More California Ballot Cranks

Hayes D. is back with a look at some legendary ballot cranks of California history:

I took a sick pleasure in writing about Measure S and Michael Weinstein the other day. Thanks to Steve for asking me to do that.

While I was at it, I dug into some of the other rich, angry men who took advantage of the California ballot system: guys like Weinstein who spent a ton of money and made pretty extreme changes to the law without ever actually being elected to office.

Here are two!

HOWARD JARVIS

Howard Jarvis was the guy behind Proposition 13, a 1978 state ballot initiative that slashed the property tax for everybody in California by about 60 percent.

That tax cut now costs California somewhere between $20 billion and $150 billion a year.

“Is that a lot?” Well, the entire state budget for 2017-2018 is $179.5 billion. So if you take the middle of the Prop 13 cost estimate, that means one slightly overweight businessman from West Hollywood basically cut California’s budget by a third.

Jarvis was a millionaire from LA who got rich making airplane parts and garbage disposals and other stuff. Your classic 1950’s generic “businessman.” What separated him from his peers was how much he hated taxes.

So after he retired in 1962, he ran for office a few times on an anti-tax platform. Lost every time. Then he discovered the ballot initiative route, and in 1979 he wrote up Proposition 13: a rule that the property tax could only be about 1% of the appraised value of the property, and it couldn’t go up unless the property was sold.

With the help of the base he built from his other campaigns, he and his wife gathered 1.5 million signatures to get it on the ballot. Then Jarvis went on a barnstorming tour of California and riled everybody up so good that the measure passed with 65 percent of the vote.

How did he get this thing passed when basically every elected official in California was against it? This section of his LAT obituary about his rallies might sound familiar to those of us who were alive in 2016:

“When I have three, four, five thousand people, I really pour it on,” he said in his gravelly voice. “Like a goddamn Baptist preacher. I tell ’em how government is clobbering them. I rev ’em up. I talk about basic human rights.”Jarvis was quick to admit that playing on the public’s fears was one of the trump cards that made Proposition 13 a big winner.

Fun word choice in that last sentence! Like being mocked from the past.

Also familiar in modern times: Jarvis was rich but managed to come off as an everyman because he was a loud, fat, funny slob. Here’s one of several observations about his pipe habits from this article by a guy who worked for him:
When he got excited, Jarvis would puff harder on his pipe, and this created a lot of excess “tobacco juice.” During one unfriendly interview with a reporter, Jarvis got agitated and started puffing hard. At one point, sitting behind his big, false desk with no drawers, Jarvis leaned forward and spit some of the excess tobacco juice into a waste can. Jerry Carroll, on the other side of the desk without benefit of a full view, wrote in a 1994 San Francisco Chronicle story that at one point in an interview Jarvis, “jerked opened a drawer in his desk, spit into it and slammed it shut.”

Buried in that passage is the revelation that there is such a thing as a “false desk.”

Jarvis made a bunch of commercials for Prop 13 starring himself and was constantly on TV talking about it. Somehow he got nationally famous doing this. He made the cover of Time!
A 75-year-old California anti-tax activist! On the cover of Time Magazine! The past: it was different.

Here’s maybe the most insane thing. Remember the guy in Airplane! who waits in the cab for the entire movie? That’s Howard Jarvis.

Some people seem to think that his cameo was some kind of inside joke referencing Prop 13. I’m not persuaded by that.

Prop 13 is still California law today, and the legacy of it is… just incredibly depressing. It’s so bad.
Here’s a KPBS reporter talking about it in 2010:

FARYON: Well let’s go back to prior 1978, back in the day when schools needed money. More money to hire students, to pay for classrooms, supplies, and so on. They basically looked to the local taxpayer for money in the form of property taxes. And in fact, they set their budgets, went to the county assessor, the property tax rate was set, and then they collected enough money. As much money as they needed. After 1978, what happened was we couldn’t do that anymore. It was a statewide cap. One percent – that’s all the money that you got. So as a result, before 1978, before Prop 13, statewide the schools had a $9 billion budget. After Prop 13 they lost $3 billion – a third of that – overnight.
***
Here’s a look at California’s per-pupil spending for the past four decades in comparison to other states. The last time California was at the top of the heap was 1965, when it ranked 5th. In 1978 – the year Prop 13 passed –California was 14th out of 50. The next year, the state fell to 22nd place. In 1988, California fell below the national average for the first time and never recovered. The state now ranks 43rd.

Somewhat relatedly, LAUSD is currently running a deficit of 1.46 billion.

Lots of clips of Jarvis and stuff about the present-day effects of Prop 13 in this fun NYT docushort.

Ron Unz

unz

Ron Unz with 80 dollars. Source

Ron “Make ‘Em Say” Unz wrote and spent $750,000 of his own money on Proposition 227, a ballot initiative that made it against the law for California schools to teach in any language other than English.

He was born in North Hollywood under cool, 60s-style circumstances. From an LA Weekly profile:
When Ron Unz’s mother, a politically active left-wing schoolteacher from Los Angeles, was in her mid-20s, she met an older professor from the Midwest on a flight to Israel. He seemed odd, eccentric even, but clearly brilliant, too, and Esther-Laio Avrutin decided, after he‘d visited her several times when she’d returned to L.A., that she would a have a child with him. When Esther-Laio wrote to her lover to let him know about her pregnancy, the letter was opened by the professor‘s wife — the existence of this wife came as startling news to Esther-Laio — and that ended any possibility that, her sister says, they would be married.

Unz only met his dad a couple of times in his life. A sad thing I discovered: the dad’s obituary does not mention Ron among his children. Oof.

A few details from this somewhat excessively flattering New Republic cover story:
After college, Unz became sort of a nineties proto-Peter Thiel: he got rich writing software for the financial industry, then got involved in libertarian policy and spent $2 million to run in the Republican primary against the incumbent governor of California, Pete Wilson.

He got 34 percent of the vote, which seems like a lot? Against a sitting Governor, as a non-famous person? Would real Peter Thiel even get that much today?

In 1998, Unz simultaneously ran for Senate and launched Prop 227, because he thought teaching immigrant children in their native language wasn’t preparing them to get good jobs. His staff for both campaigns was only two people.

Here’s an ad for 227, seemingly targeted at Latino families:

Unz whiffed on the Senate run, but 227 passed with 61% of the vote. Did it help kids? A 2014 Stanford study conducted with 18,000 students over ten years looked into that:
The results show that while students in English immersion programs perform better in the short term, over the long term students in classrooms taught in two languages not only catch up to their English immersion counterparts, but they eventually surpass them, both academically and linguistically.

So: no, not really. Forcing kids who didn’t speak English to be taught exclusively in English was, it turned out, not a great idea.

Unz put a lot more measures on the ballot, none as successful as Prop 227. But the fact that he was able to rally millions of people to do anything at all is still impressive, because Ron Unz is not, uh, traditionally charismatic. Listen to this voice:

That’s from his 2016 Senate bid. Not successful. Prop 227 also got overturned by a huge margin in that same state election. Also in 2016, Unz staged a failed coup against the Harvard Board of Overseers as part of a very strange, backhanded campaign against affirmative action. Tough year for Ron Unz!

Weird mood in Hollywood

img_0672

Based on a short walk around the physical area Hollywood in the middle of the day,  I gotta say: a weird vibe!  Hazy conditions contributing to an off-kilter mood.

goof

No one likes to see their society’s most important ritual suffer a systematic breakdown.

Far the exuberance and confidence of 1996.


img_0685

More Hayes is in the pipeline on California’s proposition cranks, and we have a report to come on a visit to the District 5 City Council Debate.


No On Measure S

Today, Helytimes Readers, we have a special treat.  Writer Hayes D. will learn us about Measure S!  

You may know Hayes from his work on Hollywood Handbook, Family Guy, and Eastbound & Down.  He is also on the case of Los Angeles issues.  We have an election here on March 7, and the tale of Measure S is crazy and worth hearing about!

Take it away Hayes
los-angeles-map

Los Angeles in 1878 (and 2020 if Measure S passes). Source.

Measure S is a proposition on the ballot in the March 7th Los Angeles election. If it passes, it would stop most new construction in LA from being built for two years.

It would also ruin the city.

Is that an exaggeration? Maybe. But also: maybe not!

LA Is In the Middle of a Full-Blown Housing Crisis

la-housing

Source: Legislative Analyst’s Office

Los Angeles is currently the least affordable city in the US when you account for median income, and it has the largest unsheltered homeless population by tens of thousands.

The primary cause of these problems is a housing shortage, especially affordable housing. LA needs to build a lot more places for people to live, as quickly as possible. If the housing supply grows, then costs don’t rise as quickly, more people can afford to live here, and fewer people get thrown out of their apartments by landlords who want to charge more. LA barely avoids becoming a luxury playground-fortress for billionaires like San Francisco is doomed to be.

But Measure S means LESS housing. And that means the crisis would get way worse. Rent would go up, affordable housing construction would plummet, and many, many more people would end up displaced and homeless.

Both the Republican and Democratic parties of Los Angeles have come out against it, along with the Mayor, the LA Times, and a lot of others.

A lot of actual experts have written much better stuff than I could about this.

But maybe the scariest thing about Measure S, to me is that it’s basically the whim of one rich guy.

A lot of California initiatives are like that: if you spend enough money, you can buy enough signatures to get pretty much anything on the ballot. Then, if you spend even more money, your proposal has a pretty good chance of becoming the actual law.

As a result, the state has a history of very wealthy, very angry people throwing cash around to get their own measures through the ballot initiative system, sometimes even successfully.

The angry person behind Measure S is Michael Weinstein.

weinstein

Michael Weinstein’s website bio pic.

Weinstein, the CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is positioning himself to be the premier California ballot crank of the 21st century. My man is real good at this.

He almost singlehandedly got two propositions on the November 8th state ballot:
  • Prop 61, which was supposed to lower the prices that public employees pay for drugs
  • Prop 60, which would force porn actors to wear condoms

Two normal things for the people to vote on, as the Founding Fathers intended.

And he originally had THREE things on that ballot! Measure S was supposed to be on it too, but he moved it to March.

Both of his November measures failed, and Measure S probably would have, too: Weinstein moved it because the turnout is much older and more conservative in March, and therefore more likely to be mad about multi-family housing being built within ten miles of them. That’s how ballot-savvy this guy is! Dude lives for this shit.

But Weinstein differentiates himself from a traditional ballot crank in a couple of ways that make him, to me, a lot scarier. First:

Michael Weinstein’s ballot initiatives are designed to benefit Michael Weinstein.

Let’s look at Weinstein’s two November ballot measures for a second, Props 60 and 61.

The condom bill, had it passed, required the state to appoint a “porn czar” who would be allowed to sue any porn studios that were caught (sorry to use a legal term) rawdogging.

The bill also specified that:
  • The porn czar had to be Michael Weinstein.
  • He would get paid by the state to do this job (watch porn and sue people over it).
  • The state wouldn’t be allowed to fire him, unless it got a majority vote from both houses of the state legislature.
  • Even then, he could only be fired with “good cause.” Like… not watching enough porn, I guess.

This is all 100% true. The porn czar stuff starts at the bottom of page 12 of the bill, if you care. Of course, none of this information appears on the actual ballot, so most voters would never find out about it.

(The story of Weinstein’s lifelong condom-pushing is significantly too convoluted and weird to even get into here, but read this Vice article if you want to know more about it.)

Weinstein’s drug bill, meanwhile, would have made it the law that the prices paid by state employee HMOs for drugs couldn’t be higher than the discounted price the VA pays. Sounds great! But it exempted certain HMOs from the rule… including the HMO Michael Weinstein himself runs. He also once again wrote in a rule allowing him to sue people who violated the law, while having the state pay his legal fees.

(That bill was also sloppily written and potentially bad for other reasons, but the whole thing is pretty complicated so read this rebuttal maybe.)

Both of these propositions BARELY failed. Each one got about 46% of the vote. Weinstein came very close to fulfilling his goal of filing thousands of lawsuits a day over drug price violations and unsheathed penises.

But Measure S is somehow even more baldly self-interested than 60 and 61, and much simpler in its motives. It’s all about a building next to his building.

A couple years ago, a developer signed an agreement with the Palladium concert hall in Hollywood to build a couple of high-rise apartments right behind the venue. This made Michael Weinstein extremely mad, because the Palladium is next door to his AIDS Healthcare Foundation building, and he thought the towers would block the view from his corner office.

And they really would! Look at this picture. Weinstein’s building is on the far left.
palladium3

Rendering by Palladium Towers, found at Curbed

Other than the fact that it says “SINATRA” on the marquee, the important thing about that image is that Michael Weinstein’s view is definitely being messed up. And the view from his office is important to him, as illustrated in the lede of this great LA Weekly profile:

Michael Weinstein peers out the window of his corner office on the 21st floor. Hollywood is growing all around him. In every direction, there are construction cranes, dirt pits and street closures.

“It’s just ungodly,” he says.

Very chill, approachable guy. Not at all supervillainy.

So Weinstein filed a bunch of complaints to stop the Palladium towers. When the city approved the towers anyway, he sued the city.

And in case that didn’t work out, he spent millions of dollars to get an initiative on the city ballot that would stop construction of not just the Palladium towers, but ALL new high-rises in Los Angeles, along with hundreds of other projects, including tens of thousands of units of affordable housing.

That’s all Measure S is. One guy’s blood vendetta against an unbuilt high-rise. For all the rhetoric about preserving neighborhoods, it’s really about preserving Michael Weinstein’s view, at no cost to him.

Really. This whole campaign isn’t costing him a dollar. Because:

Michael Weinstein doesn’t spend his own money on his political causes. He spends money donated by other people to the AIDS foundation he runs. 

Everybody who lives in LA knows about the AIDS Healthcare Foundation from their billboards. They advertise their STD testing services and, of course, condom use. And they are quite cheeky.

Here’s a fun one:
Others employ topical humor. (“GET TESTED AND CHILL,” “WE CATCH ‘EM ALL”). Some just have giant condoms on them that say “USE A CONDOM.” (Disclosure: I kind of like all of these billboards.)

But as of the last few months, almost every AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard now reads “VOTE YES ON MEASURE S.” 

Because Michael Weinstein put all of the foundation’s STD prevention advertising on hold to push his ballot initiative. According to his election filings, all those Measure S billboards cost his AIDS charity $250,000 (in addition to the cost to society of all the untreated gonorrhea cases that the old billboards would have prevented).

So who else, other than the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is contributing to Measure S? Let’s check Ballotpedia:

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-12-13-33-am

A guy named Aaron Enstein and a patio company, for a total of $9,000.

Also, “Aaron Enstein” is probably a typo for Aaron Epstein, who’s listed among the Measure S endorsers and is…
epstein
…also a patio company.

The patio stuff seems weird but maybe it’s very smart? If Measure S passes that means fewer apartments, more single-family housing… more patios, baby! Patios are lot more relevant to the cause than, say, an AIDS foundation.

As of last Friday, AHF pumped even more into the campaign fund.

hillel-tweet

So that’s about $3 million from AHF, about $9,000 from anybody else.

And look at all the grassroots support Weinstein amassed for Propositions 60 and 61 from November.

For 61 (the drug bill):
prop-61-donors2
And for 60 (the condom bill):
prop-60-donors

One name you don’t see among any of the donors is “Michael Weinstein.” It’s all foundation money. He has near-total discretion over how it’s spent. Far from costing him anything, he gets paid $400,000 a year by his foundation to do this.

I went to the AHF website. On the landing page, there’s a giant DONATE button. I smashed it.

Here are the options they give you for where your money goes:
  • $10 – Be a Friend of AHF
  • $50 – Help Purchase Medical Supplies
  • $100 – Help Save a Life
  • $500 – Trains a Physician in the Provision of HIV/AIDS Medical Care
  • $1000 – Provides HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care to Five Patients for a Year
  • $5000 – Provides HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care for 25 Patients for a year
  • $10000 – Supports HIV/AIDS Prevention & Care Worldwide

No option for “Help Finance a Local Ballot Initiative to Stop the Construction of Apartment Complexes in Los Angeles.”

I looked around some more. Couldn’t find any mention of any of their ballot initiatives ANYWHERE ON THE SITE.

Opinion: If I were a donor to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, maybe because I or a loved one had been affected by AIDS in some way, I might not be psyched to find out that my money was being spent the way Weinstein is spending it. I might… I don’t know, call the police?

Disclaimer: I’m sure they do a lot of great things to prevent the spread of AIDS also.

A friend once told me about a guy he grew up with in Arkansas who threw a charity crawfish boil for a children’s hospital, then pocketed all the cash. I see only a marginal difference between the fake charity crawfish boil and what Michael Weinstein is doing with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Measure S. And the crawfish guy, I’m told, got caught and went to jail. Weinstein is doing this in plain view.

I hope the people of LA can get together and block that view on March 7th.

 


Public Land, Part Two: What Happened with H. R. 621

We can’t all be experts on every outrage that’s going to come along.  At Helytimes we’ve taken on the issue of

Our Public Land

up in the national forest

up in the national forest

the land owned by the US government in the form of national parks, national forests, national monuments, and much more.’ The land we, the American People, own together, in other words.

Part One covered HJ Res 46, which proposes to ease up the rules for oil, gas, and mineral drilling and extraction in our national parkland.

Part Two: 

Victory on H. R. 621 and What We Can Learn From It

Meet Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz

You may have heard of him, he was in the news this week catching hell at his town hall:

You may have seen some these videos on Twitter.

Chaffetz is an interesting character.

  • Born to a Jewish family in California
  • he was the placekicker on BYU’s football team.
  • Married a Mormon woman and converted to Mormonism.
  • Utah campaign manager for Michael Dukakis in 1988
  • at some point he became a Republican.  Possibly after meeting Ronald Reagan in 1990 (when, remember, Reagan had a decent degree of dementia)
  • Ran an aggressive Tea Party-style primary campaign in 2008 against a longtime Utah Republican, Chris Cannon, and knocked him out
  • An aggressive Benghazi investigator
  • Was all over the map on Trump: endorsing, unendorsing.  In the end he did vote for him
  • Has made it difficult for the residents of Washington DC to implement the legalization of marijuana they voted for

Here’s a funny article by Thomas Burr in the Salt Lake City Tribune about Chaffetz involving himself in DC local politics, and then getting payback where some DC politicians are like “fine Utah bitch you gonna tell us how to run our city then help us fix our potholes.”

Today though, we’re going to focus on a bill he introduced that comes up in the town hall.

H. R. 621: Story of a Victory

On Jan 24, Chaffetz introduced H. R. 621, which he titled “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017” which proposed to “dispose” – sell off – some land that is owned by you and me.

The Cosumnes River Preserve is home to California’s largest remaining valley oak riparian forest, and is one of the few protected wetland habitat areas in the state.

“The Cosumnes River Preserve is home to California’s largest remaining valley oak riparian forest, and is one of the few protected wetland habitat areas in the state.” Photo on BLM instagram by the legend, Bob Wick

 

Let’s back up.

Do the Republicans Want To Sell Off Our Land?

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-9-53-07-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-6-51-29-pm

Is this true?  Will Trump / The GOP Sell Off Our Public Land?!

Joshua Tree

JTree by Helytimes

My take: they definitely tried to do so.  Given nearly complete power after the 2016 election, it was a top priority for several Republicans.

The rush to sell off public land has been beaten back, for now.

There’s a lot to learn from what went down about how to win against the Republican Party of Donald Trump.

Bias: Love for national lands

I love national lands.  I love national parks and national forests and national historic sites and national seashores.  I love national monuments and national battlefields.

hartwells

Minuteman National Historical Park

from Acadia National Parks Instagram

from Acadia National Park’s Instagram

crater

Crater Lake

The best of the United States is on display in a US Park Service uniform.

from the NPS instagram

from the NPS instagram

The National Parks are the gems.  Most federal land is not like this at all.

How much land does the federal government

– the US –

– us –

own?

The federal government owns a huge amount of land.  For instance, the federal government owns about 84% of the total land area of Nevada.

Here is federal land ownership in California:

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-8-27-35-pm

The federal government owns 47% of California.

As you can see, this is a much different issue for some states than others.  Here is Utah:

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-9-55-57-pm

The feds own 66.5% of Utah.

from Boston Kayaker

from Boston Kayaker

The feds own a mere .8% of Rhode Island, mainly coastal scrubland.

Getting all that from this great piece in the Deseret (UT) News by Jackie Hicken.

All told the federal government owns about 28% of the nation’s total surface, 2.27 billion acres.

Isn’t that crazy?

Here is a reasonable position:

The federal government shouldn’t own that much land.  It’s not in the Constitution as a job for the federal government to own a buncha land.

Here’s a sample of that take:

Now: I think Lars Larson may even have a point about cutting down forests.  Forestry is a science, I’m not well-informed enough to opine on it except to say I believe any forester will tell you burns are part of a life cycle of a forest.

But I disagree with Lars Larson on his first part.  Because when we say “the government owns this land,”  really we mean we own this land.  What could be more “the people’s land” than land we all own together?  “Give the people’s land back to the people?”  It already is ours!

You and me.  The taxpayers.  The voters.  The government is just us.

 

 

What Are The Kinds Of Our Lands?

Here are the percentages of our land, broken down by which agency manages them for us.  The  “Big Five”:

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-2-15-40-am

Proud of this chart I made.

(getting my data from here, from 2013.  The pie would be slightly bigger if we included the Department of Energy, and there’s the Indian reservations, but that’s a whole other thing.)

As you can see, the National Park Service owns a mere 13% of US federal land.

National Park Service handles:

  • National Parks
  • National Monuments
  • National Preserves

Plus battlefields, historic sites, seashores, etc.  As I understand it, the only way to get rid of these would be to pass a bill through both houses of Congress and have the president sign it.  A cool power of the President is that he can create a National Monument out of any existing federal land.  Obama did this often.

The Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture handles:

our National Forests.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service handles:

our National Wildlife Refuges.  (Their slice of the pie gets way bigger if you count marine acres.)

There are National Wildernesses, administered by various different folks because they’re usually part of some other land.

There’s lots of land owned by the Department of Defense,

Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army bases and such.  The Navy owns a surprising amount of inland land here in California for dropping bombs on.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-2-19-34-am

And there is a bunch of leftover extra land, BLM land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM owns about 47% of the west and one-eighth of the land of the United States.

(Here’s a good Gizmodo article by Wes Siller about this same topic).

blm

The biggest chunk of public land is BLM land

On a trip to California in 2002 or so the Jeppson-Gamez brothers took me to some BLM land.  I learned you can shoot a gun and drive a Jeep and do whatever the fuck you want on BLM land.  What a great privilege as an American.

Here’s some BLM land in California:

from BLM's instagram

from BLM’s instagram

Here are some facts:

A lot of federal land is already used, mined, logged, grazed, and exploited now

There’s logging in national forests, and mining and grazing on BLM land.  The major operating principle for BLM land law is “multi use.”  Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m no expert just an interested citizen, but I believe most BLM rules stem from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

The National Forest Service, National Park Service, and now, the Bureau of Land Management, are commissioned in FLPMA to allow a variety of uses on their land (of greater concern for the BLM, who is the least restrictive in terms of uses) while simultaneously trying to preserve the natural resources in them. This concept is best summarized by the term ‘multiple-use.’ ‘Multiple use’ is defined in the Act as “management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people.”

Who should handle this junk land has a long, contentious history

Here is a readable summary of some history on the subject.  Who should own and manage land that looks like this?:

sagebrush

Should the states manage it?  In the Depression the states didn’t want it.

Fights over which of the multiple uses should be favored come up all the time.  The most newsworthy fight in recent years on this topic, the weird Oregon standoff originated with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s dispute with the BLM over grazing his cattle on their lands:

the dispute started in 1993, when, in protest against changes to grazing rules, Bundy declined to renew his permit for cattle grazing on BLM-administered lands near Bunkerville, Nevada. According to the BLM, Bundy continued to graze his cattle on public lands without a permit. In 1998, Bundy was prohibited by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada from grazing his cattle on an area of land later called the Bunkerville Allotment.

Cliven Bundy refused to recognize federal ownership of the land, claiming it rightfully belonged to Nevada, which would maybe be chiller about letting him graze his cattle there.

Cliven, found on this CNN piece about him claiming he's not a racist

Cliven, found on this CNN piece: Cliven Bundy says he’s not racist

This being the USA, Cliven’s stand led to, a few years later, Bundy’s sons sitting around with guns at a remote bird refuge while Dad reflected on his views on “the Negro“:

they abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?

fullsizerender-13

Where does the GOP Congress stand on federal land ownership?

All over the place, is the answer.

1) the Republican Party’s platform supports returning some federal land to the states.

See here for a Snopes breakdown of this.  Here’s the language on federal land transfer in the Republican Platform:

The federal government owns or controls over 640 million acres of land in the United States, most of which is in the West. These are public lands, and the public should have access to them for appropriate activities like hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. Federal ownership or management of land also places an economic burden on counties and local communities in terms of lost revenue to pay for things such as schools, police, and emergency services. It is absurd to think that all that acreage must remain under the absentee ownership or management of official Washington. Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands, identified in the review process, to all willing states for the benefit of the states and the nation as a whole. The residents of state and local communities know best how to protect the land where they work and live. They practice boots-on- the-ground conservation in their states every day. We support amending the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish Congress’ right to approve the designation of national monuments and to further require the approval of the state where a national monument is designated or a national park is proposed.

Key word there is “certain”?

I think it’s possible to be passionate about maintaining our treasured national land, and still think some federal land could be better managed by the states.

There’s a lot of wack stuff in the GOP platform, like this:

A Republican administration should streamline personnel procedures to expedite the firing of bad workers, tax cheats, and scammers.

Obviously they’re not worried about the Commander in Chief who won’t release his tax returns.  Maybe they will be similarly hypocritical about conveying federally controlled land to states.

Ah-Shi-Sie-Pah Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico

Ah-Shi-Sie-Pah Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico

2) the Republican Congress changed rules to allow the federal government to give up land while counting it as “budget neutral”

Meet Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah:

rob-bishop

A Republican Congressman.  He is apparently responsible for a change in House of Representatives rules.  Now, I don’t know anything about House budgeting rules. This article, from The Salt Lake City Tribune, written by Juliet Eilperin, seems fair and clear:

Under current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules, any transfer of federal land that generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury — whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing or other activities — has a cost. If lawmakers wanted to give land-generating receipts to a given state, local government or tribe, they would have to account for that loss in expected cash flow. If the federal government conveys land where there is no economic activity, such as wilderness, there is no estimated cost associated with it.

But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman [Rob] Bishop [Republican Congressman of Utah], who backs the idea of providing state and local officials with greater control over federal land, has authored language in the new rules package saying any such transfers “shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”

This was the same rules package that had the ethics loosening thing that got people to call their reps in an effective show of democratic displeasure.  Here is a much-tweeted Guardian article on the topic.

There’s lots about public land on Rob Bishop’s website. One issue that seems to bother Rob Bishop in particular is Wilderness Study Areas.  And I agree they represent the complex mess of interests when you deal with public land.

A Case Study: How A Wilderness Study Area Becomes A Wilderness

The Wilderness Study Areas are roadless sections of land that the BLM puts a hold on until Congress decides whether to designate them as wilderness or not.

Here’s my personal favorite:

fullsizerender-4

Here’s what Rob Bishop says:

For decades, unsettled land-use designations, such as wilderness study areas, have fueled distrust and acrimony. The uncertainty about the future of these lands created conflict amongst those favoring differing types of uses. The diverse uses of public lands have an important role in making Utah healthy, viable, and inviting. The future of the state depends on a responsible balance of both conservation and development.

There are 86 Wilderness Study Areas in Utah.  Myself, I think we should err on the side of keeping wildernesses — once they’re gone, they’ll never come back.

Once you’re a WSA, you either become a Wilderness, federally protected, or you get dropped and you can get chopped up and mineraled and whatnot like any old BLM land.  Or you get downgraded to Conservation Area, or some other designation.

The most recent Wilderness Study Area bill I can find in Congress was from last year, when some WSAs inside federal conservation areas were proposed to get dropped.  It’s been referred to committee.  Here’s an article about it, it sounds like a complicated issue.

You can see how this all gets pretty slow-moving and bureaucratic.

Maybe Rob Bishop has a point

The bottom line of what Rep. Bishop wants to do is made pretty clear on his website:

Congressman Bishop’s views on public land use differ from mine, why should I trust that this is a good faith effort to make new conservation areas?

Congressman Bishop is committed to conservation and economic development as part of the Public Lands Initiative. Throughout his career, Congressman Bishop has had a strong record of both conservation and development. The Cedar Mountain Wilderness area was created in 2006 after Congressman Bishop facilitated a locally-driven, collaborative process similar to the Public Lands Initiative. As a former high school teacher, Congressman Bishop also has pushed for increased energy production in Utah to help support and fund public education. Congressman Bishop is committed to elements of both conservation and development as part of any Public Lands Initiative legislative proposal.

How will the state of Utah benefit from this?

The state of Utah’s public education system will benefit from increased energy and mineral production. Public land users will benefit from the regulatory certainty that comes from congressionally designated lands. Local governments will benefit from revenue generated from multiple use of the land, including recreation, mineral development, and energy production. The outdoor recreation businesses will benefit from the improved certainty about land use and conservation. Future generations will benefit by having responsible policies that utilize the land in the most responsible and reasonable ways that make sense now and into the future.

Here’s more:

Proponents argue, however, that taking the federal government out of the picture will help the budget and offer economic benefits for the many communities located near federally-guarded land.

“In many cases, federal lands create a significant burden for the surrounding communities,” Molly Block, spokeswoman for the House Natural Resources Committee, said. “Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues.”

That’s from this UPI article by Stephen Feller and Doug C. Ware.

Look, Rob Bishop’s there in Utah.  Maybe he knows best what should happen with this land.  In tough Western areas he could see roped off federal preserves with no clear purpose, and point out those could be jobs and money for his district, or even just better managed wilderness under local control.

BUT:

Why shouldn’t disposed-of land be marked as a loss to the federal revenue, when it is?  Isn’t this a form of the federal government lying to itself?  Lying to its citizens?  As an American taxpayer, I don’t see how this rather sneaky accounting change is at all good for me.

Plus what the hell?!  This land belongs to us, American citizens.  These guys want to sell away our inheritance?

High Desert News‘ Elizabeth Shongren puts it clearly:

Previously, when Congress wanted to transfer public lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or other federal agency, the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ research arm, calculated the cost to the U.S. Treasury by computing what revenues the lands provide over 10 years, such as grazing fees or oil and gas royalties. Under House rules, before a bill approving a transfer could be adopted, budget cuts would have to be made in other federal programs equal to the value of that land. The rules change eliminates that budgetary barrier to land transfer bills.

I’d have to explore this more, but I have a feeling the House somehow tied itself into knots on spending and budgetary rules to make various political points, and is trying to untangle this particular aspect so they can get rid of public land.

Can the government sell off our treasured national lands?

Yes, but it’s not that easy.

Let’s start with the BLM.  Can the BLM sell off their land?  From their website:

How are these lands selected for sale?

The law states that the BLM can select lands for sale if, through land use planning, they are found to meet one of three criteria: 1) they are scattered, isolated tracts, difficult or uneconomic to manage; 2) they were acquired for a specific purpose and are no longer needed for that purpose; or 3) disposal of the land will serve important public objectives, such as community expansion and economic development.

More:

The BLM does not offer much land for sale because of a congressional mandate in 1976 to generally retain these lands in public ownership. The BLM does, however, occasionally sell parcels of land where our land use planning finds disposal is appropriate.

Of the Big Five Agencies, only DoD and BLM lost land between 1990 and 2013 (again, source here).  In those years, the BLM went down by 24, 777, 190 acres.

Where did those acres go?

This decline in Alaska is largely the result of the disposal of BLM land, under law, to the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, and Alaska Native Corporations.

Seems fine to me.  The Congressional Research Service goes on:

With regard to disposal, the NPS and FWS have virtually no authority to dispose of the lands they administer, and the FS disposal authorities are restricted.

Last big push to dispose of national lands failed.  It was HR 350: State National Forest Management Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Don Young of Alaska.

don-young

Didn’t pass.

 

HR 621: Story of A Victory

Let’s return to Utah rep Jason Chaffetz:

jason-chaffetz

Which land did he try to sell away?

Great question.

It’s not immediately clear.  Chaffetz’s website links to a 1997 report of disposable lands.   Ryan Krogh at Men’s Journal identifies some of the choice land included in the 1997 report:

State: Wyoming

County: Sheridan

The Potential Land: 35,200 acres of BLM-managed land in the Powder River Basin, which is just east of the Bighorn Mountains, popular with hikers, campers, horseback riders, and hunters.

Here’s what’s going on on BLM land in the Powder River right now:

Powder River, from a BLM website

Powder River, from a BLM website

State: Wyoming

County: Park

The Potential Land: 27,300 acres surrounding the Shoshone River, a popular fly-fishing stream in northern Wyoming. Most of the BLM-managed land in Park County is downstream of the town of Cody, which sits between the Big Horn, Owl Creek, Bridger, and Absaroka mountain ranges. Tourism is the town’s primary industry.

State: Oregon

County: Harney

The Potential Land: 44,000 acres in a county that’s home to Steens Mountain, a 9,733-foot peak that’s popular with campers and hunters, and Malheur National Forest.

State: New Mexico

County: Catron

The Potential Land: 25,000 acres that contain “cultural resources,” meaning it’s probably home to pueblo ruins. The land is most likely a giant tract southwest of the town of Quemado, and some of the land abuts the Gila National Forest, home to the endangered Mexican gray wolf, the Gila trout, and some of the best elk hunting in the U.S.

State: Colorado

County: Montrose

The Potential Land: 2,105 acres that is home to endangered species and “historic/cultural resources.” The surrounding area contains the Gunnison Gorge, famous for its rafting and fly-fishing trips, and Uncompahgre National Forest, which is home to elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.

State: Nevada

County: Elko

The Potential Land: 208,900 acres that contains endangered species, historic resources, and is home to “wetlands/floodplain.” BLM-managed land makes up a giant percentage of land in Elko County, but exactly what land is up for consideration is unclear, or what the effects might be.

State: Arizona

County: Mohave

The Potential Land: 23,525 acres with mining claims and historic resources. A comment attached to the description notes that the land is “classified as habitat for the Desert Tortoise (a sensitive species).”

Now I heard about this, and I was pissed, because this land belongs to me.  And you.  And us.  Any time we wanna go there, it’s there.

And Jason Chaffetz tried to sell it off.  

Backcountry Backlash

Well this did not play.  Word spread via strong, aggressive groups like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:

Google HR 621 and you fill find angry, mobilized publicity from groups like TheMeatEater.com, BowHunter.com, WiredToHunt (“Deer Hunting Strategies for the Next Generation”), and TexasBowhunter.com.

There were rallies in Helena, MT and Santa Fe, NM which BHA says drew a thousand people.

Chaffetz backed down by last night — six days after introducing the bill:

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-1-30-09-pm

 

What can we learn from the defeat (for now) of HR 621?

  • Strong, organized, motivated, attentive citizens can win, easily, on issues that matter.
  • Play to a politician’s fears.  Jason Chaffetz got to Congress by primarying a guy in his own party.  He’s got to watch his back constantly.  His greatest fear has got to be somebody doing to him what he did to Chris Cannon, outrunning him on the right.
  • Push the pushable.  Chaffetz wasn’t moved by people who would never vote for him.  He was moved by hunters and fishermen,  people who probably would vote for him, as long as he doesn’t fuck them on something they care about.
  • Look at the focus on these groups: bow-hunters, meat-eating hunters.  They have clear interests, goals, and passions.  They follow their issues and inform each other.
  • Powerful allies.  Look at the sponsors for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.  These are big corporations with big interests in keeping their customers happy and hunting and fishing.  Yeti coolers has a partnership with MeatEater.com.  What are rich companies that have interests that could align with yours?
  • Specific targets.  They learned something from all that bow-hunting.
  • See how fast and aggressively they responded to the slightest hint of a challenge and you can get an answer to the seemingly baffling question of why gun control bills get crushed so easily.  Strong, organized people are paying attention to the slightest threat to their gun rights and they do not let up.

The Trump hurricane has achieved an effect of constantly shifting focus.  When we compare what bow-hunters did to the stammering, confused, bafflement of the Hollywood libtards we follow on Twitter, and my own flabbergasted reactions, we realize we have much to learn from Texas bow-hunters on how to stay focused on a few issues that matter to us most.

The biggest lesson:

This issue brought together, on the same side, Joyce Carol Oates:

and these kind of guys:

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-11-38-01-am

And the bros on the Texas Bowhunter forums.

They’re both passionate on the same side on this issue.

For me, the strongest takeaway is don’t insist on too much ideological purity.

Build coalitions on issues you care about.

That is the way to win in politics.

Plus who do you think Jason Chaffetz is most scared of?

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-2-25-54-am

I’m guessing it’s this kinda guy? (seen here killing a huge deer with a bow and arrow).

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-2-26-36-am

This guy and I may have different ideas about what to do with the land we share.

But we share an interest.  We can team up.

One of the most illuminating things I read about the election was “David Wong”‘s piece on Cracked.com about the rural vs. urban divide. Here I am very far from Powder River, WY.  The odds of me visiting it in the next ten years are small (but real).  But here I am allied with people who live near there and use it all the time.

Gotta Hear Both Sides

Look, it’s fair to say maybe we should sell off some public land.  The clearest expression I found of this ambiguity was put up by this poster on TexasBowhunter.com — I hope user 175gr7.62 won’t mind me quoting him, I think it’s a valid take (encourage you to read him in context):

I’m torn on it. The Constitutional side of me says the Fed should have never owned it anyway. The Constitution says the government can acquire and retain land necessary for carrying out its enumerated powers. This includes parcels for military bases, post offices and buildings to house federal employees undertaking enumerated functions. I don’t think anything the BLM or Forest Service does counts as anything enumerated. Several Supreme Court cases have said the govt can own it but I think that’s just case law.

The hunter in me said it could be bad if the Feds sell the land because it could be bought by a private citizen who can then prevent its use. That being said, if they sell it and I don’t have the money to buy it that’s my fault…I should have gotten a better education or made better investment decisions.

Tough call.

Reasonable people can disagree on how public land should be managed and who should managed it.

What bothers me, and what puts me on edge, is the sneakiness of what Bishop and Chaffetz appear to be doing.

And the misguided priorities.  This is the first thing they got to post-election.

Well, Chaffetz at least got called to the carpet for it.

A Passionate Plea

Here’s a full video of Jason Chaffetz’s town hall.  Listen to this guy at 11:39 say our free public lands are all he has.

Please write to us (helphely at gmail or in the comments) if we got something wrong or you have a strong take.  

These are complicated issues, I did my best and in good faith but it’s easy to make an error.  

In our Next Installment:

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-51-17-am

Part Three:  Strange Allies.  

And why this:

ryan-zinke

is better than this:

cathy-mcmorris-rogers

 

 


Dune

img_0099

img_0101

Let’s learn about Frank Herbert, author of Dune.

img_0100

In WWII he was a Seebee:

720px-usn-seabees-insignia-svg

I think about the Seabees every time I drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and hit their base at Port Hueneme:

The idea for Dune came from dunes.

He later told Willis E. McNelly that the novel originated when he was supposed to do a magazine article on sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes near Florence, Oregon.

Source. Photo by Sam Beebe.

Source. Photo by Sam Beebe.

He became too involved and ended up with far more raw material than needed for an article. The article was never written, but instead planted the seed that led to Dune.

Source. Photo by Rebecca Kennison

Source. Photo by Rebecca Kennison

Dune was first published by Chilton Company, known for its auto repair manuals:

Sterling E. Lanier, an editor of Chilton Book Company (known mainly for its auto-repair manuals) had read the Dune serials and offered a $7,500 advance plus future royalties for the rights to publish them as a hardcover book.

Great take on writing from a man who generated many books:

A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You’re there now doing the thing on paper. You’re not killing the goose, you’re just producing an egg. So I don’t worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It’s a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I’ve heard about it. I’ve felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I’d much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, “Well, now it’s writing time and now I’ll write.” There’s no difference on paper between the two.[15]

— Frank Herbert
Lifted straight from Wikipedia. A vivid storyteller:

PLOWBOY: So you think our country’s methods of instruction have a lot to do with the destruction of many family values?

HERBERT: Absolutely. By the time you have three or four generations of people who are taught not to trust their families and their families’ knowledge, individuals can really become separated from their roots. The effect is to make people feel like lost wanderers, or to cause them to think of themselves only in the role of their jobs, which is a complete misrepresentation of what it means to be alive.

Another lesson I learned in childhood is that what people do is just as important as—and maybe more so than—what they say. I had a marvelous object lesson in the difference between words and actions when I was in fourth grade. In those days I was bored to death by school, so I tended to cause a lot of trouble.

One day our teacher, a great big woman who wore eye-glasses that looked like the bottoms of pop bottles, caught me in the middle of a particularly heinous prank. She told me to stay after school and added, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”

Of course, I could imagine all kinds of horrible things she might do to me. Like the bastinado, or worse! But when school was over, she just made me sit and sit while she worked on papers. After what seemed like ages, she motioned me up to her desk, stared at me awhile—I could feel two holes being burned right through me—and then resumed her paperwork.

PLOWBOY: You must have been terrified.

HERBERT: Oh, I was. Finally, she put her pencil down and said, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” Well, it was all too much for me. I started to cry. She put her face right in front of mine then and said again!—”I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” And I said through my sobs, “Why are you mad at me?”

With that, she grabbed me by the shoulders, began shaking me roughly, and cried, “I’m not mad at you, I’m not mad at you!” Well, I now know that teachers get long lectures during their training on the importance of keeping their tempers with their students, so I had said exactly the wrong thing to this woman. I may not have understood that at the time, but I didn’t have a bit of trouble realizing that my teacher—who was repeatedly screaming, “I’m not mad at you!”—was nearly out of her mind with rage.

That incident drove home the lesson that what people say often doesn’t agree with what they actually do. And that discovery played a big part in the shaping my thinking and behavior.

from an interview with Pat Stone in a 1981 issue of Mother Earth news.  Another gem:

I intend to add a solar collector over our swimming pool building to heat its water … and—for a time—I even raised chickens to provide manure for my methane experiments.

Herbert on government:

PLOWBOY: You feel that Kennedy was dangerous and Nixon was good for the country?

HERBERT: Yes, Nixon taught us one hell of a lesson, and I thank him for it. He made us distrust government leaders. We didn’t mistrust Kennedy the way we did Nixon, although we probably had just as good reason to do so. But Nixon’s downfall was due to the fact that he wasn’t charismatic. He had to be sold just like Wheaties, and people were disappointed when they opened the box.

I think it’s vital that men and women learn to mistrust all forms of powerful, centralized authority. Big government tends to create an enormous delay between the signals that come from the people and the response of the leaders. Put it this way: Suppose there were a delay time of five minutes between the moment you turned the steering wheel on your car and the time the front tires reacted. What would happen in such a case?

PLOWBOY: I guess I’d have to drive pretty slowly.

HERBERT: V-e-rrrrrrr-y slowly. Governments have the same slow-response effect. And the bigger the government, the more slowly it reacts. So to me, the best government is one that’s very responsive to the needs of its people. That is, the least, loosest, and most local government.

On the future:

PLOWBOY: But you feel pretty sure humankind will be able to make the necessary changes?

HERBERT: I think they’ll be forced on us. Oh, we’ll make some mistakes. We’ll probably have a number of fanatic leaders and such to deal with in the years to come. I don’t see the future as being all sweetness and light, by any means. Learning from mistakes is a very slow process. It may take us 20,000 or 25,000 years to get to where, I feel, we have to go.

Herbert lived in Port Townsend, Washington for some time, not far from Cape Flattery.  I find this picture on PT’s wikipedia page:

Depicted here is one of the wives of Cheech Ma Ham:

 He has a ferry named after him.
source, photo by Compdude123

source, photo by Compdude123

Jodowarsky’s Dune is a must watch.  Last I checked it was free on Netflix:


Cash Me Outside –> Whales

Late to the party on Cash Me Outside Girl.

I was walking by the Dr. Phil studio the other day, saw an audience lined up, and it dawned to me this must be the literal outside where she intended to be cashed.

fullsizerender-10

The mural is by Wyland, king of whale murals.  He has done one hundred.

The artist Wyland, who goes by only one name, paints a mural on Charlie Barracks, a former military barracks still in use on Midway. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument January 2012 Photo: Pete Leary/USFWS

The artist Wyland, who goes by only one name, paints a mural on Charlie Barracks, a former military barracks still in use on Midway. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument January 2012 Photo: Pete Leary/USFWS

Seeing this sight reminded me of the time I went to see The Hunger Games and walked past a long line of people waiting in the sun to be on Dancing With The Stars and I realized oh we are in The Hunger Games.


Huell can’t take it