Friday, April 11, 2014

This Is Scary!

This starts out as a fairly complex story. But it ends up with some very scary simplicity.

There are a lot of conflicting claims in the run-up to the current situation. The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) claims Cliven Bundy was grazing his cattle illegally on 600,000 acres of federal land. And the BLM claims it has banned grazing on that land to protect habitat for a species of desert tortoise the government says is endangered. But Bundy says the land is his and has belonged to the Bundy family for generations. His family has been running cattle there since the 1870's, long before the BLM even existed.

This sounds a lot like the MacDonalds in New Mexico. Their ranch land was borrowed in World War II — the Trinity Test was managed from the MacDonalds' ranch house, and took place on the MacDonald ranch. The land was subsequently taken by the federal government (it's now part of the White Sands Missile Range). Neither MacDonald nor his family has ever been compensated for the federal government taking their land.
So what has the BLM done? After claiming the land for the federal government, they first restricted the number of cattle Bundy would be allowed to graze on that land, and then banned his use altogether. Bundy ignored the BLM's edicts.

So now the BLM has changed tactics. They have banned Bundy from even setting foot on any of that land. They have sent 200 or so agents (rustlers?) to collect his cattle from their land. They arrested one of Bundy's sons for shooting film of the landscape — and, incidentally, the cattle roundup. They used a taser on another son — multiple times. They assaulted one of Bundy's daughters, knocking her to the ground.

But none of that is in the scary part. Flagrant government overreach, yes. Deliberate stupidity, yes. But not really scary. What's scary is the specific reason why Dave Bundy was arrested. According to the news story,

On Sunday, the Logandale, Nev.-based Moapa Valley Progress reported that Dave Bundy, son of rancher Cliven Bundy, was arrested while taking photographs of his family’s cattle that are being rounded up by federal agents. According to the report, Bundy was violating an arbitrary "First Amendment" zone that had been established by federal agents. Worse yet, federal agents also deployed snipers against the man.
“He was doing nothing but standing there and filming the landscape,” Ryan Bundy said of his brother Dave. “We were on the state highway, not even off of the right-of-way. Even if they want to call [the area that we were filming] federal land; which it’s not; we weren’t even on it. We were on the road.”

None of the family members on the road were armed, but 11 BLM vehicles each with two agents arrived and surrounded him as he began filming the cattle, Paul Joseph Watson said at Infowars.

“They also had four snipers on the hill above us all trained on us. We were doing nothing besides filming the area,” Ryan added.

Bundy also said federal agents told them they had no First Amendment rights except in the areas so marked.

"The BLM has established two fenced areas near the City of Mesquite, that they have designated as free speech areas for members of the public to express their opinions," the Progress said.

So the federal government, represented by the Bureau of Land Management, has arrogated to itself the authority to determine where and how US citizens can exercise their constitutional rights, or even whether citizens have any rights. Let me restate: The federal government says it can determine when, where, and if you have any of your inalienable constitutional rights. That's scary!

My reaction to that is like Mark Steyn's, and that of someone who posted a sign on the "First Amendment Area" fence: The First Amendment is not an area. And as Donald Sensing noted: You probably thought that the entire United States was a "First Amendment Zone." At least that's what the Constitution says.

And then there's the BLM's statement about the younger Bundy's arrest:

“An individual is in custody in order to protect public safety and maintain the peace,” BLM officials said in an email. “The individual has rights and therefore details about the arrest will not be disclosed until and unless charges are filed.”
That statement qualifies for a "Say what?!?!?" moment.

And then there's this additional information:

Making matters worse, Bundy says the family has nowhere to go for assistance.

“We don’t have any policing representation,” he said. “Our local police will not respond. The County Sheriff will not respond. NHP will not respond.”

Bundy's father, Cliven, had reportedly called for help, but was told to get off the phone or face arrest, the Progress added.

That's pretty scary, too.

Oh. Did you notice? The BLM had snipers drawing down on unarmed peaceful citizens. Aside from the impropriety of that action, just by itself, there's this:

As I wrote only last week, if someone wants to stroll in to Fort Hood and shoot as many people as he's minded to, the fellows on the receiving end have to call 911 and wait for the county sheriff to send a couple of deputies - because "the only government department without a military force at its disposal is the military". But the Bureau of Land Management has snipers.
That, too, is scary.

What makes the whole situation even more surreal is the stated reason for the land withdrawal, cattle roundup, arrest, assault, etc. It's supposedly to protect habitat for an endangered species of desert tortoise. But, because of budget cuts, the federal government itself has killed hundreds of the tortoises. In other words, the federal government is much more of a danger to the endangered tortoises than Cliven Bundy could ever be, even if he tried.

That sounds a lot like something I ran into in the 1990s at the Rocket Lab on Edwards Air Force Base. There was a habitat for a species of endangered desert tortoise just below the rocket engine test stands. The California state animal protection and conservation department insisted that the area below the test stands be carefully walked before a test, and all tortoises removed, to be replaced in their exact locations and orientations after the test. The irony was that the Air Force was never responsible for the death of even a single tortoise, but the state personnel were responsible for a number of tortoise deaths on Edwards AFB.
All that is a good part of the reason that "Many believe that [the endangered tortoise's habitat] is merely a smokescreen to take control of the land." (Side question: Is it really the federal government, or is it Harry Reid? He certainly seems dishonest enough.) Why the suspicion? As the article notes,
The government doesn’t have the money to run the center to save the tortoise, but they can spend at last report at least a million dollars to move against Cliven Bundy to supposedly protect the tortoise, while they are actually killing them.
Can you see why I think this story is so scary? Rights restricted and denied. Citizens threatened. And that's without even considering whether or not Cliven Bundy is right in saying the federal government stole his land.

UPDATE: Suspicion confirmed. As reported by InfoWars:

The Bureau of Land Management, whose director was Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) former senior adviser, has purged documents from its web site stating that the agency wants Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle off of the land his family has worked for over 140 years in order to make way for solar panel power stations.

Deleted from but reposted for posterity by the Free Republic, the BLM document entitled "Cattle Trespass Impacts" directly states that Bundy's cattle "impacts" solar development, more specifically the construction of "utility-scale solar power generation facilities" on "public lands."

"Non-Governmental Organizations have expressed concern that the regional mitigation strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone utilizes Gold Butte as the location for offsite mitigation for impacts from solar development, and that those restoration activities are not durable with the presence of trespass cattle," the document states.

Another BLM report entitled "Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone" (BLM Technical Note 444) reveals that Bundy's land in question is within the "Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone and surrounding area" which is part of a broad U.S. Department of Energy program for "Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States" on land "managed" by BLM.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: It was tense for a while, as this shows

but this standoff is over — for now — and Bundy's cattle that were being held near Mesquite, NV (and that BLM said it was going to sell) have been released back to Bundy by BLM.

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