Let ‘em Stay in the Snow in Malheur Refuge in Oregon

ranching-standoffNew Orleans   Eastern Oregon is an interesting part of the West. Tourists think of the northwestern biosphere as wet and woolly, Portland and Seattle, big trees and five-foot tall ferns, but once you get over the Cascades into eastern Washington and Oregon, its high desert, few trees, lots of cows and much like the rest of the west. There’s even a national park in eastern Oregon that bills itself as moonscape!

When last we heard from the Bundy family, and this is the Western outfit, not the serial killer, the patriarch was gathering around a few neighbors, friends, and fellow travelers in a standoff around what he felt was his right to graze cattle on federal lands for free. Eventually, after some cowboy wannabes got their fill of seeing their pictures on television and the numbers fell, they packed up, and moved on. Now, his son and some buddies have taken over a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. This is near Frenchglen, Oregon. It turns out that in French, Malheur probably means “bad hour,” which is worth keeping in mind as we unravel this mess.

The refuge website says that the wildlife refuge is closed until further notice. The explanation is straightforward.

Why Is The Refuge Closed?

 

The Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that an unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments.

The pictures in the paper have some ol’ boys bundled up in the snow. They’ve draped a couple of American flags over the entrance sign to the refuge. They’re armed of course.

Have you heard about or seen the new movie getting a lot of buzz with Leonardo DeCaprio called “Revenant?” You feel like you might freeze to death just watching that old Western drama loosely based on Hugh Glass, the legendary mountain man. For hours you just watch actors stumble around in the snow. It’s beautiful, but chilling.

In Oregon they are protesting the fact that a couple of local ranchers started a fire which took out about 150 acres of the national forest nearby. Father and son in that situation have already gone to jail and done some time. A judge said they got off too easy and has sent them back to do some more time. They say they are going to report to jail as ordered. The Bundy boy and his buddies see an opportunity to grab some more press on their quixotic stand against the feds and are going for it.

If I were anybody with the federal government, I’d say, let ‘em sit and stew in the snow. Seal ‘em up tighter than a drum, block the roads, and shutdown the supply lines. The real ranchers will have to go back to work to take care of their cattle. Let ‘em out, once their feet get cold, and their stomachs start to churn. Settle this once everyone is bored, and spring thaws them out. This is water off a duck’s back. Let them have some bad hours in Malheur: this is a wildlife refuge not a resort camp. The government can win this with a yawn easier than a roar.

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State Initiatives Move the Needle on Key Issues in USA Elections

New Orleans  Obvious disclosure:  I’m a huge proponent of the strategic and tactical value of local and statewide initiative on our issues to build organizational power and actually win campaign results.   This is obvious given the number of living wage, lifeline utility, sales tax on food & medicine, generic drug, minimum wage increase, and single member district measures we put on the ballot – and mostly won – before voters in cities and states throughout the country with ACORN.  When people are given the opportunity to speak and be counted, and when organizations prove they have both the wherewithal and the courage to put the questions before them, the needle moves.  Sometimes it moves with us, and sometimes it moves against us, but, doggone it, it moves!

In the elections around the country it moved yesterday in some interesting ways, so let’s look at a couple with undoubtedly more to come:

  • In Michigan I had called attention recently to a number of measures where unions were willing to take their case to the voters on important collective bargaining issues.  There were mixed results.  The preemptive effort to ward off “wisconsinitis” and protect the public employees bargaining rights in the constitution failed, though it may have immunized the state in the future, which is critical.  On the other hand the powers of “emergency managers” to take over schools and cities and reject existing collective bargaining contracts won decisively.
  • Teachers, and this is mostly the NEA, were able to turn back statewide initiatives by so-called school “reformers” masking as hard right turners in Idaho and South Dakota and protect both collective bargaining and tenure in those states.
  • In California upending all of the Debbie Downers and pollsters that were signally that Governor Jerry Brown was going down, voters decisively voted to raise their taxes to try and rebuild the once great public school system in that state.  This is the first successful pushback to “repeal” the impact of the Howard Jarvis property tax limitations from over 30 years ago that have crippled public funding.  This is huge!
  • Maryland and my friends at Casa de Maryland have much to celebrate having not only won a state-based “DREAM” act through the legislature but also winning voter approval to the measure in the shadow of the White House.  We’re going to win DREAM soon, I would bet.
  • On protest votes on Obamacare voters in Alabama, Wyoming, and Montana on health exchanges:  I’m glad I only got to Montana for fish and fun, because my brothers and sisters there are drinking bad water before voting these days.  Florida voted “yes” which should have been a message to Romney, but whatever for the 47%, eh?  It doesn’t matter though since federal law preempts state measures in the USA.  The tide is moving out on this rightwing resistance.  Even the business-based conservative Times-Picayune in New Orleans editorialized a couple of weeks ago in our solid red state that Republican Governor Bobby Jindal was a fool to not take “free” federal money for three years to provide Medicaid support for Louisiana citizens.  Their message was essentially “don’t play national politics with the lives of Louisiana poor people.”  A lot of these governors are going to be getting this message about reality now.
  • Remember that Planned Parenthood is still fighting in the trenches state-by-state to protect its health services program after the ACORN-style Congressional scam attack, well in Florida voters lined up to say that state funding for their programs and others around birth control were fine with them.
  • On other “wedge” issues dividing modern voters, two more states, Maryland and Maine are ok with gay marriage.  My bet is that the Supreme Court will be watching these state plebiscites with decisions coming before it soon on this issue.  Washington and Colorado were OK with legalizing marijuana (yes, I can already hear the advertisements about being a “mile high” there!), but Oregon said no.  Unclear how this will sort out since the US and the Attorney-General are still insisting anything about marijuana is a crime, but Latin America is also moving this way with Uruguay and other countries believing we must legalize to stop the Mexican drug cartels.  Change is coming on both of these issues no doubt!

Let the people speak and be prepared to follow.

We need to put more living wage and minimum wage efforts on the ballot locally and statewide in 2014.  We need to look at some of these other issues and assess what it takes and start making plans.

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