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.

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.

This week in the basket of absurdities.

 
 
In a strange political time, this week was maybe stranger than most. Let’s survey some strangeness.
 
Hillary Clinton still has the presidential virus bad, her fever hasn’t peaked, and some nursemaids are caring for her tenderly and taking her vapors quite seriously.
 
 
The self-driving, autonomous financial regulation vehicle called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in a headless stand-off with POTUS. The former agency head, Richard Cordray resigned and presumed to designate his chief of staff as Acting Director. The president of the United States has appointed someone else as Acting Director, pending confirmation of a replacement.What? The president is boss of the executive branch? Who knew? Confusion in the ant colony ensues.
 
 
Donald Trump tweets that Time was going to name him Man of the Year but he doesn’t want it. Neener neener. Time retorts it was not going to, so neener neener. Important national business.
 
 
Lois Lerner is asking the court to seal, burn, and bury her testimony in the civil lawsuit against the IRS for its predation of good Americans. She claims she and her family have received threats, and if the truth comes out, her life could be in danger. What a brilliant scheme for petty tyrants: The worse the abuse of citizens, the greater the need for permanent protective secrecy.
 
 
Democrats traditionally gathered in national and state events to celebrate annual Jefferson Jackson dinners. But, Jefferson and Jackson have become disreputable because of their unacceptable record on race and racism. So, searching for better lights to live by, the Democrats just observed the first annual Kennedy Clinton Dinner. Because those fellows’ records on sex and sexism is impeccable!
 
 
And then, from the superb crew at Powerline Blog, there’s this priceless photo of lout Charlie Rose interviewing louts Spacey, Franken, and Clinton. Wonder what they talked about.

It appears that the lefty paper the Guardian is shocked that Trump is trying to move the federal judiciary in a conservative direction.

And that’s only a bit of this week in absurdity.

 
 

Government is mostly malevolent–conscientious parent edition.

A Libertarian friend of mine, David K. Williams, likes to say: “Government is largely malevolent.” He posts this frequently on social media, along with a link to a story about some bureaucrat or petty tyrant making life harder, worse, or both for ordinary folks trying to do ordinary things. I think I will take after my friend David in this practice.

Today’s illustration is this outrage from a school district in Virginia. A mom has been criminally charged for the way she tried to protect her daughter from ongoing bullying at school. I’m confident this mom will not be convicted of anything. In a sane universe, which we may or may not inhabit, the charges will be dropped, and whoever decided to cite and or charge her will be tarred and feathered and humiliated.

But there is a more important point here. This is government. This is the mentality of government. A mom trying to protect her baby against bullying that school administrators were powerless or apathetic to remedy, puts a recording device in her daughter’s pack. It gets discovered.

Mom gets charged not only with felony wiretapping, but with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Let me be clear. This is not only outrageous rubbish, it is a manifestation of the controlling mentality. The mentality that exists mostly in government. Did any of the busy-bodies who reviewed this situation think: “Wow. Poor kid. Poor mom. What can we do to help solve this situation?” No. The execrable jackals were afraid of being embarrassed. They were ticked that a parent might permeate their sanctum. Someone went to the rule book and combed through, looking for ways to punish the rabble and make an example.

This is not unique. This is not rare. This is what happens when citizens challenge authority.

It is a mentality that can thrive only in the public sector. In the realm of free exchange, when a company abuses you, you can look to a competitor. In the realm of regulated living, when the bureaucrat takes an interest in you, you can only pray that he’ll apply a little soap as he goes about his business. Please read the story linked below and get mad, then take action.

The phone number for Norfolk Public Schools is (757) 670-3945

The phone number for the Norfolk Police Department Chief’s Office is (7575) 664-3277

The phone number for the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office is (757) 664-4444

 

Mom charged after putting recording device in daughter’s backpack

The New York Times’ creepy crush on Communism: Global Warming edition.

The New York Times has struck again in its strange gushes of infatuation with communism. Its latest is a vacuous reflection titled The Climate Crisis? It’s Capitalism, Stupid. Before digging into the sterile soil of this small plot of desert of logic, it is useful for context to recall the Times’ recent valentines to the bloodiest, most brutal ideology yet known on earth.
 
The Gray Lady apparently has slipped into nostalgic dementia for the days when its erstwhile Pulitzer scribe Walter Duranty wrote home about the glories of communism and scientific state planning even while, right under his nose, there were mass famines and slaughters that were exterminating tens of millions. What else would explain its recent paean 100 years of Communism, a series of columns airbrushing and romanticizing Marx’s spawn in the 20th century?
 
The various columns have to be seen and savored to be fully appreciated. There’s the heartwarming When Communism Inspired Americans. Too, there’s the heart wrenching What Killed the Promise of Muslim Communism? If you’re looking for something upbeat and racy, the Times is eager to explain Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism. Continuing the theme of doing right by the ladies, the Times also analyzes how Mao’s China lifted and empowered women.
.
There’s much more. The series includes primers on Bolshevism’s lessons for parenting as well as how early communists were models for future environmental activists. Which brings us up to November 2017 and capitalism’s sins against the mother planet.
.
In declaring that capitalism is the fire that will burn us all, one Benjamin Fong, a lecturer at Arizona State University offers no intelligent argument on global warming. He presents no substantive discussion of warming trends, warming causes, or warming consequences. He offers no explanation of how capitalism—free exchange really—is the driver of those trends. And he offers no description of the political-economic system he believes will cool the fire we face. He simply quotes a single scientist who reports global carbon emissions are on the rise. Fong doesn’t bother to invoke the proverbial 97%, Al Gore, or Michael Mann. He simply takes it for granted that invoking the C word makes his case. Readers will accept the reality of our coming doom and pine for solutions.
 
Fong’s omissions are not surprising in light of his light credentials to address his heated topic. Fong is not a climate scientist. Fong is not a political scientist. He’s not any kind of scientist. Fong is not an economist either. What is this lecturer from ASU, to whom the nation’s most arrogant newspaper leased a prized piece of opinion real estate?
 
Well, Fong’s bio on the university website informs us:”[Fong was at Princeton] Affiliate Scholar at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. His interests lie at the intersections of philosophy, psychology, critical social theory, and the study of religion.”
 
It further informs that Fong’s first book is: “Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism, which seeks to strengthen the psychoanalytic dimension of first generation critical theory in the hopes of rejuvenating its conception of subjection in late capitalism.” I don’t know what any of that means. I fed it through Google translate, but it came back word for word, verbatim verbatim the same. So, there we have it. Benjamin Fong is a non-professor who is interested in the intersection of religion and psychology and who hates capitalism. Sounds perfect for the New York Times. It’s a wonder NPR or PBS didn’t gobble him up first.
 
In any event, Fong’s thesis comes at an inconvenient time for the religion of warming hysteria. Temperatures aren’t keeping up with the doctored models. Consumers of popular American media like the Times wouldn’t know it, but, in light of step backed IPCC observations and hedged projections, even the oracle of mainstream scientific thought Scientific American recently reported: “Climate Change Will Not Be Dangerous for a Long Time.
.
That was no coldflash in the pan. The journal Nature GeoScience reported a recent study by several eminent climate scientists that concluded prominent models over-estimate the heat retaining effect of CO2 and underestimate the responsive dynamics of earth’s skies and oceans. Bottom line: Global warming is crawling to catch up with activists’ alarmism.
 
The Washington Post covered the Nature study with the headline: New climate change calculations could buy the Earth some time — if they’re right. The New York Times–America’s paper of record, that prints all the news that’s fit to print–evidently deems this study unfit to print. Instead, it cedes column inches to a religion/psychology-studying, capitalism-hating lecturer to inform us that the catastrophe of global warming is the fault of capitalism.
 
It’s a shame Fong’s enlightened thesis wasn’t available until after the Times ran its tribute to Red redistribution, tyranny, and massacre. It would have been a fitting addition.

The Media is a Declared Combatant in Press v. President

We live in uncomfortably interesting times. The brawling between President Trump and the media may be unprecedented. One part of the scrum is all too precedented, however. The media is portraying itself in a heroic light and smearing President Trump as a bully aggressor. This is self serving nonsense.

The media is an eager participant in this cage match. It means to take a president down. It has shown itself not above stretching or inventing facts to suit its narrative. Town Hall ran my column describing the latest volleys. Your comments would be welcome and appreciated.

https://townhall.com/columnists/shawnmitchell/2017/11/06/media-is-dirtier-than-it-accuses-trump-of-being-n2405272