Batsh*t bafflegab?; flatearthers not on a ball; trolling the troll

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


UTAH: Terms of endeerment.
Pam King

Esquire magazine writer Charles P. Pierce finds himself flummoxed by the novel constitutional interpretations, or “bafflegab,” of Mike Lee, the senior Republican U.S. senator from Utah. In a speech to The Federalist Society, Lee warned that America will face another civil war unless a host of “unconstitutional” federal programs are eliminated, including funding for K through 12 public education, the Interstate Highway System, workforce regulation, the Department of Commerce and especially what Lee calls “the huge glut of federally owned land.” Lee also claimed that Social Security, federal child labor laws and Medicare have no basis in law. His conclusion is stark: The country must choose between “federalism or violence.” Pierce’s own conclusion is equally stark: The Utah senator’s grasp of the actual Constitution, he says, is “eccentric,” if not outright “batsh*t.” 

Some 500 people paid from $199 to $349 each to take part in a “Flat Earth International Conference” in Denver, the Denver Post reports. According to its website, the conference promised to “uncover and debunk pseudo-scientific ‘facts’ while presenting the true evidence which shockingly points to our existence on a flat, stationary plane.” As the YouTube channel “Globebusters” explains, “We’re not on an actual ball. It’s a plain and the outsides of it are being held in. We believe the oceans are being held in by Antarctica, and it is not necessarily a continent so much as it is a boundary that encompasses the oceans.” On their website, conference organizers helpfully answered common questions, such as, “Will I fall off the edge?” Rest assured, the answer to that is “no.”

The historic wildfires in Northern California, which killed scores of people and destroyed thousands of homes, spurred some public officials to find a scapegoat. Apparently forgetting that he is not in charge of the Forest Service, which is managed by the Agriculture Department, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke told Breitbart News that “it’s not a time for finger pointing,” even as he pointed the finger at “radical environmentalists” for interfering with forest management: “This is on them,” he said firmly. For his part, The Hill reports, President Donald Trump blamed federal bureaucrats, accusing forest managers, in a widely quoted remark, of failing to “take care of the floors. You know, the floors of the forest, very important.” The president added that “Finland spent a lot of time raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.” Fire behavior these days, much like the behavior of some political leaders, is becoming increasingly unpredictable. In an effort to get beyond blame, the Los Angeles Times talked to a number of fire experts. One of them, Jonathan Pangburn of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that when the Camp Fire spread from the forest to the town of Paradise, it changed from a wildfire to an “urban conflagration”: Fierce winds sent burning embers through the air and ignited one house after another. “It was some of the most intense fire behavior that I have ever witnessed,” Pangburn said. For Jack Cohen, a retired fire research scientist, one important lesson was that houses and other buildings needed a “defensible perimeter”; he cites the experience of medical staffers and patients from the Paradise hospital who found their escape blocked by flames. They abandoned their vehicle and survived by climbing onto the roof of a home. There, they cleared debris from the gutters, wet down the roof and managed to keep the fire at bay even as it consumed the houses around them. “A house that doesn’t burn is the best place to be during a wildfire,” Cohen concluded.

In old Norse legends, a troll was a demon; these days, trolls are another kind of demon, those snarky commenters on the internet. But then there’s the magnetic attraction of “Isak Heartstone,” a 15-foot-tall smiling troll made of recycled wood by the Danish artist Thomas Dambo. The resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, placed Dambo’s troll along a trail behind a residential neighborhood, reports Atlas Obscura, and in a single year, Isak’s soulful eyes attracted thousands of visitors. Leigh Girvin, a 46-year resident of the area, loved the troll, too, but said its popularity caused serious problems: “Imagine 10,000 people knocking on your door asking for directions.” The troll had many local defenders, and arguments in town about keeping it were heated. “This is what trolls do,” said Girvin. “They bring out our best and our worst.” Finally, on Nov. 15, the town dismantled the troll board by board and removed it. Only temporarily, though: Isak will return to be reconstructed in a less populated area. At the least, said Haley Littleton, a spokesperson for the town, everyone learned about the power of public art: “We felt a kind of pride and amazement at what creative art was able to do.” 

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.

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