There is a white equivalent to Black Lives Matter, and since it doesn’t have a formal name yet, I’ll call it Rancher Lives Matter. They are a group of idiots who want a hill to die on, and the government shouldn’t give them one.
Ammon Bundy is the Left’s wet dream of a white anti-government gun-toting jerk, and will attract liberal media attention like a magnet dropped in iron filings. After his dad Cliven fighting off the Bureau of Land Management for three decades in Nevada, the crux of his defense claiming that the federal government has no right to exist, Ammon has taken up the cause of Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were ordered back to prison to finish out their five year sentence for arson.
The merits of the arson case are pretty technical: the Hammonds alleged they were protecting their own property and started a “backstop fire” which spread to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge land that fairly well surrounds their ranch. For over 20 years, the Hammonds have fought a battle with the Feds over land management, threatening U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge manager Forrest Cameron and other officials.
Basically, these ranchers in the wide-open spaces of the American West simply believe they have a God-given right to the land that the Feds claim belongs to the government. It’s one of the oldest conflicts in American history. From the first Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1890’s to the more well-known conflict in the 1970’s, to the Bundy’s clash with the law in 2014, resistance (usually by non-cooperation) to the government’s authority over grazing lands is almost a birthright for rugged ranchers.
But this is not the hill to die on, and this is not the way to fight.
In 1979 it was as if an old script had been found, dusted off, and transported into the present for another reading. On one side, once again, was the West, and on the other the federal government. In the middle were the familiar old questions about land, rights, and power. In 1979 westerns spoke of an excess of federal sovereignty in their midst, mostly on and around the land, and a hundred years earlier they said the same thing. In 1979 they warred with the government to correct the problem, and in the 1890s they did the same thing. Ten decades passed between the two rebellions and nothing was learned and nothing changed—proving, if nothing else, the relentless redundancy of history and the inability of people to profit from lessons before them.
There have always been competing interests in the huge swaths of land from Kansas to California—water, forests, pastures—divided up for ranching, recreation, and, increasingly, environmental preservation. When preservation goes wild, ranchers lose. Let’s face it, the government has an entire agency that owes its existence to promoting environmental interests above those of ranchers. There’s no Cowboy Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. Add to that the fact that the powerful Sierra Club is comfy in bed with the EPA, and you’ve got turtles and small fish being given special rights that longtime landowners lack.
That’s how government—at its worst—works.
But the Hammonds are no angels either. Back in 1994 (from the High Country News):
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, Dwight Hammond had repeatedly violated a special permit that allowed him to move his cows across the refuge only at specific times. In June, refuge manager Forrest Cameron notified Hammond that his right to graze cattle and grow hay on the lush waterfowl haven south of Burns was revoked. The feds also said they planned to build a fence along the refuge boundary to keep Hammond’s cows out of an irrigation canal.
The events of Aug. 3 are outlined in the sworn affidavit of special agent Earl M. Kisler, who assisted in the Hammonds’ arrest. On the day the fence was to be built, the crew and refuge officials arrived to find Hammond had parked his Caterpillar scraper squarely on the boundary line and disabled it, removing the battery and draining fuel lines. When a tow truck arrived to move it, Dwight Hammond showed up, leaped to the controls of the scraper and hit a lever that lowered the bucket, narrowly missing another special agent. Meanwhile, said Kisler, Steve Hammond shouted obscenities at federal officials. Neither Hammond resisted arrest.
“The refuge has been trying to work with Hammond for many years,” said agency spokeswoman Susan Saul. A thick file at refuge headquarters reveals just how patient refuge managers have been. Hammond allegedly made death threats against previous managers in 1986 and 1988 and against Cameron, the current manager, in 1991 and again this year. Saul said Hammond has never given the required 24 hours’ notice before moving his cows across the refuge and that he allowed the cows to linger for as long as three days, trespassing along streams and trampling young willows that refuge workers had planted to repair damage wrought by years of overgrazing.
Susie Hammond, Dwight’s wife, said the cattle trail is a “historic right of way” that has been in use since 1871. “We have never had a permit,” she said. “We have a right to use it.”
We don’t need no stinking permit, oh and we’d love it if you Feds just showed up in suits without the PO-lice so we can kick your behinds—that’s the cowboy way. Nobody in Burns, Oregon—halfway between Boise, Idaho and Salem, smack in the middle of God’s green earth full of nothing else—was too surprised that the Hammonds ended up in jail. But the sentence under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, designed for real terrorists, not pissed-off ranchers, was somewhat harsh.
NPR’s deep-dive in to the history of the Bern uprising quotes the judge at sentencing:
“It just would not be — would not meet any idea I have of justice, proportionality,” U.S. District Judge Michael R. Hogan said at the sentencing. “I am not supposed to use the word ‘fairness’ in criminal law. I know that I had a criminal law professor a long time ago yell at me for doing that. And I don’t do that.
“But this — it would be a sentence which would shock the conscience to me.”
At the time, Hogan sentenced Dwight Hammond Jr. to three months of prison, and Steven Hammond to a year and one day. The federal government wanted the full five years, appealing the shorter sentences and eventually winning that appeal in 2014.
“Even a fire in a remote area has the potential to spread to more populated areas, threaten local property and residents, or endanger the firefighters called to battle the blaze,” District Judge Stephen J. Murphy wrote in the appellate court’s opinion. “Given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense.”
Judge Murphy threw out the district court judge’s sentencing order and remanded the Hammonds back to prison, where they are reporting today. And now we’ve got the Bundy clan, along with a ragtag group of anti-government thugs occupying an empty administration building and a museum at a remote wildlife refuge.
The Feds best course here is to do absolutely nothing. Let them have the buildings and stay there as long as they like. The Leftist media would love to see another Waco or Ruby Ridge unfold before their eyes, with the power of the government descending, black helicopters and all, displaying excessive and gratuitous force upon these rebels. The anti-gun, pajama-wearing, latte-sipping crowd that populate much of the media’s glass-walled offices would pay to see the guns taken from these “militiamen’s” cold, dead hands.
— Amanda Peacher (@amandapeacher) January 3, 2016
Do we get to vote on this? Because I’m voting for #2 https://t.co/1uS3C4xmee
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) January 3, 2016
That massacre shouldn’t happen. As Agent Sadusky said to Ben Gates, “someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.” And they will. The whole motley bunch of them, in due time. They’ll get sick of squatting in a town where nobody wants them and eventually leave—their dreams of a hundred thousand others joining them in a massive display of rebellion dashed.
When they leave, the FBI will pick them up and haul them in for trial—simple trespassing and whatever criminal damage they left in their wake. The basic complaint these people have against the federal government remains valid. I am even sympathetic to that complaint: Abuse of power in a federal government grown too big to manage and too powerful to oppose.
In Burns, Oregon. pic.twitter.com/frNb7YfZ64
— Ian Kullgren (@IanKullgren) January 3, 2016
But there are better ways of expressing it, such as lobbying to shut down the EPA, giving its functions back to the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior. Or going to the polls and voting in better candidates. In 1994, Rep. Bob Smith saved the day for the Hammonds, who faced multiple felonies, by intervening on their behalf with the U.S. Attorney’s office. In 2001, the arson charges stuck.
Striking out on your own, as Bundy and his battalion of idiots are doing, makes it unlikely, if not impossible, for political solutions to ever work. Especially when the media and the government are rooting for the other side. Imagine the collective media stroking out if a politician said to “give the militia space to occupy land” and simply let them stay there indefinitely, to “express their frustration.”
No, that will never happen, because these people’s grievances are not taken seriously—put bluntly—because they’re white ranchers, not black teens. But their solution is equally stupid: #RancherLivesMatter.
(crossposted from sgberman.com)