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“This Is More Than A Protest”: Behind The Scenes In Oregon, Ammon Bundy Preaches Revolution

Ammon Bundy came here to preach.

But Bundy is not spreading the word of God, though he’s a devout Mormon. Instead, Bundy is telling local residents that the federal government is illegitimate, that the county government is the highest authority in the land, and that they should arrest their local sheriff and subject him to a citizen grand jury if he sides with the treacherous feds.

This is the gospel of the sovereign citizen movement—and Bundy is winning converts.

I’m from rural Utah. You can’t grow up in rural parts of America and not know militia types. I’ve met five people from southern Utah up here already; Bundy’s brother, Ryan, lives in my hometown. When Ammon and his supporters took over Malheur a week ago, I started calling around to find out what was going on and was asked to tell the “real story.”

It started when Dwight and Steven Hammond were ordered back to prison after apparently not serving enough time for an arson conviction for burning some federal land. The Hammonds have been fighting the Bureau of Land Management for decades after BLM gained control of a strip of land between their range and pasture, refusing to let them drive over it. Thanks in part to this fight, Rep. Greg Walden got legislation passed to rein in the BLM. The bureau ignored it, according to Walden, and then charged the Hammonds and other ranchers exorbitant fees to access their own land.

If Congress can’t even control federal agencies, what’s a rancher supposed to?

Ammon Bundy had an answer.

He has been here for months, educating ranchers about the tenets of the sovereign citizen movement. See, the feds don’t listen to the law, but you don’t have to listen to the feds, he told them. The U.S. government is not legitimate; the highest authority here is the county and the sheriff, who can tell BLM and FBI to get lost.

“The sheriff has a sworn duty to protect his citizens,” Ammon Bundy says as another man finishes his sentence, “against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”

These ideas are taken chapter and verse from the sovereign citizen bible, a bizarre tributary of right-wing ideology that believes the federal government has been illegally occupying American land since at least the end of the Civil War.

These ideas have inspired militias over the past four decades, paramilitary-style groups that often allow would-be demagogues to present themselves as representatives of the original “divinely inspired” form of government. These forces fueled deadly standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco, culminating in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. That terror attack hurt the militia movement, but it has grown dramatically during the Obama years.

Ammon’s men says Harney County Sheriff David Ward is nothing less than a collaborator with the real enemy: the U.S. government.

“Sheriff, your oath was not made to the federal government nor any of their corporate entities such as the BLM or Forest Service etc,” the men wrote in an open letter. “Where were you when a foreign entity not having any constitutional power, authority and jurisdiction within your county abused your citizens?… Have you taken sides with the Feds?”

If the sheriff does not say “no to the Feds and rid  your county of their presence and tyranny that they have spread across your County,” then locals should form a citizen grand jury and indict him.

Some ranchers are listening, because they’ve tried everything else and feel screwed by the government. When people come to give the feds a taste of their own medicine by taking over some of Uncle Sam’s land, the ranchers hope this will be the thing that finally forces the government to obey its own laws.

Security is tight at the compound. Men with anti-government patches, holding assault rifles, patrol the buildings in full tactical gear. There’s a truck parked crosswise across the road at the entrance. Two guards in ski masks survey the area from a tower.

Some of the guards are provided by a militia group called the Three Percenters. They take their name from the idea that only 3 percent of American colonists fought in the Revolutionary War and it would only take the same slice of America to liberate it from its federal oppressors today. The militiamen patrol the perimeters and even drive through the closest major town, Burns, 30 miles away.

Brandon Curtiss, president of the Idaho Three Percenters, said they’re here to “make sure this doesn’t turn into a Waco situation, but we’re also here to make sure that extremist elements, people who really do want to start trouble, don’t come in.”

Many people carry guns: a Ruger P89, a Makarov .9mm, a .45 revolver. The handguns never leave their holsters except for cleaning except when people gathered around to admire some beautiful engraving on one sidearm.

Bundy has expelled people for carrying long arms openly, as it was an unnecessary escalation. He is playing a long game, mindful of PR. There is also no alcohol in the buildings. You might see an occasional flask up the hill, outside (I was offered a slug of moonshine to ward off the cold). Nobody wants Ammon to see them drinking.

Inside the encampment, more than two dozen men, women, and children occupy stone and wood buildings surrounded by snow-covered trees and picnic tables. There’s a bunkhouse, offices, a kitchen. The beds are meant for firefighters and visiting biologists, but they serve armed occupiers just as well.

The occupiers are resupplied by locals friendly to the cause. Cupboards burst with jerky, trail mix, crackers. If you’re going to conduct an armed takeover of federal buildings, you need lightweight things filled with calories, especially in the winter. When one driver announced he was carrying doughnuts, laughing men raided his back seat while a child begged his mom for permission to join in. One rancher brought a whole cord of wood and another brought winter jackets. Resupply happens hourly, depending on what the ranchers have to spare.

Someone found the keys to the wildlife refuge’s trucks, although only trusted people get the keys. “This belongs to We the People,” you hear over and over. Militia members and supportive locals have already renamed the national wildlife refuge as the “Harney County Resource Center.”

Similarly, the occupiers say the buildings are open to anyone but they aren’t friendly to outsiders except locals. Perfectly polite, always, but not friendly. In fact, they don’t talk to press outside of canned responses for the most part. The meetings are closed; paranoia is running high. Who is coming, and when, and what will we do? What is the plan?

But walking around, you hear snippets of conversation. Some people appreciate the snark of “Y’all Qaeda” and laugh at “Vanilla ISIS,” too. They’re not without humor, but they spend most of the time talking tactics and politics.

“We have to wake up the residents,” one says.

“We can only pray that they will see how much strength they have,” another says.

“Article II, though…” a different man begins to implore.

“You know this is all not the real problem,” says one of the newcomers around the campfire at night. “It’s those Muslims coming in here, the government is letting the terrorists in and calling them refugees.”

John Ritzheimer, an Iraq war veteran fond of wearing “fuck Islam” T-shirts and protesting mosques, shuts that chatter down.

“You know, I agree with you. That’s what I do for a living, when I’m not here, try to tell people about this [radical Islam] threat. But that’s not why we’re here, and we’re not going to get into it now.”

The discussion turns to the United Nations, Agenda 21, the New World Order, and the Illuminati. One man covers all the cameras on his devices so the government can’t turn them on remotely, he says, which Edward Snowden revealed was not a paranoid fantasy.

People are frustrated that the press coverage is focusing on the guns and the crazy talk. The story is supposed to be about Harney County, the plight of the ranchers. Ammon’s actions were meant to bring attention to the injustice and overreach by the government. While everyone sort of knew that city folk might misinterpret things, locals are astonished that they only hear about guns on the news.

These people are cut off from the rest of the country, really; the days melt into each other just like the seasons. Civil unrest in cities, and the idea that perhaps the fourth estate isn’t as responsible as it once was, are new and frightening things. The ranch family I stay with has discussions long into the night about how they are learning more about the country than they ever wanted to learn. When I showed them footage of police brutally cracking down in Ferguson they were shocked to their core, even knowing how malevolent power can be.

I never expected to hear the same emotions and philosophies from a 15-year-old gang member in Missouri and a 67-year-old rancher in rural Oregon, but close your eyes and you’ll hear it.

“Why don’t they just follow the law?” asks the rancher, who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of BLM retribution. “We’re not being violent, we’re just trying to get justice.”

The media is starting to go home, and the ranchers surrounding the refuge are now left with the fallout: People come to see what the fuss is about and nobody can deny that these people are all very nice.

At first, the rancher was cautiously supportive of the Bundys, even bringing supplies to the men. Now that attention has been brought to the plight of Harney County, the rancher would like to see the Bundys go home.

People living here want respect, not a revolution.


By: Linda Tirado, The Daily Beast, January 10, 2016

January 12, 2016 Posted by | Anti-Government, Domestic Terrorism, Sovereign Citizens Movement | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP Loses Control Of Its Frankenstein Monster”: Speaker Boehner May Hold The Gavel, But He’s Not In Charge

The headline on the L.A. Times story reads, “Boehner rules out impeachment.” But when it comes to what the House Speaker actually said yesterday, the headline isn’t quite right.

“No, no, no, no,” Congressman Greg Walden, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico when asked whether the House would initiate impeachment proceedings. Boehner told reporters on Tuesday that there were “no plans” to remove Obama, calling the idea “a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

We already know with certainty that the Ohio Republican is wrong when he blames this on the White House – the impeachment talk has come from GOP lawmakers and it’s been going on for years. Indeed, if this is a “scam,” John Boehner’s own leadership team is in on it – the new House Majority Whip, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) refused to take presidential impeachment off the table during an interview just three days ago.

But then there’s the part about Boehner’s “plans.”

There are a few angles to this story that are running on parallel tracks, all of which carry equal weight. The first is the GOP’s Frankenstein problem: Republican leaders created a monster, doing nothing to tamp down the right’s crusade to tear down the Obama presidency, and they suddenly find themselves scrambling now that the monster is running lose. As Arit John put it, Republicans have “lost control of the impeachment plot they hatched.”

It’s led to, among other things, an awkward dance in which pro-impeachment Republicans try to walk back their own rhetoric now that they realize how happy Democrats are to hear it.

The second is the intra-party tensions that won’t go away. In 2006, Nancy Pelosi disappointed some on the left by definitively ruling out presidential impeachment, taking it “off the table.” Today’s Republican leaders will do no such thing for a very specific reason: too many GOP lawmakers really do support the idea. Indeed, there was palpable disappointment among many on the far-right yesterday when Boehner suggested impeachment isn’t part of his future plans.

As Jonathan Capehart put it, “A ‘No, don’t be ridiculous. We’re not going to impeach the president. Period!’ from Scalise on Sunday or from Boehner today would have put an end to the chatter. But no.”

And finally, there’s the ongoing problem of Boehner’s weakness as House Speaker. By all appearances, Boehner appears genuinely reluctant to pursue an impeachment scheme. When he says he has “no plans” to push such a reckless move, he’s almost certainly telling the truth.

But Boehner also had “no plans” to shut down the government. He had “no plans” to force a debt-ceiling crisis. He had “no plans” to kill immigration reform. He had “no plans” to ignore the Hastert Rule. He had “no plans” to ignore the Boehner Rule.

The point is, it’s become painfully obvious that the Speaker may hold the gavel, but he’s not in charge in any meaningful sense. He may not intend to go after Obama with some ridiculous impeachment crusade, but given Boehner’s weakness and lack of credibility, the decision probably isn’t his to make.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, July 30, 2014

July 31, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Roots For Failure”: With Disturbing Frequency, Republicans Wish For Disaster On “The American People”

In theory, lawmakers should hope that government programs work well, and if they don’t, work to fix them. Elected representatives should hope that government agencies carry out their missions smoothly, and if something goes wrong, try to figure out what happened to avoid making the same mistake in the future.

Obviously that’s not how things work in the United States, where one of the two parties doesn’t actually believe in government. Republicans want to shrink government until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub! They think there’s nothing scarier than the prospect of a government employee trying to help! With beliefs like those, it’s perhaps not surprising that — with disturbing frequency — they root for failure in order to score points.

Examples abound. After the attack in Benghazi, G.O.P. lawmakers were far more interested in laying blame and making the Obama administration look bad than in improving security for diplomats. In the midst of the I.R.S. scandal — which turned out not to be much of a scandal at all — Republicans seemed positively gleeful.

Which brings me to today’s House hearing on the bumpy rollout of the federal health insurance marketplace.

The rollout is bumpy, and inexcusably so. It appears that the federal exchange Web site wasn’t fully tested until two weeks before it opened. As today’s Times story put it, the online health insurance marketplace “is still limping along after three weeks.”

Lawmakers can and should hold the administration to account. But given that House Republicans have done everything in their power to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act — including shutting down the entire government — it’s understandable that House Democrats expressed suspicion about their motives.

“I wish I could believe that this hearing is above board, but it’s not,” said Representative Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey. “The Republicans don’t have clean hands coming here. Their effort is obviously not to make this better, but to use the website glitches as an excuse to defund or repeal Obamacare.”

Taking the same line, Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, said: “We have already documented a record of Republicans attempting to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.” He added, “If we want this law to work, we have to make this right; we’ve got to fix it. Not what the Republicans are trying to do: nix it and repeal it.”

Although some Republicans asked valid and thoughtful questions of the private contractors who’d come to testify, others seemed to prove Mr. Pallone and Mr. Waxman right.

Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, took the opportunity to say he would seek a delay in the individual mandate—exactly what Republicans wanted before there was any word of trouble with the online exchanges. is “nothing less than an unmitigated disaster,” Mr. Pitts said. He also wondered aloud if the people behind it were “simply incompetent” or else “lying to the American people.”

“If the Web site glitches are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon, “it’s only a matter of time before the law sinks and takes with it those Democrats who wrote it, voted for it and are proud of it.”

Breaking that down: If the glitches indicate deep problems, then health care reform will fall apart, and Republicans will reap the benefits in the next election. In other words, disaster would be good for his party.


By: Juliet Lapidos, Editors Blog, The New York Times, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Got ‘Em Now”: No,’s Problems Will Not Offer The GOP Political Deliverance

Today marks the beginning of what will surely be a series of hearings in Congress at which members will fulminate and shake their fists at various people who had responsibility for creating It’s quite something to see some congressman who’s still struggling to figure out how to work the Blackberry his staff gave him asking questions about beta testing and error logs and a bunch of other stuff he doesn’t begin to understand. But maybe the weirdest thing is the feeling one gets from the GOP over the last few days, which can be summarized as, “We got ’em now!” They seem to believe that the website problems are going to provide the deliverance they’ve been waiting for after the political disaster of the government shutdown.

Here’s a little prediction: Feigned Republican outrage over the ACA web site is going to be just as effective in reversing the GOP’s current fortunes as feigned Republican outrage over Benghazi was in undoing Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

Nevertheless, they’ve got a new spring in their step, as The New York Times reports today. “If the Web site glitches are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Representative Greg Walden, who as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for making sure his party holds the House in 2014, “it’s only a matter of time before the law sinks and takes with it those Democrats who wrote it, voted for it and are proud of it.” All they have to do is sit back and wait for Obamacare to implode, then reap the political benefits.

I wouldn’t get too excited if I were them. First of all, if you’re arguing about why the website isn’t working, you’ve implicitly accepted the premise that the website ought to work, so people can use it and get insurance. Which is quite different from arguing, as some Republicans have, that people who are now uninsured just shouldn’t bother getting insurance at all. When you stand before the cameras to shout, “I will not rest until these problems are fixed and Obamacare works properly!” and you then turn around and say, “I will not rest until Obamacare is destroyed!”, you’re not exactly convincing the voting public that you’re the one they want running things.

Furthermore, as Greg Sargent reminds us, “when it comes to supplying genuine oversight, previous House GOP probes — into Benghazi and the IRS scandal – devolved into circus stunts. Those investigations got knocked off kilter by lurid and fanciful charges that seemed directed at a hard right audience that remains firmly in the grip of the conservative closed information feedback loop.” In today’s Republican party, efforts at embarrassing the Obama administration quickly get taken over by the the party’s tin foil hat brigade, and even the sane ones end up playing to Sean Hannity’s audience instead of to the country as a whole.

If you’re a Republican member of Congress, this is coming at a critical time, because it’s around now when your potential primary opponents are deciding whether they want to run against you in next year’s election. That gives you an incentive to prove to the folks back home that you’re as conservative as the nuttiest Tea Partier. It isn’t hard to do, really—all that’s necessary is to go on television and tell the Fox News host that you’re deeply concerned that was intentionally made to work improperly as a pretext for the socialist Obama administration to collect all our DNA to facilitate herding us into FEMA concentration camps (or something like that). Which helps make your primary challenge less likely, but doesn’t serve the party’s larger purpose of convincing the American public that the GOP is not, in fact, a party of extremists who don’t care about governing.

Hearings like these seldom produce any useful information, but if they increase the pressure on the administration to get things fixed quickly, then that’s all to the good. But if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t get too excited about what they’re going to do for my party.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editro, The American Prospect, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Insane Defense Of GOP Radical Tactics”: We Have To Do This Because Of The Tea Party

When the it comes to the government shutdown, Democrats are all on the same page — they’ve grudgingly accepted extremely low spending levels; they’re not making any new or extraneous demands; and they see no need to take Americans’ health care benefits away to satisfy a bizarre far-right crusade.

Are Republicans equally unified? Not so much. A fair number of House Republicans see this tantrum as pointless and are ready to end this fiasco; quite a few Senate Republicans have no idea what party leaders are thinking; and no one in the party has any sense at this point of what GOP officials are supposed to do next.

And then there are Republican donors, some of whom are wondering why they should write checks to reward these policymakers. David Freedlander reported yesterday on a recent fundraising event in New York, where Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, fielded questions from wealthy supporters.

Why, they asked, did the GOP seem so in the thrall of its most extremist wing? The donors, banker types who occupy the upper reaches of Wall Street’s towers, couldn’t understand why the Republican Party — their party — seemed close to threatening the nation with a government shutdown, never mind a default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised later this month.

“Listen,” Walden said, according to several people present. “We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

Remember, this wasn’t a Democrat condemning the Republican Party for having been hijacked by extremists; this was a Republican leader offering a defense for his party’s radical tactics.

GOP lawmakers could be responsible, keep the government open, and tell Tea Partiers to grow up, but Republican members of Congress are too afraid of primaries to do the right thing. So, they allow themselves to be pushed around.

The problem, of course, is there’s a tipping point at which less-unhinged Republican voters decide they’ve seen enough and walk away. Indeed, in this case, Walden’s explanation hasn’t won over skeptical donors at all.

Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based businessman who was a major donor to both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, told the Daily Beast, “I am not writing a check to anyone. That is not working for the American people.” Munr Kazmir, a New Jersey-based businessman and major donor to George W. Bush, added, “I have raised a lot of money, but I am not raising any more for House candidates. I am angry. I am embarrassed to be a Republican sometimes, I tell you.”

For what it’s worth, there’s occasional talk of a moderate GOP rebellion.

As the shutdown stretches on, a bloc of moderate House Republicans could be the key to reopening government.

On Wednesday, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, held meetings with groups of “pragmatist” lawmakers — as Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., described them — who want to pass a policy-rider-free continuing resolution and end the government shutdown as soon as possible. […]

It isn’t fast enough for Rep. Peter T. King of New York, who was one of the most vocal House Republicans criticizing the party’s strategy as the government headed to a shutdown.King wasn’t invited to any of Boehner’s moderate meetings Wednesday, so he held his own. King said he met in his office with roughly 10 members who support a clean CR, and they discussed “what the strategy would be.”

It sounds nice, I suppose, but we appear to be talking about less than 5% of the House Republican caucus, and so far, they’ve demonstrated a complete inability to influence the debate in any way.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 4, 2013

October 5, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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