Demonstrators with a sign of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during an abortion-rights protest in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Abortion rights suddenly emerged as an issue that could reshape the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of Congress, following a report that conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court were poised to strike down the half-century-old Roe v. Wade precedent. Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images



June 25, 2022

WASHINGTON — “What is happening here?” a distraught Nancy Pelosi said on Friday.

It’s a good question and I can answer it, because I was there at the start of the corrosive chain of events that led to women losing control of their own bodies. I saw how America went from a beacon of modernity to a benighted outlier.

Over the last three decades, I have witnessed a dismal saga of opportunism, fanaticism, mendacity, concupiscence, hypocrisy and cowardice. This is a story about men gaining power by trading away something that meant little to them compared with their own stature: the rights of women.

It started innocently enough on a beautiful summer day in Kennebunkport, with the ocean sparkling and a lunch of crab meat salad and English muffins.

I was covering the first President Bush’s nomination of a 43-year-old U.S. appeals court judge for the D.C. Circuit to take the seat of retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall. Clarence Thomas, standing in front of a weather-beaten shingled cottage, looked uneasy as Bush defended his conservative choice.


Allstate and Progressive end relationships with local insurance agency due to alleged racist Juneteenth sign ~ CNN

By Kiely Westhoff, CNN

June 23, 2022

Two major insurance companies are terminating their relationships with a Maine insurance agency after it allegedly displayed a racist sign remarking on the Juneteenth holiday. Photos taken Monday show a racist sign taped to the window of the Harry E. Reed Insurance agency in Millinocket, Maine.

Two major insurance companies terminated their relationships with a Maine insurance agency after it allegedly displayed a racist sign about the Juneteenth holiday earlier this week.

Photos taken Monday, which CNN has obtained, show a sign taped to the inside window of the Harry E. Reed Insurance agency in Millinocket, Maine. 

“Juneteenth ~it’s whatever… We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens,” the sign said.

According to CNN affiliate WGME, the person who says they posted the sign issued an apology on Facebook, writing in part on the company’s page: “I am so sorry for any pain I have caused and the negative attention it has brought to our beautiful community.”


‘Mixed blessing’: Fire-plagued New Mexico faces excessive monsoon rain ~ The Washington Post


A map of where moisture is riding north over the Desert Southwest. (WeatherBell) (WeatherBell)

First it was fires that plagued New Mexico. Now it is potential floods as the summer monsoon season starts with a bang.

A plume of deep tropical moisture wafting over the Southwest, driven by the monsoon, could unleash “excessive rainfall” through Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

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While the rainfall is welcome news in a landscape parched by widespread drought and charred by historically large fires, it may be too much of a good thing.

“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations,” wrote the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, which issued a flash flood watch for much of central and western New Mexico.

The flash flood watch zones include the areas where New Mexico’s two largest blazes on record still rage — the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak and Black fires.


Freedom of the Press in FAT CITY??? ~~~ huevón

Andrew Travers, my editor at The Aspen Times since the principled resignation of David Krause a few weeks ago, was fired last Friday for publishing previously banned columns I wrote. They contained truth, locally important information, and the revelation of issues our community would have been otherwise unaware of.

This was supposed to be my last column for The Aspen Times, but now is my first for the Aspen Daily News. It depended on how delicately I crafted this piece; if I stayed between the company lines in giving the reason for my departure, the new owners of The Aspen Times might have allowed me to say goodbye in their paper last Friday. Alas, it’s three spikes and I’m out. I went down looking, released on waivers to the Aspen Daily News.

“Spike” is the term used when a news story or column doesn’t get published. In May, I had back-to-back weekly columns spiked — not by my editors in the newsroom, but by the suits at The Aspen Times’ new parent company in West Virginia, who feared a lawsuit. 

The first column pointed out that the new owner of the Gorsuch Haus site at Lift 1A was unnervingly rude for not stepping up and assuring the town of his plans to go along with the development plans approved by voters. The second was about his big money coming to Aspen and silencing our small-town press through litigation threats, gagging The Aspen Times with questionable claims. We were assured by the executives in West Virginia that the columns would run “eventually”, after the litigation was settled.

The litigation was settled. Andrew ran the columns. He got fired. Everyone else got mad. Intimidation seeped into the newsroom.

There is enough to this story for an upper-level, four-credit journalism school case study to consider over the span of an entire semester. There are ample opportunities for teaching moments and a long list of discussion points. However, rather than recognizing these options, the executives at corporate headquarters determined it was simply better (easier) to fire Travers, a seasoned and talented journalist. 

I believe the crux of this controversy boiled down to weighing the universal omerta of keeping interoffice conversations private versus the obligation of newspapers to report honestly on important issues, even if it means disclosing interoffice conversations to do so. Which is the higher law?

My column launched these conflicting objectives on a trajectory of imminent collision. I linked both of the spiked columns chronologically with e-mail discussions about them with my immediate superiors in the Aspen Times newsroom. The story in that format was compelling, revealing and, if I do say so myself, a damn good read. Corporate headquarters disagreed. The columns went live and within 24 hours, the link was deleted and the story went dark.

Even from a purely business standpoint, I don’t see how this made sense. The story was gaining major traction in readership interest and, even though it did not shed the paper in the most favorable light, it wasn’t a hatchet-job attack, either. What the executives missed, in my opinion, is that this was a real-time example of the meaningful work The Aspen Times has a long history of doing that made it an attractive acquisition in the first place.

Above all, the firing of Andrew Travers is the thing I can’t get over. Written words are powerful, even more so when they are disseminated in the public domain. When you deal with them regularly in this arena, it is easy to get complacent. In the heat of battle, there is temptation to use them to exact vengeance, establish authority, even to punish. I can assure you, in talking with Andrew and examining my own conscience, none of this motivated writing and publishing the controversial material that has led to this point. We felt passionately that this was important news that Aspen had to be made aware of. We were backed by contemporaries. It spoke directly to the feeling of intensely accelerating loss of community to big, outside money. It revealed a threat to the degradation of a cherished Aspen institution that is our newspapers.

In the end, it was Andrew’s call to publish. But, they were my words he courageously stood up for. That weighs heavily. I am humbled, honored and grateful. It is not lost on me that my resignation from The Aspen Times is a pittance of recompense for putting his livelihood, career and a passion in jeopardy. I hope knowing the gesture comes directly from my heart makes it worth something. I know his fearless act towards preserving a free press does.    

Roger Marolt wonders if the new owners of The Aspen Times see more value in the name on the front page than they do in the people in the newsroom that made the name worth something.

Government Set a Colossal Wildfire. What Are Victims Owed? ~ NYT


Two prescribed burns got out of control, becoming New Mexico’s largest recorded wildfire. But despite the backlash, experts say it’s necessary to thin forests in a region primed for destruction.

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Letters From An American, Heather Cox Richardson


June 16, 2022

On CNN this morning, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a member of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, said: “New evidence is breaking every single day now. Suddenly, a lot of people want to tell the truth.”

After the committee’s third public hearing today, we can see why. The window for getting onto the good side of the investigation by cooperating with it is closing, and the story the congress members are laying out makes it clear that those sticking with Trump are quite likely in legal trouble. 

It appears that the former president thinks the same thing. Before today’s hearing, he wrote: “I DEMAND EQUAL TIME!!!” 

But it seems unlikely Trump wants to tell his version of what happened around January 6 under oath, and if he were misled by his advisors, who can doubt that he would already have thrown them under the bus? 

And, so far, the committee has used testimony and evidence only from those high up in Trump’s own administration. Today was no exception. The committee covered the former president’s pressure campaign against his vice president, Mike Pence, to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Instead of following the law, codified in the 1887 Electoral Count Act, Trump wanted Pence to use his role as the person charged with opening electoral votes to throw out the votes that gave Democrat Joe Biden victory, or at least to recess the joint session of Congress for ten days to send the electoral slates back to the states, where pro-Trump legislatures could throw out the decision of the voters and resubmit slates for Trump. 

In interviews with Pence’s former counsel Greg Jacob, as well as retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig, formerly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the committee established that this plan, advanced by lawyer John Eastman, was illegal. Indeed, Eastman himself called it illegal, first at length in October 2020, and then in both written and verbal admissions after the election. And the committee established that Eastman, as well as others, told Trump the plan was illegal. 

The hearings today hammered home that the centerpiece of our government is that the people have the right to choose their leaders. That concept is central to the rule of law. And yet, Trump embraced an illegal and unconstitutional theory that, instead, the vice president—one man—could overrule the will of the people and choose the president himself. Such a theory is utterly contrary to everything the Framers of the Constitution stood for and wrote into our fundamental law. 

And yet, by early December 2020, after their legal challenges to the election had all failed, Trump’s people began to say that Pence could throw out the electoral slates that states had certified for Biden, or could send those certified electoral slates back to the states for reconsideration so that Republican-dominated legislatures could then submit new slates for Trump. Judge Luttig hammered home that there is nothing in either legal precedent or historical precedent that gave any validation to the idea that one man could determine the outcome of the election. 

Still, on December 13, the day before the Electoral College met, lawyer Kenneth Chesebro wrote to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani arguing that Pence could refuse to count the votes from states that had “alternative” electors (we also know that he wrote about this idea for the first time on November 18, so that might have been the chatter Pence was hearing). At the time, the scheme to create second slates of electors was underway. 

Eastman then took up the cause, saying that seven states had submitted “dual” slates of electors. When Jacob dismissed that claim, Eastman just said that Pence could just call them disputed anyway and throw the votes from those states out. Luttig reiterated that these fake electors had no legal authority whatsoever and that there is no historical or legal precedent at all to support the idea that the vice president could count alternative electoral slates to the ones certified by the states.

Both Pence’s counsel Jacobs and his chief of staff Marc Short believed that Eastman’s plan was bananas, and an avalanche of White House advisors agreed. According to today’s testimony, those agreeing included Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann, and Trump advisor Jason Miller, who testified that people thought “Eastman was crazy.” Herschmann testified that even Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani agreed on the morning of January 6 that Eastman’s argument wouldn’t stand up in court. 

Nonetheless, Giuliani went out in front of the crowd at the Ellipse on January 6, insisted that the theory was correct, and lied that even Thomas Jefferson himself had used it. 

Meanwhile, beginning in December, Trump had been pressuring Pence to go along with the scheme. Pence had refused, but Trump kept piling on the pressure. At rallies in early January, he kept hammering on the idea that Pence could deliver the election to Trump, and in meetings on January 4 and 5, he kept demanding that Pence overturn the election. When Pence continued to refuse, Trump appeared to try to lock him in by tweeting on January 5 that he and Pence were “in total agreement” that Pence could act to change the outcome of the election. 

By then, Short was so worried about what Trump might do on January 6 that he told the Secret Service he was concerned about Pence’s safety. 

On January 6, Trump called Pence on the phone and, according to witnesses, called him a “wimp” and a “p*ssy.” Pence then issued a statement saying it was his “considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” Trump then went before the crowd at the Ellipse and added to his prepared speech sections attacking Pence. 

After Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows told him that violence had broken out at the Capitol, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what needed to be done,” and violence ratcheted up. The committee showed rioters claiming they were there because Pence had let them down. “Pence betrayed us…the president mentioned it like 5 times when he talked,” one said. That 2:24 tweet was “pouring gasoline on the fire,” one White House press member told the committee. At 2:26, Pence and his family were evacuated to a secure location, where he would stay for more than four hours. The rioters missed the vice president by about 40 feet. A Proud Boy told the committee that if they had found Pence, they would have killed him. 

Even after the crisis ended, Eastman continued to write to Pence’s people asking him to send the electoral slates back to the states. Herschmann advised him to “get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You’re going to need it.” Eastman then put in writing that he wanted a presidential pardon: “I’ve decided I should be on the pardon list,” he wrote. When he did not get a pardon, he took the Fifth Amendment before the committee, asserting his right against self-incrimination more than 100 times.

There were lots of places where Pence and his team were no heroes. They could have warned any number of people about what Trump was up to long before January 6, and Pence’s apparently noble stance was undoubtedly informed by a realization that if Pence did as Trump asked and it went wrong—even Eastman acknowledged the scheme was illegal—Pence would be the one holding the bag.

But the committee left all that unsaid. Instead, it went out of its way to make a very clear distinction between Trump, who was out for himself and damn the country, and Pence, who risked his own safety to follow the law. Indeed, that theme was so clear it appeared to have been carefully scripted. Today’s testimony highlighted the principles of Jacob and Short and their boss, Mike Pence. It even took a deliberate detour to let both Jacob and Short talk about how their Christian faith helped them to stand against Trump and do what was right, an aside that seemed designed to appeal to the evangelicals supporting Trump. And it highlighted how Pence continued to do the work of governing even while he was in the secure location, which looked much like a loading dock according to new photos shown today. 

The committee seems to be presenting a clear choice to Republicans: stand with Trump, a man without honor who is quite possibly looking at criminal indictments and who is trying to destroy our democracy, or stand with Pence, who embraces the same economic and social ideology that Republicans claim to, without wanting to destroy our democracy. 

The appearance of Judge Luttig today was in keeping with this theme. Luttig is such a giant in conservative legal circles that he was talked of for the Supreme Court in place of Samuel Alito, and his words bear extraordinary weight. Luttig hammered home that Trump’s scheme was an attempt to overturn the rule of law and to destroy our democracy. And, he warned, the danger is not over. Trump and his supporters remain “a clear and present danger to American democracy.” 

Luttig’s testimony was powerful, but even more extraordinary was a statement he released before today’s hearing. Luttig, for whom both Eastman and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) clerked, warned that “January 6 was…a war for America’s democracy, a war irresponsibly instigated and prosecuted by the former president, his political party allies, and his supporters.” 

That is, Luttig laid the responsibility for today’s national crisis at the door of the Trump wing of the Republican Party. He went on to warn that only it could reject the attempt of the president and his supporters to undermine the faith in our elections that underpins our democracy: “[O]nly the party that instigated this war over our democracy can bring an end to that war…. These senseless wars…were conceived and instigated from our Nation’s Capital by our own political leaders…and they have been cynically prosecuted by them to fever pitch, now to the point that they have recklessly put America herself at stake.”

Luttig urged Americans to remember that the fate of our democracy is in our hands and to reject the fever dreams of the Trump Republicans in favor of “a new vision, new truths, new values, new principles, new beliefs, new hopes and dreams that hopefully could once again bind our divided nation together into the more perfect union that ‘We the People’ originally ordained and established it to be.” 

“The time has come,” Luttig wrote, “for us to decide whether we allow this war over our democracy to be prosecuted to its catastrophic end or whether we ourselves demand the immediate suspension of this war and insist on peace instead. We must make this decision because our political leaders are unwilling and unable, even as they recklessly prosecute this war in our name.” 

Chair Bennie Thompson closed today’s hearing by asking anyone who might be on the fence about cooperating with the committee’s investigation, please to reach out.

Happy Birthday Antiquities Act ~ The Land Desk


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The landmark law is 116 today

Jonathan P. Thompson
Jun 8


Today, June 8, is the 116th anniversary of the passage of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which authorizes presidents to establish national monuments, among other things. To commemorate the occasion, we’re rerunning—with a few modifications—one of the Land Desk’s first-ever dispatches, “The Meaning of Monuments,” which appeared in January 2021. 

But first, a couple of tidbits from the old Twitter feed: 

I really dig this graphic showing how full, or empty, Colorado River Basin reservoirs are.

The Meaning of Monuments

When President Barack Obama established Bears Ears National Monument in December 2016, conservationists and tribal leaders were jubilant, knowing that the spectacular landscape and rich history of the region would be preserved. Those opposed to the monument called the designation “unilateral tyranny” (Utah Legislature’s public lands committee) and an “attack on an entire way of life” (Sen. Orrin Hatch). A year later, when Trump shrunkthe monument by more than 1 million acres, purportedly ushering in a new era of “wonder and wealth,” the Hatches of the world were puffed up with glee and the pro-monument folks were thrown into tearful mourning. Now, with President Joe Biden having already launched a review that is likely to culminate with the restoration of the original boundaries of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, the tears have turned to those of joy. 

Often lost among the back and forth, the slow-motion emotional rollercoaster, and the overblown rhetoric was how a national monument designation affects the landscapes and the antiquities to which it is applied. There is no set-in-stone template for what a national monument is or means. Sometimes a national monument designation can significantly alter the way people interact with the landscape within its boundaries, other times it is mostly symbolic, amounting to little more than a line drawn around public land with a new label slapped on it. But a national monument designation is almost never the draconian land grab that detractors make it out to be, nor is it the preservation panacea for which advocates yearn. 

As the first light of sun saturates the Great Sage Plain in southeastern Utah, I jog along a sandy trail that winds through yellow-flowered chamisa in a wide-bottomed, shallow canyon. The air—still relatively humid from last night’s early August rain—is redolent with the smell of sagebrush. I stop, stand still, and listen for the soft coo of the mourning dove. Up the canyon a small rectangular structure perches on a giant sandstone boulder, its walls bright with the early morning sunlight. I pass through an opening in a fence indicating the dividing line between Hovenweep National Monument and plain old Bureau of Land Management Land. The differences between the land on either side are subtle but immediately palpable. The vegetation is not as thick on the BLM side, the soil is lighter in color and smoother in texture, and desiccated cow dung is evident in the dry wash-bottom. In satellite images the differences between the two sides of the line are even more distinct. 

Can you see the line dividing Hovenweep National Monument from BLM land? Hint: It cuts right down the middle of the image.

This is a favorite area of mine to hike in, in part because by walking just a few miles through quietly beautiful terrain one can go from a national monument managed by the National Park Service, to BLM land, to another national monument managed by the BLM. And that gives the sagebrush-saunterer a visceral sense of what a national monument means and doesn’t mean. 

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In the early days of American westward expansion, the federal government stole millions of acres of land from the Indigenous peoples who had inhabited it for generations. The government called the stolen lands the “public domain,” imposed a rectangular grid upon them known as the Public Land Survey System, and then proceeded to “dispose” of the rectangles of land, giving them away to states and to individuals and corporations for virtually nothing via the Homestead Act, the General Mining Law, and the Pacific Railway Acts. The land that went unclaimed remained in the public domain and was a free-for-all upon which big-time livestock operations grazed their cattle and sheep with abandon, forever altering landscapes and ecosystems. Hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites also were left unprotected and open to plunder and even homesteading. 

“Few of the mounds have escaped the hands of the destroyer,” T. Mitchell Pruden wrote of Hovenweep’s cultural sites in 1903, two decades before it was declared a monument. “Cattlemen, ranchmen, rural picnickers, and professional collectors have turned the ground well over and have taken out much pottery, breaking more, and strewing the ground with many crumbling bones.” Richard Wetherill, the renowned but not-so-scrupulous early Southwestern archaeologist, homesteaded a good portion of what is now Chaco Culture National Historical Park, including Pueblo Bonito. But before he could patent the claim—or take title to the land—Congress passed the Antiquities Act and President Theodore Roosevelt wielded it to designate Chaco Canyon National Monument, thus cancelling out the homestead as well as precluding any possibility of future mining claims or homesteads there*. 

The Antiquities Act made it illegal to “appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument” on public land and gave the president broad powers to withdraw public domain land from disposal to protect the antiquities in question. While it also said that the withdrawal “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” the Act left that determination up to the president. Beyond that the Act did not lay out any specific rules or regulations for the monuments; those would be specified on a broad level in the monument proclamation, and further refined in the management plans. Grazing was allowed at Chaco, for example, until 1934, the same year that the feds finally decided to impose some order on public lands grazing with the Taylor Grazing Act. President Warren G. Harding’s proclamation designating Hovenweep National Monument in 1923 merely withdrew the land from future claims and put the land under the auspices of the National Park Service, which has its own rules and regulations, including a general ban on grazing and mineral leasing (the General Mineral Leasing Act was just three years old when Hovenweep National Monument was established). 

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Once on BLM land I wander away from the trail, careful not to step on any cryptobiotic soil. Unfortunately there is little of the intricate, living stuff in evidence, most likely because it was repeatedly trampled by cattle and sheep and possibly feral horses over the years. I wander as aimlessly as I can, avoiding straight lines, and stagger to a stop when I spot a big free-standing boulder capped with the remains of a lichen-covered wall. I gingerly make my way around the rectangular sandstone blocks, rubble that once stood as someone’s home, scattered about on the ash-colored earth. Potsherds—a rim of a bowl, a handle of a mug, polished by calloused hands or smooth stones some eight-hundred years ago—are scattered abundantly. It is a Hovenweep tower, though it is not in Hovenweep National Monument or any other monument or protected area. 

When first designated, Hovenweep was just a few-hundred acres. Over the years new units were added to extend protections to a small handful of associated villages. Yet even now the monument’s six units cover just 784 acres. Left out of the monument were thousands upon thousands of villages, structures, fields, shrines, “roads,” and other architectural features that are woven into every acre of the landscape of the entire region like a giant, cultural-historical tapestry. That meant that someone could come along and homestead or stake a mining claim on any of that non-monument land, patent the claim, and thereby privatize not only the land, but also the cultural sites, even complete villages, and by doing so they would remove any protections offered to the artifacts by the Antiquities Act.

In 1975 Congress passed the Federal Lands Policy Management Act, or FLPMA, which put the BLM into a stewardship role rather than merely as a facilitator of extractive activity on the public lands. FLPMA also put a halt to the practice of disposal. One could still stake a mining claim on public land and proceed to gouge it for the minerals it contained, but the land could not be patented or privatized, except in rare cases. The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 lent more protection to archaeological sites on public land, whether within or outside a national monument or park. 

In some ways this expansion of protective measures and regulations to all public lands changed the significance of national monument designations. Since the practice of disposing of public lands had gone the way of the dinosaurs, and given that most of the protections on land within national monuments has been extended to all public lands, What, one may ask, is the point of establishing a national monument? There are some more complicated answers to the question that have to do with symbolism and the power that comes with recognizing the value of a place. But there’s also a very simple answer: mineral leasing.

Oil well and infrastructure near Hovenweep National Monument

In late summer 2019, the BLM put drilling rights on 32,000 acres in eastern San Juan County on the block. Most of the parcels were not far from Hovenweep National Monument, while three contiguous parcels lay alongside Recapture Canyon, in an archaeologically rich area just east of the original boundary of Bears Ears National Monument (and within a whisker of the boundary proposed by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal coalition). One Chaco-era village sits atop a steep-sided mesita in the middle of Recapture Canyon, like the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. It is just outside of the leased parcel, but it could very well end up on the auction block in the future.

When auction day arrived, representatives from oil and gas companies logged onto something called Energynet—a sort of eBay for exploiting public lands—where bidding started at $2 per acre for the right to drill the three Recapture parcels. Kirkwood Oil & Gas** put in the highest bid, a whopping $3 per acre, which vested them with the right to develop the land within ten years of the sale. They still have to get a permit to do so, but the BLM hasn’t exactly been miserly with the things. That will open the door for them to scrape the land of its cryptobiotic soil, sagebrush, and other vegetation; build roads and pipelines; and drill deep into the earth, hydraulically fracture the well, and suck hydrocarbons out of the ground. If the land had been included in the national monument, none of this would have been possible.

In the lead up to the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, many well-intentioned folks—and some with more cynical aims—argued that a national monument designation for Bears Ears was unnecessary, (and the subsequent shrinkage meaningless), because even if the land was leased it would still be protected by multiple levels of federal rules and regulations, from the Archaeological Resources Protection Act to the many provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and, most relevant to oil and gas development, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 requires developers of any sort of project to conduct a cultural inventory of the affected area. If any “significant” sites are found, the pipeline, road, or well pad must be rerouted accordingly.

The practice is known as “identify and avoid.” It has generally worked to keep the bulldozers from scraping major sites. You are not likely to see a pumpjack grinding away atop a great kiva (yet you can certainly see and hear pumpjacks grinding away from many a great kiva). But Paul Reed, a longtime archaeologist and scholar of the Chaco world, told me a few years ago that Section 106 simply does not cut it when it comes to protecting less apparent features. Today, roads bisect villages, pipelines cut through ancient corn fields, and well pads have obliterated many “other super subtle things going on that are part of understanding that landscape,” said Reed. “That’s how ancient landscapes get fragmented.”

“Even though agencies try to mitigate the impact, it isn’t enough because you’ve literally destroyed the context in which those things exist,” Theresa Pasqual, former director of Acoma Pueblo’s Historic Preservation Office, and a descendant of the Pueblo people who occupied the Four Corners region for thousands of years, told me when I was researching a story on Chaco. “Most of our pueblos are still transmitting their migration history through oral means. So when you have development that begins to impact many of these sites they are literally destroying the pages of the history book of the Pueblo people.”

And that’s where national monuments come in—or can come in if the lines are drawn correctly. Whereas Section 106 protects just the individual structures, a wide-ranging national monument can also cover the context that surrounds them, putting it off-limits to mining or drilling or new road building. It’s a far more holistic approach, intended to protect every piece of the cultural landscape, not just the major sites. The difference between lands within Chaco park and those outside is a stark one and it’s startling to imagine what would have become of Pueblo Bonito and its surroundings had Roosevelt never acted. 

And therein lies the problem with Hovenweep and, to a lesser extent, Chaco: The monument lines left out so much of the context, leaving the bulk of the cultural tapestry vulnerable to being sliced up and unraveled. 

I continue my journey, heading eastward until I run up against another barbed-wire fence. The wire is strung tight along metal poles. I squeeze through it and by doing so pass from Utah into Colorado and from regular BLM land to Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, which, like most of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, is managed by the BLM rather than the National Park Service. Grazing is allowed without a lot of restrictions in Canyon of the Ancients, so the land on the monument side of the fence is every bit as worn-down as on the non-monument side. 

Canyon of the Ancients represents an evolution in the government’s approach to protecting cultural landscapes. President Bill Clinton’s proclamation from 2000 blanketed a relatively large swath of landscape—164,000 acres—instead of just targeting individual sites. This ethos was extended to nearly ten times that amount of land when Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument sixteen years later. “Canyons of the Ancients was perhaps the first to explicitly recognize that ruins do not tell the entire story—that ancients lived in, hunted, gathered and raised crops, and developed water and religious sites throughout the larger landscape,” said Bruce Babbitt, Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior. “Bears Ears brings this concept to fruition in an even larger landscape.”

At the same time, the protections offered to these large expanses of land were less complete than those extended to earlier monuments. Grazing would continue to go on as it had in Canyon of the Ancients, Bears Ears, and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Whereas new energy leases would be halted in Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Canyon of the Ancients was so ravaged by oil and gas and carbon dioxide extraction that development and even new leasing would be allowed to continue. Existing energy leases and mining claims are grandfathered in at all new monuments, and the Antiquities Act never extends to private, state, or tribal lands that fall within the monument boundaries. Calling a monument designation a land grab is misguided in any case, but especially with the less restricted monuments like Canyons of the Ancients and Bears Ears. 

When President Donald J. Trump then eviscerated the Utah national monuments, he not only reduced the size by significant amounts, but the new boundaries were also redrawn in a haphazard way, especially at Bears Ears, rendering the notion of landscape-scale protection almost meaningless. It was akin to slicing up Yellowstone National Park into small units, one for Old Faithful, one for Yellowstone Falls, and so forth. Responding to the shrinkage, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition put out a statement that said, “The Bears Ears region is not a series of isolated objects, but the object itself, a connected, living landscape, where the place, not a collection of items, must be protected. You cannot reduce the size without harming the whole.”

And with the shrinkage, millions of acres that had been put off-limits to leasing and mining claims by the monument designations were suddenly laid open again, just like the aforementioned Recapture parcels. At the same time, the Trump administration’s take-no-prisoners quest for “American energy dominance” was blowing up the regulatory framework that was supposed to mitigate the impacts of development on that newly re-opened land. The administration then rushed together a skimpy management plan for what remained of the monument. It was so deficient that it seemed as if it were intended to demonstrate how meaningless a monument can be.


Fortunately oil and gas and uranium companies did not pour in and stake mining claims en masse after the shrinkage, nor did the BLM put up any land within the former monuments for lease. That’s not because the resources aren’t there. Approximately 250 oil and gas wells have been drilled within the Obama-drawn boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument over the last century, including dozens on Cedar Mesa and in Valley of the Gods and one that blew in and caught fire near the foot of the Bears Ears buttes. The scars still haven’t healed, fifty, seventy, one-hundred years later. Several years ago an oil company scraped a road and well pad and put up a drill rig on Cedar Mesa’s Cyclone Flats, just outside the Fish Creek Wilderness Study Area. The well apparently came up dry, but the damage inflicted to find that out remains. The next well may be a gusher. The history of extraction in the West, after all, is one of commodity prices and innovation turning yesterday’s dry wells into today’s bonanzas.

Besides, a monument does far more than just keep looters or drillers at bay. It gives federal land managers more leverage to limit visitation, to steer people away from the most sensitive sites, to ban or strictly regulate motorized and non-motorized recreation, to forbid mountain bike races and other competitive events, to keep BASE jumpers from launching themselves into Arch Canyon, and to stop “adventure guides” from leading dozens of paying clients through your favorite, no-longer-so-secret slot canyon. None of that is a given, however. And that may be the most important lesson here: A monument designation in and of itself is only the beginning of the process. If the public wants genuine protection, it has to stay involved and keep advocating during the creation of the management plan and beyond. 

So monuments do have tangible meaning, they do add another layer of on-the-ground protection against a variety of threats. But they are also symbolic. Obama’s designation of Bears Ears National Monument went a long ways in this respect, acknowledging that tribal nations do have a say over their ancestral homelands, and that they should be involved in not only managing, but also interpreting those landscapes. Sarah Krakoff, a law professor at University of Colorado Boulder, put it this way in an article published by the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review:

“Bears Ears and other recent monuments constitute a step toward repairing past injustices and reintegrating disenfranchised groups with the landscape. Rather than create islands of nature separate from islands of people, as early conservation laws did, these monuments reflect human connections to the land and prioritize traditionally marginalized communities.”

In other words, a national monument designation can be an act of justice. What can have more meaning than that?

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Heather Cox Richardson from Letter from an American


June 8, 2022

Heather Cox RichardsonJun 9

Today, the Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio complained to reporters that there have been “two standards” in the way we have seen the vandalism at some of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and the January 6 insurrection. “We have a dust-up at the Capitol, nothing burned down, and we’re going to make that a major deal.”

This is a common charge on the right, but it is a myth. An AP study showed that more than 120 defendants have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial for rioting, arson, and conspiracy for the 2020 protests, and that they are from all over the political spectrum, with many of them far-right extremists who traveled across state lines to the protests. And the January 6 attack was hardly victimless: 5 people died at the Capitol riot or just after it, more than 100 law enforcement officers were injured, and the rioters did more than $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol.

What happened on January 6th was not a “dust-up.” It was an attempt to overturn our democracy and install as president someone who had lost the popular vote and the Electoral College, upending the Constitution that is the law of our land.

As a report from the Brookings Institution put it: “President Joe Biden legitimately won a fair and secure 2020 presidential election—and Donald Trump lost. This historical fact has been uncontroverted by any evidence since at least November 7, 2020, when major news outlets projected Biden’s victory. But Trump never conceded. Instead, both before and after Election Day, he tried to delegitimize the election results by disseminating a series of far-fetched and evidence-free claims of fraud. Meanwhile, with a ring of close confidants, Trump conceived and implemented unprecedented schemes to—in his own words—“overturn” the election outcome. Among the results of this “Big Lie” campaign were the terrible events of January 6, 2021—an inflection point in what we now understand was nothing less than an attempted coup.”

Part of the crisis in which we find ourselves today is that many people don’t understand what is at stake in the hearings, in part because commentators have turned the attempt of Trump and his supporters to overturn our democracy into a mud-wrestling fight between Democrats and Republicans rather than showing it as an existential fight for rule of law. Today in his Presswatchers publication, Dan Froomkin explored how U.S. news organizations have failed to communicate to readers that we are on a knife edge between democracy and authoritarianism.

Froomkin notes that journalists have framed the January 6 hearings as a test for the Democrats or as a waste of time because they will not change anyone’s mind or perhaps because no one cares. He begged journalists not to downplay the hearings and present them as a horse race, but to frame the events of January 6 in the larger context of Republican attempts to overturn our democracy.

Tomorrow night, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its first hearing to explain to the American people what happened at the end of the Trump administration. The hearings will be broadcast on C-SPANABCCBSCNNMSNBCNBCPBS, and the Fox Business Channel and streamed on the YouTube channel of the House Select Committee on June 9, 13, 15, 16, 21, and 23.

We have some idea of what the hearings will entail.

According to committee member Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the hearings will establish that the attack was the result of “concerted planning and premeditated activity.” The hearings will show who was behind the January 6th attack on the Capitol, ultimately connecting the attack to Trump and his closest aides. Raskin told the Washington Post that “we are going to tell the story of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election and block the transfer of power.”

As the Brookings report put it: “Trump attempted to retain power by any means necessary.” He prepared to argue that the election was stolen long before it took place on November 3, 2020. Trump’s stories about voter fraud shifted and were inconsistent, and he “was repeatedly told by trusted advisors, experts, and courts that there was no fraud.”

Committee members have said there will be new evidence produced at the hearings, and new information has been dropping all week.

We learned that Trump expressed great interest in the Insurrection Act, which enables the president to call out the military to put down an “insurrection” or a “rebellion.” Court filings say that members of the Oath Keepers expected Trump to invoke the act to enable them to fight against those counting the electoral votes for Joe Biden.

We also learned that Trump badgered his Secret Service detail to permit him to walk with his supporters to the Capitol building after his speech at the Ellipse on January 6.

We have learned that Republican officials in at least 11 places in Michigan breached local election systems to try to prove that the 2020 election was stolen, and that the citizen initiative petition to limit voting rights in order to combat “fraud” had about 20,000 fraudulent signatures on it. In addition, there were allegations that petition circulators had lied to voters to get them to sign the petition, a practice that is legal in Michigan despite the attempts of Democratic lawmakers to prohibit it.

And, crucially, we learned that the Trump campaign told the fake electors in Georgia to operate in “complete secrecy.” The apparent plan of the Trump plotters was to get fake electors to present an uncertified slate of electoral votes that gave their state to Trump, rather than to Biden as voters had chosen. But, as a Trump official wrote in an email: “I must ask for your complete discretion in this process. Your duties are imperative to ensure the end result—a win in Georgia for President Trump—but will be hampered unless we have complete secrecy and discretion.” The official asked the electors to avoid the media and to lie to security guards about why they were at the statehouse. This email suggests the plotters knew they were acting illegally.

But perhaps the biggest sign that the hearings will turn heads is how hard Trump Republicans are trying to distance themselves from it, or to create a distraction.

Significantly, a piece in the New York Times by Peter Baker, published today, distanced Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump from the debacle of the Big Lie that Trump had won the 2020 election. “No matter how vociferously Mr. Trump claimed otherwise, neither Mr. Kushner nor Ivanka Trump believed then or later that the election had been stolen…. While the president spent the hours and days after the polls closed complaining about imagined fraud in battleground states and plotting a strategy to hold on to power, his daughter and son-in-law were already washing their hands of the Trump presidency,” the story reads.

If the former president’s daughter and son-in-law, both key White House advisors, are now trying to distance themselves from the events of January 6, perhaps the panic in the party more generally was best demonstrated today when the Republican National Committee responded to news of a man looking to harm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. It sent out an email with the subject heading: “The Democrat SCOTUS Assassin.”

In his comment today about January 6, for which he later apologized, Del Rio claimed he just wanted to “apply the same standard,” and “to be reasonable with each other” and to “have a discussion.” The open-mindedness he calls for is a perfect approach to this month’s hearings.


Letter from Santiago

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Gabriel Boric promises sweeping social change. In a nation of duelling political extremes, he’ll need to sell his vision not just to his opponents but also to his allies.

By Jon Lee Anderson

June 6, 2022

Gabriel Boric, who is thirty-six, campaigned on a revolutionary-sounding slogan: “If Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism, it will also be its grave.”Photographs by Tomás Munita for The New Yorker


February in Santiago, the capital of Chile, is like August in Paris: the end of summer, when everyone who can afford a vacation escapes for a last gasp of freedom. Many santiaguinosgo to the nearby Pacific beaches, or to the chilly lakes in the south. After two months of frenetic activity that followed the election of December 19th, Gabriel Boric, the country’s President-elect, was also planning to take a break

At a back-yard barbecue, a few weeks before his inauguration, Boric explained that he and his partner were heading to the Juan Fernández archipelago, four hundred miles off the coast. Their destination was the island where the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the eighteenth century, helping inspire Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” Boric planned to swim and fish, and also to read through a pile of books: the Defoe classic, biographies of Chilean Presidents, a history of Eastern Europe by Timothy Snyder. He felt that he had some catching up to do on geopolitics, since he was already being courted by superpowers.

After Boric’s victory, President Joe Biden had called to offer congratulations, and to invite him to a summit of hemispheric leaders in Los Angeles. Chile, with its four thousand miles of coastline, is a tactical outpost in Latin America—a region where Biden has been trying, intermittently, to increase his outreach. The trip would be complicated for Boric; he had won office at the head of a left-wing coalition that included Chile’s Communist Party, which tends to regard the United States as an imperialist aggressor. But, he told me, the summit wasn’t for several months, and “Biden said I didn’t have to decide right away.”

The Chinese Embassy had hand-delivered a letter from Xi Jinping, in which he courteously reminded Boric that the People’s Republic of China was Chile’s biggest trading partner. Chile is the world’s largest producer of copper and its second-largest of lithium; China’s supply of batteries and cell phones depends on the trade.

Boric had also heard that Vladimir Putin was considering a visit to Argentina, and wondered if he’d want to add Chile to his itinerary. He grimaced as he thought about it. Some on Chile’s hard left see Russia as an ally against American “hegemony,” but Boric didn’t want Putin in his country.

Boric is thirty-six—a year older than the minimum age for a Chilean President—with a stocky build, a round, bearded face, and a mop of brown hair. He described these developments with an air of thrilled complicity; they were among the most important moments of his life so far. He was not yet officially President, but he had been given a car and bodyguards, and was briefed daily by the outgoing administration. He had declared that his government would be feminist, and that his cabinet, in a first for Latin America, would be predominately female; fourteen out of twenty-four ministers would be women, including the secretaries of defense and the interior. Two ministers were openly gay. Many of Boric’s officials were young leftists, like himself.

His partner, Irina Karamanos, also represented a break with the past. A thirty-two-year-old of Greek and German descent, she speaks five languages, has degrees in anthropology and education, and is regarded as a leader in feminist politics. She had already managed to pique some Chileans by declaring that she would “reformulate” the role of First Lady, because she was “neither first nor a lady.”

Boric’s opponent in the election was José Antonio Kast, an ultraconservative Catholic with nine children. An admirer of Brazil’s far-right Jair Bolsonaro, Kast had promised a pro-business, law-and-order government that would keep out unwanted immigrants and oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. He was the son of an officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht who had immigrated to Chile after the war and built a fortune selling Bavarian-style meats. Echoing Donald Trump, Kast urged voters to “dare to make Chile a great country.”

In the end, Boric beat Kast by twelve percentage points, garnering the largest number of votes ever cast for a candidate in Chile. He represented the most left-wing government since the ill-fated Presidency of Salvador Allende, a socialist who won power in 1970, only to be overthrown three years later in a bloody military coup, after which General Augusto Pinochet ruled as a right-wing dictator for seventeen years.