The Bundy Ranch

I’ve been trying to catch up on the saga of Cliven Bundy and his ranch out in Nevada that just resulted in a government standoff. If my understanding of the situation is correct, here’s the lowdown:

Bundy’s family has been grazing cattle in Nevada since 1870. He allowed his cattle to graze onto adjoining land, which was publicly owned. In 1998, a Court ordered him to stop doing so or pay the feds $200 per head per day. Bundy has refused, believing that the federal government has no right to the land and, if he is to pay any grazing fees, they should be to the County. Last year, with Bundy owing over a million in unpaid fines, the feds got a court order to seize any cattle grazing on the restricted land. Last week, they started seizing them with armed agents in tow. Fearing a Ruby Ridge incident, Bundy sent out a call for help and militia groups showed up resulting in a tense standoff. As of today, the Bureau of Land Management has backed down although they are still in possession of several hundred of his cattle.

(There are a lot of allegations flying around, including claims that Harry Reid’s son has a financial interest in the land and that cows were being killed. I am extremely dubious of these claims.)

I really don’t know what to say about this. On the one hand, I do think Bundy is in the wrong here. Whatever one may think of the Federal use of land (in this case, to protect an endangered tortoise) there is not much doubt that it is Constitutional. The federal government does have the power to buy land for public use (and, thanks to Kelo, private use too). Their land use may be stupid, but it’s Constitutional. Is Bundy arguing that the cattle aren’t on Federal land? Is he arguing that the Feds never properly compensated anyone for the land or that it is not a public use? Is he claiming that it was his family’s land and he was not compensated? It’s hard to tell since most of the media are ignoring the story so I only have fragmented reports from the edge of the blogosphere.

That having been said, responding with armed agents and cattle seizures seems like overkill. If Bundy is in violation of federal law, he can be arrested. Peacefully. Simply grabbing his cattle any time they wander onto federal land (or least when federal agents claim they have) seems like a tactic designed to produce a confrontation or to provide a pretext to seizing his land.

The idea that federal agents have their eyes on Bundy’s land is not as crazy as it sounds. There is a history of local and federal agents engaging in spats with landowners or investigating ranchers and farmers in the hopes of seizing their land, albeit usually in the name of the War on Drugs. The most infamous was probably the Donald Scott case, where a man was gunned down during a midnight drug raid. Authorities launched the raid because they thought he had a massive pot operation and they would be able to seize his 200-acre ranch. No drug operation was ever found. Fish and Wildlife has also gotten into confrontations over unfounded allegations of endangered species being destroyed and the Bureau of Land Management has gotten into previous spats over land use.

I’m not saying that’s what going on here. What I am saying is that this might be playing into the thinking of Bundy and his supporters. And you would think the Feds would be wiser than to push on that narrative.

I will post more as events warrant.

Update: A correction to my post. The land has been publicly owned for a long time and the Bundy family grazed on it. Breitbart has a very good and balanced analysis complete with links to court documents (H/T: Biggie).

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    I have a variety of issues starting with the militarization of government agencies that were set up to paper-pushers, not have snipers on the payroll. Then we can roll over to how the EPA (which at this time needs to have most of its staff tossed in prison and re-organized so that it has actual oversight, if not gotten rid of completely) capriciously expanded the protected range of this land tortoise (which they apparently also euthanize by the hundreds) at the behest of a US Senator.

    Throw in the solar energy deal, which if smells of corruption then most likely IS true, and a few published reports from the BLM that discussed how they wouldn’t be able to do any fracking in the area with all those cows in the way, and you come away with a government that looks at public lands as their own personal money tree, and anyone not paying them a bribe as just someone in the way.

    It’s the feds run amock and perfectly willing to engage in a massive murder of the populace with almost no justification – I don’t see what you find unbelievable about that. We’ve been turning the cops in to the military for four decades now, you ARE the enemy.

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  2. InsipiD

    Yeah, this seemed like a non-story meant to make conservatives look paranoid and wrong. Bundy was violating several laws, but it could almost be said that doing nothing about it for 25 years amounts to a de facto change in the law.

    And that’s where I have trouble with how Obama and Holder have combined their peabrains when it comes to law enforcement. Since they very selectively enforce laws that they don’t like while leaving them on the books, it allows for selective prosecution of the unfavorable (conservatives) while allowing the favored (liberals, illegals) to run rampant. The law doesn’t matter nearly as much as who you know, who you’re friends with, or who you’re related to, and that’s super dangerous.

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  3. louctiel

    Bundy was violating several laws, but it could almost be said that doing nothing about it for 25 years amounts to a de facto change in the law.

    I’m sorry, but this has gone through 12 court cases over 20 years. I don’t think that it can be fairly said that anyone was “doing nothing.”

    For some reason I keep thinking of UN Resolution 1441 where Iraq violated the Resolution and the Gulf War Cessation agreement over a similar length of time. Repeatedly the Iraq government said “the laws don’t apply to me.” Eventually, actions were taken but the cry from some was “we haven’t waited enough time!”

    At some point in time, enough is enough.

    Bundy is not “special.” He is subject to the same regulations as the rest of us. If you want to fight those regulations, there are ways to do that. If you violate those regulations, you have to be prepared for the consequences.

    There is a concept in the law of “clean hands.” This is where a person claiming they were wrong cannot claim that wrong when they were a part of the wrong to begin with. For example, a person cannot come into court claiming another person violated a contract by failing to sell him crack cocaine at the agreed upon court.

    To some extent I see this case in the same light. Bundy doesn’t have “clean hands.” It seems more that on some level he doesn’t like the rules and laws and therefore feels he has the right to violate them without consequences.

    That doesn’t give the Federal government the moral high ground here, but it really does seem that this is a case where there is a lot of blame to go around and neither side is willing to look at their contribution to that blame.

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  4. AlexInCT

    This incident was caused by Harry Reid, because his son was involved in a sweetheart deal that would use that land to put up a tax payer funded solar energy facility, all made in China BTW, that would allow the Reid family to yet again steal millions from American tax payers. They can pretend it was about the turtles or the free range cattle rancher not paying the government, but this was nothing but another in the slew of government abuses of power the left has been engaged in. Dingy Harry ordered his self appointed stooge (look up who is running BLM) to back down because they could no longer hide the fact that this was about them wanting to evict the ranchers so they could go ahead with their project to rob taxpayers blind, yet again.

    The rancher might be in the wrong for not paying, but the real story here is the abuse of power and tax payers again getting lined up to be fleeced by democrats. The democratic party is a den of thieves, one that makes whatever republicans do or have done look like small peanuts, and anyone pretending otherwise is a fucking idiot. The progressives are thieves, nothing else.

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  5. Section8

    louctiel, I’ve read your post here, and in the other thread regarding this. I agree with your assessment on Bundy not paying, and he’s not squeaky clean in this whole affair. That said, I also agree with Alex that the bigger story here may be an abuse of power for business deals sold under the story that it’s to preserve wildlife, not to mention the ridiculous overkill. This is the kind of stuff the left say we need bigger government for to keep corrupt local officials in line, because for some power of magic selling lies, bullshit, and false pretenses could never ever happen at the federal level. This is something that should be investigated, at lest initially, by the brilliant main stream media and their so-called investigative reports. So far it’s just crickets. At worst, a Bundy let loose will affect a few acres of land. Ignoring the stories used to market the raid when there is a good possibility of an underlying business/political agenda opens up a flood of corruption that would affect everyone.

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  6. louctiel

    This incident was caused by Harry Reid, because his son was involved in a sweetheart deal that would use that land to put up a tax payer funded solar energy facility, all made in China BTW, that would allow the Reid family to yet again steal millions from American tax payers.

    The article on Breitbart disputes that claim:

    Despite the obvious partisan gain to be had if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s son Rory (a failed 2010 Nevada gubernatorial candidate) had somehow been involved in a “land grab” affecting the Bundy family ranch operation—the facts just do not pan out as such. Indeed, Rory Reid did in fact have a hand in plans to reclassify federal lands for renewable energy developments. Just northeast of Las Vegas and Nellis Air Force Base, plans were drawn by Reid allies to potentially develop 5,717 acres of land for such use. While it would be fair to claim that such activity was in Bundy’s relative neighborhood, the federal lands once leased by the family were more than 20 miles away, east of Overton, Nevada. Contrasting maps offered by InfoWars and those entered into federal court record prove such a theory to be a stretch.

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  7. Seattle Outcast

    Before the whole Reid thing hit the webs, the far more interesting lead was the BLM’s reports on fracking, and the fact that a number of test sites had been performed in the immediate area of BLM snipers getting ready to do some more Ruby Ridge for us (Why does the BLM have snipers?).

    Those reports mentioned several times that all those cattle in the area would not be conductive to fracking and extraction operations.

    Why the cattle would be a problem is beyond me – I’ve seen everything from cattle to polar bears in the immediate vicinity of oil and gas extraction facilities, with the only issue being the polar bears make a snack of the unwary every now and then. The cattle, not so much.

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  8. louctiel

    Why does the BLM have snipers?

    Because they can use them for managing animal populations, conducting covert operations on poachers, and providing tactical support to other BLM staff who are facing an armed mob of people loaded with weapons, poor information and a lot of anger fueled by others.

    <emThose reports mentioned several times that all those cattle in the area would not be conductive to fracking and extraction operations.

    Those “reports” are generally from people looking to ramp this situation up. Your next paragraph nails the idea that cattle graze everywhere and oil well or test will is not going to impede them at all.

    The real question is “who gains from lying about the claim that cattle in the area would not be conducive of test wells and drilling operations?”

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  9. Section8

    In this case, I do not believe info wars stated the solar plant would be on Bundy’s property. I could ntot find such a claim, but it could be there. The issue is the solar plant itself would have environmental impacts such as destroying habitat, and to make up for it restoration would be done in other locations, like the land near Bundy’s property. So while Bundy’s destroying the environment for his own needs supposedly, it’s perfectly OK for those with connections to likewise ruin habitat (and much more of it), and “supposedly” make up for it by relocating wildlife to other areas. Of course that would adversely impact the livelihood of others since they can no longer use the “public” land for their needs, so Reid’s kid can use the “public” land for his. That’s the point.

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  10. Thrill

    I’ve tried to avoid getting sucked into the nitty-gritty details of the whole legal matter. Even if you proved that Koch or Harry Reid or whoever was behind this, half the country would ignore it. Similarly, the militia/protestors didn’t show up because they’re terribly interested in BLM policies or public land use. And Clive Bundy could be the worst guy on Earth or a great patriot, I don’t know.

    The significance of this is that enough people were stung into direct, armed action because they have been seeing an escalation in the power and the arrogance of the federal government, malicious targeting of American citizens by multiple agencies (IRS, NSA, etc), and the implications of the militarization of law enforcement.

    The particulars and rightness or wrongness of Bundy’s claim don’t matter. You can say that Bundy is a horrible reason to start an insurrection and be right, but the underlying issues are going to drive this forward. What matters is that an increasing number of Americans regard the federal government as an enemy and are willing to take up arms against it. I really can’t think of anything like this happening in modern American history.

    There will be more of these.

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  11. louctiel

    In this case, I do not believe info wars stated the solar plant would be on Bundy’s property. I could ntot find such a claim, but it could be there.

    There is a map from the InfoWars site showing the planned solar plant on the land in question.

    That’s the point.

    So the “public land” is supposed to be used for the enhancement of one person’s ranch and prohibit the building of a solar plant which would help more people. Got it.

    The significance of this is that enough people were stung into direct, armed action because they have been seeing an escalation in the power and the arrogance of the federal government, malicious targeting of American citizens by multiple agencies (IRS, NSA, etc), and the implications of the militarization of law enforcement.

    I have difficulty following the logic on this. What you seem to be saying is that people will lie and draw people into hating or opposing the government, those lies don’t matter.

    I really can’t think of anything like this happening in modern American history.

    Really? You don’t remember the Seattle protests against the World Bank? You don’t remember the VietNam protests? You don’t remember the Civil Rights protests? You don’t remember the union protests at the start of WWII?

    I hate to say this but it is infuriating to read people say “it doesn’t matter what the truth is, it is the fault of this group.”

    As a general rule, it is wrong to claim the moral high ground when that ground is built on deceptions. That goes for people like Bundy, Alex Jones, and the government.

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  12. Thrill

    “I have difficulty following the logic on this. What you seem to be saying is that people will lie and draw people into hating or opposing the government, those lies don’t matter.”

    No, I’m not saying that lies have anything to do with it. A large (and growing) segment of the population is extremely unhappy that certain agencies within the federal government (if not the entire federal government) treat American citizens like enemies of the state. To include using the IRS to harass opposing political parties, spying on American citizens under the guise of intelligence collection, and sending a small army to Taser an old lady over a bunch of stupid cows.

    From the 1770’s era British point of view, the American colonists were a bunch of freeloaders for refusing to pay very tiny taxes to support a war that had been fought by the Empire for their own defense. In the end, it wasn’t about the tax rates. The abuses were laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

    These militias don’t give a damn about federal use of public land or tortoises. They feel like the federal government regards them as an enemy or an obstacle and they’re reacting. It doesn’t matter how petty or wrongheaded you think it all is, these sentiments are EXTREMELY dangerous for governments.

    “Really? You don’t remember the Seattle protests against the World Bank? You don’t remember the VietNam protests? You don’t remember the Civil Rights protests? You don’t remember the union protests at the start of WWII?”

    I remember the protests. What I’ve never seen is the federal gov’t completely back down against armed protestors. You have to admit that’s new.

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  13. Section8

    So the “public land” is supposed to be used for the enhancement of one person’s ranch and prohibit the building of a solar plant which would help more people. Got it.

    Good to hear. I’m willing to bet you completely understand my point but are choosing to be deliberately obtuse, so we’ll end it here. Thanks.

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  14. louctiel

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  15. Thrill

    “Where do people think that politicians learn that they can step on people?”

    What do you do when the government flouts its own laws, the media refuses to report on scandals, oversight committees fail to ever hold their colleagues accountable, and every part of the political process is for sale? People do get involved. They lose faith in the system when they find it doesn’t matter unless they’re rich or connected. When they lose faith, most become apathetic. Some buy AR-15’s.

    “Funny, I seem to remember rallying cries such as “no taxation without representation!” even though representation in Parliament was the last thing people pushing for independence wanted.”

    My comment was about tax rates. Thought I was clear on that. The amount Bundy was being asked to pay was not going to bankrupt him, any more than a small tax on tea was going to ruin the colonies. It was a matter of principle that a free people couldn’t just have taxes levied on them without consent. Bundy’s example does have parallels. Of course, the colonials who refused to pay the tax were also breaking the law…

    “It is not endowed with the same power and authority of a king.”

    Not on paper, no, but I do not believe there is a single meaningful check remaining on the power of the federal government. George III wasn’t an absolute monarch either, but he was insane.

    ” Far too many militias rely on lies and while you say they don’t give a damn about the things they use as a basis for their anger, rational people should care.”

    Forget their “lies” for a minute, lou. What are they RIGHT about when they talk about government abuses?

    “I have seen confrontations where the police have pulled back all the time.”

    From riots, sure. I’ve never seen them exit an area as large as a county and surrender contraband back to the person they’d lawfully seized it from.

    “In short, I am saying we should be involved with the government at all levels, the easiest of which is locally. I am also saying that we should not demand those in the government act in a manner that we do not demand of ourselves.”

    I once believed as you do. But the ease with which you downplay the protestors’ arguments and the significance of what just occurred tells me that you don’t really understand what’s happening to America and why it’s likely to escalate further.

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  16. hist_ed

    “While I accept your statement of the grievances against King George, the federal government is not a king. It is not endowed with the same power and authority of a king. We are the government. When we rail against the “government” we are railing against ourselves.”

    The big problem is that we aren’t the government any more. There is a ruling class that is on its way to becoming as entrenched as the aristocracy in 18th century Britain. In fact it is far less connected to ordinary citizens than the current UK royal family.

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  17. hist_ed

    “any more than a small tax on tea was going to ruin the colonies.”

    History trivia time: The Townsend and Tea Acts actually significantly reduced the price of tea in the colonies. Before their enactment, tea had to be shipped from India via Britain then on to American. The Tea Act allowed it to be shipped directly. A majority of the cost payed for tea by an American was the transportation cost, by allowing direct shipments, the price of tea was reduced about 50% even with the small additional tax (collected in the colonies instead of London). It was the principle: accepting the Acts meant accepting that London could tax Americans without their consent. It also threatened the business of tea smugglers.

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  18. Thrill

    “There is a ruling class that is on its way to becoming as entrenched as the aristocracy in 18th century Britain. In fact it is far less connected to ordinary citizens than the current UK royal family.”

    Does it still work to embed photos in comments? I have to try for this one:

    [img]http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/500x/30895294.jpg[/img]

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  19. Seattle Outcast

    Because they can use them for managing animal populations,

    You mean, what used to be done by selling hunting licenses? Also, the word “sniper” is nearly always used in conjunction with shooting people, not animals. Usually when people refer to culling wildlife the word “sharpshooter” is used if not “game ranger” or “agent”….

    conducting covert operations on poachers,

    So, covert operations against poachers involves murdering them at several hundred feet? And all this time I thought they just arrested them. Odd that the BLM using snipers to take out poachers hasn’t made the news – ever – but you seem to have some inside information

    and providing tactical support to other BLM staff who are facing an armed mob of people loaded with weapons, poor information and a lot of anger fueled by others.

    Oh, so they have snipers on hand in case they have to put down a group of civilians that have the nerve to protest the feds trying to go 3 for 3 after Ruby Ridge and Waco? BLM, known for making sweetheart deals with whomever will throw cash at them from day one, is now in the business of needing “tactical support” from “armed mobs” on a daily basis?

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  20. Seattle Outcast

    Really? You don’t remember the Seattle protests against the World Bank?

    As someone who was there to smell the tear gas from that particular incident as it blew in from downtown, I’d like to tell you that your turn to shut the fuck up has arrived due to obscene amounts of ignorance on your part.

    The riots in Seattle were the work of a group of terrorist anarchist punks, that when actually interviewed and given a chance to air their grievances, couldn’t put coherent sentences together other than to say something along the lines “our leader told us that global free trade was bad, man”, and then get back to getting stoned. This wasn’t a group of people airing their grievances against an oppressive government, it was an alignment of radical progressive leftist that were angry about the evils of corporations actually providing jobs around the world.

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  21. Hal_10000 *

    louctiel, you may some good points but I think Thrill is on to something that I touched on in my post: there is a huge budding resentment against federal (and state and local) intrusiveness and the increased militarization of police. I think this is serving as a flashpoint whatever the merits of the case.

    To go back twenty years, the Ruby Ridge incident and the Waco incident did the same thing in the early 90’s. It wasn’t that anyone particularly sympathized with Randy Weaver or David Koresh; it was that people were infuriated that any American citizen could be attacked so brazenly and the Feds could just assume violent tactics. The problem has only gotten worse in the interim with 50,000 SWAT raids a year and armed raids being conducted to deal with, for example, sales or raw milk.

    In short, the Feds may be right in this matter. But they have, over the last couple of decades, earned a great deal of distrust. Because a lot of the times they’ve been harassing and threatening and pointing guns at people who had not done anything wrong and weren’t guilty of crimes.

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  22. Thrill

    Exactly, Hal. The Boston Massacre was a major incident leading up to the Revolution but most of the British troops who fired their weapons were ultimately acquitted. In the end, that didn’t matter if the colonists had provoked the response by their own actions. It was still considered an atrocity on the part of the King’s troops.

    Governments that deploy military forces against their own people are playing with fire. And don’t try and tell me that federal agents carrying military weapons and armor riding around in military helicopters aren’t military forces.

    BLM showed good judgement in backing off this time, but if Bundy or any person at his ranch gets killed from here expect some radical militia-types to use it to justify more extreme actions. BLM has 2 options:

    1. Retreat, wait for the furor to die down, and pursue other legal means of getting what the feds believe Bundy owes or…

    2. Bring in reinforcements and seize Bundy’s property, hoping that an overwhelming show of force will discourage the militias from making a move.

    The first is hard for BLM. They’ve been humiliated and feel like they already have sufficient legal authority to complete their job. The second is incredibly risky because EVERYBODY on scene will have a camera and even the smallest use of force is going to be magnified to x1000.

    Whatever they do next will show you how seriously the federal government is taking the threat.

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  23. Seattle Outcast

    I think that everyone and their dog having a camera on them at all times, usually connected to the internet, and frequently downloading to a remote server, scares the living hell out of government. No longer is it a case of “cop said, victim said” with the cop’s word being taken at face value – people have evidence of what actually happened, and it can’t be controlled once it gets out.

    Hell, I even got out of jury duty for a DUI when during the selection process I mentioned dashcam video, which I knew they would have. Set off a shitstorm of questions from the other jurors, which the defense team just smiled at, and the the DA wanted to slit her own throat.

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