Thursday, February 24, 2011

Former National Audubon Society President Russell Peterson Dies

Good riddance Dr. Russell Peterson!

I met Russell Peterson in September 1981 when the National Audubon Society held their quarterly board of directors meeting in Jamestown North Dakota where I was stationed at the time. I was head over heels crazy about the National Audubon Society in those days believing, mistakenly, that Audubon was a real advocate for the earth.

In those days my fledgling family had gotten seriously into recycling aluminum cans. For recreation my then-wife and I would take our daughters (4 and 1 years old) out on day long aluminum can pick up jaunts. We regularly received permission from the North Dakota State Patrol and the Stutsman County Sheriff's Department to park along the verge of Interstate-94 where we would make forays to pick up aluminum. It got to where Jennifer, my oldest, could smell aluminum cans. We maintained a large bin of recyclable aluminium in our garage and regularly made runs to the fledgling recycling business in Jamestown where we were paid $0.25 a pound for aluminum cans. We were taking in hundreds of dollars from this effort.

Jennifer, my oldest rebel with a cause, decided that we should give our recycling money to the National Audubon Society because they were protecting the earth. Especially they were dead set against a huge wasteful water project called the "Garrison Diversion Project" that would have destroyed or harmed 17 National Wildlife Refuges in North Dakota and torn up uncountable acres of native prairie and prairie wetlands to irrigate 0.6 percent of the agricultural land in North Dakota. And all of this at the bargain basement (at the time) price of $2.3 BILLION dollars.

Audubon was against this project and had a Regional Vice-President (and friend of mine) Richard Madsen stationed in Jamestown to kill Garrison. Jennifer thought this was a great way to invest our recycling money so she determined that we would give all our recycling money to Audubon.

At the same time, Jennifer had coined the name "The Icky Man" for then-Secretary of the Interior James Watt, a Reagan appointee famous for many things including standing in the desert outside of Tucson Arizona and proclaiming that "desert is wasteland with no practical value." He was also a strong proponent of Garrison Diversion. Jennifer had developed a visceral dislike for Watt at 4 years old because Watt wanted to destroy, as a part of building the Garrison Diversion Project, a portion of a nearby Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge where there was an abundance of white-tailed deer and sharp-tailed grouse, both of which she loved to watch.

Over a campfire at the National Audubon Society preserve near Spiritwood Lake one night during the Board of Directors meeting Jennifer handed Russell Peterson a check for our most recent recycling effort and told the President of the National Audubon Society, "I want you to stop the Icky Man, Mr. Peterson." As the filthy rich members of the National Audubon Society's board of directors all cheered and applauded, Russell Peterson told my four year old daughter that he would.

The next night the National Audubon Society's Board of Directors held a banquet dinner at the Holiday Inn in downtown Jamestown. My former wife Ruth and I were invited to attend and we brought Jennifer with us. We had the distinct honor of being seated with Durward L. Allen of Purdue University, one of the most prominent professors of wildlife biology in America at the time. Ruth, myself, Durward and his wife put away 2 bottles of Bailey's Irish Creme that night as we listened to the various speeches. Jennifer drank milk. Durward paid.

One of the most rousing speeches of the night was given by Russell W. Peterson, the President of the National Audubon Society. In his speech Peterson reiterated his strong disgust with Garrison Diversion. He lauded Regional Vice-President Richard Madsen for his stalwart defense of Audubon policy and his tireless advocacy in North Dakota and in Washington DC to kill this despicable water project. Russell even mentioned the various death threats that Richard had received in his almost-successful (at that time) efforts to kill Garrison Diversion. Peterson ended his rousing speech telling everyone in attendance, including my daughter Jennifer that "the National Audubon Society will never waver in its commitment to kill Garrison Diversion."

This was in September 1981. In mid-January 1982 Russell Peterson fired Richard Madsen because Rich took a stand contrary to Audubon Board member Wally Dayton (of Dayton Department store fame in Minneapolis) over mourning dove hunting. Fired him. They fired the single greatest impediment the Congress had to the construction of Garrison Diversion; the man who almost killed the Garrison Diversion project by himself. Doing so made Peterson a bald-faced liar because just four months earlier he told all of us that Audubon would not waiver in its assault on the project.

Russell Peterson lied to the Board of Directors of the National Audubon Society and to the members of the Jamestown Audubon Chapter, and to myself and my then-wife. More importantly, Peterson lied to my four year old daughter who had spent countless hours picking up aluminum cans to recycle so she could donate the money to Russell Peterson to stop things like Garrison Diversion.

I was more than upset.

To make matters worse, a year later, when the Garrison Diversion project was on its death bed in Congress, about to become the first water project in history to be de-authorized by Congress, the National Audubon Society, led by President Russell Peterson SAVED GARRISON DIVERSION from the chopping block. Saved it. The same project that 18 months earlier he said he would do everything in his power to defeat.

My disgust level for the National Audubon Society rose to astronomic levels.

In 1988, while stationed along the incomparable Platte River in Nebraska, Peterson's successor, one Peter A.A. Berle stood before the assembled masses at the Aubudon Society's annual "River Conference" in Kearney, Nebraska, and waxed poetic about Audubon's commitment to saving the Platte River. Berle then went on to provide a laundry list of all the wonderful things the Audubon Society was doing to protect the Platte River.

There was only one problem.

EVERYTHING on Peter A.A. Berle's laundry list of wonderful things the Audubon Society was doing to protect the Platte River was being done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Platte River Whooping Crane Critical Habitat Maintenance Trust, and by a bunch of grade school kids in Grand Island Nebraska. Audubon was doing NOTHING but taking credit for what everyone else was doing. Berle's remarks that day rang as hollow as Russell Peterson's lie to my daughter in North Dakota seven years earlier.

Today while eating lunch at the British Pub I was completing my daily ritual of talking baseball with Mike Benoit and reading the New York Times. For some unexplained reason I found myself reading the obituaries as I thumbed through the other news. As I did I saw a headline for "R W Peterson, Conservationist" and wondered who that was. I then read the first line of the story, about this "conservationist" being the former governor of Delaware. I knew immediately it was Russell Peterson.

Except for when Republican members of Congress or the state legislature die, I'm usually not too happy when I read that someone has been outfoxed by the grim reaper. However today when I read that this "conservationist" who lied to my daughter and me and all of the United States about his commitment to kill a horrible water project that he ultimately saved had died, I realized that in the end there is some justice in the world.

I hope your departure was painful, Russ, you despicable liar.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Might Be A Tea Bag Anarchist If.....

1) You’re offended at any suggestion that the Tea Party is racist, even though nobody objects when people show up at your rallies with blatantly racist signs and slogans.

2) Ronald Reagan is your hero because he was against raising taxes and big government… even though he raised taxes 11 times, doubled the national debt, and tripled the size of government.

3) You mocked Nancy Pelosi for getting emotional when she reflected on the murder of her friend, Mayor George Mosconi, but you think it’s manly when John Boehner blubbers when he watches reruns of Flipper.

4) You were all in favor of George Bush bringing “Democracy” to Iraq by invading and killing hundreds of thousands of women and children, but you think Obama “blew it” by staying out of it when the people of Tunisia and Egypt toppled their dictators in popular revolts.

5) You think Climate Change is a big hoax because Senator James Inhofe, firmly in the pocket of the oil companies says it’s bogus.

6) You think president Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery, and that he managed to fool the CIA, FBI, NSA, Secret Service and the entire US government archive of documents with one Photoshopped image.

7) You think president Obama is a socialist, because he wants all Americans to pay their share of taxes, including the rich, and all Americans to enjoy the same benefits of an equitable society, including the same healthcare that Congress enjoys.

8) You think Glenn Beck’s theory of a Code Pink/Muslim/Communist alliance conspiracy to take over the world in a 21st Century caliphate makes perfect sense.

9) You believe the Citizens United decision was all about corporate “free speech,” yet you’re against the Fairness Doctrine being reenacted, because you think it’s contrary to “free speech.”

10) You are absolutely pro-life, under all circumstances — except when an abortion doctor is executed in his church, because he asked for it.

11) You thought it was cool when Sarah Palin “targeted” Democratic seats on her website with crosshairs, including Gaby Giffords. But when Giffords was shot in Arizona, you didn’t see any connection.

12) You think Sarah Palin would make a good president because she’s a feisty conservative, but that Diane Feinstein should be run out of town, because she’s a feisty liberal.

13) You think George Soros, a Hungarian born American citizen, is an enemy of freedom because he uses his vast wealth to meddle in foreign affairs. But you think it’s great that Rupert Murdoch, an Australian citizen, uses his vast wealth to meddle in American affairs.

14) The main reason you despise George Soros, is because he helped bring down three foreign governments; the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, and Soviet Georgia. Three communist regimes. Ronald Reagan on the other hand, took down one communist regime: Grenada… Reagan: 1, Soros: 3. Ergo, Soros is an un-American commie. Besides, Sean Hannity said so.

15) You think being a Teabagger makes you more patriotic than liberals, because you own more guns than them wussies.

16) You screamed bloody murder when president Obama rescued GM and Chrysler, because they were “going to fail anyway.” But now that they’re both on the road to recovery, you think George W. Bush deserves most of the credit.

17) When Barack Obama was sworn in, the Dow Jones was at 6500. Today, it’s at 12,400, almost double where it was. And at that time, the economy was shedding 700,000 jobs per month, a trend that has been arrested and reversed ever since. From that, you deduce Obama’s the one who wrecked the economy.

18) You still believe Saddam had WMDs.

19) You are dead-set against “judicial activist” judges, but you were okay with it when the five conservative justices of the Supreme Court voted in favor of Citizens United, effectively guaranteeing our politicians will be bought by the highest bidder, rather than elected by the people.

20) You’re strongly opposed to gay rights, because you claim it’s not biblical. Except in the case of Ken Mehlman, Mary Cheney, and Ted Haggard, because they still vote “right” on the issues.

21) You want all illegal immigrants rounded up and deported, ASAP, no exceptions, period, period, PERIOD. But you don’t want any criminal charges filed against the corporations that have been hiring them en masse in violation of law.

22) One of your stated concerns with Barack Obama’s candidacy, was that he was too inexperienced for the job, yet you want Sarah Palin to challenge him next year.

23) You hate tax cheats, and people who abuse their status for personal advancement — but you admire Clarence Thomas, and have no problem with his wife “speaking on behalf of her husband” at the Heritage Foundation, a far right-wing organization.

24) You went ballistic when an illegal immigrant murdered an American in Texas two years ago, and you demanded justice. But when three members connected to the Tea Party murdered 9 year old Brisenia Flores, you and your right-wing media barely even mentioned it, nor the conviction.

25) You equate being a “community organizer” to being a Marxist, yet you claim to worship a God whose entire life was being a community organizer.

26) You claim Barack Obama is soft of terrorism and that he’s sympathetic to Muslim extremists. Yet during his first two years in office, his administration captured or killed more terrorists than George Bush did in all eight years of his presidency.

27) You cheered as Andrew Breitbart and his faux journalists brought down ACORN. But when Breitbart got caught doctoring footage of Shirley Sherrod, which brought into question his veracity, you accused her of waging a “race war.”

28) You support Israel’s policies regarding the West Bank and Gaza, because Israel is a democracy, like us. But when Arabs democratically voted in anti-American and anti-Israeli governments, it bewildered you.

29) Your spiritual hero, the Grande Dame of the conservative movement, is Ayn Rand; the dedicated anti-socialist. And yet, she herself in her later years, had no problem secretly cashing in on social security and Medicare.

30) You still think fascism and socialism are the same thing, because Glenn Beck has convinced you of that with his magic blackboard. This way, nobody can accuse you of being similar to the Nazis… even though you are.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Louie, Louie

Forty seven years ago today, February 17, 1964 the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a sweeping investigation into a problem that threatened to subvert the nation. Namely, were the lyrics to the song, Louie Louie, by the Kingsmen obscene or not? After months of intensive analysis, the bureau was unable to conclude what the actual lyrics were, and the case was dropped. The tune, written by Richard Berry, remains the nation’s most popular party song.

Thanks to my friend Dave Hilsheimer for bringing this important tidbit of musical history to my attention.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Winter Officially Ended on Monday

Despite the calendar saying we have more than a month to go before the spring equinox, winter officially ended yesterday in Bradenton Florida. It ended at about noon when the pitchers and catchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates took to the training fields at their Pirate City facility to start another season of the greatest show on dirt.

Although yesterday was billed as the opening day for pitchers and catchers, when I arrived about 12:30 it appeared that the entire team (including position players) was on the field. I found my friend, Bradenton Marauders announcer Joel Godett who said that even though position players didn't officially start until next week, "... almost all of them are here now. Some have been here two to three weeks already." I guess that means that the 2011 season really started on Monday.

At its peak there were more than 100 fans milling around between the four practice fields. I was pleased to see several of my friends from the stands at Bradenton Marauder games there. I think, like me, they came out to watch "our" kids practicing with the major leaguers.

Six of the 2010 Bradenton Marauders team were on the field including four pitchers, each of whom made the 40 person team. Also there were invitees Tony Sanchez and fellow catcher Eric Fryer. Although Tony gets all the media attention, I think that Eric is a better defensive catcher than Tony. All Eric needs to do (no easy task I'll admit) is improve his ability as a hitter and he will be on his way to the Show in the next couple years.

Catcher Eric Fryer is on the left

Perhaps the sweetest sound in baseball is the "thwack" you hear when the meat of a bat makes contact with a ball. There was no shortage of that sound as players made the rounds in the batting cage. Granted its only spring training, and granted its only batting practice, but I think some of the disgruntled Pittsburgh Pirates fans would have been pleased to watch baseballs rocketing out of the practice fields and over the outfield fence.

While the pitchers were working with their pitching coaches perfecting their motion and putting some extra spin on their curve balls, position players were perfecting their swing during individual sessions with hitting coaches. In the picture below fellow Wisconsin native Jason Jaramillo is seen working with a coach on getting his swing timing perfected.

Yesterday's practice ended about 2:30 or so when the 60 some players on the field retired to Pirate City for afternoon meetings. Before they left a bunch of the players hung around signing autographs and having their pictures taken with fans. This included a boy of about six years old who stood with outfielder Andrew McCutcheon's as his dad immortalized the scene on their digital camera. That kid will likely never forget that scene yesterday.

The Pirates will continue daily workouts at Pirate City until February 25 when they play their first spring training game of the year against the State College of Florida in a benefit game at McKechnie Field. I have a seat for that game (along with tickets for 13 other spring training games) directly behind home plate. I can't wait for the first pitch to be thrown that day, and to watch as our kids from the Bradenton Marauders take to the field and show Pirates management that they deserve a place on the 25-person roster for this year. But if not this year then next. Despite being in prime heckling habitat for the opening game I won't heckle a college team playing major leaguers. However on March 1 the Pirates play the New York Yankees. I have a feeling Alex Rodriquez is going to be asked a few questions about Cameron Diaz. It would be so cool to have A-Rod come off the field and into the stands to try shutting me up!

As I moved between the practice fields I met an older man (whose name I can't remember) from Pennsylvania who wanted to know about Tony Sanchez during his injury-shortened 2010 season. Talking with this gentleman was a real rush because he is into minor league baseball just as deeply as I am. His team is the Class AA Altoona Curve. The Curve is the next stop for many of the Bradenton Marauders as they work their way up in the system. As we talked this man said that he likes minor league baseball because "the kids are still approachable in the minors. They haven't been diluted by million dollar salaries and they are all there playing their hearts out every day hoping for that one break that sends them to the Show."

After becoming addicted to minor league baseball in 2009 and having that addiction intensified by the great performance of the 2010 Bradenton Marauders I can't agree more with what that man said.

I plan to be at Pirate City again today to watch the second day of the spring ritual. Practice begins at 10:00 a.m. this morning and will be at that time every morning until the first game. It's funny how despite yesterday being the first day of spring training I was already thinking to the first day in 2012 and wondering if incomparable Marauder players like Quincy Latimore, Starling Marte, Jeremy Ferrell, Brock Holt and Noah Kroll will be in spring training with Eric and Tony. But I need to stop getting ahead of myself. We need to get all of them up to Class AA or Class AAA this year and then worry about 2012.

I think the best part of being there is despite being 59 years old, watching the Pirates on the field makes me feel like I'm back on a vacant lot in my native Wisconsin fifty years ago when I was playing baseball with Keith Popko and Chuck Olson and the rest of our gang. Every one of us back then talked about our dream of being a major league baseball player one day. None of us ever did, of course, but watching spring training and being close to the field and talking with major leaguers makes me feel like we did just the same.