I am the founder and board member of Torrey House Press, a book publisher promoting conservation through literature and proprietor of the Torrey House - Alpenglow Observatory. I am also a director at Western Watersheds Project and Wild Utah Project.
Officials in San Juan County are conducting a case of political and malicious criminal prosecution against Mark Franklin and Rose Chilcoat. The case, over a year old now and not yet even in the trial phase, is already a blow against Mark and Rose and a black eye for San Juan County. They saw a nefarious way to seek revenge against Rose, who is a successful, effective conservationist, and they are getting it. Mark and Rose have accumulated over $100,000 in related legal bills defending themselves against trumped up charges for an utterly insignificant event. They suffer the stress of being falsely accused of crimes that could incur substantial fines and decades in prison. It is a travesty that court proceedings have been allowed to grind on to this point. There is, alas, more legal grinding yet to go.
It is election day and our democracy teeters on the brink.
We might have already lost it. Republicans appear willing to trash our democracy in order to keep their dwindling, minority rule, grasp on power.
Republicans refused to seat a Supreme Court justice for a twice elected and popular president. Then they rammed through an apparent sex abuser because of his credentials as a Republican partisan.
Republicans are practicing flagrant voter suppression.
The Republican Congress demonstrates an utter dereliction of duty to provide checks and balance to the White House.
The White House, unchecked, continually attacks the free press.
The rule of law is under attack. Because the FBI is pursuing abundant evidence that the Trump administration conspired with a hostile foreign power to interfere with the 2016 election, Republicans are attacking the FBI.
The abundant evidence of rampant Trump family tax fraud is being ignored.
The military is being sent to the border as an obvious political stunt.
One can add to this list.
Considering the trend and how there is no apparent bottom to what the Republicans will do and put up with, I ask myself if we should be prepared for when Trump loses the next election and there is not be a peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of democracy.
Kavanaugh sensing something ominous coming his way?
The free press is under attack by the current administration. Which makes it all the more important. A pitfall the press must avoid at this time when facts are under assault is false equivalence. Saying there are two equivalent sides to the reality of man made climate change, for instance. Or implying that the Kavanaugh appointment boils down to, “he-said, she-said.”
There were headlines in both The Washington Post and The New York Times this morning that amounted to “he-said, she said.” It is unfortunate. What Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh had on the line is not only not equivalent, it is polar opposite. Dr. Blasey had everything to lose. She had nothing to gain besides the pride one has in acting with massive courage to do one’s civic duty. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, has a lifetime appointment to gain, as a political hack, to the U.S. Supreme Court. One has to weigh the evidence in this light. What does Dr. Blasey have to gain by lying? Nothing. What does Kavanaugh have to gain by lying? Everything. It is not equivalent. Continue reading →
One of the ugly features of the new Trumpian Republican Party is the tendency to frequently and blatantly lie. Trump, according to fact checkers, averages 6.5 lies a day. To cover up, he twists reality in a way known in psychological circles as gaslighting. It is a practice used by narcissists, wife abusers and dictators alike. Trump says and does things and then denies it. But it is more devious than mere denial. As Frida Ghitis frames it at CNN, he lies then blames others for misunderstanding, disparages their concerns as oversensitivity, claims outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and otherwise twilights the truth. Now Utah’s Republican junior U.S. Senator Mike Lee is giving gaslighting a shot by attempting to make Utah’s much beloved public lands out to be a conspiracy for and of some mystery “elitists.”
For “elitists” only
In a June 2018 speech to the reactionary right’s Sutherland Institute he called “Honoring the Founders Promise on Federal Lands” (you can see the full speech here) Lee stands on his head and claims that our sacred public lands are for a private elite and in order to liberate the lands for the people they must be privatized.
I recently sent this letter to my daughter, Kristen, of adventures and unexpected lessons from the observatory.
Mounting the beast (Celestron C-14)
I had an experience this week that is sticking with me as a terrific little metaphor. I am the student. The thing has cast a spell. I am pondering how to take in the message.
Last Friday Kirsten [my wife] went to NYC to the annual Torrey House distributor conference and to see her dad and sister. While she was gone I scooted down to Torrey to see if I could install one of my dad’s telescopes in the observatory, one that I had not used before. It is his most powerful scope and it is a big beast. I didn’t know if I would even be able to lift it up to the mount, slightly over my head, into its dovetail fitting. I could have used help, but Torrey is far away and I have already imposed on a willing neighbor there too much. I put on some old work gloves. I hefted the thing up, got the dovetail started, but then it jammed. Before my muscles gave out I set the scope back down and waited a while. The gloves left incongruous dust prints on the pristine instrument. Throughout the day I tried 7 more times and went to bed that night thinking I should lift weights more. I thought about it and the next morning tried a new angle. On the second try I finally got it. I sat down to marvel at myself while I gave the mount the command to move to its home position. As it did so I laughed as I realized I had put the beast on upside down.
Utah is 90 percent urban. Much of the West is the same. Yet it is run politically as though it is mostly rural and agricultural. Most Utahns live along the urban Wasatch Front from Ogden to Provo. The Wasatch Mountains bordering the Front are in the U.S. Wasatch National Forest. Even though the Wasatch forests receive traffic like a major national park with millions of visitors per year, these forests are in the best shape of any of the national forests in the state. The reason? No cows. No sheep. No barbed wire. The public would never stand for it.
The rest of the state is a different matter. A majority of the land in Utah is public and most public land is run for and by ranchers, used up and abused by their private livestock. As a result these open lands…
My wife, Kirsten Allen, and I spent the last weekend in January in the San Rafael Swell, BLM managed land in central Utah. Anywhere else in the country and this area would be a national park. But in the lineup of spectacular landscapes in Utah the Swell has not made the cut. Yet.
We drove in from Castle Dale, a Mormon hamlet northwest of the Swell. The road in is all but paved. Granted it was January, but we were still a bit surprised to have the place all to ourselves. And surprised to see a visitor center and Old Spanish Trail installation on the way in to Buckhorn Wash.
San Rafael Swell visitor center
One of the reasons the Swell is not a park is the resistance to public lands by rural county commissioners. Of course, Utah’s fundamentally zealous elected federal officials, all…