Friends in High Places

Time to disclose sources in U.S. press freedom case By Claudia Parsons

Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat engaged by the Bush administration to investigate whether Iraq had sought nuclear weapons, accused the White House of being responsible for the leak. He said officials did so because Wilson had publicly disputed a claim by President Bush about Iraq’s attempts to secure such weapons.

Interviewed by CNN this week, Novak declined to say whether he had cooperated with investigators in the case.

William Safire wrote in The New York Times this week that Novak, known for writing opinion columns favorable to the Bush administration, owed fellow journalists an explanation for how his sources “managed to get the prosecutor off his back.”

The key issue is that toady Novak helped someone in the Bush administration commit a federal crime. And, yet, other reporters are being prosecuted, not him. Why not? Has he spilled the beans in secret (cowardly for a journalist) or has he been given special treatment for his loyalty to Duhbya? mjh

Help Save A Special Place in New Mexico

ABQjournal: Colo. Company Wants to Drill, but Locals Say Mining Would Hurt Area Resources By Tania Soussan, Journal Staff Writer
[mjh: this is a long excerpt from a long article — both are worth your time.]

MONTICELLO BOX — Ribbons of water meander across the narrow valley floor, joining Alamosa Creek and flowing between towering volcanic cliffs and into the Monticello Valley.

The water is so clean Joshua Cravens scoops it up to drink from his hands and, without a thought, munches on wild watercress growing along the bank.

The complex of perennial springs that feeds the creek in this remote corner of southwest New Mexico is at the center of a debate over proposed mining exploration.

A Colorado company wants to drill on a nearby ranch in search of bertrandite that could be mined for beryllium, a rare metallic element used in everything from nuclear reactors to golf clubs.

Farmers and ranchers in the area are worried the drilling could pollute or diminish the flow of water they rely on to irrigate their orchards and fields. They also have raised concerns for three rare species and archaeological resources found around the springs.

“This affects a community,” said Cravens, who grows produce and rare seeds on an organic farm near Monticello. “We cannot let it happen.”

State officials also have raised concerns about impacts drilling could have on Alamosa Creek. …

Great Western Exploration LLC of Windsor, Colo., … has applied for a “minimal impact” permit to drill five 2,000-foot-deep exploratory holes and test the core samples for bertrandite ore. …

Earlier this year, Great Western applied to the state for a permit to drill 30 6-inch diameter holes in the same area. The request was turned down in April because concerns raised by state environment and wildlife officials about water contamination and rare species meant it did not qualify for a minimal impact permit.

The company could have reapplied for a regular permit? which requires public notification and greater scrutiny? but changed its proposal to five 4-inch-diameter holes with a closed-loop drilling system to minimize water loss. …

[I]f ground-water flows were disrupted or erosion controls failed, the impact could be “very significant,” the department said.

“The drill holes are likely to intercept near-surface groundwater,” conservation services chief Lisa Kirkparick wrote. “Groundwater connections in this canyon are complex and not thoroughly understood.”

The Environment Department said surface-water flows could be affected but added that direct impacts to ground water are unlikely if the drill holes are properly sealed. …

The exploration holes could contaminate the ground-water supply if they hit beryllium, or could drain water from the aquifer if they punch through a fault in the bedrock, Mackenzie said.

“By drilling 2,000 feet, you’re really playing Russian roulette with what you’re going to hit down there,” he said.

Beryllium? which can be extracted from bertrandite ore? is used as a metal in nuclear weapons and reactors, x-ray machines and space vehicles. As a metal alloy, it is used in cars, computers, dental bridges and golf clubs.

When airborne, beryllium dust can cause lung damage, lung cancer and other health problems, especially to workers and people living near mines, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

There is not much research available on its effects in water. Some beryllium compounds dissolve but others stick to particles and settle.

“The research that is there says don’t mess with it,” Cravens said.

If Great Western finds high-quality ore that is economically recoverable, it or another company could apply for a mining permit. …

Great Western has active exploration permits for two other locations nearby in Sierra County; one is for 14 holes and one for 10. …

At the top of a low hill near the springs, a collection of stones and small shards of flaked stone mark an old Indian site. Similar sites are scattered across the area, and the adobe ruins of Fort Harmony are visible across the valley.

A state archaeologist has said it’s possible there are unmarked burials in the area where the drilling is planned.

Harlyn Geronimo, great-grandson of Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo, said the springs and surrounding area are spiritually important to his people and were used by his great-grandfather as a place of prayer.

“That’s ancestral land,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Mescalero. “Those places are very sacred to us. … How would they like it if we go into their church and start disturbing their church?”

Geronimo said he is worried about water contamination as well.

The warm springs and Alamosa Creek also are important to animals. They support the only known population of the Alamosa springsnail, one of two known populations of the ovate vertigo snail and the best remaining habitat in New Mexico for the Chiricahua leopard frog. All three are listed by the state or federal government as threatened or endangered species.

I had never heard of New Mexico’s Monticello Box until Merri and I stumbled upon it less than a year ago. It is a magical, unexpected place I hesitate to mention because being overrun with visitors ruins a spot. But not like mining does — so go there, while you can, before it is destroyed by greed.

Note the disingenuity of applying for fewer exploratory holes so as to try to escape some scrutiny. And the whole, hey, we’re only looking charade — when something is found, then the true destruction can begin.

A lot of people are very upset over the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain; many defend personal property rights over all others. But this mine is clearly against the public good. Go see for yourself. mjh

mjh’s slides: the Monticello Box in New Mexico

A personal note from an area resident, Mary Katherine Ray (I added the bold and italics):

Brace yourself, the area at the mouth of the box is in the permit process for a proposed open pit Beryllium mine. Yes, let us dewater the box, have a giant tailings pile to silt in what is left and spread beryllium ore dust all over. Let us have truck traffic and blasting and despoil what is today a magnificent place. All to enrich a single private land owner and the mining company that leases from him. If you are shuddering in horror at this point, that is entirely appropriate.

As far as I know, the Alamosa River is the only perennially flowing stream in the entire San Mateo mountains. The water and land around the springs belongs to the Monticello Ditch Association, but the road through there is a county road and public use is allowed. The ditch association is actually a 150 year old acequia that today comprises about 30 farms downstream that depend on the water. The proposed mine site is on private land that starts about a third of a mile to the south of the box. Open pit mines are notorious for dewatering an area. Hydrology reports show ground water at only 50 feet. Once that gets punched through, it begins to drain away into the pit. There is another layer of ground water at 500 feet and somehow that gets mixed with deep geothermally hot water to come out warm. The ore that is present is Bertrandite. The deposit initially is appearing big enough and rich enough to be worth millions. Beryllium has become a strategic metal used in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors. It is also used in many electronic devices because it is lightweight and strong and an excellent conductor. I don’t know how toxic the mineral is, but the metal dust and many of its salts are deadly. There is a concern that ore dust might be problematic.

So I’m wondering if you might write a letter to the director of NM Minerals and Mining to protest the permitting of the mine including the exploratory core samples. (they are asking to drill several 2000 foot deep cores prior to starting the pit. Tourism is important in NM. … Here is the address:

Bill Brancard, Director (email:
Mining and Minerals Division
1220 South Saint Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505

mjh’s slides: the Monticello Box in New Mexico

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Jury Acquits HealthSouth Founder of All Charges By Carrie Johnson

Outside the courthouse, Scrushy told reporters that he was bolstered by the verdict. “There are a lot of wrongs that need to be made right,” he said. “Thank God for this.” …

Scrushy, who is white, preached at predominantly black churches and donated more than $1 million to the Guiding Light Baptist church, which he joined shortly before he was indicted in 2003. He invited black pastors, some wearing clerical collars, to occupy benches in the courtroom in the jury’s line of sight.

Defense lawyer Donald V. Watkins, a Birmingham fixture and owner of a local bank, entreated jurors in his closing to “send a message to Washington” and to remember the days of segregated water fountains and unequal treatment for blacks. …

HealthSouth’s new leaders restated earnings by more than $1 billion Monday to erase some of the fraud off the books.

Robert P. May, the company’s chairman, said in a statement that he was “appalled by the multibillion-dollar fraud that took place under Mr. Scrushy’s management and the environment under which such fraud could occur.” He said Scrushy would not be welcome at HealthSouth under any circumstances.

In Scrushy Trial, Jurors Chose Defense’s Portrait By Ben White

During the trial, Scrushy appeared on a morning television show in Birmingham called “Viewpoint” in which he and his wife read Bible verses. He began preaching in fundamentalist churches and invited pastors to the trial. Several jurors said in pretrial questionnaires that they attended church. …

Vanderbilt University law professor Larry D. Soderquist, a close observer of the trial, said defense efforts to highlight Scrushy’s connection to predominately black churches in Birmingham may have won points with the seven black members of the jury.

“Send a message to Washington” and to remember the days of segregated water fountains and unequal treatment for blacks.

Hmmm. Would that be the same Washington the smashed Jim Crow? What exactly is that message and what exactly do segregated water fountains have to do with a rich White crook who conveniently found god at the right time and place? mjh

Blowing Smoke

ABQjournal Opinion
A Powerful Project For the Navajo Nation

It’s a power plant that will power both employment and Navajo tax coffers. And it will do so with minimal impact on the environment of northwest New Mexico.

The Navajo Nation has partnered with Houston-based Sithe Global Power to build a 1,500-megawatt coal-fueled power plant southeast of Shiprock. The proposed Desert Rock Power Plant will burn millions of tons of Navajo coal to produce electricity for regional markets.

The project makes logistical sense. Vast supplies of coal are nearby. So are transmission lines needed to access wholesale markets.

The Sithe Global plant would be the cleanest coal-burner fired plant in the country, according to its air quality permit application. The company projects it will emit about 7,000 tons of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. The two older plants in the area emit about 104,000 tons.

Sithe Global executives note that the Desert Rock Power Plant has been designed to comply with air quality rules more stringent than current standards.

Is “Sithe” pronounced “scythe,” as in the tool for reaping/cutting (favored by the Grim Reaper) or “sith,” as in the rising forces of darkness in Star Wars. Maybe it’s “seethe,” as in the threat of one more power plant in that area should make everyone seethe.

How can anyone believe the claim that this power plant will be the cleanest in the nation — cleaner than any plant has ever been. Oh, but they brag they’ll be cleaner than future standards (not much of a claim under Clear Skies). Trust us. Forget Enron & WorldCom — we wouldn’t lie or exaggerate just for profit at the expense of an entire ecosystem. We’re businessmen, the new American Heroes.

ABQjournal: Proposed Coal-Fueled Plant on Navajo Land Worries Some Nearby Residents By Leslie Linthicum, Journal Staff Writer

The Four Corners Power Plant, which sits in the northeast corner of the Navajo reservation, was ranked first in the nation last year by a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group for nitrogen oxide emissions. The San Juan Generating Station just northwest of Farmington ranked 24th in carbon dioxide emissions and 37th in mercury releases. …

“It’s going to be noisy,” she said. “There’s going to be roads. There’s going to be trash.” …

ABQjournal: County Ozone Level a Cause for Concern By Tania Soussan, Journal Staff Writer

San Juan County is meeting all federal air quality standards, but residents of the area say the air isn’t as clear as it used to be.

“Anyone who’s been here very long at all has no question our air quality has deteriorated significantly over the last several years,” said Dan Randolph, energy issues coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, which operates in Colorado and New Mexico.

“What’s most clear to people is you can’t see as far,” he said. There have also been anecdotal reports of increased asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, he said. …

If the county violates the federal standard, businesses there could be forced to meet strict federal rules to reduce ozone.

The federal standard is 80 parts per billion, based on averages over three years. The two monitors in the county are at 72 and 73 parts per billion.

Ground-level ozone is a component of smog and can cause respiratory problems, including asthma.

Surprisingly, most of the local ozone contribution comes from trees and other flora [mjh: and wolves! don’t forget to blame the wolves!]. The second-largest contribution comes in roughly equal measure from the oil and gas industry, power plants and cars, she said.

“You only need a very, very small local contribution to put you near to the standard,” Uhl said.

An analysis of potential future conditions done by the bureau found that a large increase in trees and other plants is the only thing likely to make a big difference in ozone concentrations.

Even with the addition of two power plants, increases in oil and gas drilling and more vehicle traffic, ozone levels would remain steady, according to the analysis.

“Although it’s counterintuitive, additional oil and gas development and power plants is likely to have little impact on ozone concentrations,” Uhl told the state Environmental Improvement Board earlier this month.

In fact, quirky chemistry means it’s possible to increase some other kinds of air pollution while decreasing ozone levels, she said.

“Surprisingly,” “counterintuitive” and “quirky” all go to show: we’ll be healthier and live longer — and grow richer and younger — thanks to a few more power plants. Yeah! mjh

“The White House is completely disconnected from reality,” Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)

Bush Says War Is Worth Sacrifice

Address Urges Public to Back His Iraq Policy

By Peter Baker and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 29, 2005; Page A01

FORT BRAGG, N.C., June 28 — President Bush appealed to the American public Tuesday night to remember “the lessons of September 11th” ….

Surrounding himself with uniformed soldiers and standing before a backdrop emblazoned with American flags, Bush portrayed the two-year-old war in Iraq as the logical extension of a larger struggle that began when hijackers slammed passenger jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. …

Bush invoked Sept. 11 five times in his speech and referred to it by implication several more times. Although he has previously agreed with investigators that there is “no evidence” of a link between Saddam Hussein’s government and the attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, he used much of his speech to depict the militants in Iraq as the same breed of Islamic terrorist who struck the United States. The White House titled his remarks a discussion on the “War on Terror,” not Iraq.

“This war reached our shores on September 11th, 2001,” Bush said. …

“The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11th …”

[T]errorists “are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September 11th, 2001.” …

Bush’s insistence that waging the fight in Iraq is containing terrorists who might otherwise strike in America is also fueling argument. As critics see it, the Iraq war is creating a breeding ground for terrorists.

The American Taliban

The American Taliban

Randall Terry (Operation Rescue)

“I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.”

“Our goal must be simple. We must have a Christian nation built on God’s law, on the ten Commandments. No apologies.”

[mjh: follow the link above to a huge list of jaw-dropping quotes from the Radical Wrong. via Democracy for New Mexico]

A Trying Spring, Indeed

ABQjournal: Gila Wolf Killed By Feds By Tania Soussan, Journal Staff Writer

The alpha male of the Ring Pack wolves was killed by a federal sharpshooter in the Gila National Forest on Sunday, the third endangered wolf shot to death by the government since an effort to restore the species started in 1998.

The wolf, which had been blamed for four confirmed cattle killings and was suspected by ranchers of several more, was shot from a helicopter in the Collins Park area of the Gila in southwestern New Mexico.

“We’re very disturbed,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is out of control.”

“Any relief we can get certainly helps,” said Gila rancher Fred Galley, who says he has lost cows and calves to wolves this year. “This has been an extremely trying spring.”

A trying spring, indeed. One alpha male is dead, another had his leg amputated and will be in captivity for the rest of his life (probably not as alpha). The alpha female who was the poster wolf for the program will never be free again. Countless wolves have been trapped — a traumatic and potentially fatal act — and removed from the wild.

Wolf opponents have gotten everything they want; wolf opponents mourn. And still, the victor whines. Where have we heard this before, those with power complaining about everything? It’s hard work!

What a job title: federal sharpshooter. He goes in the woods to slaughter a magnificent wild creature so that a few dumb domesticated cows won’t die as prey but on an assembly line. Now he’s sitting at a bar in Reserve bragging to the locals. Mama must be proud. mjh

The loss of the Francisco and Ring packs reduces the number of breeding pairs in the wild to seven ….

Kill orders have been issued for other wolves, including the Francisco Pack.

Federal agents shot a male wolf last July after it killed five cattle in Arizona. A female wolf was shot in 2003 for killing five calves in New Mexico. In 2002, the service approved killing two wolves implicated in a number of livestock deaths in Arizona, but those wolves were never found.