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30.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Founding fathers of the socialist occupation Permalink to this item

Speaking of errant legal theories, RawStory connects a few dots for us, to the annotator of those pocket Constitutions that turn out to be slightly less than bulletproof: W. Cleon Skousen. Skousen's views have pretty much become Republican Party talking points, if not planks in the platform:

"Skousen disregarded all federal regulatory agencies and argued against the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. He also wanted to repeal the minimum wage, eliminate unions, nullify anti-discrimination laws, sell off public lands and national parks, end the direct election of senators, eliminate the income tax and the estate tax, remove the walls separating church and state, and end the Federal Reserve System."

You may recognize shades of the Koch Brothers, Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Richard Viguerie, Glenn Beck, the John Birch Society, Ben Carson (or at least his ghost writers), and devolving down to the present day testimonial from Jon "it's just a lack of education" Ritzheimer to explain it to you. He said he was hoping—to God—for us to resolve this diplomatically, which didn't happen for everyone, but might happen for him. He'll have his days in court to work it out.

Midway through the occupation, Ryan Cooper went over the secret history of cowboy socialism for us, out here where "from the very start to the present day, Big Government has been the very bedrock of the settlement of the American frontier." With an appropriate tip of the ten-gallon to Marc Reisner and his classic book Cadillac Desert, Cooper notes that

"this is the basic problem with Western politics, even up to the present day. It has been from the very start handicapped by the reality that only extensive federal government projects could possibly facilitate the settlement and development of the region, but it has been too wedded to the cowboy mythology to admit it. ...

"[T]he cowboy political tradition represented by Ammon Bundy and his pack of revolutionary wannabes, who want to pay zero in federal grazing fees and end the federal ownership of land. Even reformist Western politicians still have to tiptoe around the fact that the federal government is simply an inextricable part of how the West functions and has been since the beginning. That Bundy has confused one of the primary spigots of rancher welfare with a rancher-smashing tyranny is only a wild exaggeration of a typical view, rooted in Western myth and broader American conservatism."

And a pony Permalink to this item

David Fry (aka IT guy) is now the voice of the occupation, which is better than having Sean Anderson looking like his head will explode in 3, 2, 1. (Although Sean and Sandy doing their bear-hug slow dance in camo had a strangely nostalgic feel to it.) We're all a little sketchy on what day it is, but round about day 29, the spokesman for the last of the occupiers explains where they're at in Malheur Must-see TV moments.

"Alright so guys, this is day 3 or 4 or somethin that, that us guys and girl have been out here..."

They've talked with the FBI, who wants to know "what are we want and blah blah blah." Fry also explains that the "talent release form" is just what reporters have people sign, it's not like they're "talent."

"This is real, folks. This is as real as it gets."

Photo from our place

Fry says he "wanted to see how flexible the FBI was," and has now grasped that he and the gang "are not going to get out of her scott-free." Progress! Also, Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, so why shouldn't the driveway campers get pardoned? Let's get President Obama on the phone.

"Why can't they pardon all of us?"

Consider him a junior political activist and legal student. He's off to a great start, and he's got those mad IT skillz, which I'm sure the forensic auditors for the Refuge will want to know more about.

"So that's our current demands, you know, everybody's gotta be pardoned. We all gotta go free, we all get to go home."

Also in the Oregonian's roundup, the ad on Craigslist for that handsome blue plaid jacket of Ammon's, and the zombie apocalypse tour. I hope there's some industrial strength cleanup before anybody moves back in.

In the not quite as amusing chapter, with everybody lawyering up and some, but not all, released on bail, "[Ryan] Payne's lawyer, Oregon federal public defender Lisa Hay, likened the refuge occupation to other civil disobedience protests in U.S. history, from the Tea Party to anti-segregation lunch-counter and bus demonstrations."

29.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The occupation continues Permalink to this item

The Bundy gang leadership is occupying a different federal facility now, over on the wet side of the Cascades, and making their appearances in court (polite as can be), rather than on the snowy range. A federal judge said on Wednesday they'd be staying put awhile. Each of the top 8 is "charged with a single count of conspiracy to impede officers from discharging their duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats," which doesn't seem like quite enough, although if they're convicted and sentenced to the maximum six-years and fines would keep them out of trouble for a little while. And felony convictions would cut down on their legal gun-totin' afterwards.

The 32 page criminal complaint (with their dates of birth now redacted, but that ship will have sailed into intertubes history) from FBI Special Agent Katherine Armstrong is replete with their conspiracy's self-documentation, helpfully posted to social media.

The seven of the eight in Multnomah County aren't so opposed to the federal government that they arranged their own counsel yet. Their defense comes down to federal public defender Lisa Hay, attempting to make the claim that the gang was just talkin' and hangin' out, all perfectly Constitutional. Seems like that's going to be a tough sell.

We note with dismay that Ammon Bundy's address is in Idaho, where he recently set up residence over the hill from the Boise River valley, in Emmett, 5 acres with fruit trees and a 5,000 square foot mini-mansion. But there's still that business in Arizona, pumped up with a $half-million loan from the federal SBA, and somehow continuing without Bundy's presence.

While the tyrannical federal government is providing for his legal defense.

It probably won't be based on the short-form pocket Constitution, at least not if Ms. Hay is competent, but perhaps they'll insist, and transition from welfare representation to getting their own lawyers, after they take up a collection from their enthusiastic supporters.

It all adds in to our Gross National Product, so that's something.

Insulting Permalink to this item

It's a mystery to me why Donald Downer is deemed entertainment by so many. We long for a chief nattering nabob of negativity? Just thinking about the project to catalog Trump's Twitter insults makes me sad for everyone involved. I see that "narcissist" and "ego" aren't anywhere to be seen; given him credit for not insulting others for his own faults, maybe? No, that's not right; there's a "cheats" in there, when it seems that Trump not only cheats at golf, but he's a liar too. Or is it delusion? Golf courses love him.

28.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Containment phase Permalink to this item

No more daily press conferences, we now have to watch through heavy lenses across the desert, or on DefendYourBase's YouTube channel. The update from the middle of last night was from campfire-side, and said they're "camped outside in the driveway, not even in the refuge" now. IT guy said in the chaos following the highway stop that brought the first arrests and the shooting of LaVoy Finicum, a lot of the occupiers high-tailed it out of there leaving valuables—including guns—behind.

"A bunch of people are scared" (of getting arrested). "Obviously a lot of people are scared of being labeled 'terrorists'..." "A lot of people chose to stay, and just see what happens. ..."

It's an adventure, for sure. By the 12:24 am update, they've been told four of the remaining five are free to go, and the fifth has a felony warrant to answer to, that "impeding" felony we've heard of for the first time this week. "Sean" has been there four times, enough to get his name on a warrant. And IT guy thinks that's kind of preposterous. ... because others have been there longer, and seem more culpable. "Everybody feels it's unfair."

They want to go back to "that first option, just let us leave right now, we're willing to leave." They'll let the FBI check all the weapons, and "we're being reasonable." It was all just a lark. A plover. A snipe.

This is what you call "negotiating from a position of weakness." And no, they're not going to kill you all, but camping out in the driveway is going to lose its shine after a few more nights, I suspect.

The FBI and the Oregon State Police have established a "containment" zone and are negotiating with anyone leaving. (And no new "recruits" are arriving, eh.) So far eight more have left, and Duane Leo Ehmer, of Irrigon, Ore.; Dylan Wade Anderson, of Provo, Utah; and Jason S. Patrick, of Bonaire, Ga. were arrested.

The NPR reports did not mention what happened to Duane Ehmer's horse, Hellboy, so often seen doing the heavy lifting and flag-bearing around the refuge. I hope the FBI recognizes that it didn't know what was going on.

27.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shootout, ok Permalink to this item

From Facebook

The denouement of the cowboy revolution is all over the news since yesterday afternoon, and as the dust-up settles on dark comedy turned tragic, it seems mostly over, other than the story-telling and whatever planning is going on for the next inbred homeland conspiracy. I like the appropriate western flavor Matt Pearce put on it for the LA Times, summing it up in 5 succinct grafs:

"For weeks, law enforcement had kept their distance from the isolated wildlife refuge. They wanted to avoid a massacre out in Oregon's high desert.

"Since Jan. 2, Ammon Bundy and several other armed activists had chosen the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as the site of a daring protest that riveted and infuriated many Americans.

"The men, who gave news conferences in their cowboy hats, opposed the government's prosecution of two local ranchers — as well as federal administration of the West's vast public wildlands. The local sheriff, fearing violence, pleaded for the men to leave.

"They called his bluff and refused, and on Tuesday afternoon, the government finally played its hand.

"At least one occupier was killed and eight others were in custody on federal charges Tuesday night after law enforcement struck in a flurry of surprise arrests that caught protesters who had temporarily left the occupied refuge, apparently to attend a community meeting."

If you've been following the story (as in, yesterday's post, next item down), you knew the "community meeting" was in the next county north, where Sheriff Glenn Palmer was more sympathetic to the Sheriff-is-Superman meme of the sovereign citizen movement. Peter Walker posted photos and a brief account of attending the meeting in John Day, and then having to take a 5-hour detour to get back to Burns, where "newsman" (and "Bundy's agent-provocateur") Pete Santilli's larger than life SUV was left behind in the motel parking lot, straddling two spaces. Check out Sue Rosoff's comment on that photo: she says she dealt with Santilli at the first Bundy insurrection, when the rodeo company (no, literally) she works with had their truck and trailer mistaken for the means for federal confiscation of Bundy's thieving cowflesh.

"[T]hey took photos of the rig and posted them on Santilli's FB page... I went online and Santilli and his station had whipped their masses into frenzies... I couldn't believe the way these people went wacko - saying they were going to shoot out the tires, blow up the truck, shoot the engine block... It was crazy - it took 20 hours of messaging and texting and calling to get them to recant and tell their masses several times an hour for several hours that they had made a big mistake... I saw that name and all those memories flooded back... talk about domestic terrorism."

Map to John Day

In retrospect, leaving their Refuge redoubt for more than a supply run into Burns was not so smart. 100 miles across eastern Oregon and through the Malheur National Forest is a lot of lonesome territory, and the FBI and the State Police had more resources, local knowledge, and better discipline than the gang.

Bundy père blames everyone but himself, of course. "We believe that those federal people shouldn't even be there in that state, and be in that county and have anything to do with this issue...."

But Cliven's wrong about that, and LaVoy Finicum is now dead wrong. The "militia" with the imagined power of its force of arms is not equal to the rule of law, and the west's wide-open spaces do not provide a license for thievery, vandalism, cowboy cosplay and sedition. There may be "support from around the country" (god knows, we've got a whole political party that's making hay out of poking a thumb in the eye of the federal government), but there's a whole lot more support for civilization than there is for anarchy. Everybody walking around with pistols on their hip and long guns over their shoulder is most assuredly not "what keeps it peaceful."

The Oregonian's day 26 roundup includes Les Zaitz's piece covering the arrest and shooting and an item about Jon Ritzheimer skipping off-scene in a timely fashion "to visit [his] family" but turned himself in down in Arizona. He's now asking for donations to help with his legal fees, at ""

Update: The video account posted by the surviving one of the two drivers, Mark McConnell, is interesting. He sounds much too sensible and rational to be tied up in teh crazy ("smarter than your average retarded bear" is how he put it), but insists he's not the FBI's plant. He wasn't an eye-witness to the shooting, but saw enough of what led up to it to dispel some of the wildest nonsense that's been put out. Not sure how this works with his "damn good job of keeping myself unknown," but there you go.

Update #2: IT guy, aka DefendYourBase is providing live video (and YouTube archives) from the Wildlife Refuge as the remaining dead-enders dig defensive trenches for the coming battle. I'm not saying he's working for the FBI, but if there were somebody left among the crazies who was working for the FBI, you could hardly do better than his mad skillz providing live documentation of criminal acts in progress.

26.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Land use planning Permalink to this item

Excellent background piece from The Conversation on the twisted roots of U.S. land policy in the West. Not that the Sagebrush rebels are prepared to discuss the finer points of FLPMA as it approaches 40, but an overview to provide context for the rest of us. The Bundy gang work at the same level of legal comprehension as Idaho's Rep. Heather Scott, where the Sheriff has magical powers (except when you don't like what he tells you) and "this little one here" is a Santa clause in the Constitution that means the feds aren't the boss of her.

The difference of course is that while Scott plays disingenue and says "I just need to understand why" when she has no intention of doing any such thing, the Bundy gang are mansplaining their kleptotheocracy with PowerPoint and whiteboards. They don't need to understand why, they've got it all down pat.

If Scott can't make the grade as a citizen legislator, there's always a place for her peeling potatoes and sorting laundry, assuming she knows how to handle those chores. She could give up her job and let God and supporters provide the snacks and dental floss.

“They need women here. These guys go out there and sit in this cold, in two degrees. They’re out there protecting me,” said Melissa Cooper, a former warehouse worker and mother of three from Arizona. She’s here with husband Blaine Cooper, who is often at militia leader Ammon Bundy’s side in camouflage fatigues.

The good part of it is that the women are doing maintenance around the refuge facilities, vacuuming to mitigate some of the men-folk's vandalism.

Next up, the junior unlawmen are going to try venue shopping, and head on over to Grant County, where there's a friendlier sheriff in town. 6pm tonight, they're planning to liven up the John Day Senior Center.

"Glenn Palmer, the Grant County sheriff, has met with the militants and endorsed two of their key demands: the dismissal of the FBI from Harney County and the release of Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond, from prison."

Not that anybody who matters asked his opinion, or that it matters, but maybe he likes the Bundy gang's ridiculous demands? He's one of the guys, even collecting autographs for his pocket version of the Constitution.

"Palmer often speaks critically of the federal government and is aligned with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a national nonprofit that interprets the Constitution to severely limit federal government powers. He has clashed with the U.S. Forest Service over that agency's management of public land in Grant County."

25.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ridin the range Permalink to this item

YouTube link

Giddyup. Giddyup. He's a long, tall New Mexican, he rides a big white horse. He's a long, tall New Mexican, he wears a ten gallon hat. People look at him, and say awoo awoo, is that your hat? He rides from New Mexico to enforce the law. People look at him, and say, awoo awoo, are you the law?

We saw one of them dudes on Sunday, flying the Stars and Stripes on the left, and the Stars and Bars on the right out of the back of his big pickup truck, the yellow O of the Oregon Ducks on the back window, and Idaho plates. Jeanette gave him a cheery eye at a stop light, but he wasn't cheery back. Probably throws his cigarette butts out the window, too.

Maybe he was over here for the meeting Les Zaitz mentions at the bottom of his piece for the Oregonian, about ranchers looking to repudiate the $1.69 fee for an animal unit month's worth of grazing on public lands, to show that... freedom means anarchy?

"Mainstream ranchers are aghast at the idea," Zaitz wrote. "Leaders in the industry say any attempt to eliminate the current grazing system could cripple the industry."

After the Kansas family children's chorus, and the guy who can't get enough of riding his horse around with a big flag, the occupiers gathered for a show of paperwork, cut in half by the one from Oregon being a no-show. But the "tall, lean" New Mexican "cowboy with a bearded square jaw" was there, by golly, after driving 1,300-mile drive to get to the show. That'll be two months of grazing for his whole herd just in gasoline before he gets back home, but it's the principle that matters.

Sewell's all-American credentials are tarnished by a criminal record that includes convictions for assault in Oklahoma and Texas. He was convicted in Stillwater, Okla., in 2002 of eight counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The Tulsa World reported he was put on probation for chasing others with the ax.

"I didn't harm a single hair on anyone's head," Sewell said Sunday. "I was defending myself against someone with a weapon."

So you say, so you say. At any rate, if you brought your ax, you'll fit right in with the rag-tag misfits at the wildlife refuge.

23.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Party pooper Permalink to this item

Matt Labash's Nine Tales of Trump at His Trumpiest makes the best of a bad situation, as The Weekly Standard joins the GOP immune reaction against the man who's changed his party registration more often than we've changed presidents, an epic golf cheat, litigious whiner, and periodic failure who ironically can not take a joke. Trump disproves the theory that money can't buy you love, if you can believe the stories of someone with such stubby fingers.

"When you elect a con man, there’s no recourse."
Mona Charon

The National Review has lined up the staunchest "conservatives" (and what-not) against Trump, including Glenn Beck, David Boaz (accurately enough noting that "not since George Wallace has there been a presidential candidate who made racial and religious scapegoating so central to his campaign"), L. Brent Bozell III (complaining about the "calculating, cynical charlatans" running for the GOP nod, and the possibly "greatest charlatan of them all"), Mona Charon (noting that Trump is a "boor," "creep," "louse," "pitifully insecure" as well as damnably not conservative), Ben Domenech ("hollow, Euro-style identity politics"), Erick Erickson, Steven F. Hayward, Mark Helprin (nominee for the Most Florid Insults category), William Kristol (might he finally be right about something? "the very epitome of vulgarity"), Yuval Levin, Dana Loesch, Andrew C. McCarthy, David McIntosh, Michael Medved, Edwin Meese III (still alive! and reminding Grand Old Partiers of the 11th Commandment so honored in the breach these days), Russell Moore, Michael B. Mukasey, Katie Pavlich ("Trump isn’t fighting for anyone but himself"), John Podhoretz ("the apotheosis of a tendency," "the American id"; also, bad writing), R.R. Reno ("It will only make things worse if we go Trumpster diving."), Thomas Sowell (can't say he's Godwinning the subject, when that comparison is so apt), Cal Thomas.

What a lineup! They're not so beside themselves that they neglect to toss in gratuitous and pointless digs against Obama, of course. That does not go without saying. The very worst of the insults about Trump are just like Obama. It doesn't have to make sense.

(You may have to wade through some weird noise from NR advertisers to see all that; I got a pop-up ad asking whether "this" miracle could bring America back to God, and posing that question you've been wondering about, "were 5 incurable diseases CURED by a 'rediscovered' ancient medical technique?")

The collection—and ok, maybe the editors' own Against Trump screed—seemed prejudicial enough for the Republican National Committee to disinvite the National Review from the next debate. It's hard to argue with their conclusion:

"Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself."

Inside the sedition Permalink to this item

Never heard of this Peter Walker fellow, but a friend shared a (public) post on his Facebook feed, and says there he's a professor at the U of O (in Eugene). And a witness to the Bundy clan's seditious conspiracy in Harney County. The January 18 post has more than 2,000 shares within Facebook, and looks like great first-person reporting to me, more than a dozen photos with detailed captions. From the first photo, showing Ammon at a white board, a laptop and projector going, all running on someone else's electricity, provided through publicly regulated utilities:

"It was a three hour meeting. The first two hours consisted of the Bundys, LaVoy Finicum, and Ryan Payne lecturing on 'natural law' and the duty of the people to overthrow the government. Payne said, 'If you want to be free you have to be willing to give it all up,' and Finicum warned they've tried signs and peaceful protests, and it didn't work... so... so scary.

Peter Walker photo

About 30 ranchers said to be present, lots of skepticism about these yahoos not from around there saying YOU HAVE A CHOICE WILL YOU LIVE FREE OR BE A SLAVE? And the basic Bundy legal theory:

"According to their view you don't need to have a driver's license because it's not in the Constitution. And you should resist arrest when you're arrested because not resisting arrest also isn't in the Constitution. In fact everything (case law, codes, regulations, etc.) are all 'unlawful' in their view because they aren't in the Constitution. Wildlife refuges are also not in the Constitution... so, you get the idea."

Lots more interesting Facebook posts from Peter Walker this week. Check it out.

Also, there's one of those petitions you might like, asking the President to Arrest Ammon Bundy and the armed occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. I was #16,911 to sign.

22.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Outrageous Permalink to this item

Oregon's Governor calls for federal action to end the unlawful occupation. "Negotiations" are underway. (Who said we don't negotiate with terrorists?)

Along with the trespass, theft, and malicious destruction (using government heavy equipment), the next step toward "a culture increasingly hostile to people who disagree with their beliefs" with seditionists from around the country joining the event, "sovereign citizens" are looking to convene a Citizens' Grand Jury and enforce their own brand of Shari'a, with proceedings "based on the Bible, English common law, and in the case of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the Book of Mormon."

Oh, and it seems Ammon Bundy has "demands" that he says the FBI will have to meet for him We're certainly going to leave him his right to remain silent, but how much further will law enforcement let this go before taking action? This is insane.

Golden oldies Permalink to this item

"Just to give you an idea though where my bias is when it comes to regulatory reform," Senator Thom Tillis (R-SC) said last year, he thinks things might be better if businesses could just "opt out" of stuff, "as long as they indicate—through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, whatever else—there's this, there's this level of regulations that, that maybe, maybe they're on the books, but maybe you can make a market-based decision about whether or not that they should apply to you."

That was after he'd been introduced as "the new senator in town who's both eloquent and substantive," what a great package.

"I said, I don't have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy, as long as they post a sign that says 'we don't require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom...'"

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. So eloquent. So substantive. We have too darned much regulation! We should cut it back to just regulating full disclosure of stupidity, like I'm doing right here at the Bipartisan Policy Center! Making the point "that that's the mentality we have to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country." It's common sense, people.

Image from Flint Water Study logo

Speaking of golden oldies, how about that water in Flint, Michigan? If only we ran government more like a business, there'd be no reason not to save money by poisoning poor people. (They just don't add that much to the economy.)

Darnell Earley, the emergency manager who was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and switched Flint’s water source to the polluted and corrosive river water to save money has moved on. He's now the emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools.

For his part, as CBS reports, Snyder's "a former venture capitalist and computer executive who took office in 2011 billing himself as a practical decision-maker and a 'tough nerd.' When he sought the state's top job, he touted his experience as a turnaround artist committed to making government work better for people."

Shades of Thom Tillis. And Carly Fiorina. And Donald Trump. You might remember "turnaround artist" by the older name: spin meister.

On going to work in the morning Permalink to this item

It was a familiar joke in the cube farm: at death's door, nobody says he wishes he's spent more time at work. But Piers J. Sellers says just that, in his opinion piece for last Sunday's New York Times: Cancer and Climate Change.

Deputy director of Sciences and Exploration at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and acting director of its Earth Sciences Division sounds like a pretty high-level management position. Astronaut on the International Space Station (three visits) and walking in space (six times) is as high-level as any position gets these days, with the biggest big picture view of all.

And now his exit: stage 4 pancreatic cancer. That op-ed could be the first and last most people ever hear of Sellers and his work, but if this is his commencement speech, so be it.

Photo from the Hubble Space Telescope

"... Last year was the warmest year on record, by far. I think that future generations will look back on 2015 as an important but not decisive year in the struggle to align politics and policy with science. This is an incredibly hard thing to do. On the science side, there has been a steady accumulation of evidence over the last 15 years that climate change is real and that its trajectory could lead us to a very uncomfortable, if not dangerous, place. On the policy side, the just-concluded climate conference in Paris set a goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

"While many have mocked this accord as being toothless and unenforceable, it is noteworthy that the policy makers settled on a number that is based on the best science available and is within the predictive capability of our computer models.

"It’s doubtful that we’ll hold the line at 2 degrees Celsius, but we need to give it our best shot. With scenarios that exceed that target, we are talking about enormous changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns, huge impacts on water and food security, and significant sea level rise. As the predicted temperature rises, model uncertainty grows, increasing the likelihood of unforeseen, disastrous events. ..."

All things considered, Sellers is pretty hopeful for the estimated peak population of 9.5 billion humans who will inhabit the planet by 2050. You don't need a computer model to calculate that "the worst impacts will be felt by the world’s poorest," though, those "who are already under immense stress and have meager resources to help them adapt to the changes." But perhaps last year will put Denial behind us, and we will get on with solving problems, enabling "the engineers and industrialists of the world to save us."

21.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The attack on Harney County Permalink to this item

The Bundy clowns make great news, give them that. They have no valid point about our Constitution, our public land, federal land and resource management, economics, law, or (least of all) justice, but somehow, maddeningly, they remain free to come and go as they please, while disrupting a facility and a community that didn't ask for their help, and wants most of all for them to get the hell out.

We understand caution, and not wanting to create martyrs for the cause of theft and anarchy that the Bundy gang represents, but three weeks in, it seems past time for law enforcement action. (Granted, I thought it was past time for action one week in.) Oregon Public Broadcasting moves past the comic antics and daily "press conferences" to the human cost and personal violation.

“When everything that you hold dear, from your personal life to what you’ve achieved in your professional life, has all been seemingly taken away from you by people who have no comprehension of who you are or even the place where you live — it’s a difficult thing to process,” the employee said.

Idaho's Rep. Raúl Labrador recently saw fit to opine upon the situation, calling the "protesters' actions civil disobedience," and sneering at the "liberal hacks of the Idaho and Washington media" with the temerity to call bullshit on that.

"At least we should agree that the protestors should leave the federal property peacefully and will have to face the consequences of their actions. I hope and pray that the protestors and law enforcement quickly reach a peaceful conclusion."

If by "leave peacefully," he means "be arrested and put in jail without violence," yes, we could agree on that. Labrador is quite comfortable in his government job, but federal employees, in general, why, they're just part of the problem.

In mansplaining that "many Easterners don't get the West," Labrador tells us that Harney County is larger than Maryland. (Maryland is more than 20% larger, actually, with more than 800 times the population.) And never mind the evidence presented in federal court that led to the Hammonds conviction, he prefers the seditionists' view that federal prosecutors were "overzealous." These signal events call for a twofer, reform in land management, and in criminal sentencing. It's not much of an argument, but there is always room for improvement, none of which has yet to come from the Congressman, who makes most of his news by saying no, no, a thousand times no.

Grazing before an eclipse

Kevin Lewis provides a well-written rebuttal in an Idaho Statesman Reader's Opinion: Idahoans deserve better than Labrador's absurd posturing. (Perhaps Idahoans in Idaho's first district—adjacent to eastern Oregon and eastern Washington—should for something different?)

"Americans own our public lands, and we’ve hired the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to provide the stewardship that will provide all of us the benefits we as a nation have identified that those lands should provide. Clean water. Clean air. Open space. Wildlife. Fish. Recreation. Every day the stewards of our public lands balance as best they can these resources and values.

"These public lands were secured from the depredations of profit-driven industries by the vision of people like President Theodore Roosevelt, who recognized that without proactive steps these lands would be overrun by those who see nothing but a bottom line of their personal wealth. Thanks to the reservation of public lands, we in Idaho still can enjoy cedar trees that were old when Lewis and Clark came through and rivers that are as wild as they were when Idaho became a state. This good fortune was not an accident. It came about by the foresight of others before who long recognized that too often “profit” translates to muddy streams, clear-cut hillsides and overgrazed deserts."

Labrador casually dismisses more than a century of history and the best we've attempted at sensible, science-based land management, in deference to a couple of ranchers who can't stay right with the law, and in support of miscreants who think they're the vanguard of a second Revolutionary War. Talk about your easterners explaining the west to the people who live in it. He's the Congressman who can't shoot straight.

20.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

He He He'll savage the status quo Permalink to this item

Not that the transcript of it isn't freaky enough, the timbre of her voice. OMG. Fingernails on a chalkboard having nothing on Mrs. Palin.

Is this a great country, or what? That this bizarrely incoherent apparition could have risen to three heartbeats away from President of the United States.

"Yeah, he's a multi-billionaire. Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Being Sarah Palin means never having to apologize.

It means never having to confront an actual fact.

She's hoping for a change. She's hoping for a "hallelujah" for the Donald being "from the private sector," where you have to balance budgets and stuff, or else... you might have to file for bankruptcy three or four times and leave your creditors holding empty bags.

And the self-inflated furry kewpie being lauded by a loon is bobbling his head and giving a Charlie McCarthy-esque pantomime of yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, smiling like he ate a canary, and multi-tasking with a simultaneous thumbs up.

Trump's pantomime, while Palin endorses him

The squealing is no accident, the text is thick with dog whistles. The crowd's cheering the same message the Bundy clan is baying to the Oregon moon, the "betrayal of the transformation of our country":

“Now, eight years ago, I warned that Obama’s promised fundamental transformation of America. That is was going to take more from you, and leave America weaker on the world stage. And that we would soon be unrecognizable. Well, it’s the one promise that Obama kept. But he didn’t do it alone, and this is important to remember, especially those of you, like me, a member of the GOP, this is what we have to remember, in this very contested, competitive, great primary race.”

Here we have the answer to our decline: Donald Trump, "going rogue left and right, man, that’s why he’s doing so well." (But of course "strict constitutionality.")

The status quo has got to go! "Otherwise we’re just going to get more of the same, and with their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged. It must be savaged."

When trouble comes to town Permalink to this item

I hope that The Oregonian and its OregonLive website is able to get the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of page views they're getting while covering the Oregon standoff in Harney Co. Judging by the huge numbers of comments the stories are getting, they've engaged a lot of readers. Les Zaitz's and Kelly House's coverage of the anger boiling over in last night's community meeting has more than four thousand shares and 2,200 comments before it's 14 hours old. It's a hell of a story, the criminal wannabe revolutionaries sitting in the bleachers and listening to the crowd chanting "go, go, go, go, go," and continuing to go back on their word that they would leave if the community said they wanted them to.

Just how many felonies do these guys need to rack up before they're rounded up and thrown in jail? Maybe if they'd walked out on the gym floor with their muddy boots that would have been a bridge too far.

A beautiful statement of community Permalink to this item

In a bit of an awkward medium for the moment, quite a bit more than 140 characters scanned into a picture tweeted by @HGTomato (and h/t to my buddy Jim Lyons for the r/t). It's an open letter from the staff of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to friends, supporters, and the American public. (Update: It's now posted to their Facebook page.) In part:

"We can have effective disagreements and either find resolution, find compromise, or simply agree to disagree. But we do it with respect for the rule of law, and know that our areas of agreement and cooperation are infinitely more powerful than the differences we may face. Mostly, we face those differences together with open dialogue and open gates—not intimidation and threats. We have access to each other, because we are not afraid to confront difficult situations or have difficult conversations. ...

"We believe that this difficult situation will lead to even stronger bonds between the Refuge and the community that has supported us."

And this unfortunate, not-beautiful hearsay from one of the leaders of the occupation that lacks respect for the rule of law. They are dead-enders:

I wanna mention something Finicum told me on Sunday -- they are not going home. There is no exit strategy. #bundymilitia

— John Sepulvado (@JohnLGC) January 20, 2016

The Anti-Defamation League provides an Anatomy of a Standoff, with "mini-profiles on 30 different occupiers and allies who have been at the wildlife refuge headquarters examining their backgrounds, ideologies, and activities."

Mike Brown taketh away, and Mike Brown... Permalink to this item

This is big news. Very big. Maybe there's a ninth planet, after all, and maybe instead of being so small (but so interesting!) that debate rages about whether it can be in the planet club, it's about ten times the mass of Earth.

If the guy who killed Pluto (his Twitter handle: @plutokiller) and his baby-faced sidekick (Konstantin Batygin) are right, maybe the disgruntled Plutophiliacs will finally forgive him for that demotion.

What begs for some explanation are all the outer solar system objects in tilted, elliptical orbits in one direction. One explanation would be "a massive planet lined up in the other direction," shepherding the flock.

Their computer simulations predicted that if this hypothetical planet existed, it would twist the orbits of other small bodies in a certain way. So Brown looked through some old data to see if any icy bodies had been discovered with those kinds of orbits — and, lo and behold, he found five of them.

"They're objects that nobody has really explained or tried to explain before," says Brown. "My jaw hit the floor. That just came out of the blue. Being able to make a prediction and having it come true in five minutes is about as fun as it gets in science."

And just to show you how far we've stretched our imagination for exploring the solar system, R. Hurt's lead "artist's conception" shows the view from the dark side of Planet Nine, looking inward toward an impossibly distant Sol. If you want more after the NPR overview, Caltech delivers, with a nice 3-minute explainer from Brown and Batygin, including the estimates that Planet Nine is 60 billion miles out, give or take (600-some A.U.) and that its orbital period is 20,000 (Earth) years.

Batygin's and Brown's paper is published today, and free online. Hooray for that. If ever a title deserved all caps, this one: EVIDENCE FOR A DISTANT GIANT PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM.

Update: the search for Planet Nine has a website. Naturally.

19.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

They fought the law and the law... what? Permalink to this item

Would you take legal advice from armed seditionists in eastern Oregon... just because they're wearing cowboy hats? Or saying "free land"? That's the weird pitch from the Bundy gang in today's news.

Earmuff man Robert "LaVoy" Finicum assures any newly scofflaw ranchers can count on their "rapid response team" to come to the rescue, just in case the local sheriff isn't on their side. Which Harney Co. Sheriff David Ward, for one is not so much.

The January 19 news release from Sheriff Ward includes a list of the first two named criminals, and one honorable mention for driving his vehicle off an icy road. (It's not criminal to drive without a license, but he did tell OSP troopers he'd been at the refuge for the past week.) The first to fall was Dwane Kirkland, of Hamilton, Montana, arrested on charges of Felon in Possession of a Firearm (or two), and for good measure, "the vehicle he was driving had switched plates and was uninsured." Not exactly the sort of person you want to meet on a icy road in the middle of a winter night.

And the Bundys are upping the ante with vague threats against federal employees trying to do their jobs. I rather doubt they're brave enough to make good on that sort of thing; they've already shown their word isn't worth warm spit.

"Since the occupation started Jan. 2, the protesters have provided shifting accounts of what they want and when they would leave. Two weeks ago, some said the group would leave if Harney County residents said they should. Two widely attended community meetings gave them their answer: Go. The militants packed not a single bag."

TvA photo

Meanwhile, in cities around the Pacific Northwest, including Boise, Portland, Spokane, Eugene, Burns, Medford, gentle angry people came out to protest the sedition and miscellaneous lawbreaking of the Bundy gang. (Jeanette and I visible—if not quite identifiable—in Kimberlee Kruesi's photo, #36 of 37 in the stack atop the Oregonian's report.)

Back on the range, that brilliant self-documentation of grand theft (how do you spell your name again, sir?) in defense of freedom to roam unsurveilled turns out to most likely be the dismantling of a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system used to help maintain reliability of the power grid. That's especially useful for substations out in the middle of nowhere, subject to extreme weather and occasional acts of idiot vandalism.

Bundyville dispatches Permalink to this item

James Surowiecki's succinct primer on Bundynomics:

"The libertarian appeal of the “take back the land” rhetoric masks a fundamental contradiction: the West has flourished because of the federal government’s help, not in spite of it. No region’s economy has depended more on subsidies and taxpayer-funded investment. In the nineteenth century, the Homestead Act handed out free land to settlers, and the transcontinental railroad was built thanks to cheap land grants and huge government outlays. The federal government has played a vital role in managing the Western watershed, while investing billions of dollars in dams and other public infrastructure. As the historian Gerald Nash has shown, the West’s postwar boom was jump-started by money the government poured into the region during the Second World War.

"Furthermore, Bundy’s beloved ranching, mining, and logging industries have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of government largesse. ...

"[I]t’s far from clear that local control would be an economic panacea for ranchers and loggers. Fees on state-owned land tend to be considerably higher than on federal land, in part because most state governments are legally required to maximize the value of their public land, and the federal government isn’t. And states would have to pay for all the upkeep the feds now handle, which is why a number of studies have concluded that reclamation would increase costs, rather than shrink them."

Jim Wright tells us how much he—and George Washington—thinks of the "militia" men at the refuge of scoundrels.

"These are people who have declared themselves a nation unto themselves and have rejected the obligations of civilization. They are citizens of nothing, an army of one, defenders of mob rule and rights by force."

Last Friday, Phil Taylor wondered whether Bundy &co. will go to jail, as do many of us. So many subtle details as the stories unfold. They weren't actually "barred" from using county facilities the way I heard it. They didn't follow the rules for asking permission, which seems sort of comical under the circumstances. They're not showing a lot of willingness to attend to procedural requirements, so what are they going to do when someone tells them "no, I don't think so." File a lawsuit? That's the way of the "sovereign citizen," at least clogging the courts with garbage.

My hope is that the FBI is methodically collecting evidence for compelling cases against each and every of the miscreant perpetrators in eastern Oregon. This is not rocket science, and it is not some sort of mission critical homeland security. It's fixing a leaky toilet, shoveling out a stable full of manure, taking out the trash. It's not a fat pitch, it's tee ball.

Music this morning Permalink to this item

Mostly in my head, but some of it escaped my lips. The colors and clouds of the sunrise prompted a verse of Joni Mitchell, and Rabbi Dan Fink's "e-Torah" remembrance of David Bowie for Shabbat Shirah (the Sabbath of Song), Sing a New Song, gave me reason to fondly remember the evolution of my musical "preferences" over the years, from The Beatles to Bizet, and more Bowie than I realized as it was going by the first time. The Rabbi's confessed preferences were much like my own, although I never thought of (or heard of) it as "grunge," a term I'm pretty sure came after I stopped collecting vinyl. My short list would have had to include the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, the Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jefferson Airplane, Elton John (and Bernie Taupin) back before he turned out to be so glam and you-know.

I wouldn't say Bowie's death grieved me, but passing becomes ever more poignant as we get close enough to consider it as something personal rather than an abstract concept. Those friends and siblings and musicians who shared music with me and influenced my tastes are now hitting 60 and 70 and the obituaries, a fact hard to reconcile with the still teenaged feelings that reverberate when I hear those golden oldies, whether in my head, or over the airwaves (as we used to say).

May the memories be for a blessing.

17.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The big picture of Harney County's history Permalink to this item

If something good can come out of the gang of Bundy-clan led idiots' occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and their expression of inchoate rage against the government forces preventing the return of western glory, it could be more attention for the superb environmental history of the Harney Basin by Nancy Langston, Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed. The University of Washington Press has the (2003) hardcover priced more like a textbook than the eminently readable history it is. The 2006 paperback edition is more affordable (if your local library doesn't have the original, as mine does).

Langston efficiently covers the last century and a half, from pushing the natives out of the way, to the age of the cattle barons, a homesteader getting away with murder (of a cattle baron), the rise and fall of irrigation systems and lake levels, the CCC, the chemical warfare of the mid-20th century, and the unending battle over turf, water, and the riparian zone between them.

January 2016 photo, Boise R. at Glenwood bridge

Things were looking up when she wrote this more than 10 years ago, compromises being struck among the disparate stakeholders, goaded by politics and threat of litigation where necessary. The latest round of resource planning for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was the next, big step forward in the "pragmatic, adaptive management" she describes in the concluding chapter, with its 2013 Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the next 15 years. And then the wingnuts showed up...

Langson's biography sounds like my alt-life, had I been able to stay more focused to a single curriculum in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences, and if I'd been able to get one of those summer jobs with the government out in the woods in the 70s. "FWR" is now split into three departments in a College of Natural Resources, and I can imagine the 40-years-ago me being attracted to several of the majors in Natural Resource Conservation (even if probably not Rangeland Ecology and Management).

Her own websites feature her other projects (and books), "Toxic Bodies" (about hormone disruptors and the legacy of diethylstilbestrol, DES) and "Sustaining Lake Superior," most recently. The page on Malheur Conflicts brings her history up to date (if not up to the minute). I've mentioned her and this book previously this month, including her NYT op-ed, In Oregon, Myth Mixes With Anger, all recommended.

Update: John, of the vlogbrothers provides the 5 minute (and 34 second) version of historical context, Who Owns Oregon?

16.Jan.16 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One down, a couple dozen to go Permalink to this item

Dude drove into town to get snacks at the Safeway, in one of the government vehicles, with the logo painted over with the "Harney County Resource Center" badge. Yer busted Kenneth Medenbach, on "suspicion of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle," which I guess is what they call it when white people steal a car these days. Still, up to five years in prison for a class C felony, and that would be on top of a previously checkered history.

"According to federal court records, Medenbach is currently facing federal charges in Medford and was released from custody in November. A condition of his release was that he would not 'occupy' any federal land. He was accused of illegally camping on federal property."

Specifically. I hope that means it'll be more than $10,000 to bail the guy out. The explosives and trip wires in a campground in the Gifford Pinchot NF were a bit of an early warning that it sounds like didn't get heeded as well as they might have.

Following the Oregonian's coverage: Standoff day 15: what you need to know.

Some misshapen rhetoric Permalink to this item

The PBS Newshour's "Rundown" provides some fact checking for the 6th Republican debate, and that catchy phrase for my headline was used to describe what the candidates "served up."

The spluttering about Iran seizing sailors and how much more they would have done, for example. Ted Cruz would have unleashed “the full force and fury of the United States of America.” Never mind... any sense of proportion or consequences. (An ex-Navy buddy recommended this blog's thoughts on the Farsi Island Incident as a more rational discussion of the facts than anyone in the debate provided.)

Demon Common Core has not, actually, been eliminated from New Jersey. Chris Christie said himself that he supported Planned Parenthood ("privately"), so he was lying then, or now when he said "I never wrote a check" to them. (Used PayPal? Paid cash? Supported with "thoughts and prayers" only?) Or no, he was misquoted. In a book about his "rise to power," with which he cooperated, but didn't proofread carefully enough. He's a busy guy.

Trump said things that were poorly thought through and contradictory and/or inconsistent with previous poorly thought through statements.

Ted Cruz's $1 million loan was not disclosed because of a "paperwork error." Maybe he misplaced the receipt. New York values may not be "conservative" enough, but "Wall Street hedge fund mogul Robert Mercer" is ok. Or at least his $11 million contribution to a Cruz-aligned super PAC has its moments.

And woe unto us for our pathetically "gutted" military, with spending only slightly more than China, Russia, the UK, Japan, France, Saudia Arabia, India, Germany, Italy and Brazil combined. Tin pot dictators are running wild.

Marc Johnson's Fear and Loathing on the Trail is perhaps more relevant than the fact-checking of "unlikeable characters shouting nonsense."

"I’ve been in and around politics for more than 40 years and I don’t remember a time when I’ve felt more disappointed in our politics. Disappointed and embarrassed. The thought of a contest for leader of the free world between the current front runners leaves me embarrassed for my country. The rest of the world is looking at us, much as we should be looking at ourselves, and asking is this really the best we can do?

"I’m not agitating to making the country great again. I’m longing to make America sane again."

It doesn't seem too much to ask, but it may be more than we'll get.

15.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Desert doings Permalink to this item

Not sure how we'll hear about the "exit strategy" without a community meeting in Burns, but the County Commissioners said they couldn't have it at the Fairgrounds and what, no beer halls in town? The so-called "Committee of Safety" is said to be "considering legal action" which would be a bit awkward, wouldn't it? Can you just waltz into the courtroom while you're part of a well-documented criminal conspiracy?

In the latest string of alt-reality legal maneuvers, some of the gang tried to recruit next-door Grant Co. sheriff Glenn Palmer to come over and tell the Harney Co. Sheriff what for, but he wasn't having it. Apparently the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has a thing about jurisdictions.

Some of the locals and other wildlife enthusiasts are making their own expressions of non-support for the Y'all Qaeda CoSplayers; the video of the removal of the false flag over the Malheur refuge sign by the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is nice.

Thanks, Obama Permalink to this item

Timothy Egan, on Giving Obama His Due:

"By any objective measurement, his presidency has been perhaps the most consequential since Franklin Roosevelt’s time. Ronald Reagan certainly competes with Obama for that claim. But on the night of Reagan’s final State of the Union speech in 1988, when he boasted that “one of the best recoveries in decades” should “send away the hand-wringers and doubting Thomases,” the economic numbers were not as good as those on Obama’s watch.

"At no time in Reagan’s eight years was the unemployment rate lower than it is today, at 5 percent — and this after Obama was handed the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Reagan lauded a federal deficit at 3.4 percent of gross national product. By last fall, Obama had done better than that, posting a deficit of 2.5 percent of G.D.P."

That's the good news. (If only it were President Romney telling us how strong the State of the Union is, the stone-faced Republican grumpy Gusses would've been cheering themselves hoarse Tuesday night.) The bad news is that the famous rousing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that launched Obama onto the national scene has been disproven in spades. We are not united. There most certainly is a Red American and a Blue America and the intramural warfare seems fiercer than it has ever been in my lifetime. "Obama could propose Grandmother Appreciation Day and not get a single vote from Republicans because, well, he proposed it."

"Republicans who would not applaud the creation of 14 million jobs, an unemployment rate cut in half, 17 million people given health care, a global climate change pact, the strongest military in the world and a rousing call for a “moonshot” to cure cancer are incapable of taking a fair measure of Obama’s achievements."

If Obama's "self-promotional apparatus" is "curiously inept," it surely has something to do with the viciously indefatigable self-promotional apparatus of the right wing and Rupert Murdoch's Fox and friends, those organizations that have done everything they could to deride the president's every move and expression, by hook or by crook.

How the click-throughs were going this morning

The apparent front-runner for the GOP for 2016 "would be the most unqualified president in American history" in Peter Wehner's estimation, with experience serving in the last three Republican administrations to go by.

"No major presidential candidate has ever been quite as disdainful of knowledge, as indifferent to facts, as untroubled by his benightedness."

And it's downhill from there.

"Donald Trump has altered the political equation because he has altered the moral equation. For this lifelong Republican, at least, he is beyond the pale. Party loyalty has limits."

Still, the base can't get enough of the guy, and Ted Cruz. In today's National Republican Senatorial Committee's "poll" and fundraising fisher, Bozo D. Clown gave Ben Carson the nod ("None of the Above" wasn't made available) to see the results, which were as shown, mid-morning Mountain Time. (Bozo also received an offer to donate $3 or more to his pick, via the NRSC.)

14.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Nothing can prepare you Permalink to this item

For this performance at a Donald Trump rally.

Are you serious?
Apologies for freedom?
I can't handle this.

On the plus side, I always liked that catchy Blondie song, and hadn't ever seen her video. And those lyrics work even better.

Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass

Once upon a time such "explicit" lyrics required a parental guidance warning, but to hell with political correctness amirite? Besides which, it's the Donald that needs a warning. Which, The Simpsons provided 16 years ago, if only we'd paid attention.

Lowered expectations Permalink to this item

Rabbi Dan Fink's story of Napoleon and his three bravest soldiers (I won't spoil it here; do have a look) was provided on the verge of the Idaho legislative session, but it applies well enough to our 2016 Congress. Idaho solons always kick off the session by promising to keep it as short as possible. I heard on the radio that the U.S. Congress will be in session for just 80-some days this year, before they get back to their real job of fundraising and running for re-election. That's fundraising in addition to the generous six-figure salary for a less than half-time job. Obama's State of the Union joke was apt, and on us:

“[I]t’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber.”

Speaking of life-long politicians who have done more for their retirement packages than for their constituents, Idaho's four Republicans in Congress had nothing nice to say about Obama. As usual.

Robert Borosage isn't satisfied with the prospects of this last year of Obama's terms, either. Is anyone? Still, stone-faced Paul Ryan has already shown himself to be smarter than the last two Congressional leaders. (Ryan did manage to get off his hands for the exhortation that “We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion.”)

And that good old question, "are you better off now than 7 years ago?" has to be answered—in the aggregate—"oh yes." January 2009 was about the nadir of the busting of the creative finance/real estate bubble (have you seen "The Big Short" yet?), and the whiskey, ammo and gold bug sovereign citizens almost seemed like forecasters.

Now they're just the background wingnuttery they've always been, stealing grass, writing liens and occupying a bird sanctuary or something.

The tearful John Boehner met his ambition by having the Pope in the House, and was shown the door by the Taxed Enough Already and did we mention how much we hate government? flingers. The lugubrious Mitch McConnell met his ambition by assuring almost nothing happened on his watch, including the realization of his singular goal, to ensure that Barack Obama's presidency was kept to a single term.

Never mind facts: this "most powerful nation on earth" (and in all of human history to boot, Obama didn't really belabor the point) remains remarkably fearful, whipping itself up in a frenzy of... advertising. Borosage wants more populism, and more active voice. He laments Obama's failing to "issue the indictment" for the "failed conservative doctrines had led us into the fix we are in." Doing so would not solve the "unrelentingly bitter partisan and ideological opposition" that Obama has faced throughout his terms, however. Is there a solution? Splitting the Grand Old Party with Wall Street and the bankers going hither and the Trump and Cruz lunch-bucket conservatives going thither?

The establishment is doing its best to put on a diversity face, tapping Gov. Nikki Haley to deliver the ob-State of the Union this year, and deride the "loudest voices in the room," the song that seems more siren than Siren. She's the rare bird who enjoys a net positive approval rating, was well hydrated and didn't do anything cringe-worthy, other than that odd way she seems to speak through clenched teeth.

Trump supporters hit back of course, the wailing sirens of Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, and the Donald himself, who wanted to mention "she certainly has no trouble asking me for campaign contributions." Or maybe she had no trouble, hmm? Richard Viguerie is predictably apoplectic, press releasing that the message he heard (and won't heed) was "sit down and shut up." In his 50+ years of beating drums, he "can’t think of another time when the Republican establishment so blatantly hijacked a national television opportunity to rebut a liberal President and used it to attack the voters they need to win the presidency." Haley was "tone deaf, anti-conservative" and her speech a mere rebuttal in air quotes. Her "fall from GOP Super Star to being radioactive with the grassroots was precipitous and inevitable after a speech filled with nothing but the establishment Republican platitudes that voters hate." The speech was "so short on conservative substance that it could have been delivered by Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, or any one of Washington’s other now-discredited Big Government Republicans."

2003 photo

Which seems to imply there are some non-discredited Republicans hiding in the woodwork. Oh, Ted Cruz, of course, Viguerie's BFF. He's the one giving "speeches marked by what you might call pagan brutalism," with "not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy," but instead "marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them," as David Brooks described Cruz's brutalism so memorably.

How perfect that the copyright on Mein Kampf has expired and we can all revist a brand new 1924: The Year That Made Hitler with the author, Peter Ross Range, and Dave Davies on Fresh Air this morning. Range said Hitler advised to "make sure you only have one enemy," and if you have two enemies, lump them together. It was "Jewish Bolsheviks" in Bavaria in the 1920s, now we can stir together "radical Islamic terrorists," illegal immigrants, refugees, and Democrats and substitute as needed.

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are the guys most Republicans are saying they want to have a beer with on their way to the putsch.

13.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thieving liars Permalink to this item

Turns out that the Harney County rancher supposedly helped out by the Bundy gang cutting up that National Wildlife Refuge fence had no idea what they were up to, and did not give them permission for them to romp over his land. He said he's never spoken to Bundy. And he had his ranch hands fix the fence.

Bundy—who isn't a rancher, and looks more and more like a putz in a cowboy hat by the day—then proceeded to make stuff up to cover his sorry ass.

Bundy said Wednesday evening that he did indeed get an OK from the property owners. He declined to identify them, but implied they were Puckett's sons.

"Mr. Puckett lives a long ways away and his sons live here and they run the ranch and as far as I know it's in their name," he said.

Puckett said the ranch is in his name -- and his name only.

There's no reason to believe Ammon Bundy knows very far. And I'd go with Tim Puckett, who OregonLive says is a hay farmer.

"I work with BLM," Puckett said. "I have no problem with them." He said government officials told him of their plans to erect the fence, which he said "has not nor will it affect my cattle operation."

"I am a good steward of the land. ... In no way do I feel that I am entitled to the refuge for grazing," he said.

And in spite of a bunch of yayhoos no one invited to the area and who are wearing out their welcome, Puckett took responsibility for what happened and just fixed it. Rather like... an Oregon rancher would.

Bob Ferris works to round up a longer list of legal violations, financial impacts and insults to America, and Americans in Crime and Punishment Bundy Boyz Version.

Hear no evil Permalink to this item

Idaho's House State Affairs committee has the dubious distinction of rejecting the first bill of the legislative session, out of hand. I'm sure I trust the Public Utilities Commission more than half of this committee, but that isn't saying much. The bill sought to raise the maximum fine for pipeline safety violations from a 45-year-old $2,000 a day to half of the federal standard, which is what Utah has. The rest of our neighboring states are at the $200,000 a day federal standard, which was raised after much of San Bruno was razed by the explosion of a 30" pipeline in 2010.

It's hard to know whether the impetus of larger fines would have brought quicker action in California and saved the day. We do know—from the California PUC—that PG&E "diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives" as reported in SFGate in 2012, just to put the daily fine in context. But gee, going from $2,000 to $100,000, that's huge. A 5,000% increase!

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, moved to reject the proposed bill, and not even allow a hearing on it. “Going from $2,000 to $100,000 I think is a long reach - I can’t even go there,” he said. “It looks to me like we’re just grabbing money here and putting it into the general fund. … We’re just doing this to look good instead of for a purpose. I think if we’re going to start fining somebody at a huge amount like that, we better have a good purpose,” such as directing the fines toward safety or training.

Nine of the fifteen committee members voted to reject the bill without even having a hearing. We prefer flat out ignorance to regulation.

Sorry, we weren't interested Permalink to this item

Either that, or it was the toxicity of a name that sounds like it's from the Middle East or something. Al Jazeera America is shutting down, by April 30.

"Al Jazeera made a mission of doing in-depth, enterprising reportage that would eschew what it saw as the frenetic, soundbite-heavy character of U.S. cable news."

Available in "only" about 60 million homes, its ratings "approached" 20,000. Ouch. I didn't have anything against it, and on the rare occasion when I looked at it (on the web), I appreciated another point of view. They seemed to value objectivity more highly than some of the cable competition. Which I suppose was the nut of the problem.

12.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who's who and what's what Permalink to this item

From the Jonathan Thompson photo on HCN

High Country News provides a rundown of the cast of characters in eastern Oregon. "Capt. Moroni" turns out to be Dylan Anderson, and his cheery portrait with a sign at the Recapture Canyon protest in May, 2014 suggests he might not be the sharpest tool in the drawer. (God bless your javascript warning about copyright, HCN, but this is Fair Use, and free advertising to boot. Readers, go see the 1500x1368 original in its native habitat.)

Elsewhere, Amanda Peacher photographed the "Captain" in desert winter camo, and PBS explained where the Mormon symbolism comes from.

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog covers more of the characters, and the months-long conspiracy between Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne to launch their sedition.

Reporter Amanda Peacher speaks with OPB as the "situation grows in complexity."

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty told a meeting in Burns last night that the occupation was costing taxpayers an estimated $60,000 to $75,000 a day, and “We’re going to send Mr. Bundy the bill.”

Megyn Kelly (whom I did not know is "a trained attorney," but AddictingInfo tells us) had Ammon Bundy on her show a week ago now, and asked the simple question, "how is what you're doing not lawlessness?"

"Well... um, I think we have to go to the supreme law of the land to answer that question," he started.

Love the hard stare Kelly delivers while Ammon bumbles along. He and his gang also need "a tenuous interpretation of constitutional language and the rejection of about 125 years of Supreme Court decisions, in Politifact's estimation, lest their pants be on fire. (OTOH, after another week out on the Oregon desert in winter, pants on fire might be welcomed.)

11.Jan.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Home invasion Permalink to this item

The Malheur NWR is actually known for listening to ranchers and there are plenty of them and sportsmen who are happy to speak up for it. I'm sure ranchers don't get all they want out of the resource managers, but as noted a few days ago, and as documented in excruciating detail (because that's what our federal agencies do), refuge management spent 5 years coming up with the most recent resource plan.

Ryan Bundy, a pustulent boil on the posterior of the nation, and three snacks short of a happy meal, is given the opportunity to share his opinion with the rest of us, every bit as intelligently as say Rush Limbaugh, on climate change. The violation is considerable.

Travis Longcore's eloquent statement in support of biologist Linda Sue Beck spells out the "attack on the value and worth of science and scientists in the United States." From the pathetic likes of Ryan Bundy. The photos posted to Buzzfeed are nauseating.

I will say, Matt Taibbi's The Dumb and the Restless cheered me up after all that.

What you don't understand Permalink to this item

Sort of, but not quite on the other side of the argument, here's real-by-god Oregon rancher Keth Nantz, manager at Dillon Land and Cattle in Maupin, one county over from Harney, to tell us what he thinks you don't understand about the Bundy standoff, starting with the rather preposterous subhead that the Obama administration, in particular, has pushed his livelihood to the brink.

He loves ranching, he works damn hard, he's a jack of all trades and for the federal land he uses, he has "to follow an unfair, complicated and constantly evolving set of rules." (To meet federal law and stuff. Thanks, Obama.) Something about the "the sage grouse, a chicken-like bird." For which, yeah, "we ultimately found middle ground," but it took time out of his busy days. And nobody understands his business and environmental stewardship the way he does. Nobody. He needs more "autonomy."

Also, there's nothing actually about the Bundys, or the Hammonds, and Harney County in what he has to say. Just sort of here's why we're all so unhappy.

Armed and dangerous Permalink to this item

Stuff just got real for one of the salami-sucking militia-men at the Wildlife Refuge. 79-Year-Old Bird Watcher Takes Down Oregon Militant With Old High School Wrestling Move. But on a much more serious note, Chris Dempsey has some things he'd like to say to the Bundys and their pals.

"You are carrying firearms and threatening to commit violence if you don't get your way. You say you want this to be a peaceful protest, but in the same breath you warn that you will fight and die for your cause. You bluster, trying to provoke a response, all the while using the media to protect you and further your cause.

"You are abusing your rights as an American. There are legal ways to change systems if you feel that they aren't working. I have heard nothing from you about your responsibilities, only demands about what you want, though ultimately, what you want is to control a resource that belongs to me and to every other American. Public lands are our birthright, and you have no right to commandeer them for your own purposes.

"Frankly, I don't want my land – which includes all the federal land in the West – turned over to people who behave like you. I want to be free to hunt, fish, hike, ride my horse, my mountain bike or all-terrain vehicle, to picnic, camp, and to bird watch on the nation's vast tracts of federal ground, and I don't want to have to ask for your permission to do so...."

We're going to have more facts than we know what to do with, thanks to Idaho and Washington legislators going to Harney Co. to find some, and lots and lots of live media coverage of the Bundy gang committing crimes. Today's take includes destroying government property (using government tools, no less), and fishing through government files (but not computers? If that's true, it's only because they're not bright enough, or the login security is sufficient for the moment) for something they hope will justify all the crimes they're committing.

Except, the felonies will remain. And they're armed while committing them, so add to the severity and sentences. (Let's hope the sentence includes replacing fence with nothing but hand tools.)

Seems like we should have found ample facts to have them all arrested. We need to get some taxpayer dollars to work over there.

Cutting edges Permalink to this item

It seems a bit ironic to write about stuff in last week's newspaper under that title, but in spite of the feeling that everything is right now on your phone, well, two print stories about phones. Out of last Sunday's (8 days ago now!) NYT Business section: Growing Up Mobile and Electrifying India, with the Sun and Small Loans.

(Meta-backstory: looking for the articles online, searching with the printed titles and authors' names, the one from India pops right up, and the one from our first world is buried under layers to an audio version offered by audible, an amazon company, that you can get free with a 30-day trial membership or for $0.95, "à la cart," as it were. At least for this moment,, and have gamed DuckDuckGo's search results for this item and taken the top four spots. Checking Google, which I rarely do any more, I see the print item is still feeling lucky there, with a Jan. 1 dateline, and the same-as-print Jan. 3 in the URL.)

Millennials, we're told, hitting their economic stride, "at about 18 to 35 years old, are old enough to buy cars, homes and other big-ticket items." That'll be lucrative, but big ticket items seem kind of old-fashioned already, don't they? What are the post-millennials up to? Growing up online is all well and good, but now we're cooking up a generation of Gen X-offspring, growing up on-phone. This:

On Instagram, you have to be careful not to clog your friends’ feeds with a barrage of low-quality pictures that might annoy them.

They also regularly delete their Instagram photos so that their profiles never have more than a handful at a time. For comparison, I’m a medium-level Instagram user and have several hundred. They reacted to this information as if it were the smell of warm garbage.

“I have zero right now,” Lucy said.

“Yeah, ’cause I’m like, ‘Oh wait, I look stupid in this one,’ ” Leila said.

Boxing Day 2015

On the other side of the world, "about a quarter of the world’s off-the-grid people," roughly the same number as the whole population of the U.S., live in India, "in remote, rural communities ... or in informal urban settlements," and the most challenging daily "app" is finding electricity to recharge a phone. "Rural electrification" was a thing in this country, back when we had 6 million farms. (We still have two million or so, more than I would have guessed. Half are in the "economic sales class" below $10,000/year.)

"Informal urban settlements" are ones with no particular name (the one featured is identified by a nearby highway overpass), "where homes are often makeshift and temporary," and someone in the solar power business will need to worry "whether his home will be razed or if he’ll be able to generate electricity during the long weeks of monsoon rains, or dense winter fog, when lighting is more important than ever." Never mind collecting payments from customers with income of a couple dollars a day at best.

One of the important factors from the customer's point of view is whether they can trust the vendor enough to leave their phone while it's charging, or if they need to stand by, to keep it from being stolen.

These "informal" neighborhoods are also "where almost all of the net growth in India’s population is projected to occur" at the same time as the prime minister has "pledged to achieve universal electrification in India by the end of 2022. His main effort is adding hundreds of new coal plants, which have contributed to near-apocalyptic pollution levels across large swaths of the country."

The microeconomics of electrification in India may turn out to be more important to U.S. post-millennials than their daily score of upvotes for curated celebrity selfies.

9.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's talk about poverty Permalink to this item

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) led the Jack Kemp Foundation discussion about poverty in this country and made some news. (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz couldn't be bothered to attend.) Republican candidates for president offering solutions to poverty, tell us more.

Neither party's done a lot, but is poverty even less of a priority for the Republicans? Scott "wouldn't go that far."

Democrats just want to increase spending. (And, uh, Republicans just want to reduce it. But they call it "free market economy.") Does it mean anything that Trump didn't attend? Scott said "not to me." They had six "leading" candidates present and talking. (Sounds kind of like the self-esteem movement. Mike Huckabee, "leading"?)

Scott and Ryan wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal, trying to "attract good ideas that solve problems for anyone who has challenges in this country, if we can do so." (I can provide the link to their commentary, but I can't help you with the paywall. Yeah, that's right; their "cure for liberal failures on poverty" is protected by a paywall.)

Scott doesn't see the federal government "as a panacea to all problems." Pretty sure that would be a unaminous sentiment, wouldn't it? Let's work together as Americans to solve problems. Bipartisanship, don't you know. From the interview on All Things Considered today:

NPR: "There's a line in your piece that you wrote with Paul Ryan, you said 'we expect the candidates will have their differences, but that's only because they have ideas, which is more than the other party is offering.' Is that really fair?

Scott: Well, I've listened to the other side critique where we are on the issue of poverty too, so I'm not gonna, really, speak to the issue of fairness, because I think the fact of the matter is that when you're in a competition for the hearts and the minds of voters that you're going to, uh, to do all that you can to encourage and persuade them your way.

NPR: Ok. But I think the other side would say that supporting an increase in the minimum wage, addressing the issues around child care, things of that sort, are also 'ideas.' They happen to be different ideas.

Scott: Michelle, I think you're right, I think those are ideas, and uh, I'm open to a debate on those ideas. I am suggesting that we have had seven years of experimentation and it has not produced results, to lower the percentage of Americans in poverty, and frankly, the number of Americans depending more on the government has increased. I think we can do better.

Hence, the "expanding opportunity" meme, and ironically enough, the six candidates who did show up (Rubio, Kasich and Huckabee in one session, and Bush, Carson and Christie in another) often agreed with each other. (It's easier to agree in small groups. Of one party.)

8.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And in less interesting news from the stump Permalink to this item

Ted Cruz promises, if elected, "to rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive order taken by this president." In other words, he promises to stick to the "do nothing" GOP playbook.

3% guaranteed Permalink to this item

Perhaps contrary to the previously press released division, it's now reported that the III% of Idaho has gone to the MNWR to "secure a perimeter," which should provide for concentric wing-nuts.

"If they weren't here," [Ammon] Bundy said, referring to the Idaho group, "I'd worry" about a Waco-style siege by federal officials.

Seems like a bit of projection, there, but ok.

And I'm just real sure the community of Burns will sleep more comfortably tonight knowing that Brandon Curtiss and Chris McIntire are their "double-edged sword," not only protecting Y'all Quaeda from LEOs but also the locals "from those who arrive in solidarity with Bundy's cause but may be prone to violence."

Now back to "Hee Haw" Permalink to this item

Jen Hayden posts to DailyKos that there's trouble brewing as one member goes AWOL "and allegedly drank away their donations." Some of the military cred doesn't check out, who could have guessed that. What's this about a motel timeout and snacks at local restaurants? And Wednesday night was fight night at the Refuge HQ. (Please don't call it "the Bundy compound.") J Dog ended up in the hospital with a black eye. (I hope he had health insurance.) From Kelly House at The Oregonian:

By Thursday morning, the counter-protesters were back at their post across the street. Animosity from last night's fight remained intense. Conservative radio host Pete Santilli, arguing the outside group "escalated" things, traded harsh words with Arthur.

"I'm about to (expletive) your day up!" Santilli yelled as he stormed away from the outsiders' tent. "You (expletive) with the wrong person, you (expletive) crackhead!"

All hat, no cattle Permalink to this item

Timothy Egan's inimitable, razor-sharp take on the topic of the day, our beloved western crackpots:

"Yes, it’s comical — white privilege mixed with a “Hee Haw” parody. The only thing Bundy and his fellow burglars have accomplished thus far is to leave behind enough evidence for prosecutors to file numerous criminal charges against them.

"But this Gang That Can’t Protest Straight is not far removed from a better-dressed crowd in Congress pushing for radical change in the nation’s public land endowment. The locked-and-loaded crazies in the Oregon high desert are using the same language as Republican legislators who want to take away an American birthright."

Count us among the overwhelming majority of Westerners who enjoy public lands for recreation, wildlife, history, open space, clean water, and yes, for the natural resources that can be sustainably, or at least responsibly harvested. There have been a few good birder jokes in the current dust-up, but Egan's take on the economic angle—660,000 jobs, by the FWS' estimate, versus 20,000 jobs running cows—is one I hadn't seen just yet.

"Imagine if a bunch of birders, lathered in sunscreen, their heads covered in floppy hats, took over a federal facility to protest the innumerable predations of wildlife habitat by cattle ranchers."

Egan makes the same point that Rocky Barker did in his (excellent) "Letters from the West" column for the Idaho Statesman yesterday, too: most ranchers are decent, hard-working businesspeople who get about their business without a lot of commotion and who love the land. The Bundy fools are wrecking the brand, to put it mildly, and they're not even ranchers.

Update: Here's one Harney Co. rancher who spoke her mind at the town hall meeting in Burns this week. Georgia Marshall doesn't need no stinkin Bundys to speak for her, thankyouverymuch.

About that "abandoned building" Permalink to this item

As noted yesterday, in Dana Milbank's commentary about the "Conversations with Conservative" GOP's sympathy for sedition, one of the members, Idaho's district 1 Rep. Raúl Labrador is quoted:

“You have just a frustration that they feel the federal government is not listening to them anymore, and that’s what leads to what so far has been a peaceful takeover — of an abandoned building, by the way — and the media, I think, is so quick to sort of cast aspersions on that group of people.”

Casting aspersions is so nicely dressed for its visit to the nation's Capitol, lawerly suit-and-tie speak decorous. That darn media! (Which he can't get enough of, when they'll let him talk.) Lisa Rein's report for The Washington Post today provides a little bit more information about why nobody was home when the Bundys showed up to "peacefully takeover" without firing a shot. So far. The government closed its offices in Oregon days before the armed takeover due to fears of violence.

"The protesters, with harsh anti-government rhetoric and an aggressive social media campaign, began stalking some federal employees as they left work and leaving threatening messages on office phones, officials said. Some employees reported cars they did not recognize parking on the street outside their homes at night."

Unbelievable, unbelievable Permalink to this item

The most charitable way to interpret Donald Trump's directive to his security team yesterday is that he was "just being funny," and let's hope they didn't follow his instruction to add theft to what I imagine would have been assault and battery going on in the back of the hall.

"Throw them out into the cold," Trump barked at security, urging them several times to move faster. "Don't give them their coats. No coats! Confiscate their coats... It's about 10 degrees below zero outside... You can keep his coat; tell him we'll send it to him in a couple of weeks."

But that's not funny, actually, and neither is the shouting mob of supporters for our orange-haired, wannabe dictator.

"My people are the most loyal of anybody, I can do anything."

That's ten-degrees-below-zero chilling.

The Conversation Permalink to this item

The flood of interesting writing about eastern Oregon brought me to a well-designed and interesting site I had not encountered before, The Conversation, styling itself as having "academic rigor, journalistic flair," and with five editions: United States, Australia, Africa and the UK in English; and one for France, in French. It offers a choice of RSS feeds from eight categories for each edition, or "all" of any edition, or all articles in the language you prefer.

What brought me in was Char Miller's backgrounder on the Malheur occupation in Oregon: whose land is it really? That references a number of the historical facts I've been reading about in the last week; a book that's waiting for me to pick up at the library (Nancy Langston's Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed); the sorry history of the Paiute inhabitants who were pushed aside when the white folk showed up; and the landmark Supreme Court decisions in 1911, Light v US and US v Grimaud.

This and a couple other articles I've looked at this morning appear to be thoughtful and well-written, and I'm adding their feed to my toolbar.

7.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Head 'em up and round 'em out Permalink to this item

Your daily menagerie from the wild west.

Dana Milbank on the GOP's sympathy for sedition, or "civil disobedience" as next-door Representative Raúl "new ideas about how to undermine the government in which they serve" Labrador styles it, with a stupid little twist at "the liberal media" to boot. You might think Labrador could at least show some awareness of facts concerning the Congressional district just over border, but no. I'm surprised he didn't mention the Bundy gang finding all the keys they needed to take over "an abandoned building, by the way." That's as in "abandoned" over the holiday weekend.

David Neiwert for SPLC: the "Patriots" are infighting, the Bundys revolting to their fellow travelers as well as the rest of us, never mind the supposed beneficiaries of their outrage disclaiming any appreciation. None of the Hammonds, the III%ers, "Sheriff" Richard Mack, Stewart Rhodes or the Bearded Bastards are giving them any love. At least God is on their side, though.

Jon Krakauer for HuffPo: The Fundamentalist Religious Views That Inspired Ammon Bundy and his pals. It's "a maverick strain of fundamentalism found throughout rural Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada" that Krakauer "became intimately familiar with" in his research for Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. He excerpts his prologue, and provides the whole chapter 12 for "insight not only into the rationale given by the Lafferty brothers to justify these murders, but also into the rationale offered by the Bundy brothers for their own transgressive acts."

Joshua Keating's gif the Giftie gie us: #OccupyOregon described "using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries." "The events in Oregon suggest that militant factions may be taking advantage of the power vacuum caused by America’s political dysfunction to increase their territorial control in areas where the government’s control is weaker."

The most local of the folks in Burns don't believe Ammon and all are actually interested in handing land over to them.

LaVoy Finicum is thinking it's about time to come out from under the tarp and maybe skedaddle back south to round up his own cows.

Around the world on this day Permalink to this item

Back in the day, I scribbled notes in various forms of bound paper. Ideally, blank books, but occasionally somewhat looser leaves. For my bike trip across the country, I had a Wisconsin Historical Society 1976 engagement calendar with lovely photographs facing one page per week. My attention to detail was thus constrained, and my ability to write very, very small tested. I'm pretty sure I had a camera, but film and developing were precious in a way that seems impossible to describe compared to current circumstances, and besides, who knows where they've gotten to?

The genre of "travel blog" has been ripening, nicely, over half the time since, most notably from Philip Greenspun's Travels with Samantha, which I see remains a model of durable content on the web, and, incredibly, dates back to 1993. It's way more texty than things are today, but that's the way the world was back then. People had time to read, and hyperlinks connected things, rather than being a bottomless kaleidoscope.

Crop of Flaglob's photographic print, image from Corbis, served by the NYT

These journeys come to mind courtesy of the NYT's Thursday Briefing mention that Thomas Stevens completed "a trip around Earth by bicycle, on this day in 1887." That's a hell of a trick any old year, but an astounding idea in 1887. The NYT has a thumbnail image of Mr. Stevens ("photographed by Flaglob" says the caption, credited to "Corbis"), which is artfully screened, and reduced from a 1621 x 2048 px digital rendering. (The NYT's clever web design scales it as big as your browser window, which for me can only be about half their source file. And the rest of the embedded cleverness coming to us from 129 years past allows it to scale beautifully: the cropped portion here is at about 50%.)

The brief includes hyperlinks to Ray Schumacher's "Project Gutenberg" scan of the text (Volume 1 and Volume 2), and the 2007 NPR Weekend Edition Saturday feature about the trip, and the book compiled from the letters he sent to Harper's Magazine, blogging as he went, as it were. Of course, and inevitably, there is a Wikipedia entry for Stevens, with some more illustrations. (You can probably track down a hard cover copy of "Around the World on a Bicycle" or a much cheaper paperback, or get it for your Kindle for $2.99.)

"Mr. Stevens moved to the United States from England in the 1870s. He bought his first bicycle, a penny-farthing with one large wheel, in San Francisco and dreamed of becoming the first person to cross America on a bicycle. When he felt ready, he donned a jacket that doubled as a tent and headed for the East Coast on April 22, 1884.

"He made it to Boston 103 days later. Plans for a global journey began to take shape.

"The next spring, Mr. Stevens started in England and headed east through Europe and the Ottoman Empire. He continued on to Persia, Afghanistan, India, China and Japan, before returning to San Francisco."

Epiphany Permanent URL to this day's entry

Worn out their welcome Permalink to this item

Not a big surprise, but majority of Harney Co. residents think the Bundy clan should leave. The Sheriff asked the capacity crowd at the fairgrounds today "Who wants the Bundys to go?"

"Nearly every hand in the room shot up."

Bird identification Permalink to this item

Charles Pierce is reliably entertaining, and pretty much spot on (imho) in regard to the armed sedition in Oregon. The pistol-packing, flag-waving, fed-hating rabble are ready to rally, even if they're slightly disagreeable about which particular incident should trigger the actual revolution.

"There is no actual tyranny in this country against which to take up arms. There is bureaucratic inertia. There is pigheaded bureaucracy. There even is political chicanery. But there is no actual tyranny in the Endangered Species Act, or in the Bureau of Land Management, or in the Environmental Protection Agency, or in the Affordable Care Act, or in IRS dumbassery, or even in whatever it is that the president plans to say about guns in the next week or so. Anyone who argues that actual tyranny exists is a dangerous charlatan who should be mocked from the public square. Anyone who argues that there is out of political ambition, or for their own personal profit, should be shunned by decent people until they regain whatever moral compass they once had.

"It does us no good to ignore what is going on in this obscure little corner of the Pacific Northwest. It does us no good to refuse to hold to account the politics that led to this, and the politicians who sought to profit from it. It does us no good to deny that there is a substantial constituency for armed sedition in this country, and to deny the necessity of delegitimizing that constituency in our politics, and the first step in that process is to face it and to call it what it is."

Riding the range Permalink to this item

The venerable High Country News has been covering the so-called Sagebrush rebellion for four decades, coincidentally how long it's been since I moved from the midwest to Idaho. Our subscription lapsed for many years, as the web pushed aside our time to follow thoughtful coverage in periodicals, but we recently re-upped for hard copies (and immediately fell behind in our reading). They've got a website too, of course, and a generally tight paywall, but in light of the Bundy gang in Oregon, they're loosening that up a bit, and it's easier to have a look at their deep, durable archive. Their index of Forty years of Sagebrush Rebellion has links to more than sixty items.

The Hammonds' affairs first made news in HCN as Ranchers arrested at wildlife refuge, in 1994, when they reported that Dwight Hammond "had made death threats against managers of the refuge in 1986, ’88 and ’91." And now HCN provides the Malheur occupation, explained. The divisions among the anti-federal factions are worth noting, with the founder of Oath Keepers calling Ammon Bundy's messages "confusing and contradictory." Idaho's 3%-ers were among those willing to peacefully demonstrate in Burns, but not so willing to occupy territory in this particular instance. On Jan. 2, they made it clear that the "premeditated actions" taken by some of the rally-goers were uncondoned and unsupported by them.

In a press release posted to Facebook last night, they announced that "While those within the Pacific Patriots Network, Idaho 3%, Oregon 3%, COCG, ORTAC, and The Bearded Bastards were not involved with the execution of the peaceful takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Building in Harney County, Oregon we do agree with the statement that is trying to be made," and did their best to downplay the armed revolution angle. It's "no different than a sit in protest at a college." So far. And sit-in protesters at colleges do not actually have a history of making death threats against any and all government officials with enough credibility to prompt closing city halls, a courthouse, and other public schools.

Facts are all-too easily made up, such as "ranchers have been abused by the federal government," or as in Ammon Bundy's performance in Monday's media gaggle, that "We hold compelling evidence that the U.S. Government abused the federal court system, situating the Hammond family into duress as effort to force the Hammond's to sell their Steen Mountain property to a federal agency.” Once we find some kangaroos, Bundy court will be in session. The 3%-ers now claim that from afar that "the buildings were unlocked and completely accessible." (That's even jollier than the previous claim from the occupiers that "we found a bunch of keys." ) And, preciously:

"The organizations involved in this statement implore the public and media sources to publish and promote only facts as this situation develops."

Hear, hear. Start with the letter from District of Oregon Acting U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, to the citizens of Harney County, Oregon, who provides the backstory on the Hammonds offenses, trial, and conviction, "what occurred publicly in an open courtroom," as opposed to what's being bandied about in social media.

June, 2004 photo

Kirk Johnson's and Jack Healy's reporting for the New York Times provides useful Bundy lore, the gang who are not from around there, acting as if all ranchers share a common cause—their confused and contradictory cause—in fighting the government. Never mind the discount grazing fees on public land, infrastructure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s (including the not-open-to-the-public tower, beloved of turkey vultures, and militiamen wannabes), the various forms of support (and yes, regulations), including cash payments. Nancy Langston's NYT op-ed, In Oregon, Myth Mixes With Anger, paraphrases this "interesting version" of history:

"Before the federal agencies came, they said, we lived in paradise. The grass was thick, the water was abundant and the towns were thriving. We were independent, working out our problems. When the feds came, they stole our resources, and our economies collapsed."

There's a lot of real history from 125 years to pack into a short piece, but consider it the long-distance view of cycles of boom, bust, exploitation and, in the rare case, collaboration. In that last regard, the most recent update of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan gives a picture of what the jackbooted forces of government tyranny have been up to. Seven pages of Appendix J, "Public Involvement," starting on page 289 of the 463 page PDF comprising the 19 appendices, lists the meetings with congressional representatives, tribes, elected officials, community and business organizations, agencies, academia, an ecology work group, six open houses, 18 "listening posts/displays," more than two dozen meetings with individuals (including Steve, Dwight, and Susie Hammond, neighboring landowners and former permit holders, in Frenchglen, July 2009), workshops, field reviews, distribution of four planning updates, the draft CCP and Environmental Impact Statement, and publishing the final CCP and EIS in December, 2012.

One short excerpt from the Executive Summary (with my emphasis) hints at why we might care about these public lands, owned in common by citizens of the United States, and thanks to the Bundy boys for prompting me to look it up:

"The Refuge now encompasses 187,757 acres that are a small part of the northern Great Basin. The Refuge is disproportionately important as a stop along the Pacific Flyway, and as a resting, breeding and nesting area for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and other wildlife. Many of the species migrating through or breeding here are highlighted as priority species in national bird conservation plans. Historical bird counts show that Malheur Refuge and the adjoining Silvies River floodplain to the north may support between 50 percent and 66 percent of the Pacific Flyway’s migrating bird populations for various priority waterfowl."

Peter Cashwell notes that the "loudly proclaimed defense of principle [is] intended to cover up a land grab. And the land being grabbed? It’s ours." It's the same story that's been running since Manifest Destiny, but particularly in this "rebellion" of the modern-day grabbers.

"I value my time on these refuges deeply, but I am also well aware that anything I see there — everything I see there — can also be seen by anyone who follows me. When I use that land, I do not use it up.

"And that, I think, is where Mr. Bundy and his followers miss the point: When land is held by the federal government they so despise, that land belongs to us all. You cannot “reclaim” territory for the “people” if they already own it. The seizure of Malheur is an attempt to claim the land, at the point of a gun, for unnamed individuals, all while taking it away from every other American. Whatever this action may be, it is not patriotism."

5.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Did they spot any birds? Permalink to this item

It should be all over but the shooting (if we're going to shoot it out), and the going to jail. There definitely needs to be some Bundys going to jail after this latest episode. But no, there are a lot more sound bites and video bites and interviews and pictures to take and talking heads to bloviate and bloggers to blog first.

The page on Reuters includes more than two dozen photos, but the first one is the 1,000 word summary: a row of trucks with satellite uplinks connecting a big circle of media waiting on each precious word from the much smaller gaggle of protesters.

Jim Urquhart photo for Reuters, reposted for commentary

Ammon Bundy with a row of microphones. A self-styled Patriot leading the media on a tour. Skull and crossbones livery. Lots of nice posing for the FBI's identification. Ample evidence of ongoing criminal trespass.

We've heard what they have to say, and it's not revolutionary. Practically speaking, the the show is over. Pack it up, go home, let them freeze or thaw or cook their wienies, open the schools in Burns and start ignoring them as a useless burden on civilization.

4.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mansion to zero in 10 days Permalink to this item

News and the wrecking ball (or backhoe, as the case may be) arrived on the same day, to transform potato king J.R. Simplot's ostentatious house on the grassy knob to a pile of debris. (The rummage and salvage are going to the Idaho Youth Ranch and the unnamed contractor, according to the Statesman's report.) They've lowered the flag for the duration, but promise to put it back up when the demolition is done. It's a nice hill for a gigantic flag, anyway.

It's true what they say: you can't take it with you. And after you're gone, there's a good chance that what you valued most of all might not catch anyone else's fancy.

“There’s no use for the house that anyone could find,” family spokesman Ken Dey said. “None of the family members felt comfortable moving into J.R.’s house, and by selling they would have lost control of the land, so it was agreed that, rather than continuing to maintain the vacant home, taking it down was the best option.”

It was supposed to turn into the Governor's residence and Simplot family tax write-off, but ex-son-in-law Clement L. "Butch" Otter had no interest in living up there, either.

Bad dealing Permalink to this item

Take it with a grain of salt lick but this fellow from the Cato Institute figures "there are no good guys to cheer for in the militia takeover."

That's not actually based on law enforcement currently no-showing and keeping their action plan to themselves, but rather the argument that it's possible to find fault in everyone's action, so no cheering. One bad side is the Hammonds lighting misguided "management" fires in 2001 and 2006. (Apparently O'Toole's wayback machine didn't go all the way to 1994.) And of course the overly punitive government, treating ranchers lighting fires and endangering firefighters as "terrorism" when come on.

No good guys #3 are the Bundy clan, pretty much goes without saying.

It's not really highlighted, but that deal back in 1978 when ranchers got a cut-rate deal for grazing on public land in a $100 million per year subsidy did not make them eternally grateful. Instead, "many people, including some agency officials, view the ranchers as freeloaders and their livestock as invasive species damaging the habitat for native fish and wildlife."

It turns out that if you don't pay enough for something, you might not value it the way you should. The 93% discount looks like a bad deal all the way around.

Range wars Permalink to this item

In one of the many social media threads I've seen in the last couple of days, one friend of a friend said "If you understand the whole story you would be supporting them." (My friend said huh uh, and "I know more than you might imagine.") There wasn't a lot of follow-on explanation, but the wife (I imagine) of the friend of a friend said "Ruby Ridge" and FOAF added "It is a long sad history of a plan to remove farmers [sic] from their land. The Hammonds are just the last hold outs."

Ruby Ridge (and the Branch Dividians, for that matter) has been amply worked over, but if we're playing Darmok and Jalad... at Tenagra, I'd just say Claude Dallas. Let's hope, along with Ted Cruz, that this episode doesn't end with cold-blooded murder, the way that one did.

The history of assumed privilege and confrotation goes back a lot farther than that, however. High Country News covered an earlier dust-up between the Hammonds and the Wildlife Refuge, when felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors after the Hammonds tried to assert all your base are belong to us, since 1871.

"The events of Aug. 3 [1994] are outlined in the sworn affidavit of special agent Earl M. Kisler, who assisted in the Hammonds' arrest. On the day the fence was to be built, the crew and refuge officials arrived to find Hammond had parked his Caterpillar scraper squarely on the boundary line and disabled it, removing the battery and draining fuel lines. When a tow truck arrived to move it, Dwight Hammond showed up, leaped to the controls of the scraper and hit a lever that lowered the bucket, narrowly missing another special agent. Meanwhile, said Kisler, Steve Hammond shouted obscenities at federal officials. Neither Hammond resisted arrest."

From the NPR Ethics Handbook (and USC) Permalink to this item

NPR Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott on what language to use and not use regarding "The Occupation in Oregon." No funny hashtags there, it's all business. Not "militia" or "militiamen" on their own. They're not that organized. "Self-styled," maybe. Not a "standoff," because local, state and federal law enforcement is playing it real cool. "Protesters" isn't quite enough. "Armed occupiers" is correct. Avoid labels.

But there are some legal particulars worth reviewing, including 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115—TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES. In particular, §2384. Seditious conspiracy:

"If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."

(H/t to Bubblehead for the citation.)

And here's stranger than fiction: Ted Cruz offering "prayers for everyone involved" (especially law enforcement) and "our hope that the protesters will stand down peaceably." The voice of reason, did not see that coming.

New year rodeo Permalink to this item

While the Twitter torrent has its attractions (including the comic selection of hashtags I've been repeating, like #VanillaISIS, and the delicately perfect "white privilege performance art" descriptor), and there's no substitute for reporters actually on the scene (the latest update within the hour:

Harney County courthouse is closed. So are the schools. Militants threat has shut this place down.

— Ian Kullgren (@IanKullgren) January 4, 2016

), there's something to be said for the full-on newspaper account with the time to sort out facts and claims and add a map of the venue (off "Sodhouse Lane," no less).

location map

The performance art aspect is certainly on display: the Malheur occupiers were letting reporters get close enough to provide local color, but not inside the stone cottage headquarters, to see how many people are actually there. (Count the cars and seats inside them for the high estimate; they'd need 30 or 40, at least, to have all their "survival gear" and generators with space for the 150 they claimed at some point. Don't forget to subtract the cars and trucks of "media staff," said to "easily outnumber the occupiers" this morning.)

Word is there wasn't too much breaking and entering; a 55-year old cattle rancher from Arizona who "found himself involved" "said none of the buildings had been damaged because doors had been open or keys could be found," which could well be true enough. Security can be casual when you're a hundred miles from nowhere and the population density is seven tenths of a person per square mile.

If you prefer your news analysis more open-source, there's already a Wikipedia page on the "militia occupation" enjoying a lively edit history, and providing more detail about the Hammond arson case than any current reporting had found room for over the weekend, as well as a useful synopsis of the "prelude" in December and the first two days of the new year. It doesn't—yet—circle 'round to the Bundy Bunch's particular brand of Mormonism, but John Sepulvado covered that for OPB. With one of the winter-camo protestors (militia fashion props!) calling himself "Captain Moroni, from Utah," it's certainly part of the story, as it was down on the Bundy ranch. There really was a (fictional) Captain of that name: c.f. Book of Mormon stories 32/54, the YouTube video helpfully embedded. In Ammon Bundy's performance at Harney County Town Hall #2, Dec. 15, it appears that he is mentally ill, and not just because he's claiming that God inspired him, personally, to do what he's doing. The tally of the left-behind:

The three Bundy sons in Oregon (Ammon, Ryan, and Mel) left a total of 19 young children at home.

— JJ MacNab (@jjmacnab) January 4, 2016

Update: More great background reporting: an interactive map of public and private lands in Oregon, from Mark Graves of The Oregonian. Note Burns in the middle of the largest portion of private land in gigantic Harney Co., and the preponderance of BLM land. The Wildlife Refuge was an innocent bystander, really, with convenient buildings for winter shelter.

Update #2: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. We are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can — and should — be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land."

3.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

YeeHawdists Permalink to this item

Ammon Bundy is an idiot. I was hoping to accentuate the positive for the new year, but this is just too much. Given an attentive reporter and a microphone, here he goes.

"We're out here because, um, the people have been abused long enough, really. Their lands and their resources have been taken from them, to the point where it's putting them, literally, in poverty. And um, this facility here [the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge] has been a tool of doing that. It is the people's facility, owned by the people..."

Yes, and "the people" are not just a rag-tag bunch of #YokelHaram making their "hard stand." And I'm betting the people of Harney County are a hell of a lot more fearful of the #Talibundy than of the federal resource managers, were not interested in the circus coming to town, and will be perfectly happy to support efforts to send the militia packing. Or starve them out, whatever. Well ok, having a bunch of reporters descend on the area might be a boost to the economy. This is a really slow time of year, after all, so there's that.

As for an appropriate law enforcement response, I'm with Jim Wright on this: wait them out.

Update: Among the reporting boots on the ground, Amanda Peacher, for OPB.

2.Jan.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Wildlife refuge Permalink to this item

Good news for Burns, not so good news for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge HQ, as the disgruntled dead-enders who wanted a showdown with the feds on Main Street had to settle for... taking over a federal building in the middle of the wide open spaces of eastern Oregon. 150 militia folk planning to hole up "for years" sounds like it's going to be one heck of a freaky campout. If the current weather pattern of extra cold and extra snow from El Niño continues, it seems like it would be a miracle if they make it to spring. The Donner party? Lord of the Flies? So many possibilities.

Other than the wear and tear on what I imagine was a perfectly nice wildlife refuge headquarters, this does seem like a good way to sequester a sizeable contingent of anti-social miscreants with as much buffer between them and civilization as possible.

And, eastern Oregon goes national. It'll be the militiapocalypse if they can figure out how to keep the food, fuel, Bud Lite and wingnut reinforcements coming in.

True, false, or self-fulfilling prophecy? Permalink to this item

Whichever, but probably "inevitable" that our ugliest American—and his supporters—would show up in a militant islamist recruiting film.

"[T]the billionaire developer, former reality TV star and Republican front runner, was shown in the 51-minute film making his December call for the United States to bar all Muslims from the country as his supporters cheered."

No amount of subsequent condemnation by other politicians is unlikely to erase that image any time soon.

We just can't believe this is happening Permalink to this item

Dell Raybould is pictured in his element, between two irrigation pumps with his pickup truck nearby. He's been a farmer a long time, so when something breaks, he can probably fix it himself, but if not, I assume he looks for qualified help from a family member or among his tight-knit community out in the desert of the Snake River plain.

When it comes to advice about science, and climate change, he thinks we should just “Listen to Rush Limbaugh once in a while. See what he thinks about it. He’ll tell you that this is just a bunch of nonsense.”

Never mind that Limbaugh is a big fat idiot, why should we care what an eastern Idaho potato farmer thinks about the climate? Because he represents District 34 in our legislature, and is the chairmain of the House Resources & Conservation Committee.

Reporting from around the state was assembled into the Idaho Statesman's week-long series on climate and economics in Idaho, and the finale of Bryan Clark's piece from the Idaho Falls Post Register wrapped things up in a celebration of ignorance from the state's leaders.

The President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Brent Hill (also from Rexburg), offered the gentlest of skeptical notions, "that the climate is warming, but it’s unclear how much is caused by human activity." Rep. Tom Loertscher, another House committee chair, from an unincorporated locale above the high end of the Snake River plain, Idaho Falls and Rexburg, made his little joke about how the difference between weather and climate confounds him. And his personal incredulity:

“We get climate change four times a year — it’s called the four seasons … I think we’re pretty vain if we think we can control the climate.”

That might be an overly generous assessment of the seasons at 5,750' above sea level, but he has two articles supporting his view about the whole planet, from a UK tabloid you never heard of, and a 2010 piece by a "retired environmental consultant" arguing that Global Warming is a Myth, and also some sort of conspiracy from all the people who stand to become fabulously wealthy through funding of research. Thank goodness for think tank consultants who can save us from the tyranny of duplicitous scientists.

"Loertscher’s view isn’t at the extreme end of the Legislature. Of nine lawmakers who responded to a four-question survey sent to all members of the Legislature by the Post Register, two said they don’t believe global temperatures are rising at all.

"That belief runs contrary to the evidence.

"This year was the hottest year in recorded history by global average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last year was the third-hottest. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. None of the 15 coldest years recorded occurred later than 1930."

2012 photo
It's not like we could measure the retreat of glaciers, or something.

Rep. Jeff Thompson (also from Idaho Falls—is there something in the water?), and the chairman of the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee works the false equivalancy, imagining that "scientists broadly disagree whether the climate is warming at all," which is not quite the same thing as what he's quoted as saying, that "you can find people who say that it’s not happening and people who say that it is happening." You can still find people who think the earth is a few thousand years old too.

Maybe even in Idaho's legislature.

Update: It wasn't obvious when I read Clark's piece, but I see here on that only 9 of the 105 members of the legislature answered the 4 question survey from the Post Register. Kudos to Rep. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls) for getting the correct answer:

“When we’re sick we go to a doctor, not an architect,” he wrote. “When we need our teeth fixed we go to a dentist and not a lawyer. If we have questions about global warming, it might be wiser to listen to majority opinions among the scientific experts rather than to some of our politicians."

New Year's Day, 2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Accentuate the positive Permalink to this item

Who knows how much scrutiny the Las Vegas Review-Journal will give Sheldon Adelson's wheeling and dealing now that the bazillionaire has brought it into the family, but this Dec. 18 piece (just a week after the family connection was revealed) is a hell of a story: Judge in Adelson lawsuit subject to unusual scrutiny amid Review-Journal sale. A Clark County, Nevada judge singled out for "scathing criticism" in a tiny newspaper on the other end of the country for her handling of lawsuits involving Adelson and Wynn Resorts Ltd.? By an author "whose byline is found only one other time in the archives of the Connecticut newspaper, on a review of a Polish restaurant."

"Attempts to locate [the author of the piece, Edward] Clarkin have been unsuccessful. Herald executives did not respond to requests for information, but a newspaper staffer said no one by that name works there."

The response from the CEO of the corporate parent of the new parent of the Las Vegas newspaper is precious. He "declined to comment" on the question of whether Adelson was involved in the directive to scrutinize any old judges and what a coincidence that one just happened to be working on cases against him. It was a "multistate, multinewsroom" investigation, sure enough, because two is "multi." (Also, "GateHouse management had attempted to get reporters from a Florida newspaper to investigate Las Vegas judges before forcing the assignment on the RJ.")

"I don't know why you're trying to create a story where there isn't one," [Michael] Reed[, CEO of New Media Investment Corp., the parent company of GateHouse Media] told an RJ reporter on Wednesday. "I would be focusing on the positive, not the negative." ...

"I just wish reporters had better hearts and better intentions than just trying to slam media companies trying to do good," he said.

As we wish Sheldon Adelson had a better heart and better intentions. (In case you haven't been following along and don't know who Sheldon Adelson is, Paul Krugman explains, and provided the link to the Review-Journal's coverage.)

"[W]why do we care? Because Mr. Adelson’s political spending has made him a huge player in Republican politics — so much so that reporters routinely talk about the “Adelson primary,” in which candidates trek to Las Vegas to pay obeisance."


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007