilt?

Sadly, the assaults continued even after the coastal strip was added. Overly, and others, tried to get a road built through it. Later, the offshore lands and tidewater were turned over to Fish and Wildlife, with its less restrictive regulations, and with a past and present history of hackery almost as bad as USFS and BLM.

(Imagine a beach like this not being part of Olympic National Park. Imagine that it did have its originally-dedicated level of protection, rather than now using that of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.)

After that? The Park Service opposed original wilderness preservation for most the park. It wanted 20-acre carveouts for hostels and food on a regular basis.

Also a hack, and for something besides Japanese internment? When Newton Drury was fired as NPS director, word leaked that Earl Warren was looking at hiring him to run California parks. All the people that did the initial PR push to protect Olympic in the 1930s and get FDR to make it a park, and that revived themselves in the 1940s against NPS’ attempt to give part of the park back to USFS, wrote Warren. He ignored them.

Near the end, Carsten Lien shows that the “F” management of Olympic by the NPS carried into the 1980s and beyond. In 1988, the idea of breaching and removing the Elwha dams was first raised. The Park Service refused to back it, until the public pushed enough that NPS flipped, as part of what Lien calls its conflict avoidance management strategy. Overall, he says between the lines it looks good only because it stands in comparison to USFS, BLM and FWS.

Lien concludes the book with both fears and recommendations for the future. The recommendations have generally not been followed. There’s still no ranger station marked on maps in the Bogachiel Valley. (I recently hiked the trail from Forest Service trailhead to approximately the park boundary.) An ideal location, per NPS map, would be a ranger station at the junction of the Bogachiel and Sitkum/Calawah trails.

As far as I know, dual-use NPS/USFS visitor centers still exist.

Carsten Lien, with whom I was unfamiliar before, was a long-time activist in The Mountaineers and its president in 1988. He was one of the seasonal rangers in the 1950s who blew the whistle on Fred Overly.

Also at the end of the book, Lien presents three scenarios for the future of the park, and somewhat for the future of the Park Service. The third is more prescriptive than descriptive. He suggests something like a U.S. Wilderness Service to take the highest-level parks away from the Park Service. He's probably right on the prescription, as well as probably right in noting that's only got about a 10 percent chance of reality. If I thought it could be pulled off, I would totally support this. The current Park Service looks good only compared to the land-raping of BLM, the tree-raping of USFS (which has occasionally gotten better), and the wildlife-strangling of FWS.

That said, we should also admit progress. I saw this at the Port Angeles Visitor Center bookstore. According to this piece in National Parks Travelers, a decade ago, Lien's book was kept behind the counter like pornography, if available at all to visitors.

(Update, Sept. 24: I forgot that six years, ago, in the run-up to the NPS centennial, I had tackled various other shortcomings.) 

View all my reviews

September 23, 2021

Texas Progressives talk Beto, SB8, Afghanistan, more

Axios claimed Sunday that Beto was running (for gov, of course). Beto's inner circle denied it.
Meanwhile, for whatever weird reason (well, not weird if wingnut but not wingnut squared Texas GOP members are panicky), Joe Straus for gov rumors have heated up. (Ain't happening, folks.)

Texas Monthly has a detailed dive into why Texas Hispanics are shifting Republican. Remember, the Census and other questions always refer to "Hispanics of any race"; it's a cultural box. And, in Tex-ass, many don't see themselves as La Raza but as White. It also confirms my own refudiation, with later detailed follow-up,  of a decade-plus in the making of Texas Democrats from Gilberto Hinojosa on down blindly believing demographics is destiny. The identification is interesting; New Mexico has plenty of Hispanics who have been in the US at least as long as the Texans in the Valley. They may or may not identify as White; they're definitely more Democratic, but by no means totally so. That said, back to Texas. How do they deal with racism in the Texas GOP? And, yes, Valley Hispanics, it's real. In a somewhat related issue, I blogged last month about how demographics is not destiny among young voters.

Colleyville Heritage High School's principal was placed on paid administrative leave earlier for alleged teaching critical race theory, even though, as a principal, he doesn't teach. The Grapevine-Colleyville ISD School Board deliberated his fate Monday night. Per the first link, there's much additional backstory, not only over race issues, but the principal's take in the ISD's handling of COVID and other things.

Dr. Alan Braid, an OB/GYN announced via newspaper op-ed Sunday he'd deliberately performed an abortion that violated SB 8. Pro-life (except for the death penalty) groups split in their reaction. Texas Right to Life said we're "exploring all our options." At the same time, its John Seago said this was a "stunt." Another anti-choice group, Human Coalition, explicitly said it had no plans to sue; in typical wingnut paranoia, it feared a "trap."

Chicago is recruiting Texas businesses over permitless carry, anti-abortionism and other shite.

Barrett Brown is in trouble again.

As the withdrawal wound down over the last month, SocraticGadfly had a series of pieces related to history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. First was initial thoughts on the withdrawal. After that, he looked at how the initial 1978 US meddling unnecessarily led to all that followed. Third, he said former Counterpunch publisher Alexander Cockburn was probably lying with his claimthe Taliban had a pre-invasion offer of a no-strings-attached surrender of bin Laden. Finally, he rejected claims, and the domestic political thought behind some of them, that the Taliban would now run wild, instead saying Afghanistan's future looks complex.

In other international news, Pretty Boy Trudeau's snap election in Canada basically backfired. As compared to the current Parliament, he gained two or three seats, no more. Conservatives and Greens treaded water while the Bloc and NDP both had small gains. The People's Party Canada, largely a vanity project, increased its vote share but took no seats in Canada's Westminster-style election.

In case you're wondering about the Haitian flood at Del Rio? The Trib says that many of them left Haiti years ago for various countries in Latin America and have now decided to try to cross. It's not coyotes rounding up some new flood. My question, and unanswered by the Trib story, is why are they not staying in Chile or whatever?

People claiming to be part of Anonymous have hacked Epik, the internet host for Parler, Gab and other alt-right and alt-white sites.

Texas 2036 released its poll showing widespread dissatisfaction with the direction the state is going.

The Texas Living Waters Project sees the American Rescue Plan Act as a historic opportunity to invest in our water infrastructure.

Reform Austin catches Ken Paxton in a rare moment of self-awareness.

The Bloggess recommends some horror movies for you.

The Great God Pan Is Dead is looking forward to fall art season.

Peter Thiel, hack, but a plutocratic, neo-reactionary one

You always knew Peter Thiel was a turd. Maybe you didn't know how big of a turd, though. A new book, excerpted here, will help with that, including detailing his connections with Cambridge Analytica.

The LA Times also has a review of the new book. It notes that, contra Emerson, Thiel lacks not only foolish consistency, but much of any, above all being an alleged Jeebus believer who allegedly drug-fueled orgies. This review notes that, while he's often called a libertarian, along with people noting his "following" Leo Strauss, he's really more of a neo-reactionary. In other words, a politer alt-righter.

Here's the takeaway from that:
Chafkin’s title has it exactly right: Thiel is a contrarian, a man who doesn’t truly stand for anything — only against. What could be more boring than that?

The first piece reminds us, with more detail than the second, that Thiel is giving major bucks to the Senate runs of J.D. Vance, aka Shitbagger Vance, and Blake Masters. Both once worked for him. He's also closely tied to Intellectual Dark Web nutter Eric Weinstein. None of these people are libertarian types either. All are neo-reactionaries.

And, per President Biden's talk about reforming the IRS to give it a better shot at rich tax cheats? Or rather, the mega-rich ones? That's why they hate it. And, Thiel personally has reason to fear the House's Roth IRA reform bill.

September 22, 2021

Texas Progressives get ready for redistricting

The Lege (as we await the fate of a lawsuit that claims redistrictings can be done only in regular sessions, per the Texas Constitution so beloved of wingnuts) has dropped its first Texas Senate redistricting map. The Trib has the backstory. As others have noted, "cracking and packing" along with "splitting and diluting" in the Metromess and elsewhere. Beverly Powell targeted in an attempt to "whiten" District 10 after she narrowly beat wingnut Konni Burton. That's the dilute and split. Nathan Johnson's Dist. 16 is cracked and packed, in part to benefit the GOP in District 10 and 12. Taking white suburbs out of Dist. 16 is done primarily to benefit whatever GOP wins the primary to succeed Jane "I Lied about Term Limits (and many other things)" Nelson in Dist. 12. Look back at her last two races, esp. the last one. I wrote a blog post about this, this summer, noting that Dist. 10, Dist. 12, Kelly Hancock's Dist. 9 and, if possible but a distant fourth, Angela Paxton's Dist. 8 would all be targets of redistricting help. She's getting some help by being moved more into exurban areas, with rejiggering to the east of nutbar Bob Hall's Dist. 2 and other things. Springer's Dist. 30 is "safe," so the GOP can borrow from it as needed. I had mainly been focused on "borrowing" from Springer's seat; hadn't thought about borrowing from Bob Hall's.

Off the Kuff looks at 2020 Congressional results as we wait for further redistricting maps.

Texas Dems may have some slim chance that they are right that the Lege can only redistrict in a regular session, but they're almost certainly wrong. They're definitely wrong that the courts are the next alternative; it's the Legislative Redistricting Board. See more here. That second link also says that Texas Dems may not be right about the "only in a regular session" claim. Also, Kenny Boy is right that such suit should go through state courts first. (Sigh; when Texas Dems continue to be dumber than Ken Paxton ...)
Katya Ehresman shows people how to get involved in the redistricting fight.

September 21, 2021

Sixers AND Mavs fans, again, I got a trade for you: Porzingis-Simmons

Yes, I know, Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers say they're going to fix Ben Simmons' shooting. That assumes it is fixable, and that it's fixable in the context of playing for the Sixers in Philly, generally regarded as the toughest sports fandom city in the nation.

It also assumes Ben Simmons wants to continue to play for the Sixers. As of Sept. 21, he's said that's a big negatory and won't report to training camp.

And, the idea would be questionable coming out of many head coaches' and GMs' mouths. From these two? Even more so.

As for Dallas? Yes, Jason Kidd may make Kristaps Porzingis somewhat more at ease, but, he's probably worn his welcome thin as well.

Now, I'm nowhere near a genyus on NBA salary cap and trade rules, but I know that going by 2020-21 salaries, both teams are over the cap but (I believe) under the lux tax level. So, we have to match within 125 percent. Via Spotrac and looking ahead to next year, here's the Mavs and the Sixers.

Since this is the NBA, first, we have to get within 80 percent on salaries, right? Simmons is set for $33 million and change next year on his base salary. The Zinger? Spotrac says the same!

So, no extra players need be thrown in.

Now, to make the trade happen, not in terms of salaries, but to make it happen, should this get serious consideration, would one team insist on an additional player, or a draft choice, from the other? 

Possibly, but neither should be dumb if it really thinks it's time to move on.

How does this affect both teams?

For the Mavs? Simmons can be point forward or even point center in some lineups. Teach him a Magic Johnson baby sky hook or jump hook in the post. Teach him a Magic-style push-set shot three-ball stroke even. With Luka DoncicTim Hardaway Jr,Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson, the Mavs still have four three-ballers.

For the Sixers? The Zinger gives an additional outside threat, and one who's not afraid to let it rip. And, since Joel Embiid is already a defensive stopper, the Unicorn could go floating more in a "twin towers" lineup. When the Sixers go smaller, he pairs nicely with Tobias Harris inside.

There's one "small" problem with this. 

As I noted this summer in discussing what the Sixers should do with Simmons, they're kind of thin behind him at the point. George Hill is gone. Can Seth Curry be your PG? Uhh, probably not. If you're the Mavs, do you slip Trey Burke in to grease the skids? Include Brunson if you have to?

Would this make either team better? The ESPN Trade Machine says it's a wash for the Mavs and a big ding for the Sixers as a straight-up. So, throwing in one of those PGs would certainly help.  The trade machine calls it a near-wash for the Sixers if Brunson's in there.

That said, the trade machine only looks at things like PER. It's just a numbers-cruncher; it can't look at how players fit together.

If I'm the Mavs, I make that trade, including throwing in Brunson if necessary. If I'm the Sixers, I do it if a draft choice is also included ... maybe they hold out for both?

And, if I'm the Mavs? I would even throw in Brunson plus a swap of firsts and fall a bit lower in the draft.

Woj said this summer that the Sixers are looking for "Hardenesque" deals. Ain't.Gonna.Happen. Something like what I propose above is realistic. Daryl Morey is going to have to face that fact sooner or later. If he wants Damian Lillard, he needs to fork over more than just Simmons.

Per ESPN, yeah, the Sixers don't have to move Simmons this year; he's got contract years left. But, if they want to boost their playoff chances, yes, they "have to" make a trade this year.

It's not just that Simmons might mesh with Luka better than the Unicorn. We also know that Porzingis' defense, especially lateral defense, leaves something to be desired. Note: Here is where I call out one of FanSided's nutter blogs. The Smoking Cuban (no links) moaned about Zinger being ranked too low in SI's Top 100, but then in another post, listed him among players that need to up their D. SI had him at 41; ESPN has him at 40. Until he proves that he's regained lateral mobility and is relatively injury-free, both are too high.)