Posts Tagged ‘Cliven Bundy’

So the Freak Show descended upon the Nevada state capital of Carson City today, and Jon Ralston filed a report. The lede:

“Fellow Nevadans, we are a joke.”

Well, gosh, let’s not put too fine a point on it, Jon.

Cliven Bundy rounded up some supporters to rally in support of A.B. 408, sponsored by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, which declares a swath of federal land the “common property of the citizens of the state.” It prohibits the federal government from claiming water rights and owning any land in the state unless it’s a military operation or the Legislature approves of the occupation.

Favorite line of the Ralston article (other than the fact that Nevadans are a joke): “Fiore, aptly described by Vegas Seven’s Lissa Townsend Rodgers as ‘like a Kardashian, only with the power to change laws.'” Hmmm. I can think of another prominent woman Republican politician for whom that description seems most appropriate. But she’s not from Nevada, let alone the continental United States, so I digress.

Here’s Ralston:

These geniuses are no ordinary Mensa legislators: they concocted an idea – to somehow take back our federal lands! – that violates both the state and federal constitutions.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau had declared the measure, Assembly Bill 408, patently absurd (my words, not theirs) and still sponsor Michele Fiore encouraged the Bundy-backing horde to come and allow the hearing in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee to occur.

“In conclusion, it is the opinion of this office that the provisions of A.B. 408, if enacted, would be constitutionally invalid,” the LCB wrote last week. “The authority of the United States to acquire and control the public lands located in this State is extensive, and ample bases exist upon which court could invalidate any state laws which are in direct conflict with existing federal laws concerning those public lands or which are hostile to or interfere with the exercise of federal authority over public lands.”

And yet the rally and the hearing went on as planned, a combination of “Deliverance” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” complete with mentions of the Magna Carta, We the People and, of course, freedom. Always freedom.

And the things they said. Our elected officials, fellow Nevadans.

Fiore, who once vowed, O.J. Simpson-like, that she would not rest until she found which lawmakers gave away our lands, clearly does not understand that Nevada ceded the land to the federal government 150 years ago in the Enabling Acts: “That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States…”

Fiore, apparently more at home with pop-up books than history books, also said during the hearing: “They are basically saying our Constitution is unconstitutional. I don’t agree with our Legislative Counsel Bureau.”

Fiore, aptly described by Vegas Seven’s Lissa Townsend Rodgers as “like a Kardashian, only with the power to change laws,” actually invoked “The Beverly Hillbillies” to make her case for the bill, showing a lack of self-awareness that is breathtaking.

But she was not alone in embarrassing herself during this embarrassing spectacle.

Chairwoman Robin Titus declared at one point, “The federal government does not own our land. We own our land. The federal government manages our land.”

Sayeth Jim Wheeler, who once talked about excising Clark County from Nevada and voting for slavery if his constituents wanted him to, said: “I don’t believe the federal government should own one inch of land in Nevada.”

(Anyone want to guess what it would cost for Nevada to manage that land? But this is from the same guy who just released a budget that increases spending by nearly 10 percent and somehow doesn’t raise any taxes.)

Sit back, fellow Nevadans, and understand these people have the power to make laws that govern your lives. They don’t understand the Constitution or possess common sense. They live in an alternate universe, where if you say something, it makes it true, where the black hats wear the white hats, where up is down and dumb is smart.

Yes, the Bureau of Land Management mishandled the raid on the rancher’s property a year ago, but the near-bloodbath occurred because The Bundy and Fiore Gang encouraged militias from other states to come to Bunkerville, armed folks that Sen. Dean Heller, Sean Hannity and others would later call patriots. Patriots!

Fellow Nevadans our schools are withering. Our roads are bumpy. Our social safety net is porous.

But we have time to waste an entire legislative day enabling people who claim they are conservatives but don’t want to meet their obligations, who invoke the Constitution but don’t understand the Constitution and who have found sustenance from lawmakers who don’t care that what they are doing is obviously unconstitutional. Even one of those kids made to hold those offensive signs might understand that.

So as public service to one and all, including our conservative followers (and you know who you are), I hereby present a few items that caught my attention this week.

First up, Zach Baron writes at GQ about his days hanging out at the Bundy Ranch when the second revolutionary war was fought against the dirty federal agents. My favorite part of the article:

“I will warn you,” Cooper says, when I ask where exactly I might find those latrines, “they’re kind of full.”

I wander out to them. The latrines are indeed kind of full. My eyes water with the smell of freedom.

Yes, the Bundy Ranch was full of shit. A good read, nevertheless.

Second, Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker takes a look at the recently unveiled platform of the Republican Party of Texas. “[M]ost everything Texan tends to be exaggerated,” writes Hertzberg, “But if you want a glimpse of what a nontrivial and apparently growing segment of one of America’s two great political parties believes in its heart of hearts, and what it says when it is essentially talking to itself—well, you’ve just been given one.”

We learn that the Texas Legislature should nullify—indeed, “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify”—any old federal laws it doesn’t like. Unelected federal bureaucrats should all be eliminated because, you know, we don’t actually need to run the government. And of course, the favorite of outraged conservatives everywhere: All federal “enforcement activities” within the borders of Texas “must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.” Because, as we all know, the county sheriff is the highest authority in the land.

We also learn that Republicans are deep, philosophical sorts. The platform includes this gem that will have you pondering the role of government in our lives for days:

Socialism breeds mediocrity. America is exceptional. Therefore, the Republican Party of Texas opposes socialism in all of its forms.

There’s much more where that came from. This isn’t the work of a couple of crackpots in the deepest, darkest part of Texas: This is the official platform of the Republican Party of Texas. Apparently, this nontrivial and growing segment of America is batshit crazy, and felt the need to put it in writing.

And finally, thirty-nine years ago this weekend the movie Jaws became a summer blockbuster. In honor of that, Mother Jones has a chat between Emily Dreyfuss and Ben Dreyfuss, the children of actor Richard Dreyfuss, who portrayed Hooper (or is it Hopper? Even his children get confused.) A fun read leading into a holiday weekend.

Happy Fourth everyone!

You just knew it was coming, didn’t you?

More after the jump.


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the face of conservatism.

For days, conservatives have been outraged that the Bureau Of Land Management actually attempted to to round up Clevin Bundy’s trespassing cattle from public land, exactly as the federal court had ordered be done. (The court has found numerous times that Clevin Bundy is a deadbeat rancher who is illegally using the public’s land to enrich his own private enterprise.)

This morning, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic took note of conservative hypocrisy by highlighting a 2001 Associated Press study that described the systematic theft of land and property owned by black Americans.

In an 18-month investigation, The Associated Press documented a pattern in which black Americans were cheated out of their land or driven from it through intimidation, violence and even murder.

In some cases, government officials approved the land takings; in others, they took part in them. The earliest occurred before the Civil War; others are being litigated today. Some of the land taken from black families has become a country club in Virginia, oil fields in Mississippi, a major-league baseball spring training facility in Florida …

The AP—in an investigation that included interviews with more than 1,000 people and the examination of tens of thousands of public records in county courthouses and state and federal archives—documented 107 land takings in 13 Southern and border states.

In those cases alone, 406 black landowners lost more than 24,000 acres of farm and timber land plus 85 smaller properties, including stores and city lots. Today, virtually all of this property, valued at tens of millions of dollars, is owned by whites or by corporations.

As Coates says, “I’ve been laughing my way through the Cliven Bundy fiasco because, as Jamelle Bouie suggests, there may be no better example of racist privilege than the right to flout the government’s authority and then back its agents down at gunpoint. Bouie asks, hypothetically, how we’d respond if Bundy were black. Inasmuch as this is even a question, American history has already answered it.”

And yet, conservatives continue to portray themselves as the aggrieved party, not only in the Bundy case, but in American society as a whole.


The thing to do here, as Chris Hayes points out, is not to argue that Bundy should be subject to the kind of violence that black people who find themselves in dispute with the government’s agents often are. (There’s nothing for liberals to cheer about in a running gunfight over grazing fees.) The thing to do is to recognize the limits of our sympathies and try to extend them. “How about widening the aperture,” Hayes asks, “for the tyranny you see all around you?”


From one of the organizers of Burning Man:

Come celebrate TOTAL FREEDOM at BUNDYFEST, just across the road from the Cliven Bundy Ranch, in Bunkerville, Nevada! 240 bands, 24 hours a day, for a SOLID ROCKIN’ MONTH!!!!
*PENIS ERECTION CONTEST: Erect the largest penis in the open desert, win valuable prize! (tbd)

After all, those lands are free for anyone to use. Right, Mr. Bundy?

Sometimes you have to feel a little bit of sympathy for Rand Paul. It must be really hard to go out every day and make statements designed to win votes in the 2016 primary without any regard for honesty. That is a dangerous minefield to navigate when you have no beliefs of your own and every position is politically calculated.

That, and being named Rand. At least his father didn’t name him Ayn.

Rand’s latest fail is deciding to jump into the debate over Cliven Bundy after Harry Reid called the armed protesters who set up sniper position and planned to use women as human shields domestic terrorists. Paul decided there were more Republican primary votes if he opposed Reid.

“I think there’s an opposite thing to what Harry Reid said, and that’s that the federal government shouldn’t violate the law. Nor should we have 48 federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams,” Paul asserted.”

Okay, now that’s appropriately wingnutty and right up Rand’s alley of taking all sides on any issue. Gun rights shouldn’t be restricted, but BLM employees shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns. After all, federal employees who work in the wilderness never face situations where they may need to protect themselves, right?

Anyway, Rand can’t stop there.

“Apparently, this is what I’m hearing,” he continued, “The family had a lease with Clark county for over 130 years, arbitrarily in recent years the federal government thought that they were going to override the county lease and they were going to assume control of it but they never asked for permission from the rancher.”

Where the hell did he hear that line of bullshit? I don’t think anyone is trying to make that entirely fact-free argument and Rand just pulled it out of his nether region. After all, what gets the wingnuts more riled up than the evil Obama coming to take their personal property at gunpoint? But that’s not Rand’s only recent statement that smells like it came out of a 1 year old’s diaper.

“When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan … Did he say, “oh let’s just cut taxes for low-income people?” No, he said forthrightly, “let’s cut everyone’s taxes” … The top rate was 70% … he lowered it … to 28% … and 20 million jobs were created.”

I’m glad you asked, Rand. Bill Clinton was President the last time 20 million jobs were created in our economy (22.9 million). Unfortunately, Reagan fell a little bit short of 20 million at 16.1 million.

These are just a couple of examples where Rand makes stupid statements for political reasons. In this he differs from his father. Ron Paul is able to let his freak flag fly proudly because he is in a safe Texas district and will never be voted out of office. Ron also clouds his idiocy in normal sounding rhetoric. I’ve always said that Ron Paul sounds pretty good until you listen to what he’s saying. Then he sounds absolutely batshit crazy. Rand, on the other hand, does not have the conviction that his father has. Rand has a history of palling around with racists, like his father, but I’m not sure it’s because he’s racist; it’s because he’s using his father’s network to get ahead in politics. Rand opposes using drones against suspected terrorists, but he’s just fine with using them against someone who robs a convenience store here in the US. This is just an example of how he operates on every issue.

Now Rand has a big decision to make. The Kentucky Assembly has decided not to take up a bill put forward by Rand’s buddies allowing him to run for reelection as State Senator and run for President at the same time. Rand can no longer count on still receiving his government handout from the Senate when he loses the race for the Presidential nomination. Again, it’s hard to be Rand.

I can’t wait for the 2016 primary season to kick off because Rand’s opponents are going to have a ball kicking him around.

By now we’re all aware of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who “defied” the “tyrannical” federal government this past weekend. He’s become a cause celeb of the extreme right, because… because… because he’s not complying with unconstitutional laws that nobody seems able to identify.

See, for over a hundred years the Bundy clan has been grazing their personal cattle on public land near their ranch. For the longest time, nobody said much about it, and each generation of Bundys grew more and more to view the public land as their own, to do with as they wished. They even concocted novel theories to justify that belief, such as claiming they were there first and therefore had dibs to the land in perpetuity. Never mind that just three decades before the first Bundy arrived and homesteaded, the area was part of a different country. And before that, there were these other people we call Indians living there, but they don’t count in Bundy world.

Then along came the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. This probably really pissed off Cliven’s grandpa. According to today’s conservatives, this was just another example of federal overreach that would escalate over the twentieth century. What they fail to acknowledge is that by the time Congress passed the act, it had become painfully clear that management of public lands was necessary.

This became apparent even to politicians in Washington, D.C. when a Dust Bowl storm from the Great Plains reached the East Coast for the first time in May 1934. The Dust Bowl is considered the worst man-made ecological and agriculture disaster in U.S. history, brought about in part by poor farming practices. Once its effects reached the nation’s capital, Congress moved to regulate the use of public land in order to stop the kind of behavior that laid waste to once farmable land.

The Taylor Grazing Act was one result, passed just two months after Washington experienced the Dust Bowl firsthand. Its purpose was to “stop injury to the public grazing lands [excluding Alaska] by preventing overgrazing and soil deterioration; to provide for their orderly use, improvement, and development; [and] to stabilize the livestock industry dependent upon the public range.” It wasn’t a matter of federal overreach; it was a matter of taking proper care of a valuable national resources on behalf of the people of the United States. It was obvious that the farmers and ranchers wouldn’t do it themselves.

People like Bundy hate the Bureau of Land Management. Where did the BLM come from? Again, Congress recognized that management of public land was necessary, even as far back as the nineteenth century, when timber was a valuable fuel source and construction material, and there were worries about its depletion. Congress authorized the executive branch to administer public land, and one of the eventual results was the creation of the BLM in 1946, which now handles things like grazing permits.

Meanwhile, the Bundys kept right on using public land like they always did; that is, until 1993. That’s when the BLM issued new regulations pertaining to the public land Bundy was using, in part to protect the desert tortoise, which by then was threatened with extinction. The BLM reduced the amount of grazing allowed on the public land Bundy was using, and required him to pay a fee to continue using it.

Well, Bundy doesn’t even recognize the existence of the federal government, so he surely wasn’t going to pay them anything or adhere to their regulations. He nobly tried paying the county, but they refused because it’s not their land and not their money to collect. So he just went on using the public resources as he wished and ignored the fees altogether. Not only that, he started grazing cattle on additional public land because, well, he’s a Bundy and they’ve been there for a long time, so they deserve to help themselves to whatever they want. Some people might consider that to be stealing from the American people, but to Bundy’s defenders, those people are clearly lacking in morals and don’t understand the constitution.

To no one’s surprise, Bundy’s actions caused the BLM to revoke his permit in 1994. A court judgement in 1998 ordered Bundy to remove his livestock and to pay the federal government trespass damages for any livestock he left behind. This didn’t phase Bundy because, after all, he does’t believe the federal government exists. Finally, last year federal judge Lloyd D. George — a Nevada native and Ronald Reagan appointee, not some East Coast elite liberal — issued yet another ruling against Bundy.

In court, Bundy actually argued — again — that the United States doesn’t own the land in question. Unfortunately for Cliven, the judge actually does understand things like laws and the Constitution. Explaining the obvious in his judgment against Bundy, George wrote, “[T]he public lands in Nevada are the property of the United States because the United States has held title to those public lands since 1848, when Mexico ceded the land to the United States.”

Bundy made other specious claims, such as that the state of Nevada’s right to the land overrides the federal’s, and that the Property Clause of the United States Constitution only applies to federal land outside the borders of states, etc. Judge George must have stifled a chuckle or two at the amateurishness of it all. In any event, the court found that “the public interest is negatively affected by Bundy’s continuing trespass,” that Bundy had to remove his livestock within 45 days, and that the United States was entitled to seize and remove any of his cattle that remain after that date. Needless to say, Bundy didn’t comply. The public interest? That’s just collectivist mumbo jumbo meant to stifle Bundy’s freedom! Marner has the rest of the details of the ensuing standoff in his post Over The Edge.

You can certainly argue that the BLM’s actions were ham-fisted and over-the-top, but Bundy’s legal claims are without merit. Nevertheless, conservatives continue to claim he is a victim of “unconstitutional laws,” although the specifics fail them. These days, conservatives have a habit of rallying around some pretty odd causes. As already noted, Bundy doesn’t recognize the federal government as legitimate. “I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada,” he recently told a radio reporter. “…I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But, I don’t recognize the United States Government as even existing.” He also told the Los Angeles Times, “I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws.” Eventually, this won’t end well for Bundy, and it will be nobody’s fault but his own.

Over the Edge

Posted: April 15, 2014 by Marner in Current Events
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been following the Cliven Bundy story this past week, including Casper and Watson’s interactions, and it strikes me as the spark that could drive the right wing extremists over the edge. We have a man putting himself forward as just a simple rancher trying to make a living and the extremists are using him as an opportunity to start the shooting war they’ve been wanting since January 2009. First let’s look at the facts in the case:

  1. Cliven Bundy paid grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prior to 1993 without protest. When he was told he had to reduce the number of cattle grazing on his leased lots in order to protect tortoise habitat, he stopped paying fees. All ranchers in the area had to abide by the new limit, not just Bundy. BLM revoked his lease in 1994 because Bundy did not renew the lease.
  2. Bundy continued to graze his cattle on the BLM land without paying the lease. BLM took Bundy to court and in 1998 the court ordered Bundy to remove the cattle or pay a $200 per day fine on each cow that remained. Bundy appealed and lost the appeal in 1999. Bundy ignored the ruling and kept his cattle on the BLM land.
  3. Over the next 14 years, Bundy not only kept his cattle on the land, but increased the number of head and allowed them to graze on land that was not in the original lease. During this time, BLM tracked the number of cattle Bundy had on the property and tried to negotiate a settlement. In 2012, BLM even offered to round up the cattle for Bundy, sell them to a market of Bundy’s choosing, and give him all of the money from the sale, even though he had already racked up over $1,000,000 in unpaid fees.
  4. In 2013, a third federal court ruled again for BLM and the ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court in February of this year. BLM was authorized to remove the cattle from their land.

Those are the basic facts. After Bundy was told he had to reduce the number, not remove, the cattle on the tracts that he leased from BLM, he had an epiphany that the federal government was illegitimate and could not rightfully own any land in Nevada. His theory was based on the residents of the Nevada territory voting for statehood and giving up title to public lands as stated in the Nevada State Constitution. Bundy’s position is that once Nevada became a state, the territory’s residents’ vote could not give up state lands to the federal government. Bundy all of a sudden decided the federal government didn’t legally exist.

The first thing the facts show is that Bundy is a freeloader who has been scamming the government for free grazing land for over 20 years. He is no different than the person who moves into an empty house and claims it for their own. It would be one thing if that were all, but it’s not. Bundy is also an amoral who is more than happy to put others’ safety and lives at risk in order to continue receiving his ill-gotten gains. He has turned his scam into a cause for the extreme fringe of the right wing that is just itching for an opportunity to trade shots with the government.

The first to rally around Bundy’s fake cause is Richard Mack, a former Arizona county sheriff. Mack was at the Bundy standoff and said that the extremists planned to use women as human shields if any shots were fired.

“It was a tactical plot that I was trying to get them to use,” Mack said in comments flagged by The Raw Story. “If they’re going to start killing people, I’m sorry, but to show the world how ruthless these people are, women needed to be the first ones shot.”

“I’m sorry, that sounds horrible,” he continued. “I would have put my own wife or daughters there, and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die. I would gone next, I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here. I’m willing to die here.”

Mack is actually willing to die to help a scammer avoid paying grazing fees and abiding by federal law. At least that’s what he says. It’s clear, though, that he is willing to sacrifice his wife and daughters for the cause.

Bundy has gathered not only Mack, but other extreme groups, such as the Minutemen and Oath Keepers. For those who don’t remember, the Minutemen was a southern border vigilante group founded by Shawna Forde, who was later convicted of murdering a 9 year girl and her father, as well as seriously wounding the girl’s mother. Forde was sentenced to death in 2011. Another Minutemen founder, Chris Simcox, was arrested last year for child molestation. Oath Keepers is a so-called “patriot” group that is gleefully planning for the day when they are able to get into a shooting war with the federal government.

These types of groups (Minutemen, Oath Keepers, and Sovereign Citizens) have seen a large surge since 2008. They spout crazy theories, such as Obama is planning to start a race war, to keep their followers frothing and itching to pull the trigger. Luckily, 95% of the people who join and support these groups are merely paying lip service. They want the predictions to come true, but they aren’t willing to put their lives on the line to make it happen. Unfortunately, there remains 5%. These are the “true believers” who will do anything to see their vision of a second civil war come to pass. Some of these people, like Mack, were in Nevada last weekend and only the cooler heads of BLM kept it from becoming a bloodbath. And it would have been a bloodbath. Keep in mind, these are the type of people who believe David Koresh was innocent and Janet Reno started the fire at Waco. These are the people who believe Randy Weaver didn’t put his wife and child in the line of fire when he forced a standoff with federal authorities. And these are the people who believe Obama wants to kill all of those god-fearing white folk.

Bundy has to be brought to account for his flouting of federal laws and his theft from the American taxpayers. The government will try to resolve this without anyone getting hurt, most likely by taking Bundy himself into custody for contempt and holding him until the cattle are removed from federal lands. However, these extremist groups will do everything they can to make sure someone does get hurt, and when they do, the government must come down on them hard and fast.

So the fringe of the conservative right — and it is the fringe — rallies around a deadbeat rancher who thinks he’s entitled to use the public’s land like it’s his own private property. A stark contrast to the outrage when some protesters sat on sidewalks.

See, that was different. To the very same conservatives now rallying around Cliven Bundy, those sidewalk guys were “occupying public property then breaking laws to stay there.” The nerve. And the kicker: “Once these people are finally gone, how much taxpayer money is it going to take to fix the messes they left behind?” It’s always about money with these people, isn’t it?