The Hillsider has gotten himself completely outrage-besotted over the Yosemite debacle, as you can probably tell from my last post. And, as we wrote only a week or so ago, and still persisting, we also have the bold "militiamen" (armed, by the way) who have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge's compound in Harney County, Oregon. These folks, too, have greatlty annoyed me, although they do have the redeeming quality of inspiring a lot of funny, sometimes outrageous, internet activity generated by a growing legion of pranksters who find them and their actions inspirational, at least at times.
First, though, let's take a fresh look at Yosemite, the National Park Service, and the good citizens at Delaware North. It's interesting to see how the two parties responsible for this mess have chosen to portray it to the public, each version of the story having just enough truth in it to make it defensible should it be necessary: Park Service, for its part, would have us believe that Delaware North is a sly and greedy corporate vampire flitting about filing trademark applications behind the Service's back in an attempt to steal iconic names of places and things that rightfully belong to the American people and, at the same time, attempting to extort vastly-inflated sums of money for the transfer of trademarks it already controls to the use of the new parks concessionaire (Aramark, no less, a company with which I have had a number of unsatisfactory dealings over the years), which recently won the contract to manage those facilities from DN. It should be noted that most of that appears to be more or less true. Delaware North, on the other hand, would have us believe that this is all just a business dispute that will work itself out through negotiation or, at worst, in the courts, which is also more or less true. However, as we all have learned the hard way, the mean old devil is in the details. Right?
Let's see, where to start? I guess we could start by noting that there's a $48 million spread between what Park Service thinks the trademarks (or "intellectual property" as the lawyers like to call it) are worth ($3.5 million) and what DN would like us tho accept as their true value ($51.2 million). I'm not sure whether the $51.2 million also includes the rights to the name "Space Shuttle Atlantis", one of the several trademarks that DN has made recent application for without telling Park Service it was doing so, and which, by the way, you would also think belonged to We the People, not a commercial foodservices purveyor, but what the hell, right? Their lawyers are sneakier than ours, apparently, and maybe smarter, but I guess that's capitalism for you.
Then, on the other hand, we have to ask "How the hell did Park Service let all this slide by?" How is it that these iconic names that belong to/with our national treasures are rattling around unprotected from the predations of people like those at Delaware North? I've always had the highest regard for the folks at National Park Service, and I truly hope someone representing the Service is going to present some sort of justification for this kind of thing to have been possible, but right now it appears to me that We, the People, have been screwed again. We're paying close attention to this one, and will continue to rant and froth at the mouth until we hear some kind of explanation that satisfies us, although I can't imagine what it might be. Does anyone really believe that Yosemite National Park should pay $52 million dollars to continue using names of places and institutions so iconic they are literally part of the park's continuing history? The majestic and rustically beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel has to be renamed? I don't think so.
Now, on to the goofballs at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who are still squatting on our (yours and mine) property, insisting that it be turned over to local authorities (who don't want any part of this nonsense) to be opened up for commercial exploitation. They claim to be "patriots, defenders of the Constitution", and swear that they are only there to restore the rights of the common people who have been trampled on by Big Government. Oh yes, they're also all carrying guns, but have assured the locals they won't shoot anyone unless they're forced to do so. By that they appear to mean that they're intending to shoot anyone who attempts to remove them by force. So far law enforcement has shown remarkable restraint, maybe too much, and has been content to just wait them out, but that strategy hasn't been productive, mainly because they allow friends and family of the band of clowns holed up inside to visit and bring food and other supplies. I'm not sure who decided that was a good idea, but it probably needs to be revisited.
It should be pointed out that the geniuses behind this occupation are the Bundy brothers, progeny of good ol' boy Cliven Bundy, who, a year or so ago, took offense at the federal government's insistence that he pay his many years of delinquent grazing fees (owed due to his grazing of his cattle at deeply-discounted rates on government land) and summoned a similar band of wanna-be militia guys with guns and camo jackets and all sorts of other let's-pretend-we're-soldiers stuff) and conducted a stand-off with the authorities that finally resulted in everybody just going home. So, I suppose the Bundy boys feel entitled now.
Problem is, these guys are just thugs and yahoos with nothing else to do; they're not patriots, or heroes, or defenders of the Constitution. Nor do they take their inspiration and direction from God, as one of them, Ammon Bundy, indicated early on. They're publicity-loving anarchists who have made careers of finding ways to live out of the public trough. And, worst of all, they're disrupting the lives of good law-abiding citizens of the Hillsider's part of the world, and causing them embarassment and stress. The good folks of Harney County have made it abundantly clear that they want their towns back; they want all the outsiders to go back wherever they came from and leave them in peace. Time to strike the big top, load up the clowns and their handlers, and hit the road, Bundys. And don't come back unless it's to watch birds.
We're not through with this one yet, either.
Clearly, we're not happy with these situations. At first glance it may seem that all this dust being kicked up by the Hillsider is out of character, and not in keeping with the purpose of our newsletter. However, that would be wrong. As those of you who've been reading us for a while know, we love our little part of the world; Northern California and the greater Pacific Northwest are special places, a blessing of Nature. We resent it deeply when they are abused by anyone or any institution and feel a duty to address it here so as to focus the attention of others who share our feelings on the things that need watching. We will continue to do that.
In closing, and more to the point of what we usually try to address here, we felt it necessary to acknowledge what might be the best little white wine buy in the market today, that being Franciscan's 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley), which we've been buying consistently at $8.99 for more than a month now. The winery must have a lot to sell, because I've been seeing the wine floor-stacked in several outlets since well before Christmas, and there doesn't appear to be any end to it, at least yet. Like virtually everything Franciscan does, it is pretty much flawless: brilliant pale straw color and a rich, flowery-citrusy nose lead into expansive, grassy-grapefruityness on the palate that finishes long and ripe and balanced. This is a gift at the price, and is definitely something for those of you who are looking for winter whites that match well with soups, pastas, and (especially) risottos. We recommend.
Back in a few days.