My Political Obsession Suddenly Feels Like Emptiness

All across America, political animals are posting and arguing about what the Alabama election means. What the future holds for the US Senate. They’re scanning the blogosphere to find pundits they agree with, and pundits they disagree with.
They’re linking and counter-linking. I’m one of the worst offender addicts. Hi, I’m Shawn. And I’m a politoholic.
Today I’m coming up empty, exhausted, and numb. There has to be more in life to be happy or concerned about. Maybe I’ll think something say something, or write something tomorrow. Well, I guess I do have this sort of political thought right now–if the role of the federal government in controlling our life were smaller, then single elections wouldn’t be so consequential and consuming. .

Alabama Finally Puts Us Out of Our Misery, One Way Or the Other.

I don’t know Roy Moore from Adam. Here is what I do know about his political context.

He attended West Point in an era when standards apparently were tougher than the past Obama era and the avowed communist who recently graduated from West Point that his superiors were too weak and afraid to discipline.

He had a thing for dating younger women, including the one he married, without allegation of misconduct from any quarter, for three decades or so.

He was a controversial Alabama judge on the Supreme Court, hated by the Left, and removed by Alabama’s legal system for refusing a federal order to remove a 10 commandments memorial in his courtroom. Somehow, the allegations that would come to shadow his senate run never surfaced amidst all the controversy.

He announced he would run for the Senate vacancy created by Jeff Session’s appointment as Attorney General. This is a seat in a Senate divided by one or two seats. Suddenly, there are multiple allegations by multiple women of boorish behavior by a seeming sexual predator.

Except for this…none of these allegations surfaced decades ago. He was a controversial figure hated by the left. One of his worst accusers has admitted fabricating evidence to bolster her claim.

He is not accused of impropriety more recent than 30 plus years. Hard to defend against old charges. And if he is of the character the accusers describe, how could there not be new charges?

Oh, and this is in the context of a new totalitarian Left that manufactures fraudulent prosecutions against Ted Stevens to steal a Senate seat, and dossiers against Trump to manufacture resistance to an elected president.

I don’t love Roy Moore. I sure loathe and oppose the Left that wants to engineer his lynching. No, I don’t believe a vile syllable out of the mouth of this machine of civic deceit and will to control and crush opposition.

The Story of How Bing Crosby and David Bowie Came to Make Beautiful Harmony *UPDATED

[See the Update below]

It seems I have been missing a wonderful holiday tradition. I just discovered the unlikely pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing Little Drummer Boy–Peace on Earth. It works charmingly. The scene opens with some gentle deprecating banter between the two. Bowie mistakes Crosby for the new butler, and their little get-to-know-you chat leads them to the realization they both sing.

The duet almost didn’t happen, as Bowie rejected performing the Little Drummer Boy. He said he hated that song and was only doing the show because his mother loves Bing Crosby. Producers huddled and frantically reworked the piece, giving Bowie a counter melody Peace on Earth to compliment Crosby’s traditional rendering. Bowie liked that.

There was other give and take and mutual adjustment beyond just the music. In 2004, Crosby’s daughter recounted to the Associated Press the awkward initial moments after Bowie and his wife arrived on the set wearing full length mink coats and bright red hair and makeup, including lipstick. Producers prevailed upon Bowie to tone down his colorful appearance. The two performers felt each other out, and sensed the bond of shared musical talent, and sort of relaxed. A classic scene was born. Enjoy.



UPDATE: Will Farrell and John C. Reilly perform a tribute reenactment. Who knew they each had such nice voices? Anyway, they play the scene straight, except for a little punchline at the end…


Civil Debate about Bears Ears National Monument

I recently had this exchange with Ben Schneider, a former teacher and current author and publisher of climbing guidebooks.

SHAWN MITCHELL: Barack Obama unilaterally land-grabbed millions of acres of public lands at the end of his term under a strange law originally intended to preserve historic artifacts. Trump unilaterally whacked big chunks off of Obama’s grab.
Suddenly, America is restored to the land situation that existed in 2015. The horror.
All hell breaks loose. Trump hates wilderness!!! Trump wants to destroy national parks and monuments!!!
There is a way to preserve wilderness and open lands. All those beautiful acres are still out there. No golf courses or movie theaters or uranium mines erected or dug or drilled yet. But, presidential seizure under the antiquated Antiquities Act, especially against the wishes of the people who live there, is not the way a free society does it.

What Obama did by whim really can’t be the apocalypse when Trump later undoes half the whim. Right?


BEN SCHNEIDER: Obama’s designation here was far from a whim. Local republican lawmakers had tried for years to pass a federal bill protecting part of Bears Ears and also opening up large parts of it to mining development, oil & gas extraction, etc. it also would have permanently banned future antiquities act designations in a handful of Utah counties permanently. Those Utah lawmakers, Chaffetz and Bishop, failed to move that bill past committee. No democrats supported it but, but not all republicans supported it either. Chaffetz and Bishop couldn’t get it together, and alienated a coalition of 5 tribal nations with cultural claims to the area (who eventually walked away when they felt compromise was impossible). Their bill died. Meanwhile, because of the attention these lawmakers brought to the area, looting skyrocketed. There were 6 incidents of confirmed looting of Bears Ears native burial grounds in 2016 alone. At least 24 occurred in the five years previous. Can you imagine how many more actually occurred? Meanwhile the BLM did not increase law enforcement activity in the Bears Ears area.
So in summary the Utah lawmakers whose failed bill drew attention to the cultural richness of the area actually ended up in all likelihood increasing incidents of cultural looting AND the existing federal agency charged with protecting the area failed to respond. So what did Obama do, he used the Antiquities Act for exactly what it was meant for- to protect cultural resources from destruction. Local lawmakers were given a chance and they only made things worse.
Furthermore, I don’t know what you mean about the locals not supporting the designation. The five tribes with documented cultural claims to the area have long supported increased protections, and have a long record of lobbying and advocating for said protections. Frankly, given the generations of genocide (I use that word intentionally) the American government perpetrated against indigenous peoples, Obama’s rational designation of Bears Ears Natl. Monument is a drop in the proverbial bucket when it comes to making amends for the atrocities our forefathers committed against native peoples. And yeah, I give them a little more weight than some white locals who want to use the area for ATV fun or than I give to corporations who want to make a quick buck while they temporarily boost the local economy in a paltry way.
SHAWN: One question on the merits, the federal land managers you mention are, of course, part of the Department of the Interior. If this was about protecting antiquities, wouldn’t the reasonable course have been for Obama to order Secretary Salazar or Jewell to order the agency to do its job?
BEN: That’s a valid question Shawn. I’ve no idea what the answer to that is. But listen, I understand the argument I’m reading here about Federal overreach etc. I think there is probably some validity to that complaint. I guess at the end of the day I’m just not swayed by it, primarily because of the desire of Native Americans with cultural claims to Bears Ears to preserve the area. Historically, this country committed cultural genocide against the native inhabitants as we sought to expand and settle. We exterminated their cultures and peoples. American has never atoned for this, and we have never offered any significant reparations. Today most Native American populations are impoverished and struggling, which I think is directly attributable to the damage and havoc we created in their populations historically and never sought to repair. America has already benefited in significant, immeasurable and incalculable ways from the expansion of our geography that involved the theft of Native American lands and the exile of the native populations. Do we really need to continue to squeeze that lemon? Isn’t it time to start respecting the few indigenous voices left in this country? America has a tremendous debt here, and preserving and protecting Bears Ears in the ways the native populations desire is I think a small way to begin repaying that debt.
SHAWN: You make a moving argument, Ben. But I don’t know if addressing wrongs to Indians is a legal purpose of the Antiquities Act. Nor should the scope of atonement be committed to the president’s sole discretion.
BEN: Fair point about the purposes of the Antiquities Act.

A Few Thoughts on the Supreme Court Permitting Trump’s Travel Embargo to Go Forward.


There is something irksome about vehement Democrat resistance to stronger vetting of travel from a handful of select nations with terrorist networks and inadequate government functions to trust local records…

A. There are popularly circulating videos of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and most recently Diane Feinstein warning of the plague and cost of illegal immigration. Like within the last decade or so. Suddenly, though, Big Democrat Brother decided Oceana has never been at war with illegal immigration, and it is a racist thing to oppose.

B. There is an ideology with a declared hatred for Westerners and all infidels, and a current track record of shedding much blood to prove their sincerity. It doesn’t matter what percent of the population the nations feels this way. What matters is that in the aggregate there are thousands, and more importantly, that certain subcultures–whether they come radicalized or not–tend to self segregate and become radicalized.

C. The nations that are the target the selective travel embargo were not identified by Trump. They were identified by the Obama administration as having terrorist networks and inadequate government information judge non-violence. Moreover they comprise a tiny portion of 60 Arab or Muslim nations, giving the lie to the claim that the Order targets an entire religion. It targets failed and near-failed states with extremist networks.

D. Coming to the US is a globally prized privilege, not a basic civil right. Opponents of stricter vetting invoke abuses like the Japanese internment, when US citizens were stripped of rights and property and herded into encampments. I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks not inviting entrance to foreigners from declared hostile regions is similar to raiding and warehousing US citizens behind barbed wire is arguing from a brain made of warm pudding.


Can a River Identify as a Person?

This should be a stupid question, but, can a river identify as a person? Can it assert its personal rights in a court of law? What might those rights be? Freedom of speech? Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure or maybe from cruel and unusual punishment?
These and other questions come to mind in light of the spectacle transpiring in U.S. District Court in Denver as green loonies press their case to have the Colorado River declared a person with enforceable rights. It’s necessary to protect the essence of nature, they argue. People have rights. Corporations have rights. Natural resources need rights too, to balance the consumptive rights of people and to protect the earth.
Here’s the problem with that exotic thinking: Trees, mountains, rivers, and other gem components of nature don’t have minds to reason or mouths to speak. Any purported recognition of rights in nature necessarily creates a power struggle over which humans will define and advocate those “rights.” That reality highlights another reality: Nature is not comprised of moral actors with assertable feelings. It is a vast and diverse non-sentient resource of which humans are inhabitants and stewards.
Different societies in history have had varying understandings of utilization, consumption, preservation, and conservation. Varying systems of custom and law developed to embody the societies’ values and conclusions.
Here in the United States, for example, there is a complex web of different entities, groups, and authorities with an interest in human activity along major rivers such as the Colorado. There are property owners, cities, counties, and states. Land managers. Environmental regulators.
The latter groups in particular enforce various standards of cleanliness and orderliness, including laws addressing clean air, clean water, solid waste, development and construction, recreational activity and more. Societies come together politically—in the sense of civics and government—to set standards and priorities and to balance the array of human interests in natural resources.
Further, concerned citizens who believe property owners or government officials are falling short of agreed environmental standards usually have private standing to enforce those standards. They may bring citizen lawsuits to enforce laws about clean air, clean water, endangered species and more. The values that society has recognized all have advocates with the interest to protect those values.
The mystical invention of personhood for a river would simply invite one more voice clamoring for the interests that voice holds—and a power struggle over who that voice will be. Do rivers like fishing? Or rafting? Or do they want all people to be excluded from their banks and tributaries. Has the Colorado River weighed in on this? Perhaps Colorado’s recently stained Animas River has taken a recent intense dislike to bungling EPA bureaucrats and contractors and wants to banish them from the state.
Alas, since no one we know speaks River, we’ll probably have settle for the old system of muddling through based on accepted rights, interests, and laws.