Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bundy vs BLM

Everyone's been excitedly reporting/pontificating on the situation in Nevada between rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management.  So, I may as well join the chatter.

The root of the conflict is the fact that Mr. Bundy ceased paying grazing fees to the BLM in 1993, after he "fired" them for not fulfilling what he says is their obligation to work with the ranchers to manage the range land and instead using the rancher's fees against them by changing the classification of the land to protected habitat for the desert tortoise and actively working against the interests of the ranchers.

The government has since gone to court and won two judgments in federal court ordering Mr. Bundy to remove his cattle from the disputed property.  He has consistently refused, saying he doesn't recognize federal authority over what he considers state land and his pre-emptive grazing rights, a legacy of his ancestors' settling of the new territory acquired as a part of the Louisiana Purchase.  He says that this is a matter for the state to settle and the feds should stay out of it.  He also claims that after he ceased paying his grazing fees to the federal government he tried to make the payments to the state but was refused.  Various state authorities have said they have no record of him making any attempt to pay the fees to them, adding that they wouldn't have been able to accept such payment because the land is owned by the federal government, not the state or county.

I want to make clear from the start that, from a philosophical perspective, I am 100% behind Mr. Bundy.  He, and the other ranchers, have spent 10's and 100's of thousands of dollars over the decades maintaining the land, building and maintaining roads & bridges, digging waterholes and keeping them clear and flowing, building fences and keeping them in proper condition, etc.  The BLM was created with the original intent of working with the ranchers to regulate the land usage so as to forestall overgrazing that would devastate the land, rendering it a barren desert.  It is clear that the BLM is no longer working with the ranchers, but against them, heeding instead the strident calls of environmentalists.

Unfortunately, none of that matters.  From a strictly legal perspective, Mr. Bundy hasn't got a (legal) leg to stand on.  Aside from his arguments being twice dismissed by the courts, there's the not-so-little matter of the Nevada state constitution expressly stating that deed to the property rests with the federal government.  It can be (and has been) argued that the Constitutional provision allowing for the government to acquire territory was intended solely as a means for the new country's government to create new states and expand it's reach.  Unfortunately, that wasn't made plain.  And, as has become the norm in legal wrangling, if it isn't specifically prohibited, it's allowed.  At least as far as the government goes (it used to be understood to be the other way around, with the government not allowed what wasn't expressly set forth as permitted while the people were given the rights to everything that wasn't expressly prohibited).  So, in this matter, in this narrow finding, I have to come down on the side of the government's right to evict Mr. Bundy and his cattle from the property for non-payment of fees owed.

Now, there are some interesting little tidbits on the sidelines cluttering up the playing field and bringing into question the motives behind the actions taken by the BLM.  The first is, since when does the government send over 200 heavily armed and armored men (including several snipers!) to descend on a single family over what is essentially a dispute over nonpayment of fees (the government claims that it is owed appx. $1.1M in grazing fees.  Contrast that with Mr. Al Sharpton, who reportedly owes more than $1.9M in unpaid taxes and, far from being targeted by sharp-shooters, headlines a fund raiser with President Barack Obama).  Also, I fail to see where the removal of his "trespass cattle" equates to defacto rustling and allows the government to take possession.  Unless it is claiming them in lieu of payment, a claim that hasn't been made.

In addition, there are the comments made by the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, the Honorable Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, who has labeled the Bundy's, as well as their (sometimes armed) supporters "domestic terrorists".  Senator Reid and his oldest son have connections with a Chinese solar energy concern who wishes to construct a multi-billion dollar solar farm on property just to the north of the Bundy ranch.  This land is also part of the protected tortoise habitat.  Far from sending armed men to dispute this project in the name of the threatened tortoise, the BLM has no problem with the project.  HOWEVER, regulations do require that they mitigate the impact on the tortoise by relocating them to alternate habitat.  Guess where the proposed relocation habitat site is?  Yep.  The Bundy ranch.  Another interesting facet to this is the fact that the head of the BLM is a former chief political aide to Mr. Reid.  Mr. Reid has a reputation for somewhat shady real estate deals in the past that have enabled him to create a multi-million dollar net worth on a relatively minor public servant's salary.

There has been a temporary reprieve for the Bundy's and their cattle.  The feds have withdrawn and have released the cattle back to the rancher, citing concerns over the escalation of the confrontation (several dozen people have rallied to the Bundy's cause. Many of them also "just happened" to bring along their firearms) and the potential for a misstep on either side to result in violence.  They will be pursuing further court action to resolve the situation.  Meanwhile, many of the supports that came to the Bundy's defense have decided to remain, against the possibility of future covert actions by the BLM against the family, with some even going so far as to claim that this whole extravagant exercise in power by the government has been a trial run to see what kind of a reaction they would receive from the common citizens to the government's overt use of force, saying that while they aren't advocating armed action against the government they all "stand ready" to react to any future unconstitutional aggression by the government.

For now, it appears that things stand this way:  Bundy 1, BLM 0.

But the game is far from over.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Anarchy, noun: "The absence or denial of governmental authority or established order"

That's what most of us think of when the term is mentioned.  Total chaos.  There is, however, an alternate definition that is also found in the dictionary:

"A Utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government".

This is the definition favored by the Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street types.  The problem is, it's false.  Not the dictionary definition, but the reality behind it.  I got sent on this train of thought after a couple of interactions on Twitter this past week (yes, I know, the Bundy Ranch is bigger news right now.  I'll write about that after I've had time to digest some of the facts involved.  It's still pretty murky right now.)  One young lady despaired that "you conservatives" can't leave people alone.  "Why can't you let people do what they want to?  Who cares what other's do?", while a young(?) man had posted a couple Tweets extolling the virtues of anarchy and those tweets had garnered some few retweets and favs, indicating at least some agreement with his ideals.  Disturbed by this, I decided to work on this post and cross-post it to Twitter.  Maybe someone will read this and actually look into the reality behind the Utopian illusion.

The very idea of a Utopia goes all the way back to Plato's Republic, although I doubt many have even heard of the philosophy, much less actually read the work.  Instead, they take to heart what they assume to be the ideals: equal rights for all (men, women, either or neither), everyone shares equally in the bounty produced by the society, everyone's needs are provided for and no one faces the insecurity of the future.  It makes a very pretty picture, indeed.

There is a very great shock waiting for most who actually read Plato's words and see just how "fair" and "just" his Utopian society really would be.

To dramatize the difference, I've crafted the following conversation between an advocate of anarchy and an advocate of a system of rule by law (For those of you who know the reference, it may help to imagine the dialog in the voices of Mr. Hand, and Jeff Spicoli, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High):

Come on, man!  All your rules and stuff are keeping us down.  Isn't this supposed to be a free country?  We can do what we want!

What is it that you find so appealing about anarchy, Mr. Spicoli?  Don't you think we need rules?  Don't we need society?

Oh, no way, man!  Society is just a way for the man to keep the little guys down.  Everyone is equal!  Nobody has the right to tell someone else what to do.

Well, what would happen if everyone just stopped doing what they were supposed to do and just did whatever they wanted?

That would be sooo cool!  Everyone would be free to do what they wanted and they'd be happy.  If they wanted to spend the day surfing and partying at night?  Hey, bud, let's party!

Where would you get the things for the party?  You know, the beer and munchies?  Someone has to make that stuff.

Aww, there's plenty of that stuff!  The stores are full of it.  You're just letting yourself stay boxed in to the old ways, man.  You've got to get out and live a little!

Well, wait a minute.  If you don't work at a job, how are you going to buy what you want?  You're not just going to take it, are you?

Why not?  Those rich guys made all their money from me in the first place!  They've got plenty of money.  They can afford to give that stuff away now.  I have the right to the same stuff they've got!  They're no better than anyone else.  If they're too selfish to share, I have a right to take what I need.

Don't they have the right to keep what they earn?

They have more than they need.  They're just greedy pigs trying to keep the rest of us from having a decent life.

How are you going to get them to give it to you?  You don't think you can just walk up to their front door and demand they give you their stuff, do you?  What will you do when they refuse?

Have you looked around, man?  There are a lot more of us than there are them.  We have the power to take whatever we want.

And how are you going to stop someone else from taking what they want away from you?  Wait a minute!  "We"?  I thought you were an anarchist?  Why do you now say that "we" can take whatever "we" want?

<whispering>The man has no idea what's waiting for them.  We are an army!  An invisible army just waiting to sweep aside the old and bring in the New Order.

An army, huh?  Congratulations!  You've just created society.  Isn't your "army" going to have a leader?  Isn't he going to be "telling you what to do"?

You don't understand, man.  You'll never get it.  That's just until all you rich guys that have been hogging all the good stuff get yours and we finally get our fair share!  After that, we'll all be free to live as equals.  Everyone will finally have the good life they deserve.  Maybe we'll make the rich guys work for us!  Yeah!  It's only fair that they find out what it's like to work for nothing.

And so it goes.  In the movie, Mr. Hand and Spicoli do end up coming to a meeting of the minds over, of all things, the words of the founding fathers.  There is no such meeting of the minds possible with the advocates of anarchy.  They refuse to see the reality that Utopian society not only doesn't exist, but is impossible as they claim to envision it.  For those who haven't read it, in a nutshell, Plato's Republic is a society in which every function is mandated and controlled by a small group of elites who have the power to segregate society as they see fit.  The people are placed in a class structure more absolute than anything coming out of the caste system in India or the system or aristocracy in old Europe.  ALL aspects of life are predetermined for you by these elites.  From where you will live, to what you will eat, to what your life's work will be......even the choice of who, and whether, you will marry and procreate with are solely at the discretion of your overlords.  Not sounding so much like the "society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government" now, is it?

The only one's who advocate for anarchy are the useful idiots who don't truly understand it and those who desire to become their future masters.