Colorado Lawmakers Oppose Outrageous BLM Road Closures

May 30, 2015

From a Colorado State Senate Press Release:

Western Slope Road and Trail Closures Prompt Concerns

A group of 21 Republican lawmakers from the Senate and House sent a letter to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper May 20 calling on him to oppose a new Bureau of Land Management “travel plan” for parts of the Western Slope that could close up to 2,000 miles of rural roads or trails in Grand Junction and Mesa Counties.

The lawmakers say these “radical and unnecessary” access restrictions “will have a potentially devastating impact on the regional economy, our legal rights and our heritage.” The letter-signers ask Hickenlooper “to protect our economy and our rights by withholding your approval of the BLM plan.”

The letter stems from the alarm these management changes are causing among Western Slope residents, elected officials and stakeholder groups — including advocates for the disabled — who view them as an unwarranted effort by the agency to limit access to areas where locals and visitors recreate, hunt and fish and, in some cases, make their livelihoods. Roughly 60 percent of the routes currently controlled by BLM’s Grand Junction office would be closed. And the plan’s 20-year duration means that any mistakes made now will have decades-long consequences.

The letter stresses that all Coloradans have an interest in maintaining access to these lands, not just those living in or near Grand Junction, given how critical they are to the state’s economy and outdoors-oriented lifestyle. That point is underscored by the geographic diversity of those who signed.

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“Roughly 36 percent of Colorado is controlled by agencies headquartered 1,500 miles away, so road closures and access restrictions of the kind being proposed here may not mean as much to agency brass as they mean to us,” said Senator Ray Scott. “We want Gov. Hickenlooper to take the message to our Washington landlords that throwing people off public lands, by closing-off access routes, directly threatens our Western economy and culture. The agency doesn’t appear to have gotten that message through the normal public process.”

Senators signing the letter are Randy Baumgardner (Hot Sulfur Springs), Kevin Grantham (Canon City), Ellen Roberts (Durango), John Cooke (Greeley), Laura Woods (Arvada), Ray Scott (Grand Junction), Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Vickie Marble (Fort Collins), Jerry Sonnenberg (Sterling), Kent Lambert (Colorado Springs), Tim Neville (Littleton) and Kevin Lundberg (Berthoud).

Similar concerns were expressed by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a separate letter to Hickenlooper. And Mesa County Commissioners also have asked BLM to delay the plan’s finalization so they can more closely study the likely impacts.

Posted with permission by Reagangirl.com  5/30/15

Denver’s Controversial Landmarks: Art or Expensive Eyesores?

May 28, 2015

Denver spends big money on controversial public art

By   /   May 27, 2015

Three, 20-foot lanterns stand in front of Denver County’s troubled jail in a bleak industrial area off Havana Street and Smith Road, but the artist and city say the roughly $200,000 taxpayers spent on the public art could help take a bite out of crime.

“The art suggests fresh ways of interpreting the experiences of people who live and work in this area,” “Havana Lanterns” creator David Griggs was quoted in a city news release. “By revealing these opportunities, the art can suggest alternatives to recidivism, and it can reflect upon hope, renewal, and inspiration of new beginnings.”

Photo By Arthur Kane

SEE THE LIGHT: The city stands by the allegedly restorative and reform properties of this public art.

In 1988, then-Mayor Federico Peña signed an executive order requiring all building projects that cost $1 million or more to dedicate 1 percent to public art, and since then Denver taxpayers have paid nearly $32 million for sometimes controversial art projects, city records show. In 1991, the City Council passed an ordinance mirroring Peña’s executive order for new building projects, which are often funded by bond issues and tax increase initiatives.

Another $1.7 million in public art is in the process of being created and installed throughout the city, according to a spreadsheet of projects Watchdog.org obtained.

Photo courtesy Denver City Council

ART CRITIC: Denver Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz said the city spends too much money on sometimes questionable public art.

Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky said public art is a complete waste of money and shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.

“I reject out of hand spending any money on art,” he said. “These projects have to be funded with private funds… I’ve never seen one piece funded by government that I like.”

But Michael Chavez, who runs the city’s program, said public art is key to making Denver a great city.

“It’s extremely important as our city is growing that art is included in design and planning of certain buildings,” he said. “If you think about any great city in the world — London, Paris, New York — it’s not the sewers or the sidewalks people remember. It’s what the cities offer in art culture.”

Denver’s public art has been controversial because the beauty of any particular piece is in the eye of the beholder. Much of the ire has been focused on the 32-foot-tall blue mustang with firey red eyes that greets travelers on their way to Denver International Airport.

 

Photo Courtesy DIA

HORSEPLAY: The mustang outside of Denver International Airport has been controversial public art and literally killed its creator.

The sculpture, part of which fell on artist Luis Jimenez and killed him in 2006, cost $300,000, but many residents want it torn down.

Facebook pages have popped up either calling for the mustang’s removal or supporting it. Whenever Denver media does a story on the horse, the comments pages are flooded with contemptuous remarks like one viewer who said the mustang is more appropriate for the cover of a solo album by late-Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio.

Chavez concedes some projects were controversial, but says it wouldn’t be good art if the pieces didn’t spark discourse and discussion. He says he gets many compliments and mostly questions rather than complaints about pieces like the blue mustang.

The city set up a process where proposed pieces go through several commissions, giving as many as 50 residents, artists, designers and other experts a say in what work the city sponsors before the mayor’s final approval.

“Our process is successful because we create a selection panel for any new project,” Chavez said.

Despite the broad community input, Denver’s art ordinance isn’t universally loved by elected representatives. Watchdog.org emailed all Denver city council members to determine their feelings about the ordinance, but only four responded by deadline.

“I am not a fan of the city’s public arts program,” wrote Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz in an email exchange with Watchdog.org. “Early in my tenure on council, I floated an idea to modify or repeal it. We were in the midst of a budget-crippling recession. (But I) couldn’t get traction from my colleagues.”

Faatz wrote that the city’s art program is more expensive than the state’s and 1 percent of large projects can be a huge amount of money to spend. She surveyed her constituents in 2011 about what the city should cut in lean budget times and 65 percent of respondents said art and culture promotions should be first.

Photo By Arthur Kane

METAL MANIA: Taxpayers paid more than $400,000 for these metal rods suspended by cables outside the Museum of Nature and Science.

But outgoing Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said she supports the program and was recently on a panel that picked the art for a new recreation center.

Photo Courtesy Denver City Council

ART DEFENDER: Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said the public art program is important for Denver.

“I am a staunch supporter of the 1% for public art program,” she wrote, adding she doesn’t believe bond issues should be used to fund affordable housing, which is being floated as the next possible tax increase in Denver. “Denver is a creative class city that very much values art and culture.”

Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann echoed Robb’s support for the program.

Councilman Charlie Brown said he supports the program, though he suggested there might need to be a cap for very large projects.

He also said he doesn’t mind controversial art.

“Public art by its very nature generates controversy, but there’s nothing wrong with controversy — at least it has people talking about art,” he said in a phone interview.

Golyansky bristled at the expenditure of public money, saying in ancient cultures like Greece and Rome that are revered for their art, most projects were funded with private money.

He also dismisses any social benefits of the art, particularly for the art patrons who view the “Lanterns” out the slits of the jail windows on Havana Street.

“Some drug dealer and murder sees some idiot modern art thing, a blue horse, and gets reformed,” Golyansky scoffed. “It’s laughable on the face of it. It’s illogical. It really insults my intelligence to make that kind of argument.”

But Chavez stood by the contention, saying art is often transformative.

“I think that’s pretty spot on,” he said of the artist’s description of the lanterns.

Photo By Arthur Kane

TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD: This $23,000 installation that sits on Colfax Avenue, which Playboy magazine dubbed the wickedest street in America, depicts donuts and bicycle wheels as symbols of Denver’s main street.

   

Arthur Kane is an investigative reporter who covers Colorado and Oklahoma. You can follow him at @ArthurMKane. If you have tips or investigative ideas, email him at akane@watchdog.org

Reposted with permission by Reagangirl.com  5/28/15

Federal Ownership of State Lands Impedes National Prosperity

May 27, 2015

Transfer of Federal Lands is about National Prosperity! – Ken Ivory

Ken Ivory is the founder of the American Land Council and a Utah State Representative. The Transfer of Federal Lands back to the states is critical in the Mountain West where the Federal Government retains ownership of a majority of lands and resources. He leads the effort to transfer management of lands and resources back to the states where they belong.

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Public Policy Statement 

Ratified by unanimous consent Oct 9, 2014 at ALC Multi-State Workshop

Salt Lake City, UT and Oct 20, 2014 by American Lands Council Board of Directors.

 

1. WE URGE THE TIMELY AND ORDERLY TRANSFER OF FEDERAL PUBLIC LANDS TO WILLING STATES FOR LOCAL CONTROL THAT WILL PROVIDE BETTER PUBLIC ACCESS, BETTER ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, AND BETTER ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY; 

2. WE SUPPORT EXCLUDING EXISTING NATIONAL PARKS, CONGRESSIONALLY DESIGNATED WILDERNESS AREAS, INDIAN RESERVATIONS, AND MILITARY INSTALLATIONS FROM THE TRANSFER; AND 

3. WE SUPPORT EQUIPPING FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL AGENCIES WITH RESOURCES NECESSARY TO PLAN FOR A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION TO STATE-BASED OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT OF THE TRANSFERRED PUBLIC LANDS; AND 

4. WE URGE MANAGEMENT PRIORITIES FOR THESE LANDS THAT WILL: 

i. IMPROVE PUBLIC ACCESS: Protect public access, rights of way, and multiple-uses on public lands for all people including sportsmen, tourists, recreational users, subsistence and sustenance activities, and emergency access; and

ii. IMPROVE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Reduce catastrophic wildfire fuel loads that threaten communities, infrastructure, watersheds, critical wildlife habitat, and our environment. Facilitate restoration of healthy forests, range lands, and waterways; and

iii. IMPROVE ECONOMIC PRODUCTIVITY: Secure jobs and economic growth through responsible natural resource stewardship and use including tourism and recreational opportunities; and

iv. RETAIN PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF PUBLIC LANDS: Federal public lands shall become state public lands to be managed in accordance with state and local plans; and

v. IMPROVE EFFICIENCY OF WILDFIRE CONTROL: Provide state, local, and tribal government with adequate wildfire prevention and control resources and develop interstate/interagency cooperative agreements necessary to combat wildfires effectively; and

vi. INCREASE LOCAL INVOLVEMENT & ACCOUNTABILITY: Ensure state-based public land management activities are consistent with local government plans, policies, and objectives; and

vii. PROTECT USE RIGHTS: Protect all valid existing rights and multiple uses, and enhance the viability of compatible, land-based livelihoods; and

viii. PRESERVE CUSTOMS & CULTURE: Preserve and protect important wild, scenic, cultural and economic resources; and

ix. INCORPORATE FEDERAL AGENCY EXPERTISE: Seek to utilize federal expertise and research through employment and/or cooperative agreements; and

x. GENERATE SELF-SUPPORTING FINANCE: Foster compatible economic productivity to support essential government services such as local roads, utilities, emergency services, public health and safety, education, justice, and other civic functions while reducing tax burdens on citizens nationally and offsetting federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools funds.

 posted by Reagangirl.com  5/27/15

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Acceptable Blood: The Sacrifice of Heroes

May 26, 2014

In remembrance of the sacred blood of our patriots, and the service of our veterans who returned home to carry on with the American Dreams, The Acceptable Blood is a tribute to all who gave their lives for the cause of liberty.

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The blood of Americans, and other freedom-loving people who understand how essential our earthly liberty is to our eternal salvation, is not just acceptable to the Lord, but it is the most holy of earthly gifts.

2saratoga The fourth of July fell on a Sunday this year.  That happy calendar trick put the observed holiday on the following Monday.  So what resulted were three days of celebrations.  This was certainly true for my little family.  Since Sunday is our day of worship and, theoretically, rest, we diluted it all down to be sprinkled throughout the three-day holiday.

The first speaker at church Sunday morning was one of the largest, and certainly the oldest, gentlemen in our congregation.  He had not escaped the weathering of his years and, though a little stooped, he towered over the rest.  He stood at the pulpit with a soaring resolve that diminished the best of us.  He told of how he had been on the carrier Saratoga during the battle of Iwo Jima.  “Our airplanes had been patrolling the skies and one night in February of 1945 the carrier was hit by a Kamikaze plane.”

The old gentleman looked out at our robust congregation and said, “Within 15 minutes as many people as are in this chapel here today were killed.”  He went on to tell us of the death of his bunk mate  whose personal effects he had to pack to be sent home to his family.  This young man was found in the cockpit of an airplane, pen and paper in hand.  He had been writing a letter to his sweetheart at the very moment he was killed.”  He explained this in the financial terms which were familiar to him as an accountant.  “This”, he said, “was an installment paid by many men that night towards the cost of freedom.”

He spoke of another friend who was killed in that battle. His young wife was nearly due to give birth to their second baby at the time she received word of her husband’s death.   Again he spoke of the “installments made by the baby, the small child, the young mother and the young father whose blood was shed, towards the cost of freedom.”  The freedom he spoke of was not to be enjoyed by those who paid the installments. The rare men and women who carry in their hearts the greatness and purpose of America have willingly given their lives as a ransom for free people.  They have died for a holy purpose and their gift is more akin to the gift and sacrifice of Jesus Christ than any other that can be extended by a mortal soul.

I struggled to contain my emotion and I felt a little smaller in my pew as he spoke.  But my heart was full. Another fellow who spoke was a younger man who, for the first time in about a year, had trimmed his hair which had been considerably lengthy for a Mormon.  This man spoke of the pact he made with his son who has been fighting in Afghanistan on and off for about 6 years.  The pact was that he would cut his hair when his son returned safe and whole. His son returned home to his dad, mom, wife and little son just days prior to the church meeting.

The man at the pulpit spoke of how his son had been point man on numerous raids where the mission was to capture and arrest members of the Taliban who were hiding in houses, dugouts, caves, “rat holes”.  This young soldier took turns at point with a good buddy of his, but the guys in his patrol liked him best because he was handy with the machine gun.  They had been taking turns one day when his buddy was shot.  It was a roll of the dice.  If it had been him as point man he would have been shot.  The father spoke of how this buddy had died in his son’s arms shortly after being hit.  His last words were, “Josh, I’ve been shot.”  The father was reluctant to tell his wife about this incident.  Mothers, you see, don’t grieve just for their own.

I was moved and changed that day.  No earthly standard teaches more about the Savior of the World than the examples of those who have given all they have for the cause of freedom. Freedom is given by the Lord. It is His and it is central to His eternal plan. I came home with my children, put together a simple meal and we broke our fast after having gone without for breakfast and lunch.  My oldest daughter sat down and, in her petulant and provocative way said, “So, did Brother **** spout off today about how great America is and all that?”

I told her to “Stop!” I sat up in my chair and said, “Don’t mock the blood sacrifices of those who have died to ensure that you can sit down to a full table in a free land, to speak your mind, for good or ill.  I will speak first.”  I related to my children what had been taught at the pulpit earlier.  It took awhile because I had to pause often to staunch the overwhelming emotion within me.

But they listened, in riveted silence they listened. ‘You see, the Lord Himself brought forth His gospel which exceeds the Law of Moses.  It fulfills it with His sacrifice, and when He died upon the cross the need for blood sacrifice was fulfilled and would never be required again, except for the one blood sacrifice which remains acceptable to Jesus Christ.  It is not the sacrifice of a lamb without blemish.  It is the sacrifice of those who willingly prepare their installments towards the cost of freedom.  The blood of Americans and other freedom-loving people who understand how essential our earthly liberty is to our eternal salvation, is not just acceptable to the Lord, but it is the most holy of earthly gifts.”

“In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.

As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,

While God is marching on…Glory Hallelujah!”

Later that Sunday my youngest son and I joined up with the Grand Old Party downtown to march in the Independence Day parade.  As we were milling about waiting for the parade to begin, an old gentleman wearing an “Honor Flight” T-shirt and a cap that said “WWII Veteran” passed me on the sidewalk.  I went to him and I wanted to express to him all that I had learned that day about love and sacrifice.  I wanted to tell him the volumes that I had stored in my heart for heroes like him.  But the only words that would come to my lips were,”Thank you.”  I took his hand in a two-handed clasp and I said, with all the power two words can bear, “thank you, thank you.”

by Marjorie Haun 5/26/14

Illegal Pot Issues Complicate Colorado Asset Forfeiture Reform

May 25, 2019

Colorado’s civil asset forfeiture reform complicated by marijuana trade

By   /   May 22, 2015  /

  Shutterstock Image

Colorado’s grade for civil asset forfeiture could be worse, but it could also be a lot better. The picture is clouded by the state’s marijuana legalization.

 

 

 

 

By Marjorie Haun | Watchdog Arena

Despite the initial reform of Colorado’s civil asset forfeiture laws in 2002, the state received an average rating on a recent “Judicial Reform” scorecard produced by FreedomWorks for America, a prominent pro-liberty organization.

FreedomWorks for America, a national think tank focused on justice and limited government, has made asset forfeiture a focal point of its research on judicial reform efforts in the individual states. Colorado received a mediocre grade from FreedomWorks on its scorecard titled, “Civil Asset Forfeiture: Grading the States.”

According to the scorecard, Colorado’s “C” grade results from a standard of proof that needs to be improved. FreedomWorks suggests that Colorado law place the onus on law-enforcement agencies to show clear and convincing evidence of guilt before asset seizures can proceed.

Prior to Colorado’s asset forfeiture reforms in 2002, 100 percent of the proceeds from civil asset forfeitures could be held by law-enforcement agencies. Under existing Colorado statute, law-enforcement retains 50 percent of forfeiture funds, which, as stated by FreedomWorks, “…creates incentives for agencies to self-fund.”

In January of 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder announced new rules limiting “equitable sharing,” or divvying up of the proceeds that come from cooperative actions in which local law-enforcement assists the federal government in property seizures. According to a report in the Washington Post, the DOJ’s equitable sharing program has produced $3 billion in revenue since 2008.

Even with the reforms of 2002, however, Colorado’s current statute allows, in certain circumstances, law-enforcement seizure of assets to proceed without a trial. The same month Attorney General Holder made his announcement, Senator Laura Woods, of Arvada, introduced a bill, SB-006, which would further reform Colorado’s existing asset forfeiture statute, requiring a conviction on relevant charges before the confiscation of civil assets could proceed.

Senator Woods’ “Limitations on Asset Forfeitures” bill also limited the ability of state law-enforcement personnel to legally participate in asset forfeitures initiated by the Federal Government.

On February 25, 2015, after hours of testimony from citizens supporting the bill, and numerous law-enforcement personnel from around the state opposing changes to existing statute, the Senate Judiciary Committee killed the bill. Senator Lucia Guzman of Denver based her opposition to the bill upon the fact that a portion of funding for human trafficking interdiction efforts comes from asset forfeitures.

But civil asset forfeiture reform in Colorado may be complicated by more than resistance from law-enforcement agencies who depend upon proceeds from property seizures.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, forfeitures from marijuana cases in Colorado totaled nearly $18 million between 2002 and 2012. The relevant question for Colorado, since the legalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana for adults in 2012, is whether or not asset forfeitures have decreased since that time.

As of 2015 there are no clear metrics indicating a reverse in revenues from asset forfeitures, primarily because illegal marijuana trafficking from Colorado to other states has complicated the overall issue. According to the annual report of “Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,” on February 20 of 2014, $2.1 million in assets was seized in one sting operation where marijuana traffickers were operating illegally, using Colorado Medical Marijuana laws as a guise.

FreedomWorks’ middling “C” grade for Colorado’s asset forfeiture laws also reflects new pressures on the state resulting from legalized pot. Pro-legalization groups use projected decreases in asset forfeitures by law-enforcement as an argument for expanded legalization of marijuana.

But illegal drug trafficking in Colorado has not noticeably decreased, and law-enforcement’s dependence on asset seizure as both a tool for prosecution and a means of funding makes drastic reform of current laws increasingly problematic.

This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.

Reposted with permission of the author  5/25/15

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Remembering Heroes of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War Remembered…in Children’s Books

THOUGH SET IN THE MIDST OF POLITICAL STRIFE AND BLOODY WAR, HISTORICAL GEMS SUCH AS THE STORY OF BUNG-LY AND HIS LITTLE CESSNA BIRD DOG, AND THAT OF OPERATION BABYLIFT, DESERVE TO BE REVEALED, AND KEPT ALIVE WITHIN BOOKS FOR GENERATIONS YET TO COME.

 

The years of the Vietnam War, though a dark and unsettling time, are still alive in the hearts of those people who were touched by its horrors and its triumphs.  I was a child during those years, a mere thirteen years of age when it concluded for the Americans in 1975, but it shaped my worldview and taught me hard lessons, and completely transformed, for good or ill, the lives of millions.

I was the youngest of seven children in a very ordinary family. I had five older brothers, the eldest of whom enlisted in the United States Navy in 1968. He served for a couple of years as a radar man on the destroyer, the USS Towers, and then inexplicably, in 1970, volunteered for a dangerous river patrol mission in South Vietnam. He was killed in May of 1970 when Viet Cong guerillas, hidden along the banks of the Dam Doi River, attacked his swift boat patrol. I was eight years old at the time, and my life and the lives of everyone in my family were changed forever.

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As a result of the loss of my eldest brother, and the Vietnam Era tumult in America, I developed a curiosity about the war itself and wanted to dig deeper and know more about the experiences of the individuals who actually endured its terrible style of jungle warfare. As an adult I met a friend who had served on the carrier USS Midway during Operation Frequent Wind, the code name given to the evacuation of Americans and refugees out of Southeast Asia. He described how, at the very last moment before the Midway left the South China Sea, a tiny airplane packed with a Vietnamese pilot and his family, landed on the deck of the Midway. He described how the captain of the Midway had ordered  the Huey helicopters cluttering the runway to be pushed into the sea to make room for the little airplane, and how, upon its safe landing, the crew of the vast ship encircled the little family, shouting and cheering with triumph and relief.

I was deeply moved by the story, and a little flabbergasted that I had never heard the account before.  The heroic rescue of Major Bung-Ly and his family is well-known to those who were on the Midway, but I felt compelled to share this story far and wide, especially with young people. In my research I discovered that no depictions of the miraculous landing of Bung-Ly’s Cessna O-1 Bird Dog existed in literature for children, or even teenagers. And so, I set out to correct a shameful omission of history and enshrine the story of the “Little Bird Dog and the Big Ship” within the pages of a children’s book.

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I found a publisher who was willing to contract for two books and so decided to do a historical non-fiction series titled “The Heroes of the Vietnam War: Books for Children.”  Book one of the series, “Little Bird Dog and the Big Ship” was published in the spring of 2012, and book two, “Saving the Vietnamese Orphans,” was published the following September.

My personal memories of the end of the Vietnam War were somewhat foggy. Nevertheless, I could recall some details of Operation Babylift, the heroic humanitarian airlift that took thousands of orphaned and unwanted children out of Southeast Asia in April of 1975. My most poignant remembrance was of the disastrous first flight of Operation Babylift during which a C-5 Galaxy carrying hundreds of children, crewmen, volunteers and reporters lost its rear hatch due to a mechanical malfunction.

As a grown woman, I was fortunate to meet a gentleman during my travels who had been a flight engineer on that doomed initial flight of Operation Babylift. He survived the crash which sent the massive aircraft into a rice field outside of Saigon, taking the lives of hundreds of children and adults. His memories were vivid, and though difficult, he shared them with me in a series of interviews which became a reference for my second book.

My research efforts for “Saving the Vietnamese Orphans” connected me with many key figures of Operation Babylift including Captain “Bud” Dennis Traynor, the pilot of the C-5 that crashed, Betty Tisdale, the “Angel of Saigon,” and Lana Noone, the adoptive mother of two Vietnamese orphans and one of the founders of the Asian-American adoption network, which blesses the lives of orphans and adoptive families to this day. President Gerald Ford was the leader and advocate, an adopted child himself, who made Operation Babylift possible through funding from the U.S. Government and military support for the humanitarian agencies which coordinated this incredible undertaking.

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My curiosity about the Vietnam War and those who served has uncovered more than just the harsh and traumatic events of conflict. Treasures of heroism and compassion have emerged as well. Though set in the midst of political strife and bloody war, historical gems such as the story of Bung-Ly and his little Cessna Bird Dog, and that of Operation Babylift, deserve to be revealed, and kept alive within books for generations yet to come. As the author of “The Heroes of the Vietnam War: Books for Children,” one of the questions I am asked most often is, “why did you choose the Vietnam War as the subject matter for children’s books?” My answer lies in the fact that through the clouds of confusion and turmoil surrounding the Vietnam Era, the light of valor and compassion still shines forth from the lives of those who were saved by the efforts of heroes.

By Marjorie Haun  5/24/15

Under Government’s Green Thumb

May 24, 2015

Green power lines hogtie poorest Texans

By   /   May 21, 2015      

   AP file photo

TEXAS TURBINES: Getting wind power to consumers is proving a costly proposition for Texans.

 

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

“Green” power is smacking Texans with higher utility bills, but Democratic lawmakers in Austin, aided by wayward Republicans, don’t care. They’re stalling legislation that would reel in wind-energy costs.

The price of putting up power lines to connect wind farms in West Texas to customers in the central and eastern parts of the state has blown away initial estimates. The $4.9 billion venture has hit $6.8 billion, and counting.

Photo courtesy of Troy Fraser

TILTING AGAINST WIND: State Sen. Troy Fraser wants to rein in the ballooning costs of wind projects.

The Senate passed SB 931 to curb the program and relieve ratepayers, but Democrats determined to push more wind power have blocked the measure in the House. The bill, authored by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Abilene, is on deathwatch with barely more than a week remaining in the legislative session.

Texans will pay an average of $300 more per year on their electric bills to fund the power-line project. Continued expansion would increase costs.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville was the lone Democrat to vote for Fraser’s bill.

“Texas ratepayers have paid an enormous sum to expand the transmission system to support the (state’s green energy) mandate,” says Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction.org, a research group critical of the costs and benefits of such ventures.

“It’s easy to get the projects approved and there is essentially no environmental oversight, so why not?” she noted.

Texas Public Utility Commissioner Kenneth Anderson has questioned the long leash given to wind generators in the name of promoting “clean” energy.

“How long do you have to subsidize something before it’s finally grown up?” Anderson asked. “Wind does not have to meet a schedule. They’re just a price taker.”

Critics point to Germany, where reliance on wind power blew up the cost of electricity and hit poorer residents particularly hard.

According to European Union data, Germany’s average residential electricity rate is 29.8 cents per kilowatt hour — double the rates in neighboring Poland and France, and almost 2.5 times the U.S. average.

“It is a form of ultra-regressive taxation,” says Robert Zubrin, president of Pioneer Energy and a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy.

Josiah Neeley, Texas director of the market-oriented R Street Institute, acknowledges that even if SB 931 reins in the government-designated Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, Texans will be paying a premium for wind power for years to come.

Neeley says Fraser’s measure is important “because it sends a clear signal that markets, not politics, should decide what kinds of energy Texans use.”

Linowes agrees. “The wind industry is apoplectic about this,” she told Watchdog. “If Texas (approves SB 931), other states will follow.”

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and writes for its Texas bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. 

Kenric Ward is a veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers. A California native, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 as Virginia Bureau Chief.

Reposted with permission by Reagangirl.com 5/24/15

Native Americans harmed by new Obama fracking regulations

May 21, 2015

New Obama administration fracking regs especially hurt Native Americans   

By Jillian Melchior | Watchdog.org

Last summer, as President Barack Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, he called the economic and educational hardships faced by Native Americans “a moral call to action.” The president has claimed he will write a “new chapter” by keeping promises to Native Americans, but sadly, his administration’s recent regulations deny Native Americans economic opportunities they sorely need.

Consider that the Department of the Interior last week released top-down regulation of fracking on tribal lands, which the federal government holds in trust. These redundant rules leave American Indians at a competitive disadvantage, quashing a huge opportunity for economic growth.

Tribal lands host an outsized — and grossly underdeveloped — share of energy resources. As the Washington Times recently noted, “About 25 percent of the nation’s onshore oil and gas reserves rest underneath tribal lands, but those lands account for roughly 5 percent of U.S. production.”

Development of these resources could change the lives of American Indians. The Council of Energy Resource Tribes estimates the energy resources on tribal lands could be worth as much as $1.5 trillion. In addition to raising revenue, energy development would also create good jobs, even for workers with little education.

Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

DRILL, BABY, DRILL: Although Native American lands account for a large chunk of the nation’s gas reserves they are generally underdeveloped.

Native Americans desperately need this sort of economic boost. More than one in four live in poverty, according to the Pew Research Center. Their high school graduation rates linger at 17 percent below the national average. Even as the economic recovery continues, native people continue to experience roughly double the unemployment rate of the nation.

Nonetheless, the federal government’s dysfunctional relationship with tribes has crippled energy development, according to a February 2014 report by the Property and Environment Research Center.

“On Indian lands, companies must go through at least four federal agencies and 49 steps to acquire a permit for energy development, compared to as few as four steps off reservations,” writes the report’s author,  Shawn Regan. “The effect of this complicated bureaucracy is to raise the cost of entering into resource development agreements with tribes or individual Indians.”

Under the management of the federal government, tribal fossil fuel sales dropped 21 percent between 2003 and 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration. On state and private lands, they grew 34 percent during the same time period.

Native Americans know the federal government is stifling their energy development and economic growth. Testifying to Congress last April, James “Mike” Olguin, acting chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council, denounced the “unacceptable, bureaucracy-driven delays in federal approval of mineral leases and drilling permits.”

Olguin described how, on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, tribes “watched their non-Indian neighbors get rich from mineral resource development, as their Indian lands remained unleased and undrilled month after month while awaiting federal approval and permitting.” He decried the “punitive effect of those delays on the poorest individuals and communities in the U.S.”

Likewise, the National Congress of American Indians recently wrote that it “urges Congress and the Administration to remove barriers to the deployment of these energy resources that offer immense benefits to tribes, Native citizens, surrounding communities, and the American economy.”

Instead of loosening the red tape restraining energy development on tribal lands, the Obama administration tightened the bonds. The Department of the Interior issued new regulations on hydraulic fracturing that apply only to federal and Indian lands, not state or private property.

Energy developers who are considering exploration on Indian lands know they will face new requirements on wastewater disposal, well construction and disclosure. Why bother with the added hassle and expense?

Already, states have led the way in creating sensible fracking regulation. They know their residents, environment and economies better than the federal government does, and they’ve crafted policies to match the unique needs of their state. American Indians should have the chance to do the same on their lands.

The Department of the Interior’s new fracking regulations make it harder for American Indians to compete and to have their shot at the American dream. Unless the Obama administration reconsiders, tally this down as just one more broken promise.

MelchiorJillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center, parent organization of Watchdog.org. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

 

 

Reposted with permission by Reagangirl.com  5/21/15

EPA: “Saving” the Environment will Kill Ya

Will the EPA’s Clean Power Plan save you money or clean your clock?

By   /   May 13, 2015  /   6 Comments

        AP photo

THE COST TO GET CLEANER: A study sponsored by an energy group warns that 43 states will see double-digit increases in electricity prices in the next decade if the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is enacted.

By Rob Nikolewski │ Watchdog.org

The Obama administration and theEnvironmental Protection Agency is on the verge of instituting a Clean Power Plan that would mark the first federal measure to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s existing power plants.

The EPA says the new rules will save money in the long run, but a recent study comes to a much different conclusion — estimating that 43 states will see their electricity prices increase by double-digits in the next decade, with 14 states having peak-year increases of more than 20 percent.

“You see no benefits from spending all this money and it’s driving up energy prices for families,” said Paul Bailey, senior vice president for federal affairs and policy at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group opposed to the proposed rules.

The group also questions whether the new rules will make any discernible difference in reducing the effects of climate change.

It’s another chapter in a long-running debate that has raged since the EPA announced the proposals last June, aimed at reducing CO2 emissions 30 percent by 2030.

EPA critics question whether the Clean Power Plan is the best way to balance economic realities with potential public health benefits while industry and political leaders in energy states such as coal-rich West Virginia accuse the EPA of overstepping its bounds by using the Clean Air Act to enforce the new rules on individual states.

The regulations would govern the estimated 2,417 fossil-fuel-fired power plants in the United States that account for 39 percent of the nation’s CO2 emissions — the largest single source.

NERA Economic Consulting, an economic research firm based in Boston, estimated it would cost between $366 billion and $479 billion over the next 15 years to fully comply with the new regulations, with many of those expenses passed on to energy consumers.

After crunching the numbers for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, NERA estimated that ratepayers in every state will see electricity prices go up under the EPA regulations during 2020-2029 and that all but seven will see prices rise by 10 percent or more.

During peak years — when electricity usage is at its highest — the NERA study predicts that consumers in 14 states will see potential increases of more than 20 percent.

Utah and Wyoming are two of the hardest-hit states, with the study predicting that Utah ratepayers may see a 24 percent average increase in the next decade, with a potential 26 percent peak-year spike. Wyoming could see a 22 percent average increase, with as much as a 26 percent peak-year increase.

Here are the NERA estimates for all 50 states:

clean power plan analysis1

Chart from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

“This will really hit low-income people especially hard,” Bailey said, pointing to data showing that families with pretax earnings of less than $30,000 spend a disproportionate amount on energy expenses.

In a report released last month, the ACCE took the NERA data and broke them down to come up with estimates for the costs and impacts on families in each of the 50 states. 

EPA defends its plan.

The Clean Power Plan will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations,” the agency says on its website, and emphasizes the Clean Power Planoffers states flexibility to devise “building blocks” to meet emissions reductions.

Critics of the NERA study point to the fact it was paid for by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and endorsed by other industry groups, including the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the National Mining Association.

“This information has been used in congressional hearings, it’s been used on the floor of the House and the Senate, it’s pretty solid information,” Bailey said.

Related: EPA carbon plan will kill 38,000 Virginia jobs, report says 

The EPA insists the Clean Power Plan will be a net plus for public health as well as the economy.

“Every dollar invested in the Clean Air Act returns $4 to $8 in economic/health benefits,” the agency said in an email to Watchdog.org. “Utilities are already investing in clean energy and EPA’s proposed rule propels that ongoing progress.”

The statement echoed remarks made by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy when the plan was unveiled, saying the new rules will deliver up to $90 billion in climate and health benefits by 2030. When it comes to soot and smog reductions, “for every dollar we invest in the plan, families will see $7 dollars in health benefits,” McCarthy said.

“When states take advantage of energy efficiency — when the effects of our plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper,” the EPA statement went on to say.

Earlier this month, Nature Climate Change, a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal that researches global warming, came out with its own study on the EPA power plant standards and touted the regulations’ benefits.

The Nature Climate Change study looked at three different scenarios and advocated adopting a “stringent but flexible policy” emphasizing demand-side energy efficiency — that is, instead of adding more generation to the system, getting utilities to pay energy users to reduce consumption.

But a spokeswoman for the the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity rapped the NCC study, saying its researchers ignored that coal makes up about 40 percent of the nation’s electric power.

“While these academics are hypothesizing about unproveable consequences, what’s known is that families are struggling to pay their monthly bills and companies are struggling to stay in business — and any increase in energy costs will burden them unnecessarily,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications.

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan claim the expense from the EPA’s rules won’t make much difference in the climate, pointing to analysis from another EPA rulemaking that CO2 concentrations would be reduced by less than 0.5 percent, that global average temperature rise would be reduced by less than two-one hundredths of a degree and sea level rise would be reduced by 0.3 of a millimeter — the thickness of three sheets of paper.

“These numbers are sort of like kryptonite for the EPA,” Bailey said in a telephone interview. “They do not like to admit that the Clean Power Plan will have no effect on global climate change.”

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“We know that acting on climate isn’t just a moral responsibility we must accept — it’s an economic opportunity we can seize, to sharpen our competitive edge, create jobs, strengthen international ties, and catalyze global action,” the EPA statement to Watchdog.org said.

The Clean Power Plan looks to push power plants to transition from coal to cleaner sources of energy and the NERA study predicts it will lead to coal generation dropping by 29 to 71 percent.

Two coal companies and 14 states are challenging the EPA in court, saying the agency lacks the authority to issue the regulation and is overstepping its bounds by treading on ground previously reserved for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and individual states.

But public utility commissioners, environmental and energy agency leaders in 14 other states have come out in support of the EPA.

The final regulation for existing power plants is before the EPA while the final rule for new plants is currently before the Office of Management and Budget. The EPA is expected to sign off on the ruling for existing and new power plants this summer.

(Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the status of final rules for existing and new power plants. It has since been corrected.)

    

Rob Nikolewski is the National Energy Correspondent for Watchdog.org. He is based in Santa Fe, N.M. Contact him at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @NMWatchdog.

Reposted with permission by Reagangirl.com  5/19/15

BLM to close Colorado roads that have been used by public for 50 years

May 17, 2015

BLM plan to close over 1,000 public routes riles western Colorado

By   /   May 13, 2015      

Watchdog Arena

MESA, Colo.—A plan that will close nearly 2,000 miles of public roads that have previously been open for use by the people of Mesa County is creating a public backlash against the Grand Junction field office of the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM’s resource management plans (RMP) regulate the access and types of traffic allowed on roads on public lands. Road maintenance and seasonal closures are also detailed in such plans.

Shutterstock Image

NO COMMENT: Coloradans are up in arms over the BLM’s proposed plan to close off public routes that are heavily traveled with no clear justification.

But the most recent RMP in Mesa County indicates the BLM’s intent to limit access to public roads which have traditionally been open to motorized, horse, and foot traffic. Accessible routes will decrease from the current 3,469 miles to just 1,777. The BLM has not offered a clear justification for its planned road closures, which has left many in Mesa County frustrated and baffled.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported that people with physical disabilities are especially troubled by the BLM’s plans. TheMay 2 article detailed a protest by 250 who gathered outside the BLM field office in Grand Junction:

“As the gathering made plain, people with disabilities enjoy camping, fishing and hunting as much as anyone, but the travel management section of the BLM’s resource management plan for the area seems not to notice, protesters said.”

In the Sentinel article, Joyce Tullio, a regular user of the public routes who is dependent on medical oxygen, complained, “The areas we like to go in, they’re closing them off. People who can hike or ride bicycles … they can go in those areas, but I’m being locked out.”

The BLM, not unlike other federal agencies, is not required to collaborate with local governments when formulating RMP for a given area. The planned closure of roads, most of which were established decades ago, will effectively close off tens of thousands of acres of public lands to human access.

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners has expressed grave concern about the potential economic impact of such a move. Issues overlooked by the BLM in the latest plan included watersheds, oil and gas leases, and local economies. On May 8, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel quoted a letter written to the BLM from the Mesa County Commissioners:

“BLM fails to adequately consider the effects its proposed management strategy will have on current and future oil and gas exploration and development activities, and the associated socioeconomic impact on Mesa County, its local communities, and the state of Colorado,” the letter says.

Reduced leasing opportunities also reduce the possible revenues due to the county from federal mineral leases, the commissioners’ letter says, as it notes that the proposed plan fails to account for development of the Niobrara and Mancos Shale formations, which hold significant oil and gas reserves.

The plan as proposed “contrasts with the federal government’s longstanding policy of encouraging responsible energy development and motorized trail use on federal lands under multiple-use principles,” the letter says. “The changes reflect a philosophy working to reduce and limit natural resource extraction throughout western Colorado’s federal mineral estate and force overcrowding of increasingly popular motorized recreation.”

The Mesa County Commissioners went on to request a six-month review of the BLM’s plans before the agency proceeds with any closures, which according to a BLM representative, is “unprecedented.”

There also appears to be conflicts between federal law and the BLM’s proposed closures. According to Brandon Siegfried, the President of the Public Lands Access Association,—as quoted in the Daily Sentinel—“Most of the routes facing closure were established 50 years ago or more. Federal law requires the BLM to treat such historic routes like highways, which cannot be closed through a resource management plan.”

In western Colorado, the ratio of federal-managed lands to private lands is significantly higher than in the rest of the state. Agricultural, economic, recreational, and various private interests of local citizens is dependent upon access through a vast and complex road system. 

Although the BLM may find the growing backlash from citizens and elected officials against its proposed road closures “unprecedented,” it is likely to grow in western Colorado.

This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.

Reposted with permission of the author  5/17/15

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