Sunday, January 31, 2016

#RuralLivesMatter

“I think that there are some positives that could come out of this,” the sheriff tells Bundy.

“We’re getting ignored again, sir,” Bundy replies.
This is a good editorial that pretty much sums up the latest sequel in the drama of America's urban rural divide. I would cautiously bet on the seed planted by Bundy in Oregon to go into full bloom rather soon. Bundy has opened a major Pandora box. There is simply no going back.

But before we get to the final destination, we have one more station to pass by. This editorial-manifesto is about the next station. But this plan is not going to work. There are several reasons for this and among them the urban rural demographic imbalance. The countryside simply doesn't have enough electoral weight while the cultural/ideological gap works against voluntary concessions by between the city to the countryside.

This is an age of growing political polarization in which cities are getting increasingly blue while their periphery stays deep in red. On top of this, the allegation of government mismanagement of western lands on a monumental scale perfectly fits into the conservative perception that the government can't be trusted with running things. The other side is obviously all too eager to argue the opposite.

So, the urban rural divide currently escalating in the west is less an opportunity for meaningful bipartisan cooperation. To the contrary, it has potential to become one of the most polarizing issues on a nationwide scale. This is one issue that can tear the whole country apart.
By Capital Press () {

Date = January 28, 2016

Source = Land management issues remain

For better or worse, the occupation did draw some national attention to legitimate issues concerning the U.S. government’s management of its vast holding of public lands.

Now what?

It will be all too easy for many casual observers East of the Rockies, and even a good many in the liberal urban centers of the West, to dismiss all of this as the machinations of a half-cocked collection of religious zealots, disenfranchised Reubens and anti-government nuts with too many guns and a crazy interpretation of the Constitution.

Unfortunately, that would miss the real underlying issues.

The standoff is diminished, but the anger and frustration of many farmers, ranchers and lumbermen in Harney County and throughout the West remains unchanged. Their interests must now be pressed in the court of public opinion, and non-Westerners made to understand the real issues.

The federal government holds more than half the land in the West. The economic and civic fabric of rural communities depends on trees cut from the forest, livestock grazed on the range and minerals gleaned from the mining claims.

The government once encouraged these activities in the service of the country’s growing population and in fulfillment of its manifest destiny. Now, policies have changed and that same government seems to be draining the lifeblood of the rural West.

Many in the rural West don’t think their government listens to them and that their concerns are given short shrift. They believe that their livelihoods, their very way of life, are in the hands of bureaucrats controlled by interests outside their communities.

They don’t understand how the government can claim to be a good steward while it lets its forests fill with fuel that feeds ever more terrible wildfires that destroy the very habitat it seeks to protect. They bristle at what they perceive to be the mismanagement of these fires that causes their own property to be damaged or destroyed.

They are stymied at every turn by the inertia that attends every decision, every necessary action on a grazing allotment or timber harvest. They are tired of the endless environmental litigation that seems bent on driving even the most conservation-minded producers off public lands.

They watch as their government adds to its empire, using taxpayer money to outbid local buyers and take more land off the tax roles, and erode private economic opportunities.

They want to be good stewards, to do the right thing. But they want a fair shake.

Now is the time to tell these stories, to tell America that rural western lives matter.}

Saturday, January 30, 2016

“This county is so tore up, it will never be the same — ever”

The levels of anger have risen dramatically since the shooting of the protester

By JULIE TURKEWITZ and KIRK JOHNSON (NY Times) {

Date = JAN. 29, 2016
Source = Oregon Town Torn Apart by Protest

The occupation at a wildlife refuge near here by a band of outsiders — 11 of them have been arrested and one killed, and four remain in the compound — has turned this patch of small-town America into a community at war with itself. Rather than uniting the hamlet of Burns around a common cause, the rebellion at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by anti-government protesters has exposed divisions among residents, some who support federal regulation of public land and others who bristle at Washington’s sway.

“This county is so tore up, it will never be the same — ever,” said Jeff Dixson, 68, a wildlife photographer and former truck driver who said he supported many of the occupiers’ goals, making him unpopular with many neighbors. “There’s a lot of people that have told me they ain’t never going to talk to me again.”

[...]

Some residents are simply leaving. The 17 employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were relocated by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which received “nonspecific” threats about its workers being taken hostage, said Jason Holm, a spokesman for the agency, which runs the refuge.

One Malheur employee, speaking anonymously to protect his safety, said he was living apart from his wife and young children. His family has lived in the area for decades, he said, but is considering moving for good. “It makes us very angry,” he said.

The Harney County sheriff, Dave Ward, who has been a vocal opponent of the occupation, said the tires of his wife’s vehicle were slashed, prompting her to leave town. The authorities are investigating the matter.

Four top public officials have resigned since the occupation: the county school superintendent, the principals of the county middle and high schools, and the head of the fire department. The fire chief, Chris Briels, is a supporter of the occupation, and resigned when other officials refused to allow the Bundy group to a host a meeting in town.

[...]

On Thursday, the F.B.I. released a video showing State Police troopers shooting Mr. Finicum, 54, after he tried to drive around a roadblock and they said he reached for his gun. The authorities hoped the video would quell accusations that Mr. Finicum was gunned down with his hands up, but many citizens who watched it do not accept the F.B.I.’s account of what happened.

“It is absolutely another dividing line with one side saying it was coldblooded murder and the other side is saying it was completely justified,” said Linsay Tyler, 33, a rancher who was born and raised in the county.

Ms. Tyler thought Mr. Finicum’s death was unjustified, but stopped short of calling it murder. She said the shooting had been like gasoline on a fire. “It was a community divided throughout the whole occupation, but now it’s even more divided,” she said. “Families are being torn apart, friendships are being ended — it’s a nightmare.” }


Friday, January 29, 2016

If Bundy was a catalyst, this one can become the detonator

This can become a blunder of mammoth proportions. A few points to keep in mind.

1. For the environmentalists, the road ahead is clear after the feds have successfully nipped the Bundy rebellion in the bud. Some people even expressed satisfaction with the fact that one of the Bundy terrorists was shot dead.

2. There is a perception cultivated in many quarters in the wake of the standoff that Bundy was isolated and represented nobody besides a bunch of his cuckoo militia friends. According to this view, most locals love their wildlife refuges and nature conservation and were happy to see their beloved Cecil the Lion saved by the feds from extremists.

3. As far as the locals go, thanks to the services of Bundy (which some are reluctant to admit), their plight has finally received national attention. Their cause has been heard.

To put it short, we may have here a case of divergent expectations with all sides thinking that they are winning. A situation like this is perfect for a major fiasco to happen.

Eric Mortenson (Capital Press) {

Date = January 27, 2016

Source = Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness proposal unresolved

SALEM — The occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge may have been broken, but a divisive wilderness proposal remains unresolved in Southeast Oregon.

The underlying issues are familiar: anger over federal land management and government “over-reach,” and frustration over loss of economic opportunity in the rural West.

The Bend-based environmental group Oregon Natural Desert Association, backed by the Keen Footwear company of Portland, has proposed a 2.5 million-acre Owyhee Canyonlands wilderness and conservation area.

Ranchers and other Malheur County residents are dead set against it. “Not only no, but hell no,” prominent rancher Bob Skinner said.

[...]

The proposed area is bigger than either Yellowstone, Yosemite or Grand Canyon national parks, critics point out, and would cover 40 percent of Malheur County. Residents believe designation would be accompanied by restrictions and regulations that would prohibit or severely complicate grazing, mining, hunting and recreation.

While proponents say traditional uses of the land will be allowed, a local group called Citizens in Opposition to the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument does not believe them.

Skinner, a fifth-generation rancher who leads the opposition group, said one faction believes ranchers and other landowners should “settle” with those pushing for establishment of the canyonlands.

But Skinner said agreements with “radical environmental groups” always turn out bad. While they say traditional land uses such as cattle grazing could continue, such assurances soon fall apart, Skinner said.

“Historically, every single solid time,” he said. “It starts collapsing on the uses. That’s historic, I can tell you.”

[...]

Skinner said his contacts among Oregon’s congressional delegation and others in Washington, D.C., indicate Obama will establish the wilderness and conservation area under the Antiquities Act, which can be done by presidential order and does not require approval of Congress.

A press secretary for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Eastern Oregon in Congress, said Walden has repeatedly called upon the administration to say what it plans to do. Early in the wildlife refuge occupation, Walden said Obama could ease some of the tension by backing away from the canyonlands proposal.

“If they don’t plan to do it, they should just come out and say so,” press secretary Andrew Malcolm said in an email.

A White House media staffer said the administration has “no announcement to make at this time” and did not respond to detailed questions. }


The real Twitter Revolution is neurophysiological.

I would agree that the #FeelTheBern rage is mere the symptom. But this is not a symptom of the old troll, but of the way in which social media progressively rewires the hunam brain. There is a substantial body of scientific evidence to the fact that regular venting doesn't have a cathartic quality. To the contrary, rage is a drug.

The real Twitter Revolution is neurophysiological. It's the Spring of Rage


By Jessica Lussenhop (BBC Trending) {

Source = Bernie Sanders supporters get a bad reputation online

Tim Russo, a masters of international relations student at Cleveland State University, is an ardent Sanders supporter and has sent plenty of tweets to authors like Mr Coates and Joan Walsh, The Nation correspondent and Clinton supporter.

He says the tone of tweets like his are confrontational and meant to be - this is a "revolution", he reasons, and he is trying to challenge establishment Democrats.

"I target these talking heads in the media who have a high perch, these great liberal thought leaders, when they're not - they're tools of bourgeois," says Russo.

He says he writes with more nuance on his blog, but those posts gets less attention.

"It's too hard to click on a link. Twitter is where it's at right now. That's where the fight is."

[...]

Kathleen Geier, a freelance contributor to The Nation and herself a Sanders supporter, says while she has gotten her fair share of ugly online comments from male Clinton supporters, the level of vitriol coming from what she calls a "tiny minority" of Sanders boosters troubles her.

Author Sady Doyle said her tweets about Sanders supporters resulted in "several hundred angry notifications in a 24-hour span from that cohort," she wrote. "Someone also said *I* should die if I thought some Bernie supporters were kinda sexist."

"I've gotten everything from 'shill', 'paid infiltrator', to flat out having somebody actually call me a N***** in the midst of this," says Elon James White, CEO of This Week in Blackness, who has been critical of Mr Sanders' record on race.

The night of the 25 January town hall, even representatives for the Sanders campaign felt compelled to address what was happening online between Clinton and Sanders boosters.

Some say Sanders is the symptom, not the cause - the "Bernie bro" is just an old troll with a new name. Indeed, Sarah Jeong, a journalist who is the frequent target of sexist attacks, has received so much vitriol in the name of Sanders she set her Twitter account to private - even though she too is a Sanders fan. }



Thursday, January 28, 2016

It's not over even if it's over

This is a good report for as long as you disregard the author's overblown claim to possessing the true answer to the US urban rural conflict. The claim, however, makes his admission to the possibility of the Bundy cause gathering momentum even more reliable.

By Naseem Rakha (Guardian) {

Date = 28 January 2016
Source = After the Oregon standoff: Can lost goodwill be recaptured?

To them, wolf introductions, wilderness proposals, bans on timber harvest and reduction in grazing units clearly prioritize environment over livelihood. Shuttered mills and feed stores, abandoned libraries, anemic public services are perceived to be a product of an overreaching, unsympathetic and aggressively arrogant government infrastructure lubricated by urban and urbane values, rather than what it really is: a symptom of an economic system gone amok.

[...]

The answer to this problem, however, is not the demonization of government nor in the privatization of land.

Ironically, the answer, according to Harney County rancher Fred Otley, lies in just the kind of cooperative plans that he and other ranchers and conservationists helped create with the Malheur wildlife refuge and Bureau of Land Management in 2013.

The landmark effort brought together all interest groups to develop a shared vision for the land which included economic, environmental and social needs. It took more than five years of hard work, long conversations and detailed biologic assessments to complete the project. In the end, ranchers signed a 30-year agreement with the government to protect the sage grouse habitat on their private lands, in exchange for the continued use of public lands for well-monitored grazing.

The cooperative effort included 53 ranches and 320,000 acres of public and private land. In March, interior secretary Sally Jewell visited Harney County, dubbing the Malheur plan “the Oregon way.” It and similar work in other parts of the west have been credited for the recent US Fish and Wildlife Service decision to not list the sage grouse as endangered. “We started saying what’s good for the bird is good for the herd,” said Tom Sharp, a Harney County rancher who helped launch the effort.

Sharp, Otley and community members are concerned that the militants illegal occupation of the refuge and their incendiary claims that the federal government has no right to own land in the state, will derail the goodwill that has been created in the county. After generations in the area, they know how quickly misunderstandings can lead to decade-long feuds.

[...]

While it appears Bundy and his gang are on the way out, their God-loving, gun-toting, live-free-or-die message is not likely to go away. The reason Bundy and other leaders were caught is they were heading out to meet with more than 100 supporters in the next county over. Before he was arrested, Bundy said he had been invited to attend another community meeting later this week. “We have a lot of support,” he told reporters.

Unfortunately, he may be right. }



Red State, Blue City: What you are is very much about how dense is your place

This is an important background article. Those interested in America's growing urban rural divide may want to read this report in its entirety. Just a few points

1. The claim that "people don't make cities liberal -- cities make people liberal" may be exaggerated but this is still an exaggeration worth making to drive home the point. There is a very strong correlation between population density and ideology. From our perspective what matters is the correlation since it's fundamental to the city/country clash. How exactly this correlation is produced is of secondary importance.

2. The divide has been steadily growing

3. He is generally dismissive about the separatist potential in America but this is because this article predates the last wave of new secessionist movements that played out precisely along the urban rural divide. I may expand on this subject later in comments.

BY JOSH KRON (Atlantic) {

Date = NOV 30, 2012

Source = Red State, Blue City: How the Urban-Rural Divide Is Splitting America

The voting data suggest that people don't make cities liberal -- cities make people liberal

Electoral cartograms by University of Michigan physics professor Mark Newman show the power of Democratic counties based on population density. Spreading each vote out, his illustrations portray the hidden truth of the conventional electoral map, and why the much smaller number of dedicated blue counties is outmatching the more geographically numerous red counties.

Meanwhile, the states with constitutional amendments banning gay marriage are often among the least densely populated in the country, such as South Dakota and Idaho.

[...]

Starting before the Civil War era, America's political dividing lines were drawn along state and regional borders. Cities and the then-extensive rural areas shared a worldview North and South of the Mason-Dixon line.

Today, that divide has vanished. The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside. Not just some cities and some rural areas, either -- virtually every major city (100,000-plus population) in the United States of America has a different outlook from the less populous areas that are closest to it. The difference is no longer about where people live, it's about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy -- or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants.

The only major cities that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election were Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Salt Lake City. With its dominant Mormon population, Mitt Romney was a lock in the Utah capital; Phoenix nearly voted for Obama. After that, the largest urban centers to tilt Republican included Wichita, Lincoln, Neb., and Boise.

The gap is so stark that some of America's bluest cities are located in its reddest states. Every one of Texas' major cities -- Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio -- voted Democratic in 2012, the second consecutive presidential election in which they've done so. Other red-state cities that tipped blue include Atlanta, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Tucson, Little Rock, and Charleston, S.C. -- ironically, the site of the first battle of the Civil War. In states like Nevada, the only blue districts are often also the only cities, like Reno and Las Vegas.

For years, this continues: Urban and rural counties jostling with a small pool of counties which go back and forth every couple of elections. There's no real realignment, just a constant tug of war as the nation grows further divided. }


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Love the concept. But the numbers don't run

The main obstacle facing the Bundy rebellion is not about the vision, but feasibility and the contagion of hope.

By Gordon Friedman (USA Today) {

Date = January 7, 2016

Source = In Oregon, a new-age militia holds its ground

It's a classic struggle borne right out of the Wild West, with deeply distrustful ranchers fearing their land - and their freedoms - are under siege.

“What makes me nervous is government," he says, wearing military fatigues and standing in the Oregon snow-covered sagebrush, his pale blue eyes shadowed by a wide-brimmed camo hat. "Government has been responsible for the greatest atrocities in the world.”

He describes himself as a political activist, and a dirt bike hobbyist. He likens snowy Harney County, Ore. to the frozen planet Hoth from Star Wars. He says his aim is to “abolish Draconian laws that keep us enslaved.” He takes issue with money in politics, the two party system, civil forfeiture and the militarization of the police.

Cooper and the others are new Millennium Marlboro Men, dressed in cowboy hats, army fatigues and militia gear while keeping up with the news on handheld mobile devices. They tweet their land-rights rhetoric to reporters. iPhones protrude from the breast pockets on their flannel shirts. Cooper posts occasional videos to YouTube on his support for civilian patrols along the U.S. border and his defiance of federal land bureau practices.

Others, like LaVoy Finicum, 55, are ranchers.

Finicum says the land was created for man to be its steward. He wears a beige cowboy hat, camo jacket, glasses and has a wind weathered face. His web site says he has 11 children. He speaks nostalgically of his ranch in Mohave County, Ariz., where his days consist of riding on horseback, leading cows to graze.

“My dream is to ranch with my family and to live peacefully,” Finicum says.

When he gets up in the morning at home, he has breakfast with his wife before watering the cows.

“At the heart of the summer the heat pushes horse and rider to the max,” he said. “We are at the mercy of god with the rain.”

But the irony is his dream to live peacefully is being delayed by the armed standoff. It’s doubtful Bundy’s mission will ever be fulfilled. As he prolongs the would-be insurrection, federal agents are gathering in nearby Burns, waiting for his next move.

[...]

Bundy told the committee he wants to “transfer power” to them and leave town before his men are arrested, or worse. The committee agreed to organize candidates for the next county elections. The plan is to gain power, reinstate historical land claims and auction off the unclaimed acreage.

But the likelihood of that ever happening is slim to none, according to Harney County Judge Steven Grasty. The county doesn’t have the resources to manage land alone. The cost of fighting wildfires would mean bankruptcy.

“I love the concept of it, if the land comes back to us. But when you run the numbers, it doesn’t work,” Grasty said.

Grasty has lived in the Burns area for more than 40 years and says “crick” instead of creek. He ran an auto parts store for decades and survived on three customers: The county, the loggers and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. In his office, Grasty offers donuts to visitors. A copy of the Oregonian, with his face on the cover, sits on his 15-foot-long desk. Although he wears a tie to work, he said he’s part of the local culture – hunting, fishing and shooting guns for fun.

He said he hopes the standoff ends soon.

“The Bundys aren’t a second coming,” the judge said. “They’re not our savior.” }

Sunday, January 24, 2016

America's urban rural divide - Talking past each other

Good examples of the urban rural mentality gap here as well as the kind of expectations of city-country dialogue the Bundy rebellion has stirred up. I estimate that the current wave is going to die out without leaving much in terms of practical results. But next time another Hammond goes to jail or another Bundy Ranch has its cattle rounded up, the city dwellers may be surprised to discover that by now the US countryside is teeming with Bundy style rural terrorists. It may happen within the next couple of years, if not this year.

By Eric Mortenson (Capital Press) {

Date = January 21, 2016
Source = Standoff exposes urban, rural divide

Rural residents, farming and ranching groups and elected officials have criticized the occupiers’ actions. But they say the underlying anger about lost economic opportunity in the rural West is very real.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Eastern Oregon in Congress, said the thread tying the Hammond family’s case with the occupiers’ demands is “decades of frustration, arrogance and betrayal that has contributed to the mistrust of the federal government.”

In Portland and other urban centers, that connection isn’t so clear.

“Because it’s not on their radar,” said John Morgan, an economic development, civic and leadership planner and consultant who works with rural communities.

Harney County, where federal and state agencies manage about 75 percent of the land, has 1,200 fewer people and 10 percent fewer jobs than it did in the late 1970s. The number of logging and mill jobs in the county went from 768 in 1978 to just 6 in 2014, according to state figures.

“The resource economy is intrinsically tied to the prosperity of the rest of the state,” he said. “You couldn’t have urban prosperity without the fact that Oregon is still a resource economy. Intel can only take us so far.”

Many people living in Portland and other urban centers mock the occupiers as “Y’all Qaeda” and ridicule their beliefs. They rail about “welfare cowboys” receiving “subsidized” grazing fees on federal land.

“They’re more than happy to try and regulate what happens to the Columbia River Gorge because they see it as their playground, without stopping to understand the (economic) impact,” Morgan said.

[...]

Paul Schwennesen, a Harvard-educated Air Force veteran who raises grass-fed beef in Arizona, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which he described Western reaction to the Harney County situation as “deeply American.”

He said “urban elites” at both ends of the political spectrum have dismissed the standoff as ridiculous, and miss the point of it.

“Like good Tories haughtily renouncing tea dumping in Boston ‘Harbour,’ we may be shocked to find that the ragamuffins are not only saying something important, but that their message is striking a chord, Schwennesen wrote.

“What they are saying is that the federal government is too bloated, too heavy-handed, and too corrupt, and that it is most spectacularly evident on the rugged rangelands of the West.”

If Cargill or Monsanto owned the majority of the land and people were denied opportunity to make a living, all hell would break loose, he said.

He said the ground level issue is federal management of the overwhelming majority of the resource base in the West. Bureaucratic paralysis is the inevitable result when “one decision maker gets to make the decisions over a gigantic public resource,” he said.

In a phone interview, Schwennesen said reaction to his piece “split along the urban-rural divide.”

[...]

But the Hammond case — they were ordered to serve additional prison time for burning BLM land — and the wildlife refuge occupation may have opened the conversation. Walden made an impassioned speech in Congress about “federal overreach in the West” that was well-received and widely shared on social media.

Rancher Keith Nantz, manager and partner of the Dillon Land and Cattle Co. south of The Dalles, Ore., wrote an opinion piece on the issue for the Washington Post that received more than 4,200 reader comments.

In his piece, Nantz said management decisions are being made by people “four to five generations removed from food production” and who “don’t quite understand our industry.”

Nantz said online comments ranged from “absolute opposite ends of the spectrum.” The issue now has the national stage, he said, and producers should not let the conversation die off. Farmers and ranchers are getting better at networking, he said, and must continue to engage the public and explain what they do without being combative.

“We need to utilize the momentum we have right now,” Nantz said. “We need to capitalize on this movement.” }


Saturday, January 23, 2016

The DOOMMM Club is now playing with open cards in Europe

Is this how "Europe" ends?

The Germans, founders and funders of the postwar union, shut their borders to refugees in a bid for political survival by the chancellor who let in a million migrants. And then -- why not? -- they decide to revive the Deutschmark while they're at it.
If this sounds a bit like one of those nefarious designs articulated by The DOOMMM Club over the last few years on Facebook, you are right. But this one doesn't come from The DOOMMM Club, but from the top echelons of Europe's political power.
BY ALASTAIR MACDONALD AND NOAH BARKIN (Reuters, Jan 18 2016) {

That is not the fantasy of diehard Eurosceptics but a real fear articulated at the highest levels in Berlin and Brussels.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, her ratings hit by crimes blamed on asylum seekers at New Year parties in Cologne, and EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker both said as much last week.

Juncker echoed Merkel in warning that the central economic achievements of the common market and the euro are at risk from incoherent, nationalistic reactions to migration and other crises. He renewed warnings that Europe is on its "last chance", even if he still hoped it was not "at the beginning of the end".

Source = End of Europe? Berlin, Brussels' shock tactic on migrants }

Just to make sure, from the beginning our bet with the Muslim immigration in Europe was not on a Muslim takeover of Europe as such, but on the rise of far right anti-EU forces threatening to unravel the project of the United States of Europe aka European integration.

Now the leadership seems to have suddenly woken up. Even more remarkable is the fact that they seem to mean business. Germany has already threatened Algeria/Morocco with suspending development aid in case these two refuse to repatriate back those of their migrants who are considered subject to deportation, while German police was reported to have carried out numerous arrests among North African migrants. Both countries are now scheduled to be soon included in the list of "safe countries of origin". That is, there's going to be no political asylum.

These new developments introduce some uncertainty into our original scenario. If the authorities can deport a large number of migrant offenders and effectively instill fear in and suppress the remaining trouble makers among the migrant population, this may go some way in calming down the anti-immigration backlash. We will have to wait and see.

In one respect, however, The DOOMMM Club still remains one step ahead of the elites. If there is radicalization on the right, it's very likely to be followed by radicalization on the left. In fact, this is one is not just likely to happen, it's probably already happening.

Targeting far right opponents - Propaganda video by Swedish Popular Front


The real question here is whether this polarization can mainstream from the fringes, undermining the center and polarizing European societies the American style.


Friday, January 22, 2016

The other side of the coin. The State of Jefferson movement

This report bridges two important events in the modern history of the US periphery. One that got most attention was the armed takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Another, that largely passed unnoticed, was a gathering of the State of Jefferson movement in Sacramento. The State of Jefferson proved to be the most tenacious of the last wave of neo secessionist movements that peaked about two years ago. Unlike others, the movement has kept growing and radicalizing.

From our perspective, the most intriguing part here is first signs of The State of Jefferson spilling over from northern California into southern Oregon.

By CASEY MICHEL (Polico) {

[...]

Moreover, much like the original Jefferson swell, the insurrectionists at Malheur have tapped into smoldering grievance, exploiting the desiccated economics of southern Oregon to spin a push into insurgency.

As one rancher declaimed at a recent meeting in Burns, Ammon Bundy “has given Harney County our biggest and best platform ever to get our message out.”

The region “has had severe economic problems,” Laufer said, drowning under “grotesque unemployment.” As such, those protesting in the region have opted for an extreme measure—either via a sanctuary standoff or separate statehood.

But while the militia continues piling its arms—and gathering support from certain mainstream circles—the hopes for a Jefferson reborn don’t exist primarily in Oregon. For that, you have to travel south.

[...]

A few days ago, hundreds of Californians gathered at the state Capitol to demand discussion on a new Jefferson. Following over two years of organizing within the pro-Jefferson camp, some 21 counties have delivered declarations for the introduction of a “State of Jefferson” bill in the California Legislature, bundled through either signature-gathering campaigns or counties’ boards of supervisors.

The modern push remains largely limited to northern California, though Jefferson spokesman Robert Smith told me that town halls on the topic are beginning to show up in southern Oregon. At least one of the protesters in Malheur is apparently a State of Jefferson supporter; a video surfaced over the past few days of one of the militants donning Jefferson attire.

But Smith was sure to distance his movement from those currently holed in Malheur: “The state of Jefferson has no intention of doing anything other than civilly and within the color of the law.”

Baird also denied any links between Jefferson and Malheur—“You can buy one of those hats on I-5 for six bucks,” he said—but cited the links threading the two movements. “I think that it’s interesting to note that the grievances all over rural America are the same,” Baird told me. “There’s mission creep by the federal government, there’s mission creep by [the Bureau of Land Management], there’s overregulation that’s affecting the way real people live their lives, and the net result is the criminalization of ordinary individuals who basically haven’t committed any crime.”

[...]

But not all rhetoric has remained quite as civil. According to the Sacramento Bee, Baird pledged to “start a straight-up fight with the people in [the Capitol].”

Source = When Oregon Ranchers Tried to Start Their Own State }


At the backdrop of the Bundy rebellion, an impoverished and demographically crumbling countryside

Another report from New York Times on the standoff in Oregon. I am linking it both because it provides a good background info and because it does coincide with the hope of many in the countryside with the beginning of the standoff that their grievances are now going to be heard and addressed. Lets say, the hearing has happened. But the addressing part is another matter altogether. It's on the addressing part that things can go very wrong. And this is why we watch them

By KIRK JOHNSON (NY Times, JAN 18, 2016) {

The pattern of poverty has shifted nationally as well. In the four decades since the late 1960s, poverty rates fell or remained stable across the Northeast, South and Midwest — but rose significantly across the West, a Pew Research Center study said in 2014.

“High incomes, great schools — it was a Norman Rockwell rural America,” said Timothy A. Duy, an economist and senior director of the Oregon Economics Forum at the University of Oregon, describing the arc of places like Burns. “It’s reasonable for people to say, ‘We’d like to turn back the clock,’ because it was for many people an ideal time.”

What happened was a steep downturn, especially in the timber industry, which has all but disappeared. Oregon lost about three-fourths of its timber mills between 1980 and 2010; Harney County lost all seven, including the one near Burns where Mr. Ward worked, which closed in the mid-1990s.

Changes in the wood industry were clearly also having an effect over those years, with more wood buyers shopping in Canada and more mills becoming automated, but many people here also said they thought the United States Forest Service did not fight back to save the mills and jobs.

People like the Wards said that when environmental groups filed lawsuits and applied pressure at the State Capitol in Salem or in Washington, D.C., to reduce logging, forest managers just surrendered. The residual anger of people caught in the economic undertow now affects how residents here think about the takeover at the refuge, and the arguments about what should happen next.

“You didn’t stand up for us then; why should we stand up for you now?” asked Ms. Ward, 51, referring to federal officials, as she sipped coffee in her kitchen on a recent morning.

[...]

The sense that government — not just federal but state as well — no longer hears the voice of places like this echoes through the community, even among those who wish Mr. Bundy and his supporters would go home.

“People feel powerless,” said State Representative Cliff Bentz, a Republican whose district covers much of eastern Oregon, including Harney County. “As the rural areas grow more and more poor and urban areas grow more and more wealthy, there’s a shift in power.”

Ms. Ward’s father, Al Albertson, 73, who also once worked at the lumber mill here, put it more bluntly. “People in western Oregon don’t even know where Burns is,” he said.

[...]

The armed protesters who took over the headquarters buildings of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ... preach a vision of rural America on the rebound if only “government oppression” — in land use, ownership and management — could somehow be rolled back.

“Government controls the land and resources,” said the group’s leader, Ammon Bundy, at a news conference last week. And that, he added, “has put people in duress and put them in poverty.”

Source = Rural Oregon’s Lost Prosperity Gives Standoff a Distressed Backdrop }

Monday, January 18, 2016

Debate on who owns the land won't end when Bundys leave Oregon

I am quoting this as an example of the kind of expectations that the standoff in Oregon may have awakened. I can't say if this has happened, but what we are looking for here is exactly this. Supporters of land transfer like Dahl are clearly hoping to take advantage of the publicity achieved by Bundys. Moreover, by distancing themselves from Bundys, they have proved that they are loyal law abiding citizens and this is one more reason for a proper attention to be awarded to their cause.

Reality of course is exactly the opposite. And out of this gap between reality and the expectations, something vastly more massive than the takeover in Oregon may be eventually produced.

By Ben Botkin (Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 17 2016) {

Supporters of turning federal lands over to states and counties have blasted home their message with dramatic activism — staring down federal agents in Bunkerville and holing up in a wildlife refuge.

Yet across the West, the movement has mostly played out in statehouses, albeit without success.

Well before the Bundy-led group squatted in the refuge, Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan Bundy were in the Nevada statehouse.

In the 2015 session, Ammon Bundy testified in favor of Assembly Bill 408, which Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, sponsored and which challenged federal control of public lands in Nevada. About 85 percent of Silver State land is managed by the federal government.

The bill died.

"We can lose 1,000 federal court cases but the fact remains the same — the land and the resources belong to the people," Bundy said March 31, according to meeting minutes. "Furthermore, I reference an even greater authority. For the record, let it be known that I believe in God."

For Fiore, the issue remains important. She's running for the GOP nomination for the open congressional seat of U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada.

The BLM, Fiore says, is "lawless" and commits "bureaucratic terrorism." Nevadans, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., need to be in charge of the state's lands, she said.

Of the BLM officials, she said, "They don't know their ass from their elbow."

[...]

Debates over land management won't end if, or when, Bundy and his armed self-styled militia supporters finally pack up and leave the refuge.

The Oregon standoff put some supporters of federal land transfers to states in a delicate position: They gently criticize the Bundys for making a mistake, but add that the standoff has put a spotlight on their broader cause.

The standoff both "helps and hurts" the cause, said Demar Dahl, an Elko County commissioner and rancher who led a state task force that examined land management.

"What Bundy did by going there, I thought that was a mistake," said Dahl, who supports transferring land to the state.

"What came from that was the light was really shown on what was going on over there."

Source = Who owns the land? Debate won't end when Bundys leave Oregon }


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Community divided by a long-overdue dialogue

For whatever that means since it's not clear from the report what these divisions are about.

By Luke Hammill (OregonLive, January 05, 2016) {

"I've lost friends. ... I've never seen our community so divided," said Karmen Schatz, a local Safeway employee who has lived here for 31 years, at the meeting hosted by county officials in the Burns High School gymnasium.

It was the latest in a series of public meetings held in response to the ongoing occupation of the refuge by Arizona businessman Ammon Bundy and his band of militants. Hundreds of people filled the gym and spoke passionately about the plight of ranchers and loggers in Harney County, local residents' attitudes toward the federal government and most of all about the community's full-throated desire for Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, to leave.

[...]

Even Bundy's most vocal opponents had to acknowledge that he has started a conversation about federal land-use policies that many locals think is long overdue.

Grasty called the militants and the other self-styled patriot groups that have arrived in Harney County "armed thugs." But, he said reluctantly, "there's no way to deny" that Bundy has started a long-overdue dialogue.

The militants are protesting the imprisonment of local ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven, for setting fires that spread to public land. They are also demanding that the federal government hand over publicly owned land to local ranchers and loggers.

Cory Shelman, a rancher from northern Harney County, said he also thinks Bundy and the militants should go home. And he said local federal employees – who have reportedly been followed and felt rattled by the out-of-town visitors and anti-government rhetoric – have "a right to their jobs" and should be treated with respect.

But he also said he doesn't think it's constructive to label Bundy a "thug" and believes Bundy has committed a public service by raising the issue of federal land management.

"Harney County, to a degree, owes [the militants] a 'thank you' for taking a stand that needed to be made," Shelman said.

Bentz, a Republican from Ontario whose district includes Harney County, encouraged residents to honor the rule of law and make changes through the political process rather than supporting armed occupation.

"What I hope as I listen tonight is that I'll hear a reaffirmation of the hard work of government," Bentz said. "Not the siren song of a gun."

Source = Harney County residents put disagreements aside, ask Bundy to leave

From our perspective, however, the last part is the most important.

Bentz, a Republican from Ontario whose district includes Harney County, encouraged residents to honor the rule of law and make changes through the political process rather than supporting armed occupation.

"What I hope as I listen tonight is that I'll hear a reaffirmation of the hard work of government," Bentz said. "Not the siren song of a gun."


The Bundy brothers have awakened certain expectations. Hammonds are reported to be seeking presidential clemency. Some people are already piggybacking on the publicity achieved by Bundy while distancing themselves from the militia and expecting their good behavior to be appreciated and rewarded. But "making changes thru the political process" is not going to work here for the same reason it hasn't until now. The following map may go some way to illustrate the reason.



It's basically about majority of population concentrated on a fraction of the land in urban centers forcing its idea of environmentally responsible resource management upon a rural minority thinly spread over a lion's share of the country. In some respects, the Bundy family does have a point that the system can't be cajoled into concessions by conventional means.

What remains to be seen is if the Bundy family has succeeded to create expectations on the part of the countryside that the "long-overdue dialogue" is about be held at the national level and their grievances heard and addressed. If it happened, these expectations will soon hit the wall of demographic/electoral imbalance, cultural divide and environmental fundamentalism. Then we'll see how many of these people continue arguing that Bundy are right in principle, but wrong in methods.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Divide within a Divide: Radical Fringe vs Rural Mainstream

One practical result of the armed occupation of a wild reserve in Oregon was throwing into spotlight the escalating conflict over land and resources in the US west. This is why we are now blessed with such reports in the New York Times and other major outlets. As far as The DOOMMM Club is concerned, there are several point to keep in mind as you are reading this report.

The Bundy brothers may be extreme, but they represent a radical fringe of a potentially massive movement at the periphery of US cities. According to one report by Reuters, the Bundy family is the last one of what used to be a 50 family strong rancher community uprooted by the tightening of environmental restrictions in Nevada. The family has eventually won that decades long war against federal agencies by calling on armed militias to intervene on their behalf. This and similar experiences have radicalized the members of the family and probably some other Bundy supporters making their methods too controversial even for people who generally share their agenda. However, it's the fact that so many people share this agenda that makes the US city/country clash in the west worth watching.

It's a constant refrain running thru most reports on Oregon that the gap between the radicals and the rural mainstream is mostly about the methods only. Most people interviewed generally seem to agree that Bundy are right in principle, but wrong in methods. Such a gap between the fringe and the mainstream should be considered as narrow and likely to be rapidly closed if the urban rural polarization escalates further. In some ways, the takeover has increased the polarization by triggering a counter reaction on the other side. Angry calls for an aggressive crackdown are increasingly heard on the other side. Such a crackdown, however, is likely to narrow the gap between the radicals and the rural mainstream by triggering a wave of peripheral solidarity.

Equally important is the conflating of the radicals with the wider movement to reclaim the land. As anger grows on the other side, it's important to check for signs of such a trend kicking in.

I can't help stating again that from our perspective this conflict over resources is basically also some kind of culture war between the environmentally oriented liberal city and the resource-oriented conservative hinterland. It fits nicely into the general liberal/conservative polarization in the US, having a nice potential to escalate into a nationwide clash.

By JACK HEALY and KIRK JOHNSON (JAN 10 2016, NY Times) {

Mr. Ivory, a business lawyer from suburban Salt Lake City, does not fit the profile of a sun-scoured sagebrush rebel. But he is part of a growing Republican-led movement pushing the federal government to hand over to the states millions of acres of Western public lands — as well as their rich stores of coal, timber and grazing grass.

The idea, which would radically reshape the West, is one that resonates with the armed group of ranchers and antigovernment activists who seized control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon more than a week ago. Ammon Bundy, the crew’s leader and the scion of a Nevada ranching family steeped in disputes with the federal government, said he and his sympathizers had gone to Oregon to give the refuge back to local ranchers.

Many conservatives — Mr. Ivory among them — criticized Mr. Bundy’s gun-toting tactics, but their grievances and goals are nearly identical. And the outcry has grown amid a dust storm of rural anger at President Obama’s efforts to tighten regulations on fracking, air quality, small streams and other environmental issues that put struggling Western counties at odds with conservation advocates.

Last week, Representative Greg Walden, the Republican who represents the Oregon district where the Bundy takeover is playing out, stood up in Congress to deplore the tactics of the armed protesters, but sympathized with their frustration.

“More than half of my district is under federal management, or lack thereof,” Mr. Walden said, expressing anger at the Bureau of Land Management. “They have come out with these proposals to close roads into the forests. They have ignored public input.”

In the past few years, lawmakers across the West have offered up dozens of bills and resolutions seeking to take over the federal lands inside their borders or to study how to do so. Some of the legislation has been aimed at Congress, to urge it to radically revise the laws that have shaped 550,000 square miles of national forests and terrain run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, stretching from the Great Plains to the Pacific.

The effort — derided by critics as a pipe dream that would put priceless landscapes on the auction block — has achieved little so far.

[...]

In its mission statement, the American Lands Council says its strategy for securing local control of public land in the West involves four tenets: education, negotiation, legislation and litigation.

In practice, local land disputes — fueled by deepening antagonism toward federal land agencies — now unfold like social-media passion plays. Last summer, armed groups intervened by providing security and standing guard at mines in Oregon and Montana that had received stop-work orders from the Bureau of Land Management. And in December, Phil Lyman, a commissioner in San Juan County, Utah, received a 10-day jail sentence after he led a protest ride on all-terrain vehicles through a federal area that had been closed to motorized use.

“All I did was drive down a canyon road,” Mr. Lyman said. “It seems to be getting worse, and the federal agencies, they are expanding. Their restraints are being overstepped. It’s not the way this country was set up. It’s not the founders’ design.”

About an hour’s drive from the wildlife refuge where Mr. Bundy’s group is facing off with the government, Erin Maupin and her husband, Jeff, pay the government each summer to feed their cattle on 19,000 acres of federally owned land. She said that like many ranchers, they wanted to work with the government, but that layers of grazing restrictions and environmental rules were getting out of hand.

“We want somebody to make sure we’re doing it right,” Ms. Maupin said. “But it’s got to the point where there’s no common sense in it.”

The resentments toward federal land managers feel sharpest in economically strapped rural counties from Arizona to Montana, where up to 90 percent of the lands are federally managed. People love the beauty that surrounds them, but seethe at policies that they say have whittled away logging and mining jobs, left national forests vulnerable to wildfires and blocked access to public land.

“The land policies now are, basically, lock it up and throw away the key,” said Leland Pollock, a commissioner in Garfield County, Utah, a county roughly the size of Connecticut with pine forests and stunning red-rock spires. “It’s land with no use. The local economy’s really suffered as a result. Grazing has been reduced. We used to have a thriving timber industry — that’s all but gone.”

Source = The Larger, but Quieter Than Bundy, Push to Take Over Federal Land }


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It's a polarization.

Well, at the very least our DOOMMM cycle in Europe has successfully got to the first stage as the left right polarization over migration deepens spreading deep into the society fabric

By JIM YARDLEY (NY Times) {

In Finland, militia groups are patrolling small towns housing asylum seekers in the name of protecting white Finnish women. In Germany, far-right protesters rampaged through Leipzig on Monday, vandalizing buildings in an “anti-Islamization” demonstration. In Italy on Tuesday, an anti-immigration regional government approved the text of a law making it difficult to construct new mosques as Muslim refugees are settled in the area.

Across Europe, the migrant crisis that has engulfed the Continent since the summer is provoking new levels of public anxiety after the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany.

[...]

“There’s a split in society — in our editorial office, at the lunch table, in circles of friends,” said Florian Klenk, editor in chief of Falter, a left-leaning weekly based in Vienna. “It is a polarization, but we have little violence.”

Source = Sexual Attacks Widen Divisions in European Migrant Crisis }


Monday, January 11, 2016

The Lion, the Cheetah and the Tiger

This isn't the title of a new Disney movie. Apparently many Arab leaders just like to name themselves after feline predators. For example, Assad is the Arabic word for lion, while Nimr, the Shiite cleric recently executed by the Saudis, means tiger in Arabic. Finally, the late Saudi king Fahd shares the same name in Arabic as the animal cheetah. This last name is of particular importance to Shia eschatology, because as one hadith goes, around the end times a king of the Arab peninsula, whose name means cheetah, will be succeeded by a king called Abdullah. When this Abdullah dies, chaos and civil war will erupt in the Arab peninsula. Many Shiites today interpret this hadith as proof that we are nearing the apocalypse and will soon witness the end of the Saudi monarchy, since the names of the previous two Saudi kings actually were Fahd and Abdullah. After Abdullah died in early 2015, Houthi rebels, who possibly felt more embolded by this Shia prophecy, embarked on an offensive to capture the southern parts of Yemen. However, the new Saudi king saw this as the last straw and quickly reacted by bombing the Houthis. Ever since, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been getting worse, finally culminating in the execution of Nimr last month. The decision of Assad "the lion" to kill Zahran Alloush, the Syrian rebel leader closest to the Saudis, probably prompted the Saudis to execute Nimr "the tiger" a few days later. At the moment many Iranians still believe that the Saudi monarchy is finished or nearing its collapse and this view has even been echoed by some Western media outlets, as we can read in the Huffington Post:


"The Tiger is dead. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr ("nimr" is Arabic for "tiger") was executed by the Saudi government for speaking out against absolute monarchy and pushing for people's participation in governing themselves. The mass executions of 47 people last week marked a turning point that will perhaps be a harbinger of what this year will look like for Saudi Arabia.

The timing of the executions was carefully chosen and was aimed at silencing domestic anger over economic decline and the failure of regional policies. The truth is that the Saudi government is on the ropes.

First, there is a Saudi-Yemen quagmire of a war, which has burnt billions of dollars and made the Saudi government look pretty weak and unable to defeat the army of the poorest Arab state -- even with a 10-country coalition and, indirectly via arms sales, American and British help.

Next, in Syria, the Saudis kicked and screamed to have the U.S. topple President Bashar Assad's regime on their behalf but U.S. President Barack Obama did not, even when his alleged red line of chemical weapons was crossed. Then came the Russian intervention that put an end to the Saudi project. That was symbolized by the Russian killing of the Saudi-backed leader of Jaish al-Islam on Dec. 25."



Moreover, Western analysts and journalists point out how the low oil price will soon prove to be untenable for the Saudis. Yet they fail to see how this view that the Saudi monarchy nears its end is not so much grounded in reality, but more a result of the belief in the Shia end times hadith mentioned earlier here.

As Iyad el-Baghdad explained in his article "The Next Front in the Saudi-Iran War" in Foreign Policy a few days ago, Iran is currently in a more precarious economic situation than Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Iran has also much more to lose from a low oil price:


"While the Saudi economy is more heavily reliant on oil than Iran’s, its foreign exchange reserves are far higher and its sovereign wealth fund owns far more assets. It also still has the untapped option of issuing bonds — it has the world’s lowest GDP-to-debt ratio (under 2 percent) and a high credit rating. Most importantly, Riyadh is already taking steps to inject more funds into government coffers: The development to watch out for is the planned economic reforms package, which would institute a value-added tax, cut subsidies, and privatize certain sectors. According to Saudi calculations, should this be successful, the country will see a balanced budget before 2020.

Iran, on the other hand, does not have as many options. It’s already in the midst of a subsidy reform plan and, unlike Saudi Arabia, already taxes its citizens. Raising taxes is difficult when inflation is high (16.2 percent) and unemployment is in the double digits (10.4 percent). The oil price necessary to balance Iran’s budget is much higher than the price needed to balance the Saudi budget; the Iranian oil sector is in need of development after more than a decade of sanctions.

In short, Iran can try to outgun Saudi Arabia, and its proxies can try to outnumber its allies on the various battlefields — but it cannot outspend Saudi Arabia and cannot outlast it in an environment where oil is cheap. Saudi Arabia doesn’t need to collapse Iran’s economy — it only needs to make the proxy war too expensive for it to maintain, prompting it to withdraw into its own borders, allowing a Saudi-friendly reconfiguration of the region.

Once things are lined up in the right direction, Saudi Arabia could quietly open the taps further and allow a couple more million barrels a day on the market, driving prices down even further. The longer it can hold the prices down, the more it will be compounding Iran and Russia’s economic pain."



Sunday, January 10, 2016

The day the DOOMMM Club has arrived in Germany

A very good report by Spiegel on Cologne and its aftermath. It touches on many subjects we have discussed on Facebook/Twitter. The rise of far right. The polarization. Here however I am linking only some pearls from the actual events and the part about what came to be known in doomspeak on Facebook as the Z epidemic - the arrival in Germany of American style paranoid political culture fueled by wild conspiracy theories. The events in Cologne seem to have brought the breakdown of trust in institutions in large chunks of the population to the tipping point. We are talking here about continuous degradation of political culture and the destruction of trust fabric that holds the society together. In many respects, this is when dooming starts in serious. You can say that this is the day when the DOOMMM Club made its arrival in Germany official.

I should notice that while the report is mostly focused on the hardening of attitudes on the right side, we should expect this trend to be sooner rather than later to be matched on the left side of the political spectrum. it's almost a law of nature that society evolves in tandem. Society is a wholistic organism and its parts interact with and have impact on each other. It's unreasonable to expect an average person to be able to keep his cool in the face of anger and insults from another person. Political polarization works pretty much the same way.

To put the events in Cologne into a wider context, lets say that The DOOMMM Club continues to monitor the impact of the Middle East on the general crisis of the United States of Europe aka the European integration project. We continue to bet on the events in the Middle East, attacks inside Europe and migration from North Africa/Middle East to fuel the rise of anti-immigration anti-EU far right political forces. At the very least we can expect bitter political polarization to undermine and deadlock Europe's political institutions and processes. In more extreme cases we can even expect electoral triumphs of political forces with explicit anti-EU agendas, putting in danger the entire European project and even the current global order with its orientation on supranational multilateral institutions the style of the UN and its various forums.

By DER SPIEGEL () {

"Upon arrival," it begins, "we were informed of the conditions in and around the station by agitated citizens with crying and shocked children." Many "upset passersby" ran to the arriving police to tell them about fights, thefts and sexual attacks against women.

Regarding the situation on the square in front of the train station: "Women, accompanied or not, had to run a literal 'gauntlet' of heavily intoxicated masses of men of a kind that is impossible to describe." There were fears that "the situation we were confronted with (chaos) could have led to serious injuries or even to deaths."

The report mentions deliberate attempts to provoke the police. One example is of someone who "tore up a residency permit with a smile on his face, saying: 'You can't touch me. I'll just go back tomorrow and get a new one.'"

Another example mentioned in the report was an unidentified man saying: "I'm a Syrian! You have to treat me kindly! Ms. Merkel invited me."

[...]

The Facebook site of public broadcaster ZDF has also become a kind of battlefield. There is talk of the "lying press," conspiracy and state-control. "We are being overwhelmed with hate and anger," says Elmar Theveßen, ZDF's deputy editor-in-chief. "The mistrust that we are being confronted with is worrisome."

On Tuesday, the station issued a public apology for the lack of coverage. "It was a lapse in judgement that the 7 p.m. evening news show didn't at least mention the incident," Theveßen wrote on Facebook. Such an open admission of error by a senior manager at a public station in Germany is rare, but Theveßen's act of repentance did little to calm the doubters.

All established media have been confronted with the same phenomenon. In Germany, there is a stable minority that is convinced that the country's broadcasters, newspapers and magazines are controlled by dark powers and have agreed to suppress bad news about foreigners so as not to endanger the political project of welcoming refugees.

More than 2,000 users have thus far commented on Theveßens post, with most of the missives of a horrifying nature -- a collection of conspiracy theories characteristic of the far-right. One user named Johannes Normann, formerly a regional leader for AfD, wrote: "Does 'our' news have to be first cleared by our trans-Atlantic 'friends'? After all, they 'ordered' the 'Islamic mass-immigration.'"

Those, of course, are just the voices of individuals. Yet according to a survey conducted by Allensbach, 41 percent of Germans believe that critical voices are suppressed when it comes to the refugee issue.

On the right wing of the political spectrum, that belief has become a certainty.

Another part of the truth is this: German society is becoming increasingly divided.

Source = How New Year's Eve in Cologne Has Changed Germany }


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Collision between ranchers and tortoises aka collusion between federal agency and county government in Nevada

This is a long but very good background report on the origins of the Bundy movement. I quote only relevant passages here to save time for prospective readers. I can't help repeating that it's not the mission of The DOOMMM Club to arbitrate disputes within the hunam species. It's important to get some general idea about the issues involved, but our purpose in doing this is not to determine who are the bad guys of the story, but to try to fathom the potential for escalation. In the Bundy case, as in most others, reality is ambiguous enough to allow interested/involved people to freely exercise their confirmation bias creating perfect "dialogue of the deaf" conditions. And this is what really matters.

The Bundy case is important because it's become a major symbol of a vast and growing clash between the rural and urban Americas. The emphasis in this post is on the Endangered Species Act as one of the primary mechanisms though which this conflict is being generated.

BY JONATHAN ALLEN (Reuters, May 30 2014) {

In its years-long dispute with Bundy, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has portrayed the rancher as a scofflaw, free-riding on the backs of roughly 16,000 ranchers on BLM allotments across the United States who pay their grazing fees. They say he now owes $1 million, most of it fines.

But interviews with some of Bundy's former rancher neighbors and ex-BLM officials suggest the reality is more complex: in Clark County, at least, the BLM no longer wanted the ranchers’ fees. It wanted them off the range to fulfill its legal obligation to protect the tortoises living on its land. To achieve this, it joined forces with the county government.

[...]

Rancher Cliven Bundy once had neighbors on the range: when the tortoise was listed, there were about 50 cattle-ranching families in the county. Some of them fought court battles to stay, rejecting the idea their cattle posed a danger to the tortoises. But, one by one, they slowly gave up and disappeared.

Bundy has proven himself one of the most tenacious of this vanishing breed. Backed by armed militiamen, the rancher forced federal agents to stop rounding up his cattle in April, which were grazing illegally on public lands shared by the tortoises.

[...]

When the tortoise was listed in 1989, Las Vegas, the county seat, was one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities. For Vegas to spread even an inch farther into the tortoise-filled desert risked a federal offense under the Endangered Species Act.

The county successfully sought a permit that would allow development that inadvertently killed tortoises in some parts of the county if they funded conservation efforts in other parts.

To get the permit, the county made numerous commitments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help the desert tortoise thrive. One of those promises was to pay willing ranchers to give up their grazing rights.

The rationale for ending grazing cited by federal government agencies was plausible but, the agencies conceded, unproven: that livestock grazing harms desert tortoise populations, in part because they compete for the same foods, such as grasses and the new spring growth of cacti.

[...]

Some ranchers seemed happy with the money they were offered, said Budd-Falen, the lawyer.

But ranchers interviewed by Reuters said that given the choice they were presented with, their sales were hardly willing.

"We had no say in what we were going to get," said Calvin Adams, who also ranched on the Bunkerville allotment.

About seven years after first fighting the BLM before a judge, he accepted $75,000 to give up his grazing rights. "I couldn't afford to pay the lawyers when they just keep taking you to court," he said.

Bundy initially joined his neighbors in their legal fight to stay but then took a more hardline stance, refusing to recognize federal authority over the land.

Bundy maintains the BLM’s aim from almost the moment the tortoise was listed was to drive the ranchers out of Clark County on a pretext he dismissed as "wacko environmental stuff."

"I could tell that the BLM was trying to manage us out of business," Bundy told Reuters, explaining his decision to stop paying grazing fees.

[...]

Clark County is not an isolated case. Disputes over land rights are playing out in many Western states, especially in rural areas, where some residents and lawmakers question the legitimacy of the federal government's claim to swathes of land.

In New Mexico, a county government is arguing with federal land managers over whether a rancher can take his cattle to a fenced-off watering hole. In Utah, protesters have been defiantly driving all-terrain vehicles down a canyon trail closed by the U.S. government.

"Clark County made a choice: urban development is far more important to us than ranchers on the periphery of the county,” said James Skillen, author of a book about the BLM called “The Nation’s Largest Landlord."

"The BLM is part of that larger tension between a kind of urban and environmentally conscious West and a traditional resource West," he said. "Those conflicts are just going to keep going and the Endangered Species Act is going to continue to be a mechanism of that conflict."

Source = Before Nevada stand-off, a collision between ranchers and tortoises}


"Stewards of the land" against state mandated "misuse of non-use"

Good background article on the conflict in Burns and in the west in general from the environmental perspective. It lists different endangered species involved. From our perspective, what counts more is the self perception of the ranchers as "the best stewards of the land" who manage their ranches in a way that benefits the land and the species more than the federal "misuse of non-use".

Kate Galbraith in San Francisco and Sarah Gilman in Portland (Guardian) {

The simmering tension between ranchers and the federal government is nothing new to the American west. The federal government manages enormous chunks of land, a holdover from the days of westward expansion.

In the mid-to-late 20th century, ranchers and other groups began a movement known as the Sagebrush Rebellion to lobby for more federal land to be transferred to state control. That effort continues today in states like Utah and Idaho.

The modern-day rebels have an even more radical wish: to transfer federal lands to private control.

Such a change could mean a “scorched-earth” situation for wildlife, said Dale Goble, a professor and land-use expert at the University of Idaho’s College of Law, who had gone birding in the refuge.

Rare species such as the greater sage grouse that does a mating dance on federal land adjacent to the Malheur national wildlife refuge, occupied by the militia, have already been harmed by widespread cattle grazing on high-desert plains across the west.

“If you’ve driven through the high desert of eastern Oregon, the distinction between private and federal [land] is often strikingly clear,” Goble said. Were the land to be transferred to private ownership, “the marshes and everything that attracts the migratory bird species – probably, my guess would be, used for irrigation”.

[...]

Ranchers across the west have a different view: They see themselves as the best stewards of the land, and the federal government as imposing onerous requirements.

Erin Maupin, a rancher near the refuge who visited the occupation this week, said government wildlife officials had no business controlling the land and have done a poor job of caring for the local environment. “More birds come to our ranches than here,” she said.

“Non-use is misuse,” she said. “We need to play an active role in managing this land. What’s best for the species is not to do nothing.”

Source = What will happen if the Oregon militia gets its demands? }


Greater Sage Grouse




The Next Generation Bundy Ranch in Oregon

From a link by Roman on the standoff in Oregon. The mention of potential Bundy supporters called my attention.

By Gordon Friedman (USA Today) {

Burns is a small town of less than 3,000. There are only a couple of stoplights, and locals say the place to be for town gossip is the Safeway market. It's an oasis of sorts, nestled within a vast rural landscape. This is a different Oregon than Portland, or Eugene, or even Bend. This is the Oregon where men often wear cowboy hats and carry sidearms just out of habit.

Ladonna Baron, also a co-owner of the quilt store, said things in the town haven't been too bad since the occupation of the refuge, although it's pulled the community into different corners of the ring: some agree with the militia's tactics, or even want to join. Others think it's a fool's errand or a farce.

"We support our community," Baron said. "We support our ranchers. Personally, I feel what happened to the Hammonds was an injustice. But the militia is here on their own agenda." }


In general, it appears that, while the grievances are widely shared, there is less enthusiasm about the Bundy methods. Nevertheless, even a few dozens supporters in a town of 3,000 scales up to dozens of thousands of armed men nationwide who may join Bundy as he takes America's urban rural divide to the next level of confrontation.

It's safe to assume that from Bundy's perspective, he just repays the federal government in kind. If at Bundy Ranch the BLM tried to challenge the status quo by taking a forceful action against the family, in Oregon Bundy opened a new front against the authorities by challenging the status quo from his side through a takeover of federal facilities. The fact that he may count on some kind of local support means that next takeovers may involve dozens and hundreds of gunmen making attempts to dislodge the intruders virtually impossible. The lack of determined response by authorities in its turn would invite more copycat takeovers across the land.

Also noteworthy is the fact that Hammonds reportedly distanced themselves from the movement and opted instead for seeking clemency from president Obama. In case such presidential amnesty is coming, this would fuel suspicions about the authorities buying Hammonds with a behind the scenes deal to undermine the militia cause. Alternatively, Hammonds may change their mind if the presidential pardon doesn't come soon enough.

I should also notice environmental activists who argue for a tough federal action against the milia. In some respects environmentalism has grown into another American secular religion and it has its own share of fundamentalists. Besides it being a clash over land and resources, America's growing urban rural divide is very much a city/country culture war. The presence of radicals on both sides of it is one sure way to keep the show going.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Shia Spring in the making?

The execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr has wide ramifications: angry protesters set the Saudi embassy in Tehran on fire and as a result many Gulf countries have since cut or frozen diplomatic and economic relations with Iran. Additionally, it seems that Saudi Arabia might soon face its own "Arab Spring"; except this time the anger will not come from Sunnis, but disenfranchised Shiites instead.

"Amidst tragedy and sectarian hatred, moderate Shi‘a in Saudi Arabia have an historic opportunity to reject militancy and to speak up for their rights."

Needless to say, this is an overly optimistic point of view. As similar situations in the Middle East have shown, hardliners tend to take over after a while.



Nimr al-Nimr, Political Violence, and the Future of Saudi Shi‘a

Published on: January 6, 2016

THE MIDDLE EAST

MANSOUR ALNOGAIDAN

Amidst tragedy and sectarian hatred, moderate Shi‘a in Saudi Arabia have an historic opportunity to reject militancy and to speak up for their rights.

BURAYDAH, CENTRAL SAUDI ARABIA—In 2010, I paid a visit to the city of Al-Qatif, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where the largest concentration of the country’s Shi‘a minority lives. An SMS message addressed to me arrived on the mobile phone of my friend Habib, who accompanied me on the trip. Habib is a Shi‘a cleric, donning the trademark symbols of piety of his sect, a turban and a robe. The text message was from another Shi‘a cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, with whom I had visited a year earlier at his home. We had tea together and ate Iranian cashews. The meeting was poignant—a roller coaster of emotions. Between his strident expressions of angst and pungent sense of humor, I found myself crying with him and for him, and crying as well from laughter.

Earlier this week, on January 2, Nimr al-Nimr was executed, together with 44 other Saudis (and two non-Saudi nationals), all indicted and convicted on charges related to the perpetration of lethal violence.
In 2009, Al-Baqi’ cemetery—which is next to the Prophet’s Holy Mosque and final resting place in the sacred city of Medina—witnessed clashes among Shi‘a and Sunni pilgrims, arising from differences between the two sects concerning graveside rituals. Shi‘a Muslims frequent al-Baqi’, home to the graves of members of the Prophet’s family whom they revere. The clashes widened—and in their wake, Sheikh Nimr delivered a series of sermons in which he called for Shi‘a-majority areas to secede from the kingdom and establish a government based on the Iranian revolutionary model of “Wilayat al-Faqih” (“The Rule of the Jurist”). The sermons placed Nimr on a list of men “wanted” by Saudi police, and he went into hiding. In the SMS message that my friend received from al-Nimr, he requested a meeting to solicit my suggestions as to the best ways to solve his problem with the authorities. I considered the request, but declined to meet him: The government requires Saudi citizens to report any encounter with a wanted man, and I judged the value of any advice I could offer him to be less than the risks which our encounter would place upon him.
Nimr’s flight from public view, and even from his closest relatives, stimulated the imagination of scores of Shi‘a youth—marginalized, neglected, unemployed, and influenced by Iranian government propaganda for years. The legendary occultation of the Shi‘a “12th Imam,” a tenet of their faith, raises the perennial question of who the Imam is and where he is hiding, such that Nimr, in vanishing, enjoyed a near-mythic, elevated status. Controversy swelled in his absence, particularly after some members of the Nimr family began to assert that they were “Sayyids,” or descendants of the Prophet, revered by Shi‘a everywhere. These claims led to schisms within his family. By the time Qatif’s violent clashes peaked in 2011, amid region-wide upheaval, Nimr, unseen, had attained an esteem surpassing that of traditional Shi‘a leaders who had enjoyed the highest respect among Shi‘a for decades.
By mid-2012, Al-Awamiya, the second largest township in Al-Qatif, had seen a year and a half of protests and violent, sometimes lethal clashes between demonstrators and police, claiming lives on both sides, but mostly Saudi police. Security forces arrested Nimr after overtaking him in a car chase. Passengers in the car were armed and shooting at police.
On December 13, 2014, Tawfiq al-Sayf, a Saudi writer and intellectual who took off the clerical robe years ago and is one of the most prominent Shi‘a in the country, wrote a memorable comment on his Facebook page. He declared that Shi‘a Al-Qatif is suffering from its own, Shi‘a equivalent of ISIS—native sons bearing arms who terrify anyone who differs with them or who proffers an alternative view of realities in the city. (He received numerous death threats from denizens of Al-Qatif after posting the comment.) Sayf also asserted that during Nimr’s two years in hiding, he had been inciting, organizing, and steering the turbulence Al-Qatif witnessed—causing not only the destruction of government property but also the murder of civilians and members of the security forces—by gunfire and explosions.
Nimr bears some resemblance to Sunni Islamists who begin by expressing reasonable-sounding demands but descend into guerrilla warfare. Nimr’s repeated call in his sermons to establish an Iran-like regime, and for the secession of Shi‘a areas from the kingdom—the latter, an inherently violent goal—constituted, in the eyes of many Saudis, treason, and also led to his exclusion from moderate Shi‘a circles. As Nimr moved toward radicalism and armed activity, his revolutionary approach proved appealing to young men in the area. His followers included the remnants of Hizballah al-Hijaz, the Iranian-backed movement with which Nimr himself was firmly aligned, as well as other “true believers.” They also included drug dealers, wayward teens, and some among the ranks of the unemployed and disenfranchised. He goaded these youth to take up arms, burn government property, and commit murder. This wave of chaos, in providing simple and cheap answers to complex problems, siphoned away support from Shi‘a leaders and notables who have enjoyed considerable social and political esteem.
As is the norm in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from the time of Nimr’s arrest in 2009 to the day of his execution, authorities took pains to tend to the needs of his family. His wife received extended treatment for her medical needs in one of America’s finest hospitals. His sons received full scholarships to American universities.
For many decades, Saudi Shi‘a have suffered from sectarian discrimination. They have not enjoyed the freedom to practice their rituals outside of their home regions and neighborhoods. The prevailing Salafi ideologies, embodied by many Saudi clerics, have regarded Shi‘a as having strayed from the “correct path,” and sometimes labeled them as non-Muslims. But meanwhile, paradoxically, the political leadership of the country has increasingly seen to Shi‘a advancement. Shi‘a hold some of the highest and most sensitive positions: at Saudi Aramco, the global oil juggernaut; in Saudi banks; and in various government institutions. In 2001, then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz initiated the “national dialogue,” aiming to ease tensions between Sunnis and Shi‘a and promote civil peace. From 2005 on, the late King Abdullah took many steps to advance this trend further. Shi‘a, who number between 10 and 11 percent of the population, constitute 40 percent of the students who travel abroad at the government’s expense to pursue higher education.
In the second half of 2014, three Shi‘a mosques were attacked by Saudi Sunni nationals identifying as members of ISIS. Shortly after King Salman took the throne on January 21, 2015, he became the first Saudi king ever to donate to rebuilding Shi‘a mosques—the three that had been attacked. The Crown Prince and other members of his family led delegations to convey personal condolences to the families who had lost their children and loved ones. For the first time in the history of the country, hundreds of Saudi Sunnis traveled from disparate provinces to give their own condolences to their fellow, Shi‘a nationals, widely covered in Saudi media and with encouragement from the political leadership. Moreover, King Salman is the first Saudi king under whose rule local establishment media and even Sunni clerics have described the Shi‘a victims of terrorism as martyrs—a sacred Islamic designation, as is well known. The king also recognized the sacrifice of young Shi‘a men who died in an effort to protect the mosques from the terrorists, referring to them as well as “martyrs” in a holy cause.
In 2015, the state established laws to punish anyone who promotes sectarian hatred. Saudi Sunnis were among those subsequently detained by authorities for having posted video clips expressing hostility toward Shi‘a. To anyone familiar with the history of the rule of the Al-Saud family and the heavy hand of Wahhabism and Salafism, these developments can only be seen as indicative of a significant shift.
But the legacy of centuries of hate between Sunnis and Shi‘a cannot be erased in a short time. History moves slowly, and slower still amid civil strife. No one can overtake the flow of history.
Since 2011, many Shi‘a moderates have received threats from armed individuals who participated in the violence in Al-Qatif. The home and personal car of at least one prominent moderate Shi‘a intellectual has been attacked by gunfire. Shi‘a leaders Isam al-Shammasi, Shukri Shammasi, and Muhammad Ridha Nasrallah, among other notables in the area, routinely receive death threats from those armed Shi‘a groups which the intellectual Tawfiq al-Sayf described as the Shi‘a equivalent of ISIS.
Between a tragic legacy and new signs of hope, moderate Shi‘a today have an historic opportunity. They can refuse to be silent in the face of extremists in their midst. They can take the initiative—on their own terms—in pressing for their right to be treated as equals in their native land. They can work to protect their youth from descending into the nihilism of terrorism. They can take part in the even broader national project of reforms that is embraced by both sects, both genders, all intellectual and cultural streams, to continuously improve the country—day by day, year by year, and from one generation to the next.
Mansour Alnogaidan is executive director of Al-Mesbar Center for Studies and Research in Dubai.

Source: A Shia Spring in the making?