From Public Lands: A Message To Trump

I recently ran across an ‘old’ photo — from 15 years ago — that somehow manages to define the current moment. Here’s proof that the collective message from Public Lands is SO COOL! 🙂

I suspect there are very few Public Land advocates/supporters out there who remain unaware that p Trump (I REFUSE! to use the word ‘president’ to describe that p.o.s.) is apparently going to leave no stone unturned in his quest to rid the nation of its National Forests, Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, Wilderness Areas, etc. He apparently thinks the world will be better served by turning the lands over to oil drillers, miners, loggers, developers — the most “appropriate” end user(s). I’ll not bother to cite chapter and verse evidence, simply note a small handful of links that only begin to describe what our p(os) is up to:

The battle for national parks and other federal lands under a Trump presidency

Dear President Trump: America’s most egregious “federal land grab” was in 1891, under Benjamin Harrison

How Trump’s monuments review could impact climate

There are numerous links embedded in those three articles, enough to add clarity to the p(os)’s very obvious goal — i.e. to completely and totally overturn and redefine each and all of this country’s base values. The collective Trump/GOP “vision” has nothing to do with preserving anything that is not/cannot be defined with the words ‘Power’ or ‘Money’ — there is, after all (and to their collective “mind”), nothing anywhere that can have a differently-defined Value than money or power; no such thing can exist, after all. No way. Period.

I do have one tidbit to add here, however, a tidbit which is, to me, the absolutely PERFECT message FROM wild and protected Public Lands to p(os) Trump. The messenger is, in this case, a native resident of/on Arizona’s magnificent Sonoran Desert, and its message is clearly and precisely directed to our resident White House Idiot, aka p(os) Trump:

2002 December Sunset White Tanks 020S

See the message there?

Perhaps a cropped, slightly modified, and de-beautified (i.e. “humanized”) version can be more definitive:

Up Yours Trump

There. Peace and Beauty subtracted, message from Sonoran Desert (and all Public Lands everywhere in the country) clarified:

Up Yours, p(os) Trump!!

******

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The Watering Hole; Jan. 12/13 2017; National Monuments: Voices of the Vanished Ones, Preserved

VOICES in The Wind

Though modern ears seem deaf to primal song,
Ideas seek – and probe – subconscious minds.
Where spirits walk, old muted voices long
To search – as dust now gathered by the winds –
And speak in silence, whispering to those souls
Their sacred manifests of unsung dreams.
Then Suffrage of the land – through Gray Wolf’s howls
And breath of noiseless Deer – expresses themes
As surely as the murmur of the trees
Announces wind and wingéd life, in kind.
And silently as Eagle rides the breeze,
These messages – the Sum of Life – remind:
Man’s aimless, modern Din shall ne’er transcend
The Wild – and Ancient – Voices – in the Wind.

That was my summation, a decade or more ago, after having spent thirty years exploring the “out there” country of Arizona, including frequent visits to secluded national monuments that protected both historical sites and ‘special’ landscapes. And while I’ve never visited the latest pair of Obama-designated National Monuments — Gold Butte in Nevada and Bears Ears in S.E. Utah — I do totally and completely understand the grand value of each and every Antiquity Act designee that’s “out there” today. My hope is that we as a nation don’t stop here, but that we find every last square inch of land in need of absolute preservation, and then DO IT! And to hell with each and every wingnut that protests or tries to halt/overturn preservation whether past, present, or future.

Today’s Voices, a quick sample:

“I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these scenic and historic landscapes.”
(President Barack Obama; December 28, 2016)

“We have always looked to Bears Ears as a place of refuge. The rocks,
the winds, the land — they are living, breathing things that deserve
timely and lasting protection.”
(Russell Begaye; President, Navajo Nation)

“Obama’s decision to create the national monuments means that the area,
that contains some Native American artifacts, will be protected
from energy drilling in the future.”
(Nikita Vladimirov, The Hill)

“It’s just terribly arrogant, he unilaterally — he is taking 1.35 million acres,
that’s more land than there is in the entire state of Delaware,
and re-designating it as a national monument.”
(Rep Jason Chafetz, R-Utah)

“This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand.”
(Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah)

“. . . the president’s midnight proclamation cherry picked provisions of the
Public Lands Initiative and disregarded the economic development and
multi-use provisions necessary for a balanced compromise.”
(Jason Chafetz, R-Utah)

“We look forward to working with President-elect Trump to follow through on
his commitment to repeal midnight regulations.
(Rep Jason Chafetz, R-Utah)

“By significantly restricting access to a large portion of public lands in Utah, the President weakens land management capabilities and fails to protect
those the Antiquities Act intended to benefit.”
(Sean Reyes, State Atty. Gen., R-Utah)

“President Obama is a courageous man. I could not be more grateful to him and
his team for working with me to make this happen, and for everything he has
done to protect public lands in Nevada. By designating Gold Butte a
national monument, President Obama has shown once again why he
is one of the greatest environmental presidents in American history.”
(Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada)

“Today’s actions will help protect this cultural legacy and will ensure that
future generations are able to enjoy and appreciate these
scenic and historic landscapes.”
(President Barack Obama)

******

Obama perfectly summed up the undercurrent intentions of the 1906 Antiquities Act which, in spite of today’s Fascist (Tea Party) rejection of same, serves as the major tool to enable preservation of “scenic and historic landscapes” by Presidential decree and NOT via far-more-difficult-to-secure Congressional action. Today’s Republicans see absolutely zero benefit in preserving anything other than their own power and position. Landscapes? If they’re that good, there’s gotta be money in NOT preserving them. Historic sites? Ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of Injun crapola, and we beat them red skinned worthless bums 150 years ago. Who cares about shit they done way back when?

In the last 8 years, President Obama has preserved, via the Antiquities Act, more than 550 million acres in 29 newly-designated National Monuments, more than any President has ever done: an impressive statistic. For those of us who cherish the ‘voices’ offered by the wind, by the vanished ones, Obama’s accomplishment stands tall and far above the sacrifices demanded by (political/commercial) gluttonous greed.

Following are a handful of photos I’ve taken over the years, visual descriptions of the centerpieces in nine of Arizona’s eighteen (the most in any one state) National Monuments. The first seven are of historic or ancient ruins, followed by a composite from a National Heritage Site in a National Forest, and finally a pair of Monumental ‘historic (volcanic) landscapes.’ Taken together, they vividly spell out — at least in my mind — the grand purpose behind the 1906 Antiquities Act, AND the fantastic consequences thereof. Continue reading

The Watering Hole; Thursday May 26 2016; Of Mental Poverty and Shriveled Souls (aka Teabaggers)

Last Monday I received a letter from The Wilderness Society. It read:

Public lands enemy number one, Representative Rob Bishop, is back at it again! This time he intends to take down landmark sagebrush conservation plans by targeting a defenseless bird, the greater sage-grouse.

Sage Grouse

Greater Sage-Grouse. Credit: Mason Cummings/TWS

Through a national security bill, Rep. Bishop is trying to attach language that would undo publicly developed conservation plans and sell off critical sage-grouse habitat to the highest energy development bidder.

You can help us stop him in his tracks! Sage-grouse are not a threat to our national security. This is a thinly veiled anti-conservation move by Rep. Bishop that would trash one of the largest conservation successes in U.S. history. His effort would unravel years of conservation work by federal agencies, 11 western states and governors, and a diverse coalition of stakeholders. These plans, put in place in late 2015, merged the best science with local knowledge in a conservation plan for 67 million acres of sage-grouse habitat on public lands. Now years of work are in danger of being undone by one man. Tell your senators and representatives to stand up for the sage-grouse and its habitat!

Sincerely,

The Wilderness Society

The “Representative Rob Bishop” (R-UT)  to whom they refer is a wildly anti-conservation wingnut Congressional Teabagger who would, I’m sure, happily agree to kill off what’s left of the planet for the sole purpose of turning every square inch of land over to whomever can convert it into cash. Money. Because as we all know, cash is a far more useful and life-enhancing commodity than are those wastrel notions of public land and wildlife preservation. Who cares about a goddamed Sage Grouse anyway? They’re prolly not even good to eat — never seen ’em in the store, I know that for sure. Tree-huggers and environmentalists like to use the word Conservation, but Conservation ain’t got nothin’ to do with genuine Conservatism, ‘cuz look close, they be spelled differnt!

Anyway, I  immediately forwarded this, the Wilderness Society’s message, to my Senators (from whom I’ve not yet heard) and to my “Representative,” the Wingnut Conservative Teabagger Stooge aka Scott Tipton (R-CO):

Representative Bishop’s “Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016,” a rider on this year’s House National Defense Authorization Act, is a thinly veiled anti-conservation measure. This effort would undo years of collaborative planning for 67 million acres across 11 western states and undermine the very protections that helped keep the bird from being listed as threatened or endangered. Please stand up to protect the survival of the greater sage-grouse.

The sage-grouse is not, has never been, and never will be a threat to the security of our nation. This rider has no place in the NDAA. In fact, the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, and Air Force made it clear through statements that the sage-grouse conservation efforts will not impede on the military’s readiness, operations or training.

After years of dedication by the federal government, Western governors and a diverse coalition of stakeholders, it would be a travesty if all of the plans were undone through a rider on a national security bill.

Please don’t let this or any other rider undermine the one of America’s greatest conservation achievements. Don’t meddle with the conservation plans — pass a clean NDAA!

Received this typical boilerplate reply from Tipton two days later, yesterday, on Wednesday the 25th. There was nothing even approaching a semi-salient notion in his thirty word response:

. . . the bill prohibits the listing of the Greater Sage Grouse through 2025, providing adequate time for effective state and local species conservation efforts to continue without heavy-handed federal interference. (highlights mine)

I mean, imagine it. Allow the ‘heavy hands’ of the Feds to act in the interest of a potentially  endangered species and its habitat preservation, and what’s the result? INTERFERENCE WITH THE CAPITALISTIC AMURKKKAN FREEDOM TO RAPE AND DESTROY ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THAT’S GOT MONEY IN IT!! It’s in the Constitution, Right? Must be, ‘cuz a long time ago John Adams said this here:

[When European colonists first arrived in America] “the whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men. Now the forests are removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.” ~John Adams, 1756 (as quoted by Barry Lopez in ‘Of Wolves and Men’)

Adams spoke those words some 260 years ago, back when the rape of the continent had just gotten underway. Today, however, we’ve come a long LONG way and have FINALLY reached the point where just about the only land left in the country — land that was once a “dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and beaus and [the archaeological remnants of those] more savage men . . .” — has FINALLY reached the point where “the forests are removed [and] the land [is] covered with . . . the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”

YeeHaw. Progress. Finally. Money.

Rep. Rob Bishop is, like Teabaggers everywhere, a notorious hater of Public Lands along with the (implicit) preservation of both those lands and the wildlife thereupon. He is, unfortunately, currently the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and has publicly stated that he is dead against the Antiquities Act — a law which 16 presidents of both parties have used to permanently protect public lands and historic sites via National Monument designation. The bottom line is that Bishop hates Public lands, along with any and all who might support the concept. As he recently said, anyone who supports the Antiquities Act of 1906 — the same law that was used to safeguard the Grand Canyon — should “die.” Meanwhile, in his home state of Utah, Bishop has unveiled a draft bill that would force the transfer and sale of tens-of-thousands of acres of public land in southeast Utah — a concept completely in violation of the wishes of Native American Nations in the area, including the Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni.

Damn Injuns. Who the hell do they think they are?

Bishop — apparently in consort with Teabaggers everywhere (including, sadly, SCOTT TIPTON of Colorado) — is determined to do whatever is necessary to rid this country of those gigantic tyrannies the gubmint has imposed on We the People: Public Lands (National Parks, Monuments, Wilderness, National Forests, etc.) along with the protections implied or imposed in re each and every wild inhabitant thereupon. Why?

Because Freedom  Money.

Rotten bastard(s). I’d rather live in a den of hungry Timberwolves than in a world filled with Teabaggers  DEFINED by the Mental Poverty and Shriveled Souls of Teabaggers!

OPEN THREAD

 

 

The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 5th, 2016: This Land Is Still Our Land

I’ve written before about the emails from the American Land Rights Association that somehow end up coming to my office, and how Charles Cushman has been involved with the Hammonds, the scofflaws whose imprisonment for starting fires on federal land provided the match that started the Malheur Wildlife Refuge ‘insurrection.’

Earlier this week another ‘newsletter’ email arrived, containing, in part, the following:

War In The West, the Hammond Story
Stop Land and Water Conservation Fund

The War In The West: Time To Stop Federal Land Acquisition

Robert J. Smith, Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research 1/15/16

Media attention on the plight of Dwight and Steven Hammond in Burns, Oregon — sent to prison as “terrorists” — has focused more on the activities of some who have come to their “support” than on the cause of the broad-based unhappiness with the federal government.

But first it is important to clarify the Hammonds’ “crime.” Most reports note they were prosecuted for arson on federal lands. They were prosecuted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, passed following the 1995 bombing of the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. Bombing a federal building is an act of terrorism. Burning 140 acres of grass, sagebrush and weeds to halt wildfires and remove invasive brush is not terrorism.

Ranchers, farmers, foresters and miners homesteaded the West, often before government reached that far, or states or counties were created. The successors of these landowners are today surrounded by a sea of federal lands. Across the West over half the land and resources are owned by the federal government. In Oregon it owns 53 percent of the land, and 75 percent in Harney County, home of Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The county is over 10,000 square miles in size, larger than nine states. With a population of barely 7,000 people, it is effectively a federal colony, controlled and administered by the federal government.

The federal government owns 85 percent of the state of Nevada and 64 percent of both Utah and Idaho — effectively making rural landowners little more than serfs, precluding utilization of natural resources, reducing the tax base and impoverishing local and county governments, which are then unable to fund schools and police…

Evermore onerous government regulations make it difficult for landowners to use their lands and often next to impossible to cross the government lands on historic rights-of-way for access to water and grazing lands. Selective enforcement of laws like the Endangered Species Act can prevent landowners from using land that has no endangered species, but does have habitat the species could use if they were there…

Yet even with this hegemonic control of the rural West, the federal government continues to acquire more land. It is expert at making regulatory harassment so onerous that eventually farmers and ranchers simply give up and sell out to the government — becoming what the Feds euphemistically refer to as “willing sellers.”

Anger against such treatment arose during the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, when state governments demanded a return of their land and resources and equality with states in the East. That opposition to federal ownership was tempered by the Reagan Administration’s easing of the regulatory regime.

But as the federal government has accelerated its efforts to acquire more land and force people off their lands, mounting opposition and calls for change have flourished. Another Sagebrush Rebellion is underway, headed by counties and state legislatures. Several Western states have introduced legislation demanding the return of their lands. Both houses in Utah have passed such legislation and Governor Herbert has signed the law.

It is time to place a moratorium on any additional land acquisition by the federal government, to undertake an inventory of government landownership at all levels, and to begin taking steps towards devolution of federal ownership and return the lands and resources to responsible and caring ownership and stewardship. This would not threaten genuine environmental amenities and values.

America has a long tradition of successful private ownership of wildlife refuges, parks, and forests. If, for instance, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were owned by a conservation organization, such as an Audubon Society, it would not be able to bully and harass its farming and ranching neighbors who willingly share their lands with the wildlife, but would have to deal with them in a legal and peaceful manner — while still protecting the wildlife.

It is ironic that Americans are still fighting colonial subjugation by a hegemonic government — located now in Washington, D.C., rather that England. James Madison wrote: “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” That is what Oregon is really about.”

There was a lot more about related topics, but the above is enough for the time being. The missive ends with:

“Google Alert: You can find additional information about national issues and battles American Land Rights has been involved in by going to Google and typing in the following search terms one at a time: Chuck Cushman, Charles Cushman, Charles S. Cushman, American Land Rights Association, National Inholders Association and League of Private Property Voters.”

Well, actually, no you CAN’T find additional information, because if you type in those search terms, they all lead back to the American Land Rights Association–some directly, some by a more circuitous route. I tried to do a bit more digging.

According to Buzzfile, the “Business Description” of the American Land Rights Association is:

“American Land Rights Association, which also operates under the name National Inholders Association, is located in Battle Ground, Washington. This organization primarily operates in the Business Associations business / industry within the Membership Organizations sector. This organization has been operating for approximately 44 years. American Land Rights Association is estimated to generate $500,000 in annual revenues, and employs approximately 6 people at this single location.”

Okay…so what does the category “Membership Organization” mean?

“The Membership Organizations sector covers 7 categories including Professional Organizations, Labor Organizations, and Political Organizations.

[Emphasis mine.]

Alright…a little more digging…how about, who is the “League of Private Property Voters”?

VoteSmart.Org says:

“Description:
“LPPV is a coalition of more than 800 grassroots organizations that advocate the rights of property owners, including farmers, ranchers, woodlot owners, residents of rural communities, owners of recreational property, and inholders of private property located within and adjacent to federal lands. It also includes cabin permittees, off-road vehicle owners, equestrians, snowmobilers, hunters and recreational shooters, and livestock grazers, foresters and miners who make productive use of federal lands.”

I found a ‘biography’ of Mr. Cushman – a bit outdated, but quite telling – oh, and this ‘biography’ has him at “Property Rights Foundation of America”(R):

“April 1999
Chuck Cushman is the executive director of the American Land Rights Association (ALRA), formerly the National Inholders Association, which is a public interest advocacy organization that works to protect landowners across America who are affected by various growth management schemes as well as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act (wetlands) and other Federal land use regulatory laws.

Mr. Cushman is also the Chairman of the League of Private Property Voters (LPPV), which was organized in 1990 to develop and publish the Private Property Congressional Vote Index, a Congressional vote scorecard designed to let the public know how each Congressman and Senator voted on important land-use issues. Almost 500,000 copies were distributed in 1996.

Referred to in various press reports as the “Desert Fox” and “Mr. Rent-A-Riot,” Mr. Cushman has worked over 24 years to help local communities get on the political playing field and compete effectively with Federal agencies and extreme environmental groups who seek to eliminate private uses and public access from “their” lands. He is widely respected for his successful leadership of local communities against those groups and individuals who seek to remove inholders and multiple-users by condemnation or whatever other means they can achieve.

He has written numerous articles on inholder rights; lectured at colleges and universities; appeared as an expert guest on Late Night America, Today on NBC, All Things Considered on public radio, CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC news; been a subject of segments of 60 Minutes, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer and CNN Presents; has been featured in numerous national magazines regarding land-use issues; appeared as guest speaker before hundreds of multiple-use and private property advocacy groups and political interest organizations.

ALRA and LPPV have become significant players in land use and private property issues throughout the United States. ALRA has 18,000 members in 50 states and is acknowledged as a successful advocate for property owners and users of Federal and state lands in all manner of natural resource areas across America.”

If they’re the same organization, and it appears that they are, how have ALRA and LPPV “become significant players” – especially when, as I found in my previous post on ALRA, there appears to be only two employees, one of whom is Charles Cushman?

I next tried looking into the National Center for Public Policy Research. Wikipedia says:

“NCPPR’s work is in the areas of environmental, retirement security, regulatory, economic, and foreign affairs. Particular areas of interest include global warming, endangered species, energy policy, environmental justice, property rights, legal reform, Medicare reform, health care, Social Security, civil rights, foreign affairs/defense and United Nations reform/withdrawal…

NCPPR is a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, whose object is described as “dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”.

Amy Moritz Ridenour was and is still, as far as I can tell, the president of NCPPR. Amy has previously been on the wrong side of some major issues, i.e., writing op-eds on behalf of Big Tobacco. And, boy howdy, look who used to be a board member of the NCPPR: the infamous Jack Abramoff, lobbyist extraordinaire.

“Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a member of NCPPR’s Board of Directors; he resigned in October 2004 after NCPPR’s Board of Directors concluded he had violated the organization’s conflict of interest policy.

In October 2002, Abramoff directed the Mississippi Band of Choctaws to give $1 million to NCPPR, and then told Amy Ridenour to distribute the funds to Capital Athletic Foundation ($450,000), Capitol Campaign Strategies ($500,000) and Nurnberger and Associates ($50,000). In June 2003, Greenberg Traurig, the firm that employed Abramoff, sent $1.5 million to NCPPR, of which Ridenour distributed $250,000 to Capital Athletic Foundation and the remainder to Kay Gold LLC, both controlled by Abramoff. Ridenour said in testimony that she believed Abramoff co-conspirator Michael Scanlon was the owner of Kay Gold (Kaygold).

The Wiki page for Amy Ridenour includes:

“According to Nina Easton’s Gang of Five, Amy Moritz was a veteran organizer of the College Republican National Committee. She was a candidate in 1981 for election as national chairman of the organization, opposed by Jack Abramoff.
Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist persuaded Moritz to drop out of the race by promising her the appointed position of executive director. With the only serious competitor out of the way, Abramoff won the election easily.

Although Moritz was later rebuffed by the “Abramoff-Norquist-Reed triumvirate” and only given the titular position of “deputy director”, she continued to work with the group and became a good friend of Norquist. Abramoff would also later become a director of the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR).

Lastly, on a whim, I decided to simply put in a search for “Robert J. Smith, Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research” – and laughed when the only relevant result was a link to the same diatribe that ALRA sent, as posted at – wait for it – The Daily Caller.

The kicker was a comment posted at the Daily Caller thread by none other than Amy Ridenour:

Amy Ridenour [to] Esef Brewer • 2 months ago
You’re not the most clever bird in the nest, are you? Try hunting and fishing or even walking on many federal lands sometime and learn the hard way.

One might have thought that someone who helped bilk Native American tribes out of millions of dollars really shouldn’t be commenting about “federal lands” on a public forum…but then, The Daily Caller isn’t all that popular a public forum, which means that Amy is right at home there.

This is our daily Open Thread – I’ve had enough delving for today, now it’s your turn to talk.

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 25th, 2016: All-“Christian” Edition

Today’s offerings are from two sites whose only thing in common seems to be that they both have the word “Christian” in their names.

First, let’s look at a few things from the Christian Post website (the more ‘persecuted-RW-Christian’ site.)

The Christian Post has sent the 2016 Presidential candidates a list of 12 questions which they feel are most important for the candidates to answer. So far, only two Republican candidates, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, have responded.

Here’s Ben Carson’s responses, a few of which I’d like to comment upon:

2. What is marriage, and what should be the government’s interest and role in marriage?
Like many Christians, I believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman in the witness of God. The government’s interest and role in marriage should be to protect and sanctify this institution[emphasis mine] because it is the cornerstone of our society. Raising families with two parents is key to a child’s development, and marriage is a strong institution that solidifies this crucial social structure. Marriage combines the efforts of two people to provide for and raise children, and gives children two parental figures to love and care for them.

Okay – First, define “sanctify”. According to Wikipedia:

“Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.[1] “Sanctity” is an ancient concept widespread among religions. It is a gift given through the power of God to a person or thing which is then considered sacred or set apart in an official capacity within the religion, in general anything from a temple, to vessels, to days of the week, to a human believer who willingly accepts this gift can be sanctified. To sanctify is to literally “set apart for particular use in a special purpose or work and to make holy or sacred.”

So Carson believes that the U.S. Government has role in every citizen’s marriage, and that role is to make it “holy or sacred”? Does that make the U.S. Government a god?   Doesn’t that conflict with the Establishment Clause?  If Ben Carson believes that marriage is such a strong institution, why not rail against divorce? Christians get divorced at the same – or higher – rate as any other group, not to mention that divorce is said to be a big sin in the eyes of Jesus. If Jesus thought divorce was so wrong, but didn’t mention homosexuality, why can’t the “key” two-parents-must-raise-a-child be in a same-sex marriage?

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Energy is the life-blood that keeps our economy growing. It fuels the tractors that plow America’s fields. It powers the trucks, trains and planes that deliver American products. And it drives the American people in their everyday lives. If we want to return America to its former prosperity, we need to ensure that America’s energy grid is not only reliable, but affordable. That means looking into all potential energy sources to find the most efficient, most effective and more reliable energy grid possible.

We can’t afford to mandate unrealistic fuel standards or price-inflating renewable mandates. But as these energy sources compete head to head, technological advancements and innovations will help drop costs and raise efficiencies even further.

[and the money quote]

When it comes to the environment, we should be good stewards of God’s resources, but the best way to do that is through market-based mechanisms and private efforts, not via government edicts that destroy businesses and intrude into citizens’ lives.

Yeah, because I’m sure that “God” was thinking of “market-based mechanisms and private efforts” when he told mankind to be good stewards of Earth. And wasn’t Carson just talking about how “government” should have an “interest” and “a role” in a couple’s marriage, i.e., “intrud[ing] into citizens’ lives”, and very personally, I might add? But the “government” shouldn’t be involved in determining how the entire country uses its natural resources, because that would “intrud[e] into citizens’ lives”?  Carson has very mixed, and incorrect, notions of what government’s priorities should be.

12. What caused the Great Recession, and what should be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

A number of factors contributed to the global financial crisis, but what became clear was that when bankers engaged in highly leveraged financial bets, ordinary taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the big banks’ bailouts.

I believe that certain types of regulations are reasonable for regulating financial markets. For instance, Glass-Steagall was a reasonable piece of legislation after the 1929 stock market crash, and perhaps should be re-imposed in a modified form.

This does not mean that the regulations imposed after the financial crisis were appropriate. In fact, Dodd-Frank is a monstrosity that does not address the root cause of the crisis, imposes heavy burdens on community banks, severely limits the freedom of financial institution to engage in ordinary business and saps economic growth with restrictive government controls.

I believe that when such government regulations choke economic growth, it is the poor and the middle class that are hurt the most.

Carson (or whoever wrote his ‘responses’ for him) must have just skimmed the “U.S. Economic History, Late 20th – Early 21st Century” Cliff Notes(TM), latching on to just enough topical buzzwords and meaningless phrases to put together a few sentences. Too many points there to elaborate on, I’ll let you all pick them apart if you wish.

And here’s Carly Fiorina’s responses. I’m just going to comment on one of them.

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Fiorina: As president, I will ensure that the United States is the global energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

That means reinstating the Keystone XL Pipeline that President Obama rejected. It also means rolling back the regulations from this administration that limit our ability to find resources by imposing regulations on hydraulic fracturing and our ability to be energy independent by regulating drilling on federal lands. As president, I will make America an energy leader through technology and innovation.

No, no, no! Fiorina is just so wrong, it’s hard to believe that she could possibly be serious. Keystone XL, fracking, and drilling, and on OUR federal lands, no less? How does one become an “energy leader through technology and innovation” while relying solely on finite, filthy fossil fuels? Aaarrgghhh!

Let’s turn to the Christian Science Monitor for a few things that are more reality-based and inspiring.

First, I’m sure that you’re all aware by now that Earth may have a new neighbor, as astronomers announced the possibility of a hidden ninth planet.

The evidence for the existence of this “Planet Nine” is indirect at the moment; computer models suggest a big, undiscovered world has shaped the strange orbits of multiple objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune.

Next, we can once again thank the Hubble telescope and NASA for showing us the amazing beauty of space, in this article about the Trumpler 14 star cluster. Just don’t let Donald Trump know about Trumpler 14, he’ll probably think that (a) the star cluster is named for him, and (b) therefore he owns it.
Trumpler 14Source: Hubblesite.org

And finally, for our Zookeeper, here’s an article discussing why the zebra has stripes. While it appears that the idea that the striping is for camouflage may be incorrect, there is still no consensus on a proven biological reason.
brown striped zebra

This is our daily Open Thread–discuss whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 18th, 2016: ICYMI

Some updates on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge situation from the weekend:

Yesterday, DailyKos had this story about Child Protective Services removing Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s fourfoster children from his Arizona ‘ranch.’  I love the [literal] money quote:

“That was my main source of income,” Finicum said. “My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch. If this means rice and beans for the next few years, so be it. We’re going to stay the course.”

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting:

“That represents an enormous loss of income for the Finicums. According to a 2010 tax filing, Catholic Charities paid the family $115,343 to foster children in 2009…

Since then, Catholic Charities has increased payments for foster care significantly, but it does not itemize the dollar amount the Finicums were paid in subsequent years.”

On Saturday, January 16th, a few members of the Center for Biological Diversity tried to protest the occupation of the refuge.  From Raw Story:

“We’re here to speak up for public land, which belongs to the public,” the group’s executive director, Kierán Suckling, said. “These people are trying to take the land away.”

Pete Santilli, part of the occupying group, picked up a bullhorn and started shouting over him, calling the conservationists “communist,” “fascist,” and saying, “You’re under arrest for bull****ting.”

Ah, yes, Pete Santilli.  At first I had him confused with Rick Santilli, the idiot whose ranting on CNBC more or less started the Tea Party plague.  However, this Pete Santilli seems to be cut from much the same cloth.  Pete is the one who, on his radio show back in 2013, spouted the following regarding then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away,” he said. “I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you’ve killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all.”

Santilli continued: “On behalf of all of those people, I’m supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.”

According to his bio, “Pete Santilli is a Former U.S. Marine, Consumer Advocate, Former Coca-Cola Executive, Corporate Whistleblower, Radio Talk Show Host. Pete Santilli is a professional hell raiser…”

Santilli also led a protest outside the FBI’s temporary setup at the Burns Airport on Saturday.  However, it appears that Santilli is merely a supporter of the occupiers:

“Asked about the demonstration outside the FBI’s headquarters, [Robert] Finicum said Santilli is an “independent journalist” and is not part of the group occupying the Refuge.”

On the agenda for today, according to The Oregonian, is a ‘lecture’ by KrisAnne Hall, who is described as “a Florida attorney and radio talk show host” (although she reportedly no longer holds a license to practice as an attorney in Florida.)  Ms Hall is planning to ‘sovereign-splain’ the supposed legality of the Bundy-led occupation of the wildlife refuge:

“Her assistant said she will cover two topics: sovereignty of the state and the constitutional limits of the federal government’s control.

Hall is an outspoken critic of the federal government who supports privatization of federal lands.

“The people are not acting lawlessly,” Hall said in [a] video. “It is the federal government that is acting lawlessly.”

For a tutorial on the warped version of the legal belief system that these deluded people are trying to establish, see this post on Friday’s ThinkProgress.

And for continuing updated coverage, The Oregonian puts up a daily “what you need to know” article along with related articles.

This is our daily Open Thread – feel free to talk about anything you like.