‘Til “Glacier” Freezes Over

A few years ago, before we left our home state of Montana to move to the sunny South, we decided to make one last visit to Glacier National Park.

“Glacier” as Big Sky natives lovingly call it, is the best Montana has to offer. Yellowstone is nice, but touristy and crowded – I look for Yogi and Boo Boo behind every tree, and it seems the feds have something annoyingly “governmental” pounded into every rock. While Glacier has become more commercialized and politically correct than it was in the good old days, it still is somewhat pristine and remains one of the most beautiful spots in the Rocky Mountains.

We visited Glacier in late June, before all the snow was gone for the summer, but after the Going to the Sun Road was opened up, which was early that year (as of today, 6/20/19, half of the road is still not plowed out). We did not want to miss that spectacular drive from West Glacier to St. Mary on what might be our last visit to Glacier.

We arrived at the St. Mary Lodge and did the tour through the grand old main lodge building, enjoying the history of the place and the high mountain ambience.

George Bird Grinnell, a New Yorker, naturalist and western conservationist, pushed for a national park designation which was signed by President Taft in 1910. Glacier National Park was first “civilized” as part of the westward push of the Great Northern Railway across the northern United States and much of the infrastructure was funded, engineered and built by the railroad under James Hill, who saw a tourism profit opportunity . Most of that privately built infrastructure, including hotels and lodges, trails, tracks, tunnels and roads remains in use today and has held up remarkably well.

And this is key. It was not government influence and “protection” of natural resources that made Glacier National Park and other treasures of the American West great; rather, it was private entrepreneurial drive and inspiration.

Salamander Glacier reflects into the blue water of Swiftcurrent Lake.
photo courtesy MyItchyTravelFeet.com

After hanging out at the lodge for a while, we decided to hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail that goes past Swiftcurrent Lake and provides a good view of Salamander Glacier. We could not help but notice the grizzly bear warning signs, and having grown up in bear country south of Glacier, I took them seriously. With so many tourists around it was more likely we would see black bear rather than big grizzers. And we actually did see several black bear.

At the trailhead near the lodge there was a big sign explaining how, because of man-caused Global Warming, the glaciers, including Grinnell, were melting fast and would likely be gone by the year 2020. I admit, as native Montanans, we were temporarily taken aback by this “official” government proclamation, until my conservative skepticism kicked back in. This same propaganda was all over the lodge in brochure racks and informational displays. In 2012 National Geographic produced this work of fiction, (note the obligatory slow, sad PBS victim-style piano music):

Last week it was revealed that the National Park Service was quietly removing all the Global Warming propaganda at Glacier National Park because it has become evident that the glaciers have been growing for some time. Oops. Another embarrassing example of leftists abusing science for political leverage.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

See people rocking — Hear people chanting — Feeling hot hot hot
Keep up this spirit — Come on let’s do it
— Feeling hot hot hot

Hot Hot Hot – Buster Poindexter

Bart Simpson is Now CEO of Google

Today Google CEO Sundar Pichai faced the House Judiciary committee and performed his amazing Bart Simpson impression:  “I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove anything.”

“Again and again, Pichai stressed during the Tuesday hearing that Google operates ‘without political bias,’ as Republican lawmakers hammered him over allegations that the search engine manipulates results to show conservatives in a negative light or suppresses the viewpoints of right-leaning voices.”

Jessica Guyn – USA Today

I started noticing the severe throttling of conservative and “non-PC” content about a month ago when I was working on one of my frequent rants about how the Clinton administration, using its weaponized Endangered Species Act , decided to “re-introduce” Canadian Gray wolves (a species that was never native to the area) into the Yellowstone Basin in Montana, a move that continues to thrill liberals world-wide.  I mean, who doesn’t love fuzzy puppy dogs?  Other than the thousands of head of elk and countless moose that were helplessly annihilated by roaming packs of the 175 lb. killing machines?  The photos of dozens of game animals, especially newborns, shredded and bloody, strewn all over the springtime snowy meadows of the western states were chilling, not to mention the calves and sheep that met a similar fate. 

Those photos and the accompanying articles are no longer found by Google and the other search engines that rely on Google for their content, or are so deeply buried as to never see the light of day.

Over the last several years I have written many articles about the wolves and used searches such as “Yellowstone wolves” to retrieve content about this horrific federal program.   Now the prominent internet search results point to stories describing how wonderful the loveable wolves are, and the many benefits they have brought to the ecology.  Top placement is given to propaganda pieces by the NY Times and USA Today that are riddled with exaggerations and blatant lies, while covering up the devastation wrought by the monster wolves.  A Newsweek drama piece about a mother wolf that was legally shot just outside Yellowstone Park by a hunter now gets top billing.

A Huffington Post piece quote says,  “Spitfire showed incredible strength, courage and resilience in everything she did.”  Yup.  Those wolves have incredible strength, all right. 

Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte [R-VA] said Google’s search algorithms favor “the political party it likes, the ideas it likes or the products it likes.” His counterpart Jerry Nadler [D-NY] called the charge a “right-wing conspiracy theory”.  Nadler didn’t discuss Google’s plans to cooperate with the Chinese government to censor searches.  I suppose that’s a right-wing conspiracy too.

Hey Jerry, how’s about we put a couple of those cute, fuzzy wolves in your back yard in New York?  And maybe we could send a couple over to the Google campus in California!  We’ll just make sure nobody sees us do it.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’ve been all night drivin’ heifers
Closer in to lower ground
Then I spent the mornin’ thinkin’
‘Bout the ones, the wolves pulled down

Wolves – Garth Brooks


More News From the Real World

Yesterday a big truck pulled into our driveway to deliver a refrigerator.  The delivery men were both young, athletic, hard working African-American dads.  One has month-old twins and the other has a couple of young daughters.

After finishing the work, they took some time to visit with us, and I accepted their admiration for my awesome man room.  They were impressed by our new home on the lake, and I could see them wondering, how does a guy get one of these?

My “dad” buzzer went off.  I just can’t resist an opportunity to coach enterprising young people.  I am an unapologetic card-carrying disciple of free enterprise and American capitalism, and nothing makes me happier than seeing a young person who wants to move up and achieve a better life for his or her family.  At risk of embarrassment, here is our conversation, condensed.

Worker 1: “That is a big, beautiful house.  How did you guys get here?”

Me:  “You know, my wife and I started out dirt poor.  We had absolutely nothing.  But we worked hard, and saved, and kept working and saving, and here we are.  It’s America!  We are living proof that the American dream is real and success is out there for anybody who is willing to work for it.”

Worker 1: “I’m thinking about starting my own business, I have a couple of ideas.”

Me: “Owning your own business is great.  If I had known how fun and profitable it is to have your own business, I would have done it long ago.”

Wife: “And it’s a great time to start a business. The economy is booming!  There are all kinds of opportunities right now.  Companies are starting up and growing and hiring people because of the tax reform.”

Worker 2: “Yeah, business has really picked up.  Our company can’t find enough people to hire.”

Wife:  “I’m a Trump supporter and he has really turned things around after Obama.”

Workers 1 and 2 simultaneously:  “That’s for sure, Obama didn’t do us any favors!”

Me:  “Maybe the best thing Trump has done is get rid of all the crazy regulations.  We moved here from Montana, and the oil and coal and mining and agriculture industries have taken off again there because Trump got the EPA and other agencies to back off.”

Worker 2: “I’m going back to school to finish my classes in underwater welding.”

Me:  “Wow!  That sounds like a great career with a lot of demand.  Are you a welder now?”

Worker 2: “Yes.”

Me: “Well if you want to make some big money in a hurry, go to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and eastern Montana.  Welders there can make six figures because there is so much demand.  Even drivers make big money, and the employers pay for CDLs, help with housing, and have good benefits.  It’s not a great place for the family, but a lot of young guys buck it up for a year or two, make some big money, and then they are set.”

Wife: “There are always great opportunities somewhere.  You may have to move, or do some kind of work you don’t want to do.  We have all done work we didn’t want to, but that’s part of building wealth.”

Me: “I’ve always said I can do anything for a while.  You don’t have to bust your rear end and save your money forever, just for a while.  Then things get a lot easier.”

Worker 2:  “Well, maybe I’ll have a place like yours some day!”

As I said in my last post, don’t believe the silliness you see and hear on the evening news.  They would have you believe that young people, especially minorities, are angry and oppressed.  The leftist politicians and talking heads predict a “blue wave” led by socialists who will save us all from the greedy corporations.

It just isn’t true.  These young African-American dads are typical of the guys on the street that I enjoy meeting and with whom I am proud to share our great American heritage and values.  They understand responsibility, work and reward, they respect employers and capitalism, they know when somebody is trying to blow smoke, and they are optimistic about the direction our country is headed.  And – surprise!  They love Trump!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Stand in the place where you live (now face north)
Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before
Stand in the place where you work (now face west)
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

On Vacation I Got Acute Government-Itis

Hatteras lighthouseWe took a short vacation trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina last week.  Cool place.  But it seems I just can’t go anywhere these days without getting a bad case of government-itis.

For my friends up north, the Outer Banks is a long, narrow strip of sand (peninsulas and islands) on the east coast of North Carolina, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and river inlets to the west.  It is windy, mostly barren, and full of character, featuring eclectic art shops, t-shirts, beach houses, and fabulous seafood restaurants, wrapped up in a laid-back sea-life groove.  Not pretty, but cool.

Anyway, driving south from the civilized part of the OBX, we soon realized we were no longer on privately-owned sand.  The signs (‘Don’t Do This!’ ‘Do That!’ ‘Prohibited!’ ‘No!’ ‘Stop!’ ‘Don’t Even Think About It!’) were a dead giveaway.  We had landed on federal U.S. Park Service turf.

My wife is a lighthouse nut, so we followed the Park Service “Do This” and “Don’t Do That” signs to the Bodie Island Lighthouse parking area and set out across the grass to enjoy the view.  There we ran into a friendly-looking man in a crisp brown Park Service uniform, greeting visitors to the lighthouse.  I’ll call him Mr. Friendly.

We wanted to climb the stairs to see the view and the internals of the lighthouse.  But, unfortunately, it was closed to the public for another week or so.  Mr. Friendly did not know why the government had closed the lighthouse.  But we thought since we were there we should at least learn something about this interesting and still-operating historical landmark.

“How tall is it?”  I asked.  Mr. Friendly frowned.  “Gee, I don’t know.  I heard somebody say something about 160, would that be feet?  Does that make sense?”  he said.

“Well, ” I pressed, “when was it built?”  Again, Mr. Friendly apologized.  “I’m sorry, I just don’t know very much about this place.  I guess I should get a pamphlet or something.  You see, I’ve only been here since Thanksgiving.”

Hmm, Thanksgiving was almost five months ago.  My wife and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised with the same unspoken question: What the hell has Mr. Friendly been doing for the last five months?

We asked him where he was stationed before his post on the Outer Banks.  “Oh, I was in Wyoming!” he beamed.  Being from Montana, we are pretty familiar with Yellowstone Park, and asked him where he lived.  He said he had five houses while he was assigned to Yellowstone, the last one in Gardner, Montana.  Again, we glanced a knowing look at each other.  Several BLM and Park Service employees had told us over the years about the policy that allows management employees to transfer anywhere they wished, at any time, with all expenses paid.  Usually the feds even purchase the employee’s home (with taxpayer money) to make sure there is no hardship of any kind related to the transfer.

We left the Bodie Island lighthouse suffering early government-itis symptoms and headed for the next lighthouse (there’s really not much else to see) at Cape Hatteras.

Again we wove our truck through the Do and Don’t signs.  Again we were not allowed to go up in the lighthouse.  And again we were greeted by a friendly man in a crisp brown uniform.  But this guy knew his stuff!  He was loaded with all kinds of interesting and amusing facts and anecdotes about his lighthouse, and shipwrecks, and German U-Boats.  He attracted a big crowd of fascinated tourists and was happy as a clam to stand in the hot sun and talk with visitors all day.  In fact, he told us he hardly ever takes a day off.  In the world of tourist guides, this guy is Mr. Rockstar!

Then we noticed Mr. Rockstar’s name badge, which revealed that he is a volunteer.

We went into the small museum adjacent to the lighthouse, and passed two surly-looking women seated at empty desks in their crisp brown uniforms with government-employee badges.  I backtracked around several “Don’t” signs and greeted one on the way out.  “Hey, your guide out front is doing a great job,” I reported.  “Hmmph,” Mrs. Crabby snorted.  “He’s new, he doesn’t know anything.”  She turned to the other surly government employee and they quietly hissed to each other, making furtive glances out the door at Mr. Rockstar, who was blissfully entertaining a large and smiling group of tourists.

My acute government-itis flared up.  “Did you know,” I asked my wife, “that the average federal employee compensation is over $120,000 a year?”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand

I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can

Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne

 

Just Sayin’ . . .


Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton, after winning the SC Democrat primary proclaimed: “Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.”

If Hillary thinks we need to make America whole again, why does she continue to divide Americans into “victim groups” by skin color, by achievement and income level, by religion, and by sex or sexual orientation and pitting us against each other?  Hillary promises to continue Obama’s direction when she is president.  Are people going to grow more divided and suspicious of each other every year during her presidency, too?  Just sayin’ . . .


al-sharptonThe Reverend Al Sharpton (along with Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell) has announced that if Donald Trump is elected president, he will leave the country.

Um, can we make sure the good Reverend has paid his $4.5 million in back taxes before we let him out?  And by the way, would somebody please find out what church the Rev is preaching at every Sunday?  Just sayin’ . . .


juleanna gloverWashington insider and GOP consultant Juleanna Glover said, “If Cruz doesn’t beat Trump in Texas, there’s going to be full-scale panic.”

Seems to me if the Washington insiders are scared to death of Trump moving into their neighborhood, that might be exactly why people are voting for him.  Just sayin’ . . .


Leonardo_DiCaprio_2010Environmental activist / actor Leonardo DiCaprio told Vanity Fair he was terrified when global warming caused the weather in Calgary to rapidly change on his recent visit.  “There would be eight feet of snow and then all of a sudden a warm gust of wind would come,” DeCaprio cried.

Anybody who has spent a winter on the east slopes of the Rockies will tell you it happens all the time, Leo.  It’s called Chinook winds, and it’s been going on since long before those evil white men first set foot in Montana or Alberta.  Just sayin’ . . .


chriswallaceOn Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace badgered Ted Cruz, repeating the juvenile and baseless insults thrown at him by his opponents in the recent presidential debate.  When an exasperated Cruz charged that Wallace was using Trump’s opposition bullet points, Wallace flew into a rage.  Wallace did not ask Cruz a single policy-related question during the interview.

Isn’t this the same Chris Wallace whose eyes well with tears each week as he lists the political figures who won’t answer his requests for an interview?  Just sayin’ . . .


berniesandersBernie Sanders says a college education should be provided to all students free of charge.

You get what you pay for, Bernie.  You get what you pay for.  Just sayin’ . . .


 

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideTell me what I say,
Tell me what I say right now
Tell me what I say
Tell me what I say!

What I Say – Ray Charles

 

 

Wanted: Tough Guys in Congress

mick-mulvaney 2My congressman, Mick Mulvaney, keeps in regular contact with his South Carolina constituents, mostly via social media.  He is accessible, articulate, and sharp – a conservative / libertarian / pragmatist who seems to really enjoy doing the people’s work.

As a by-product of his accessibility, Mulvaney wears his heart on his sleeve, and doesn’t do a good job of hiding his frustration with the “system”.  That frustration was one of the reasons he was a founding member of the rebel Freedom Caucus.

Because we have such remarkable access to him, we pepper him with our own frustrations, hoping that since he actually hears our concerns, usually agrees with us, and seems to give a damn, he might actually be able to do something.

Today Mulvaney spent an hour or so on Facebook in an open question-and-answer session, something he does frequently.  Frustrated questions, frustrated answers:


Bob: “Can someone please tell me how we are going to survive, as a nation, with a $19 trillion federal deficit? It seems no one is concerned. We have entrusted our country to Congress and NO Congressperson is taking a stand against spending.”

Mulvaney: “The House Freedom Caucus is pushing exactly that. But as the debt isn’t a sexy issue right now, we get almost no media coverage.”


Micheal: “The Pentagon has been required by law to be audited since the 90’s but has failed to do so. How can we give them more money when we have no idea how they are already spending the money they’ve received?”

Mulvaney: “I’ve been fighting against the OCO [Overseas Contingency Operations] slush fund since I got to Congress. I just wish more people cared about how badly we waste money in the Pentagon.”


Me: “Mick, have you followed the land grabs out west? I’m originally from Montana you know, and my friends back there are pretty worried. Between the EPA, the BLM, and taking land for “national monuments” it seems like the federal government is hell bent on owning or micromanaging every acre west of Nebraska. What’s going on?”

Mulvaney: “We push reforms every year, but they don’t rise to the level of getting much media attention.”


$19 trillion is not “sexy enough”?  Nobody cares about wasted taxpayer funds?  Not enough media attention to stop the federal government from acquiring 80% of the land west of Colorado, and torturing (or murdering) the few citizens who own the other 20%?

What happened to the idea that the people set the objectives for their representives?  When did we start relying on the media to decide which issues are “sexy enough” to get attention?  If Congress is waiting for the media to set their work priorities and schedules, we have a big problem.

Congressman Mulvaney and the Freedom Caucus are the ‘good guys’.   We don’t need them to be ‘nice guys.’  What we need are some ‘tough guys’ who will take charge and get the important work of the people done.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

For you baby I would, swim the sea
Nothin’ I’d do for you that’s too tough for me
I’d put out a burnin’ building with a shovel and dirt
And not even worry about getting hurt
Ain’t that tough enough?

Words Mean Things. But Things Change.

TalkI don’t know who was the first to say, “Words mean things.”  Rush Limbaugh invoked this truism frequently during his early broadcasting years when analyzing politicians and their rhetoric. People should be held accountable for what they say, according to Limbaugh, and not parse words to escape judgment – like the Bill Clinton gem: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

It’s not all that simple.  Words may mean things, but things change.  And two words we use with great frequency these days seem to have changed a lot.

From Webster’s Dictionary and WordNet

Conservative (con`serv´a`tive) – noun

  • “One who desires to maintain existing institutions and customs.”
  • “One who, or that which, preserves from ruin, injury, innovation, or radical change; a preserver; a conserver.”
  • “One who holds moderate opinions in politics – opposed to revolutionary or radical.”
  • “One who avoids excess; synonym: cautious.”

Liberal (lib´er`al) – noun

  • “One who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties.”
  • “One who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets.”
  • “One who is tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition.”
  • “One who favors greater freedom in political or religious matters; an opponent of the established systems; a reformer.”
  • “One who is free to excess; regardless of law or moral restraint; licentious.”

Wow. My eyes glaze over seeing all the contradictions above, based on what we know of conservatives and liberals today.

Some of the traditional definitions still hold up.  Real conservatives on the modern political battleground are desperately trying to “preserve [the nation] from ruin” and “cautiously avoid excess [spending and regulation].”  Liberals definitely are “free to excess, regardless of law or moral restraint”, and if you watch TV, witness a foul-mouthed group of protesters, or (God forbid) take your kids to a parade which includes the LGBT crowd, you would define them as “licentious.”

Many of the other definitions no longer hold up.  Were liberals really once the champions of “civil liberties” and the “economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets?”  What the hell happened there?  I’m sure a conservative group that applied for 501(c)3 status from the IRS, or a bakery that doesn’t want to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, or a landowner who tries to defend his property rights from the EPA would not agree with that definition.  And parents who would like to hear their kids sing “Silent Night” at a real school Christmas program would probably not define liberals as “favoring greater freedom in political or religious matters”.

I love the definition that says liberals are “not bound by authoritarianism.”  Has there ever been a more authoritarian administration than Obama’s?  And any mention of “tolerance” in the same sentence as “liberal” is pure oxymoron.

My common-sense wife likes this definition of conserve: “To use or manage wisely; preserve; save.”  She asks, “Why do we throw so much perfectly good stuff away?  Why do charity programs for kids Christmas toys require only brand-new items?  Wouldn’t every needy kid rather have ten slightly-used toys than one new one?”  My grandson’s favorite toy at our house is a big metal Tonka truck, so huge he can ride it down the driveway.  They cost about $100 new, but his was a buck at a garage sale, and he thinks it’s great.

Words mean things, but things change.  Democrats are almost universally liberal – at least until election time.   Democrat Senator John Tester from Montana followed the party line in lockstep on every issue, until he voted against the omnibus spending bill last week, saying, “We just can’t keep spending like this.”  In contrast, Montana’s Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke voted for the spending bill, showing no concern over the approaching $20 trillion national debt.

I guess the lesson here is that you can’t trust a politician based on his or her words (especially Hillary!)  Better to hold our political leaders accountable based on their actions.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideI can’t seem to talk about
The things that bother me
Seems to be what everybody has
Against me! (ooh! ooh! ooh! yeah!)

Talk, Talk – the Music Machine

 

 

I LOVE sixties music, and here’s a short clip by a fantastic one-hit-wonder sixties band, the Music Machine, to make my case.  It’s all there – the hair, the tambourine, the teen-age angst, the “fuzz bass”.  Well written rocker – take two minutes and enjoy!