The litigation of Michigan et al. v. EPA was recently granted a hearing in the Supreme Court. The case involves the EPA's decision to classify power plants as "emissions sources" under 42 U.S.C. 7412, which gives the agency general discretion to regulate pollution. Petitioners - Michigan, associated states, and several private parties - contend that the EPA's classification is "unreasonable."
    In a sentence, the question before the Court is: "Does the government have the right to protect its citizens against a recognized threat to their health and safety?" The legal reasoning supporting the EPA revolves around the following points:
    1. If a law is valid, then it can "reasonably" be enforced;
    2. Every citizen has a right to breathe clean air;
    3. Government has a right to regulate what it owns;
    4. Therefore, a reversal would encroach on Congressional powers; and
    5. Air quality is an interstate, and so federal, issue.

I. GENERAL RIGHT OF GOVERNMENT TO ENFORCE THE LAW
    The limits and extent of the power of federal and state agencies to regulate subordinate governmental and private practices is one of the oldest and most controversial subjects to come before that Court. In 1819 John Marshall first enunciated the essential right of the United States to enforce its valid and reasonable laws without interference: "The sound construction of the Constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion, with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution, which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it, in the manner most beneficial to the people." M'Culloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316. This reasoning was specifically reaffirmed in Federal Land Bank v. Bismark Lumber Co., 314 U.S. 95 (1941), Van Brocklin v. Tennessee, 117 U.S. 151 (1886), and United States v. Allegheny County, 322 U.S. 174 (1944).
    In the 1825 litigation Wayman v. Southard, 10 Wheat. 1, Marshall established the principle that this authority is not lost in the event that Congress delegates a function over which it has control to another agency. "A general provision," he wrote in that case, "may be made, and power given to those who are to act under such general provisions to fill up the details." Also, Willson v. Blackbird Creek Marsh Co., 2 Pet. 245 (1829), introduced a new grounds on which a state could regulate a subject - substantial benefits to citizens' health and property.
    As time went on the government's right to provide for the public welfare and enforce its statutes was clarified even more extensively. In Brown v. Maryland, a case involving another dispute between federal and state authorities, it was held per Chief Justice Marshall:"It has been observed that the powers remaining with the states may be so exercised as to come in conflict with those vested in Congress. When this happens, that which is not supreme must yield to that which is supreme. This great and universal truth is inseparable from the nature of things, and the Constitution has applied it to the often interfering powers of the general and state governments, as a vital principle of perpetual operation. It results necessarily from this principle that the... power of the states must have some limits. It cannot reach and restrain the action of the national government within its proper sphere."  25 U.S. 419 (1827). In United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Corp., it was held that "no form of state activity can constitutionally thwart the regulatory power granted... to Congress. Hence, the reach of that power extends to those intrastate activities which in a substantial way interfere with or obstruct the exercise of the granted power." 315 U.S. 110 (1942). In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1 (1890), confirms this doctrine by holding that a federal employee cannot be prosecuted by a state for an offense committed as a necessary part of his job.
    In United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Water Power Co., 229 U.S. 53 (1913), the Court, per Justice Lurton, concluded that Chandler-Dunbar could not own the riverbed of a navigable stream, seeing as Congress had been granted the exclusive right to control such waterways, despite the company's claim to have title to the land surrounding it. A similar conclusion was reached in Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288 (1936), which upheld an act of Congress establishing the TVA as a "necessary and proper" exercise of the duties delegated to the legislature.
    In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 8773 on the seizure of the North American Aviation Co. plant at Inglewood, California, as well, was necessitated by a protracted labor dispute in which attempts at arbitration had failed, and the imminence of World War II made the continued manufacture of airplanes for the national defense crucial. This use of administrative dominance was held to be constitutional.

    The United States' prerogative to enforce its laws without intervention from lower authorities has also proved quite powerful in cases less specific to the circumstances of this litigation. It has allowed a federal district court hearing a diversity case to disregard the decision of a State Supreme Court. Terry v. Sharon, 131 U.S. 40 (1889). It has allowed another district court to issue valid injunctions in cases where it could not hold  technical in personam jurisdiction over the defendants. In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (1895). It has allowed the government itself to hold that a state has no title to unclaimed lands within its borders, if the U.S. has already formulated plans for the land's use. United States v. Gratiot, 39 U.S. 526 (1840). It has allowed a federal agency to impose penalties on a farmer for growing more wheat than it deemed advisable, even though the wheat was consumed at his home and never entered commerce of any sort. Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111. It has allowed Congress' antitrust statutes to reach beyond their strict jurisdiction over interstate commerce. United States v. Women's Sportswear Mfg. Ass'n, 336 U.S. 460 (1949). It has even allowed an employee of the government to kill a man without standing trial in the state courts, if his occupation obligates him to do so. In re Neagle, supra. It would follow that the privilege sanctioning all these actions would likely cover measures to ban certain pollutants from the air.
    Throughout the continuous controversies arising on the subject of alleged federal overreaching into state or personal matters, the Court has consistently recognized that Congress, the President, and other appropriate agencies have a core function of ensuring the stability and welfare of the nation as a whole. As the Court opined per the second Justice Rutledge, "a strong showing is required, both of inadequacy of the prescribed procedure and impending harm, to permit short-circuiting of the administrative process." Aircraft & Diesel Equipment Corp. v. Hirsch, 331 U.S. 752 (1947). The consequences of a ruling controverting this would be far-reaching and adverse.

II. THE SOCIAL RIGHT TO HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
    Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, in his opinion for the Court in the 1937 case of West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish, sustained in ringing words a universal right to certain social liberties, which, although not expressly enumerated in the Constitution, are still vital: "The Constitution does not recognize an absolute and uncontrollable liberty. Liberty in each of its phases has a history and a connotation. But the liberty safeguarded is liberty in a social organization which requires the protection of law against the evils which menace the health, safety, morals and welfare of the people. Liberty under the Constitution is thus necessarily subject to the restraints of due process, and regulation which is reasonable in relation to its subject and is adopted in the interests of the community is due process." 300 U.S. 379.
    Though the ruling in Parrish was revolutionary due to its dramatic reversal of earlier cases, the concept expounded was an old and well-known one to the Court that extended its meaning. It opined in Phalen v. Virginia that "the suppression of nuisances injurious to public health or morality is among the most important duties of government." 49 U.S. 163 (1850). It said in Hamilton v. Regents that "government... owes a duty to the people... to preserve itself in adequate strength to maintain peace and order and to assure the just enforcement of law." 293 U.S. 245 (1934). It wrote in Chicago B. & Q. R. Co. v. McGuire that "the guaranty of liberty does not... deny to government the power to provide restrictive safeguards. Liberty implies the absence of arbitrary restraint, not immunity from the interests of the community." 219 U.S. 549 (1911). In Nebbia v. New York, it observed per Justice Roberts that "government cannot exist if the citizen may at will use his property to the detriment of his fellows." 291 U.S. 502 (1934). In Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12 (1956), it called due process "the least frozen concept of our law... the least confined to history and the most absorptive of powerful social standards of a progressive society." In Cox v. New Hampshire, it proclaimed that "civil liberties, as guaranteed by the Constitution, imply the existence of an organized society maintaining public order without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of unrestrained abuses." 312 U.S. 569 (1941). Also, in Cantwell v. Connecticut, it unanimously agreed that "when clear and present danger of... immediate threat[s] to public safety, peace, or order appears, the power of the State to prevent or punish is obvious." 310 U.S. 296 (1940).
    Lastly, in the 1908 case of Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412, the Court held that a contract with female laundry workers providing for a work day longer than ten hours was clearly unconscionable, despite the employers' contentions that the state's wages-and-hours statute violated their liberty to bargain freely with the laundresses for their labor. The reason for the ruling was plain: the employment conditions were obviously injurious to the women's health, and Oregon had a reasonable interest in protecting the welfare of its citizens. These citizens had contracted to work in dangerous circumstances; they had not been coerced to do so; yet holding them to these terms was an illicit travesty of their right to a safe, sanitary, and fair job.
    The citizens of this country who live near power plants have not voluntarily agreed to inhale poisonous substances, drink contaminated water, consume adulterated foods, or accept substandard quality of the natural elements around them. They have not signed away their rights to a salubrious lifestyle or clear blue sky. Yet, if the respondent EPA is deprived of the authority to enforce 42 U.S.C. §7412, these citizens will no longer enjoy those liberties. They will be exposed to countless compounds which are scientifically proven to be harmful and hazardous materials, some of which are linked to cancer, birth deformities, and other irreversible injuries. These are the risks which the EPA, a constitutionally authorized body, is charged with eliminating, and it is hardly an unreasonable encroachment on individual rights to maintain the collective interests of society in an uncontaminated and natural environment.

III. ALL U.S. AIRSPACE WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
    By contending that the respondent's classification of power plants as sources of harmful emissions is "unreasonable," petitioners argue that the federal government does not have sufficient jurisdiction to regulate the quality of the air and, by extension, that they have the right to release substances into it. However, this claim is undermined by 49 U.S.C. §40103, which provides explicitly that "the United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States." (Emphasis supplied). This property is placed in the government's hands for vital reasons - to protect our skies for defense purposes, monitor meteorological conditions, maintain communications networks, deliver the mails, train and deploy the Air Force, and prevent aircraft accidents. The petitioners do not in any way challenge §40103. Rather, they are attempting to divest the United States of the ability to act pursuant to it.
    Petitioners cannot very easily claim that statutes regarding federal property "unreasonably" deprive them of any right. In fact, seeing as they are not directly injured by the government's management of its own territories, their standing to sue in this case is questionable. As Justice Pitney wrote for the Court:"Considerations of propriety, as well as long-established practice, demand that we refrain from passing upon the constitutionality of an act of Congress unless obliged to do so in the proper performance of our judicial function, when the question is raised by a party whose interests entitle him to raise it." Blair v. United States, 250 U.S. 273 (1919). With that in mind, a reversal would allow petitioners to, firstly, encroach on federal property and, secondly, deprive the federal government of its power to make rules for itself on how to manage this property. As the Court said in Wickard v. Filburn, supra, "it is hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes" - or owns outright.

IV. A REVERSAL WOULD BE A USURPATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE FUNCTION
    In its controversial decisions in countless issues over the course of several centuries, the Court has maintained its great reluctance to overreach by deciding issues beyond its proper jurisdiction. Throughout its long history, it has cautioned against its assumption of what it has deemed to be "function[s] never conferred upon it by the Constitution, and against the exercise of which the Court has steadily set its face from the beginning." Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346 (1911). In Williams v. Georgia it wrote that "if a fundamental constitutional right is not presented, we have no duty to act." 349 U.S. 375 (1955). In Griswold v. Connecticut, it cautioned the courts against acting as a "superlegislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation." 381 U.S. 479 (1965). In Currin v. Wallace, it wrote even more forthrightly about matters that should properly be left to Congressional discretion:"It is... the essence of the plenary power conferred that Congress may exercise its discretion in the use of the power. Congress may choose the commodities and places to which its regulation shall apply. Congress may consider and weigh relative situations and needs. Congress is not restricted by any technical requirement but may make limited applications and resort to tests so that it may have the benefit of experience in deciding upon the continuance or extension of a policy which under the Constitution it is free to adopt." 306 U.S. 1 (1939). Also, in Ferguson v. Skrupa, it maintained "the original constitutional proposition that courts do not substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgment of legislative bodies, which are elected to pass laws." 372 U.S. 726 (1963).
    More specifically to the present case, it has also been wary of undue interference with the duties of administrative agencies. As Justice Douglas ascertained for a majority of the Court in Berman v. Parker, "when the legislature has spoken, the public interest has been declared in terms well nigh conclusive. In such cases, the legislature, not the judiciary, is the main guardian of the public needs to be served by social legislation." 348 U.S. 26 (1954). In Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council, it was held: "If Congress has explicitly left a gap for the agency to fill, there is an express delegation of authority to the agency to elucidate a specific provision of the statute by regulation. Such legislative regulations are given controlling weight unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute." 467 U.S. 837 (1984).
    Furthermore, in Morton v. Ruiz, the Court also decided that "the power of an administrative agency to administer a congressionally created... program necessarily requires the formulation of policy and the making of rules to fill any gap left, implicitly or explicitly, by Congress." 415 U.S. 199 (1974). In Field & Co. v. Clark, it held per Justice Harlan:"The legislature cannot delegate its power to make a law, but it can make a law to delegate a power to determine some fact or state of things upon which the law makes or intends to make its own action depend. To deny this would be to stop the wheels of government. There are many things upon which wise and useful legislation must depend which cannot be known to the lawmaking power, and must therefore be a subject of inquiry and determination outside of the halls of legislation." 143 U.S. 694 (1892). In the 1911 case United States v. Grimaud, it wrote per Justice Lamar:"From the beginning of the government, various acts have been passed conferring upon executive officers power to make rules and regulations - not for the government of their departments, but for administering the laws which did govern... When Congress had legislated and indicated its will, it could give to those who were to act under such general provisions "power to fill up the details" by the establishment of administrative rules and regulations." 220 U.S. 506. In West Ohio Gas Co. v. Public Utility Commission, it demarcated the boundaries of its judicial competence even more clearly: "This Court does not sit as a board of revision with power to review the action of administrative agencies upon grounds unrelated to the maintenance of constitutional immunities." 294 U.S. 63 (1935).
    In this case, by asking the Court to deprive the EPA of the authority to enforce federal laws in the way it sees fit, petitioners are asking for a blatant misappropriation of authority rightly belonging to Congress. Seeing as the airspace they seek unregulated use of is, as has been conclusively established above, federal property, there is no "constitutional immunity" at stake for the Court to preserve by entering a reversal here.

V. APPLICABILITY OF THE COMMERCE CLAUSE
    The Commerce Clause is another source of the EPA's authority to regulate air emissions in the way it sees fit. The statute at the heart of the present controversy, 42 U.S.C. §7410(a)(2)(D)(i), provides in part that it is illegal for a state to "interfere with measures required to be included in the applicable implementation plan for any other State... to prevent significant deterioration of air quality or to protect visibility." This provision and the regulations made pursuant to it do not infringe on petitioners' constitutional rights in any way, and are therefore "reasonable."
    The contention that the petitioners are not specifically engaged in "commerce between the several states" is disposed of by the Court's past rulings. In Gibbons v. Ogden, for example, a transportation trust was held to be an interstate operation, despite the fact that it only had a monopoly on steamboat routes in New York waters; in his opinion for the Court, Chief Justice Marshall said of Congress' power over interstate commerce: "It is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution... If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of Congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government." 9 Wheat. 1 (1824). In Mondou, et al. v. New York, N.H. & H.R. Co., the Court decided per Justice Van Devanter that "the term 'commerce' comprehends more than the mere exchange of goods. It embraces commercial intercourse in all its branches." 223 U.S. 1 (1912). In the Minnesota Rate Cases, it set forth unanimously:"There is no room in our scheme of government for the assertion of state power in hostility to the authorized exercise of federal power. The authority of Congress extends to every part of interstate commerce, and to every instrumentality or agency by which it is carried on, and the full control by Congress of the subjects committed to its regulation is not to be denied or thwarted by the commingling of interstate and intrastate operations." 230 U.S. 352 (1913).
    Just last year, in a decision particularly apposite to the case at hand, the Court ruled on the case of EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, 134 S. Ct. 1584 (2014). In that case, it was conclusively established that pollution is a decidedly interstate issue because gases, of nature, do not respect political boundaries:"Further complicating the problem, pollutants do not emerge from the smokestacks of an upwind State and uniformly migrate downwind. Some pollutants stay within the upwind States' borders, the wind carries to other downwind States, and some subset of that group drifts to States without air quality problems. 'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth...' In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind."
    Undermining the EPA's right to do so would not only reverse the circuit court in this case, but countless rulings of the Court over the course of the two hundred and twenty-six years it has sat as this nation's highest tribunal.

Forest Word Search

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Find your way around the woods with this word search:

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Answers below (no peeking!):


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National Parks: Test Your Knowledge

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collageII.JPGWhat's the oldest national park? The most visited? Where can you find active volcanoes, crocodiles, America's driest desert or the world's biggest trees? Find out, in this puzzle!

To solve the puzzle, fill in the boxes with the answers to the clues below. When you're done, check the green column to discover the most visited national park in the country!

National Parks.jpg1. This swamp in southern Florida is home to flamingoes, alligators and the only population of wild crocodiles in the USA.
2. Situated on Montana's US-Canada border, this park is named for the icy deposits on its mountains.
3. You can find the biggest trees in the world in this California park.
4. This park features Utah's most iconic rock formation.
5. Devil's ____ is a rock outcropping in southeast Wyoming; Native Americans believed the spot was holy.
6. You can climb mountains of sand in this Colorado National Monument.
7. Most visitors snorkel or scuba-dive around the coral reef in this Florida park.
8. This very big Kentucky cave shares its name with an extinct relative of the elephant.
9. This northern California park preserves the tallest trees in the world.
10. This gorge-ous canyon, near Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, is truly fit for a -- royal?
11. The first national park in the USA, geysers, bison and hot springs dominate the landscape.
12. This deep Arizona gorge, carved by the Colorado River, is the second-most visited park in the country.
13. This park in southwest Colorado contains the ancient stone dwellings of the Anasazi Native Americans.
14. This Colorado park shares its name with the ____ Mountains it's situated in.
15. This Nebraska landmark (Scott's ____) greeted settlers on the Oregon Trail.
16. An active volcano in Oregon, Mt. St. _____ last blew its top in 2008.
17. This California park encompasses the hottest, driest desert in the US.
18. This preserve sits on Maine's northern coast; it shares its name with a former French-Canadian colony.
19. Naturalist John Muir and his friend President Teddy Roosevelt saved this park, home to Half Dome and El Capitan.
20. Hawaii _______ still spew lava, so watch out if you visit this park!
21. Paleontologists search for the fossils of these extinct reptiles in this Colorado national monument.

When you're done, you can check your answers below (no cheating!)...

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Homemade Personal Pizzas

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This recipe is relatively easy to make and does not require obscure ingredients. The bread flour is optional -- it creates a slightly better texture, but all-purpose flour would also work fine. The cornmeal adds an extra crunch, but isn't necessary either.

pizza.jpgINGREDIENTS:
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast (or 1 package)
½ tsp sugar
1 ½ cups warm water
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornmeal
3 - 5 cups bread flour
Rosemary, basil or Italian seasoning (optional)

Topping ideas:
Cheese -- cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, etc.
Olives
Tomatoes
Broccoli
Spinach

DIRECTIONS:
Put yeast, sugar and warm water in bowl; let sit 20 minutes until yeast forms thick layer of bubbles on top. Add salt and oil; stir. Add all-purpose flour, cornmeal, herbs if desired, and 2 cups of bread flour; stir thoroughly. Add more bread flour gradually until dough is thick and not visibly sticky; knead for a few minutes. Lightly grease bowl and turn dough around a few times to coat. Cover with damp towels and let rise 1-2 hours until dough has risen to top of bowl. Punch down and peel off sides of bowl. Sprinkle cornmeal or flour over sheets of foil; roll out small balls of dough into pizzas. The thinner they are the better they'll cook (they get considerably thicker while rising & baking). Preheat oven to 425°. Let the first one you roll out rise 20 minutes before baking -- then bake the others in the order they were rolled. Cook until spots of brown appear in center (about 15 minutes). Peel off foil, top and bake on oven rack until crisp on bottom and topping appears done. Freeze any extras in a jumbo ziploc between sheets of waxed paper.

Happy Birthday, LBJ!

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Lyndon and Lady Bird.jpgTo sustain an environment suitable for man, we must fight on a thousand battlegrounds. Despite all of our wealth and knowledge, we cannot create a redwood forest, a wild river, or a gleaming seashore. But we can keep those we have.                                                                                                               -- Lyndon Baines Johnson


Lyndon.jpgLauded for his contributions to civil rights and maligned for his role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is seldom hailed as a great environmentalist. His sweeping domestic program, the Great Society, is usually thought of as an economic agenda. Of course, he was deeply committed to putting "an end to poverty and racial injustice," as he explained in May 1964 to the graduating class of the University of Michigan. "But," he continued, "that is just the beginning." Listing his goals, he declared that it was vitally important to ensure that everyone had access to "a place where man can renew contact with nature."

LBJ also understood that many people, especially the poor, were isolated from natural beauty. Places like Yellowstone and Yosemite were great, but they were also very remote. Lyndon's job was fusing the traditional conservation movement with the changing realities of America's increasingly urban society. "We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities," he explained. Urging local governments to beautify towns and create city parks and greenways, Lyndon pledged to create new parks and recreation areas within driving distance of major cities.

In February 1965, he spoke to Congress about conservation: "Association with beauty can enlarge man's imagination and revive his spirit. Ugliness can demean the people who live among it. What a citizen sees every day is his America. If it is attractive it adds to the quality of his life. If it is ugly it can degrade his existence."

Lyndon Johnson passed more National Park Service-related legislation than any other president, creating a staggering 52 parks, recreation areas, national historic sites, wildernesses, monuments, seashores, lakeshores and memorials! He even set aside working farms and created a national park dedicated to the performing arts (Wolf Trap National Park, in Virginia). Moreover, he created the National Parks Foundation, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Trails System. Among the diverse group of historic sites and national landmarks set aside during the Johnson Administration are:

Lady Bird wildflower.jpg•    Biscayne National Park, Florida
•    North Cascades National Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park, Washington
•    Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
•    Arches National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, Utah
•    Redwoods National Park and John Muir National Historic Site, California
•    Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania
•    Agate Fossil Beds National Park, Nebraska
•    Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland-Virginia
•    Herbert Hoover National Park, Iowa
•    Roger Williams National Historic Park, Rhode Island
•    Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Maine-Canada
•    Ellis Island National Monument and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, New York
•    Padre Island National Seashore and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
•    John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Massachusetts

(Fittingly, LBJ's ranch is now a national park in its own right.)

At the urging of his wife, Lady Bird, he championed the Highway Beautification Act. This law tore down billboards and removed "beauty-destroying junkyards and auto graveyards," planting flowers and trees in their place. As Lyndon said, "The roads themselves must reflect, in location and design, increased respect for the natural and social integrity and unity of the landscape and communities through which they pass."

With the help of the Democratic Congress, he passed dozens of bills designed to limit pollution, preserve rare habitats and protect endangered species, like the Air and Water Quality Acts, the Pesticides Control Act, the Wetlands Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

And now... Test your environmental knowledge with this word search! When you're done, copy the unused letters into the blanks to discover a little-known fact about LBJ...

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Here are the answers (no peeking!)


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LBJ house.jpg

Cinnamon Rolls

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cinnamon rolls.jpgUnlike traditional cinnamon rolls, these are smaller, crisper, and far less messy. They're fairly simple to make (and to clean up after). And they're certainly worth the effort!

INGREDIENTS:

Dough:
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons (one package) active dry yeast
¾ cup milk
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
3 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg

Filling:
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter


Combine ¼ cup water, 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast in a mixing bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat ¾ cup milk in the microwave for about a minute and a half, or until it bubbles. Add ¼ cup butter to hot milk and let melt.
In a new mixing bowl, combine 2 ¼ cup flour, ¼ cup sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt.
Combine milk and yeast mixtures and add egg. Beat thoroughly.
Stir in dry ingredients. Then add remaining cup of flour by ½ cups.
Knead 5 minutes until smooth, adding flour as necessary. Consistency should be thick and firm (like modeling clay). Cover and let rise for an hour.
Separate remaining dough into two pieces and roll out on rectangles of foil. Each should be about 7" x 10".
Combine filling ingredients and spread evenly over dough.
Preheat oven to 250° -- turn it off after it heats up. Roll dough into a log (start from the longer side). Pinch to seal.
Using a sharp knife, cut into slices approximately ¾ of an inch thick.
Arrange slices on foil, place on baking sheets and put in warm oven to rise for about 20 minutes.
Bake at 350° for about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly before frosting with milk and powdered sugar. Since they're best fresh, only frost as many as you can eat in a day --unfrosted rolls freeze well.

Potato Pie

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potato pie.jpgThis pie is easily adaptable and very filling. Plus, you can keep it interesting by experimenting with broccoli, different cheeses, or herbs. Although store-bought piecrusts work fine, the homemade crust comes out crisper and more flavorful.

To make the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Big pinch salt
½ cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup cold water

Combine salt and flour in mixing bowl. Add shortening and crumble into flour, using your hands, until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Add the water and form into dough; transfer to pie pan and spread it out as evenly as possible. Prebake at 400° for three minutes before filling.

For the filling:
4 medium-sized potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup milk
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
About ½ cup cheese -- cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan work well
¼ cup broccoli florets (optional)
Small sprig of rosemary, diced (optional)

Scrub the potatoes and cut into pieces. Boil for 15 minutes or until soft. Remove skins and mash with fork until relatively smooth. Add melted butter, milk and egg; beat well. Add salt and cheese. Then stir in any extras -- broccoli, rosemary, etc. Transfer to pie crust and bake at 400° for about 30 minutes, or until the top is browned. Cool for five minutes and serve warm. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several days.

Richard Martin, "Humanity Dick"

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Renowned in his day as a daring duelist and an outspoken advocate of Irish tenant farmers' rights, Richard Martin is now remembered for his tireless efforts to end animal cruelty. One of the SPCA's charter members, Martin pushed the first successful bill forbidding cruelty to animals through the House of Commons. Although he was an Independent MP, his diverse group of friends included the royal family, Prime Minister William Pitt and many other prominent figures. His tireless efforts to abolish poverty and suffering caused George IV to nickname him "Humanity Dick."

In 1822, Martin brought forth his "Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill." While other figures, such as Lord Erskine and William Johnstone Pulteney, had previously introduced similar bills, their attempts had been unsuccessful. The new law, quickly dubbed "Martin's Act," subjected those who abused livestock -- especially horses -- to two months' imprisonment or fines of up to ₤5. To attract attention to the law, Martin delivered speeches in crowded London streets. The comedians and political cartoonists had a field day, making up ditties and depicting Martin with a pair of donkey's ears.

Soon after the act's passage, Martin gave the comedians even more material. The MP spotted Bill Burns, a man who sold fruits and vegetables in the streets, beating his donkey. When Martin brought charges against Burns, however, the magistrate was bored by the testimony and tried to look the other way. The prosecution came up with a new tactic: why not let the donkey's injuries speak for themselves? When the donkey was led into the courtroom, everyone, including the magistrate, noticed its obvious wounds. Burns was immediately found guilty.

Many people thought Martin's Act and its enforcers targeted only working class violators, while the wealthy were permitted to abuse animals scot-free. Eager to counteract this image, Martin credited Burns' apology. He asked the judge to fine Burns the minimum of ten shillings -- and ended up paying half. This trial gave Martin all the publicity he wanted. Not only was he in the news, but an artist named Matthews painted a picture of the trial and the comedians made up a new song:

Richard Martin.jpgIf I had a donkey wot wouldn't go,
D'ye think I'd wallop him? no, no, no!
But gentle means I'd try, d'ye see,
Because I hate all cruelty;
If all had been like me, in fact,
There'd have been no occasion for Martin's Act
Dumb animals to prevent being crack'd,
On the head.

He attained fame as an orator due to his storehouse of anecdotes and his habit of switching arbitrarily between an elite English accent and his Irish burr. Nettled by a Morning Post article poking fun at his brogue, Martin waited outside the newspaper offices until the editor came out. Gesturing to the objectionable passage, Martin cried, "Sir! Did I ever spake in italics?" Actually, he took a lot of raillery from the press. The Dublin Star dubbed him "Brahmin," The Chronicle called him "Don Quixote," and Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine referred to him as "that blustering and blundering blockhead."

His flaring temper prompted his political opponents -- who burst out laughing whenever Martin stood up to deliver an oration -- to dub him "Hair-trigger Martin." Flaunting this reputation, Martin engaged in over 100 duels. George IV visited Ireland during one of Martin's parliamentary campaigns. When the king wondered who would win the election, Martin bowed and replied, "The survivor, sire!"

Martin encouraged animal rights supporters to resort to unconventional (to say the least) means of enforcing their statutes. He personally fought a duel to avenge the shooting death of a friend's wolfhound. Unbeknownst to Martin, the dog's killer was wearing bulletproof clothes. Consequently, he went unscathed although Martin hit him twice before receiving an injury in the chest -- after his recovery, Martin enjoyed showing off the scars. Years later, sixty-seven year old Martin noticed a London man whipping his horse in Ludlow Hill. A few minutes later, two men showed up, jerked the man away from the horse and showered blows on him. They had been paid five shillings each -- compliments of Richard Martin, who proudly told the story in Parliament.

Richard Martin house.jpgRichard Martin remained in Parliament for twenty-five years. Always vociferous, Martin brought forth hundreds of bills. He continually sought to add amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill requiring regulations on slaughterhouses and banning dogfights, bull- and bear-baiting. Although animal rights were his primary focus, he was also dedicated to representing his constituents' best interests. For instance, he was a chief proponent of Catholic Emancipation. (At that time, only Church of England members were granted basic civil rights.) Born into an ancient Irish family, Martin inherited a beautiful seaside estate that encompassed over a hundred miles. Known as the "King of Connemara" for his seemingly limitless fortune, Martin was a benevolent landowner who supplied his tenants with adequate food and shelter. The only rule he adamantly enforced decreed that farmers could not hitch plows to horses' tails.

Eighty years old and deeply in debt, Martin lost his estate in the Irish Potato Famine and his seat in 1826, due to charges of voter intimidation. Previously, his creditors had been powerless to act because MPs couldn't be prosecuted. Denied this protection, Martin fled to France to avoid going to debtor's prison. In 1829 -- three years after Martin had escaped to Boulogne -- Parliament finally passed the Catholic Emancipation bill. Soon afterwards, they also approved Martin's amendments to the Ill Treatment of Cattle Bill. Even though his career was over, the Irish statesman's influence lived on.

Easy Vegetarian Stir-Fry Wraps

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Ingredients:
1 small zucchini
3 stalks celery
5 oz. black beans
2 tortillas
4 oz. frozen corn
Shredded cheddar cheese
Butter
Pinch salt
Dash seasoned salt

1. Wash and slice the zucchini, cut off both ends, and (if necessary) cut horizontally in half. Vertically cut both halves into quarters. Cut lengthwise parallel to the skin, leaving a strip about ⅓ of an inch wide and eliminating all of the seed pulp.
2. Cut each strip vertically in half.
3. Rinse the celery and slice it horizontally, each cut about a centimeter apart.
4. Pour the corn (approx. 1/3 of a 12-oz. package and 1/4 of a 1-lb. package) into a microwaveable bowl. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes on high.
5. Wash and open a can of black beans. Rinse until water is clear. Strain.
6. Turn the stove dial between 4 and 5, or on moderate flame. Heat frying pan and spread small amount of butter in the base.
7. Place tortillas in the pan, warm them, and remove them onto plates.
8. Pour all the vegetables into the pan, and fry until hot.
9. Spread shredded cheese on the tortillas.
10. Place vegetables in the tortillas and wrap them. If necessary, hold with a toothpick.

Putting the GOP on Cruz Control

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cruzlemming.jpgSpending two weeks without national parks, or any sort of government for that matter, tends to make you think. Here are some of my musings on the subject:

Night of a fateful September 31st. Crickets chirping. I am tucking my quilts around me, and my mother stands in the lighted doorway.

"Goodnight," she says.

"Goodnight, Mom," I reply. "Goodnight, Mikaela." And then, as an afterthought, I add: "Goodnight, government."

You really don't know what you've got till it's gone, I guess. It certainly took Uncle Sam to call in sick before I realized just how much I didn't know about our democracy. (Yep, this has been a useful "Know Your Government" lesson - and an impromptu dramatization of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall.")

For starters, this has awakened my interest in our case law. Who knew that anarchy is a "substantive evil that Congress has the right to prevent practice?" (Congressionally authorized alteration to 249 US at 47 (1919)) Or that the maintenance of our government's account books is not a "business affected with the public interest" that Supreme Court Justice Devanter wrote of preserving?

My ignorance is truly astounding.

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On a more learned note, if I had been called upon to provide a means of negotiation between the two parties, I would have locked the congresspeople into the Capitol and not let them out until they'd reopened our government. Of course, this weasel-in-a-barrel situation would have led to countless personal exigencies for our "public servants," such as missing the premiere of American Idol, carefully rationing the remaining half of a life-sustaining Twix bar, or asking a bombastically rightist colleague in a hushed whisper: "Hey Rep, whoodya think is going to win the Super Bowl?"

Oh, and I can just see Senator McCain running out of cell phone charge while beguiling the weary hours with another internet poker game. What a pity too - he'd just gotten a full House!

And then, as one by one they snuck off to the bathroom, ruefully searched a greasy brown paper lunch bag for remaining crumbs, cast about the Neoclassical chamber for an electric outlet, or finally got bored of playing all-nighter sleepover games, they would begin to wonder whose brainwave this whole thing was.

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And so finally, after these two harrowing weeks, the Republicans gave in, locked themselves into the cellar, and waved their white flag. I guess they finally realized they were Cruz-ing for a bruising. Now that they've shushed Ted Texan up, they're sitting around singing a mournful rendition of "The Conquered Banner" and assuring themselves of their uncompromised integrity, all while surreptitiously whispering to their comrades: "You better hurry it up quick, or else we're all gonna miss tomorrow night's game!"

And that would surely be an unprecedented emergency to our national welfare.

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So it's over at last - and I learned a lot: 1) the Tea Party really is presided over by Mad Hatters, and 2) as political adviser Tommy Corcoran once sang, "The GOP, it ain't what it used to be."

And now I'll be happy to go take a hike and leave Washington alone.

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