“The claim that this is some constitutional right to mine is just facially and legally ridiculous.” Nick Cady Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands on Jefferson Public Radio piece.
Because I am aging I can look back at a long set of experiences and make comments based on the collective impact or impression of something. Today I am reflecting on the idea of something “sounding right” not being the same as “being right.” I am sure that “we are a Christian nation” sounds perfect to some, but it is not true. I am sure too that when Cliven Bundy said that the federal government had no authority over him and his cattle that “sounded right” to him too even though it was built on a tower of specious arguments. And now as the suction dredge mining moratorium goes into effect in 2016, I am sure that Oregon suction dredge miners who are saying that suction dredge mining is a “right” think that “sounds right” as well.
Perhaps it is the fault of those Holiday Inn Express commercials that everyone with a mouth suddenly becomes a legal or science expert but at some point folks need to take a serious, self-assessment and understand that struggling through high school is not a stepping stone towards being a constitutional scholar, brain surgeon, climate scientist or other highly technical position.
This is not completely about intelligence but rather similar to thinking that a Swiss Army knife is the only tool you will ever need to work on your car. The Swiss Army knife is a wonderful and praise-worthy tool but it is not a torque wrench. Suction dredge miners talking about suction dredging as a “right” (suction dredging is actually a “process” which is subject to regulations) is really a lot like a Swiss Army knife trying to measure foot-pounds of torque.
Certainly the motorized miners are fine spokespeople for their avocation and are passionate, but they are simply not trained or otherwise equipped to speak authoritatively on the legal aspects of this topic. The same applies when the miners talk about impacts of their activities on salmonids, food chains and the hydro-dynamic qualities of streams. Not even a stay in a Holiday Inn Express will save them here.
Although I rightfully single out these miners here, this criticism applies to a broad group of Americans who think that watching the nightly news on Fox or listening to talk radio are adequate and appropriate substitutes for academic achievement or informed reason when they are not. It is with wry irony and great sadness that I watch the panic of those understanding that the GOP brand is rusting and ready to crumble because "the base" they created specifically for a Donald Trump-like candidate is rising on its wholly manufactured legs and howling the crazy echo of their own rhetoric—because it “sounds right.” The Oregon suction dredge moratorium, and the California one too, are good starts in turning the tide but we need one in Washington as well and then so much more to switch us from a pattern of embracing what “sounds right” to one that emphasizes what actually is “right.”