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“Terrorism By Any Other Name”:The Armed Domestic Terrorists In Oregon Should Be Treated Just As ISIS Terrorists Would Be

The big story of the day is the armed seizure of an empty federal building in rural Oregon by a group of domestic terrorists, some of whom are the sons of federal tax cheat and freeloader Cliven Bundy.

They’re apparently upset at the conviction and upcoming jail sentences of a couple of fellow domestic terrorists for arson. They believe that the federal government has no constitutional authority to own land, that national parks are essentially illegal, and that men like them have a God-given right to mine, log and otherwise destroy whatever forest land they want. (It remains unclear whether they would condone Native Americans for “standing their ground” and responding with force to their trespass on the same lands that God clearly gave to them first.)

I don’t want to dwell too much on the rationales and motivations for these domestic terrorists any more than I would for the people who fight for ISIS or Al Qaeda. It’s always the same thing: a group of armed, angry men believe that the Big Bad Western Government is infringing on their right to do whatever it is they very well please–whether it’s to the environment, or to minorities, women, people of different religious groups, etc. Undereducated, armed angry men are often upset at Western governments for upsetting their private power apple carts because in their small, solipsistic worlds they’re very used to being lords of their manors and local enforcers of bigoted frontier justice. That’s as true of Afghan militants in the Taliban as it is of rural Montana militiamen. The only difference is in the trappings, the external presence of the rule of law and the degree of violence involved.

What’s more interesting to focus on is the response to the incident so far. As with ISIS, the Bundy clowns are actively seeking a confrontation with the big bad wolf of Big Western Government. They believe that an active confrontation will spark a movement that will lead to the overthrow of Big Brother. So far, especially after the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, American leaders have been disinclined to give those opportunities to the domestic militiaman terrorists. Cliven Bundy and his miscreants got away with a wide range of crimes due to the forbearance of federal officials.

But the problem with taking that hands-off approach is that the treatment of left-leaning protesters is far different. Occupiers and Black Lives Matter protesters aren’t met with hand wringing and gentle admonishments. They’re met with batons and tear gas. If Black Lives Matter or Occupy protesters started arming themselves and taking over federal buildings, you can guarantee that police would start using live ammunition and people would die.

So on the one hand it’s understandable that federal officials would not want to make martyrs of the right-wing domestic terrorists who are actively seeking to engage in a confrontation and make themselves appear to be downtrodden victims of the federal beast. But on the other hand, it’s infuriating that they receive special kid glove treatment that would not be afforded to minority and liberal activists.

Personally, I feel that if ISIS fighters want a grand confrontation with the West on an open battlefield, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to give them one. The outcome of that battle would not be in doubt. Similarly, I feel that if Bundy’s little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they’ll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them, then they should get what they’re asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise.

As much as restraint is the better part of valor when dealing with entitled conservative crazies, principles of basic justice and fair play also need to apply. What’s good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthy, January 3, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Domestic Terrorism, Montana Militia | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Language And Words”: Magna Carta Said No Man Is Above The Law, But What About Corporations?

Magna Carta reminds us that no man is above the law.

And it should be celebrated for that.

But it should not be imagined that Magna Carta established democracy, or anything akin to it.

The great British parliamentarian Tony Benn put it well several years ago when he noted, as this 800th anniversary of Magna Carta approached, that we still do not have democracy.

“Don’t look at historic documents but treat them as part of the language and words that help us understand what we have to do,” said Benn, who died in 2014 at age 88.

As queens and presidents celebrate today’s anniversary of Magna Carta, with all their pomp and circumstance, we the people should be focused on what we have to do.

If we respect the notion that the rule of law must apply to all—the most generous interpretation of the premises handed down across the centuries from those who on June 15, 1215, forced “the Great Charter of the Liberties” upon King John of England at Runnymede—then surely it must apply to corporations.

And, surely, the best celebration of those premises in the United States must be the extension of the movement to amend the US Constitution to declare that corporations are not people, money is not speech, and citizens and their elected representatives have the authority to organize elections—and systems of governance—where our votes matter more than their dollars.

Millions of Americans have already engaged with the movement to amend the Constitution to overturn not just the Supreme Court’s noxious 2010 decision in the case of Citizens United v. FEC but a host of other decisions that have permitted billionaires and corporate CEOs to define our politics and policies. Sixteen states have formally urged Congress to move an amendment, as have more than 600 communities. Democratic and Republican members of Congress are supportive. One presidential candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has penned an amendment proposal, while others, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, say they are open to the prospect.

But this movement, like every movement to amend the Constitution in a way that upsets the status quo, still faces plenty of obstacles. Politicians and media outlets that benefit from a system defined by blank checks and millions of negative ads continue to resist the logic of this reform—and the prospect of robust democracy.

Polls show that the American people know that billionaires and corporations are too influential, and referendum results confirm that the people are ready to amend the constitution to reduce that influence. But to translate those sentiments into real change will require more campaigning by the groups that have moved this project forward, including Move to Amend, Free Speech for People, Common Cause, Public Citizen, People for the American Way and dozens of others.

It will also require citizens themselves to begin to confront elected officials with blunt questions that go to the heart of democracy—and to the heart of the question of whether the rule of law really does apply to all men, all women and all corporations.

Tony Benn, the great chronicler and champion of the long struggle for liberty in Britain and around the world, best outlined the challenge that must be made to those who control our politics and our economics—and who are so inclined to resist change.

Decades ago, Benn outlined “Five Questions for People of Power.

They are:

“What power have you got?

“Where did you get it from?

“In whose interests do you use it?

“To whom are you accountable?

“How do we get rid of you?”

“Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions,” said Benn, “does not live in a democratic system.”

For Americans, the answer to that last question is a movement to amend the Constitution so that we can begin to get rid of the overwhelming influence of billionaires and corporations over our politics, our governance, and our lives.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, June 15, 2015

June 17, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, Democracy, Magna Carta | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oh, Please!”: Roy Moore Wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg Impeached

The U.S. Supreme Court probably won’t rule on marriage equality until the end of June, and when it does, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to side in support of equal-marriage rights.

For the right, this will be deeply annoying – not just because of conservative opposition to marriage equality in general, but also because much of the right believes Ginsburg shouldn’t be able to participate in the case at all. Right Wing Watch had this report this afternoon:

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday about his belief that states should “resist” a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, saying that Congress and the states should simply defy a court decision they disagree with by stating “that there is no right to redefine marriage” in the U.S. Constitution.

“We have justices on the Supreme Court right now who have actually performed same-sex marriages, Ginsburg and Kagan,” Moore continued. “Congress should do something about this.”

Such as? Moore raised the prospect of impeachment proceedings.

Perkins concluded, in reference to Ginsburg, “This is undermining the rule of law in our country and ushers in an age of chaos.”

Oh, please.

First, the idea that Ginsburg can’t consider the constitutional questions surrounding marriage rights because she’s performed wedding ceremonies is pretty silly.

Second, let’s not lose sight of the context here. Roy Moore, who was once expelled from state Supreme Court because he declared an ability to ignore federal court rulings he doesn’t like, continues to argue that Alabama is not bound by the federal judiciary.

There’s someone in this story who’s “undermining the rule of law in our country,” and trying to create “chaotic” conditions, but it’s clearly not Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2015

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Marriage Equality, Roy Moore, Ruth Bader Ginsburg | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“There Is No Simpler Way To Put It”: Cliven Bundy’s An Old-Fashioned Racist – And He’s Not Alone

When I was a kid growing up in South Carolina, I was racist. I used the ‘n” word. I was taught that word by those around me, men and women who I looked  to for moral guidance. My late father was a horrible bigot and he truly believed black people were simply beneath him. My late grandmother didn’t really use that word around me but she made it clear by her actions that anyone who wasn’t white was simply “lesser.”

Yet, these were two people who had more influence over me than pretty much anyone else in my youth. I loved them both and even today their deaths affect me emotionally.

When I was finally able to admit and embrace being gay to my family, something in me changed. I was moved from a place of hate to a place of empathy. I began to see the world not through the eyes of a privileged white Southern kid but from the perspective of someone on the other side of the railroad tracks. It was, in a word, sobering.

When I hear white people talk about race, I get a little clammy. When I hear Cliven Bundy talk about race, I get really pissed off. This “tea party” favorite, an American grandfather who’s a rancher with a very loyal family, seems to have bared his soul for the press. He likes the bully pulpit that comes from being a “taker,” a freeloader, a tax evader. He’s a man who doesn’t recognize the U.S. government in any way shape fashion or form. He’s also a man who said this, as reported by the New York Times:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

The “negro?” Picking cotton? Seriously? Who the hell is this guy? Let me tell you who Cliven Bundy is. He’s a bigot who believes in “freedom.” In case it’s lost on you, Bundy is the ultimate government subsidy. He believes in feeding his cattle for free. He doesn’t believe he owes federal taxes. He doesn’t believe in the rule of federal law. Bundy is purely and simply a common criminal who deserves to go to jail.

He believes in using us in the press as his bully pulpit and we let him. Bundy believes in a land mass of 50 states, not one nation of 50 states. He’s a secessionist. He’s not a patriot as some have called him. George Washington was a patriot – who, not for nothing, used force to put down citizens who refused to pay the federal excise tax in the Whiskey Rebellion. Abraham Lincoln was a patriot, who by the way implemented the federal income tax. I’d love to hear Bundy’s wise opinion on Lincoln. No doubt he’ll tell us if we let him. No doubt we’ll give him that microphone. We should.

I guess the question we must ask is, does Cliven Bundy represent a thin and narrow sliver of American society or is he something bigger? With freedom fighters and birthers and tea partiers and their ilk rallying behind him and his right to steal from the American taxpayer, I’m convinced this man is no sliver of hate. Clearly, the freedom fighters hate what America has become and they’re convinced President Obama is leading us all down the path to Hell. Their new spokesman? Cliven Bundy.

This Bundy fellow isn’t a one-off. Conservative opinion columnist George Will seems to think so. He has opined that Democrats scream racism anytime we don’t like what we’re hearing. I’d probably agree if this were just Bundy but it’s not. Just Google Cliven Bundy and you’ll see his following, his supporters, his freedom followers. Even fools like Allen West support this racist.

I don’t know Mr. Bundy but I knew his type when I was a kid. There’s not much difference between my father and Bundy. That makes me sad. I always held my father on a pedestal even with his grotesque flaws. When I hear the Cliven Bundys of the world spew out their filth, their racism, I’m reminded of my ignorant childhood, of my grandmother’s and daddy’s view of the world and I’m horrified.

 

By: Jimmie Williams, an MSNBC Political Contributor; Published in U. S. News and World Report, April 24, 2014

April 28, 2014 Posted by | Bigotry, Cliven Bundy, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fox News’ Demented Poster Boy”: Why Angry Rancher Cliven Bundy Is No Patriot

The latest right-wing media poster-victim, Cliven Bundy, is just the latest in a long line of desert dwellers who thinks he or she should not have to follow the law and has a god-given right to unlimited use of public resources, in this case, rangeland.  I know the mentality well, because I grew up in rural Nevada and clung desperately to such beliefs until only a few years ago.

Bundy has not paid grazing fees in close to 20 years, while the federal government has, with painful, stupid moves, tried to somehow deal with him. Bundy also faced restrictions because he continued to graze cattle on a slice of public land reserved for the endangered desert tortoise.  He was invited to talk to Sean Hannity (of course) about the “standoff.”

“We want freedom,” Bundy said. I don’t know what freedom Bundy’s talking about. He does not own the land nor does he even pay the modest fees required to use it. Thousands of ranchers across the West pay fees for their businesses, but Bundy thinks he should get to use public resources to make a personal profit.  Cliven Bundy, far from being a patriot, is also clearly a straight-up communist.

Bundy is using the language of freedom, patriotism and outright paranoia to further his business interests. He succeeded wildly in drawing other “patriots” to his slice of contested desert. I don’t know these exact people, but the words and phrases they used were the nursery rhymes of my childhood. I’ve been listening to ignorant people bitch about the federal “gub’met,” since I could crawl, and I’m weary of it. I can’t bear to hear poor people rally to the defense of moneyed interests like mining and ranching, like well-trained, bleating sheep. As tired and silly as I find his language, clearly it worked. He so inflamed the lunatic militia movement, that many rallied to him, often from out of state, with guns and naked threats. They created a real possibility that someone might get killed, so the feds backed down.

It is asinine in our age that an armed group of idiots can thwart reasonable government action. Bundy is not a hero, a victim or innocent in any way. Just think of real injustice of America, like people spending life in jail for marijuana charges. It’s hard to imagine the “militia,” a mostly fat, white and ignorant group, showing up to defend a kid in the inner city who was arrested for no reason. Also think what would happen to you, if you opted not to register your car for 20 years. Bundy exploits the most sickening version of white privilege to justify what amounts to theft.

The basic facts of this story obfuscate the decades of history, animosity and lies between the federal government and the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion that started in the late ’70s. The movement is centered in Elko, Nev., a town next door to Battle Mountain, the much smaller town where I grew up. If you’ve not spent time in the rural desert, you’ll have a hard time understanding the vast spaces in play. Lander County, where Battle Mountain is located, is the geographic size of Vermont but has no more than 5,000 people.

I grew up on 40 acres of brown sagebrush. Particularly when I was a child, cattle roamed carelessly across our property.  They even had right of way on my father’s land unless he fenced the entire lot with four-strands of barbed wire, an expensive and ugly option. This is the freedom for which patriots are fighting: for cows to trump personal property rights.

In some ways, Nevada has a legitimate beef with the federal government that owns 87 percent of all of Nevada’s land. That’s land that can’t be developed or sold, which cuts into Nevada’s tax base. However, that land is far from empty. People ride horses and recreational vehicles on it.  They hunt it and file mining claims, and, yes, when appropriate a vast amount of it is open to grazing. Without “public” land, there would be no ranching of the kind that allows Mr. Bundy to make a living. There would be less “wide open” for which the West is famous.

We could argue about whether the land should belong to the federal government, but what is not in dispute is that Bundy has no ownership of it.  He won’t even pay fees to use it.  In short, he refuses to pay rent, like thousands of other ranchers do dutifully every year.  Again, I’d like to observe if Bundy is not a communist, he’s at least an aggressive socialist.

Bundy’s foundational argument is that he “has been using the land for generations.” He claims to have “ancestors” who worked the land since the late 1800s. If Bundy wants to make this argument, he’ll need to chat to a Native American or two from one of the many different tribes in Nevada who were here far before Bundy’s ancestors. Also, I thought America was about building wealth through capitalism, rather than depending on your daddy to pass on his membership into the landed aristocracy. Bundy seems to think himself a member of the neo-nobility.

What is missed in this nonsense is that the land should not be managed based on feelings or business needs or family connections. In my Nevada experience, history and family too often trump concerns about what’s best for society and the public good. From where I sit, attitudes are changing for the better.

Bundy, like the sagebrush rebels who came before, has co-opted the language of the oppressed, wrapped in neo-Confederate sensibilities. The crazies have been loosed for good or ill, waving yellow flags and screaming the word “patriot,” none of which has anything to do with subsidizing one man’s business. Even some of my close friends and family are outraged over this latest assault on “freedom.”  I’m not far enough removed from this opinion to forget how it feels. You feel powerless and angry. I can hear my former inner voice: We live out here, not them. We should get to decide how to use the desert. It is as understandable as it is ill-informed and misguided.

I have to concede that certain employees of the federal government can be stupid and ham-handed dealing with people like Bundy. In this case, the feds probably should have removed Bundy’s cattle when he stopped paying grazing fees. The agencies involved also fumbled some parts of the latest tactic, playing into fears of government overreach with “Free Speech Zones” for protesters. So often the feds seem to botch the details, but one must give them credit for backing down in the end. No one, perhaps other than the raging right, wanted actual shooting. Perhaps now, quietly, the federal government can work with Bundy to get him to either pay his grazing fees or remove his cattle without creating a spectacle.

Bundy has no right to public land. The federal government and other land managers can and should consider the interests of ranchers, just as they should consider mining, recreation and the needs of wildlife, but Bundy is not the only person who has lived in the desert. His should not be even close to the final vote. He can whittle, spit and reminisce, while the rest of us build a modern, cooperative state worth living in.

 

By: Edwin Lyngar, Salon, April 21, 2014

April 26, 2014 Posted by | Bureau of Land Management, Cliven Bundy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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