Matthew Rexford Ignores the Elephant


Matthew Rexford has an opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News, where he criticizes federal oversight of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and praises the Alaska Legislature’s recent resolution criticizing the Biden Administration’s freeze on oil and gas lease development on federal land. Rexford characterizes the issue as a human rights question, describing the native…

Biko, via Playing for Change


Back in 2016, WC wrote about the late Steve Biko, who was murdered by South African police. Playing for Change has released a fine version of Peter Gabriel’s song of the same name, featuring Gabriel himself, Yoyo Ma, Silkroad and others. In the forty years since Gabriel wrote it, the song has lost none of…

Turbo Speed Goats


WC blames Dr. Brewster M. Higley, the songwriter who gave us “Home on the Range.” That’s the song that mis-identifies Pronghorn as “antelopes.” “Pronghorn” didn’t scan, WC supposes. They are more closely related to the giraffe and okapi than to true antelopes. That makes them much less distant cousins to goats and extremely remote relatives to the Bovidae, the…

The Proof Is in the Tusk


So much is unknown about the Narwhal. Even the name is a puzzle. From the Oxford English Dictionary (paywalled), WC’s go-to reference for word etymologies: The etymology is uncertain, but likely comes from variants of Danish narhval (cognate with Norwegian narkval , Swedish narval and further cognate with Old Icelandic náhvalr. The first element “nahl” or “narl” is of uncertain origin,…

Notes on Ammon Bundy


WC can generally get along with almost anybody. In the worst case, if someone is annoying enough, WC will generally simply ignore them. But there is a particular class of individual for whom WC has little patience. That would be the attention-seeker, whose need for attention overwhelms everything else about them. WC has received training…

Fly-bys


Banbury Hot Springs is in the middle Snake River Canyon, right along the Snake River. After you’ve soaked yourself to a limp noodle, you can go down to the river’s edge in the late afternoon twilight and photograph birds returning to roost for the evening. It’s a pretty good show. A part of the large…

Who Do Those Hoodoos Like You Do?


In another instance of abject failure of imagination, the State of Idaho has at least three different places called some variation of “City of Rocks.” WC had a chance to visit one of them recently, the Little City of Rocks, in the Bennett Mountains. It doesn’t look very much like a “city,” it’s not “little”…

Plutonium Is Forever: the Idaho National Lab


You’ve probably never heard of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). It’s a Cold War-era research facility that’s still active today, located on 890 square miles of sage brush steppe in eastern Idaho, on a chunk of the Eastern Snake River Plain, about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls. Located in the high desert, surrounded by…

Bird Break! Loons


There’s nothing loonie about loons. They are a beautiful genus of birds, handsome, skilled diving hunters and devoted parents. WC has been lucky enough to photograph all five species of the genus Gavia, although most of the photos are nothing WC would want to hang on his wall. Among other challenges, they are extremely wary…

Following Up and Following Down: March 2021


March seems to be ricocheting between lambs and lions, but either way, it’s behind us now. So it’s time for another look back at a mercifully Tweet-free month, where logic, reason and evidence have done a little better than any time in the last four years. Here’s the usual journalism-free, Magpie Principle-inspired look at past…

WC Answers His Mail


WC will once again dive into the Wickersham’s Conscience email. Setting aside the Nigerian unclaimed fund scams (~ 15%), invitations from putative scantily clad or unclad young ladies (~18%), dubious queries from folks who think WC is still practicing law (~30%), links to known malware (~17%) and advertisements for sexual stimulants (~19%), we’re left with…

Trump’s Crimes: Normalizing Racism


WC will attempt an occasional series of blog posts at least partially cataloging Trump’s crimes against America. The first in the series discussed Trump’s lies and their impact on American politics. It’s not possible to catalog all Trump’s crimes. And to even attempt to do so in a continuous stream would violate WC’s recent pledge…

A Photo of a Black Hole: An Update


(WC recognizes the mass media have picked up on the three astrophysics papers that are behind this story. But the mass media have gotten it stupidly, hopelessly wrong. WC makes an effort to clarify. Doubtless, real astrophysicists will sneer at this effort, but at least it distinguishes between the elliptical galaxy M87 and the black…

Senator Crapo, Part II


Readers may recall WC wrote a polite (at least for WC) open letter to U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R, Idaho) regarding the Senator’s claim that the federal estate tax was the most unfair tax and required immediate attention. WC has now received a reply. WC has put Senator Crapo’s response in bold and WC’s responses…

Idaho Joint Resolution 103 Debunked


In a weird, ritualized exercise, a kind of would-be attempted magic, each year the Idaho state legislature adopts a Joint Resolution condemning the very idea of breaching the four Lower Snake River Dams. The resolution is packed with lies, half-lies and distortions. It also simply ignores the proposal from their fellow Republican Rep. Mike Simpson…

Quality Time with a Chukar


Chukar were introduced in the Intermountain West as a game bird. It’s an Asian species, but unlike so many introduced species, it doesn’t seem to have seriously disrupted ecosystems or adversely affected native species. Chukars’ preferred habitat are rock slopes, screes and steeply walled canyons. The carved basalts of the upper South Fork of the…

DNRIP Stephen Merrill, 1955-2020


I did not attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it. — Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, U.S. Attorney General, 1884, speaking of abolitionist and orator Wendell Phillips WC’s buddy BHC recently advised WC that Stephen Merrill had died. Among WC’s lawyer’s friends who have not had the misfortune to litigate…

The Idaho Legislature Flaunts Its Ignorance


The big lotteries are best understood as a voluntary tax on the statistically challenged. PowerBall is the biggest of the big lotteries, with 45 states and several Canadian provinces participating. PowerBall jackpots are sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, your chances of winning are so vanishingly small as to be non-existent.…