Good pranks are always fun. They’re really a hoot when the entity being pranked is the Bush administration (less than three weeks to go!) And so, Neon Babylon raises a glass to Mr. Tim De Christopher, the coolest monkey-wrencher since the fictional Hayduke roamed the desert west.
De Christopher is a 27-year-old student at the University of Utah, and one of the many who was greatly concerned about the flash auction of 150,000 acres of public lands in the southern and eastern parts of that extraordinary state being hurriedly put together by Bushco. Being put together a little too quickly, as in a deal with a very bad odor. The head of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called it “a fire sale, the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.” Robert Redford, an actor who actually has an informed opinion concerning matters Utahn, said simply, “It’s criminal.”
So there was De Christopher, at the BLM office in Salt Lake City on the morning of Dec. 19, along with about 200 other unhappy folks. He thought about the times he had written letters to congressmen, had protested outside of government offices, and had signed petitions. “What the environmental movement has been doing in the last 20 years hasn’t worked,” he told the Salt Lake City Tribune later. “There comes a time to take a stand.” And then, following a positively inspired hunch, he took one.
He left the protest in front of the BLM office, headed upstairs, and registered to be a part of the auction action. Then, he began to bid. Over the next couple of hours, De Christopher showed that an auction paddle can be a far more effective “monkey-wrenching” tool than a tree spike or sugar in a gas tank. He bid on every parcel, driving up the prices on many, and won 10 for himself, at a total tab of $1.8 million. Finally, the real oil people and BLM staffers began to catch on that they were being hornswaggled by some goofus in a big red parka who sure didn’t look like a Conoco executive. That’s when a couple of cops came over and asked Mr. Big Bidder to come with them into the next room for a bit of a credit check, whereupon De Christopher ’fessed up that he didn’t have any money whatever and no intention of paying for the land that he had just “purchased.” And that’s when the feds realized they had just taken a cream pie to the kisser.
De Christopher’s act has truly gummed up the works. Those 10 parcels where he was the top bid can’t be put back up for auction again until February. By then, the president will be Mr. Obama, and members of his transition team have already stated that this thing in Utah is a complete fiasco. Tim may well face charges of some kind. So far, none. In the meantime, one wonders if he’s created a new strategy for eco-terrorism: Eco-nomic, as opposed to Eco-logic.
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