Recently in the New York Times, Drew Westen wrote a piece titled, “What Happened to Obama?” He cited a speech made by President Roosevelt in 1936. FDR had been busy in his first term (’32-’36), putting Americans directly to work in huge federal programs in response to the dismal reality of the Depression’s staggering unemployment. In this speech, Roosevelt alluded to the wealthy elite who had risen against him, those greedy capitalists whom these days are accurately described as “banksters.” He said, “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”
We could use a little of that ’tude in Washington—and especially in the White House—these days.
Back in ’09, I wrote about the case of Utah man Tim DeChristopher, a then 27-year-old student who showed up at a hearing in Salt Lake City in December ’08, where the government, still headed by George Bush and his Interior Secretary Gale Norton, were putting loads of parcels up for sale in Utah in a last ditch effort to benefit all of Dubya’s buddies in the oil and gas biz. DeChristopher showed up in a down jacket, not looking at all like your typical gas company exec, assumed the identity of a bidder, and then went ahead, bid on, and won 14 parcels worth a total of $1.8 million. When it was discovered that he was perpetrating a major ruse, and that he (a) didn’t represent a legit oil or gas company and (b) had no intention of paying for the parcels that he’d just procured, he was promptly busted. His story gathered national attention, particularly on the feisty Democracy Now! TV program.
On March 3, DeChristopher was found guilty of intentionally bullshitting the government, you could say. It was no contest. He was, after all, guilty. The hopes were that the sentence would be lenient. It wasn’t. Judge Dee Benson sentenced DeChristopher to two years the klink, plus a $10,000 fine and three years on probation.
The sentencing hearing immediately turned into a rally, as DeChristopher defiantly told the court, “My intent both at the time of the auction and now was to expose, embarrass, and hold accountable the oil and gas industry, to the point that it cut into their $100 billion profits.”
Shortly thereafter, he was on his way to prison.
There were about 100 supporters at the courthouse, including Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary (still making trouble after all these years). And perhaps DeChristopher will become a new, quieter version of Hayduke, the eco-warrior hero of Ed Abbey’s famous Monkey Wrench Gang. Time will, as always, tell.