defending the wrong people

I have a Twitter account that I completely neglect. I have friends, though, who sporadically alert me to Interesting Stuff That Happens On Twitter. It didn’t take long for them to inform me that the Republican National Committee tweeted this:

Exclusive: Republicans Launch Willie Horton-Style Attack on Kaine

Kaine, of course, is Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine. But there are probably a lot of folks who aren’t familiar with the name Willie Horton. He was featured in a racist campaign advertisement used by George H.W. Bush against Democrat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election. Here’s the original ad:

This is unquestionably one of the most notorious political attack ads in US election history It was the brainchild of Bush campaign manager, Lee Atwater, one of the most vile and venomous political ratfuckers of modern political history. That’s not an exaggeration. You want proof? Here’s something Atwater said in a 1981 interview:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.'”

Atwater was a sort of evil genius. He gave a lot of serious, creative thought about ways to encode racism into political speech. He was an early adopter of ‘dog whistle’ campaigning, devising methods for emphasizing race that non-racists might not even hear. For example, Atwater shortened Horton’s given name, William — the name he went by — to Willie. Why? Because he thought Willie sounded more black. Atwater said this about the Horton ad:

“By the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’ running mate.”

And hey, it worked. Bush won the election. At the end of his life, however, when he knew he was dying, Atwater apologized to Dukakis for the “naked cruelty” of the campaign he ran. A lot of people doubt the sincerity of that apology.

Lee Atwater, with Strom Thurmond and Ronald Reagan.

Lee Atwater, with Strom Thurmond and Ronald Reagan.

Atwater died in 1991. This is 2016, and in 2016 the Republican National Committee is seemingly proud to return to the naked cruelty of Atwater and the Willie Horton style of campaigning. The RNC quickly deleted their tweet about running a Willie Horton ad. The ad is still out there, of course. And the message is still the same: associate your opponent with the ‘wrong people’ — but do it in a coded way that doesn’t appear hateful.

Here’s the anti-Kaine advert:

The ad concludes by stating: “Tim Kaine, he has a passion for defending the wrong people. America deserves better.”

I spent seven years as a criminal defense investigator, working to defend the ‘wrong’ people. I helped defend murderers, rapists, arsonists, armed robbers, gun traffickers, and child molesters. I helped defend them knowing that almost all of them were guilty. They weren’t always guilty of the crime they were charged with, but most of them were guilty of something — sometimes guilty of something not as bad, sometimes guilty of something even worse.

Some of you — maybe most of you — are asking the obvious question: how could you defend somebody you knew was guilty of a heinous crime? It’s a valid question. There’s an answer that I believe is valid, though not everybody agrees — and even those folks who agree with the answer in the abstract find it uncomfortable to accept in practice. I often found it uncomfortable too. Here’s the answer:

Sometimes the police make mistakes.

That’s it, basically. Sometimes the police arrest an innocent person. I like to believe that most often the police are truly certain they’ve arrested the right person — but sometimes they’re just flat-out wrong. And in order to protect the folks who are truly, factually innocent of the crime they’re charged with, it’s necessary to force the police and the prosecutor to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt every single time. Every single time. Even if the defendant is clearly, blatantly, obviously guilty, we have to hold the prosecution to a high standard of proof. Because if we don’t — if we fail to protect the legal rights of every person every single time — then it becomes easier for them to convict those who are truly innocent.

Tim Kaine defended accused murderers — defended guilty murderers. Nobody does that because they support murder. They do it because the believe in — and are willing to do ugly work to defend — the legitimacy of the Constitution of the United States. That may not be popular, but it’s patriotic.

When the Republican National Committee attacks Tim Kaine for defending accused criminals, they’re actually undermining the U.S. Constitution. They’re basically suggesting there are citizens who are the ‘wrong people’ and as such, they don’t deserve the same rights as ‘decent’ people.

Of course, they’ve been suggesting that for a long time. They suggest the wrong people shouldn’t be allowed to marry, they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt, they shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the military or receive food assistance if they’re poor or be guaranteed safe working conditions or receive financial assistance if they’ve lost their job or become citizens of the United States.

They’ve become very good at suggesting stuff about gays and Muslims and women and poor folks and people of color. Because 2016 and you can’t say ‘nigger nigger nigger’ out loud anymore.


time to close the militia fantasy camp

Okay, I’m pretty much sick of those swag-bellied motherfuckers who are still parking their pale, pasty, spongy asses on public land in Oregon. And I’m pretty much weary of waiting for Federal law enforcement to do their fucking job.

I’m a peaceful guy. A patient guy. I have been told patience is my only redeeming quality. But Jeebus in a tea-cup, people, there’s a point at which patience ceases to be a virtue. And we passed that point a week ago. At this point, we’re only encouraging them. We’re only inviting more of this shit.

They call it a peaceful event. That’s a lie. Here’s how you can tell it’s a lie: you don’t bring guns to a peaceful protest. You bring guns to a gunfight. They keep saying that IF there’s violence, it’ll be initiated by LEOs — and they say it in the same way a wife-beater tells his battered wife “Don’t make me do this.”

Not a peaceful protest.

Not a peaceful protest.

What that basically says is these tunaheads don’t believe they should be held accountable for their behavior. Tell me, does that work for any group other than armed white guys wearing cowboy hats? Never mind, I know the answer. The answer is hell, no.

They say they want a peaceful resolution. That’s also a lie. Here’s what Ammon Bundy, the bull goose loony of the occupation, told an FBI negotiator yesterday:

“I want to make sure that you understand: The resolution is the Constitution of the United States. How we get there, I realize there’s some steps and some things we need to do. But we’ve compromised that supreme law long enough.”

What they mean by ‘resolution’ is capitulation to their fuckwitted interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. That leaves absolutely no room at all for real negotiation. And let’s face it, at this point the only thing that should be negotiated is how these toads should surrender themselves to law enforcement.

Not looking for a peaceful resolution.

Not looking for a peaceful resolution.

Again, I’m a peaceful guy. I don’t want to see anybody get hurt, including these guys. I don’t want to see this situation end in a gunfight. Gunfights are bad news for everybody. But I want to see these jamokes held accountable. Right now, they’re basically allowed to come and go as they please, attending town meetings, stocking up on snacks. Just as bad, their supporters are allowed into the wildlife refuge to resupply them. These guys are acting like they’re at Militia Fantasy Camp. Seriously, what the fuck, FBI?

There are some basic steps the Feds could take to apply pressure. Isolate the bastards. Turn off their goddamn electricity. Jam their cell phones. Stop their supply runs. Arrest anybody who tries to enter the wildlife refuge, and arrest any of the occupiers who leave. Treat these fuckwits like the criminals they are.

Don’t just stand around with your thumb up your ass; do something.

dude, c’mon. alabama

— I don’t understand what’s going on in Alabama.

— That’s okay. The people of Alabama don’t always understand what’s going on in Alabama. Nobody has ever quite understood what’s going on in Alabama. When Hernando de Soto first passed through the area, the Choctaw Indians who lived there are quoted as saying “Who the hell ARE these people. What the hell are they up to? We just don’t understand.”

— I mean this whole same-sex marriage thing. What’s up with that?

— Oh, right, that. Well, back in 2006 Alabama added a Sanctity of Marriage Amendment to their State Constitution.

— What’s a Sanctity of Marriage Amendment? What does it do?

— It said marriage was “a sacred covenant, solemnized between a man and a woman.” It basically told same-sex couples they could go fuck themselves.

— Really?

— Yeah. Well, no…not literally. I mean, it’s only been about seven months…yeah, that’s right, months…that Alabama’s anti-sodomy law was finally kicked to the curb. Alabama law doesn’t much like gay folks. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court thinks gay sex is icky. Back in 2002 he wrote a legal opinion saying homosexuality was “a crime in Alabama, a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.”

Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court -- thinks gay sex is icky.

Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court — thinks gay sex is icky.

— Lawdy. Defies one’s ability to describe it? You know, it’s really not that hard to describe gay sex.

— I know, right? Anyway, a couple weeks ago a federal judge said the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment was unconstitutional, and Alabama couldn’t use it to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples.

— Oh, well that should settle it, right?

— Dude, c’mon. This is Alabama. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court told the federal court it could go fuck itself. Again, not literally. On account of that would be icky, and all that.

— Can the Chief Justice of anyplace actually do that?

— Nope.

— Is that the same Chief Justice who wrote that earlier opinion?

— It surely is. He’s a yahoo named Roy Moore. He told the folks who issue marriages licenses at the county offices to ignore the federal court ruling. Told them they should refuse to issue licences to same-sex couples.

— They ought to kick that guy out of office.

— They actually did. Back in 2003. Kicked his ass right out of office.

Jusge Roy Moore with two-and-a-half tons of Commandments

Judge Roy Moore with two-and-a-half tons of Commandments

— Because of the gay thing?

— Nope. It was another thing. Judge Moore commissioned a two-and-a-half ton monument to the Ten Commandments, which he put in the central rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court.

— That’s pretty much a violation of the separation of church and state, isn’t it?

— Pretty much.

— So what happened?

— Somebody sued. A federal judge said the monument had to be removed. Judge Moore told the judge to go fuck himself.

— Not literally.

— No, not literally. Anyway, Moore refused to remove the monument, and eventually an Alabama judiciary commission booted his ass out of office.

— But he’s back now? He’s the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court again?

— Yep. Again.

— Why? How?

— Dude, c’mon. Alabama.

— Right. Okay, so what’s going to happen?

— Damned if I know. Some Alabama counties are issuing marriage license to same-sex couple, some are refusing to issue licences to same-sex couples, some have stopped issuing marriage licenses to anybody.

Alabama couple refused a license to marry

Alabama couple refused a license to marry

— That doesn’t make any sense, does it?

— Nope.

— That judge, Moore…he’s going to lose again, isn’t he? Eventually?

— Almost certainly. He might be able to drag this fuss out until later in the year when the U.S. Supreme Court issues a final ruling about same-sex marriage. But yeah, he’s almost certainly going to lose. Again.

Alabama couple granted a license to marry

Alabama couple granted a license to marry

— So he’s causing all this trouble and confusion because of some religious principle?

— That’s what he says. The Bible, and all that.

— But the Bible isn’t the law. The Ten Commandments aren’t the law.

— Nope.

— I mean, there’s all that coveting business. We’re pretty much free to covet whatever the hell we want in America, aren’t we?

— Pretty much.

— I mean, this is America. We’re all about coveting, aren’t we.

— Totally about the coveting.

— So why is all this happening?

— Dude, c’mon. It’s Alabama.

UPDATE 9/27/2017

— I see your boy Roy Moore is back.

— Not my boy, but yeah. Year and a half later and he’s back. Just won the Republican primary to run for the United States Senate representing the great state of Alabama.

— So what happened back then about that gay marriage business?

—  Glad you asked. A couple of months later Moore was suspended from the Alabama Supreme Court for the second time.

— So that settled that.

— You’d think. But nope. Moore told the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission to go fuck itself.

— Not literally, right?

— Right. He sued them. Said it was unconstitutional to suspend him from the court just on account of he refuse to obey the law.

— You’re making that up, right?

— Nope. But then a couple of months after that, same sex marriage became legal everywhere. Including in Alabama.

— Right. So that settled everything, right?

— Dude, c’mon. It’s Alabama. Moore’s suit against the Judicial Inquiry Whatsit dragged itself on like a damned zombie until just a few months ago. April, 2017. That’s when a special Alabama court told Moore to go fuck himself. No, not literally. They upheld his suspension.

— Suspension.

— Bingo. He wasn’t kicked off the court this time. He was just suspended from ever sitting at the bench and hearing a case or doing anything remotely supreme courtish.

— What did Moore do?

— He told the special Alabama court to go fuck itself. He resigned and said he’d run for the U.S. Senate.

— Which he did.

— Which he totally did. And yeah, last night he won the nomination. I think it was the thing with the gun that sealed his win.

— Thing with the gun?

Former judge Roy Moore says hello to his little friend.

— On Monday, the day before the election, Moore was giving a speech and he pulled out a handgun.

— Onstage? Why?

— To show he loves guns. It was just a little silver revolver, kind of a girly gun, but still. Some folks love that stuff.

— So he’s going to be the next United States Senator for Alabama?

— Well, he’ll have to face a Democrat in the next election, but yeah, he’s the Republican nominee.

— Lawdy.

— I know, right?

— But this guy’s completely horrible. He can’t possibly win, can he?

— Dude, c’mon. It’s Alabama.

a complicated densely-packed clusterfuck

A friend asked me why I hadn’t written anything about the clusterfuck taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. I’m a criminologist, after all — or used to be. I’ve taught undergrad courses in policing, in deviance, in criminological theory, and all that other criminal justice and sociological stuff. Surely, my friend said, I had to have thoughts and opinions about what’s going on in Ferguson.

Ferguson confrontation

And he’s right, I do have opinions and thoughts. But here’s the reason I haven’t written about them: it’s complicated. I don’t mean the reason is complicated; I mean the clusterfuck itself is complicated. In fact, it’s not one clusterfuck. It’s an entire cascade of clusterfucks, each of which is also complicated. Not complex, complicated.

Complexity is intrinsic; a system is complex if it involves a lot of moving parts, even at its most basic level. There’s nothing wrong with complexity. Complication, though, is extrinsic; a system is made complicated by external factors, by stuff that’s non-essential to the system. Complication is always fucked up. And what we have in Ferguson is a collision of several different complicated social systems.

ferguson looter

If you want to understand what’s happened in Ferguson — and I mean actually understand it, not just be outraged by it — then there’s a whole buttload of other related stuff you need to understand first. You need to understand police culture, and the notion of the operative assumption of guilt (which isn’t, in itself, a bad thing). You need to understand how three or four hundred years of legitimized violence by white folks against black folks has shaped the perspectives of both groups. You need to understand how gender shapes the police response to confrontation. You need to understand how four decades of federal grants to local law enforcement agencies militarized policing — accidentally at first, and then more deliberately. You need to understand how ‘fair housing’ laws essentially forced black families into working class ghetto neighborhoods, then routinely undermined actual attempts at home ownership — which perpetuated a semi-rootless culture more attached to a community than to home and family. You need to understand how television helped turn policing from an occupation grounded in community service and job security into one grounded in car chases and kicking ass. And you need to understand the terrible pleasure that comes from releasing fear through an act of violence.

ferguson tear gas

And after you begin to understand all that, you need to understand that each of these issues is related to all the other issues. All of them. This is a densely-packed clusterfuck. We’d like to believe it can be fixed. It can’t.

It can’t be fixed because it’s not a problem that’s reducible to its component parts. You can’t ‘fix’ any of these issues without fixing them all. It’s not a problem that can be solved; it can only be unraveled.

ferguson hands up

We may have seen the beginning of that unraveling last night. Missouri State Police took control of security in Ferguson. They got rid of the riot gear, got rid of the gas masks, got rid of the helmets, got rid of the fucking military vehicles. They wore their regular uniforms, they met the angry but peaceful demonstrators in the streets, and they stepped aside.

Will it last? Maybe. In Ferguson, probably. For a while. For a while. But don’t expect much. Because it’s complicated. It’s complicated and, obviously, not localized. The conditions that created the densely-packed clusterfuck of Ferguson exist all over this nation. It’s complicated. Complicated and self-perpetuating.

chortling curtailed

You guys, today I totally sorta kinda feel bad for Republicans (okay, no, not really). I mean the day started out SO well for them. A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare, or the Kenyan Usurper’s Completely Socialist Plot to Destroy These United States by Giving Health Care to Poor People) was “a plate of absolute bullshit with special bullshit sauce, served with a side of bullshit salad” (actual quote from the ruling, as interpreted by me).

Basically, the court said the Federal gubmint can’t pay subsidies to help poor and working class folks get health insurance. Why? Because there was an editing error in the final draft. It said the subsidies would be paid through exchanges “established by the State”, which two of the three judges decided meant the individual state instead of the federal state. And no, I’m not making that up. That’s actually the basis of their decision. I think. Or something equally absurd.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Potterville) chortling

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Potterville) chortling

Republicans were all “Yay! Millions of poor folks will be denied health care! Democracy works!” House Speaker John Boehner (Hapless Orange-faced Republican Windbag from Ohio) celebrated the decision. He said: “Today’s ruling is also further proof that President Obama’s health care law is completely unworkable. It cannot be fixed.” Senator Ted Cruz (Batshit Crazy Republican from Where Else?) issued a mildly lunatic statement commending the appeals court.

“The D.C. Circuit’s decision today in Halbig v. Burwell is a repudiation of Obamacare and all the lawlessness that has come with it…. This is a significant victory for the American people and the rule of law.”

Completely unworkable, you guys! Lawlessness! A significant victory! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Boehner and Cruz chortled in their joy. For like maybe five minutes. Then…blammo! (Actual sound made by appeals court rulings.) The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on the same issue, saying “Are you fucking kidding me? Jeebus, it’s pretty clear from every other goddam word in the Act that they’re talking about the Feds, you morons. Are you guys off your meds?” (Actual quote from the ruling, as interpreted by me.)

Senator Cruz, post-chortle

Senator Cruz, post-chortle

The Fourth Circuit ruling included an analogy:

If I ask for pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch but clarify that I would be fine with a pizza from Domino’s, and I then specify that I want ham and pepperoni on my pizza from Pizza Hut, my friend who returns from Domino’s with a ham and pepperoni pizza has still complied with a literal construction of my lunch order. That is this case.

Seriously, you guys. That’s actually from the decision. Not interpreted by me or any of my personalities. Honest, no shit, directly verbatim from the ruling. Boehner and Cruz did not chortle.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, chortle-free

Speaker of the House John Boehner, chortle-free

I really truly almost sorta kinda (not really) feel bad for those guys. The DC Circuit gave them a piece of candy and the Fourth Circuit took it away. Jill Greenberg could make a photo series out of these guys.

President Obama, on the other hand…

supersaturated stupidity

I thought we might have reached the saturation point in the Bundy Ranch Fuss. You know — the maximum capacity of stupid. A point at which the situation was so deeply and profoundly stupid that it couldn’t hold even one more drop of stupidity.

I thought we’d reached that point. I hadn’t counted on two things. First, the surface tension of stupidity — that quality that allows stupidity to resist external forces, in much the same way an amount of water can slightly exceed the capacity of the glass containing it. Surface tension means you can usually add a little more stupid to an existing container of stupid. Second, I hadn’t taken into account the supersaturation capabilities of Congressman Steve Stockman (Republican, of course — from Texas, of course). Stockman’s highly concentrated stupidity (which has been measured at .92 Gohmerts) allows him to exceed normal stupidity levels. Introducing Stockman into an already stupid situation can dramatically increase the overall volume of stupidity.

Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX, natch) voicing his considered opinions.

Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX, natch) voicing his considered opinions.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, you may remember, Stockman called President Obama’s proposed changes to gun safety “an existential threat to this nation” that he would “seek to thwart…by any means necessary.” And he did that before Obama even made those proposals. And it was Stockman who invited draft-dodging pedophile Ted Nugent — who Stockman considers to be “a patriot” — to the State of the Union speech. Stockman has claimed that the siege at Waco in 1993 was orchestrated by President Clinton in “to prove the need for a ban on so-called assault weapons.”

The list of Stockman’s assault on intelligent behavior is long and colorful — too long to include here (but wait, just one more: Stockman once tweeted ‘If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted’ and no, I’m not making that up). Because he’s such a dunderhead, I suppose it’s not such a surprise that he inserted himself into the Bundy Ranch Fuss. What did he do?

He wrote a letter to President Obama, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and BLM Director Neil Kornze saying:

Because of this standoff, I have looked into BLM’s authority to conduct such paramilitary raids against American citizens, and it appears that BLM is acting in a lawless manner in Nevada…. [T]he federal government must not only stand down, but remove all federal personnel from anywhere near the Bundy ranch…. [BLM has no] right to assume preemptory police powers, that role being reserved to the States.

Stockman (and this may be the only time I’ve ever uttered these words) is absolutely correct. The BLM doesn’t have authority to conduct paramilitary raids against American citizens. However, they do have authority to protect the public lands under BLM management and to enforce the law on BLM property. Which is exactly what they did.

Peaceful Bundy supporters peaceably demonstrating their peaceful disagreement with BLM.

Peaceful Bundy supporters peaceably demonstrating their peaceful disagreement with BLM.

Stockman’s understanding of the situation, of course, is an echo of the stupid shit we’re hearing from the so-called ‘patriots’ of the militia movement. Sadly, when it’s repeated by a sitting Member of Congress — even a nitwit like Stockman — it reinforces the idiocy. For example:

[T]he BLM had no business being armed up like the military in the first place nor did they have any business making an incursion into the State of Nevada. The whole thing was unbelievable. And they wonder why the militia showed up. I said there was a reason why you were not seeing the FBI and the US Marshals.

The fact (and yeah, I realize how useless it is to point out facts to these folks) is that BLM maintains an Office of Law Enforcement & Security specifically to deal with criminal behavior on Federal lands under BLM management (as opposed to US Parks, which has their own security officers). The reason the FBI and the US Marshal Service didn’t show up is because they don’t have jurisdiction. It’s not a conspiracy.

STEVE STOCKMAN KNOWS that Obama is an illegal alien terrorist. He’s been working closely with Arpaio/Zullo on Obama Fraud Investigation.

Well. Yeah. Facts and logic are pretty useless against somebody who claims (and may actually believe) the President of These United States is an illegal alien terrorist.

The Rancher needs to Sue the BLM for violating his Constitutional rights and abuse of authority under the color of law and so should anyone there that was moved, tasked or ordered to do anything by them!

Lawdy. This shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but dude there is NO Constitutional right to graze your cattle on public land. You are making the common conservative error of confusing Things I Do Not Like with Things That Are Unconstitutional.

[W]ho is really calling the shots here??? Who gave the order for the BLM to go in as they did is still not clear. I’d like to know ‘who’ ordered it.

Bonus points for having three (3!) question marks to show how sincerely confused you are. Who really gave the order? That would be any number of Federal judges over the last twenty years, all of whom have consistently ruled that Bundy was illegally grazing his cattle on public land. The most recent order, by Judge Lloyd George was issued on 9 July, 2013. The order states:

Bundy shall remove his livestock from the New Trespass Lands within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.

So after giving Bundy two decades to stop trespassing on public land, and giving him a further 45 days to comply, the BLM gave him eight more months before finally moving in the enforce the order first given 20 years ago. You know, even a flatworm is capable of learning more efficiently than Bundy.

A quick background as to why the BLM should not be harassing Cliven Bundy. This issue goes all the way back to the Confederation Papers, prior to the writing of our US Constitution.

Jeebus on a tortilla, seriously? Did you stop to think the Articles of Confederation no longer apply? (Here’s a hint: they don’t.) Did you ever consider that the US Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation? (Here’s a hint: they did.)

Why are not Senators and US Representative asking for the immediate resignation of the Reids (Harry and his son from the BLM). With the resignation denial of pension and lifetime medical care. make the criminals pay. I know I may be deluded, but the US Congress critters need to stand up once and for all.

Yes, you are deluded. Neither Senator Harry Reid nor his son can resign from BLM because neither of them are employed by BLM. There is a flaw in your reasoning.

bundy no trespassing

There’s some minimal comfort in the knowledge that Steve Stockman will no longer be a Member of Congress as of January 2015 (though I’m sure Republicans in Texas are actively seeking somebody equally stupid to replace him). There’s not much comfort, though, in knowing that neither Bundy nor his supporters have any respect for public lands or any understanding of the law governing those lands.

It’s really pretty simple. Does Bundy own the land on which his cattle are grazing? No. Has he ever owned that land? No. Can he use that land to graze his cattle if he pays the allotment fee? Yes. Has he ever paid the allotment fees? Yes, in the past. Has he paid his allotment fee? No, not for twenty years. Is he trespassing on public land? Yes. Is he aware he’s trespassing? Yes. Is Cliven Bundy leeching of the American people? Yes. Yes, absolutely yes.

Is this stupidity over? Sadly, no.

a crank in a cowboy hat

There’s a fuss happening out in Nevada, and it could get ugly.. It’s about — and I’m not making this up — grazing. Oh, the folks involved are claiming it’s about freedom and the Constitution and tyranny and all that, but that’s mostly bullshit. It’s more accurate to say it’s about a sense of privilege based on living in the same place and doing the same thing for a century and a half. But really, down at the bone, it’s about a crank in a cowboy hat.

You’ve seen it in movies; cattle grazing out on the open range in the Old West. Wide, open spaces. A handful of stalwart cowboys in big hats lazily keeping an eye on the herd. It’s all very picturesque, very cinematic, very American.

cattle grazing

When you’re watching the movies, though, you never stop to ask yourself a pretty basic question: Who the hell owns all that grazing land? For a long time, the answer was nobody. Or everybody, which is pretty much the same thing. The land was just there, so folks used it. As the United States expanded westward, the government gradually set about organizing and managing that unowned land. That eventually led to the creation of the Bureau of Land Management.

Today, about an eighth of all the land in the continental United States is considered public land — land owned in common by the people. It doesn’t belong to any individual, though individuals sometimes get to use it. We’re talking about everything from local municipal parks to national parks to open range. And that brings us to Cliven Bundy and the fuss in Nevada.

Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy

Bundy’s family has been ranching in Nevada since sometime in the 1880s. They own a chunk of land near the Utah border and some cattle. In the winter they keep the cattle near their ranch. But like most cattle ranches in the American West, they don’t own enough grazing land for their cattle to forage in the spring and summer. So the Bundy family and other area ranchers pay a fee to the U.S. government to graze their cattle on an allotment of public land.

Well, they used to pay the fee. In 1993, the government modified the allotment terms to provide protection for an endangered species — the desert tortoise. Bundy was raising cattle, not tortoises; he didn’t see why he had to abide by the new terms. So he stopped paying the allotment fee. But he didn’t stop grazing his cattle on the public land. For the last two decades, Bundy and his cattle have basically been trespassing.

In 1998, a Federal court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle from the land. He didn’t. After another fifteen years of pissing around, the government finally told Bundy to remove his cattle or they’d seize them. In July of last year they gave Bundy 15 days to remove his cattle. Again, he didn’t. This week, 260 days or so after the deadline, the BLM decided to stop being patient with Cliven Bundy. They started to remove his cattle themselves.


To some right wing dimwits, this equals tyranny. Bundy argues that his family have used that land since before the creation of the BLM, so his right to use the land preempts the government’s right to regulate it. He says he’ll fight against any attempt to take the cattle. He told the LA Times,

“I’ve got to protect my property. If people come to monkey with what’s mine, I’ll call the county sheriff. If that don’t work, I’ll gather my friends and kids and we’ll try to stop it. I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws.”

This is why things might turn ugly. Bundy has gathered his friends. To a small number of uneducated, angry, well-armed anti-government types, Bundy is a hero who is fighting against government oppression. Some two or three hundred of them have rallied outside his ranch. The BLM and the US Park Service responded by sending in more law enforcement personnel. The situation keeps escalating as the protesters become more confrontational. Various so-called citizen militias have shown up as well.

“That is what we do, we provide armed response. They have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.”

This would be the same tyrannical government that’s given Bundy twenty years to stop being a dick and pay the allotment fee. That’s some piss poor tyranny.

bundy supporters

It’s about fighting for OUR freedom, the sign says. Whose freedom? Apparently not the other ranchers in the region — the ones who’ve continued to pay their allotment fees. And apparently not the rest of the citizenry, who have a right to expect Bundy to pay a fee to use public land — OUR land — to feed HIS cattle. The only freedom I see at risk is the freedom of Cliven Bundy to be a freeloader.

In the video below you’ll hear one of Bundy’s sons compare the situation in Nevada to the movie Red Dawn. The movie is a conservative gun nut’s wet dream. It’s about a group of plucky American high school kids who fight a guerrilla war against an invading Communist army. I’ve no doubt that’s exactly how a lot of Bundy’s supporters see the Obama presidency — as some sort of foreign occupying power. And I suspect they see themselves as the heroic Wolverines, courageously fighting back against overwhelming odds in an attempt to liberate America from oppression.

In fact, they’re just standing up for some crank who doesn’t want to abide by laws he doesn’t agree with. A crank who says he doesn’t recognize the Federal government but still tries to use the U.S. Constitution as a prop to support his claim that he has the right to treat public lands as if he owns them.

Cliven Bundy is no hero. He’s no patriot. He’s no defender of freedom. He’s just a crank in a cowboy hat.