Thursday, July 4, 2019

My Declaration of Retirement

There is a tradition in retiring from our office of federal employees for the U.S. Department of the Interior (National Parks, Indian Affairs, Fish & Wildlife, Public Land Management, Reclamation (western water dams and management), Geological Survey, etc.) to send of a farewell email to All-Employees. They are usually friendly little good-byes with the occasional long diatribe of political sentiment pent-up in the "non-political" civil service until that day of release.

Mine was this:

That was a last-minute and appropriate replacement for my diatribe. I thought it best to save that for this blog. My post-departure comments are in [ ],  i.e., brackets. Here goes:

General Observations:

The Civil Service is a dedicated group of well-meaning individuals who support the laws and Constitution of the land and are generally non-partisan. The very nature of public service these days and maybe historically tends to draw people who believe in the good government can do which tends to draw people from the middle or slightly or father left-of-center on the political spectrum – although I have worked with many right-of-center civil servants who are good people. And I started out that way (right-of-center if not “good”). The bottom line is, we are not here to serve political whims of our own or our political appointees (heaven forbid!) We are here to follow the law and Constitution and we will give our best advice in that regard to political appointees who will respect it or ignore it.

In that regard, the political appointees who come and go generally do not understand us – especially those who distrust government to begin with. That is, of course, a weird political movement associated with a major party throughout my career. How do you expect to govern if you think government is the problem? But I digress. We have had good political appointees of both major parties and we have the bad from both as well. The best Solicitor and political staff we had in my entire career was under the George H.W. Bush administration with Solicitor Tom Sansonetti. The absolute worst were with the ethically-compromised Solicitor, “She-who-shall-not-be-named.” That was only in the last part of the George W. Bush administration. And sure, I had some personal skin against them, but they also had some “partners” and associates found guilty of crimes independent of any of the crap they gave me. Judgment is withheld on the current administration. . . . [well, not anymore! It is the most disgustingly corrupt in my lifetime! Worse than Nixon!]

I know a little about the Crandall Mine disaster in Utah and won’t say any more about that except that there was is no such thing as “clean” coal or “safe” coal. Our modern industrial society is built on the sweat, blood, lungs, and bones of good, hard-working men, women, and children who did the dirty work, suffered, and did not receive the economic benefits that were heaped upon the fat-cat owners. And then there are the poisons heaped upon humanity at large.

Cowboys and 1872-Act miners are generally fun to litigate with. Resolution of problems short of litigation is always preferred, but I had some really fun grazing hearings with cowboy attorneys. Well, not so much with the anti-fed, county-rights, state-rights crowd who were still easy to beat in court. I loved it when they ironically claimed rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Thank Heavens for the statute of limitations in the Quiet Title Act that got rid of most of their silly land claims!

Oil & Gas Attorneys are not fun to litigate with. They are generally arrogant jerks with nearly unlimited funds from the obscene profits made by oil and gas companies. May fossil fuels soon go the way of livery stables as we continue to develop renewable energy resources and leave the darkness of carbon fuels to the slag heaps and black sludge of history!

My outgoing recommendations:

1. Change the name of “Bison Connect” to “Buffalo Mail.” I know it’s biologically a bison, but “Buffalo Mail” sounds so much cooler.

2. Neither I nor anyone else can fix the horrific history of our dealings with Native Peoples. I have taken some satisfaction in helping to provide a few good outcomes here in there on land settlements, exchanges, Indian Country jurisdiction, and the protection of water rights for Tribes. I do have a big idea that would, of course, require a major political shift and Congressional action under the Constitution. That is, transfer all unappropriated public lands, excess military reservations (make more excess), and maybe even the Forest Reserves in trust to the recognized Tribes that had aboriginal claims. Congress can require repayment of any aboriginal title extinguished but only at the valuation at the time they were taken, just as the Tribes were “compensated.” Maybe Eastern Tribes where there are no public lands could have the better claim to National Forests and maybe even National Park lands, especially those that claim to tell their stories. Congress could make it subject to “existing rights” in third parties (they would not be “prior existing rights” as the Tribes are always prior). And current “rights” would be beholden to the Tribes in Trust rather than the US as sovereign. With specific attention to my recent work, I would love to see all the unappropriated public lands in Utah returned to the Ute and Shoshone Tribes and the Paiute and Goshute Bands throughout the state. That would also fix the ridiculous “county rights,” “states’ rights,” and European-descendant-squatter claims to the public lands. States don’t have rights, People do. And the First Peoples most of all.

3. Congress should ban the practice known as “burrowing.” That is the ability of political appointees to obtain a career position which are especially common in the excepted service such as attorney positions in the Solicitor’s Office. Congress should also establish a life-time ban for any political appointee in the Executive Branch to obtain non-political, civil service appointments by competition or otherwise. I have seen abuses from BOTH parties. And while I’ve already admitted skin in the game with regard to one instance of an individual who may be an exception as that person has done a great job working hard to manage and become part of the entrenched civil service, there still remain historical abuses of which I am aware that did not impact me personally. [This is damning with the faintest of praise for those who know] I’ve thought about volunteering with my Oregon birth-state Senator Ron Wyden or someone on this issue, but maybe I’ll just leave it out there as I know some members of Congress are well aware of the problems that former political appointees can create in violating the non-partisan spirit of the Civil Service.

4. Don’t even get me started on the appropriations process . . . .

The FUTURE (MY future):

My Maryland Bar Membership will go inactive. I have no desire to continue as an attorney. I’m not quite sure I should have ever been one. Still, it has kept me busy trying to do some good in the world and we have provided well enough for my family. In retirement, I will be spending time with my life-partner of 39 years, grandchildren, gardening, reading, volunteering in church service, researching family history, and traveling – mostly to Britain.

You can follow me on my blogs. I know it’s a dying medium, but I keep going.

My Vaughan family history blog:

My other family history blog:

My Welsh Mormon Hymns (yes, a bit esoteric):

You can also find me as a tour consultant with:

And, I have organized myself as an LLC for my historical consulting and travel work:

My business site will get a bit of an upgrade now.

Yes, the interwebs and system of tubes would not be the same without me.


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