Trump in training

Trump in training

Republican debate warm-up—a few years back:

The denouement—This is what we citizens may look forward to:

I don’t watch much “reality” TV. I didn’t witness the development of The Donald’s on-stage persona. These clips show that for years Trump has been strategically training for his role in the public arena. He’s turned the Republican “debates” into an Apprentice/Wrestling show, as phony as those put on by the WWE, if somewhat more restrained.
Recall our recent actor-president who developed a popular persona—much more congenial, in quite different times and much more into taking direction. I could not imagine Jesse Ventura becoming governor of Minnesota or The Arnold governor of California. It is truly amazing how this democratic republic stumbles along.
Wildflowers on my mind

Wildflowers on my mind

Spring seems to have sprung, so my thoughts have been turning toward desert wildflowers, which I understand are blooming in profusion in the lower parts of Death Valley right now—late February, 2016. Chances are that’s where we’ll be heading in a few weeks.

That got me thinking about my trip to Death Valley in April, 2010, and to Craters of the Moon for the bloom there two months later, in June, 2010. Both of those trips resulted in YouTube slide shows.

I’ve just revised “Craters of the Moon—Wildflowers & Lava Flows” by adding a jazz guitar soundtrack & a couple new slides:  Craters of the Moon: Wildflowers & Lava Flows

The Death Valley slide-show: Death Valley Wildflowers, 2010

Les Malheureux

Les Malheureux

Beware the righteous, doing the work of the “Lord.”

Ties that bind, religion, the opiate of the masses, is the source of the confusion at Malheur.

Brand Thornton, 63, holding a shofar, made from an animal horn. He appeared at the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff in Nevada blowing the horn with a rifle strapped to his shoulder. Public records put Thornton in the Las Vegas area. His Facebook page says he owns Just Companies Inc., identified on Angie’s List as a heating and air conditioning company. Oregonian photo & caption info.

According to an interview with Brand Thornton, the occupier with the shofar,*  <> there is “a handful of trusted individuals” in the inner circle who see Ammon as the group’s “spiritual leader….” They share his apocalyptic vision. Thornton cites chapter & verse of “Doctrines & Covenants” to justify their interpretation of the Constitution, which many Mormons view as a divinely inspired document that, like the Holy Bible, is improved with latter-day revelation.

Thornton claims to have experienced group revelation with the “trusted individuals.”

Beware the prophet saint seeking martyrdom. Shades of  Kirtland**, Mountain Meadows, Waco, Jonestown….

The outer circles of gun-toting “militia” are Ammon’s tools. Read the Book of Alma, 17 ff. These guys are preparing for a Holy War.

I wonder if the established Church of Latter-Day Saints, based in Salt Lake City, has an intervention squad to deal with this sort of apostasy. This is a problem with religions that encourage followers to pursue their own conversations with the divine. Joseph Smith and other authorized prophets of the church dealt harshly with such “false” prophets.

*The shofar was blown when Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbing down. The shofar was commonly taken to war so the troops would know when a battle would begin. The person who blew the shofar would call out to the troops from atop a hill. The troops could hear the call from their positions because of shofar’s distinct sound.



What if…?

The day after militia members began their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Washington Post writer Janell Ross asked a question on a lot of minds “Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists’?”

As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them “occupiers.” The New York Times opted for “armed activists” and “militia men.” And the Associated Press put the situation this way: “A family previously involved in a showdown with the federal government has occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon and is asking militia members to join them.”

Not one seemed to lean toward terms such as “insurrection,” “revolt,” anti-government “insurgents” or, as some on social media were calling them, “terrorists.” When a group of unknown size and unknown firepower has taken over any federal building with plans and possibly some equipment to aid a years-long occupation — and when its representative tells reporters that they would prefer to avoid violence but are prepared to die — the kind of almost-uniform delicacy and the limits on the language used to describe the people involved becomes noteworthy itself.


White Americans, their activities and ideas seem always to stem from a font of principled and committed individuals. As such, group suspicion and presumed guilt are readily perceived and described as unjust, unreasonable and unethical.


The sometimes-coded but increasingly overt ways that some Americans are presumed guilty and violence-prone while others are assumed to be principled and peaceable unless and until provoked — even when actually armed — is remarkable.

Underlying Ross’ analysis, which sticks with the power of words,  is an implicit question: What actions would the government have taken if the those who have taken over the federal wildlife preserve were black?

Well, the Portland Oregonian, which has been providing some of the most complete coverage of the Malheur occupation, has provided an answer. The Oregonian’s Joseph Rose put together an excellent roundup, with photos (some below), of how authorities have responded to other occupations of federal property.

Rose details a 1979 incident in Georgia. A group of descendents of slaves, in an act of civil disobedience, camped on land where some of their grandparents had been kicked out in 1942.

Feds forcibly removed black occupiers from wildlife refuge in 1979


FBI agents forcibly remove black protesters from a tent during a 1979 camp-in at Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. government had seized the property in 1942 from descendants of former slaves. (Emory University/Lewis H. Beck Center)

Although on the Georgia coast and much smaller, like Malheur, the Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge is a mix of wetlands and farmland whose ownership has been disputed since the 19th century. Unlike Malheur, the Harris Neck “squatters” were unarmed and black, attempting to reclaim refuge land, which was being leased by a white county commissioner to graze his cattle.

1979clip 1979-camp1


Children play at the 1979 camp-in at the Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge on the Georgia coast. The U.S. government seized the property from the descendants of former slaves in 1942. (Emory Univ.)

Malheur protestor arrested after driving federal vehicle into town for more snacks

Malheur protestor arrested after driving federal vehicle into town for more snacks

The farce continues. I hope someone is working on a musical comedy about all of this….


Kenneth Medenbach, 62, of Crescent, Oregon, was arrested Friday shortly after noon at the Safeway in Burns for “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” reported by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stolen from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.


photos: Thomas Boyd | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Medenbach had been released from custody in Medford on condition that he would not “occupy” any federal property. He’d been convicted of illegally camping on federal property, where he’d  attempted to protect the site with trip-wires and explosives. State police were taking him to Bend to be booked into the Deschutes County jail on a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Bail was to be set at $10,000.
There has been no explanation for why the driver of a FWS van recovered from the Safeway lot has not been detained.

Medenbach at another USFWS pickup whose agency logo had been obliterated.


The pickup from which Medenback was aprehended had been “rebranded” with new stickers that read “Harney County Resource Center” covering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife logos.


According to the Oregonian’s Les Zaitz, who has been covering the Malheur militia shenanigans,

In 1995, Medenbach was convicted on federal charges for illegally camping on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. He was ordered held in custody because of evidence that Medenbach poses a risk to the safety of other persons or the community because [he] acknowledges intimidation practices, references ‘Ruby Ridge’ and ‘Waco, Texas,’ and clearly would not follow conditions of release restraining his presence at the scene of the alleged unlawful activity,” according to a federal appellate court ruling upholding his conviction.

The appellate ruling said there was “evidence that Medenbach had attempted to protect his forest campsite with fifty to a hundred pounds of the explosive ammonium sulfate, a pellet gun, and what appeared to be a hand grenade with trip wires. The government also proffered evidence that Medenbach had warned Forest Service officers of potential armed resistance to the federal government’s continued control of the forest lands in question.”

Mendenbach earlier attempted to squat on federal land in southern Oregon. During those court hearings, he claimed the U.S. Constitution gave the federal government authority to own property only for military installations and post offices, The Oregonian’s archives show.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan handled some of the proceedings. Hogan was the judge who in 2012 decided that Harney County ranchers Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven should serve lighter sentences than required by law for setting fire to public lands.

Medenbach also has a long history of convictions on charges related to driving documentation and providing false information to law enforcement.

Birders are not pleased

Birders are not pleased

One of the best pieces to come out of the occupation at the Malheur wildlife sanctuary is a warning from wildlife photographer Kevin Vang, writing on Daily KOS as Norwegian Chef:

Just a friendly warning from the birding and wildlife photography community to the Oregon terrorists. We are watching your every move, and we have been watching you for a long time. And yes absolutely you are domestic terrorists of the worst kind, and the truth about your decades of constant poaching of protected wildlife around Malheur and other wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and BLM lands has been well-documented. For years those of us who are wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and carers of wildlife, have been documenting the activities of you poachers and criminals around many of our nation’s wildlife refuges. With our powerful cameras, and ability to move unseen in the wilderness, we have found and documented your illegal hunts, your illegal traps and all sorts of illicit activities, and are constantly feeding that information to law enforcement, and we have finally got many of you poachers on the run and into jails. And I for one am a westerner sick to death of you welfare queens and cheats living off of BLM land, illegally gutting our wilderness and our wildlife. Malheur, Hart Mountain, Klamath Marsh, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite etc etc, they all belong to us, we the American people, and no small group of armed thugs is going to destroy the great wildlife and national park system that our great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir put in place over a century ago. Wildlife photographers and wildlife/bird watchers now number some 40 million people in the USA, and feed many rural western economies with our tourism dollars, and we will not stand for your sedition.

As Oregon’s Congressman Earl Blumenauer just stated,  “Armed insurrection is terrorism. The situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge shouldn’t be allowed to fester but should be dealt with firmly, swiftly and fairly. The continued disruption to the community of Burns and occupation of a federal facility is unacceptable. Those involved should be arrested and prosecuted”

Those of us who are international wildlife and nature photographers regularly face charging elephants, attacking lions and grizzlies, hidden crocodiles, massive storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the hottest, coldest and windiest conditions, and all kinds of poisonous snakes and bugs in our work, and we know the outdoors and wilderness from desert to jungle to sea to mountain to tundra from pole to equator better than any poacher or criminal or yee-haw yokel ever will, and we are not afraid to protect it. We have a just fear of nature from experience, but we don’t fear you gun-toting thugs in the least. You will never see us, but we and our cameras will always see you. We will #takebackmalheur from you terrorists, and will not rest until every one of you thugs and poachers is behind bars where they belong. You may think that your communities support you, but the majority do not and as many as support you, many more despise you, and your every move is being documented in great detail. The birding networks are ablaze right now about everything going on in Malheur. We know the nearby trailer park, who is supplying you with food, and a tourist boycott of them is already in the works for all birders for this upcoming bird season. We know who everyone is coming in and out, and why, and every shred of information is going straight to law enforcement and across every birding network in America.

And for those of us who are also lawyers (I for example just happen to have a law degree of U of Oregon), whether the Feds prosecute you or not (and we will do all in our power to ensure they do), we will put every civil suit against you and God knows you have given us plenty to work with, so you will know once and for all that your odious actions have real consequences.

We stand now and forever with wildlife, and you seditionists and terrorists are about to find out that’s there is a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out and poach innocent animals, will never be able to outrun or hide from.

We are watching you and our years of birding photography have made us endlessly patient and determined.

It was a couple guys like Kevin Vang who were largely responsible for establishment of the refuge in the first place, more than a century ago.


Wildlife photographer and naturalist William L. Finley and his childhood friend and photography partner, Herman T. Bohlman, visited the lake to investigate recovery of egret populations. The “white heron” had been wiped out a dacade earlier by plume hunters. The pair’s hand-colored photos and the backing of the Oregon Audubon Society helped convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to create the Lake Malheur reservation “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.”


A flock of Caspian terns takes flight in this hand-colored 1908 photo.


Finley photographs a nest as Bohlman maneuvers their boat through the shallows of Lake Malheur.


Finley estimated that several thousand birds had been killed so their feathers could be used to decorate hats.


White-faced ibis


Black-capped night heron


White pericans



Finley/Bohlman photos courtesy Oregon Audubon Society & NPR