Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Just say NO to a concentration camp in Wyoming

“I assure you that on Judgment Day, God will show more mercy to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah than to the people of that town!” That town is Evanston, Wyoming.

Jesus’s words from Matthew came to mind when the Department of Homeland Services published notice it intends to issue a long-anticipated Request for Proposal on July 17. The RFP seeks bids to build a prison housing 250-500 human beings coming to the United States legally to petition for asylum.

The RFP requires the concentration camp be built within 90 miles of Salt Lake City. That’s a clue. DHS has decided it wants the prison in Evanston, which is 83 miles from Salt Lake.

Since Trump’s immigration policy is designed primarily to inflict cruelty, Evanston makes sense.   Evanston is far from the glare of the national media, far from regulators and inspectors, isolated from lawyers with competence to represent the imprisoned. Its isolation means families will not readily be able to visit and adequate medical care won’t be available.

Make no mistake, coming soon to Wyoming’s future will be the shame and disgust of what the world sees on the Mexico-US border. Crowded, unsanitary facilities where men, woman, and children who committed no crime are abused. The dark stain on those Texas communities will now fall on Evanston and Wyoming.

Evanston will forever be remembered as Ezekiel remembered Jerusalem. The Hebrew prophet called her Sodom’s sister. Jerusalem earned his condemnation because she, in the words of the prophet, failed to “aid the poor and needy” and let herself be used as a tool of oppression.  Ezekiel 16:49f

The words of Jeremiah will forever be used to condemn Evanston and Wyoming if they allow this tool of oppression to be built in the name of jobs and economic development. Jeremiah prophesied the doom God intended for another town because, he said, “The horror you imposed deceived you.” Jeremiah 49:16

This proposed prison will impose horrors on thousands of human beings just as the Japanese-American internment camp at Heart Mountain once did. The difference between the two is that many Wyoming decisionmakers did not want Heart Mountain or any other similar concentration camp built in our state.

Governor Nels Smith objected strenuously. He was overridden by President Roosevelt and forever Heart Mountain is remembered for the horror it imposed. In what Jeremiah called “the arrogance of your heart,” government officials in Evanston welcome the chance to be remembered for acting as an oppressive regime over the weak. These are the sins that gave Jeremiah cause to refer to Edom as the Sodom and Gomorrah of his times.

Were he around, Isaiah would join the chorus condemning Evanston. He called people like the Uinta County Commissioners “rulers of Sodom.” Isaiah says “the word of the Lord,” demands to know why these men “trample” the courts of God. God took notice that when those same men  raised their arms in prayer, their hands, he cried, “are full of blood,” for the deeds they committed in open defiance of God’s desire for justice.   

Isaiah spoke of Wyoming faith communities who sit silently complicit, acquiescing in this sin. “I cannot endure your iniquity and solemn assembly. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean, remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1

The final decision will not be made by the “rulers of Sodom;” not Trump, not DHS, nor the Uinta County Commissioners. The legislature was aware that private prison operators are notorious abusers of human rights. They didn’t want for-profit concentration camps built here without adequate forethought.

Thus, the final word belongs to Wyoming’s five state-wide officials. Governor Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, School Superintendent Jillian Balow, Treasurer Curt Meier, and Auditor Kristi Racines will decide whether the sins of Sodom and the horrors of Heart Mountain will be revisited on the God-fearing citizens of the Equality State.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Acosta should not be the only one to resign

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta has resigned. Why not Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi who voted to confirm him knowing that as the U.S. Attorney,  Acosta gave special treatment to a man who sexually abused little girls, a friend of Donald Trump, who described this sex offender as a “friend” who just happened to like ‘em young? Yuck.

Wyoming’s senators knew that when they towed the Trump-McConnell line and voted to give Acosta one of the highest offices of the land.

I understand partisanship. I understand decency. I don’t understand politicians who choose partisanship over decency. I’m old enough to remember the Republican Party claim to be the party of family values. Now, it’s the “full Monty” party of Trump.

As Labor Secretary, Acosta was charged with fighting human sex trafficking. As a U.S. Attorney, Acosta illegally gave sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein “the deal of a lifetime,” a plea bargain not regularly available to serial sex-trafficking pedophiles who are not well-connected billionaires.

The obligation of senators to advise the president on cabinet selections and to give their consent is so significant that it is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Read Article 2, Section2.

“He (the president) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.”

Senators Barrasso and Enzi have a Constitutional duty to make sure the president appoints qualified people to high-ranking government positions. That duty has seldom been so important as in the era of a president excited to appoint unqualified, unethical cronies to critical government jobs.

The senate’s confirmation power is the thin “red, white, and blue” line standing between Trump and his wont to repopulate the swamp.

Trump’s first choice for Labor Secretary was a disaster. His financial disclosure showed he was unworthy and couldn’t even get past a GOP senate. Trump turned to a man who coddled a child sex rapist.

I was once a defense lawyer. My experience was that prosecutors were anxious to give the maximum possible sentence to sex offenders. They held press conferences, talking about “throwing the book at them” especially when they were accused of raping children. Imagine everyone’s surprise when Florida’s U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta bent over backwards to make sure this billionaire pedophile served as little jail time as possible while given work release so that 6 days a week he could leave the jail to go to his plush office.

Proof that it was a corrupt choice is found in how Acosta kept it secret in violation of Florida laws protecting victims’ rights. A federal court reviewed Acosta’s sweetheart deal with Epstein, ruling Trump’s Labor Secretary violated the law and the rights of the victims.

Wyoming’s senators knew all this when they voted the Republican line to confirm this sex-offender coddler to be a member of Trump’s cabinet. Is Acosta the only one to pay a  price for this outrage?

Giving a cabinet appointee the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting sex trade is, need it be said, important. Human trafficking is trade in human bodies for the purpose of forced labor, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others.

Epstein’s victims were the same age as your 13-16-year-old daughters. Why didn’t Senators Enzi and Barrasso care about those little girls? Why don’t you?

Many of you ignore the president’s sexual immorality. It was okay with you when he paid hush money to silence women he slept with even as his newborn baby son lay in the crib.

In the hyper-partisanship of the times, have we lost our capacity to see the horror visited on these little girls? Politicians like Enzi and Barrasso see them only as impediments to another political win.  

These little girls were somebody’s daughters. Do they have to be yours before you give a damn?


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The public: “We want the truth.” The UW trustees: “Sorry, but you can’t handle the truth.”

“Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play, where never is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

It isn’t Wyoming’s official song. It belongs to Kansas. But, it is Wyoming’s creed, central to the state’s wont to cover up the bad stuff, moving on without resolution, leaving not a cloud in the sky.

Take the unexplained firing of Laurie Nichols. That’s a big deal. After all, Dr. Nichols was the first woman to have ever been named University of Wyoming president. She took the helm in 2016, during some of the toughest days of severe budget cuts. She led the University through those dark days and guided faculty, students, and staff through the completion of a five-year strategic plan for the school.

Dr. Nichols provided leadership to increase the enrollment of Native Americans in the wake of a very public incident leading that community to doubt whether Reservation students were welcome at UW.

At the end of those delicate processes, all participants walked away with the feeling they had been heard and respected and the UW president was given high marks across the campus.

Nonetheless, she was unceremoniously fired in 2019, during the “Year of the Woman” in the so-called Equality State, for reasons the Board of Trustees keep secret.

Not for lack of trying, the media has been unable to pry the reasons for Dr. Nichols’ dismissal from the mouths of the trustees. The Cheyenne and Laramie newspapers and others courageously prove the critical importance of a free press by being alone in going to the courts to learn the truth.

Most campus observers say Nichols was doing a good job, the only complaints made in truth-stifling back room confabs. One day, the trustees decided in secret to fire Nichols. They dispatched a select few to Arizona, where the blissfully unaware UW president was vacationing, to tell her she had become a part of UW’s history.

Some would say, “That’s not how we do things in Wyoming.” They would be wrong.

In many states, legislators would demand answers. Hearings would be held. The Governor who appoints the trustees would voice concerns. Faculty and students would have held vigils and marches. Answers would be demanded. It’s no small thing to fire the first female president of the state’s only university without some explanation. It’s a scene reminiscent of “A Few Good Men.”

The UW trustees: “You want answers?
The media: I think we’re entitled to them.”
The UW trustees: You want answers?”
The public: “We want the truth.”
The UW trustees: “Sorry, but you can’t handle the truth.”

So, this scene fades to black. Dr. Nichols found another job. She’s been named interim president at Black Hills State University. She will depart Wyoming for South Dakota, leaving behind the Equality State for a state whose motto is “Under God the people rule.” The irony abounds.

The only woman to serve as UW president will be gone, without any of us plebes knowing why. The Governor, state legislators, and other public officials happily ignore the truth, while celebrating “the Year of the Woman” as this tawdry matter goes to seed. 

Home, home on the range.

Maybe Colonel Jessup had it right. We can’t handle the truth. Jesus said the truth will set us free. It appears many Wyoming people would rather not be set free. Not everyone reveres freedom enough to risk demanding the truth. The truth is filled with discouraging words that cause clouds to form over the heads of those who would rather you not know it.

Alas, unless the courts intervene, never will be heard another discouraging word.  The political mess was quietly cleaned up, evidence of the explosion erased. It’s safe once again for the deer and the antelope to come out to play. The people of Wyoming will continue to have their home on the range, where never is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.