Category Archives: Current Affairs

ALERT: The National Parks Are Closed

For those of you who are looking for reasonable answers to some very straightforward questions click here. And while you are at it, here is a thoughtful post about how we should think about federal employees. It turns out they really aren’t the enemy.

National Park ServiceThere appears to be no let up in the wild reports of abuse of innocent Americans who want nothing more than to enjoy our beautiful National Parks. A report which appeared in a Newburyport newspaper takes the cake. A group of senior citizens found themselves in Yellowstone National Park on October 1 and according to Pat Vaillancourt, at one point, under “armed guard.” You can read more of the story. Vaillancourt’s account of the group’s ordeal .

“We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control,” said Vaillancourt, who grew up in Lawrence. “It was like they brought out the armed forces. Nobody was saying, ‘we’re sorry,’ it was all like — ” as she clenched her fist and banged it against her forearm.

The bus stopped along a road when a large herd of bison passed nearby, and seniors filed out to take photos. Almost immediately, an armed ranger came by and ordered them to get back in, saying they couldn’t “recreate.” The tour guide, who had paid a $300 fee the day before to bring the group into the park, argued that the seniors weren’t “recreating,” just taking photos. “She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.

And finally.

“They looked like Hulk Hogans, armed. They told us you can’t go outside,” she said. “Some of the Asians who were on the tour said, ‘Oh my God, are we under arrest?’ They felt like they were criminals.”

First, what was this tour doing in Yellowstone to begin with on October 1? It’s not like the federal shutdown happened without any warning. It was widely reported that in the event of a shutdown the National Parks would be closed. Why is no one inquiring into the organization and management of this tour?

It is unfortunate that tourists are being inconvenienced and in a number of cases made to feel uncomfortable, but no one seems to understand what closed means. How about looking at this from the perspective of the few NPS employees who have been left to manage very large sites such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Consider all of the potential problems apart from those caused by stranded visitors and those who have taken it upon themselves to cross barricades. They have been placed in a very difficult position so if you happen to find yourself on federal property that has been closed don’t expect to receive the same warm welcome as if it is business as usual. CLOSED MEANS CLOSED.

The Magic of Social Media

facebook-iconJust wanted to take a second to thank all of you who shared yesterday’s post through social media, specifically on your Facebook pages. My decision to share an anonymous NPS employee’s response to some of the most irresponsible accusations re: park closings clearly resonated with many people. I can state unequivocally that yesterday’s post is now the most popular entry ever posted on this blog, which has been running for close to eight years.

Popularity can be measured in any number of ways. Some look for comments, which I think is a big mistake. Yes, it looks good to new readers to know that others are taking an interest, but most comments are written by the same small group of people. If it’s a controversial post than those threads tend to go on for a bit longer, but they still revolve around the same core group.  Continue reading

I Stand With the National Park Service

National Park ServiceI have a number of friends who work for the National Park Service. They protect this nation’s most important cultural, environmental, and historical treasures. As a group they are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable public servants that you will find and they are worth every cent of our tax dollars. I am absolutely disgusted at the unwarranted accusations being hurled in their direction during this federal shutdown. Here is one lone voice in response to some of the nonsense that is being spread about the closure of NPS sites across the country.

No one misses the parks more than those who work in them, Kevin. When we were furloughed, a part of the shutdown included closure of park buildings, parks roads and avenues, and memorials for security reasons for protection of the resource itself and visitors. I’ve seen posts and caught some of the “the parks are owned by the American public and we’re taking them back” crowd but as yet have not seen a line of these same persons volunteering to clean the toilets, patrol the roads, provide assistance at information stations or in back country park areas, or sweep the floors after a thousand or more visitors have tramped through leaving behind candy wrappers, et al. FOX news reported that NPS rangers were told to make the closure “as painful as possible”, which is total nonsense. Tea Party reps like Michele Bachman and Randy Neugebauer have used the closure of the WW2 Memorial to grandstand for themselves and gone as far as to dress down an NPS employee simply doing her job – unpaid at the moment- by controlling access to a closed site. Rand Paul has referred to Park Police as “goons” sent to close the memorials from the American public. Continue reading

No, The Tea Party is Not the Confederacy

On the eve of the 2012 presidential election Andrew Sullivan offered the following analysis:

If Virginia and Florida go back to the Republicans, it’s the Confederacy entirely.  You put the map of the Civil War over this electoral map, you’ve got the Civil War.

And in August Jesse Jackson suggested that, “The tea party is the resurrection of the Confederacy… It’s the Fort Sumter Tea Party.”  Continue reading

Are Blog Comments Ruining Your Neighborhood?

blogThe staff at Popular Science thinks so, which is why it was announced yesterday that they are turning off the comments option on their blog site. As a blogger who is approaching his 8th anniversary I can certainly appreciate their concerns, but I don’t believe that discontinuing allowing comments is the solution.

The magazine’s online content director builds her case by referring to a recent study, which showed that a “fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story.” Even we accept the study’s findings, this at most suggests that the site’s moderating policies need to be tightened. It’s not all or nothing. In fact, a quick perusal through older PS posts suggests that very little was done to moderate and in the few posts I surveyed I saw not one staff comment. Continue reading