Archive for category Tim DeChristopher

Anatomy of a Clusterfuck

©2009 by Michael Raysses – printed 4.24.2009

I love bombast. And the apotheosis of my ardor is never more exquisitely achieved than when said affectation incorporates the perfect balance of sound and cadence, while laced with a patina of profanity. Though it would arguably be easy to view bombast as a writing style unto itself, sometimes one can achieve rank bombasticity in a single utterance. And no word reaches the soaring heights I am describing better than the king of all such expressions—ladies and gentlemen, tendered for your approval, the timeless classic—clusterfuck.

For the uninitiated, perhaps a quick definition is in order:

clusterfuck (plural clusterfucks)

  1. (vulgar) A chaotic mess that might be compared to group sex, in which participants are so intertwined and intermingled that they might penetrate each other rather than their intended target. Its more precise usage describes a particular kind of Catch-22, in which multiple complicated problems mutually interfere with each other’s solution. The looser usage, referring to any chaotic situation, probably prevails.

It bears mentioning that any clusterfuck is subject to the Law of Governmental Presence, which states that any garden variety clusterfuck is prone to inflate to epic proportion when conducted within eight nautical miles of any governmental agency, body, or representative. Given that the word probably traces its etymology to the military that almost stands to reason.

Lest there be any confusion, the term is oftentimes misunderstood. To prevent needless uncertainty as to when you’ve encountered a clusterfuck, let’s look at some related concepts.

For instance, a clusterfuck isn’t necessarily a disaster, although a series of ever-expanding clusterfucks can most definitely engender disaster (See Bush, George W.) A clusterfuck also isn’t the same as a shit storm, which is really nothing more than a small bunch of clusterfucks on their way to becoming a disaster. (For further clarification, see TARP. No, not the large sheet of waterproof material. The other one, the one with the bailout.)

The best way to appreciate a clusterfuck is to examine one. Here’s a great case in point: last December, the Bush administration conducted the functional equivalent of a fire sale of leases for oil and gas exploration in the southern and eastern parts of the state of Utah. Above and beyond the speed at which the auction was set up, a rate which didn’t allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s that are federally mandated in situations just like this, the scope of the sale was exceptionally broad. Buckling to pressure from a raft of environmental groups, the BLM reduced its initial offering and agreed to auction off only 150,000 acres of land.

Despite this magnanimous concession, the proposed sale was pilloried as a direct threat to certain pristine areas of the state. Areas that abutted national parks and red rock desert. Plots of land that could arguably be labeled sui generis. (Nothing screams ‘bombast’ quite like a well placed Latin phrase, does it?)

On the day of the auction, a 27 year-old economics student named Tim DeChristopher attended a protest march of the BLM sale. Sensing resigned despair in his fellow protesters, in a fit of anti-authoritarian brio DeChristopher decided to infiltrate the auction as a means of disrupting what he viewed to be not only a fraudulent sale, but one that would irretrievably damage national natural treasures.

Surprisingly for DeChristopher, gaining access to the proceedings proved to be relatively easy. Consistent with general clusterfuck theory, the BLM was in such a hurry to conduct this auction they neglected to enforce the standard security measures typically required. Tim showed his driver’s license, filled out a small form, was given a bidder’s paddle, and escorted in. (Personally, I can’t believe they didn’t make him at least demonstrate the Vulcan death grip or something.)

Once inside, Tim witnessed the auction process and soon was actually driving up the cost on parcels of land merely by waving his bidder’s paddle. But because his mission was to save the land, not just cost the cadre of oil and gas interests more money to have a shot at drilling and exploration, he decided to bring his ‘A’ game—Tim was in it to win it, as they say.

Which is exactly what he did. Tim proceeded to win 13 bids, totaling 22,000 acres, at a cost of $1.8 million. Then he was detained by the authorities because even they have limits as to how much they can and will contribute to a clusterfuck. (According to Tim, once apprehended, the officer who treated him most brusquely was a mall cop who worked in the building where the BLM office is housed, which only deepens my appreciation for the verisimilitude of that Paul Blart movie.)

Public support sprung up for Tim faster than an oil speculator at a hastily prepared sale of oil and gas leases. Within a very short time, he was able to raise $100,000 through his website,, to cover the cost of the initial payment to the BLM for the leases in question, as well as for what was sure to involve legal defense costs.

Then on February 4th, in a move that to the casual observer appears to run contrary to the concept of the clusterfuck, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar invalidated the oil and gas leases that had been auctioned off, which for all intents and purposes could arguably be construed as the government’s admission of “my bad.”

But keep your eye on the bouncing ball, folks, because part of what defines a clusterfuck is the momentary appearance that sanity has taken hold, which is exactly what happened here. The leases in question were voided. A single person with more heart than all the people in the auction that day felled the Goliath that is the oil and gas industry not with a slingshot and stone but instead with a bidder’s paddle and a flick of his wrist. Nothing was destroyed, defiled, or otherwise desecrated. Unless of course you count the derailed locomotive of greed embodied by the oil and gas industries that were there expecting uncontested whacks at the piñata placed so generously before them by the Bush administration.

So where, pray tell, is the clusterfuck?

In what has to be an example of the worst April Fool’s joke imaginable, on April 1, Tim was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah for two counts of vi4olating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Act. (A lesser charge of wearing a flannel shirt to a government auction was considered but dropped.)

Let’s pause for a moment to review, shall we? The government conducts a highly questionable sale of oil and gas leases that it ultimately voids, yet later they decide to criminally prosecute the man who provided them the opportunity to reconsider and correct their reckless conduct by wielding a bidder’s paddle? (Paging a Mr. Kafka, Mr. Franz Kafla!)

And then in a move that redefines craptacular, on April 3, the BLM levied an $81,000 fine against Tim. Mind you, this is the same BLM that refused Tim’s payment of $45,000 dollars on the fraudulent bids he made because those payments were offered “too late.”

Right about now you’re asking yourself “what’s that smell?” It’s not teen spirit, and it’s not napalm in the morning—it’s a Clusterfuck, with a capital C. Said Clusterfuck will reach its surreal denouement on April 28 when Tim is arraigned.

Now it’s safe to say that we as a nation have become used to diminished expectations. Even with the election of a man who is actually qualified to run the country, we know better than to expect much that even remotely approaches positive from our government and its agencies. But what we can’t condone is when our government is guilty of what in its best light looks like malfeasance, especially when they are given a chance to grant themselves a reprieve by a citizen who has the balls, heart, and spirit to act consonant with his moral compass, a device conspicuously not consulted in the government’s decision making process.

I have given up expecting bureaucracies like the BLM to actually do that which they are created to, which in this case is manage federal energy sources in an environmentally sound way. (My italics.) What galls me most deeply is the wholesale lack of respect for resources present in this case. (Um, I don’t know whose italics those are.) And by resources, the untapped oil and gas that lies beneath the ground in Utah aren’t all I am referring to. I am talking about the very real, immeasurable and invaluable human resource of people like Tim DeChistopher! (OK, that’s definitely my exclamation point.)

If we are ever going to extricate ourselves from the wringer we have wedged ourselves into, we need people like Tim DeChristopher—inventive, committed, and

compassionate—not in jail, his contributions to society neutralized, while sapping limited resources by being incarcerated—but in the vanguard of the vital democracy we remember ourselves to be.

It’s been said that two wrongs don’t make a right. This case proves an exception to that rule. The BLM failed in its responsibility to adhere to federally imposed environmental guidelines before holding the auction. Tim, by his own admission, represented himself to be a qualified bidder, which he wasn’t. When the Department of the Interior voided the sale, the two negatives perpetrated by both parties multiplied to create a positive—the lands in question are safe for the time being. The decision to prosecute Tim is the perfect final touch for those who like a little closure with their clusterfuck. That Brett Tolman, the U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting this case, wants to participate in some perverse act of reverse-alchemy by spinning political straw out of environmental gold is regrettable. The real focus is on what we do to support Tim in this scenario.

Tim told me that what moved him to act as he did was the realization that he could actually handle serving time to save the imperiled lands. What he couldn’t live with was waking up ten years down the road, seeing those lands ransacked by the oil and gas industries, and live with the knowledge that he had the chance to do something about it and didn’t.

Well, we have a chance to endorse Tim right here, right now. Go to Make a donation, write your representative. And if that leaves you feeling like you want to do more, then go to and really throw your oars in the water. To do anything less is beyond wrong—it’s clusterfucked.

Michael Raysses is a writer/actor/National Public Radio commentator living in Los Angeles. E-mail him at For information on Tim DeChristopher, go to Tim will be arraigned on Tuesday April 28, at 11:am in Salt Lake City. He faces up to ten years in Prison. Former Director of NASA Dr. James Hansen will testify on Tim’s behalf.

© April 24, 2009 Michael Raysses

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Breaking: BLM Fines Tim DeChristopher $81 Thousand Dollars

Read Full Story – AP

¶Tim DeChristopher’s lawyers received the bill Friday, a day after he was indicted on a pair of felony auction-rigging charges. The bill was characterized by one of the lawyers and Bureau of Land Management officials as a demand for a civil penalty unrelated to the criminal proceedings.

¶DeChristopher said he has raised around $100,000 from a broad range of supporters. Weeks after the Dec. 19 auction, he offered to make a down payment on his bids, but was flatly rejected by the BLM, which said it was too late.

¶The fine the BLM issued Friday was unrelated to any deposit or money DeChristopher owes on his bids. It opens a possible civil claim that DeChristopher can contest in an administrative appeal, according to BLM officials.

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Tim DeChristopher Indictment 04.01.2009 (PDF)

Tim DeChristopher Indictment 04.01.2009 (PDF)

Tim DeChristopher Indictment

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If The Water’s Cold… Don’t Go In

Brett Tolman seems to be caving in to outrage over his prosecution of a national hero, but says this in today’s Tribune article, entitled, “Prosecutor: Monkey-wrencher won’t do long prison time“:

“…If we chose not to prosecute,” he said, “we would have been caving to strong political pressure.”

Kind of strange for the prosecutor to assure the public that DeChristopher won’t be doing as much time as we thought, isn’t it? Fact is, Mr. Tolman, oil companies just aren’t as popular as heros. Whether you want to continue to fight for whoever is pressing charges, or keep your dignity is up to you. If Tim spends one day in prison for whatever justice you feel needs to be dispensed, you will have to live with that.

I’m getting my “Free DeChristopher” sign ready. Maybe I can make Michael Moore’s front page again!

Update: I originally and unintentionally misspelled DeChristophers name in this post, but it has been corrected. See Mea culpa in comments please.


BREAKING! Tim DeChristopher Indicted! Show Trial Ahead

Tim DeChristopher INDICTED! US Attorney Brett Tolman (Utah) has leveled formal charges. Tim’s response

This will be a political show trial at taxpayer expense.

Please join to support Tim’s brave action.  If you are a DKOS diarist, please go there and recommend this post.

 A grand jury indicted Tim DeChristopher this afternoon. He’s charged with two counts of violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Act. 

Democracy Now: University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher explains how he “bought” 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. The sale had been strongly opposed by many environmental groups. Stephen Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said: “This is the fire sale, the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.”

 This is about politics. US Attorney Brett Tolman (Jason Chavetz look-alike)  is Orrin Hatch’s ‘boy.’  I think we may assume Tolman has given up any hope to being retained by Obama’s Justice Department and is gunning for Jim Matheson’s (D-UT) seat or the new 4th District seat.

Utah Now (full story): He’s the 27-year-old college student and environmental activist who disrupted a public land auction last month by bidding up several parcels intended for oil and gas development. Join us as we take a closer look at what some are calling a case of modern-day monkey wrenching.

Please donate to Tim’s Legal Defense

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Closing the barn doors after the horses are gone

You have to give him credit for trying. Utah State Rep Mike Noel of Kanab managed to get his bill through which would punish land lease bidders who have no intention of buying those leases. This, of course, is directed at the action of our local hero, Tim DeChristopher, whose spontaneous idea managed to disrupt a fraudulent auction (the lease sales from which were later canceled by the Obama administration).

The thing is this: it’s been done. No-one would attempt to do it again because clearly the parties involved will now be very alert to any such possibility. It couldn’t happen twice. It really was the perfect protest, at the right time and done in the best possible, peaceful way. I’d call it a work of art in the civil disobedience arena, and one that cannot be duplicated.

So why do we need Rep. Noel’s bill? I guess because it always makes people feel better when they prevent something that really upset and frustrated them from happening again in the future – even if there’s no possibility of that event.

Tim DeChristopher is still the champion!

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Environmental Terrorist? Takes One to Know One

Here it comes.  Another fantastic idea from from a Utah cow farmer.

mikenoelWhat an ASS! Utah State Rep. Mike Noel has decided that he should decide what happens to public federal lands that happen to be in Utah.  Who can blame him.  He’s probably been grazing his methane factories on federal land for so long, he thinks he owns it too.

But not Tim. No Tim DeChristopher is “laughing” because he stole millions from Utah schools.  What a putz.

Lets see.  Which land use is more destructive of the environment.

a. Preserving it.

b. Ranching

c. Drilling

If you answered ‘b’ you are right.  Mike Noel knows an environmental terrorist when he sees one BECAUSE HE IS ONE!

Rural Utah lawmaker angered over block on drilling

‘Environmental terrorism’ » He aims to enact a new state law against disrupting oil lease sales
By Cathy Mckitrick
The Salt Lake Tribune

Posted: 02/05/2009

One lawmaker says that it’s time for Utah to fight back over the sale of 77 oil and gas leases disrupted last month by University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher and since shelved by the Obama administration.

Rep. Mike Noel said he initiated a bill Thursday to make DeChristopher’s actions a felony.

“To me, it’s environmental terrorism,” said the Kanab rancher. “I’m really upset that he participated in taking millions [of dollars] away from the school system that he benefited from and he sits out there laughing at us.”

Noel told his GOP colleagues in the House that the state could miss out on $30 million in royalties over the next 15 years because those leases are now off-limits.

“Utah is in the gun sights of the environmental community,” Noel said, blasting the Obama administration for — in one month — reversing the opening of public lands, including near national parks, to drilling.

Noel urged the GOP caucus to galvanize in opposition to the recent shelving of the leases by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“We’re the Legislature, the ones who are supposed to have the control. It’s time to stand up and be counted.”

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Leases Canceled and Oil Companies Lie

archesCliff posted yesterday the breaking news that Obama’s new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had nullified the BLM’s illegal sale of leases to drill for gas and oil near Utah’s national parks.

The response from the oil industry was predictable:

But Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, a nonprofit association that represents independent natural gas and oil producers in the Intermountain West, said her group had “grave concerns” over the direction the new administration was taking.

“This is going to make it more difficult to develop the natural gas resources we need for our nation’s energy security,” she said. [emphasis added]

So what about this?

Drillers cutting back in Utah’s biggest gas field

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The frenzied pace of drilling in Utah’s biggest gas field, the Uinta Basin, has seen a big decline with falling petroleum prices and tight bank credit.

The number of rigs at work statewide is down to 23, half of the number as last August, according to figures the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining plans to release Wednesday.

Also, the number of gas wells completed in January was 63, down from 84 for the same month last year.

Most of Utah’s drilling activity takes place near Vernal in the Uinta Basin, where one player, Colorado-based Gasco Energy, says it called off an expensive experiment to do horizontal drilling, which can dramatically boost production.

Gasco cited declining prices for Rocky Mountain natural gas, which is hard to pipe out of the region.

You bet the oil companies want to tie up these leases, whether they develop them or not. Look at the thousands of leases for off-shore drilling they now own but have never developed. And still, they want more of those too. And they want to rip up the delicate Utah landscape for oilshale as well!

The oil companies are not interested in our security so much as their own profits. With oil prices so low, there will be no new development. The oil companies try to make themselves look like patriots in this debacle. Let’s not be deceived. It’s only about money.

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Breaking: Salazar Vindicates Tim DeChristopher. Press Conf Today!

Breaking: Interior Secretary Salazar to invalidate BUSH/BLM oil & gas leases auctioned on Decmber19th

I am directing my efforts to building Peaceful Uprising to encourage, train, support and defend those who will take nonviolent direct action to defend our future. – Tim, 2.4.2009

Tim DeChristopher will hold a press conference at 4pm today at the east side of the Utah State Capitol.   That’s today Feb 4, 2009

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Another OneUtah Site Hits National News

The Tim story is still cooking! Thanks again to everyone for the tremendous support.

I’m also pleased to mark this occasion as the third* time one of my ‘action’ websites made the Nationals… This time though, on the new ManyOne platform.  I LOVE that platform.

Go there and try it. (watch video). Its very cool and very free.

CBS Evening News: One Man’s Bid To Save A Scenic Landscape

 Environmentalist Placed False Bids At Auction To Save Land From Oil Drilling

Correction: They raised $95k on, not $45k.

Note: * Other One Utah Sites on National News

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Prison Time for Utah Hero Means Death to an Entire Generation

tim-courtneysargent200Its been my great honor getting to know Tim DeChristopher since his brilliant act of civil disobedience. But it is especially sobering to consider that he could easily end up in prison. I understand, the willingness to suffer years of incarceration is part of the romanticism of civil disobedience. But it this case, it would send a devastating signal to this generation.

One of Tim’s most ardent and more senior supporters chaffed at the decision to raise money to cover the $45,000 bond on the leases exclaiming, “What’s the point of civil disobedience if you’re not willing to go to jail?”

Just the day before, after meeting with the lawyers, Tim quietly corrected me when I used the word ‘jail’. “It’s federal prison” he reminded me.  That hit me like a ton of bricks. Tim is your average exceptionally bright, humble and brave guy trying to do the right thing and suddenly faced with years in a federal prison.

Tim is at the mercy of a politically motivated federal prosecutor in a state that – lets get serious – HATES environmentalists and loves Oil & Gas jobs. If you need to be reminded, take a moment to review a few Utahn’s sentiments toward Robert Redford.

“Please know that by stopping the gas and oil development many families and communities will be hurt tremendously.”

“Interesting that all these rich people are so ‘for the environment’ and so out of touch of the rest of the people, their neighbor, brother, sister, other human beings. At what point are they going to get it (probably never) that PEOPLE and their livelihoods are more important.”

“Can you say elitist snobs or environmental hippocrites [sic]?”

Unfortunately, we are not dealing with a simple matter of right and wrong or of justice and law. Tim is facing a complex combination of forces uninterested in the future and welfare of a college student who acted out of frustration by the failure of an entire movement to stop eight years of a devastating and illegal assault on the environment by the Bush administration.

Tim’s generation is looking at a worldwide scientific community telling us its probably too late; that the environment is past the tipping point. Tim’s generation has two choices: become hysterical, or do nothing. We wonder why today’s youth are so apathetic.

Lets send a message to Tim’s generation by doing everything we can to keep him out of ‘prison.’  The alternative will not only destroy Tim’s life, and justify the apathy, but it will also signal an entire generation to just give up.

Help us raise $45,000.00 by Jan 9th.  You can check our progress at*

Read Tim’s letter.

* We are over $18,000 as of this writing.

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Together We Stand

I thought I was acting alone. I thought what I did last Friday at the BLM oil and gas auction was just an individual act of civil disobedience against a fraudulent auction and against a cruel leadership indifferent to the future of my generation.Rosa Parks

I was wrong. What I have learned since then is that America is still a place where when you stand for what is right, you never stand alone. I can now see that I acted together with all Americans who respect the right as much as the law. I stood with Thoreau, Adams, Parks and Bob Moses. I now stand with the thousands who have expressed their solidarity with my act and will join me in Washington DC on March 2nd for the Capitol Climate Action.

The tremendous outpouring of support which I have received in response to disrupting the BLM’s oil sale has been overwhelming for me. I can only assume that the thanks many of you have offered is not thanks for doing what you won’t, but thanks for awakening your own sense of efficacy. My actions were just the striking of the match head. The purpose of a match is not to light the world by its own flame, but to ignite the tinder and kindling which keeps the fire going. If my act is to be relevant, it must ignite the tinder of grassroots uprising which will burn the fires of change around the world.

The tinder of support already burning has given me hope that this country is ready to meet the urgent challenge before us. That challenge is clear and cannot be understated. James Hansen, the IPCC, Al Gore and others have warned in no uncertain terms that the next couple years are our last chance to take drastic action in response to climate change if we are to protect our civilization as we know it. I believe America is ready to make the sacrifices necessary to rise to that Tim DeChristopher

For decades the environmental movement has been dominated by cadre-based organizations who told the rest of us to just let the professionals handle things. We have been told that the best we can do is to sign an internet petition and send our donations so that Big Green could hire lobbyists to fight our battles. The upwelling of grassroots energy is finally responding that we are willing and able to do much more. We have discovered that hope for genuine change resides not on K Street or with Obama, but in ourselves. This uprising holds true to the faith that our heritage of civil disobedience is not dead and that we can again make this a government of the people.

In 2009 our new Congress and new President will decide our fate. They will either show heroic courage in standing up to powerful interests and defending our future, or they will demonstrate tragic failure. Failure to respond to this unprecedented crisis. Yet they can only follow the trail we break. So as they decide, we will be there. We will be in Washington on March 2nd, and we will be in every community in America all year long refusing to surrender the future of all for the short term profits of the few. Every one of us faces our own opportunities to make a difference. By responding to those individual challenges to our conscious, together we will defend our future.

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