More Green for the Green

San Francisco      Ray Ring, a senior editor writing in a recent number of High Country News, pulled together some interesting numbers in a piece that argued essentially that environmental groups have prospered and in many cases filled their coffers thanks to the recognition that the draconian policies of the Bush II Administration had to be stopped. Ring looked at a wide spectrum of both national and regional groups and found that in many cases the money had improved, though he noted that in his review between 2000 and 2006 (the best available data) the money had to improve by at least 17% just to keep up with inflation over that period, which adds a more sobering dimension to the overview.

From the perspective of a membership organization the numbers are pretty fascinating, and they are not small! At the top of the scale is the Nature Conservancy which is drafts everything else with its scale: they jumped from $784+M to over a billion — $1.01+.

Others pulled down some big bucks as well as I can extrapolate from Ring’s bar graphs:

* Trust for Public Land $120+ to $155+M
* National Wildlife Federation $100M to a shade less than $100M — must be a story there!
* Sierra Club $70M to 80M (with a membership group from 650000 to 800000 now!
* Wilderness Society $25M to $40M
* Defenders of Wildlife $15+M to $32M
* Earthjustice $28M down to $25M — hmmmm, but still big bucks!

Those six national outfits combine for almost a Billion and a quarter in spending!

Regional organizations that are closer to the ground also showed significant increases:

* Sonoran Institute $1.8M to 3.9M
* Western Resource Advocates $1.5M to $3.9M
* Greater Yellowstone Coalition $2.5M to $3M
* Grand Canyon Trust $4M down to $3M
* Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance $2M to 2.5M
* Save Our Wild Salmon $1.5M to $2M
* Northern Plains Resource Council $600K to $1.5M (good to see our buddies doing so well!)
* Wyoming Outdoor Council $500K to $1M
* Western Colorado Congress $500K to $700K
* Powder River Basin Resource Council $200K to $500K

NPRC, WCC, and PRBRC are all part of the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) network that has been an ally of ACORN’s for more than 30 years, so theirs is a case where a constituency based organization of ranchers, farmers and others have parlayed the environmental fear and their issues into significant capacity increases.

Ring unfortunately notes that the increases in resources have not been matched by increases in success, but that’s the nature of the battle in the West particularly. He also notes that the coming recession could mean some quick decreases in resources even as these groups are increasing capacity.

Importantly, the opposition groups like the famous Pacific Legal Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation that have waged the “wise use” efforts and a lot of the anti-environmental fights in the West from Ring’s figures seem to have not experienced anywhere near the group the progressives have seen. There’s comfort there, so let’s hope the tables don’t turn on us.


Stop Loss

New Orleans     Somehow in talking to returning Iraq veterans from time to time, I had completely missed an understanding what a “stop-loss” was. Watching Kimberly Peirce movie by that name drove the point home powerfully.

A “stop-loss” refers to language in a soldier’s contract that allows the Army to prevent the soldier from mustering out and unilaterally renew his contract including sending the solider back to Iraq or Afghanistan. According to the “on-line dictionary:”

Presidential authority under Title 10 US Code 12305 to suspend laws relating to promotion, retirement, or separation of any member of the Armed Forces determined essential to the national security of the United States ("laws relating to promotion" broadly includes, among others, grade tables, current general or flag officer authorizations, and E8 and 9 limits). This authority may be exercised by the President only if Reservists are serving on active duty under Title 10 authorities for Presidential Reserve Callup Authority, partial mobilization, or full mobilization.

In our current conflicts involving the mobilization of so many National Guard troops, this has created a “catch-22” where once activated there’s no sure fire way that a soldier can get out, even if the obligation has been met and the tours have been done. The movie follows some Texas soldiers moving from a tragic Tikrit firefight to their hometown parade in Brazos through the trauma of return, easy violence, self-medication, and constant day-and-nightmares to mustering out and being informed that they had been “stop-lost” back to Iraq for another tour. The main character thinks he can take up a US Senator on his offer to “show him around Washington,” goes AWOL, and heads out on the road to try and “get this right.” In Memphis he stumbles on what sounds like an underground network of vets who are hiding out, trying to file suit against the “stop-loss” orders, and fleeing to Canada.

Some critics tried to bust the premise of going to DC as preposterous, assuming that every citizen should just naturally know that US Senators are so full of bull that the offer was not real, though that part seemed a natural naivete to me. Certainly something that would go hand in hand with volunteering to fight for the country after 9/11. I was less sure that I could believe that there might be a underground movement against “stop-loss” but just shows that it’s all in the “eyes of the believer.”

Peirce has one of the characters call this a “backdoor draft,” but it’s really worse than that. In 1812 one of the reasons for the war then was to stop Britain from “impressing” sailors from US flag ships and ports over to the British ships as sailors. This was a taking of people against their will and forcing them into military service. These soldiers were originally volunteers so it is hard to call this a “backdoor draft,” but when they are impressed into service against their will, that’s just wrong.

Statistics at the end of the movie argued that there had been more than 80,000 stop-loss returns to the war-zone of the 650,000 soldiers that had spent time in Iraq. That’s more than 10% of the fighting force.

It seems to me that once a soldier has done his or her duty, thanks should be rendered and respect should be paid. If they want out, then they should be out. Period! Impressing them against their will on fine print or with the Presidential seal makes a tragic mockery of service and national integrity.

This movie has real power if that’s the only point it makes.