McMansion Hell (previously) continues to tear through America's most affluent ZIP codes with trenchant commentary on realtors' listings for terrible monster homes; in the current edition, critic Kate Wagner visits Campbell County, Wyoming, home to some of the most ill-considered monstrosities in America. As always, she is laugh-aloud funny as she tackles the "Divorce Lawyer house," a 6,000 square foot house from 2002, listed for a mere $700k.
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A bill to repeal Wyoming's death penalty law has failed in the state senate, thanks, in part, to the vote of Sen. Lynn Hutchings [R-Cheyenne, contact details], who said, "The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me. I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope."
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Two days of waiting in Casper, Wyoming, $1,200 and two new tires later, we were back on the road. Casper is a small city. It is one of Wyoming's most populated cities. It is a city flanked by mountains and, while we were being held captive by a blown out tire on a holiday weekend, a miserably cold, humid city.
It was a city we were happy to leave.
The man who taught me how to fight once told me that the only thing worse than getting punched is waiting to get punched. This holds true for many things in life. As my wife wheeled us back onto the Interstate, headed south, there was a tension in the air between us. We did not speak. We did little else but listen. Would the rest of our tires prove sound? Was there any indication that they might blow like one of our outer duelies had? When the next blow-out happens would it be one of our steer-tires? How fucked or dead would we be? The answer to this last question: pretty fucked and, depending on the speed we'd be traveling at when the blow-out hit, pretty dead.
Both of us were wondering these things. Neither of us talked about it until after we had stopped for the night.
Long distance trips can be full of new foods and interesting people that make for fond memories. More often, you're left to contend with hours of a ribbon of road cut through the plains mountains and dead towns that lost their vibrance years before you were born. Read the rest
In the midst of yet another shitty news cycle, it's nice to hear that great things can still happen.
Earlier this year, the state of Wyoming said "yeah" to allowing a maximum of 22 grizzly bears, once sheltered as a protected species, to be hunted. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen said "nah" to hunters gearing up to shoot at grizzly bears that call the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem home.
In his order, Christensen made clear that the case “is not about the ethics of hunting, and it is not about solving human- or livestock-grizzly conflicts as a practical philosophical manner.”
Instead, the case was about whether the decision to de-list this segment of the Lower 48 grizzly population was scientifically sound. (Grizzly bears as a whole still enjoy endangered species protections across the Lower 48.) Christensen felt that it wasn’t, writing that FWS “failed to consider how reduced protections in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem would impact the other grizzly populations.”
The ruling drew heavily on a case the federal agency lost last year, when its decision to de-list Western Great Lakes region gray wolves was vacated in court for failing to consider species-wide impacts.
In the United States, there's only around 1,800 grizzly bears roaming Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho and Montana. That's far from what I or any ecologist (of which I am not) would call a recovered species. Earther points out that while the Yellowstone grizzly population has rebounded in recent years, it's still isolated from other populations. Read the rest
Renowned environmentalist and chimpanzee buddy Jane Goodall has her fingers crossed: she’s entered the lottery to win the right to kill a grizzly bear in the area of Yellowstone Park. That Wyoming’s allowing the bears to be hunted is a big deal. There’s been a moratorium on taking down a grizzly bear in Wyoming for the past 44 years. This year, the state is allowing 22 of them to be killed by hunters.
But, instead of taking down a furry behemoth so that she might eat its steaming heart to celebrate her kill, Goodall, and a growing number of other people, have a better idea of what to do if they win the right to shoot a grizzly: they’re advocating that folks take that shot with a camera instead of a gun.
Shoot ‘em With A Camera is a guerrilla campaign to undermine Wyoming’s bear hunt lottery system. The premise is simple: Apply to the bear hunt lottery for your chance to kill a magnificent creature. Then, should you win, instead of heading to the hills with a rifle, you head out with a camera. It’s a cheeky campaign and according to National Geographic, its gaining momentum, quickly.
Not everyone, however is thrilled about it.
From National Geographic:
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Brian Nesvik, chief game warden with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, is not so enamored. He acknowledged he was surprised at how fast the campaign mobilized, heightening a level of drama that was already unprecedented given that it involves the wildlife symbol of the Yellowstone region.
Rudy Rucker writes, "Isabel Rucker and friends are promoting a GoFundMe project to give an Ms. subscription to each of the elected officials in Wyoming. Why? To raise awareness of women's issues. Wyoming has the largest gender pay gap in the country, has the smallest percentage of women in its state legislature, is among the costliest for childcare, and faces continuing cuts in publicly funded family planning and in women's health services." Read the rest
A group of Wyoming legislators in the state's House and Senate -- all representing coal country and all avowed climate deniers -- have introduced a bill that would ban Wyoming power companies from using solar or wind power by 2019, and requires non-renewable power to account for 95% of the state's power by 2018. Read the rest
With this year's "ag-gag" law, Wyoming has made it a crime to gather evidence of agricultural wrongdoing, from illegal pollution to animal cruelty, even from public land -- and also prohibits regulators from acting on information gathered in violation of the law. Read the rest
Freelance journalist Jessica Grose has a fascinating "long read" in Slate this week (and I'm not kidding about the long part, 8,000 words!) about Bear True Crimes: wild bears in and around Yellowstone National Park who, for one reason or another, attack humans.
Why does this happen? What's it like for the humans who survive? Who investigates the attacks, all CSI-style with DNA analysis and whatnot, and figures out what to do with the problem bears? Is it right to kill them?
Grose's report begins with the story of a mother bear who attacked campers in late 2011. Snip:
The euthanization of the bear known as “the Wapiti sow” was the culmination of a series of horrifying events that had gripped Yellowstone for months, and alarmed rangers, visitors, and the conservation biologists tasked with keeping grizzly bears safe. In separate incidents in July and August, grizzlies had killed hikers in Yellowstone, prompting a months-long investigation replete with crime scene reconstructions and DNA analysis, and a furious race to capture the prime suspect. The execution of the Wapiti sow opens a window on a special criminal justice system designed to protect endangered bears and the humans who share their land. It also demonstrates the difficulty of judging animals for crimes against us. The government bear biologists who enforce grizzly law and order grapple with the impossibility of the task every day. In the most painful cases, the people who protect these sublime, endangered animals must also put them to death.
Read Grose's "A Death in Yellowstone: On the trail of a killer grizzly bear," then read her interview with a woman who was attacked by a grizzly and lived to tell the tale. Read the rest
Wyoming's legislature has defeated its House Bill 85, on third reading, thus ending the state's plan to investigate buying an aircraft carrier (and equipping a military) to defend the state should the USA collapse. Read the rest
Wyoming state representative Lorraine Quarberg (R-Thermopolis) has proposed Wyoming House Bill 85, which will prepare Wyoming for the day that the USA collapses. It includes an amendment proffered by Rep. Kermit Brown, which establishes a task force to investigate "conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier."
The state does not have a whole hell of a lot of water, to be honest. It appears that its largest lake is Yellowstone Lake, which on average is about 140 feet deep. (Yes, it's in a national park now, but that wouldn't matter, would it?) The draft of a Midway-class carrier, which you can probably find on eBay for cheap, was only 33 feet; even the biggest carrier available (Nimitz-class) only needs about 40 feet of water to float. So yes, assuming they could find one and figure out a way to get it in there, the people of Wyoming could potentially have their own aircraft carrier. It might not have much room to putt around in, but still.
I wouldn't get too cocky, though, even then. Dry as they are, most if not all the neighboring states seem to have at least one lake that could float a carrier, and since Wyoming has the fewest people of any U.S. state, it'd be heavily outnumbered, too.
Wyoming to Consider Buying an Aircraft Carrier
(Image: Modellbaumesse-Köln_2008-11-08 14-56-20, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) Read the rest
Dan "Mediactive" Gillmor sez, "Looks like corporations (i.e. the people who control them) have more rights to privacy in America than regular citizens.
This terrific investigative piece by Reuters (co-reported by one of my colleagues at Arizona State University) exposes yet another dirty secret of corporate America's power over federal and state governments. They don't need to go to the Caymans and other such havens to create nearly impenetrable secrecy. They can do it right here at home by using pathetically weak state laws -- plainly weak by design -- to hide sometimes sleazy doings.
It's yet another example of the way the deck has been stacked by corporate America in its own favor."
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A Reuters investigation has found the house at 2710 Thomes Avenue serves as a little Cayman Island on the Great Plains. It is the headquarters for Wyoming Corporate Services, a business-incorporation specialist that establishes firms which can be used as "shell" companies, paper entities able to hide assets.
Wyoming Corporate Services will help clients create a company, and more: set up a bank account for it; add a lawyer as a corporate director to invoke attorney-client privilege; even appoint stand-in directors and officers as high as CEO. Among its offerings is a variety of shell known as a "shelf" company, which comes with years of regulatory filings behind it, lending a greater feeling of solidity.
"A corporation is a legal person created by state statute that can be used as a fall guy, a servant, a good friend or a decoy," the company's website boasts.