Gov’t shutdown and near default shocks The Wildlife News into near silence

What’s a good news topic when we have a knife at our throats?

This week ended, maybe for just a couple months. one of the gravest threats in American history. Many who  superficially follow politics obviously saw the engineered near default on the public debt of the United States as politics as usual. Others called it “partisan gridlock.” It was neither.

It was a poorly planned, but almost lethal move to gain a victory for an ideological policy using a new tactic. Repeated previous efforts to win according to the rules and norms of Congress and the accepted “rules of the game” in the American system had failed. This “thinking outside the box” of acceptability saw all of us taken hostage by the Tea Party and the House Republican caucus which the Tea Party dragged along under threat of “primarying” GOP holdouts.

At the Wildlife News we try to post about 4-5 articles a week. I write about three of them. I found I don’t concentrate well on wildlife news when me or my country are under such duress. So there were few stories from this reporter.

So do I have some special insight here?  To my thinking I do. While I don’t sign my stories Ralph Maughan, Ph. D, I am a Ph. D professor of political scientist. My degrees came from a prestigious department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In addition, I have taught, done research and studied Congress, state legislatures, and other systems — parliaments — for well over thirty years. Of course, I believe I know at least somewhat more about the matter than the average person. I know that abandonment of what are democratic procedures, our system of majority rule (of sorts), and previously accepted bounds of how far you carry a fight, is a new development in the United States, dating back to only about April 2011.

For those interested in wildlife policy, conservation policy, outdoor recreation policy and the like, the abandonment of traditional and legitimate methods of political change in favor of those that threaten the entire system, puts all past policy, good and bad, in danger of sudden evaporation.

As for the interior Western states, these events likely separate out those members of Congress who are willing to give up any particular wildlife policy or land policy so to advance extreme tactics and/or strategy. They also support complete overturning of more than a hundred years of policies. Not surprisingly these turn out to be the Idaho delegation and the Wyoming delegation. Is it any wonder conservationists don’t trust these states to manage wildlife or the public lands in the national interest? They are tiny population states that have deviant political views dominant among their current state and congressional officeholders. Unfortunately, they contain assets of wildlife, wilderness and scenery of national and international importance.

The Democratic Party is often no shining example of fine governance or honest officeholders, but the Republican Party of old (like 20 years ago) is dead. Radicalism, not conservatism, prevails in their ideological wanderings. Currently, they are an unpredictable threat.






  1. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Thanks for continuing your comments on the politics and wildlife issues of the west. I started following your site in the mid 1990s when you were posting the recovery of wolves in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the Frank Church Wilderness area. Stil a valuable resource for those looking for information relating to that time.

  2. Lyn McCormick Avatar
    Lyn McCormick

    I only hope the third party non-profit conservation groups can hold on and continue to gain strength and enough financial wherewithal to secure our treasured lands from the political agendas and threats of states making a run at the Public resources. I’m not sure what else to hope, pray, and pay for in this regard.

  3. Nancie Mccormish Avatar
    Nancie Mccormish

    Ralph, in the era of the Orwellian “Citizens United” sea change and the past week’s evidence of Tea Party folks playing chicken with everyone else’s lives and values, can you offer us any advice on how to move forward? How can an average citizen who cares about our land and our country respond effectively to this double-barreled threat? Sometimes I’m glad to be getting older since I may not have to witness how much more of our shared world is going to disappear.

  4. Ed in Montana Avatar
    Ed in Montana

    Several pundits have observed that it wasn’t just a simple government shutdown, but an attempted coup d’etat. A group of ideological fanatics in Congress tried to invalidate a major piece of settled legislation by wrecking the entire government and the credit rating of the United States. Having failed to take over the White House in 2012, the domestic terrorists tried another means of overturning the election results.

    I am still amazed that many people view just keeping the government open and limping along at sequestration levels as a major victory, while the Tea Bagging repubs plan to try again to wreak havoc come January.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      I agree. 🙁

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Ed in Montana,

      At times during the shutdown and approaching default, I slightly felt a coup might be in progress, but I didn’t see, nor have seen since, any evidence of a group of people waiting to illegally replace the President or Congress. The military was quiet, though military involvement is not a necessary element of a coup.

      This Republican effort to hold the government and economy hostage seemed poored planned. For example, imagine a group of rebellious but unorganized folks who decide “let’s start a fire and see what happens because nothing is unless we do something.”

  5. CodyCoyote Avatar

    I cannot shake the feeling that this most recent Shutdown was somewhat more sinister than those that have come before. It may have been either a tidal sea change or a tsunami in the ongoing history of American politics, depending on your viewpoint or how close to the political beaches you reside . It really resolved nothing nor resulted in any positive gain anywhere that I can see, but did a lot of wrecking and wrenching. We now pretty much have to rebuild the democratic process in Washington from the flotsam and jetsam, if we can get the ship of state into drydock.

    But in the near time I am much more fearful that we have unleashed a feeding frenzy of Lobbyists. The next 3-4 months will be largely devoted to coming up with debt reduction and spending cuts. The serpent known as the Sequester will soon need to feed , or be dispatched. If the latter, Congress will have to come up with an agreement on spending, debt, and deficits going forward.

    I do not see how they can possibly do that. The lobbyists will be more opportunistic and ravenous than they have ever been before, and that is truly scary.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      Yes lobbyists will be very important but in major part I think because the political environment is now so unpredictable for them.

      In terms of budget-making, most of the Republican caucus, in the House especially, but also the Senate, has little experience. The tea party seems to hate all government, except when they discover they have shut down one of their subsidies. They don’t even know the names of the agencies, much less their function or past appropriations. I think this lack of knowledge is a major reason why the tea party (other Republicans too)only rarely propose specific budget cuts. Instead, it is “you offer us $546-billion in cuts. Well damn! We insist on a trillion.”

      In addition, budget making is work. Take, for example, Sarah Palin. Of course, she is not in Congress. She is a prominent tea partier who dealt with at least one state budget. I can’t help but think she resigned as Governor of Alaska because she was too lazy to read, think about, and bargain over the state budget. Easy celebrity was available to her instead. The Tea Party hopes for noisy, but easy revolution.

  6. Wolfy Avatar

    Ralph, if I haven’t said it before, thank you for researching and posting issues concerning our natural resources. Your insight and experience is very much appreciated. And yes, these issues are intimately connected to the “Jerry Springer” politics in DC of late. As others in this comment list have noted, I too think this was more clandestine than a simple shutdown and budget battle. I believe that it was a power grab by the multi-nationals and perhaps a market manipulation similar to the one that led up to the crash of 1929.
    As for the issues near to our hearts, we’ve found that they are “non-essential” in eyes of many of the politicos; especially those in the rural west. Average Americans are too busy with bills, smart phones, and kid’s soccer to have a deep involvement in policy. The corporate media which dominates and manipulates the public perspective cannot be trusted to expose the truth. Savvy politicos rule by using this distraction and distortion. And more recently, they rule by obstruction of the democratic process; if one believes that there is still a democratic process in this country, BTW.
    Keep up the good fight, everyone. We need to exercise our freedom of thought and expression, especially now. Thank you, Ralph and others for safeguarding this freedom by getting at the truth. I am hopeful that good and credible people will stand up and change this near apocalyptic attitude in our country. The stakes are just too high to give up.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Thank you Wolfy! Maybe you have read Klein’s book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism?” . Your ideas see similar.

  7. john philip Avatar
    john philip

    Thanks Ralph for all that you do. I must admit, I was missing the Wildlife News these last couple of weeks, but when the barbarians are storming the gates, everything else becomes secondary.

  8. Snaildarter Avatar

    I agree completely. The conservative elements of the GOP have moved so far to the right that they have completely lost touch with reality. In the last speech Barry Goldwater gave before he died, he said “I used to be called Mr. Conservative now I’m a moderate and I haven’t moved. “ The tea bubbas have totally missed the point of what’s wrong with America. The middle class is shrinking not because we are over taxed but because many good paying jobs are going away or going overseas. Corporate profits are at an all time high, productivity is at an all time high, they don’t need more money to hire they need to for the consumer market to stop shrinking, but what’s that’s not going to happen because the middle class is dying a slow death. In the “roaring 1920’s before the great depression about 20% of America’s could afford a house, and that’s about the size of the middle class in a laissez a faire economy. The new corporate buzz word is bifurcation of product lines where you market to the rich and the poor because the middle class isn’t a growing market. The reason all of this is important for wildlife is this country with all its faults is the last, best hope for Wildlife. its needs to stay prosperous and strong. Snaildarter

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      Yes indeed, it is well established that there is a strong negative correlation between measurements of how democratic a country is and degree of concentration of wealth… also between concentrated wealth and social turmoil and also political violence.

      1. CodyCoyote Avatar

        This animated video about the concentration of wealth in America and the disappearing middle class is well worth six minutes of your time.

        I would also plug a new documentary movie coming out , ” Inequality for All ” that stars/ is about Robert Reich, former Cabinet secretary of Labor under Clinton and a professwor emeritus at Harvard and now UC Berkley , besides being a well known commentator.

        Think of it as an equally strong correlation to Al Gore’s ” Inconvenient Truth” except it’s about socioeconomics , not climate change. The movie should be widely available in coming weeks and months on disks and downloads and even in select theaters.

        1. Barb Rupers Avatar
          Barb Rupers

          Thanks CodyCoyote

          Very graphic regarding where our population is on the economic scales ;-).

  9. Nancy Avatar

    Would love to see someone here tackle Nancie Mccormish’s question (above) cuz I’d sure like to know :

    “How can an average citizen who cares about our land and our country respond effectively to this double-barreled threat?”

    Many of us do write/call and email our “elected” officials and most of the time get nothing back but the generic response, like this one:

    Dear Nancy:

    Thank you for writing.

    I am committed to making my Administration the most open and transparent in history, and part of delivering on that promise is hearing from people like you. I take seriously your opinions and respect your point of view on this important issue. I encourage you to visit to learn more about my Administration or to contact me in the future.

    Thank you, again, for writing.

    Barack Obama

    Is Wolfy right claiming “The Average Americans are too busy with bills, smart phones, and kid’s soccer to have a deep involvement in policy?”

    And, will we soon find ourselves with a government that cares nothing about the people?

    “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the Federal, State and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, (optional — stations may mention the types of emergencies likely to occurr in their area) the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news or instructions. This station (optional — insert station call sign) serves the (operational area name) area. This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”

  10. DB Avatar


    Thanks for this post and your follow-ups. So many people like you with the background and knowledge to see the big picture, just don’t enter the fray. That’s why I appreciate JB’s contributions to this blog. JB is not afraid to stick his neck out. And you have many perceptive readers judging by the quality of comments on this thread. Thanks again.

  11. Jon Way Avatar

    Well spoken Ralph. I certainly agree with your posts and the political toxicity of current times. It is hard to have hope for wildlife when extremist views seem to predominate policies, including wildlife ones… It seems that wolf mgmt nicely mirrors the current political climate, but obviously not for the good (except for the tea party extremists)…

    1. Wolfy Avatar

      Yeah, Agreed. I had a similar thought.

  12. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    It was interesting to see all the states that opted to finance the opening of national places because the shut down was affecting their local economies.

    I heard comments from some living in Idaho that they had not been inconvenience by the federal shut down and would just as soon it continue. They don’t seem to consider USA citizens that live in other parts of the country that plan on visits to these public lands because that type of experience is not available in their area. The same is true for visitors from other countries.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      “I heard comments from some living in Idaho that they had not been inconvenience by the federal shut down and would just as soon it continue. ”

      Collective and cognitive myopia.

      1. SaveBears Avatar


        I know it was a bad thing, but I can honestly say, the Federal Shutdown did not bother me in anyway at all.

        1. Immer Treue Avatar
          Immer Treue


          Did not affect me either, but that’s not the point. It did affect others, and if the shut down dragged on, as some wished, it would have continued to hurt others. Not a whole lot of empathy for those thus affected.

        2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan


          It didn’t affect me either in any obvious material way, but it was about to with a default coming.

          Since you are a disabled vet, you might be interested the views of this “corpulent Congressman from Corpus Christi (Blake Farenthold).” . Note that the story is from an avowedly political web site, but you will read it and check others to see if it is accurate.

      2. Jake Jenson Avatar
        Jake Jenson

        “Collective and cognitive myopia.”

        Sound’s like an unrestrained contagion.

        1. Nancie Mccormish Avatar
          Nancie Mccormish

          Sounds like a really bad movie to me!

  13. jdubya Avatar

    I would like to see a venn diagram of the overlap of those people in the west (Idaho, Utah, Montana and Wyoming as starters) that have a pathological hatred of wolves and grizz, and their allegiance to the tea baggers. I bet they overlap 80%.

    1. timz Avatar

      In Idaho closer to 95%

      1. jdubya Avatar


    2. Nancie Mccormish Avatar
      Nancie Mccormish

      If you add wild horses and burros your Venn would look like a bullseye.


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Ralph Maughan