Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Predator killfest on Burea of Land Management lands called off

Okay, Katalusis readers, I've been annoyed once again in the run up to Thanksgiving by the custom of US presidents pardoning a turkey obviously innocent of any crime; a Facebook friend reminded me that I'm not alone. It's a custom that speaks to the arrogance of humanity thinking itself above all other forms of life. We get to pardon a bird for existing? So it's refreshing on this day before our national holiday dedicated to giving thanks to hear from Defenders of Wildlife and this time with some good news!

Dear Virginia,
Finally some good news from Idaho!

We just received word that the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has withdrawn its permit allowing a “Predator Derby” to take place on BLM lands in Idaho. This was the appalling commercial derby that Defenders of Wildlife went to Federal court last week to block.

This is an important victory for wolves and other predators – and it’s one you helped achieve. The reversal came after Defenders went to court and tens of thousands of you expressed outrage over the decision to let the predator killfest go forward on BLM lands. Fortunately, senior officials at the Department of the Interior heard your voice and directed that the commercial derby permit be withdrawn.

Introduced by a “hunters’ rights organization,” the derby’s goal was to make a competitive, commercialized sport of killing wolves and other predators. This was a throwback to 19th century thinking when wolves were seen as vermin worthy only of extermination.

The BLM’s reversal is an important victory as we work around the clock to end the slaughter in Idaho. Sadly, it’s still possible that the derby could take place on federal lands elsewhere in Idaho. But we can take heart in the fact that, at least on BLM lands, wolves and other predators can breathe easier today. And we can remind ourselves that larger victories are not only possible, but inevitable, when wildlife defenders like you make your voices heard.

Thank you again. You’re making a difference, and we are so grateful!


Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Red flags on extending presidential power!

The US desperately needs immigration reform for humanitarian reasons.
In her discussion of Obama's unilateral plan for immigration reform, Ruth Marcus seems most concerned about payback from future Republican presidents. And although we desperately need immigration reform for humanitarian reasons, Marcus is justified in raising a red flag or two. In sum, she offers a thoughtful take on the potential for expanding presidential authority in future administrations:

WASHINGTON -- Every Democrat should be nervous about President Obama's plan for unilateral action on immigration reform.

Not because of the impact on an already gridlocked Congress, or because it risks inflaming an increasingly hostile public. Democrats should be nervous about the implications for presidential power, and the ability of a future Republican president to act on his or her own.

Note that I said nervous, not opposed. In this situation, the executive power devil is in the details of what the executive actually does, both the scope of his actions and the legal justifications for them.
For me, the question is one of double containment: First, is there a limiting principle that would constrain the president's authority to effectively legalize everyone in the country? Second, is there a limiting principle that would constrain future presidents inclined against enforcing other laws with which they don't agree -- and on which they've been unable to convince Congress to act accordingly?
The general White House argument in defense of unilateral action, spelled out for me by a senior administration official versed in the legal details, boils down to the general power of prosecutorial discretion, combined with particular provisions and practices embedded in immigration law.

The official acknowledged that there are clear limits to presidential power -- he can't hand out green cards or create a pathway to citizenship. But the official also noted that presidents have broad authority to set enforcement priorities in immigration; after all, there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants and budgetary capacity to deport perhaps 400,000 annually.

Monday, November 17, 2014

"A commercial wolf and predator-killing derby in Idaho"

My friend Mary Lundeberg's wildlife photography has sensitized me to the beauty and dignity of our fellow creatures on the planet. Due in part to Mary's influence, I take seriously regular emails from Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, and I'm happy to post them here at Katalusis. This morning Jamie is once again going all out to protect the wolf population. But before you read Jamie's message, take a look at Mary's wolf photos

Here's Jamie:

Dear Virginia,
Shocking news.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has just approved a commercial wolf and predator-killing derby in Idaho. What’s worse, the agency has authorized the event to take place once every year for the next five years!

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, has the power to reverse this decision. She needs to use it.

Tell Secretary Jewell that killing wolves and other predators for commercial gain on publicly owned land is just plain wrong.
Introduced by a “hunters’ rights organization,” this kill-fest will make a competitive, commercialized sport of killing wolves and other predators. And, it will take place on federal public land – that’s land that belongs to you and me!
Contests like these have no place in the 21st Century. They are a throwback to times past, when wolves and other predators were seen as vermin. The federal government shouldn’t be encouraging and endorsing this outdated thinking, and it certainly shouldn’t be hosting thrill kill competitions.

Please take action TODAY, and help us stop this atrocious event!
Thank you for all you do. 
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife

Sunday, November 16, 2014

An old-fashioned Thanksgiving celebration!

I'm coming across more comments, discussions, news coverage, etc. about the pros and cons of shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday than any mention of the significance of this historical holiday.  In the meantime, I'm looking forward to once again preparing a turkey dinner for my son and daughter-in-law - they provide the pumpkin pies. And instead of going shopping later on, we'll kick back, enjoy visiting with one another, and we'll likely play a game of Scrabble...
My son Steve after a previous Thanksgiving dinner.
Hi Katalusis friends, I copied this post from my FB status update this morning - I decided to share it with you folks, too!

I'm coming across more comments, discussions, news coverage, etc. about the pros and cons of shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday than any mention of the significance of this historical holiday. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to once again preparing a turkey dinner for my son and daughter-in-law - they provide the pumpkin pies. And instead of going shopping later on, we'll kick back, enjoy visiting with one another, and we'll likely play a game of Scrabble... I recommend our celebration of Thanksgiving - giving thanks for what we have instead of chasing around town to acquire more.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A great role for Elizabeth Warren

As a US Senator, Elizabeth Warren is acquiring the legislative and leadership experience Barack Obama needed before he stepped behind that desk in the Oval Office and wound up being disavowed by Democratic candidates in the 2014 midterms. And as we all know, shunning the president did Democrats no good;  to use my favorite Bush-ism, they got "thumped," regardless.

 In the meantime, Warren just gained a great role well suited for her talents and interests. Here's the scoop:

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gained a leadership position in the Senate Democratic caucus Thursday, giving the prominent progressive senator a key role in shaping the party's policy priorities. 

Warren's new role, which was created specifically for her, will be strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, helping to craft the party's policy positions and priorities. She will also serve as a liaison to progressive groups to ensure they have a voice in leadership meetings and discussions, according to a source familiar with the role.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What do you know about panthers?

Florida panther (Wikipedia).

Until my frequent correspondent, Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, emailed me today regarding the deaths of a couple of Florida panther kittens, I’d not given much thought to that species of wildlife.

I hastily turned to Wikipedia for help and discovered that panthers are a subspecies of cougar, also known as mountain lions, pumas, and catamounts. Wiki adds: “but in the southeastern United States and particularly in Florida, it is exclusively known as the panther.

With that bit of background on this particular species, let’s return to Jamie’s message that warns of panthers in peril:

Dear Virginia,
It’s a sight that would break your heart.

Two panther kittens, each only four months old, lying dead by the side of a Florida highway - the victims of an August hit and run.

Discovery of the kittens’ broken bodies put the 2014 death toll on track to set a new and heartbreaking record.

Your urgent support to Defenders will help us save panthers, as well as other vulnerable wildlife like wolves and manatees.

The kittens were the 15th and 16th of these majestic cats killed by motorists this year. And since then, reports have come in of two more highway panther deaths, making the grisly total one fatality short of tying the record. This is not a record any of us want to see beaten.

Once roaming throughout the southeastern United States, today the Florida panther population is restricted to less than five percent of its historic range in south Florida. Persecution, hunting, land clearing and other activities drove panthers to near extinction. By the 1950s, fewer than 20 animals remained.

Thanks to your support, we’ve helped rebuild panther numbers, but they are far from safe. Today, fewer than 200 of these beautiful animals survive in the wild.
But with your help, Defenders is leading efforts on the ground to save panthers by:
  • Working to restore funding to Florida’s land acquisition program, Florida Forever, through the recent passage of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment to the State Constitution, a measure that designates billions of dollars over the next 20 years for natural resources, wildlife and habitat conservation;
  • Advocating for expanding national wildlife refuges and other protected habitat in Florida;
  • Educating motorists to “give panthers a brake” by driving more slowly in panther territory;
  • Pressing for installation of wildlife crossings along dangerous road segments;
  • Improving landowner incentive programs to conserve and restore important panther habitat and travel corridors; and
  • Stopping development projects that would severely fragment and threaten panther habitat.
These heartbreaking deaths are a stern reminder that our work is far from done. We can have a world in which people and panthers thrive but only if you and I act now.
Thank you for all you do.

Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On a cold wintry day, thinking of those without permanent homes

Unknown homeless person. Public domain photo.

On this cold wintry day, I'm reminded of those in our midst who have no permanent homes. The challenges are difficult enough in the heat of summer; what must it be like in 20-degree weather?

On August 13, 2010, my friend Julie Costa and I volunteered for a couple of hours at an emergency shelter. First published at the, I offer a glimpse of that experience in the article reprinted below.
by Virginia Bergman

The pre-adolescent girl twirled the two hula hoops around her slender hips a hundred times – she counted – while younger children raced back and forth on three wheelers at the emergency shelter provided at St. Mark’s Catholic Church on Dayton Avenue in St. Paul Friday evening, August 13, 2010.

A five-month-old baby girl with strong legs propelled her walker for a few minutes before a volunteer paused to scoop up the irresistible infant.

At the center of the large room, cooled by a couple of well-placed fans, several guests, including a 12- or 13-year-old boy, sat around a table playing cards – no one mentioned that it was Friday, the 13th. When the hula hoop star stopped by to kibitz, one of the women told her she was cute. With a shake of her ponytail, the young girl replied, “No, I’m not; my hair isn’t styled!”

“She hates wearing her hair in a ponytail,” her mother explained.

At a nearby table, a Somali woman, covered from head to toe in traditional Islamic dress, tended a fussy toddler who appeared not to feel well. The woman offered a snapshot of her personal history. She explained that she left the failed state of Somalia to come to America in the 90s. She shuddered as she spoke of the violence and killing still rampant in her homeland. Now in the seventh month of pregnancy, she and her husband have separated and since she is no longer able to work, she has lost her apartment.

Another woman summarized one painful experience after another that ultimately brought her and her three children to St. Mark’s that evening. Smiling through tears, she expressed a strong faith that God would lead her and her children through their present difficulties. She later found a table off in a corner where she could sit quietly and read for a time.

The volunteers were glad to watch over the younger children and give their mothers a brief respite from their care. Ours was an easy assignment. The kids helped themselves to snacks laid out for them and occupied themselves with the variety of toys on hand.

St. Mark’s emergency shelter also offered its clients a selection of used clothing and assorted toiletries, a shower for their use, and curtained cubicles in a separate area for sleeping.

All told, the shelter served six women and 12 children that evening brought there from the Family Place, a day center for those without permanent homes.

St. Mark’s is one of many area churches, synagogues, and schools that participate in Project Home, a program sponsored by the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches. Project Home provides 40-60 beds of emergency shelter for families in Ramsey County each night.

As the evening shift for volunteers came to an end, a husband and wife team arrived to spend the night at the shelter where they would be available to respond to the needs of those they came to serve.

When I arrived home, I saw my apartment and its furnishings in a new light; volunteering for a few hours at an emergency shelter will do that for you.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Who gunned down the alpha wolf in WA State?

What's behind the insane killing of vulnerable wildlife? This email from Jamie Rappaport Clark of Defenders of Wildlife just hit my inbox.

Dear Virginia,
Wolf hatred has spread west to Washington State.

Yesterday, we learned that the alpha female of the Teanaway pack was shot and killed, throwing the entire pack’s future into jeopardy. Disturbingly, the killing may have been intentional and a criminal investigation is underway since wolves in Washington State are protected under both state and federal law.

Fear and demonization of wolves is like a virus. Help Defenders stop the wolf hatred from spreading any further.

Defenders of Wildlife and our conservation partners are offering a reward for any information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the wolf’s killer.

There are barely 60 known wolves in the entire state of Washington. With the tragic loss of the alpha female, the fate of the Teanaway pack is now uncertain. This is a major blow to wolf recovery in the Pacific Northwest.

Please support our efforts to protect the Teanaway wolf pack and other vulnerable wildlife.

When you support Defenders, you stand with us to give a voice to vulnerable wildlife like wolves that have no voice of their own. You support expert field staff on the front lines of the battle to protect wolves. You support the best wildlife lawyers in the country. And you support our Washington, DC team who go toe-to-toe with those on Capitol Hill who want to exterminate wolves.

Defenders of Wildlife has been winning life-saving wildlife battles since 1947. But we are only as strong as our supporter base – people like you, who love wildlife and are willing to do their part.

Please support Defenders with a generous donation today.

Thank you for all you do.
Jamie Rappaport Clark
President, Defenders of Wildlife

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Have Americans botched democracy?

Congress less popular than cockroaches?
One of my favorite columnists, Nick Kristoff at the NY Times, concludes his op-ed yesterday titled "America's Broken Politics" by suggesting that we Americans have botched democracy. And on the day after the 2014 midterms, he made a good case for that conclusion.

Kristoff wrote:
Let’s face it: The American political system is broken.

The midterm elections were a stinging repudiation of President Obama, but Republicans should also feel chastened: A poll last year found Congress less popular than cockroaches.

So congratulations to those members celebrating election victories. But our democratic institutions are in trouble when they can’t outpoll cockroaches. Which didn’t even campaign.

“Politics is the noblest of professions,” President Eisenhower said in 1954, and politics in the past often seemed a bright path toward improving our country. President Clinton represented a generation that regarded politics as a tool to craft a better world, and President Obama himself mobilized young voters with his gauzy message of hope. He presented himself as the politician who could break Washington’s gridlock and get things done — and we’ve seen how well that worked.

I’m in the middle of a book tour now, visiting universities and hearing students speak about yearning to make a difference. But they are turning not to politics as their lever but to social enterprise, to nonprofits, to advocacy, to business. They see that Wendy Kopp, who founded Teach for America in her dorm room at Princeton University, has had more impact on the education system than any current senator, and many have given up on political paths to change.

A national exit poll conducted by Edison Research found that a majority of voters disapproved of Republicans and Democrats alike, and only 20 percent trust Washington to do what’s right most or all the time.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How could this happen in six short years?

A Minnesotan, I celebrate this morning the re-elections of Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken. And with the Republican sweep of Congress, I feel sad for the country.

Tom Edsall at the NY Times offers the big picture on the morning after:

Democrats counting on favorable demographic trends to carry their party to victory in 2016 should consider three significant developments reflected in the outcome of Tuesday’s elections.

The first is that the Republican establishment, at least for the moment, has wrested control back from the Tea Party wing. This will make it more difficult for Democrats to portray their opponents as dangerous extremists.

The second, and more important, development was the success of Republican candidates in defusing accusations that their party is conducting a “war on women.” The effectiveness of Republican tactics on this front is sure to influence strategy in two years, threatening to undermine a line of attack that has generated a gender gap and has been crucial to past Democratic victories.

The third was the powerful showing of Republican gubernatorial candidates in two Midwestern states important to Democrats in presidential elections: Wisconsin and Michigan.

Read more:


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A thinker who doesn’t like to lead

Hi Katalusis readers,

Just so you know, I did my duty this morning and voted. Afterward, I backtracked to yesterday's Washington Post and found confirmation for what I've long suspected:  being a thinker is not enough for the president of the United States - other qualities are required. 


Pundits are just now discovering a major difference between Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, as cited by Eilperin and Nakamura at the Washington Post: “Bush is a leader who didn’t like to think,” said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a global political risk-management firm. “Obama is a thinker who doesn’t like to lead.”

In their article titled Where did Obama go wrong? Eilperin and Nakamura write:

The week after his reelection, President Obama was a man full of promise and promises: His job-approval rating stood at 54 percent, the 2010 tea party wave that had knocked his first term off balance appeared to have receded, and he seemed as sober about the future as he was hopeful.
“With respect to the issue of mandate, I’ve got one mandate . . . to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try to get into the middle class,” he said at a news conference in the East Room of the White House in November 2012. Obama acknowledged the dangers of “presidential overreach in second terms,” but he put forward an expansive, legacy-building agenda: a major fiscal deal, immigration reform and action on climate change.

Two bruising years later, he has registered progress only on addressing climate change, and a president who once boasted of a barrier-breaking liberal coalition is under fire from his own party as his Republican rivals are poised to make gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

So what do political candidates do with all that money?

Forgive my cynicism. Prior to the 2008 Democratic primary, I truly got into the biennial political fray, especially during presidential elections. This time around, I’ve routinely cleared out my inbox from the daily onslaught of requests for money from the Democratic Party. And maybe for the first time, I’m asking what on earth political candidates need all that money for? Jeez, the TV networks must make out like bandits during run ups to elections; pity the candidates - I’ve turned them off during their feverish pitches. Not to worry, folks: Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the political process, I’ll do my duty and vote this Thursday.

Anyway, in these closing hours before the 2014 midterms, I noticed an item describing Obama’s attempts to resuscitate his one-time zealous followers on behalf of the Dems, while McConnell stokes the fire for Republicans:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Clashing views from the White House and Republicans about the nation's trajectory are closing out the final week before Election Day.

President Barack Obama on Saturday emphasized economic growth during his tenure while the Senate's Republican leader depicted events he says seem to be spinning out of the White House's control.
Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in their parties' radio and Internet addresses, did find some common ground.

They agreed that many Americans' wages are still falling behind. But Obama blamed Congress for not acting on measures such as the minimum wage, and McConnell faulted Obama for policies he said have failed.

"We've got to harness this momentum and make the right choices so that everyone who works hard can get ahead," Obama said. He stressed the need for policies that make the economy friendlier to women.
"In difficult times, the American people expect real leadership from Washington," the Kentucky senator countered. "What they don't need are more unworkable ideas that often make the problem worse."
The sparring heading into Tuesday's voting underscored the prominent role that Obama has taken in the midterm elections even though he is not on the ballot. Republicans have tried to make the election about the president, especially in states with Republican majorities where Obama's unpopularity runs deeper than in the country as a whole.