Open Letter to Utah Senators and Representatives, and All Members of the U.S. Congress

Open Letter to Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee (Senators from Utah), Jason Chaffetz (Representative of my district in Utah), Rob Bishop and Jim Matheson (representatives of other House districts in Utah), and all other members of Congress:

I am a middle class American and refuse to stand quietly by and let you destroy this country. The budget debate you have been playing at has gone beyond the point of reason. I join with many, many others in saying that you must stop this irresponsibility. It doesn’t matter which political party you have attached to your name, you are supposedly a representative of the citizens and supposedly put country first. You should be ashamed of the partisan debate that has brought us to the economic brink of default and made “democracy” the laughingstock of the world. No one observing the current debacle would want to have anything to do with our form of government, they must view us as in a downward spiral to nowhere, and they are right.

Many of you (all of the Utahns) claim that this is the result of unchecked spending, budget deficits, etc. (something that almost all of you have been a part of for many years), and that you are now going to be the ones to put a stop to it. Rather than stopping it though, you are opening the trapdoor for the middle and lower classes in this country to fall through. Not one of you has offered a reasonable, balanced approach that includes everyone in this country — and by that I include individuals (rich, poor and everyone in between), small businesses and big corporations. You refuse to consider any kind of tax increase — including closing tax loopholes that benefit large corporations or ending oil and gas subsidies on corporations that just posted multi-billion dollar profits — or even to let the Bush era tax cuts expire. Most of what has been proposed falls on the back of those least able to make adjustments — elderly, poor, lower and middle class, and the environment. Where were your budget concerns in the pre-war debate regarding funding of two wars? Did you express any reservations regarding how those wars were going to be funded? I’ll answer for you because I remember even if you don’t: No, you did not express any concerns, in fact, those of you who were in Washington at that time were in FULL support of the wars as well as the tax cuts. You completely disregarded the voices of warning saying that it could not be done and our nation remain economically sound. You were in a full press forward, following the administration’s advice to increase spending (two wars) and decrease revenues (tax cuts). That, sirs, is why we have a budget crisis; that is why we have a deficit rather than a budget surplus — and you were in full support.

Since you played such an important role in the making of our current deficit, you need to get busy, bury your partisan pom poms, and work out a viable compromise — not a compromise like you think you have agreed upon, not one that requires a constitutional amendment, but a real, viable compromise. A compromise that cuts spending but also increases revenues. The subsidies must go and tax cuts for those with incomes over $200,000 must go. You know that 90-95% of Americans do not fall into that category so unless you are going to be elected by the other 5% you’d better pay attention here!

Now a few personal notes to each of the legislators from Utah:

Mike Lee, your constitutional amendment needs to hit the bottom of the bin. This country had a budget surplus when George W. Bush started his first term and that was without your constitutional amendment. We didn’t need it then, we don’t need it now. You profess to believe that the Constitution of the United States is divinely inspired, so stop trying to mess with it. You are not the one to “save” it from the proverbial “thread” any more than Mr. Hatch.

Orrin Hatch, it’s time for you to retire. You came from Pennsylvania thirty years ago campaigning on term limits and you are still here. It’s time to do something other than petty squabbling with Jason Chaffetz.

Mr. Chaffetz, stop acting like Mr. Hatch. Also, I don’t want to hear you say again that you haven’t heard any disagreement with your budget/deficit position from your constituents. You have and you know it.

Rob Bishop, it’s time to realize that God didn’t say “suck the earth dry and then pave whatever’s left” when he referred to replenishing the Earth.  The dust you are made of will return to the earth but your soul will return to God, and He will require an accounting. That will not be in dollars earned for the oil and gas lobby.

Jim Matheson, I think it would be better if you just switched parties. You vote as a Republican most of the time so you might as well be honest about it.

Now a general note to all serving (yes, serving) in the House/Senate/Administration:

It is time to stop this ridiculous posturing and get some work done. If you went to school in this country you had to take U.S. history and/or civics courses. You should know that governing means compromise. Our country has 300 million people in it — no one will ever get everything they want! I won’t, you won’t, no one will. That is because if I get what I want, someone else gets stepped on. If someone else gets everything they want, the ‘wants’ of another someone else will be squashed. That is why we must compromise. EVERYONE must do their part, the poor, the middle class, the wealthy and the corporations. When you serve only one sector — even if it’s the one that provides bucketloads of campaign cash — you are hurting all others. You cannot do that as an elected official and still claim to be “principled.” You must look at the greater good for the majority. It is time to remember the other 95% of the American population. Unless I am mistaken, they are the ones who will be at the polls in the next election.

Sincerely,

Utah American

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Big Oil and the Budget/Deficit Debate

There are some people who will immediately discount the following information simply because the source is  The Progress Report Banner, what is generally considered to be a liberal/progressive information source.  Whether the information comes from a liberal or a conservative source (e.g. The Wall Street Journal), the facts are the same:  the big oil corporations continue to make billions of dollars in profits even as they continue to receive government tax and incentive subsidies.  Please read closely and note that the figures below are not for a full year, say for 2010, but are for second quarter 2011, that is April to June only of 2011 and they are profits.   Three Months!

The budget/deficit debate in the House and Senate of the United States continues to slide away from the elimination of these subsidies and toward cuts to services that ALL Americans, not just corporate CEOs or shareholders, receive — Medicare and Social Security, clean air/water regulation, environmental protections and assistance to “the least among us.”  The debate has included such possibilities as doing away with or lowering PELL grants for low-income students, eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction, defunding the EPA and Interior Departments to the point where enforcement of existing regulations that protect drinking water, mine safety and air quality, for example, is impossible.

Our government is supposed to be “of, by and for the people,” and so, unless you think this is fair (and who knows, you might), I suggest that you write/call/email your congressmen, those representatives and senators who are elected BY THE PEOPLE, NOT BY THE CORPORATION and let them know how you feel about this.  As far as I am concerned, this is absolutely unacceptable and would say, “read it and weep,” but I don’t want you to weep, weeping is generally associated with hopelessness and the facing of a situation that cannot be changed.  This can and must change.  Therefore, I say, “read it and get DAMN MAD!!!!  Call and write your congressmen and let them know how unacceptable this is!  Compromise means that both sides come together, it’s not one side of the debate completely caving!  Everyone must tighten — YES, EVEN BIG OIL!!!

Link here to find your congressional representatives:   http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

No ‘Shared Sacrifice’ for Big Oil

While the government’s coffers are nearly empty (not unlike the wallets of millions of Americans), Big Oil is still flush with cash — including some of the $4 BILLION in taxpayer-funded handouts they’ll get from Uncle Sam this year. This week, the government-subsidized oil giants once again reported tens of billions of dollars in profits.

As the nation teeters on the brink of default, the GOP wants us to “kiss Medicare goodbye” (along with Medicaid and Social Security), but they still refuse to touch a dime of the $77 BILLION in taxpayer handouts that we’ll give to the most profitable industry the world has ever known over the next 10 years.

Here are the numbers you need to know:

$3.4 BILLION

ConocoPhillips’ second quarter profit.

$5.6 BILLION

BP‘s second quarter profit, which investors called “disappointing.”

$8 BILLION

Shell’s second quarter profit.

$10.7 BILLION

ExxonMobil’s second quarter profit.

17.6 Percent

ExxonMobil’s effective federal tax rate.

20.4 Percent

The average American’s individual effective tax rate.

41 Percent

The increase in ExxonMobil’s second quarter profits.

$77 BILLION

The cost of taxpayer-funded subsidies for Big Oil from 2011-2021.

In one sentence: Even as ExxonMobil made more than $118 MILLION a day in profits last quarter, it is still paying a lower tax rate than the average American.

Tim DeChristopher: I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me | Common Dreams

"… those who write the rules are those who profit from the status quo. If we want to change that status quo, we might have to work outside of those rules because the legal pathways available to us have been structured precisely to make sure we don’t make any substantial change." (Portrait by Robert Shetterly - Used with Permission) http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org

This was originally posted on CommonDreams.org

Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced today to two years in federal prison for disrupting a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008, had an opportunity to address the court and the judge today immediately before his sentence was announced. This is what he said:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before the court.  When I first met Mr. Manross, the sentencing officer who prepared the presentence report, he explained that it was essentially his job to “get to know me.”  He said he had to get to know who I really was and why I did what I did in order to decide what kind of sentence was appropriate.  I was struck by the fact that he was the first person in this courthouse to call me by my first name, or even really look me in the eye.  I appreciate this opportunity to speak openly to you for the first time.  I’m not here asking for your mercy, but I am here asking that you know me.

Mr. Huber has leveled a lot of character attacks at me, many of which are contrary to Mr. Manross’s report.  While reading Mr Huber’s critiques of my character and my integrity, as well as his assumptions about my motivations, I was reminded that Mr Huber and I have never had a conversation.    Over the two and half years of this prosecution, he has never asked my any of the questions that he makes assumptions about in the government’s report.  Apparently, Mr. Huber has never considered it his job to get to know me, and yet he is quite willing to disregard the opinions of the one person who does see that as his job.

There are alternating characterizations that Mr Huber would like you to believe about me.  In one paragraph, the government claims I “played out the parts of accuser, jury, and judge as he determined the fate of the oil and gas lease auction and its intended participants that day.”   In the very next paragraph, they claim “It was not the defendant’s crimes that effected such a change.” Mr Huber would lead you to believe that I’m either a dangerous criminal who holds the oil and gas industry in the palm of my hand, or I’m just an incompetent child who didn’t affect the outcome of anything.  As evidenced by the continued back and forth of contradictory arguments in the government’s memorandum, they’re not quite sure which of those extreme caricatures I am, but they are certain that I am nothing in between.  Rather than the job of getting to know me, it seems Mr Huber prefers the job of fitting me into whatever extreme characterization is most politically expedient at the moment.

In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar.  It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.”  Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love.  And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future.  I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom.  The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.”  When I sat there on the witness stand, Mr Romney asked me if I ever had any intention of being a bona fide bidder.  I responded by asking Mr Romney to clarify what “bona fide bidder” meant in this context.  Mr Romney then withdrew the question and moved on to the next subject.  On that right there is the entire basis for the government’s repeated attacks on my integrity.  Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, your honor.

Mr Huber also makes grand assumptions about my level of respect for the rule of law.  The government claims a long prison sentence is necessary to counteract the political statements I’ve made and promote a respect for the law.  The only evidence provided for my lack of respect for the law is political statements that I’ve made in public forums.  Again, the government doesn’t mention my actions in regard to the drastic restrictions that were put upon my defense in this courtroom.  My political disagreements with the court about the proper role of a jury in the legal system are probably well known.  I’ve given several public speeches and interviews about how the jury system was established and how it has evolved to it’s current state.  Outside of this courtroom, I’ve made my views clear that I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny.  I even went so far as to organize a book study group that read about the history of jury nullification.  Some of the participants in that book group later began passing out leaflets to the public about jury rights, as is their right.  Mr Huber was apparently so outraged by this that he made the slanderous accusations that I tried to taint the jury.  He didn’t specify the extra number of months that I should spend in prison for the heinous activity of holding a book group at the Unitarian Church and quoting Thomas Jefferson in public, but he says you should have “little tolerance for this behavior.”

But here is the important point that Mr Huber would rather ignore.  Despite my strong disagreements with the court about the Constitutional basis for the limits on my defense, while I was in this courtroom I respected the authority of the court.  Whether I agreed with them or not, I abided by the restrictions that you put on me and my legal team.  I never attempted to “taint” the jury, as Mr Huber claimed, by sharing any of the relevant facts about the auction in question that the court had decided were off limits.  I didn’t burst out and tell the jury that I successfully raised the down payment and offered it to the BLM.  I didn’t let the jury know that the auction was later reversed because it was illegitimate in the first place.  To this day I still think I should have had the right to do so, but disagreement with the law should not be confused with disrespect for the law.

My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr Huber thinks I should be punished for.  As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice.  In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia.  Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people.  A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year.  The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state.  When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law.  She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail.  I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry.  Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine.  When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.

This is really the heart of what this case is about.  The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law.  Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.”  But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding.  I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned.  But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development.  A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration.  In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law.  In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier.  This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet.  This law was about protecting the survival of young generations.  That’s kind of a big deal.  It’s a very big deal to me.  If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens.  My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits.  I take that very personally.  Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in the way of this auction.  Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels.  The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests.  The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits.  The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing.  Moreover, this auction was just three months after the New York Times reported on a major scandal involving Department of the Interior regulators who were taking bribes of sex and drugs from the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating.  In 2008, this was the condition of the rule of law, for which Mr Huber says I lacked respect.  Just as the legal avenues which people in West Virginia have been pursuing for 30 years, the legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government.

The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice.  Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code.  I know Mr Huber disagrees with me on this.  He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.”  That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience.  Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice.  The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.

This philosophical difference is serious enough that Mr Huber thinks I should be imprisoned to discourage the spread of this idea.  Much of the government’s memorandum focuses on the political statements that I’ve made in public.  But it hasn’t always been this way.  When Mr Huber was arguing that my defense should be limited, he addressed my views this way: “The public square is the proper stage for the defendant’s message, not criminal proceedings in federal court.”  But now that the jury is gone, Mr. Huber wants to take my message from the public square and make it a central part of these federal court proceedings.  I have no problem with that.  I’m just as willing to have those views on display as I’ve ever been.

The government’s memorandum states, “As opposed to preventing this particular defendant from committing further crimes, the sentence should be crafted ‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others.”  Their concern is not the danger that I present, but the danger presented by my ideas and words that might lead others to action.  Perhaps Mr Huber is right to be concerned.  He represents the United States Government.  His job is to protect those currently in power, and by extension, their corporate sponsors.  After months of no action after the auction, the way I found out about my indictment was the day before it happened, Pat Shea got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said, “I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow Tim is going to be indicted, and this is what the charges are going to be.”  That reporter had gotten that information two weeks earlier from an oil industry lobbyist.  Our request for disclosure of what role that lobbyist played in the US Attorney’s office was denied, but we know that she apparently holds sway and that the government feels the need to protect the industry’s interests.

The things that I’ve been publicly saying may indeed be threatening to that power structure. There have been several references to the speech I gave after the conviction, but I’ve only ever seen half of one sentence of that speech quoted.  In the government’s report, they actually had to add their own words to that one sentence to make it sound more threatening.   But the speech was about empowerment.  It was about recognizing our interconnectedness rather than viewing ourselves as isolated individuals.  The message of the speech was that when people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited by powerful corporations.  Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool.

But the sentencing guidelines don’t mention the need to protect corporations or politicians from ideas that threaten their control.  The guidelines say “protect the public.”  The question is whether the public is helped or harmed by my actions.  The easiest way to answer that question is with the direct impacts of my action.  As the oil executive stated in his testimony, the parcels I didn’t bid on averaged $12 per acre, but the ones I did bid on averaged $125.  Those are the prices paid for public property to the public trust.  The industry admits very openly that they were getting those parcels for an order of magnitude less than what they were worth.  Not only did those oil companies drive up the prices to $125 during the bidding, they were then given an opportunity to withdraw their bids once my actions were explained.  They kept the parcels, presumably because they knew they were still a good deal at $125.  The oil companies knew they were getting a steal from the American people, and now they’re crying because they had to pay a little closer to what those parcels were actually worth.  The government claims I should be held accountable for the steal the oil companies didn’t get.  The government’s report demands $600,000 worth of financial impacts for the amount which the oil industry wasn’t able to steal from the public.

That extra revenue for the public became almost irrelevant, though, once most of those parcels were revoked by Secretary Salazar.  Most of the parcels I won were later deemed inappropriate for drilling.  In other words, the highest and best value to the public for those particular lands was not for oil and gas drilling.  Had the auction gone off without a hitch, it would have been a loss for the public.  The fact that the auction was delayed, extra attention was brought to the process, and the parcels were ultimately revoked was a good thing for the public.

More generally, the question of whether civil disobedience is good for the public is a matter of perspective.  Civil disobedience is inherently an attempt at change.  Those in power, whom Mr Huber represents, are those for whom the status quo is working, so they always see civil disobedience as a bad thing.  The decision you are making today, your honor, is what segment of the public you are meant to protect.  Mr Huber clearly has cast his lot with that segment who wishes to preserve the status quo.  But the majority of the public is exploited by the status quo far more than they are benefited by it.  The young are the most obvious group who is exploited and condemned to an ugly future by letting the fossil fuel industry call the shots.  There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research, some of which you received as part of our proffer on the necessity defense, that reveals the catastrophic consequences which the young will have to deal with over the coming decades.

But just as real is the exploitation of the communities where fossil fuels are extracted.  As a native of West Virginia, I have seen from a young age that the exploitation of fossil fuels has always gone hand in hand with the exploitation of local people.  In West Virginia, we’ve been extracting coal longer than anyone else.  And after 150 years of making other people rich, West Virginia is almost dead last among the states in per capita income, education rates and life expectancy.  And it’s not an anomaly.  The areas with the richest fossil fuel resources, whether coal in West Virginia and Kentucky, or oil in Louisiana and Mississippi, are the areas with the lowest standards of living.  In part, this is a necessity of the industry.  The only way to convince someone to blow up their backyard or poison their water is to make sure they are so desperate that they have no other option.  But it is also the nature of the economic model.  Since fossil fuels are a limited resources, whoever controls access to that resource in the beginning gets to set all the terms.  They set the terms for their workers, for the local communities, and apparently even for the regulatory agencies.  A renewable energy economy is a threat to that model.  Since no one can control access to the sun or the wind, the wealth is more likely to flow to whoever does the work of harnessing that energy, and therefore to create a more distributed economic system, which leads to a more distributed political system.  It threatens the profits of the handful of corporations for whom the current system works, but our question is which segment of the public are you tasked with protecting.  I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system.  I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me.

After this difference of political philosophies, the rest of the sentencing debate has been based on the financial loss from my actions.  The government has suggested a variety of numbers loosely associated with my actions, but as of yet has yet to establish any causality between my actions and any of those figures.  The most commonly discussed figure is perhaps the most easily debunked.  This is the figure of roughly $140,000, which is the amount the BLM originally spent to hold the December 2008 auction.  By definition, this number is the amount of money the BLM spent before I ever got involved.  The relevant question is what the BLM spent because of my actions, but apparently that question has yet to be asked.  The only logic that relates the $140,000 figure to my actions is if I caused the entire auction to be null and void and the BLM had to start from scratch to redo the entire auction.  But that of course is not the case.  First is the prosecution’s on-again-off-again argument that I didn’t have any impact on the auction being overturned.  More importantly, the BLM never did redo the auction because it was decided that many of those parcels should never have been auctioned in the first place.  Rather than this arbitrary figure of $140,000, it would have been easy to ask the BLM how much money they spent or will spend on redoing the auction.  But the government never asked this question, probably because they knew they wouldn’t like the answer.

The other number suggested in the government’s memorandum is the $166,000 that was the total price of the three parcels I won which were not invalidated.  Strangely, the government wants me to pay for these parcels, but has never offered to actually give them to me.  When I offered the BLM the money a couple weeks after the auction, they refused to take it.  Aside from that history, this figure is still not a valid financial loss from my actions.  When we wrote there was no loss from my actions, we actually meant that rather literally.  Those three parcels were not evaporated or blasted into space because of my actions, not was the oil underneath them sucked dry by my bid card.  They’re still there, and in fact the BLM has already issued public notice of their intent to re-auction those parcels in February of 2012.

The final figure suggested as a financial loss is the $600,000 that the oil company wasn’t able to steal from the public.  That completely unsubstantiated number is supposedly the extra amount the BLM received because of my actions.  This is when things get tricky.  The government’s report takes that $600,000 positive for the BLM and adds it to that roughly $300,000 negative for the BLM, and comes up with a $900,000 negative.  With math like that, it’s obvious that Mr Huber works for the federal government.

After most of those figures were disputed in the presentence  report, the government claimed in their most recent objection that I should be punished according to the intended financial impact that I intended to cause.  The government tries to assume my intentions and then claims, “This is consistent with the testimony that Mr. DeChristopher provided at trial, admitting that his intention was to cause financial harm to others with whom he disagreed.”  Now I didn’t get to say a whole lot at the trial, so it was pretty easy to look back through the transcripts.  The statement claimed by the government never happened.  There was nothing even close enough to make their statement a paraphrase or artistic license.  This statement in the government’s objection is a complete fiction.  Mr Huber’s inability to judge my intent is revealed in this case by the degree to which he underestimates my ambition.  The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation.  I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated.  When I read Mr Huber’s new logic, I was terrified to consider that my slightly unrealistic intention to have a $100 billion impact will fetch me several consecutive life sentences.  Luckily this reasoning is as unrealistic as it is silly.

A more serious look at my intentions is found in Mr Huber’s attempt to find contradictions in my statements.  Mr Huber points out that in public I acted proud of my actions and treated it like a success, while in our sentencing memorandum we claimed that my actions led to “no loss.”  On the one hand I think it was a success, and yet I claim it there was no loss.  Success, but no loss.  Mr Huber presents these ideas as mutually contradictory and obvious proof that I was either dishonest or backing down from my convictions.  But for success to be contradictory to no loss, there has to be another assumption.  One has to assume that my intent was to cause a loss.  But the only loss that I intended to cause was the loss of secrecy by which the government gave away public property for private profit.  As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted.  The success of that intent is not dependent on any loss.  I knew that if I was completely off base, and the government took that second look and decided that nothing was wrong with that auction, the cost of my action would be another day’s salary for the auctioneer and some minor costs of re-auctioning the parcels.  But if I was right about the irregularities of the auction, I knew that allowing the auction to proceed would mean the permanent loss of lands better suited for other purposes and the permanent loss of a safe climate.  The intent was to prevent loss, but again that is a matter of perspective.

Mr Huber wants you to weigh the loss for the corporations that expected to get public property for pennies on the dollar, but I believe the important factor is the loss to the public which I helped prevent.  Again, we come back to this philosophical difference.  From any perspective, this is a case about the right of citizens to challenge the government.  The US Attorney’s office makes clear that their interest is not only to punish me for doing so, but to discourage others from challenging the government, even when the government is acting inappropriately.  Their memorandum states, “To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior.”  The certainty of this statement not only ignores the history of political prisoners, it ignores the severity of the present situation.  Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change.  They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line.  And they know were are running out of time to turn things around.  The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back.  The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people.  The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel.  The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today.  And neither will I.  I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future.  Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience.  Nothing that happens here today will change that.  I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority.   You have authority over my life, but not my principles.  Those are mine alone.

Tim DeChristopher is a climate activist and board member for the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising.


I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me.  If you side with Mr Huber and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away.  I certainly don’t want that.  I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false.  I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government.  I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience.  If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them.  You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path.  You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing.  You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM.  You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it.  This is not going away.   At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like.  In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like.  With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.  The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

Mike Lee vs United States of America

Mr. Lee, Republican senator from Utah, won his 2010 primary election against former Senator Robert Bennett and then, because this is Utah, won in November because Utah is, for all intents and purposes a one-party state. In that primary, it was a tea partier against an experienced conservative. Tea Party won.

Now, after extolling the divine inspiration that resulted in the Constitution of the United States in order to get elected, now Mr. Lee says that we need to amend that very Constitution, that the Founding Fathers who practically walked and talked with God as they sweltered in that constitutional summer, beating out compromise after compromise, didn’t get it right. Mr. Lee needs to “fix” things.

The argument I hear from Lee and others advocating constitutional amendment on the budget is that, “Well, how could they (Founding Fathers) know we’d end up with a several trillion dollar budget! If they had known, they would have written it in.” Now, THAT’s an argument I understand. I’ve used it several times myself! Only I’ve used it in conversations about guns (“If they had known how easy it would be for crazy people, or even otherwise normal people, to get automatic weapons they would have made a law against them.”). So, Tea partiers, constitution amenders, Mr. Lee: I feel your pain. HOWEVER! That doesn’t mean we should give in to your extortion regarding the federal budget.

YOU, Mr. Lee, should be charged and prosecuted for extortion of the citizens of the United States. You are trying to hold this entire country hostage while you write your constitutional amendment that will devastate this country’s economy and spill over into the world as a whole. You remember that world, don’t you? The one God created (and all in it)?

Like the Ocean?

A recent email from the Ocean Conservancy shared a nifty idea for helping keep our oceans and beaches clean.  They call it a Tiny Trash Tin and it can be just a small box or canister that you can take with you to the beach and place “tiny trash” inside as you find it.  Of course, not everyone is clamoring to pick up trash when they head for the beach, but this Tiny Trash Tin is nice because it is meant to be small enough to fit in your pocket or purse.  You can pick up cigarette butts, bottle caps, little candy wrappers, and other bits of litter that we don’t typically pick up because they’re obnoxiously small.  Check it out, make one of your own, and remember that little bits add up to a lot!

Sunset highlights waves on First Beach, La Push, WA

Loving Wilderness

People don’t protect what they don’t know, what they don’t come to love.

— Kai Hagan, My Wilderness

A few days ago I received an email from The Wilderness Society that I want to share.  Please watch the short video.  It is only 1:45 long, but Kai tells why he loves wilderness and why he feels wilderness is important.  If more people would tell their own stories, either on video like he is doing, on blogs, on personal social networking pages or even just when talking with friends or neighbors, others too would recognize the role of wilderness in their lives.  They too would begin to see the importance of preserving wilderness.  Without speaking up, everyone assumes that they are alone in their love of and ties to wilderness rather than seeing it as a common experience and need.  Only when individuals recognize the need for wilderness in their own personal lives, bring that out in the open through discussions such as those suggested above, will society as a whole determine the need for wilderness which will require protection and preservation.  Economic and political powers will trample it down otherwise.  PLEASE watch, PLEASE speak.  

Dear Karmen,

kai family pic

Kai Hagan’s childhood wilderness inspiration — the Catoctin Mountains — fuels his passion championing local environmental causes. Find out where the paved road ends and Kai’s wilderness begins. Watch now.

Kai Hagan was an urban DC city kid who relished childhood outings to his grandparents cabin in the Catoctin Mountains nearby. His adventures then are what fuel his passion for protecting local wild places now.

A former county commissioner, Kai has taken his childhood epiphanies about the importance of wild places and translated them into his life’s work advocating against urban sprawl and connecting local communities to the wilderness in their own backyards.

Kai is one of the faces of my wilderness, a national public awareness campaign, which is aimed at reconnecting all Americans with the wild places they love so that they come together to protect them.

Find out where the paved road ends and Kai’s wilderness begins. Watch this short feature now.

Thank you for being a part of this important movement of wilderness enthusiasts.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Stephens
The Wilderness Society

my wilderness