Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sagebrush Rebellion

Bundy's cattle
Nevada ranchers are proclaiming they "Won the West," after the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service backed down in a malingering dispute with local ranchers over grazing rights on federal lands.

Back in 1989 the desert tortoise was put on the endangered species list, and in order to accommodate this indigenous animal of the region the BLM and NPS restricted grazing lands, which greatly reduced the amount of land Cliven Bundy  could graze his cattle on.  The tortoise is a symbol of Nevada and is protected by the state as well.

Since 1993, Cliven has brazenly refused to heed the new grazing restrictions and also refused to pay his monthly fees, approximately $1.35 per head of cattle per month.  As a result he now owes over $1 million in back fees, penalties, fines and interest.  It seems Cliven had no problem paying his fees before then, which is significantly cheaper than providing hay for his herd.

Snipers provided cover for protesters
The dispute was dragged into court in 1998, and after numerous legal battles and appeals Cliven was asked to pay up or lose his cattle.  This was two years ago.  The BLM and NPS apparently gave Bundy one last chance to pay up, but he still refused.  As a result officials began rounding up his cattle, resulting in a classic Western standoff where armed ranchers along with unarmed protesters from the Oath Keepers and other militia groups pitched up at the BLM stock pens to demand the Feds give Cliven's cattle back.

Conservatives being Conservatives have since manufactured all sorts of memes, spreading them on facebook and other social networks in a concerted effort to get poor Cliven's story out to the broader public.  This is how I came across this dispute.  However, it is not enough to have this be simply a case of the a poor rancher butting heads with the federal government.  Conspiracy theories have emerged, notably Harry Reid having a stake in some Chinese solar company which wanted to set up a solar farm on the disputed land.  This piece of claptrap first appeared in Alex Jones' infamous blog Infowars, and was spread by Fox News.

Morning Joe almost spit out his coffee over the incident, agreeing with Katty Kay that this is a case of anarchy, not libertarianism as Teabaggers claim, and cautioned Conservatives not to circle wagons with Cliven Bundy.  But, it's too late.  Right-wing gun nuts have seized on it as another example of why the second amendment is so important to them, even though the Founding Fathers never imagined an armed insurrection against their own government.

Pyrrhic victory?
Matt Ford better explains why this standoff is unconstitutional.  Bundy actually believes Nevada law trumps federal law in his case, even when Nevada law sides with the federal government.  He has also pleaded that his ancestral Mormon claim to the disputed land predates the creation of the Bureau of Land Management so therefor he is not subject to its jurisdiction.  This claim was thrown out of court.  Still, Cliven believes he is not subject to federal law, refusing to honor the federal court decisions.

This appears to be the case with many of those supporting his position.  We have seen drives in several states, most recently Missouri, to nullify federal gun laws, while at the same time holding up the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution in their defense of the right to bear arms, even against the federal government if necessary.

Yes, Joe Scarborough, this is anarchy and should not be condoned in any way, shape or form.

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