Elouise Cobell, RIP

( – promoted by navajo)

Elouise Cobell, one of the most important Native American leaders in recent decades, has died.

There’s lots of people who have offered up eulogies and tributes, including President Obama.  Several of those are excerpted to close this diary.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

Elouise Cobell was a force, including working to launch the first-ever Indian-owned bank.

Mrs. Cobell, an accountant who grew up on a reservation in Montana without electricity, a telephone or running water, was all too familiar with stories of the government’s mistreatment of tribes. She said the federal mismanagement of the land trusts dated back to the 19th century and had contributed to a pattern that had left her tribe with high poverty and unemployment rates.   (WaPo)

But this is what she’ll be remembered for: She was the lead plaintiff in a class action suit to compel the federal government to account for monies they’d taken in on behalf on Native Americans for lease of their lands (for farming, grazing, mining, drilling, logging and other mostly extractive activities.)  

Cobell approached the Boulder, Colo.-based Native American Rights Fund about filing a class-action lawsuit against the Interior and Treasury departments, and she was named as lead plaintiff when the suit was filed in 1996. The suit contended that the Dawes Act arrangement allowed U.S. officials to systematically steal and squander royalties intended for Native Americans.

“It’s just such a wrong that if I didn’t do something about it I’m as criminal as the government,” Cobell told the Associated Press in 1999.  (LA Times)

The failure of fiduciary responsibility as trustee dated back to the passage of the Indian Allotment Act in 1887.  She filed the suit in 1996, which was supported in part by a genuis grant she received from the MacArthur Foundation.  The Cobell case, as it came to be known, was the largest class action suit against the U.S. government in history.

Investigations showed that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, which managed the allotments and the revenue accounts, paid the Indian landowners erratically, if at all. For decades, some Indians were sent checks for as little as 8 cents.

Cobell estimated the unaccounted monies at over $150 billion.  That’s right, billion – with a B.  Payments were made, so it wasn’t 100% ripoff.  During the Bush years, John McCain chaired the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and suggested that maybe $25 million might be a suitable settlement figure.  It took the Obama Administration coming into office to settle the thing, because the Republicans flat-out weren’t going to do it.  The plaintiffs were right to scoff at McCain’s paltry offer.  In the end, the suit was settled in early in 2010 for $3.4 billion.

The legal fight proved all-consuming, and Ms. Cobell eventually moved to Washington to work on it full-time. A 1997 MacArthur Foundation grant helped defray costs, which the lead attorney, Dennis Gingold, estimated involved 3,800 court filings, 250 days of trial, 80 published court decisions and 10 interlocutory appeals.  (Wall Street Journal)

Judge Royce C. Lambert, who was appointed to the federal bench by Ronald Reagan, got so disgusted with the Interior Department’s obfuscation and obstruction, he awarded the plaintiffs $7 million for legal costs back in 2006.  The Bush Interior Dept. under Gale Norton (more recently general counsel for Shell Oil) found the money by taking it away from other tribes’ regular appropriations.  From an Interior Dept. letter (pdf) on January 26, 2006:

Dear Tribal Leader;



As this interim fee award was not a planned expense, the Department considered a range of options to comply with the Court’s Order for prompt payment which was sent to plaintiff’s counsel on January 18, 2006.  We utilized several sources of funds to pay the fee award [of $7,066,471.05.] … [T]hese funds are no longer available thus associated program activities will not be undertaken.  Please ensure that care is taken to understand whether these financial changes affect your planned program activities.

In other words, divide and conquer.  We’re going to maybe shut down your Senior Center or make you fire a tribal police officer or two to pay for this thing.  (Subtext: You should blame Cobell.)

Despite growing evidence of wrongdoing, three American administrations fought the case all the way, at first dismissing her challenge as unworthy of consideration. When it became clear that their adversary would not give up, bureaucrats destroyed evidence and took retaliatory measures against Indians. Eventually, after 14 years; 3,600 court filings; 220 days of trial; 80 published court decisions and 10 appeals, Elouise Cobell’s campaign ended in victory in 2009.   (Telegraph, UK)

Rather than responding to Lamberth’s increasing frustration, and complying with his orders from the bench, Bush’s DoI successfully moved to have him removed from the case.  He didn’t start out biased against Interior, but time and experience changed his mind.

[Lamberth] described the Interior Department in a 2005 court decision as a “dinosaur – the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago, the last pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind.”

The thing dragged on, for well over a decade.  Elouise Cobell died of cancer, lived long enough to see success in the cause she devoted herself to.  Well, mostly so.  The House and the Senate passed the settlement in 2009, which President Obama signed.  But it was still tied up in court for another 2 years.

in June this year a federal judge approved the settlement, which became the largest payment the U.S. government ever made to Native Americans.

I could go on about her, but I think readers will be better served if I quote what others have said about her instead.

Jodi Rave, Native American columnist

Indian Country just lost one its greatest female warriors. … Like many great leaders in history, she has earned fame for a basic reason. She put herself last as she pursued justice first on behalf of other people.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Montana

The Blackfeet Nation and all of Montana have lost a true inspiration and hero.

National Congress of American Indians

Elouise Cobell represented the indelible will and strength of Indian Country and her influence and energy will be greatly missed. Her passing on from this world must be honored by reaffirming our resolute commitment as Indigenous peoples to protect the rights of our citizens and our sovereign nations.

Great Falls Tribune

Asked by the New York Times what she wanted her legacy to be, she said she hoped she would inspire a new generation of Native Americans to fight for the rights of others and lift their community out of poverty.

“Maybe one of these days, they won’t even think about me. They’ll just keep going and say, ‘This is because I did it,”‘ Cobell said. “I never started this case with any intentions of being a hero. I just wanted this case to give justice to people that didn’t have it.”

New York Times

Elouise Cobell was soft-spoken, but her politeness and sense of propriety took nothing away from her tenacity. Ms. Cobell, who died on Sunday at the age of 65, was a cattle rancher, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and a determined advocate for nearly forgotten rights of American Indians.



Elouise Cobell was able to see in a past that Washington forgot a way to begin to rebalance relations between American Indians and the federal government. She restored the past to memory, spoke eloquently on its behalf and so made a different future possible.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Elouise Cobell was a star — truly a guiding light that will always lead the way for all Americans who fight for justice and fairness.

Interior Secy. Ken Salazar

I am deeply saddened by the loss of Elouise Cobell, who dedicated her life to the betterment of Indian people. She sought justice to address historical wrongs that had weighed on our nation’s conscience and was a significant force for change. let us be inspired to do better by the first Americans, and to uphold our nation’s promise of justice and opportunity for all.

Sen. Tim Johnson (SD)

Elouise Cobell never stopped fighting for the rights of Native Americans, no matter the roadblocks or red tape that was put in her path. When I met with her last year, she showed the kind of persistence and determination that allowed her to keep fighting for the rights of Indian Country for more than a decade. Our nation has lost a true fighter, and my condolences are with her friends and family during this difficult time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed for a Congressional Gold Medal

Elouise was an extraordinary American who made countless contributions to our country, which is why I believe she deserves the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a civilian. Indian Country – and the entire country – has lost an inspiring leader.

Sen. Max Baucus (MT)

Eloise Cobell was a warrior for justice, a voice for the voiceless, and a dear friend. Our state and our country are better for having known her.

Even Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (who will make us look back on Jon Tester with misty-eyed nostalgia, should his bid for the Senate succeed) felt the need to weigh in:

Like anyone who had the honor to work side by side with Elouise in the pursuit of justice, I will never forget her determination to do the right thing.  Her efforts are an inspiration for generations of Montanans to come.

Larry Echohawk, Asst. Secy. Indian Affairs

Indian Country, as well as the entire nation, has lost a champion of human rights.  Elouise Cobell battled to make our country acknowledge historical wrongdoing, and she spoke truth to power so that justice could prevail.

Native Action Network

She will be remembered for her joyous laughter, her hard fought settlement and her determination to improve the lives of her community.

Helena (MT) Independent Record

There’s plenty to admire about and to learn from Cobell’s life and work – which, it’s important to note, was full of accomplishments beyond the high-profile lawsuit. Aside from being the classic underdog story of an individual standing up for what she believed in against the government, and persevering for years in the face of foot-dragging and innumerable court actions, Cobell was a shining example of trying to improve the lives of those around her.

Rep. Edward Markey, Resources Committee

Through persistent, consistent pressure, Ms. Cobell righted century-old wrongs, and forever changed the landscape of the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities to Native Americans.

Those who know and love Elouise Cobell can console themselves knowing that she left the world a better place than what she found.  That’s a life well-lived, and well worth remembering for a long, long time.

Dakotas Snow Emergency: Charity and Beyond

Thanks to navajo and a robust crew of volunteers and diarists, the snow emergency on the Indian Reservations in the Dakotas found its way to the TV (thanks, Keith!) and more donations have started to flow.  (Navajo’s excellent compilation of donation contact info and links here.)  My intention is to add a little background to the story, because it’s annoying as all get-out that this has ever become a situation for charity.

In the early days of the United States, Indian Affairs was an agency under the War (later Defense) Department.  Not unlike the private contractors in Iraq, the Indian agents in the field typically did much better than the people they were charged with protecting and assisting.  Often much better.

With much bloodshed and ruthless, duplicitous behavior, the indigenous population of the US was driven from its homelands, and confined to reservations.  (Except for the tribes, like the Mandans on the Plains, that died off completely.)  Tactics included wanton slaughter of the buffalo to deprive the natives of their means of material survival, thus forcing them into submission and opening up their territories for white settlers.  Public debate back in the 1800s centered on questions like whether or not the Indians were human possessing souls, and whether the nations first peoples should be “civilized” or simply killed off by genocide.

Private Allotments

The latter option was only partially accomplished (via bounties for Indian scalps, and other atrocities), and the former eventually became policy.  In the 1880s, the Dawes Act was passed, dividing much reservation land into individually owned allotments, meant to be developed as family farms.  In short order, most Indian land ended up in non-Indian ownership.  This is not so surprising, if one considers that the Indians had non-written languages, and concepts like foreclosure and executed contracts and arguing cases before judges in courtrooms were utterly and completely alien to them.  The very concept of individuals owning a piece of ground wasn’t how they’d ever thought about their relationship to Mother Earth.  Of course, this is grossly oversimplified, since there are a wide array of cultures amongst the hundreds of different tribes once native within the present U.S. boundaries.  But it applies pretty well to the nomadic Plains tribes with reservations on the High Plains.

In time, the ability to transfer title of Indian land to non-Indian owners was curtailed.  (Except when the Congress declares an emergency – like in World War II, when large tracts of Lakota and Washington state’s Nisqually lands got annexed to military facilities, never to be returned.  But I digress.)

Legally, to this day, the federal government has a trust responsibility towards the tribes.  Tribes exist, legally, as dependent sovereign entities, with all the ambiguity and confusion that oxymoronic phrase suggests.  There are treaty obligations the U.S. government owes the tribes, in exchange for giving up most of the country.  For laying down their arms, and not contesting (i.e. killing) settlers taking over most all of what was once theirs.  Those obligations include health care, education and various general welfare items such as roads.

Too often, uninformed people tend to think of those obligations as some kind of welfare.  I think of it is as if there were an “interest-only” mortgage on the entire country, and the U.S. owes, in perpetuity, to make good on the deal.  

The Cobell Case

There’s another frequently overlooked angle on the impoverished state of the reservations.  The federal government, via the Bureau of Indian affairs (long since transferred from War to Interior Dept.), acts as a trustee for both the tribes and the owners of the individual land allotments.  Remembering that the allotments were first carved up back in the 1800s, and that the owners typically died without written wills or even file change of title (much less have a survey done) when a piece of land was sold or given away, keeping track of the ownership of these tracts is a non-trivial problem.

The feds, as trustees, have leased out lands for various purposes over the decades – purposes such as logging, mining, grazing, farming (where non-Indians could get soil bank payments for not planting crops, but Indians could not) and oil and gas drilling.  As trustees, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was supposed to account for those payments, and disburse them to the land owners.

The records were bad, and back in the 1990s, a Blackfeet woman from Montana called Eloise Cobell, a banker, started getting serious about getting those records accounted for, and proper payments made to landowners for said leases.  Let me restate the problem: For well over a century, the US government had been taking in lease payments, but couldn’t account for something in excess of $100 billion dollars dating back to the 1880s.  A trustee in any other context would have had their ass tossed in jail long since for such sloppy work.  To be clear, payments were made over, but there weren’t records to account for it all.

And so was born the Cobell class action lawsuit, filed in 1996:

On June 10, 1996, Indian plaintiffs including Elouise P. Cobell, Mildred Cleghorn, Thomas Maulson and James Louis Larose, filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to properly manage Indian trust assets on behalf of all present and past individual Indian trust beneficiaries, including over 300,000 current Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders. The assets at issue are the monies that belong to the individual Indians. The named defendants are the Secretaries of the Interior and Treasury and the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs

The case moved along slowly under a Reagan-appointed federal judge, until the Bush-Cheney years.  Gale Norton and her minions got declared in contempt of court by Judge Lambeth, who had strong language about their lack of good faith action in the matter.  So strong that the Bush Justice Department successfully moved to have him removed, nearly a decade into the case.  John McCain, Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee while the Republicans were in the majority in the Senate insisted that $25 million was too large a sum to settle on the case.  So it went nowhere.

On June 10, 1996, Indian plaintiffs including Elouise P. Cobell, Mildred Cleghorn, Thomas Maulson and James Louis Larose, filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to properly manage Indian trust assets on behalf of all present and past individual Indian trust beneficiaries, including over 300,000 current Individual Indian Money (IIM) account holders. The assets at issue are the monies that belong to the individual Indians. The named defendants are the Secretaries of the Interior and Treasury and the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs.



also in 2008, the District Court granted equitable restitution to the plaintiff class based on the unproven shortfall of the trust’s actual value as compared with its statistically likely value. It stressed that breaching the duty to account did not generate the government’s financial liability. Rather, it said the government’s failure properly to allocate and pay trust funds to beneficiaries gave rise to restitution or disgorgement of the very money that had been withheld. The plaintiff class was awarded $455,600,000 (although this figure did not include interest).

A settlement was announced two months ago on December 8, 2009 – a specific case where the Democrats are different from (and better than) the Republicans:

Yes. The federal government has agreed to create a $1.412 billion Accounting/Trust Administration Fund and $2 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund. The Settlement also creates a federal Indian Education Scholarship fund of up to $60 million to improve access to higher education for Indian youth.

Needless to say, it’s too soon for this all to have been implemented, but it’s a step in the right direction.  And, too, remember that none of this is welfare or charity.  It’s what’s due – long past due.

The Current Situation

What I’ve written above isn’t immediately germane to the acute crisis currently unfolding on the reservations.  That’s the consequence of other kinds of neglect and malfeasance than just that covered in the Cobell suit, which litigation only covers accounting for leases of individually-owned land allotments.

Basic welfare issues on the Reservations are the responsibility of the federal government.  State jurisdiction is limited, and rightly so, owing to disputes like those of salmon fishing rights of Coast Salish tribes in western Washington.  As it happens, I was in the courtroom when the 1974 Boldt decision was delivered, and the wiki description comports with my own understanding of the case:

The decision was the culmination of years of State of Washington limitation of treaty fishing by the Tribes, resulting in the United States suing the State of Washington to force the state to comply with the treaties. It was immediately met with shock and outrage by non-Native fishermen, but the ruling has held for more than 30 years.

The Boldt decision also upheld that U.S. federal treaties signed with the Native Americans continue to be in effect as are all International Treaties agreed to with the U.S. government.

So, the donations are good, as a humanitarian effort to rescue people in trouble in an emergency situation.  Navajo’s diary from yesterday is full of contact information and links for donations, such as:

Thanks to Kossack Keith Olbermann, 3 major charities benefiting the South Dakota reservations will get some huge donations now.  Today, I want to call your attention to a faster and more direct way you can help.  The LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Home Assistance) programs ran out of winter funding in early December. Here’s the hard part; you will need to write a check because of no online presence for any tribe.

But Keith got it right in the bolded words below:

Transcript courtesy of Kimberley:
“And now tonight’s first Quick Comment, and you overwhelm me–as usual.  

“Last night, continuing our coverage of the humanitarian crisis on the ice storm and blizzard ravaged reservations of South Dakota, I mentioned a Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Storm Relief emergency assistance fund, and we linked to it. They were hoping, by the end of the month, to have raised $35,000.

In 24 hours, you donated approximately $185,000. They thank you and I thank you.  

“If anybody wants to go further, the chairman of the tribe tells us the consciousness of politicians is as important as donations right now. FEMA has yet to declare the region a disaster area, and there’s something else that could kill about 40 birds with one stone there: They’ve patched much of the water and power infrastructure back together but they really need an overhaul and something in the jobs bill, or some stimulus money, could not only protect power, heat and water there, it could also put some of the thousands of unemployed Native Americans to work in their own communities. So you could call, write, or e-mail your congressmen and or senator.

So this diary is a call for action that way – putting a little pressure on the political will.  Reminding our elected officials that the nation has a trust obligation to the tribes.  It’s not charity, and it’s not welfare, and there’s a lot of room for improvement.  Contacting any Senator or House member could help, but those serving on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee are particularly relevant, so here’s their contact information.  You know what to do from here:

Senate Indian Affairs Committee

Democrats:

Daniel Akaka (Hawaii) 202-224-6361

Maria Cantwell (Washington) 202-224-3441

Kent Conrad (North Dakota) 202-224-2043

Bryon Dorgan, chair (South Dakota) 202-224-2551

Al Franken (Minnesota) 202-224-5641

Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) 202-224-3934

Tim Johnson (South Dakota) 202-224-5842

Jon Tester, (Montana) 202-224-2644

Tom Udall (New Mexico) 202-224-6621

Republicans:  

John Barrasso, Vice Chairman (Wyoming) 202-224-6441

Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) 202-224-5754

Michael Crapo (Idaho) 202-224-6142

Mike Johanns (Nebraska) 202-224-4224

John McCain (Arizona) 202-224-2235

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) 202-224-6665

BACKGROUND

There are nine reservations In South Dakota. News reports are covering only two reservations, Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River.      

       

Full size photo

courtesy of South Dakota Office of Tribal Government Relations

We’ve also had a number of Kossacks volunteer to be a part of a new team (currently un-named) that will focus on a continuing diary series on the current conditions of our poorest reservations and discuss proactive and preventative measures that could be taken to prevent similar disasters next winter.  

Daily Kos volunteers for this effort currently are:

4Freedom, Aji, bablhous, Bill in MD, cacamp, Deep Harm, exmearden, KentuckyKat, Kimberley, Kitsap River, Land of Enchantment, Lexalou, No Way Lack of Brain, oke, ParkRanger, Richard Cranium, SarahLee, Soothsayer, swampus, TiaRachel, tlemon, translatorpro, Zenox

Many thanks to them for all their research and support.  

Black Sunday

( – promoted by navajo)

Yesterday was the anniversary of some mammoth multi-state dust storms.  Robert Geiger (AP) wrote on 4/15/35:

Three little words achingly familiar on a Western farmer’s tongue, rule life in the dust bowl of the continent – if it rains.

The name “Dust Bowl” stuck, first coined on today’s date 74 years ago.  The rains didn’t return until four years later.  When the dust settled in April 1935, scenes like this were repeated throughout the high plains region.

Crops were ruined.  Farms produced nothing.  Livestock died en masse.  There was no one to sell to.  People abandoned them in droves, with little more than the clothes on their back to show for many years of hard work building their homesteads.

The 1930s Dust Bowl is often referred to as a natural disaster.  But that’s not quite right.  Human activities, en masse, had everything to do with it.

Cross-posted at DocuDharma and Daily Kos

Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the storms that day, which came to be known as Black Sunday:

This is where those storms were that day:

This one was in Colorado:

There had been storms before then, and many afterwards.  The rains finally returned in 1939, after a decade of drought.  Those April 14 storms in 1935 sent clouds of dust, the story goes, which darkened the skies in Washington, DC.  The Congress did pass the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1935, less than two weeks later, on April 27.

Little House on the Short Grass Prairie

Wallace Stegner’s 1954 biography of John Wesley Powell, called Beyond the 100th Meridian, lays out the policy issues at play.  After Americans ran out of steam killing each other in the Civil War, the nation’s attention turned West.  The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and most of the Indians got confined to reservations throughout the 1870s.  Homesteading, based on a model of non-irrigated dryland farming, was based on quarter sections (160 acres.)  Powell, who had a lot of friends in high places in Washington, argued that was too small a claim for a ranch operation, and more than was needed for a successful irrigated farm.  Powell had it pretty much right about the right acreage for a farming operation on the high plains, where rainfall was pretty scarce.



(The 100th meridian demarcates the east side of the Texas panhandle.)

As it happens, the 1870s were a pretty wet decade in this same country where Dances with Wolves was set.  Happens sometimes, just like droughts happen sometimes.  Another of the western survey teams was led by Ferdinand Hayden.  Their 1868 Annual Report included a section by one Dr. Cyrus Thomas.  A scientist who would warmed Dick Cheney’s heart (if only he had one), Thomas put forward the fanciful notion of “rain follows the plow”.  It was popular with speculators and boosters, not so surprisingly.  That the mere act of plowing a bunch of land up would cause more rain.  In other words, claiming causality for the 1870s period of higher-than-average rainfall where none existed.  Fake science.

This, together with the increased access to market due to the railroads, led to greatly increased loads of grazing livestock.  In order to make room for the cows, as well as to drive the Indians off the plains, an all out effort to kill off the American Bison (top native herbivore, very good match for the climate and ecosystem) was underway.  I became fashionable for adventuring European aristocrats to take trains out to kill bison:

This pile of buffalo skulls was photographed in Kansas in the 1870s.  The bones were destined to be ground up for fertilizer.

The bison were well on the way to following the Passenger Pigeon, once the most abundant bird on the continent, to extinction:

By the 1880s, the entire remnant bison population was estimated as low as one thousand animals, down from as much as 60 million a mere generation earlier.

That bottom picture’s from Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, which featured bison and a variety of performing Indians.

The Dust Bowl

Fast forward two generations and we’re in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.  In the intervening years, countless homesteaders devoted their lives to eking a living off the harsh high plains.  With the sod busted, cattle having replaced bison on the range, a dry windy period paved the way for the storms.  Stegner’s got a great way with language, so I’ll share some of his prose:

…John Wesley Powell would have a better chance to do something practical about insuring the continued existence of the arid-belt farmer than any other man, and he would be angrily misunderstood and bitterly fought for his pains.  Better than anyone else, he understood what was happening in the subhumid and arid lands, and he knew that not the railroads, for all their wins, nor the speculators and landlords, for all of theirs, nor the banks, for all of theirs, should be called the only villains.  What was wrong was more basic:  Wet-weather institutions and practices were being imposed on a dry-weather country.  But the settler did not generally 8understand that: what he wholly and completely comprehended was merely the result, the act of God, the human reality of drouth on the Plains.

There, a cabin had characteristically neither tree nor shrub nor grass. … As summer came on and the green of spring faded… “the sky began to scare us with its light.”  From that sky like hot metal the sun blazed down on bare flats, bare yard, bare boards, tar-paper roof.  Anything metal blistered the hands, the inside of any shack was a suffocating overn, outside there was no tree or shade for miles.  There was no escape:  East, west, north, south, July, August, September, the sun burned into the brain, the barrenness and loneliness and ugliness ate at man and woman alide but at woman most.  Three hundred and sixty degrees of horizon ringed them, the sky fitted the earth like a bell jar.  They smothered under it…  After one ruined crop, or two, or three, their watchfulness was a kind of cursing from a circle of Hell.  The prairies sloughs that in the good years had grown tules and sheltered mallards and teal were dried up, the ducks gone somewhere else.  Windmills brought up sand….  And down from the unseen mountains to the west the air currents that made their climate poured across the powder-dry plains and dust rose up ahead of them a hundred, two hundred, four hundred feet high.

The Ghost Dancers who were slaughtered at Wounded Knee at Pine Ridge South Dakota in 1890 believed (amongst other things) that the bison would return from the spirit world.



(I asked for permission to use this picture.  Thanks, OPOL.)

By the early 1900s, Edward Curtis found a few remnant bison in his extensive travels to document Native Americans in the West, and a few buffalo dancers, too:

Mechanized farming – tractors – greatly increased plowed acreage in the 1920s.  When it got dry in the thirties, and the wind picked up, the Dust Bowl was born.  Look at a map of average annual wind:

When T. Boone Pickens talks about a wind belt, he’s referring to the yellow/red spectrum on that map.  It’s a pretty close match to the greater Dust Bowl area, which makes intuitive sense:

After the Dust Bowl, center-pivot irrigation from the underlying, non-renewing Ogallala Aquifer came into practice.  

To the present day, this kind of landscape is seen when you fly over the high plains.

As it happens, population in this region of the country hasn’t increased since the 1920s.  And that Ogallala aquifer is depleting fast, so the future isn’t looking bright for irrigated agriculture either.  Residents of the region are older than in other parts of the country, too.  A couple of demographers named Popper at Rutgers University noticed this, and started thinking it might be good social policy to .return the high plains to bison habitat.  What they call the Buffalo Commons.  Their ideas, first published in a 1987 paper entitled “The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust“, did not catch on right away.  But gradually, they have been gaining favor.

Bison are a perfect ecological match for the high plains, which they evolved to live in and do not visit the same kind of damage that cattle do.  Plus they’re healthier to eat:  less fat, and a better mix of trace minerals than beef.  Bison ranching has been expanding in recent decades, with the buffalo population estimated at around 350,000 now.  And that’s with many thousands of animals slaughtered for market annually, too.  Tribes, over 60 of them now, have their own bison herds.  Ted Turner, the largest private landowner in the state of New Mexico, has done a lot to promote bison ranching, too.

Wind farms make sense as well, in the exact regions T. Boone Pickens keeps talking about.  With a few precautions in placement for bird migration and nesting areas, and infrastructure construction to move the electricity out of this sparsely populated region, the combination of bison and wind power look a lot like a long-term, sustainable economy for the high plains.  One that will step lightly on the harsh conditions in this ecosystem.  Restored short-grass prairie is the best protection against future Dust Bowls, and large-scale wind development will be a step in the right direction on combatting global warming, too.

Any “economic stimulus” package that leaves this component out is, IMHO, missing the point entirely.

Previous entries in the series:

New Deal Second Class Citizens

( – promoted by navajo)

This is another entry in my New Deal pictorial series.  It just takes a roundabout route to get there.  

We start a generation before the Great Depression, as Seattle photographer Edward Curtis was traveling the west for his epic photographic record of Native Americans.  This may be the best known of his of his thousands of images, each contact printed from 14×17 inch glass plate negatives, and rendered in copper plate photogravure for limited edition publication:

     

It’s Cañon de Chelly in Navajo country near Chinle, AZ, photographed 1904.  There’s a lot of controversies and opinions on Curtis’s work, which might rightly be called his mission.  Or even obsession.  I’m gonna add a few opinions of my own, some context, and then bring it around to the New Deal.

Cross-posted at Docudharma and Daily Kos

Note:  Curtis’s pictures were all downloaded from the Library of Congress.  The quality of the images provided there is inconsistent:  they’re all dark (some moreso than others), and the color tone of the pictures varies from one to another.  I like the sepia tones, and that’s the form they were originally published in, too.  But I was a little lazy in trying to get the final appearance consistent between the pictures.  I can only hope you will grant some forgiveness on that score – I didn’t equalize all the variance very well.

         

Chief Seattle – as is often the case, the provenance of oratory from oral-tradition language, is suspect.  Tradition has passed down that he made a great speech, and there’s no readon to doubt that.  But no one knows for sure what he actually said.  The provenance of this photo is certain, however.  It’s Seattle’s daughter, called “Princess Angeline” photographed by Curtis c. 1902.  She’s the first Native American he photographed, in the city named for her father, about 50 years after he made his famous speech as a respected elder at the time of the Governor Stevens Treaties back in the 1850s.  Angeline likely deserves some credit for inspiring his Curtis’s work.  

Chief Seattle (1850s)

Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone.

Especially that more famous speech about the Earth being our Mother.  This has been attributed in the past, but debunked in a scholarly sense.

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clear and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

I do know enough of the Northwest Culture, firsthand, to know that the people were/are horrified at the destruction of their watersheds, and the near elimination of the salmon, which were as central to their material culture as were the bison on the Plains.  Yeah, that’s a mountain of buffalo skulls, from the days when the government was paying bounties as part of the effort to starve the Plains tribes onto reservations once the cross-country railroad was completed in 1869:

         

Back to Curtis: He submitted some of his early Indian photographs to a national contest and won the Grand Prize.  It led to a patron’s commission from robber baron J.P. Morgan to create his magnum opus.

THE VANISHING RACE

Edward Curtis’s work has oft been criticized for not being accurate documentary work.  Back then, there was a pervasive notion around that Native Americans would vanish from the face of the earth, within the lifetime of people living then.  In addition to J.P. Morgan’s patronage, Curtis got renegade Republican former President Theodore Roosevelt to contribute a preface to the limited edition set of folios produced by his project:

The Indian as he has hitherto been is on the point of passing away. …  It would be a veritable calamity if a vivid and truthful record of these conditions were not kept.



Mr. Curtis, because of the singular combination of qualities with which he has been blest, and because of his extraordinary success in making and using his opportunities, has been able to do what no other man ever has done; what, as far as we can see, not other man coud do.  He is an artist who works out of doors and not in the closet.  He is a close observer, whose qualities of mind and body fit him to make his observations out in the field, surrounded by the wild life he commemorates.  He has lived on intimate terms with many different tribes of the mountains and the plains.  He knows them as they hunt, as they travel, as they go about their various avocations on the march and in the camp.  He knows their medicine me and sorcerers, their chiefs and warriors, their young men and maidens.  He has not only seen their vigorous outward existence, but has caught glimpses, such as few white men ever catch, into that strange spiritual and mental life of theirs; from whose innermost recesses all white men are forever barred.

One can only guess what Curtis had in mind in this photograph.  First, it’s important to note that it’s not a “stolen” picture.  That naked man, with his bow, is clearly a willing participant in creating the image, with its shades of European Romanticism.  Certainly more dream than literal reality.  And naturally conjuring up that concept of the “noble savage”.  Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau is given credit for that phrase, though probably doesn’t rightfully deserve it.  But he certainly buys into the notion of a state of primeval purity.  This from his Discourse on Inequality (1754):

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.

One should remember that the French word sauvage means wild, with entirely different connotations than its English cognate.  Now, back to Curtis.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking through the entire archive, and it seems pretty clear he was trying to do pretty much what TR said – record stuff, as best he could, before it was lost forever.  It’s manifestly clear in photographs like this little-seen one, entitled Hopi Farmers, Yesterday and Today:

         

And regardless what else one thinks of Curtis’s work, he was a really good portraitist, whether going for the modern (of his day) or the primeval timeless.  His many, many subjects were clearly willing ones.  These are not stolen images, they are given freely – Cheyenne on the left, Alaska Native (Kotzebue) on the right:

 

Curtis spent over two decades working on this project, roughly a generation’s time.  A generation before he started, the last of the western tribes were confined to reservations with only a few renegades like Geronimo on the loose in the 1880s.  “I will fight no more forever” Chief Joseph was brought to ground in 1877.  Curtis tracked down some of those last leaders and photographed them as old men.

One of the “good guys” on Western Indian policy of the post-Civil War days was John Wesley Powell.  Powell is most famous for being one-armed and commanding the first boat trip down the Colorado River.  He was also the first head of the US Geological Survey.  His survey expeditions throughout the West were unique in that he went without military escort, and learned to speak some of the native languages himself.  This from Joseph Hillers, from Powell’s 1872 field season.  These people were the real deal in terms of being sauvage (in the French sense).  Living on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, they’d had very little contact with Europeans.

               

Powell was a correspondent with, and colleague of William Henry Morgan (he’s a topic for another day, all in himself).  Morgan, exchanging letters with missionaries from around the globe, “discovered” that matrilineal descent was the practice of most aboriginal cultures.  Powell took those ideas and helped craft a public policy to obliterate indigenous culture in favor of assimilation.  Key policy points were extinguishing native languages, with all the culture contained therein, and getting rid of matrilineal extended family organization and property inheritance.  The Indian Boarding schools played a central role in that process.

Perhaps the best known of those Indian Schools is Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, founded in 1879.  That’s an arriving student, and after he’d been “trained” at Carlisle.  The thing that’s always impressed me about this one is that they even made his skin lighter.  Carlisle was founded by Col. Richard Pratt who is oft-quoted as saying:

A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that … has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.

Below are the students at Fort Spokane Indian School.  The picture was taken in 1904, the same year Curtis took the picture at Cañon de Chelly, found above the fold in this diary.

     

And so the various Indian Boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada did their work.  There’s currently a “Truth & Reconciliation” kind of restitution process underway in Canada.  The U.S. might be well-served to do the same.  It irks me a bit that they’ve never digitized the evidence in the US, and put it online to show what happened.  I sat and cried at things I saw in the Archives:  Children being taught to iron cotton shirts, brand cattle, sit on chairs fer chrissakes!  Not depicted, but attested to innumerable times:  Beatings for speaking their own native language with their own siblings.  And, as I’ve already mentioned, this started a full generation before Curtis started taking pictures like this one (Navajo):

               

It’s not like their own cultures didn’t know how to take care of themselves.  Northwest coast is of the longhouse tradition, built facing the water, home of the salmon.  Big canoes for travel, fishing and even whale-hunting (as above).

And the War Department’s gonna train kids from Tulalip (a Puget Sound tribe) to work in a sawmill?  Like they ain’t been raised to know more about woodworking than their teachers and commanding officers would ever know?

     

They were supposed to be raised away from their own dances and songs, too, not just their languages.  

Most of ’em didn’t go home for the summer either.  Often they were hired out as servants or laborers instead.  The schools put them to work, too, planting crops for their own meals.  (Spokane 1900)

Like Native people hadn’t known how to feed themselves till the missionaries and soldiers showed up to teach them:

Oh yeah.  They were supposed to abandon their religion, too.

THE NEW DEAL

Like I said at the beginning, this diary’s an entry in my New Deal series.  You’ve now been through several screens of pictures and chatter, but not a hint of New Deal.  Here’s where it ties in.  I’ve been trying to get a grip on how issues of race and gender played out in the 1930s WPA.  I was finding very few blacks showing up in the pictures of work crews and all.  There were a few – it was an all-Black labor force that restored Booker T. Washington’s DC home for the National Park Service, for example.  And there was a Harlem branch of the Federal Arts Project.

Then, suddenly I found a bunch in education.  Some really touching stuff of elderly former slaves learning to read, and the like.  That was in adult education.  Then there was vocational education, which ignited a few synapses and got my imagination in gear:

Looks a lot like “training activities at the Indian Boarding schools:

And, when it comes right down to it, women of all stripes got steered in similar directions for work as domestic servants.  This is WPA vocational education, too:

Nevermind that many of ’em would be in wartime defense factories a few years later, this was about all they were allowed to learn about (plus typing and sewing).

ROSIE THE RIVETER

So, we look though all these various training pictures, and it appears the lesson to all is to keep the head bowed, and gaze cast downwards, and subject yourself to someone superior.  This from the great Dorothea Lange, photographer with the New Deal FSA.  Your tax dollars at work (Clarksdale, MS.)

Then there’s a war, and there’s the Tuskeegee Airmen:

Then there’s a war and there’s Rosie the Riveter (this rare color pic from 1943):

Then there’s a war, and suddenly it’s a national treasure that the Bureau of Indian Affairs didn’t succeed in suppressing native languages and cultures after all.  In addition to the celebrated Navajo Code Talkers (here), there were Choctaw and Comanche Code Talkers, too:

The thing I like about Rosie, and the airmen, and the code talkers – all ’em got to hold their heads up high, be proud of doing their best, of contributing to an effort bigger than themselves for the “common good”.  The thing I don’t get is why these qualities are mostly drawn upon only for the jingoism of war.  Not even that with George “Let’s Go Shopping!” Bush.  



Denver & Rio Grande RR, WWII

How come people – all of us – don’t get to matter all the time?  Power’s one of those things needs exercising; something we all need to do, one way or another.  If it’s been Wall-E world for awhile, it’s gotta stop.

Inspiration is a funny thing.  I knew about Curtis’s work, and had researched pictures of the boarding schools in the National Archives years ago.  (Damn them for not putting most of that stuff online yet, inviting you to Maryland to do your own research and pay for copies!)  Looking at those women getting trained by the WPA to be domestic help was the starting point for this essay.

Previous entries in the series:

News from NM: Navajo Nation Rally for Obama

( – promoted by navajo)

The Navajo are the largest tribe in the United States.  Their reservation spans territory within the boundaries of three states – Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Utah’s safe Republican.  Arizona probably is, too, especially since it’s McCain’s home state – with at least two of his many houses located there.  Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr (elected) has already endorsed Barack Obama, and endorsed Barack Obama, in the New Mexico part of the reservation tomorrow – the day that early voting launches in New Mexico.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

From today’s Farmington Daily Times:

Mutton stew, fry bread, hamburgers and hotdogs will be served at the outdoor rally.

If you’ve ever read Tony Hillerman’s novels (or if you’ve been there), you know the roads aren’t exactly good.  And that the people live scattered widely throughout the desert landscape, many without telephones or electricity.  So GOTV is not a trivial undertaking in this corner of Indian Country.  The Central Consolidated School District Center in Shiprock is serving as a polling place.

Taos Pueblo

I’ve diaried about voting at Taos Pueblo before.  Next Thursday, there will be a GOTV rally there – with a powwow drum group, musician Robert Mirabal, and frito pies for supper.  (Looks like I’m gonna miss yet another of those Thursday night SNL extra shows.)  In addition to NM-03 candidate Ben Ray Luján, Green candidate for Public Regulatory Commission Rick Lass will appear.  There’s no Republican on the ballot, so this race between a rather under-qualified Dem, and Rick Lass who got hustled onto the ballot as a Green at the last minute, could be interesting.  

Musician Mirabal is registered Green himself.  Taos Pueblo as a tribe has, for the first time ever this year, endorsed a Presidential candidate.  Obama, of course.

Here’s a Mirabal video as an event preview – worth noting that there are deeply sacred traditional dances at Taos Pueblo (and other pueblo) upon which the proper order of the universe depends.  It takes about a minute to get to the main part of the video which combines traditional and contemporary music:

Taos Pueblo voted about 94% for Kerry/Edwards in 2004.  Other tribes vote predominantly Democratic for the most part, too.  So GOTV efforts on-reservation make good sense.  I don’t know about events planned on the other 20 reservations in NM (18 other Pueblos, and two Apache groups – Jicarilla in the north and Mescalero in the south).  But the Obama campaign’s being pretty thorough, so I’m guessing there will be more events over the next couple of weeks, coupled with efforts to get voters to the polls early.

Nationwide

Obama has a First Americans vote director, Wizi Garriott from Rosebud Sioux.  From a September interview in Indian Country Today, about why Obama has been received well in Indian Country:

I think there are a few reasons. One, of course, he is a very unique candidate and, I think, we as Indians really identify with him. He grew up in a single-parent household; his grandparents helped to raise him; he didn’t grow up with much wealth; and he knows what it’s like to struggle personally. For a lot of us in Indian country, that’s how we grew up. That’s our reality.

I think also, he’s the type of person who really listens. He doesn’t go in wanting to preach to tribal leaders about what he thinks should be done – he listens to Indian people and is willing to ask, “What are your ideas; what are your needs; how can we fix the government?”

That’s a contrast with the Republicans of the Bush Administration.  Dubya first ran for office saying he thought the federal trust relationship should end and what’s left of the treaties be broken, and tribes become subject to state jurisdiction.  Tribal leaders in this part of the world have complained that they couldn’t even get anyone in this administration to have a meeting with them at all.  To talk or to listen.  (Unless, of course, for the few tribes who funneled a lot of money through Jack Abramoff.)

If you’re interested in Indian affairs, I suggest reading the whole article.  In brief, Obama’s credited with being serious about nation-to-nation relations, giving more respect that the “government-to-government” practices of the feds since Nixon.  Obama also promises to establish a White House staff position dedicated to Indian affairs.  Plus as a constitutional lawyer, Obama understands that treaties are the highest form of law, and he’s serious about honoring them.

One of the things I liked about Obama, early on in the primaries, was that he had thought out some good, substantial positions on Native America.  Tom Daschle is credited with helping bring him up to speed.

Indian Country is already mostly Democratic.  But this year, GOTV efforts might make the role of the country’s indigenous population more important than ever.  Lots of swing states have significant Indian populations – such as New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Montana: Indians, Students Targeted for Voter Suppression

( – promoted by navajo)

Which, in a way, is good news.  It means Montana is still in play.  It means that the Republicans are feeling vulnerable, and playing desperate defense, even in the supposedly safe Republican stronghold of the Big Sky Country.  Reported in AlterNet:

More than half of the challenged registrations were in Missoula, where the University of Montana is located, and where the 3,400 targeted voters is equal to 5 percent of the county’s voters, said Matt Singer, CEO of Forward Montana, a progressive voter advocacy organization. The other registrations were challenged in Butte-Silver Bow, Lewis and Clark, Deerlodge, Glacier or Hill Counties.

It should surprise no one that these efforts are focussed on college towns and Indian reservations.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Montana law does allow voters who have moved within the same county to update their addresses up to and including Election Day.  So, for example, college students who are in a new dorm on the same campus wouldn’t be affected, despite the apparent Republican saber rattling:

The Republican challenges were based on the Post Office’s national change of address directory, Singer and other voting rights activists said. The Republicans used the directory to identify people who may have registered to vote while living at a previous address, such as students who moved from year to year. Registration information must contain current residences or people can be barred from voting.

The Montana Republican Party did not comment on this story.  Speculation is afoot that they might sue to remove the names of those 2000+ in-county voters in Missoula from the voter rolls, regardless what the law says.  And updating those addresses requires a trip to the county courthouse once the registration deadline has passed.  This kind of thing is a public nuisance, and the very thought that Republicans think they need this kind of thing is, at least in part, good news.  After all, it means that Montana is not entirely out of contention.

NM Side Note:  Here in New Mexico, it’s hard to imagine how such a challenge could work, because most of us don’t get mail at our homes.  You could change your mailing address while continuing to live in the same place, which would make you still eligible to vote there.  Or, you could move and keep the same mailing address, which would make you not turn up on the Republican lists to challenge the vote.  I’ve been working on Vote Builder records for a few northern New Mexico counties.  And all I can say to the Republicans who want to sort it out – good luck on that!!

Unlike some states, Montana’s voter registration is not until Monday, October 6.  So there’s still time to get those registration corrected.  And volunteers are busy around the state this weekend.  (True in New Mexico, too, where Tuesday, October 7 is the registration deadline.)

VOTER REGISTRATION IN MONTANA

Democrats, and the Obama campaign, are not taking this sitting down.  There are active voter registration efforts still underway, with this weekend as the final push.  From Native American columnist Jodi Rave in today’s Missoulan:

Betty Cooper, a Democratic campaign organizer on the Blackfeet Reservation, said she sent a volunteer to “enemy territory” on Thursday to register Native voters living among the Republican majority in Cut Bank.  Cooper said she will not be easily dissuaded by the Republican Party’s move this week to challenge the eligibility of 6,000 voters in six state counties, two of which include the Blackfeet and Rocky Boy’s reservations.  “We’re well aware they are watching us no matter what we do,” said Cooper. “We’re just trying to get people registered. It seems like for Indian people, the only time we have a voice is when we vote. If we can get all our people to vote, there’s not much the Republicans can do to us.”

Native Americans tend to register and vote in fairly low numbers, probably due to a lack of enthusiasm in the dominant culture or confidence in Washington.  Cut Bank, where Betty Cooper is organizing, is also the home to Eloise Cobell, the tough organizer of class action litigation against the feds for failing to account for (and pay!!) monies owed to Native American landholders for leases, logging, and extractive activities.  Estimates of money gone missing and unaccounted for range into the billions, and date back to the 1800s.  This, sadly, is how the feds exercise their “federal trust responsibility” for tribes, spanning three centuries now.  Jack Abramoff may have ripped off some tribes, but he was hardly the first.

When Native Americans then do vote, it is overwhelmingly Democratic.  So they are a important reservoir of support for Democrats.  Pine Ridge Reservation – also known as the location of the infamous Wounded Knee – credited, for example, with the margin which elected Democratic Senator Tim Johnson in South Dakota back in 1996.  The top two precincts in New Mexico in 2004 were Jemez Pueblo and Taos Pueblo, both casting well over 90% of their votes for Kerry/Edwards.

From Kevin O’Brien, Montana Democratic Party spokesman:

“What we’ve seen in the last 24 hours is so desperate and the worst type of politics,” O’Brien said. “It’s incredibly upsetting. All our voter protection folks are looking at this with huge concern – folks who work with county clerks and the secretary of state’s office – to guarantee that attempts like this that keep people from voting don’t come to fruition.”

But, like Betty Cooper in Montana, the response is just to go to ground.  Work extra hard this last weekend and not give an inch.  In addition to Montana, native-targeted voter registration is underway in Wisconsion and New Mexico.  (I’d guess in the Dakotas, too, though the article doesn’t mention it.)  Even me, complete with a not-fully healed injured foot, has been recruited to canvass for voter registration at Taos Pueblo this weekend.

Anyhow, there’s lots of other states where voter registration continues through this weekend (or later).  Check out slinkerwink’s comprehensive diary on the subject posted Wednesday.  Get out and help register voters yourself, or at least confirm that your friends and families in those states are registered.  Don’t forget to follow up with Americans overseas, too.

And if you are in Montana, or New Mexico, or similar states where this is the last weekend to register?  It’s time to get all hands on deck for this final push.  The ground game’s gonna win it for us.  So, let’s get to it!

Court Smacks Palin Down on Native Alaskan Moose Hunt

( – promoted by navajo)



Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, avid helicopter hunter and lifetime NRA member, has opposed native subsistence rights ever since she came into office.  Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said “Thanks but no thanks” to her ongoing efforts to ban indigenous moose harvest.

Federal trust responsibility for Native people meant that the Federal Subsistence Management program followed all appropriate procedures in its ruling for moose harvest by the Cheesh-na Athabaskans of the tiny inland village of Cristochina.

“Palin’s attack here has targeted (among others) the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina; and although the federal court last year rejected this challenge, too, Palin has refused to lay down her arms,” wrote Kendall-Miller and her husband, Lloyd Miller, another prominent Native rights attorney.

The State’s challenge was rejected on straightforward legal grounds.  It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will hear a further appeal should Palin take time out from the campaign trail to pursue it.  This decision will probably stand.  With more GOP judges appointed?  Perhaps not…

I never thought I’d write a Palin diary.  But this Tuesday’s decision on her attempt to block Native Alaskan subsistence moose hunting hasn’t been covered here, and it’s too rife with contrast and irony to pass up.  It also contains a reminder of one of the most important reasons that an Obama victory is essential:  The future of our courts.  We can’t afford anymore Alito or Roberts appointments; nor anymore of those lifetime appointments of wingnuts to lower courts either.

MOOSE HUNTING

         

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska says her favorite food is mooseburgers.  But when it comes to native subsistence hunting, she’s not much of an enthusiast.  Traditional Alaska Native subsistence, especially inland where marine mammals aren’t in the mix, values the moose highly – for food and other uses. Wasilla (pop. > 9780, 863.9$ white), Palin’s home town, in addition to being the start point for the famous Iditarod dogsled race (until recently when climate change has moved it northward and inland due to inadequate snow) has grown rapidly in recent years as a bedroom commuter suburb for Anchorage.  It has a WalMart and several other venues that sell groceries.  Median income is $51k.  Wasilla has two zip codes.  The tiny village of Cristochina, (population 86, median income $25,500)? Not so much.



Chistochina is located at Mile 32.7 on the Tok Cut-off Road near the base of Mount Sanford and was originally an Athabascan fish camp along the Copper River. Later, during the Gold Rush to the Eagle area, the miners at Chistochina made a trail from Valdez to Eagle. A lodge was constructed to provide services to travelers heading to and from the gold fields. Prospectors also mined in the hills around the Chistochina area and found gold along the Upper Chistochina River and it’s runoff creeks. Chistochina Lodge has since burned down, but the small community hosts a cafe, bar, campground, bed and breakfast and gas station.

The inhabitants are about 60 percent Athabascan and hunting, trapping, berry picking, and subsistence fishing from the Copper River are important activities for many of the residents. Traditions have been passed down through time and Chistochina still boasts skilled skin sewers who make beautiful beaded moccasins, hats, and gloves.

         

Wasilla & Cristochina have yellow highlighting added on this map

More on Cristochina:

Subsistence hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering are the basis of the village’s economy. Most cash employment is seasonal.

Almost half of residences have individual wells; the remainder haul treated water from the Community Center. Some residents use individual septic tanks, but the majority have outhouses or pit privies. About 40% of homes are completely plumbed. The local landfill is closed pending clean-up and relocation to a new site. The community needs a washeteria and a new landfill. Electricity is provided out of Tok.



The native people used normal channels for the rulemaking decision on their subsistence moose hunt.  (The Cristochina girl on the left is cleaning a moose stomach in a traditional way):

The Federal Subsistence Management Program is a multi-agency effort to provide the opportunity for a subsistence way of life by rural Alaskans on federal public lands and waters while maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife. Subsistence fishing and hunting provide a large share of the food consumed in rural Alaska. The state’s rural residents harvest about 22,000 tons of wild foods each year – an average of 375 pounds per person. Fish makes up about 60 percent of this harvest statewide. Nowhere else in the United States is there such a heavy reliance upon wild foods.

This dependence on wild resources is both cultural, social and economic. Alaska’s indigenous inhabitants have relied upon the traditional harvest of wild foods for thousands of years and have passed this way of life, its culture, and values down through generations. Subsistence has also become important to many non-Native Alaskans, particularly in rural Alaska.

It was a 2005 ruling by the FSMP that then-Governor Frank Murkowski’s administration filed suit to overturn.  They lost that case in 2006, but Sarah Palin did not accept that ruling.  Her Administration appealed against the various Federal Agencies involved.  The Athabaskans were represented by the Native American Rights Fund:

On June 10, 2006 the State of Alaska brought suit challenging the Federal Subsistence Boards customary and traditional (C&T) use finding for subsistence uses of moose by members of the Chistochina Tribe. A positive C&T finding entitles residents for a specific community to the subsistence priority under Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Chistochina was granted intervention in this action to protect its C&T status for moose. On June 27, 2007 in State v. Demientieff, the district court entered an Order in favor of defendant United States and Chistochina against the State and upholding the Federal Subsistence Boards customary and traditional use finding for subsistence uses of moose by members of the Chistochina Tribe.

         

That’s where this week’s ruling came in.  The 9th Circuit found that Palin’s (et al.) appeal was without merit (full decision, PDF).  The basis of the decision goes back to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANLICA):

The Congress enacted ANLICA to further two ends.  The first is:

to preserve unrivaled sceneic and gelogical values associated with natural landscapes; to provide for the maintenance of sound populations of, and habitat for, wildlife species of inestimable value to the citizens of Alaska and the Nation …; to preserve in their natural state exstensive unaltered arctic tundra, boreal forest, and coastal rainforest ecosystems; to protect the resources related to subsistence needs…



The second, in order though not in priority is “to provide the opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to continue to do so.”

         

In particular, Title VII of ANLICA:

Congress sought to protect the subsistence way of life in the face of Alaska’s growing population and the resultant pressure on fish and wildlife populations, and created a subsistence management and use program. Id. Sec. 3111(3).  The program grants a priority to subsistence use of resources, providing: “the taking on public lands of fish and wildlife for nonwasteful subsistence uses shall be accorded priority over the taking on such lands of fish and wildlife for other purposes”

When talking about possible grounds for overturning a C&T determination, we get to one of the many traits Palin shares with the Bush Administration – complete disregard of science.  And science and historical evidence is what the Court found the disputed ruling had been based on. In particular, “We will find an agency action arbitrary and capricious if:”

“the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise”

The decision’s discussion opens with this smackdown:

While Alaska argues vociferously that the FSB’s fact finding was not supported by substantial evidence, the disagreements between the parties are ultimately legal, and not factual, in nature.

         

I suspect that contempt for the federal role in protecting resources, and its trust responsibility for native peoples is at the heart of that “Alaska Independence Party” movement.  The decision notes, rather harshly:

Rather, the interpretation appears to be purely a litigation position, developed during the course of the present case.  As such, we owe the interpretation no deference.

And so, the Courts are not completely lost.  Yet.

WOLVES

Palin’s a big advocate of wolf-hunting, even having tried to initiate a program to pay a bounty for every wolf killed in Alaska.  Not being a deep thinker, she missed the lesson that removing top predators doesn’t make for more game for hunters.  The balance between grazing animals and their forage is not a trivial matter.  Aldo Leopold figured it out nearly a century ago, and describes it as well as anyone ever has in his essay Thinking like a Mountain (a short masterpiece, worth reading – and re-reading – in full):

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.

         

And so, like on everything else, Palin comes down on the wrong side of every issue I can think of.  Bad enough that she’s been wreaking havoc on wildlife, indigenous peoples, etc. in Alaska.  Let’s not let her get loose on the rest of the country, and the world.  The Courts are fragile, and we can’t afford any more of these right-wing justices to be appointed.  Let’s have its rightward, corporatist (etc.) current swing be as far as it gets in that direction.  The future of our courts is one of the best reasons to work hard to make sure McCain and Palin do not get elected.

We’ve got work to do folks – only 40 days till Election Day.  And voting has already started!!

NM Voter Roll Purge? Unfounded rumor!

( – promoted by navajo)

I’ve got some good news, so check it out:

I’ve heard it said, and seen it written:  The voter rolls in New Mexico were purged, and it’s gonna sabotage the election.  The implication is that something nefarious has happened.  I decided to test it out.  With a mini-audit on one precinct that I know well.  I worked it in 2004 in detail, and still have the files.

I went through Taos County, Precinct 13 (Taos Pueblo Reservation) – comparing the voter rolls from Election Day 2004 with today.  My conclusion?  Nothing to worry about.  Unless something is very different in another part of the state, that is.  

Since there are persistent rumors and speculation on this, I thought it would be worth sharing what I found out.  And explain how others can check their own voter rolls for purges, too – in time to repair any damage found with targeted voter registration efforts.

I worked the precinct rolls in detail in 2004, including address corrections from a mailout, looking up phone numbers in the phone book, registering voters and being the Kerry campaign vote tracker on Election Day.  And more.  I noticed some irregularities – a discrepancy between undervotes for early voting and on Election Day.  This was interesting because early voting was with a paper trail, and election day machines did not have a paper trail.  Those discrepancies found their way a Greg Palast book, as it happens.  (He made some errors with the numbers, but got the story right about undervotes.)

I’ve also worked 2006 and 2008 as an official poll worker, and seen nothing but scrupulous behavior on everyone’s party.

OK, here’s the numbers.  First, total voters in the precinct:

Nov 2004 – 616

Jul 2008 – 655

101 new voters have been added to the rolls since 2004, and 62 are gone.  About 10% of the 2004 voters are no longer on the rolls in this precinct.  Here’s what I found in examining those 62 names:

  • 9 were either known by me to be deceased or over 70 in 2004.  (One was 93.)
  • 17 I located in other precincts in the state.
  • 3 were duplicates – same name, birthday, address, phone etc.
  • 2 were obviously irregular for reasons it’s not worth taking the effort to explain
  • 31 (half) weren’t found in the state, with various searches on VoteBuilder.

It’s worth noting that 12 of the missing were male, and 19 female, so I’m guessing that the excess female name changes had to do with changes in marital status.  And in Indian country?  A few more of those might be name changes:  I know people who switched from Suazo to Aspenwind, and from Espinosa to Lightning Bow for last names.  It’s quite possible I could have missed a few others.  And, of the 600+ people in the precinct, maybe one or two, even three, went to prison, and some went out of state for college or work or marriage or military service.

31 is about 5% of the voters to explain by name changes, leaving the state, dying, or going to prison.  That does not seem unreasonable to me.  People were all wound up about their names not appearing on the rolls for the Presidential caucus vote on Super Tuesday.  One explanation was that some voters forgot to indicate a party affiliation on their voter registration application.  I see no evidence of anything untoward happening to the voter rolls.

New Voters

Here’s the good news.  I looked at the new voters since 2004 – there being 101 of them all told.  And get this!  Not a single one of the new voters is a Republican – not one!  (DTS = “decline to state”, and means the voter left the party affiliation blank on the registration form; I means they wrote “independent”)

 

Mind you, this is a very Democratic precinct – it voted about 93% for Kerry in 2004.  But there’s more voters now.  And the machines that recorded 1 in 7 voters as making no choice for President are gone.  The machines that showed 100% of voters making a selection for President are now the only ones in use.  In a state where the margin in the Presidential race was 366 in 2000, and less than 6,000 in 2004, this matters.  There’s 1500 precincts in the state.  This one precinct is in line to deliver a net gain of maybe 75 votes to the Dems this time.  Possibly as many as 100 (or more), because there’s still a couple months of voter registration to go.

And so the campaign season gears up.  We’re seeing all the problems in the Obama campaign to be expected with a rapidly growing organization.  We’re on our third field organizer in a month for example.  But we’ve got much more sophisticated voter records and GOTV efforts than in 2004, too, thanks to some good efforts on the part of the county party in the 2006 midterms.

That’s good news from one little precinct in New Mexico.  Down with Tyranny is reporting something similar in summary for the state of California:

Between January 22 and May 19, over 400,000 new voters registered in California. 75% of them registered as Democrats. The news gets much worse for Republicans; almost all the rest registered as independents (Decline-to-State). The GOP picked up less than 1,500 of those new voters (3.6%). Nor was this all happening in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The fastest growing area of the state, the heavily Republican Inland Empire is trending away from Republicans as well. Riverside County is growing faster than any other part of the state but the GOP has lost close to 34,000 there since the last presidential election.

(Note for those of you who do the math:  I’m thinking 1,500 was a typo which should be 15,000.  Otherwise, way less than 1% of the new voters were Republicans.  Not looking good for them, either way.)

California’s not contested or anything this fall.  But it still seems like good news to me!!!

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

McCain/Heather Wilson tied to latest Abramoff Indictment

( – promoted by navajo)

Sandia Pueblo, near Albuquerque in NM-01, happens to have an excellent location for a casino.  They’ve come a long ways since their modest Bingo Room back in the 1990s.  Casino proceeds have built a variety of community facilities, placed a computer in every home, and plowed a lot back into additional economic development.  This is their newly-opened resort:

               

The mountains behind it are the Sandia Mountains, traditional spiritual place for the small Tiwa-speaking tribe.  That piece of turf was claimed by the US after the Mexican-American War and later incorporated into the National Forests.  The tribe was involved in ongoing efforts to protect their interests and traditional activities in the Sandias.  When the the money started coming in from gaming, they decided to hire a lobbyist.  Who did they hire?  To the tune of $1.7 million?  Jack Abramoff.  And who presided over the associated Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearings?  And sealed 98% of the hearing’s documents?  John McCain!

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and Democracy for New Mexico.

McCAIN’s INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARINGS

This ties back to McCain.  Why?  Because of the Indian Affairs Subcommittee hearings on matters Abramoff during 2006.  Back then, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) chaired the committee, and presided over the hearings.  By the time the dust settled, Congressman Bob Ney (R) of Ohio went to jail, Richard Pombo (R, CA-11) and others got fired by the voters, and a bunch of other Republicans decided to retire.  That’s a big part of why the Democrats stand to move up in the legislative branch this year – prominent Republicans like Sens. John Warner (VA) and Pete Domenici(NM) are retiring (and a lot of not-quite-so-prominent ones, too.)

“Maverick” McCain points to these hearings as proof of bucking his party.  Let’s keep in mind that the hearings put all members of the House and Senate off-limits as part of the ground rules.  It did look into the Interior Department, and so touched upon the portion of the Abramoff operation relating to Indian gaming.  But the vast majority of the documents accumulated in the conduct of those hearings have been sealed.  Only about 2% of the documents were released for public scrutiny.

More on that to follow below.

It has been hypothesized that there’s some kind of a coverup going on.   The Bush justice department has pursued the matter.  Rep. Bob Ney from Ohio did go to jail.  Pombo and others were not re-elected.  John Doolittle (CA-04) and others decided not to run for another term.  This week there was a new arrest in the case:  One Kevin Ring, former Doolittle staffer, later a lobbyist working for Abramoff.  (The full 46-page indictment is available in PDF form.)

There’s a lot about Representative 5 in there, John Doolittle.  And some talk about a [New Mexico tribe].  Doolittle might end up in jail yet, and it would not be undeserved.  But a bit of a back burner story.  Not like Doolittle’s running for re-election or anything.  And no wonder – it’s his former Chief of Staff, after all.  From MSNBC:

At one point in 2000, Doolittle’s then-chief of staff told Ring in an e-mail that Doolittle had said he felt like a “subsidiary” of Abramoff’s firm, the indictment says.

Doolittle’s attorney, David Barger, defended the congressman in a  statement Monday. “It is clear that portions of the Kevin Ring indictment were designed to make gratuitous references to the congressman and his wife. This appears to have been done to titillate the public, with the foreseeable and therefore intended consequence of attempting to embarrass and pressure the congressman,” the statement said.

Turns out there’s a New Mexico angle in this indictment, too.

HEATHER WILSON

Sandia Pueblo is within the boundaries of NM-01, the district of Rep. Heather Wilson, the failed Senatorial candidate.  

2 – On or about December 20 , 2001 , defendant RING sent an email captioned ” [ New Mexico tribe] (sp?)” to Abramoff in which he wrote, “Need to talk to you about a potential new client. Would need Scanlon, too. ” A few months later, on or about February 14, 2002, Abramoff sent an email to Scanlon in which Abramoff informed Scanlon that “[0]ur Kevin Ring New Mexico Ship has just arrived!! We have a meeting 11 am Wednesday next week with the [New Mexico tribe] here in DC. They are desperate and rich. Kevin is desperate for some $ and a big client.

We’z gonua be rich(er) …”

It’s kinda quaint, really.  How the names are all “disguised”.  The names of all the tribes involved have long been known.  The only one in New Mexico was Sandia Pueblo.  Similarly, covering up the names of the governmental officials is curious.  But such are the rules of the game we play by.  Turns out, deep in the 46-page indictment is a presumed reference to our own NM Rep. Heather Wilson.  Sandia’s in her district, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.  Looks like ol’ Nipplegate Heather follows basketball as well as football.  (Note that “Governor” is the title for the head of NM Pueblo tribes’ governments.)

155. On or about July 17, 2002, defendant RING emailed the New Mexico tribe’s governor and others to inform them that the executive branch official had called a U.S. Senator to support the settlement agreement.

156. On or about January 30, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B emailed a staffer for the New Mexico tribe’ s U.S. Representative, “Sorry I couldn’t hangout last night. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to han[g]out with the [New Mexico tribe]. It meant a lot to [K]evin and I [sic].  BTW, you should be all set for the [Los Angeles] Clippers [basketball] game.”

And in today’s Albuquerque Journal, Heather Wilson has felt moved to respond:

Mr. Kevin Ring hosted a fundraising lunch at Signatures Restaurant to benefit my campaign for re-election in May 2003 and contributed $1,000 to my campaign on June 2, 2003.  When we discovered that Mr. Ring had not submitted a bill for the cost of the fundraiser to my fundraising consultant, our consultant sought to pay the bill and, when unsuccessful because the restaurant was no longer in business, my campaign made an equivalent contribution to charity as required by Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules.

She did help the tribe get the land settlement, which she should have done anyhow, as Representative for a tribe supposedly covered by Federal Trust responsibilities.  She and her staff did get stuff of value from the tribe’s lobbyist.  Quid pro quo?  We’ll probably never know

At any rate:  Wilson’s name hadn’t been linked in with the Abramoff web before.  The Sandia part of the story was almost a sidebar.  The tribe didn’t spend much money, dropped the lobbyist, and managed to get a land-claim settlement they could live with.  At the time the Abramoff scandal busted open, the Albuquerque Journal reported (you have to watch an ad to follow the link for free):

Stuwart Paisano, who served as Sandia’s governor until last week, said Tuesday the pueblo was in legal settlement negotiations with the firms and could not talk about specifics of Sandia’s monetary arrangement. He said the pueblo paid more than $1 million to the two men.

   “Our council has no ill feelings,” he said. “We were able to get the mountain back, which was our only goal. Obviously we made some poor choices in who we hired.”



Presumably, this part of the story was in the Indian Affairs subcommittee’s millions of sealed documents.  And, one wonders, what other “dirt” on various Republicans got buried.  And before anyone gets wound up and says “What about corrupt Dems?”, it is probably good to remember that the Abramoff operation was part of the Republican plan for a “permanent majority”.  Democrats were completely shut out.  Abramoff only dealt with Republicans.

And that, my friends, is why this story matters.  Abramoff is in jail.  Ring is arrested.  Doolittle and Wilson aren’t standing for re-election.  But John McCain presided over burying a lot of evidence in the course of those hearings.  There were a coupla sacrificial animals:  Abramoff and some of his crew had to go; a few people left their jobs at Interior; and Bob Ney got snagged.  Plus Delay & Pombo and others were driven from office.  Is McCain sitting on favors in all those sealed documents?  (Favors bordering on extortion?)

In keeping Wilson’s name out of the news, he could be credited with her keeping her seat.  She won by a very narrow margin of 105,986-105,125.  A few headlines tying her to this scandal during 2006 could easily have made the difference.  

For all the good it did.  She’s OUT this year anyhow.  She had other help, too.  The US Attorney scandal, Albuquerque chapter, was all wrapped up in it, too.  She and Domenici were both damaged for their interference with David Iglesias.  Less often mentioned was the Bob Perry-funded ad campaign mounted in the weeks before the election attacking Wilson’s challengers NM Attorney General Patricia Madrid over the same case Iglesias got fired over – for not producing indictments as fast as would be helpful to the needs of the effort to re-elect Heather.

BACK TO McCAIN

This new association of a sitting member of Congress with the Abramoff scandal brings the question of those sealed Indian Affairs Committee documents front and center.  What other stories and ties have been hidden from the public?  Who else did McCain spare from sunlight on Abramoff’s many tentacles into the Republican majority in Congress?  

It’s not clear to me why, now that there’s a Democratic majority, these materials all remain sealed.  I’ve called the new Chairman of Indian Affairs, Senator Dorgan’s (D-ND) office, was referred to the Committee.  But all the reception I was afforded was to have my query referred to voice mail.  I’ve heard nothing back.  It’s this kind of thing that disappoints me about the Democratic majority.  This kind of thing really should be seeing sunlight.

TIMELINE (background info)

Correction:  I got an email with a link to the first Washington Post story about the Abramoff scandal.  It was in 2004.  Sadly, the story didn’t get enough traction then to change the 2004 election outcome.

It’s probably good to keep the timeline of all this in mind.  The Abramoff scandal blew up with some Washington Post stories in December 2005.  McCain got his hearings up and down in 2006, and all the documents were sealed.  Republicans lost the House and the Senate in 2006, and the US Attorney scandal came to light in early 2007.  

From MSNBC again – some related summary:

To date, the ongoing Abramoff investigation has resulted in 13 guilty pleas by various lobbyists and public officials, including former lobbyist Michael Scanlon, who pleaded guilty in November 2005 to conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud. Former lobbyist and congressional staffer Tony C. Rudy pleaded guilty in March 2006 to conspiring with Abramoff, Scanlon and others to commit honest services fraud, mail and wire fraud, and a violation of conflict of interest post-employment restrictions. In April 2007, Mark D. Zachares, a former high-ranking aide to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and in June 2008, John C. Albaugh, a former chief of staff to a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives pleaded guilty to the same charge. In April 2008, Robert Coughlin, a former Department of Justice employee, pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest. Scanlon, Rudy, Albaugh, Coughlin and Zachares are all cooperating and awaiting sentencing.

In addition, Ohio Congressman Robert Ney pleaded guilty in September 2006 to conspiracy to commit multiple offenses, including honest services fraud, making false statements in violation of his former chief of staff’s one-year lobbying ban, and making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Neil Volz, former lobbyist and chief of staff to Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to honest services fraud and violating the one-year lobbying ban and William Heaton, former chief of staff for Congressman Ney, pleaded guilty on February 26, 2007, to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Volz and Heaton cooperated in the government’s investigation and were each sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $2,000 and $5,000 fine, respectively.

McCain’s hearings were in 2006.  There was some flashy stuff, and names like Italia Federici (with ties to Gale Norton & Steven Griles at Interior) had their 15 minutes of fame.  It garnered, actually, many hours of coverage on C-SPAN, and a few bits on the cable channels.  And then the report came out, and the documents were sealed.  A few were punished, and many more were protected.

John McCain might like to brag about his corruption-fighting ways.  But it’s fair to say that he likely protected many more than were punished, even with a wrist slap.  Meanwhile, Wilson – who more likely than not benefited from McCain’s sealed documents – is busy supporting his campaign.”  From TPM muckraker:

Wilson has been a stalwart supporter and prominent surrogate for John McCain, painting him as a crusader against Washington corruption. Just last night, she appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball to make the case for him, and last week she told NPR: “John McCain has chosen a reformer … to be his running mate and I think that’s a perfect complement to who he is and what he’s done in his life.”

Ralph Reed, too, was tied up in the Abramoff imbroglio, and lost his bid to become Lt. Governor of Georgia because of it.  Even Garrison Keillor got in on the act!  Ralph Reed now, too, serves as a surrogate for the McCain campaign.  Plus whatever he’s pulling behind the scenes.

So much for rooting out corruption!  He’s got it right in his campaign.  And really, before McCain gets too much credit for those hearings, the 98% of the hearing documents that have been sealed need to see the light of day.  Doolittle, and now Wilson, have had their names tied to the scandal.  It’s likely John McCain’s sealed documents are the only reason we’ve not seen Wilson’s name publicly associated with the “permanent majority” machine before, even though she has benefited from it, and supported it like a good soldier.  I’m guessing that McCain will come out smelling not so sweet when all that content comes to light.

And who knows who else’s involvement has been buried in those sealed documents?

Red or green?

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