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Winter 2000, Volume 17.2

 
Reading The West

read-ing [from ME reden, to explain, hence to read] - vt.  1. to get the meaning of;  2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to; study.

YELLOWSTONE WOLVES CAN STAY

On January 13, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, overturned a lower district court’s 1997 ruling that had declared illegal the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. The district court had called for complete removal of all reintroduced wolves and their offspring – an estimated 300 animals.

The legal struggle pitted the American Farm Bureau, which favored removal, against the U.S. Department of Interior and various wildlife organizations. The Tenth Circuit decision found the reintroduction of Wolves to be lawful under the Endangered Species Act and other laws, and concluded:

We REVERSE the order and judgment of the district court, VACATE the district court’s stay order, and REMAND with instructions to the district court to enter an order upholding the challenged wolf reintroduction rules.

SOURCE: United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit Filing, January 13, 2000.

 

ACTUAL AMERICA

Recounting his visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Ian Frazier makes some remarkable observations including the following thought:

When I go to Indian reservations in the West, and especially to the Pine Ridge Reservation, I sometimes feel unsure where to put my foot when I open the car door. The very ground is different from where I usually stand. There are fewer curbs, fewer sidewalks, and almost no street signs, mailboxes, or leashed dogs. The earth here is just the earth, unadorned, and the places people walk are made not by machinery but by feet. Those smooth acres of asphalt marked with lines to tell you where to park and drive that cover so much of America are harder to find on the reservations. If the Iroquois hadn’t resisted the French in the 1660s the Northeast would be speaking French today; if the Comanche hadn’t opposed the Spanish, the American Southwest would now be Mexico. The Oglala Sioux reservation, actively or otherwise, continues to resist the modern American paving machine. Walking on Pine Ridge, I feel as if I am in actual America, the original version, which was here before we came and will still be here after we’re gone.

SOURCE: The Atlantic Monthly, December 1999, pp. 54-55.

 

WELCOME TO EARNINGS GAP

The University of Colorado’s Business Research Division recently issued a report on the persistently wide income gap between rich and poor in four western states. The chart below shows the average earnings of the top 20 percent of families and the bottom twenty percent in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona based on pre-tax family incomes from 1996 to 1998.

SOURCE: Associated Press, January 19, 2000.

 

CONVERSATION ON PEACE

Ronald V. Dellums, was first elected to congress in 1971 to represent the Oakland, California district. A black activist and target on President Nixon’s infamous enemy list, one of Dellums’ first congressional assignments was the House Armed Services Committee. He was still on the committee in 1977 when Congress proposed funding a massive new missile system, the MX, to be deployed on giant racetracks in the dry desert basins of Utah. Opposed to MX deployment, Dellums traveled the country mustering public opposition to the plan. Included in his itinerary was a meeting in Salt Lake City with then president of the Mormon church, Spencer W. Kimball. In a new book, Lying Down with the Lions, Dellums recalls his conversation with the Mormon prophet:

First, I explained to Kimball ... why, in my view, the proposed missile system was unnecessary to the defense of the nation. I also explained my view as to why its deployment would destabilize international security and therefore endanger our national security. I explained that by adding so substantially to our nation’s war-fighting capability, such a move would unsettle Soviet military planners. Taken to its logical conclusion, the deployment of a new U.S. heavy missile would create "situational crisis destabilization." In an international crisis, Soviet military planners might feel compelled to launch a first-strike effort, to avoid having their missiles destroyed by a preemptive U.S. strike. MIRV technology was taking us closer to the precipice.

I sought to appeal to his self-interest by bringing the argument closer to home: the proposed deployment in Utah would make the state a natural target for such an attack. "Let’s talk about deployment, and what will happen if it’s deployed in Utah," I said. "The Soviets will know that it is in Utah—but maybe not exactly where—and any attack they make on the country will surely target the state. Its construction alone will devastate large parts of your environment. The logic of those who argue for this system—the faulty logic of fighting and surviving a nuclear war—does not justify the deployment. I hope you see that moving forward with such a system is dangerous per se to the United States, indeed to all humanity. We’re talking about fashioning a dangerous and expensive solution to a problem that doesn’t exist."

After hearing me out, he shared with me the fact that in his missionary work he had traveled to Hiroshima, and he had seen the devastation caused by the atomic attack on that city. "I know the awful devastation that nuclear weapons can inflict. I’m impressed by the arguments you’ve made; you’ve brought me a lot of important information today, a lot of food for thought." With that, he pledged to think about what I had said.

Without knowing what he or the church would do, I felt confident that the educative effort we had made was the right political strategy. If Mormon leaders entered into the public debate against the MX, their stand could provide important support for colleagues who felt reluctant to approve the scheme but worried about appearing weak on defense.

In May of 1981, the Mormon church officially came out in opposition to the deployment of the weapons system. That year, as I did each year after 1977, I was offering an amendment to eliminate the MX funding and knew that the church’s statement that day would make an important contribution to creating the political climate necessary to end the weapons development program, something that had never happened before in response to public pressure and which the national security establishment was determined not to allow.

SOURCE: Ronald V. Dellums with H. Lee Halterman, Lying Down with the Lions, Beacon Press, Boston, pp. 86-87,  http://www.beacon.org/home.html

 

THE RISKS YOU TAKE

The Indian Gaming Regulation Act of 1988 (IGRA) authorized tribes to create gaming enterprises. The act also created a commission to shield Indian gaming "from organized crime and other corrupting influences." A recent story in Indian Country Today reports concern that the tribes may need shielding from the gaming commission:

In the aftermath of an $8 million federal appropriations boost to the commission budget, concern has risen over whether tribes need shielding from the regulatory agency itself. John Tahsuda, general counsel for the National Indian Gaming Association, an advocacy organization funded by tribes, believes the increasing size of the commission means increased authority over tribes. "We’re concerned that they are taking a larger role in matters for tribal commissions to do," Tahsuda said.

Its main regulatory functions are to monitor all tribal gaming operations, approve management contracts, conduct background investigations on management company officials, review and conduct audits of gaming operations and initiate enforcement actions. It does not receive any congressional funds for operations. All tribes with gaming operations subsidize the regulatory agency by paying a percentage of their revenues. But the proposed expanded role of the commission has drawn some concern.

The commission proposed a base-line process of classifying games. Not all of the 198 tribes with Class III gaming operations offer the same games and devices. Since vendors seek to sell tribes on new forms of games that require scrutiny and approval, the commission must make sure they fall within the Class II or Class III regulations governing tribes. The commission has also set forth a new set of minimum internal control standards to monitor gaming revenues from the front to the back doors. Proposed, expanded regulations concern some tribes because they see these functions as those of their local gaming commissions and were imposed without consultation….

Concerns about NIGC’s mission is not new for the Indian gaming industry. Throughout the years its authority has been questioned, even challenged in court. The core issue is that of sovereign tribal rights. Tribes felt by reluctantly agreeing to the passage of IGRA they were allowing the federal government and states to step on a measure of their sovereignty. It has been a trade-off for tribes––the chance to initiate self sufficiency through gaming while submitting to constant oversight. Under the oversight of NIGC, tribal gaming is more closely regulated than private gaming in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, for example. There are 310 Indian gaming operations with 198 tribal-state compacts for Class III gaming in 28 states. Tribal gaming is a more than $7 billion a year industry, but only makes up 10 percent of the entire gaming industry.

SOURCE: Mark Anthony Rolo, Indian Country Today, Friday Feb 18, 2000, http://www.indiancountry.com/index.html

 

ANOTHER VIEW OF WOLVES

In addition to the wolf reintroduction program in Yellowstone, in 1998 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also restored Mexican gray wolves to southeastern Arizona. Some of these animals have now begun to range into southwestern New Mexico. And as reported in a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal, the residents of Glenwood, New Mexico are not pleased. More than 450 people attended a rally sponsored in Glenwood by the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.

If there was a central message at the meeting Saturday, it came from rural mothers and grandmothers, who arose one after another to voice fear that the wolves—emboldened by temporary captivity and already held guilty in some cow deaths in New Mexico and Arizona—might someday attack their children.

"Are we willing to take the same chance with our children as the ranchers are being asked to take with their cattle?" asked Jennifer Faust, a mother of three who lives in the Catron County settlement of Alma, in the heart of wolf-reintroduction country.

"I have two good reasons for not wanting the wolves here," said Joyce Laney of Luna. "Both of them call me, ‘Mom’.’’

Georgia Klumker, who lives a quarter of a mile east of Alma, said she has seen a wolf all too close.

Klumker, 81, watched a wolf come onto her property and snatch one of her cats. Not long after, she said, the wolf sat on a nearby hill and howled.

She said she was sorry about the cat, but now she is mostly worried about her grandchildren and great grandchildren, who like to play outside when they come to her home.

"They were trying to tell us it was coyotes or dogs," Klumker said of the Fish and Wildlife agents who came to identify the animal who took her cat.

Seven more of her cats have disappeared and Klumker said she doesn’t think coyotes are responsible. "I know what a coyote looks like," she said. "I’ve lived all my life on a ranch, and I saw my first coyote when I was three. I’ve seen a lot since then. The one I saw was no coyote."

SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal Sunday, February 27, 2000, http://www.abqjournal.com

 

IT JUST CAN'T LAST

Occasionally we discover essays that seem to resonate with good common sense. The following newspaper column, by Robert B. Smith, is an example. Smith is a retired chemistry professor and university administrator living in Ogden, Utah.

 

When Will Our Growth Crash In On Us?

Religious beliefs, whether sacred or secular, rarely make sense to nonbelievers. Take, for example, our society’s civic faith in the Necessity of Endless Economic Growth. To me, this secular growth religion’s rituals (rezoning, tax giveaways), litanies ("Deregulate!," "No new taxes!"), and holy wars (from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf) are unsettling and its logical outcomes frightening.

What recently renewed my interest in the subject was an odd assortment of unconnected events from around the world. First was Microsoft’s antitrust trial, then a sudden deterioration of my Internet service, followed by World Congress of Families II, and finally Envision Utah’s announcement of its Quality Growth Strategy.

The first two events illustrate drawbacks of huge enterprises bent on growth:

 

Bill Gates contends that Microsoft monopolized the market for personal-computer operating systems by providing a superior consumer product. As someone who uses Windows software for several hours every day, I say that’s an absurd statement.

Suppose your car stopped running every other day, perhaps because of an innocent act like turning on the headlights while your foot’s on the brake pedal, or because a cosmic ray passed through the ignition system, or just for no apparent reason at all. Then every couple of years the composition of gasoline changes, and you have to trade the car in or pay for expensive modifications.

This is a superior product? Come on!

But then, I’ve never been able to fathom why, if competition is so good and necessary, a goal of business should be to eliminate it.

 

Accustomed to flawlessly reliable Internet service, in September I suddenly found it nearly impossible to gain access. Random e-mail messages began to float off into the ether, never to return to any known mailbox. Why?

Simple: My eminently satisfactory Internet service provider was bought out by Prodigy, a firm recently gone public and obsessed with revenue growth. So much so, it simply overlooked the technical preparations required to integrate 75,000 new customers overnight.

Even after demonstrating it could fix the problem, Prodigy let its service deteriorate again over the next two months, so that when I do manage to get on-line, I never know whether the Web sites I need for research every day will respond. Prodigy shows little inclination to do anything about it. After all, stockholders are interested in cash flow, and executives glory in glitz. Who cares about the mundane services customers pay for?

The other two events reflected steadfast faith in an endlessly expanding economy:

 

Delegates to the World Congress of Families in Geneva heard demographic evidence that the world’s population growth rate is slowing to a point where stabilization (or even decline) now seems possible in a century or two. I’d rejoice at such news, of course, but this group responded with alarm.

While many of the delegates favor population growth for theological reasons, it’s revealing that for data they turned to the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that claims nonpartisan purity, but filters its choice of researchers through fine ideological screens. Much of its agenda is to instill fear of anything it imagines as a threat to perpetual economic growth, like international agreements to control nuclear weapons or greenhouse gases.

This institute is the same source to which columnist George Will recently turned for ammunition in a highly partisan anti-environmental diatribe (Standard Examiner, Nov. 18). To indulge his distaste for a particular presidential candidate, he parroted a string of scientifically discredited conclusions about global warming.

 

Envision Utah has made an honest and commendable effort to determine and to advise us about implications of our collective choices concerning the state’s future. But this movement owes its very existence to the popular assumption of Utah’s leaders that our population will and must continue to expand, in order to sustain the economic growth needed to supply jobs for an expanding population.

Wait! Does that sound like circular reasoning? Indeed, and it brings out most clearly the wayperpetual pursuit of economic growth requires parallel growth in the human population.

I must admit the possibility of some truth in this growth religion. I’ve known enough good people who own small- to medium-sized businesses to convince me that growth in their human-scale enterprises can have value. But carrying the principle to infinity boggles the mind.

I also know that faith in perpetual growth is a human invention, not something natural to our planet. Earth’s living things, including people, all grow to a certain size, then stabilize for the rest of their lives. When internal controls break down, cancer results. When populations grow too numerous for their circumstances, catastrophe follows.

I’d like to believe there are motives more noble than vanity and greed behind the imperative to grow business enterprises and economies to a global scale. But to me any system in which the resources of future generations must increasingly be spent to satisfy the appetites of the present population looks like one great Ponzi scheme.

The earth is a finite sphere, and at some hard-to-predict point the scheme has to crash. Until someone finds a convincing way to get around that inevitability, I’ll remain a skeptic.

SOURCE: Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah, November 29, 1999, reprinted by permission.

 

SUBDIVISIONS ON THE RANGE?

The most recent issue of Utah Science reports a disturbing trend that is likely to have a profound effect on western land use. Among the report’s findings: More than 90% of Utah ranchers and farmers are 41 years of age or older, and more than half are 61 years of age or older. Like the rest of America, ranchers and farmers are aging, and few young people are coming to take their place. This trend is predicted to change long-held patterns of land ownership and land use in the near future.

What began as an effort to determine how people—specifically ranchers—adopt new ideas and technology in their work has resulted in a snapshot of what much of Utah’s private grazing land will look like in the near future.

Though the snapshot is still developing, the image looks a lot like a five-acre ranchette and a housing development.…Nearly 40 percent of Utah’s beef producers plan to retire soon, and about one-third of them plan to sell their land to developers.

SOURCE: Lynnette F. Harris, "At Home on the Ranchette," Utah Science, Volume 59, Number 4, Fall1999, p. 23.

 

MILES TO GO

The map below shows the relative effectiveness of western states in reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled per capita from 1992 to 1997.

SOURCE: 1999 Sierra Club "Sprawl Report." http://www.sierraclub.org

 

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL DRIVE

The following report from the Utah Department of Transportation suggests some of the challenges involved in maintaining western highways in the face of continuing increases in traffic:

There are 41,341 miles of roads, highways, and interstate freeways in the State of Utah. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is responsible for maintaining 5,864 or 14% of this total. However, these state-maintained roads handle 70% of the annual vehicle miles traveled. Vehicle miles of travel increased by 4% from 20.4 billion in 1997 to 21.2 billion in 1998. This is an average of9,995 miles for every man, woman and child in the state. Identified as a priority by the Utah Transportation Commission, a significant amount of UDOT’s operations and funding is directed towards preservation and maintenance of the existing highway system.

Following are examples of what UDOT accomplished during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1999:

Road Signs: 26,296 replaced or repaired.
Mowing: 29,731 acres mowed
Painting: 170,524 gallons used.
Crack Sealing: 300,488 square yards sealed.
Pothole Patching: 3,996 square yards patched.

SOURCE: Fiscal Focus, An Annual Report to the Citizens of Utah, January 2000.

 

LESSONS FROM SEATTLE?

According to Barry Came, Jennifer Hunter and Brenda Branswell, writing in a recent McLean’s, there are millions of non-governmental organizations (or NGOs) throughout the world. Some 26,000 of them are of sufficient magnitude that their activities are tracked by a special United Nations office set up in Geneva. These organizations are ruggedly independent, but also form quick alliances to influence policy and opinion on a wide range of topics: sweat shop working conditions, debt in poverty-stricken countries, rain forest deforestation, the use of land mines, or as evidenced recently in Seattle, the activities of the World Trade Organization.

While some observers likened the Seattle protests to 1960s civil rights and anti-war demonstrations, participants saw the events quite differently:

The activists in Seattle were part of a very modern network, aided hugely by instant global communications via the Internet, in pursuit of many different goals. "These weren’t quite the hippies of the ‘60s," says Bob Everton, a 50-year-old lecturer and graduate student at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., who joined the marchers in Seattle. "They are young people who see nothing in corporate rule that protects their interests. They see nothing but corporate greed." And in the wake of Seattle, many are examining where next to turn their protests.

A prime target is transnational corporations, industrial and technological heavyweights such as Nike, Microsoft, Monsanto or Coca-Cola, all intent on grabbing hold of world markets. "The issue is not just the WTO," says University of British Columbia graduate physics student, Jonathan Oppenheim, 28, one of the students who organized the infamous, pepper-sprayed protests during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit at UBC in 1997. "The issue is differing world visions. People who are active against the WTO grew up in strip malls and are fed up with having consumer culture shoved down our throats."

SOURCE: "People Power The Protest Groups that Stunned Seattle have become a Global Force." Maclean’s, January 1, 2000, p. 220.

 

TESTING INEQUALITIES?

Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Nevada are among nearly two-dozen states (mostly in the South and Northeast) which currently require high school students to pass a standardized test before receiving their diplomas. Such exams are becoming more common and more rigorous.

A year ago, nine Texas students, who had been denied graduation because they failed that state’s test brought suit against the Texas State Board of Education challenging the examinations legitimacy, citing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and using as argument the unequal support given to public schools and the consequent negative effects on student learning in poorer districts. In January, 2000, Judge Edward C. Prado, U.S. District Judge in the Western District of Texas, ruled against the plaintiff’s challenge. Portions of his opinion, below, outline the parameters of the challenge and some of his findings:

In reviewing the diverse cases that underpin this decision, the Court has had to acknowledge what the Defendants have argued throughout trial—this case is, in some important ways, different from those cases relied upon by the Plaintiffs. In the first place, this case asks the Court to consider a standardized test that measures knowledge rather than one that predicts performance. The Court has had to consider whether guidelines established in the employment context are adequate for determining whether an adverse impact exists in this context. In addition, the Court has been required to determine the deference to be given to a State in deciding how much a student should be required to learn….Finally, the Court has had to weigh what appears to be a significant discrepancy in pass scores on the TAAS test with the overwhelming evidence that the discrepancy is rapidly improving and that the lot of Texas’ minority students, at least as demonstrated by academic achievement, while far from perfect, is better than that of minority students in other parts of the country and appears to be getting better….

The case presented widely differing views of how an educational system should work. One set of witnesses believed that the integrity of objective measurement was paramount; the other believed that this consideration should be tempered with more flexible notions of fairness and justice. Thus, the relative quality of experts in this case is not so simple a matter as either party would make it….

Ultimately, resolution of this case turns not on the relative validity of the parties’ views on education but on the State’s right to pursue educational policies that it legitimately believes are in the best interests of Texas students. The Plaintiffs were able to show that the policies are debated and debatable among learned people. The Plaintiffs demonstrated that the policies have had an initial and substantial adverse impact on minority students. The Plaintiffs demonstrated that the policies are not perfect. However, the Plaintiffs failed to prove that the policies are unconstitutional, that the adverse impact is avoidable or more significant than the concomitant positive impact, or that other approaches would meet the State’s articulated legitimate goals. In the absence of such proof, the State must be allowed to design an educational system that it believes best meets the needs of its citizens.

The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that sufficient evidence, including evidence cited in other state and federal case law, exists to support the Plaintiffs’ claim that Texas minority students have been, and to some extent continue to be, the victims of educational inequality….The evidence was disturbing, but inconclusive. Socio-economics, family support, unequal funding, quality of teaching and educational materials, individual effort, and the residual effects of prior discriminatory practices were all implicated. The Court finds that each of these factors, to some degree, is to be blamed.

However, the Plaintiffs presented insufficient evidence to support a finding that minority students do not have a reasonable opportunity to learn the material covered on the TAAS examination, whether because of unequal education in the past or the current residual effects of an unequal system. The Plaintiffs presented evidence to show that, in a more general sense, minorities are not provided equal educational opportunities. In particular, Plaintiffs demonstrated that minorities are under-represented in advanced placement courses and in gifted-and-talented programs. Minority students are also disproportionately taught by non-certified teachers. However, because of the rigid, state-mandated correlation between the Texas Essentials of Knowledge and Skills and the TAAS test, the Court finds that all Texas students have an equal opportunity to learn the items presented on the TAAS test, which is the issue before the Court.

SOURCE: United States District Court Order, Civil Action No. SA-97-CA-1278-EP, Filed January 7, 2000.

The following sample questions are from the 1999 Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) Grade 10, Reading Test. Texas HS graduates must pass the 10th grade tests in Math, Reading, Science, etc.

DIRECTIONS: Read each passage. Then read each question that follows the passage. Decide which is the best answer to each question. Mark the letter for that answer.

Rodeo Rider
A tingle of excitement ran through Elizabeth’s body as she saddled her horse. At last she was old enough to enter her favorite event. Whoever was fastest would win.

As she daydreamed of accepting the first-place ribbon, a familiar voice interrupted her. "Are you ready for the rodeo?"

She didn’t have to look up. The voice came from Karen Collins, her toughest competitor. "Yes," she replied, "and may the best rider win."

1. You can tell from the passage that a tingle is something that you –
a. hear b. say c. feel d. think

2. The winner of Elizabeth’s event will be the contestant with the best –
f. costume     g. speed     h. idea      j. friends

SOURCE:  1999 Texas TAAS Exam Sample Questions

 

HOW MANY TREES TO MAKE PAPER

The ratio of paper-to-trees is highly variable, depending on the pulping process used, recycled content, etc., not to mention the size of the trees. But if we use a standard unit of cords (a stack of wood 4' high by 4' wide by 8' long), a cord will yield between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds of paper (or 200-400 reams), 942 one-lb. books, 89,870 sheets of 8 1/2" x 11" bond stationery, or 250 copies of the Sunday NY Times. Now, if we assume 10 trees per cord (each tree being 8" in diameter measured at 48" from the ground) and 300 reams of paper per cord, you would get 30 reams of paper from one tree.

SOURCE: The Wilderness Society, "Topic Briefs," http://wilderness.org

 

CARTOONING THE WEST

Bülbül is a free lance cartoonist living and working in Mountain View, California. She is syndicated in the labor press in the U.S. and Canada. Her cartoons appear in magazines, newspapers, cartoon anthologies, and textbooks. She has exhibited her work in one woman shows at San Diego State University, Stanford University and California State University at Hayward. More of her cartoons can be seen at http://www.bulbul.com/.

[Click on cartoons to enlarge.]

A cartoon shows an H.M.O. doctor visits a patient, asking, how is our number one priority?  The patient is shoved haphazardly at the bottom of the bed while a large dollar sign reclines on the pillow.

a cartoon shows two women bemoaning the fact that while the congressmen are from their district, they belong to big business and special interest groups.  One congressman wears a large sign saying he is funded by oil and gas industry, the other sports a sign showing he belongs to the insurance industry.

Two school children interview a public relations person at the firm of We Spin, Inc. for an essay on truthfulness, asking, how many lies did you tell today?

a cartoon shows a homeless family in a cardboard box, scarcastically noting, Oh goodie, the Dow Jones hit a new high.

 

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