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The Sagebrush Rebellion, the Bundys, and American Vigalantism

Purdy-Bundys-Occupy-Oregon

Jedediah Purdy’s “The Bundys and the Irony of American Vigilantism” provides a useful backgrounder on the ideology driving the standoff in Oregon. Here’s a key excerpt:

From Independence until the late nineteenth century, the major function of federal law was to convert public land, which had recently been indigenous land, into private property for white settlers. The usual trade was ownership for occupation. In the nineteenth century, it was possible to acquire land by clearing forest, planting trees on grassland, draining wetlands, irrigating dry land, mining precious minerals, and gathering stone. Until 1934, much of Harney County could be homesteaded in ranching tracts that were as large as six hundred and forty acres. Although President Franklin Roosevelt ended active homesteading in response to the Dust Bowl, he did so by executive action, and the laws permitting homesteading remained on the books, poised for possible revival, until Congress repealed them, in 1976.

The Bundys’ side of these fights is rooted in the radical idea that the federal government was never supposed to hold Western lands permanently, but instead should have ceded them to the states or granted them directly to private owners. It is possible to piece together this argument from the text of the Constitution, but courts have never accepted it. It is not really a legal theory but a political wish that history ended in 1891, when the federal government began to create national forests, or even back in 1872, when Congress made Yellowstone the country’s first national park.

County governments throughout the West have passed (unenforceable) ordinances asserting their jurisdiction over federal lands, and some Utah counties have sent road crews onto federal land to bulldoze trails, disqualifying the land from federal-wilderness status. Utah senator Mike Lee has said that he believes federal lands belong to the states, and Utah’s state legislature agreed in 2012. Montana’s house of representatives has voted to nullify the Endangered Species Act within the state.

Sometimes called the County Sovereignty movement, this wave of Western localism largely continues what is known as the Sagebrush Rebellion, which was mounted against federal environmental management in the nineteen-seventies. (Ronald Reagan called himself a “sagebrush rebel” while campaigning in Salt Lake City, in 1980, when six Western states had asserted sovereignty over federal land.). Although it has ebbed and flowed, this strand of Western politics has never really disappeared since 1878, when settlers resisted the first limits on timbering public lands, and their congressional representatives rose to compare federal regulators to King George and to accuse Washington of “robbing the poor” and “depopulating” Western lands. Ammon Bundy would have been at home in that floor debate.

While I’ve always thought of the Homestead Act as ancient history,  1934 is within living memory. While I don’t support their ideological position—and certainly not their armed occupation and threats of violence in support of their cause—the notion that these lands ought to be available for grazing lifestock and the like by the locals rather than being preserved for the occasional tourist is hardly indefensible.

This context is also useful:

Created by President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1908, to protect egrets and other birds from hunters who sold their plumes to clothing manufacturers, [the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge] is centered on wetlands in a region that is mainly high desert. At more than ten thousand square miles, Harney County is bigger than nine states, including Maryland and New Jersey, and about the size of Rwanda or Haiti. About seventy-seven hundred people live there; more than ninety per cent of them are white and the rest are nearly all Native American or Latino. Three-quarters of the county consists of federal land, which is owned and directly administered by the United States government.

As part of our Evolving National Security Concepts and Operations course, we’re in the midst of studying conflict analysis. In his introductory lecture yesterday morning, my colleague Mike Lewis asserted that most conflicts result from tensions between agency, which he defined as “the capacity of individuals (or groups) to act independently and to make their own free choices,” and structure, “those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions.” For the Occupy movement, the structure was the set of rules, whether it be student loans or the tax code, that promote the concentration of wealth and make it difficult for the young, in particular, to make inroads in the modern economy. For the Civil Rights movement, it was Jim Crow and the public enforcement of discrimination on private property. Here, it’s about who should benefit from the vast tracts of land in the largely unpopulated West.

In terms of both sympathy for the underlying cause and support for the methods employed, the  County Sovereignty movement ranks a distant third in my book. But there’s some legitimacy to their grievance. A way of life that’s largely alien to me but has been part of American culture since the beginning is threatened by actions of the government. To those who consider it their birthright, outrage is an understandable reaction.

The standoff, and the calls for some people I respect for the use of violence to bring it to a rapid end, puts me very much in mind of the Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidian nightmares of the 1990s that I would very much like to avoid reliving. And remind me of a quip from that period by the humorist P. J. O’Rourke. “The Clinton administration launched an attack on people in Texas because those people were religious nuts with guns. Hell, this country was founded by religious nuts with guns.”

Ammon Bundy and company are minimally more dangerous than Koresh and the boys, since the former have issued threats of violence. But the Bundy gang are surrounded even further from innocent civilians than were the Davidians. We can afford to wait them out and avoid turning them into martyrs.

 

 

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Jenos Idanian says:

    Here’s another factor driving the resentment: the BLM’s acquisition of more and more land.

    Under federal law, the BLM can buy land if it’s adjacent to existing federal property. (I’m simplifying here; here’s the full details.) And they can also sell land. However, there are limits on the selling: the land has to be isolated from other federal land, making access difficult, and the proceeds can only be used to buy more land.

    This leads to federal land metastasizing, growing by leaps and bounds, as each purchase opens up more lands for acquisition. And people who decline to sell are likely to see their neighbors sell, isolating them more and more within federal land. (This is what happened to the Bundys, who have been refusing offers from BLM for years.) And that has a hell of an effect on those who prefer to keep what they own — their property values drop and the utility of their land plummets. For example, accidentally damaging a neighbor’s fence becomes less of a matter of an apology and more of a federal crime. It goes from “Well, Bob, you put the post back up and gimme a twelve-pack, and we’ll call it even to “you have the right to remain silent.”

    Currently, over 53% of Oregon is federal property. I can’t find the statistics, but my suspicion is that it’s increased over the years. The above policy would make that almost impossible to avoid — it’s a hell of a lot easier for the BLM to gain land than to lose it.

    It’s not so hard to develop a siege mentality when you are actually under siege. A legal, slow-motion, not-openly-coercive siege, but a siege nonetheless.

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  2. C. Clavin says:

    You are lending legitimacy to y’all queda that they don’t deserve.
    The Bundys had access to federal land but failed to pay. You Republicans love to rant about welfare queens…but are willing to give a pass to these clowns who owed us over a million dollars.
    Typical of entitled whites; benefits for me but not for thee.
    Vanilla ISIS is using the threat of violence to force political change. That’s white Christian domestic terrorism.
    If they were black or wore turbans they would already be dead.
    But now I see exactly why you remain a Republican in spite of all logic.

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  3. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    There are many potential users of federal lands.
    Why should the Bundys or the Hammonds have priority over others?
    They had access but failed to play by the rules.
    Once again we see you giving a pass to white folk while a black kid armed with skittles is a thug.
    Your bigotry is showing.

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  4. Tony W says:

    Meh. This feels like Romney’s ironic “free-stuff”/47% crowd complaining that they aren’t getting free stuff from the government. I have zero sympathy for people who are just takers.

    Here’s the ultimate test: What if we all demanded the ‘right’ to graze cattle on federal lands?

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  5. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: Sorry, Cliffy. In accordance with my New Year’s resolution, I am ignoring you. The site moderators won’t enforce their terms on you, so I’m doing so unilaterally.

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  6. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    You can’t even ignore something correctly you idiot.

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  7. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: Sorry, Cliffy. In accordance with my New Year’s resolution, I am ignoring you. The site moderators won’t enforce their terms on you, so I’m doing so unilaterally.

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  8. Mikey says:

    But there’s some legitimacy to their grievance. A way of life that’s largely alien to me but has been part of American culture since the beginning is threatened by actions of the government. To those who consider it their birthright, outrage is an understandable reaction.

    My 11-year-old has a similar mindset, and reaction, when I tell him he can’t play on the XBox until after he does his homework.

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  9. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Mikey: Yeah, I remember my days as a child, decades ago, when I could play on my XBox all day long. Then Big School comes along and says my kids can’t grow up like I did, and now I have to be the heavy and tell them that homework has to come first.

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  10. C. Clavin says:

    James…
    Here is a list of ski areas that operate on federal lands.
    Should they all be granted free and in-fettered access?
    http://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=acm/Explore_Go_Lists/downhillthrills.htm

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  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    Xbox is less than two decades old.
    Can you do anything without lying?
    You are pathological.
    Get some professional help.
    Obamacare will cover it. You wont have to stiff the health care provider again.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian: If you’re going to ignore C, could you please do it quietly?

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  13. Jenos Idanian says:

    @C. Clavin: (control-c)(control-v)(Post Comment)

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  14. grumpy realist says:

    James, spelling error in title. “Vigilantism” is the proper spelling, I believe.

    Somehow if the land weren’t government but held in private hands these jokers would behave any differently?

    I don’t think so….

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  15. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Here’s the thing, little boy. If you’re going to ignore CC, then you ignore him. What you’re doing is simply using an even less intelligent form of response than your usual — which, I have to admit, is a pretty impressive feat. Sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming “La la la I can’t hear you” is actually not “ignoring,” it’s engaging, if only in a way guaranteed to annoy even those who might have wanted to hear your actual response. (Hey, I’m sure JKB is out there somewhere…)

    You can either ignore CC or you can keep fighting to make sure you have the last word. You can’t do both.

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  16. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: I wanted to make sure he saw the message, and I made it clear that that was all he was getting as a response. I think I’ve achieved that now, so I can actually fully ignore him.

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  17. gVOR08 says:

    There are a couple of other differences between Koresh’s bunch and Yokel Haram. The Branch Davidians had extensive cached supplies while this bunch are begging for Slim Jims. Subzero temperatures were not expected in Waco. In Waco there was an urgency driven by credible allegations of ongoing sexual abuse of children. And there was nothing funny about Waco, while these clowns are hilarious. It’s difficult for a large bureaucracy to display a sense of humor, but the BLM and FBI could have a lot of fun with these guys. And should. They should be treated with all the respect they deserve.

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  18. KM says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    It’s not so hard to develop a siege mentality when you are actually under siege. A legal, slow-motion, not-openly-coercive siege, but a siege nonetheless.

    But is that not captialism? The land wasn’t taken, it was sold. The duress you speak of, having to follow the rule of law instead of off-book amicable resolution, is not an alien concept to anyone with hostile neighbors or an HOA. It’s a total pain in the ass and off-putting for many but doesn’t invalidate the essential concept of “good fences make good neighbors”. Ranchers don’t want to play, they sell and move on – that’s how capitalism work. Money talks or walks. Siege is somewhat deceptive. Is the homeowner who’s burns trash in their backyard under siege when a neighbor sells their land, it becomes a Walgreens and suddenly the cops are there every week telling them to stop? Better yet, if they were burning trash in what now is the parking lot and keep doing it?

    The difference is these people are used to doing things their way and their way only works in certain contexts. Their world has changed and they need to change with it. Life is growth, not all of it pleasant or easy.

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  19. sam says:

    “But there’s some legitimacy to their grievance. A way of life that’s largely alien to me but has been part of American culture since the beginning is threatened by actions of the government. ”

    One could argue that that way of life is only possible because of government control of the land and subsidies. From No Good Guys in the West [Cato Institute]:

    Decades ago, ranchers grazing their livestock on public lands paid enough fees to earn the Forest Service a profit. But in 1978, ranchers persuaded Congress to adopt a grazing fee formula on national forests and BLM lands that is designed to guarantee ranchers a profit even as grazing costs taxpayers more than $100 million per year.

    Prior to the government’s involvement, huge swaths of the West were controlled by private interests who effectively barred anyone else from using the range (see, for example, The Johnson County War). These folks seem to want to go back to that. Which puts me in mind of Kevin Drum’s take on libertarianism:

    Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence.

    Most of them are wrong, of course. In a truly libertarian culture, nearly all of them would be squashed like ants—mostly by the same people who are squashing them now. But the fantasy lives on regardless.

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @sam: Or as someone else said, in a true libertarian world some actually tough person would turn their snow white arses into preppy jerky.

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  21. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    most conflicts result from tensions between agency, which he defined as “the capacity of individuals (or groups) to act independently and to make their own free choices,” and structure, “those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions.”

    Very true. Agency requires the ability to understand and consent as well as just act. However, agency comes with responsibility. Bundy et al are demanding agency without consequences in the eyes of the law and frankly the general public. Leasees have rights but the lessor does as well. Damage the lessor’s property and you are responsible for its repair or the recompense. Paying rent and fees is the whole point of leasing out in the first place. The structure is one they freely participate in but deny legitimacy of when needs suit.

    Bundy’s crew and the ideology they hold essential claims jus soli in its literal sense: this is mine because I live here and was raised here. This is mine because my (fill-in-the-blank) did (fill-in-the-blank) X years ago. Since the government can’t be born there, it’s a null agent as far as they are concerned. Thus they resent the land being bought or used for anything other then what they feel is right because the BLM’s claims aren’t legit to them. I highly doubt they’d be amenable to a foreign company doing the exact same thing even those the feds would be out of it.

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  22. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Skico, which operates Aspen, and 3 other resorts on Forest Service land, paid us $1.8M in 2013.
    Jenos and James think they should not have to pay that fee.
    Everyone should be like the Bundy’s and take whatever they want.
    I guess as long as they are white…otherwise they are part of the 47%…the takers.

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  23. rachel says:

    @Jenos Idanian: So you just respond at your usual level of thoughtfulness. Gotcha.

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  24. Scott says:

    A way of life that’s largely alien to me

    I kind of always had a problem with the idea that rural (whether farmers, ranchers, etc) way of life has some special privilege that the rest of us don’t have. I would love to have the taxpayers preserve my well-off suburban lifestyle but I don’t think I’ll ever get any sympathy.

    Hell, this country was founded by religious nuts with guns.”

    Nice quip but not true.

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  25. rachel says:

    @gVOR08:

    And there was nothing funny about Waco, while these clowns are hilarious.

    …second time as farce.

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  26. C. Clavin says:

    If the Bundy’s are justified in this…then should Jenos be able to graze his sheep on the White House lawn?

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  27. bookdragon says:

    The difficulty with the ‘way of life’ argument is that it is a way of life that only exists because the big evil govt moved Native Americans off of the land these yahoos now claim they have a right to.

    Yet somehow I doubt the militia movement would support an new AIM moving in and occupying the land in the name of returning it to the original inhabitants whose claims and use of the land go back many, many more generations than their own…

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  28. Modulo Myself says:

    While I don’t support their ideological position—and certainly not their armed occupation and threats of violence in support of their cause—the notion that these lands ought to be available for grazing lifestock and the like by the locals rather than being preserved for the occasional tourist is hardly indefensible.

    They are available, as Purdy goes on to point out. It’s just that people like Bundy don’t like the terms and they don’t like sharing and dealing with others.

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott: God, Guns, and The United States Army and federal infrastructure spending won the West.

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  30. Pch101 says:

    They want free stuff and the right to bully us. If they get what they want, then they’ll want more. Instead of using the tools provided to us by the Constitution — peaceful protest and the ballot box — they have gone for the gun instead.

    I’m happy for the feds to wait them out until they end up in handcuffs, but giving them a pass would be completely unacceptable.

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  31. gVOR08 says:

    @Pch101: In our legal system, you can do anything you want. If you’re willing to pay the price. M. L. King and the civil rights protesters expected to be beaten and jailed, and were. These guys seem to think they’ll receive a legal pass (as they did for the earlier Bundy ranch episode) and the adulation of the public. I certainly hope they’re wrong about the legal pass. I hope they spend a few cold, hungry nights. And I hope someone is passing them news from the lefty blogosphere which is largely treating them appropriately as a joke.

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  32. Ron Beasley says:

    I think the current tactic by the authorities is a reasonable one. They have blocked all roads in and out and cut off the power and phone lines. This is the high desert and gets very cold this time of year, probably single digits last night. In addition the water comes from wells and the pumps don’t run without electricity. In a few days this will become a rescue operation and the Bundy gang will be taken into custody and tried for their crimes.

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  33. JohnMcC says:

    @bookdragon: There is also an epic story that’s never been told and is never mentioned – that the federal gov’t SURVEYED the entire west. The ‘sagebrush rebellion’ nonsense makes no sense on the historical side of the playing field. It’s in the league with ‘please proceed governor’. Oregon was a federal possession administered as a territory with it’s governing authority sprouting right out of the White House until Oregon met standards drawn up by that same federal gov’t and became a state. After that happened, then counties were formed.

    (Having just read some crap on redstate about how liberals know nothing about history, I just had to vent a little.)

    And will note on leaving that the solicitude the Dr Joyner offers to the losing side in the inter-mountain-west is ever so much more solicitudinous than that offered to some others in this diverse nation who have as much right as those Bundy family nutcases to America’s support.

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  34. James Pearce says:

    While I don’t support their ideological position—and certainly not their armed occupation and threats of violence in support of their cause—the notion that these lands ought to be available for grazing lifestock and the like by the locals rather than being preserved for the occasional tourist is hardly indefensible.

    I could be made to support their ideological position in another context, say, the Navajo nation opposing federally-granted oil drilling leases on tribal land. Their armed occupation and threats of violence disturb me in a way that Occupy or #BLM doesn’t, so I would have to begrudgingly admit that, as a form of protest, the Bundys are, indeed, striking a nerve.

    But I would quibble with the idea that these lands are being preserved for tourists rather than ranchers. These lands are being set aside to avoid being exploited period, by tourists or ranchers. (I don’t know that much about Malheur, but I would assume that tourism is as heavily regulated there as it is in other parks. Imagine an armed protest over the commandment to “stay on the trail.”)

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  35. Ron Beasley says:

    @JohnMcC: It should be noted that a majority of the very conservative residents of Harney County don’t support the Bundy gang. They realize how good they have it. The fees they pay for grazing and farming rights are far less than property taxes they would owe if they actually owned the land.
    I have spent a great deal of time in Harney County and it is a jewel in the crown of the US. I don’t really expect James or Doug to recognize how things work here in the west but I would expect them not to pontificate about something they know nothing about.

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  36. gVOR08 says:

    @Ron Beasley: A trivia question the press has passed over. BLM says they’re cutting off the electricity, and hence the heat. But surely remote buildings like these are fuel oil or propane heated. They’d lose ventilation fans, but heat altogether?

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  37. Slugger says:

    I happen to be one of the owners of the lands administered by the BLM and other federal agencies; I am an American citizen. If Mr. Bundy wants to use my land, let him make me a good faith offer. Then I will make my decision. Mr. Bundy does need to understand that I do place a value on wilderness, that I would expect a good fair market price, that I would expect him to pay taxes and obey land-use laws like everybody else, and that having a gun in your hand negates my understanding of a good faith offer.
    If we are going to talk about how I and my fellow citizens got the land in the first place and talk about returning it to its previous owners, then I am going to have to listen to the Northern Paiute nation whose departure from the Malheur region was neither voluntary nor compensated.

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  38. dmichael says:

    I am very disappointed in this post because it displays an astonishing lack of knowledge of the history of the development of the West as well as its current condition. Ignoring for the moment that the West was populated by whites only due to the federal subsidization of railroads, the federal troops genocide of the native populations (including the Paiutes in Eastern Oregon), the federal grant of homesteads, much of the BLM lands in Eastern Oregon ARE open to grazing allotments. As others have pointed out, those grazing permits are subsidized by federal taxpayers. Some of the BLM and other federal lands are not subject to grazing because it is incompatible with its protection as a wildlife refuge, you know, the places that have sufficient water and habitat to facilitate migration of birds and other creatures. Because Mr. Joyner is a teacher, I suggest he take a field trip to Eastern Oregon and while he is at it, tour some of our other western states.

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  39. KM says:

    @gVOR08:

    I think I remember a reporter mentioning they brought their own fuel tanks when I saw the segment on this on NBC’s Nightly News. They’d have been even stupider then I thought to not bring supplies for this if they expected a “siege”, though. They didn’t just pick this building at random; somebody must have scouted it.

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  40. Ron Beasley says:

    @gVOR08: Even propane fueled forced air heating doesn’t work without electricity.

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  41. James Pearce says:

    @gVOR08: @KM: @Ron Beasley: The building itself should make any lack of heat unpleasant rather than life-threatening, but I wouldn’t be surprised if along with the guns and the cammo gear, they don’t have wood-burning stoves of some sort. You can get a rocket stove that will charge your phone for less than $150 at REI. Mobile solar panels are pretty easy to come by these days, as well.

    That’s not to say these guys have either of those things. But there’s been enough advances in “off-the-grid” technology that the loss of grid power is a mere inconvenience.

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  42. al-Ameda says:

    The Bundys had a lease agreement to utilize federal lands for specified rent fees, which they honored until they decided that they wanted these land rights for free. I find nothing admirable about these people.

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  43. WR says:

    @Ron Beasley: “I don’t really expect James or Doug to recognize how things work here in the west but I would expect them not to pontificate about something they know nothing about.”

    New to the internet, are you?

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  44. mantis says:

    A way of life that’s largely alien to me but has been part of American culture since the beginning is threatened by actions of the government.

    Their way of life is not threatened by the government. It is aided, through subsidies provided by the taxpayers. Their way of life would not be possible without the government’s ownership of these lands. The fact that they want everything they have plus more, without even paying the pittance that grazing fees cost, along with exclusive access to lands they neither own nor maintain, and the freedom to poach, commit arson along with other crimes, with impunity, should make you dismiss them as nothing more than deadbeat scofflaws. They give a bad name to the thousands and thousands of other ranchers out there who know they are getting a sweet deal and obey the law. And these militia types who support them by making threats of violence are not actually doing so to help ranchers. That is merely a pretense for them to attempt to start an insurrection against their government. These people are seditionists, pure and simple.

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  45. Ken in NJ says:

    @Ron Beasley: The facilities’ heating system may not work, but a single portable tank-top propane heater costs less than a hundred bucks, and will pump out ~20K BTU for 24 hours on a single 20lb. propane tank. Throw in good winter clothing and a good sleeping bag and there is little chance they’ll be frozen out any time soon.

    As for the well pumps, I wonder how hard it would be to switch them over to be powered by a portable generator? I don’t know, but I’ll bet at least half the guys in there have had to something similar for their own homes at sometime or other. Barring that, there’s always the lake, which is just a few hundred feet from the buildings.

    Waiting them out may be a longer proposition than many assume. But given some of what I’ve read about how little *food* they brought, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were lacking in any or all of the above equipment. So maybe they’ll be out in a day or two. Time will tell.

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  46. Facebones says:

    the calls for some people I respect for the use of violence to bring it to a rapid end

    This is where the frustration of the last couple years of racial violence starts to bubble over.

    Of course, force should be a last resort. Of course, the FBI is hesitant to turn this bunch of losers into Waco II: The Oregon Trail. Of course, the best option is to freeze them out and let them starve when they run out of Slim Jims.

    But, then there have been so many state prosecutors tanking cases against the police. Tamir Rice is a labelled a dangerous thug that the cops had to gun down in two seconds. And Eric Garner deserved to be executed for selling loose cigarettes. And the Chicago police gun down an unarmed suspect and spend a year covering it up, with the apparent help of the mayor.

    And then a bunch of heavily armed good ol’ boys take over a federal structure and talk about being ready to kill or be killed and the reaction is… Let’s urge restraint! Wait them out!

    And of course the situations are not at all similar. Local police and the FBI are very different entities with very different procedures. But it’s real hard to look at that and not see a racial bias and not feel strongly that a bunch of black guys taking over the same birding shed would not have been drone striked by now.

    The question to ask is not “Why haven’t the Feds bum-rushed these morons yet?” The right question to ask is “Why aren’t suspects of color treated with the same deference?”

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  47. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: solar power is for communists and weaklings. Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House, and the great Ronald Reagan took them down.

    Real men don’t use solar panels. Real men use guns. And suffer from hypothermia.

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  48. mantis says:

    @Facebones:

    And the Chicago police gun down an unarmed suspect and spend a year covering it up, with the apparent help of the mayor.

    Actually, he was armed with a knife. But he was not threatening anyone with it and should not have been shot.

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  49. Moosebreath says:

    @Facebones:

    This. I would add to your list that when a white guy assassinates a state police officer and injures another for no apparent reason, he is not shot on sight, but instead arrested without injury.

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  50. Rafer Janders says:

    A way of life that’s largely alien to me but has been part of American culture since the beginning is threatened by actions of the government.

    First, it’s not been “part of American culture since the beginning.” The beginning was in the early 1600s, while large-scale ranching in the West only dates from about the 1860s/870s, about 250 years after Plymouth Rock. Dense urban living in cities full of immigrants is an older and more integral part of the American life than Western ranching is.

    Second, their “way of life” was only ever possible because of the actions of the government — it was the federal government that acquired that land by purchase and conquest, that surveyed it, that killed or removed all the free Indians that previously lived there, that provided troops to garrison it, that laid down the railroads to allow the ranchers and farmers to get their crops to market, that dammed the rivers, that built the highways that they drive on, that provides the detailed satellite weather mapping that farmers rely on, etc. etc. etc.

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  51. C. Clavin says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Second, their “way of life” was only ever possible because of the actions of the government

    There you go…annihilating the entire Libertarian fantasy again.

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  52. Scott says:

    Real men don’t use solar panels

    They use electricity provided by the Rural Electrification Program.

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  53. James Pearce says:

    @Gustopher:

    Real men don’t use solar panels. Real men use guns.

    Real men use the atlatl and walk the frozen ground barefoot.

    (Although it is a strange convergence, in the “off-the grid” world, of those doing it for environmental reasons and those doing it for self-sufficiency reasons. In my observations, the two sides -if sides they are- are more alike than we would think and not necessarily mutually exclusive.)

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  54. humanoid.panda says:

    To me, the issue is very simple. If their dreams are fulfilled and they are given federal lands, just like God intended, what would the Bundys of the world do if a bunch of,say, environmentalists invades their lands to protect some endangered specie? Will they think about the rights of we the people to use the land, or shoot them in the face, under the castle doctrine? I vote for B.

    B is also the reason why libertarians are either stupid or dishonest.

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  55. Jenos Idanian says:

    @KM: Every time the federal government obtains these lands, it promptly devalues the adjacent lands. Here’s how it plays out, with just random numbers plugged into the values.

    “Hi, I’m from the BLM, and we own this park over there. We’d like to buy up all the properties around here, and we’ll pay ten percent over assessed value. Yours is on the books for 200 grand, so we’ll give you $220,000. Interested?”

    “Nope. Been here four generations, intend to be here for at least another.”

    “OK, thanks. Bye.”

    (Several weeks later)

    “Hi, remember me from the BLM? We’d like to make you another offer. Since we bought out a couple of your neighbors, the assessed value on your place is now 150 grand. So we’ll offer you ten percent above that — $165,000. Oh, and by the way, we bought up your neighbor’s place – – the guy who let you use that right of way. Go on it now, and you’ll be trespassing on federal land. Wanna sell now?”

    How long before the holdouts are under water? How much equity can they lose before they can’t borrow as needed?

    It’s like the holdouts who wrangle big money out of developers who want to build a big building, but in reverse. You can sell, or you can stick around and let them slowly ruin you.

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  56. C. Clavin says:

    @James Pearce:

    environmental reasons and those doing it for self-sufficiency reasons

    The two are only mutually exclusive in the minds of Republicans.
    Businesses have long understood that green is good business. Jeffrey Imelt of GE talks about cutting billions of dollars of energy from sectors like aviation, railroads, power generation and oil and gas development.
    Military Brass talks about climate change as a threat multiplier.
    City planners now plan for urban resilience.
    Farmers are worrying about diminished crop yields.
    Most parents want the best future possible for their children and their children.
    Republicans stick their head in the sand and say; lalalalalalala…..

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  57. Davebo says:

    The standoff, and the calls for some people I respect for the use of violence to bring it to a rapid end, puts me very much in mind of the Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidian nightmares of the 1990s that I would very much like to avoid reliving.

    You see Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian siege as nightmares?

    Surely you are referring to the nightmares of the families of the federal agents that were murdered in both encounters while trying to do their jobs right?

    Good God James! If I have to hear another Republican whine about the fact that we only gave Koresh and his nuts 51 days to pull their heads out of their asses and surrender to the rule of law I may take gun up and take over the RNC offices.

    Here’s a clue. Teach it to your children. If federal agents show up at your door to serve a lawful arrest or search warrant, don’t shoot! If you choose to, you’ll most likely be killed. And if you’re truly deranged enough to shoot knowing there are women and children you allegedly care about on the premises, there’s a pretty good chance they might get killed too.

    And you know what? I’m perfectly OK with that. We don’t, after all, surround meth labs and wait two months and waste millions of dollars in manpower before we go in and either arrest or eliminate the occupants.

    THAT my friend, would be my nightmare.

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  58. Franklin says:

    At this point in my life, and at this point in history, I’m in a completely different place on this. And I know it’s considered radical. But humans should no longer be arguing with other humans about what to do with land as if the animals who live there don’t have any natural rights.

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  59. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    You are making shit up from whole cloth. Again.
    The Hammonds have had run-in after run-in with the BLM that had nothing to do with any of that total BS you typed.

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  60. Monala says:

    @KM: Sounds like the “Toddler’s Property Law’s”:

    1. If I want it, it’s mine.
    2. If I have it in my hand, it’s mine.
    3. If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.

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  61. Monala says:

    @Pch101: Seems like law enforcement is just ignoring them, allowing them to be free to come and go.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/militiamen-able-to-get-food-on-their-own

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  62. David M says:

    As far as I can tell, the BLM owns about the same amount of land as it did in 1996, so it’s entirely possible that this “land grab” is just as real as most right wing claims.

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  63. mantis says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Here’s how it plays out, with just random numbers plugged into the values.

    Translation: I will now just make some shit up.

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  64. mantis says:

    @David M:

    As far as I can tell, the BLM owns about the same amount of land as it did in 1996, so it’s entirely possible that this “land grab” is just as real as most right wing claims.

    It’s true. Most of the purchases the BLM makes are of lands adjacent to national parks and reserves. For instance, buying a stretch of land that separates the Coachella Valley Fringe-toed Lizard Preserve from Joshua Tree National Park. This makes these protected lands easier to manage and make available to the public.

    At the same time, the BLM sells a lot of land, often surrounded by privately owned lands and of little use to the federal government. It makes perfect sense to do this: acquire lands that make stewardship of pristine and protected areas more efficient, benefitting the public, while offloading lands that are of little or marginal public use (assuming private parties are interested in buying said lands). That’s why you see the amount of land owned by the BLM staying about the same.

    The militia idiots and the small percentage of ranchers who think like the Bundys are not trying to protect ranchers. They are extremists who reject the legitimacy of the federal government (even while they benefit from it), believe that the government should own no land, and the land should simply be given to them for free. These are not good folk preserving the western way of life, they are anti-government nutjobs with no respect for the Constitution, the law, or the people. We owe them nothing.

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  65. gVOR08 says:

    @mantis: Oh yes we owe them something. Given their probable lack of contrition we owe them maximum sentences. They’ll make better examples that way.

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  66. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Every time the federal government obtains these lands, it promptly devalues the adjacent lands. Here’s how it plays out, with just random numbers plugged into the values. ….

    I’m not so sure that that’s the case in all or most situations.

    I live in an area where the federal government owns much of the lands, which are set aside as open space or national recreational park land areas. The property values for those property owners who live both (1) in the directly adjacent areas, and (2) in a wider area near those federal lands, are very strong, very high, and are not at all diminished because of federal government ownership.

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  67. Kari Q says:

    Worth noting: Paiute Indians still use the refuge and want the militia off. Talk about disrupting a way of life that goes back generations!

    “By their actions they are desecrating one of our sacred traditional cultural properties. They are endangering our children, and the safety of our community, and they need to leave. Armed confrontation is not the answer.”

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  68. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I’m curious, do you actually own any real estate of any kind?

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  69. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    A way of life that’s largely alien to me but has been part of American culture since the beginning

    Excuse me, but WTF are you talking about? Ranching in the Western US has most certainly not been “part of American culture since the beginning” – this is something that’s covered in a high school history class.

    Can you possibly be this ignorant of US history, or are you simply being a water boy for the right?

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  70. David in KC says:

    @mantis: also, if there is an easement or right of way on the property (different things) they generally go with the property depending on how they are set up So if some one has a right of egress and ingress, the fact that the Feds bought the property that it ran through, it would still be there.

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  71. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    Hahahaha, etc.

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  72. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: I apparently own a hefty hunk of space inside the heads of several commenters here, including yours. Most of the time I wish I didn’t…

    And no, I’m not answering your questions. You have a very annoying habit of asking all kinds of questions, but never answering them, so I’ve instituted a reciprocity policy with you.

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  73. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: No, I’m not “lending them legitimacy” if “them” are the guys occupying a federal installation under force of arms. As with Occupy, I’m publicly working through the issues of a large group with a grievance and pointing to parts of the grievance itself that are legitimate. I think the people who support al Qaeda and ISIS have legitimate grievances, too, and that part of the policy solution is addressing said grievances. At the same time, the law has to be upheld and transgressors have to be punished.

    @sam: Of course the federal government had a huge part in creating the West. But they did it through land grants, free grazing, etc. I get that at some point that system is no longer feasible. But the rules that these folks lived under for generations have changed and I can see why they’d be angry about that.

    @KM: All probably true.

    @C. Clavin: No, I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t have to pay the fees. It’s a highly subsidized rate. I’m merely exploring the grievance that motivates the larger group—not those who aren’t paying the fees and are otherwise breaking the law—to understand the extremists. My source is a New Yorker piece, not a right wing rag.

    @Ron Beasley: I don’t know that anything here is a “pontification.” My initial reaction to these folks was to call them psychopaths. But, as noted multiple times in that posting and this, all of this is alien to me so I’m marshaling interesting insights from elsewhere, making connections from them, and inviting commentary.

    @Facebones: While I share your frustration and outrage over the routine shooting of innocents, particularly of color, by police, they’re simply different issues. They’ former are mostly cases of police officers making split-second decisions under duress, often with little training. This case involves the most highly trained officers—federal agents who are highly selected, trained, and compensated—with the luxury of a deliberate response.

    @Rafer Janders: Yes, the ranching life is an artifact of the westward expansion. But unregulated land access was literally how we built the country. Granted, we took it from the indigenous population. And we did it with federal troops in many cases. But the federal government owning and regulating huge swaths of land—the vast majority of the territory of some states—is a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s one that at least theoretically benefits me as a suburbanite, incidentally, but it has consequences for the tiny percentage of people living that lifestyle.

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  74. KM says:

    @anjin-san:

    I think James is conflating “ranching” with “rural” , “agrarian” or perhaps “farming”…. you know, as in “not-urban” for those who are urban? Homesteading is NOT ranching; they were traditionally at odds because the cattlemen needed wide-open land for feed and trails while the farmers fenced off the west into small private parcels of land for their exclusive use. See many a historical documentary or biography to see the drama play out.

    There was a time not too long ago when Buffalo, NY was the edge of the frontier (200 years next year). The Erie Canal is one of the things that made opening the West viable, made transporting things like grain and meat from rural areas profitable. Large scale ranching in places like Texas in the 1840s made no damn economic sense without this capacity to move product; raising cattle’s been done for ages but making it a business like we see today is certainly not the way it’s been done since day one.

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  75. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I apparently own a hefty hunk of space inside the heads of several commenters here, including yours. Most of the time I wish I didn’t…

    Your desperate need for attention, followed by the complaining when you get it & your little bursts of meglomania paint the picture of a very sad man.

    And no, I’m not answering your questions.

    Thank you for answering my question :)

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  76. KM says:

    @James Joyner:

    But the federal government owning and regulating huge swaths of land—the vast majority of the territory of some states—is a relatively recent phenomenon.

    I must beg to differ James. The Louisiana Purchase (1803) was the federal government owning a huge swath of land, a good percentage of the continent to be precise. Homestead Act was Lincoln in the 1860s. Maybe we differ on what “regulating” means?

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  77. anjin-san says:

    @KM:

    My dad grew up on a ranch. The only reason is was economically viable is that it happened to have some productive oil wells on it.

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  78. Kari Q says:

    @KM:

    Maybe we differ on what “regulating” means?

    I believe the difference is that the regulations used to promote development almost universally. The preservation of the land is more recent. (Just a guess. I could well be mistaken.)

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  79. Slugger says:

    Here is a question for a high school civics class:
    If federal lands devolve to private ownership, who will wind up owning it:
    1. small farmers and ranchers with generations of ties to the land
    2. associations of environmentalists with money like the Nature Conservancy
    3. billionaires who will put up “No Trespassing” signs?
    Check some articles regarding fishing access in Jackson Hole.

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  80. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    I apparently own a hefty hunk of space inside the heads of several commenters here, including yours.

    Typing lies and utter BS in the desperate search for attention (trolling) does not mean what you think.
    You type a lie. Or some other BS.
    The above mentioned several commenters respond, telling you what you typed is nonsense.
    Repeat. Ad nauseum.
    The only thing that means is that you own some sort of connection to the internet. Maybe it’s that Xbox you’ve been playing for decades and decades…since it was first introduced 15 years ago.

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  81. Facebones says:

    @James Joyner:

    This case involves the most highly trained officers—federal agents who are highly selected, trained, and compensated—with the luxury of a deliberate response.

    Yes, and I said exactly that in my comment.

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  82. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: @Facebones: Facebones mentioned three specific cases of police killings. In only one, Tamir Rice, was there an issue of split second decisions, and only because the police created that situation.

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  83. anjin-san says:

    @Slugger:

    That is so good I may reuse it elsewhere :)

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  84. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I like this new approach of yours to Mr. Claven (I don’t actually know that the “C” stands for “Cliff,” so I don’t presume to give him a first name). It would work even better if you reinforced it by saying nothing at all.

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  85. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Well, isn’t that the contemporary White version of civil disobedience–I get to do what I want and everyone else simply has to accept that I can?

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  86. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Oregon was a federal possession administered as a territory with it’s governing authority sprouting right out of the White House until Oregon met standards drawn up by that same federal gov’t and became a state. After that happened, then counties were formed.

    And not only that, the sponsors of the petition misrepresented the population of Oregon by about 50% in order to get statehood before the next census–which would have shown that the area in question had too small a population to qualify.

    (I’ve been reading some history, too.)

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  87. An Interested Party says:

    As odious as the Confederate traitors were, they seem like the legions of Rome compared to these petulant cowboy wannabes…

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  88. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: yes, that $1mil will certainly go a long way- might help float a few welfare families for a year…..or fund a lame study at a university.
    here’s a thought- maybe the “welfare” crowd could get jobs in the farm sector, and graze whatever they want on federal land? LOL, that’s just another thing the gubmint won’t allow……losing secure voters to the work force or even suggesting they “work”.

    @Tony W: sure, buy some cattle and join the fun- it’s that easy.

    james made a great point though- the fed gov’t. has way too much land west of the mississippi, they all don’t enjoy living “urban” lives where things magically appear on grocery store shelves.

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  89. Monala says:

    @gVOR08: Furthermore, I’ve head one good argument that the “split second decision” doesn’t really apply in the Tamir Rice case either. The two cops had the time between getting the call and arriving on scene to decide how they wanted to handle it.

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  90. An Interested Party says:

    yes, that $1mil will certainly go a long way- might help float a few welfare families for a year…

    Indeed, like floating these deadbeats or helping millionaire welfare queens who get farm subsidies…probably not the welfare recipients you were thinking of…

    …losing secure voters to the work force…

    More bull$hit…you have no evidence to prove that any politicians back giving welfare to people to make them “secure voters”…

    …the fed gov’t. has way too much land west of the Mississippi…

    Says who? What determines what is “too much”?

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  91. Rafer Janders says:

    @bill:

    james made a great point though- the fed gov’t. has way too much land west of the mississippi,

    Well then, let’s just give the land back to Mexico and/or the Indians. Problem solved.

    Oh, that wasn’t what you meant….?

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  92. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:
    See…bill’s on board the white train; benefits for me, none for thee.
    White ranchers can do what they want.
    A black kid…not so much.

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  93. al-Ameda says:

    @bill:

    james made a great point though- the fed gov’t. has way too much land west of the mississippi, they all don’t enjoy living “urban” lives where things magically appear on grocery store shelves.

    What the heck, let’s sell off the National Parks too.
    Only people like the Bundys know what’s best for the rest of us.

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  94. DrDaveT says:

    @bill:

    here’s a thought- maybe the “welfare” crowd could get jobs in the farm sector, and graze whatever they want on federal land?

    It continues to amaze me that people like bill don’t recognize that these subsidized ranchers ARE “the welfare crowd”. Cheap grazing rights are every bit as much a handout as food stamps.

    My grandmother’s family lived on potatoes and fatback because they were too proud to take charity. They could not have been ranchers, I guess.

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  95. bill says:

    @Rafer Janders: sure, and i’ll have to move to nebraska ?! we “won” the land via “war”. the victor gets the spoils…..you wouldn’t give the east coast back to france/england would you?!

    @C. Clavin: how many people do these “white” ranchers feed vs. kill? there are blacks in ranching, not a whole lot as it’s hard work- but some prefer the freedom from the mundane urban existence.

    @al-Ameda:

    https://beta.finance.yahoo.com/news/map-shows-huge-amount-land-130300363.html

    they’re not all “pristine” parks set aside for recreation….gimme a break. i mean really, almost the entire states of nev., id. and utah are federally owned!? wtf is wrong with that you don’t ask? and nearly half the land west of the mississippi? just this map alone shows about 70% of the western/mountain states are federal lands- vs 3% east of the miss.

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  96. David M says:

    @bill:

    Have you been to Nevada? Is there actually a demand for rural desert land?

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  97. mantis says:

    @bill:

    there are blacks in ranching, not a whole lot as it’s hard work

    Found the racist.

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  98. bookdragon says:

    It seems drama queens of VanillaISIS are getting the attention they deserve: pointing and laughing.

    These guys want so desperately to appear tough and rugged and manly, hunkered down in their visitor center bnker, stroking their pieces…

    #bundyeroticfanfic

    If nothing else, they are giving folks something to giggle over.

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  99. David M says:

    @bookdragon:

    #bundyeroticfanfic

    …if you’re old enough, and remember Ted Bundy, that hash tag takes on a little different meaning.

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  100. al-Ameda says:

    @bill:

    they’re not all “pristine” parks set aside for recreation….gimme a break. i mean really, almost the entire states of nev., id. and utah are federally owned!? wtf is wrong with that you don’t ask? and nearly half the land west of the mississippi? just this map alone shows about 70% of the western/mountain states are federal lands- vs 3% east of the miss.

    A couple of points and observations concerning those who seem to be aggrieved by federal ownership of western state lands:

    (1) What exactly is the obvious downside to federal ownership of those lands? Besides, that is, that people like the Bundys can’t just take the lands for their own purposes without paying, or in fact, are reneging on their lease agreements?

    (2) Also, a majority of those states where the federal government owns a significant share of the lands, benefit greatly from federal revenues and are in fact net beneficiaries of federal monies in that their federal assistance exceeds the amount that their taxpayers send to Washington.

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  101. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:

    there are blacks in ranching, not a whole lot as it’s hard work

    well at least you aren’t a flaming racist. much.

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  102. C. Clavin says:

    @al-Ameda:
    I find it hilarious that the same fools who are always claiming the US is broke (it isn’t even close to being broke) are also clamoring to give away valuable assets.

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  103. bookdragon says:

    @David M: Yikes. I never of that (nor I’m sure did the young folks on twitter who came up with the hashtag).

    I’m technically old enough, but I was still in grade school when he was in the news.

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  104. al-Ameda says:

    @C. Clavin:

    @al-Ameda:
    I find it hilarious that the same fools who are always claiming the US is broke (it isn’t even close to being broke) are also clamoring to give away valuable assets.

    Bundy Type Clowns: “Government should be run like a business”
    Government: “We agree, here’s the lease agreement to use our lands, sign here”
    Bundy Type Clowns: “Okay, there you go, thanks”
    ………………… some time later
    Bundy Type Clowns: “We’re not paying our lease payment anymore because you are an oppressor”
    Government: “We may have to evict you in accordance with the terms of your lease agreement”
    Bundy Type Clowns: “Just try to do that, we are heavily armed, and we’re willing to die to keep your … errr our lands”
    Government: “You know, if you were Black militants we might do something about this”
    Bundy Type Clowns: “See you in Oregon, chumps”

    I firmly believe that they (those toxic fools) want government to be broken – or convince us that what is not broken is broken – so that they can close much of it down.

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  105. bill says:

    @mantis: sorry, my gf is still black -and a legal immigrant! speaking the truth is not necessarily “racis”….LOL

    hey, y’all ever hear about this, nobody died either.

    http://www.wfaa.com/story/news/local/texas-news/2016/01/08/15-year-armed-standoff-quietly-ends-outside-dallas/78452414/

    @David M: just to vegas, why would anyone want to go anywhere else? but that’s despite the point- why does the fed gov’t. need to own all this land?

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  106. Grewgills says:

    @bill:
    Is your gf aware that you try to use her as a get out of jail free card every time you are called on saying something racist like ” there are blacks in ranching, not a whole lot as it’s hard work”?

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  107. Rafer Janders says:

    @bill:

    we “won” the land via “war”. the victor gets the spoils…..you wouldn’t give the east coast back to france/england would you?!

    I might, if it would get us single-payer health care, free university education, and six weeks paid vacation…..

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  108. mantis says:

    @bill:

    sorry, my gf is still black

    There is no life I know
    To compare with
    Pure imagination
    Living there, you’ll be free
    If you truly wish to be

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