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Republicans in Congress Set Value of All Public Lands and Buildings to $0 for Easy Sell Off at Taxpayers’ Expense

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Change Could Ultimately Benefit Energy Companies, Forever Destroying America’s Vast Wilderness

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a rules change this past week by a vote of 234 to 193, that would allow Congress the ability to essentially give away federal lands and buildings for free. The new rule, authored by GOP Rep. Robert Bishop of Utah, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, codifies that any legislation to dispose of federal land and natural resources would have a net sum zero cost to taxpayers. As the rule applies only to the House legislative rules, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature and is effective immediately.

All Democrats in the House voted against the measure, while only three Republicans joined them in opposing it, USA TODAY reports. The Wilderness Society said “this move paves the way for a wholesale giveaway of our American hunting, fishing and camping lands that belong to us all. Make no mistake, the giveaway is for the benefit of the drilling and mining interests that have a lock-grip on Congress and the rest of Washington.”

Since the House is required to account for any cost associated with any legislation it considers under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules and guidelines, legislation put forward now shall skip several steps in the normal legislative process, coming up for a vote without any discussion of the costs and benefits. This means that the House does not need to render an assessment or cost analysis of estimated financial losses resulting in legislation giving away public lands or buildings.

A Democratic Congressional source on Capitol Hill told NCRM Friday that this procedural rules shortcut will apply equally to all types of public land. 

“For example, the national parks like Yosemite – even federal buildings and facilities in Washington like the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building, could all be given away without consideration of the cost to American taxpayers.”  

‘Plan to Give Away America’s Public Lands for Free Is Outrageous and Absurd’ Says Democratic Congressman

In an statement to NCRM via email Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona castigated House GOP leadership over the rules change. 

“The House Republican plan to give away America’s public lands for free is outrageous and absurd. This proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people,” Grijalva said. 

Federal stewardship over public lands has long been a contentious issue with Congressional Republicans and particularly with Tea Party and House Freedom Caucus members from the Western states. But in the case of Rep. Bishop, he has waged an incessant campaign to divest federal ownership of Western lands, in particular urging President-elect Donald Trump to abolish national monuments designated by President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. More than 270 million acres of American land and waters are potentially at risk—an area two and a half times the size of California.

This latest maneuver by Bishop with the House rules change was met with sharp criticism from conservation and watchdog groups. One group told NCRM that the impetus for Bishop’s zeal to unload federal property could be traced to his contributors.

According to the advocacy and activist group Oil Change International which tracks campaign contribution monies from fossil fuel corporations and the coal industry via the group’s Dirty Energy Money web project, since 1999 Congressman Bishop has accepted campaign funds and contributions of more than $452,610 dollars from oil, gas and coal interests. Figures collected by Oil Change International show that greater than ten percent of that figure has come from the coal-friendly National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which has led the fight against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Oil giants Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, and Tesoro are also listed among Bishop’s top campaign contributors.

Recent polling by the Denver, Colorado, based Center for Western Priorities showed that over seventy-five percent of registered voters in the states of Nevada, Colorado, and Montana believe public lands are an essential part of their respective state’s economies. Additionally, the Congressional watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, which is responsible for monitoring of the federal budget, found that leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands are one of the U.S. government’s largest sources of non-tax based revenues.

Congressional Republicans Accused of ‘Greasing the Skids’ and ‘Using Smoke and Mirrors to Hide the Cost of Stealing Away Our Public Lands’

In a statement released Tuesday after the House rules change vote by the Center for Western Priorities, which calls itself a “nonpartisan conservation and advocacy organization,” the organisation’s Executive Director Jennifer Rokala noted: 

“Less than one day in and Congressional Republicans are already greasing the skids to give away or sell off America’s public lands, forests, and wildlife refuges. What’s worse, politicians are using smoke and mirrors to hide the cost of stealing away our public lands, while ripping off American taxpayers in the process.”

She added, “President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee to run the Interior Department, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, have disavowed attempts to seize our public lands. This is their first chance to show how serious they are by standing up to attacks on our parks and public lands in the U.S. House of Representatives.” 

During his presidential campaign, Trump was a vocal opponent of selling off federal lands. His Interior Secretary nominee, GOP Congressman Ryan Zinke, who serves as U.S. Representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district, has also publicly stated his opposition to efforts to dispose of public lands. During the GOP platform writing committee sessions last summer he resigned after the Republican Party platform included language that would support disposal of federal lands. He did however vote in favor of House Resolution 5 for the Rules Change on Tuesday. A spokesperson for Zinke told NCRM Friday that any statement regarding a change in his position regarding Bishop’s rule would be premature until further review and after his confirmation process as Interior Secretary.

Randi Spivak, public lands director with the Center for Biological Diversity remarked, “In Rob Bishop’s world, land owned by all Americans should be taken over by those who see them as nothing but a source of profit for drilling, mining and logging. Fortunately there are laws that protect places like national monuments—Rep. Bishop apparently doesn’t understand them or doesn’t think they should apply to his ideology.”

“If Rob Bishop has his way, where would it stop? Taking Yellowstone and Yosemite off the list of national parks?,” asked Spivak.

To contact your Congressman visit the House website or call the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121. 
Rep. Bishop is on Facebook.

 

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at Brody.Levesque@thenewcivilrightsmovement.com 

To comment on this article and other NCRM content, visit our Facebook page.

Image by USCapitol via Flickr 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Absolutely Repulsive’: Some House Republicans Are Now Wearing an Assault Weapon Lapel Pin

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At least three House Republicans this week began wearing pins in the shape of an assault weapon on their clothing. U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), and U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) were all caught on camera with the pins, leading some to express outrage.

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) was among the first to circulate images of the two Republicans wearing the pins.

“Where are these assault weapon pins coming from? Who is passing these out?” he asked.

Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), captured an image of Congressman Clyde wearing the pin on his tie.

“Absolutely repulsive,” Duke University Professor of Global Health and Public Policy, Gavin Yamey said in response to the assault weapon pins. “We have mass shootings almost daily, and the Republicans are wearing assault weapon pins FFS.”

READ MORE: Watch: Angry, Santos Reacts to News DOJ is Investigating His Alleged ‘Ghosting’ With $3000 Raised for Veteran’s Dying Dog

One of the Members wearing the pins, Congresswoman Luna, on Wednesday also participated in a House Natural Resources panel debate to push back on Democrats’ attempt to ban firearms inside the Committee’s hearing room.

She tweeted later, “The same Democrats who are voting to send firearms to Ukraine are telling me I can’t carry one.”

Politico reports the meeting (video below) was “raucous.”

Sociology professor and author Samuel Perry observed, “Republican members of congress are wearing AR-15 lapel pins. That’s not just tone deaf. We find Republicans value gun rights more than any other right, including freedom of speech or religion. No need for a flag or cross pin. The gun is both their patriotic & religious symbol.”

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called wearing the pins “freaking sick,” and noted “they are doing it during #GVSurvivorsWeek,” the hashtag for National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

READ MORE: Hunter Biden Is Fighting Back

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) also pointed to National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

“While gun violence continues to be the leading cause of death for children in our country,
@GOP members are wearing assault rifle pins during #GVSurvivorsWeek. Shameful.”

American historian of Christianity Diana Butler Bass did not mince words: “Always said it was just a matter of time before the GOP replaced the cross with an assault rifle. Guns are their god.”

Democratic Texas state Rep. Gene Wu said the GOP “has stopped playing coy and is now openly and unabashedly praising mass shooters. Will there be special versions to celebrate specific mass shootings?”

Professor of International Relations Nicholas Grossman said: “Legislators from party that defends recent coup attempt by their up-til-recently—and possibly still—party leader replace traditional patriotic flag pin with a pin depicting a rifle.”

California state Sen. Dave Min weighed in, saying, “The debate over 2A [the Second Amendment] has never been about 2A. It’s about ‘disrupting’ civilized society as we know it, and trolling the ordinary Americans concerned about our insane levels of gun violence. That’s why it’s the biggest assholes who are most loudly touting irresponsible gun access.”

The addition of the assault weapon pins to Republican Members’ clothing comes on the heels of U.S. Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) distributing grenades to fellow Members last week. In a note he declared they are “inert.”

See video and photos above or at this link.

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News

Kyle Rittenhouse to Face Wrongful Death Lawsuit After 100-Hour Hunt to Find Him

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Kyle Rittenhouse, who skyrocketed to fame in right-wing circles after shooting and killing two protesters during a social rights march in 2020, is now facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim’s father, according to PBS.

The lawsuit was filed by John Huber, the father of one of the two victims, and also includes city officials and police officers. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman dismissed motions from the city officials, police officers and Rittenhouse to dismiss the civil rights case in its entirety.

Huber’s lawsuit states that Rittenhouse conspired with police officers to intentionally cause harm to the protesters who were marching in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake, who was injured by a Wisconsin police officer.

Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, drove to the demonstrations in Wisconsin and was a minor at age 17 at the time.

In the ruling Adelman said Huber’s death “could plausibly be regarded as having been proximately caused by the actions of the government defendants. Huber was killed after Rittenhouse was running after he shot and killed his first victim in the parking lot of a car dealership and Huber hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard to disarm him. After falling to the ground Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber and wounded another protester Gaige Grosskreutz, who also has filed a civil lawsuit against Rittenhouse.

Huber’s lawyers and private investigators needed over 100 hours to locate Rittenhouse to serve him with the civil lawsuit paperwork, eventually serving him at his sister’s house. Rittenhouse’s lawyers tried to argue the case should be dismissed because he was not properly served. The judge dismissed that claim.

Rittenhouse has become a popular Republican right-wing speaker at public events and has nearly 1 million followers on Twitter.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Jacob Blake was shot and injured, but not killed, as originally reported.

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Hunter Biden Is Fighting Back

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After years of being the right wing’s punching bag, Hunter Biden is fighting back.

The 52-year old attorney, investor, lobbyist, father of five, and Navy veteran who just happens to be the son of the President of the United States, is calling for state and federal investigations into how his personal, private information from his now-infamous laptop was disseminated, according to CBS News.

Biden is also threatening a defamation lawsuit against Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

READ MORE: Watch: Angry, Santos Reacts to News DOJ is Investigating His Alleged ‘Ghosting’ With $3000 Raised for Veteran’s Dying Dog

The “flurry of letters to the Delaware attorney general, the Department of Justice, the I.R.S. and attorneys for Fox News and Carlson,” CBS reports, “represent an aggressive new strategy for the president’s son, who is facing long-running federal criminal investigations, as well as new probes promised by congressional Republicans, according to a source familiar with Biden’s approach.”

“This marks a new approach by Hunter Biden and his team,” the source told CBS News. “He is not going to sit quietly by as questionable characters continue to violate his rights and media organizations peddling in lies try to defame him.”

Biden lost his mother and sister in a car crash injuring him and his brother when he was just two years old, and later, that same brother, Beau Biden, the longtime Delaware Attorney General, died from an aggressive cancer of the brain.

CBS reports Biden’s “computer data that was turned over to the FBI showed no evidence of tampering or fabrication, according to an independent review commissioned by CBS News.”

READ MORE: ‘His Big Plan Is to Ask the President a Question?’: McCarthy Mocked for His Handling of Debt Ceiling Negotiations

But The Washington Post last year hired two forensic investigators, and they reached different conclusions.

“From a forensics standpoint, it’s a disaster,” said Jake Williams, who the Post describes as “a forensics expert and former National Security Agency operative who once hacked the computers of foreign adversaries.” The other investigator, Matt Green, the Post says is “a Johns Hopkins University security researcher who specializes in cryptography.”

“The drive is a mess,” Green told The Post.

The Post found that “the lack of what experts call a ‘clean chain of custody’ undermined Green’s and Williams’s ability to determine the authenticity of most of the drive’s contents.” The “clean chain of custody” refers to the fact that countless individuals have had access to the hard drive.

“The vast majority of the data — and most of the nearly 129,000 emails it contained — could not be verified by either of the two security experts who reviewed the data for The Post,” the newspaper reported. “Neither found clear evidence of tampering in their examinations, but some of the records that might have helped verify contents were not available for analysis, they said. The Post was able in some instances to find documents from other sources that matched content on the laptop that the experts were not able to assess.”

Meanwhile, CBS News also reports that in a ” letter sent Wednesday, Biden attorney Bryan Sullivan demanded that Fox News and Tucker Carlson devote airtime to retracting statements made about Biden paying ‘rent’ to his father, ‘in what Mr. Carlson implied was essentially a money laundering scheme to finance President Biden’s lifestyle prior to his election … and alluding to Mr. Biden having unauthorized access to classified documents because of his presence at President Biden’s house.’ Sullivan writes that the claims were false, and even after others acknowledged as much, Carlson continued to make them.”

“The letter, which cites California’s defamation statute, notes that the Daily Caller website retracted an article that made similar claims.”

Image via Wikimedia and a CC license

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