Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cliven Bundy, Desert Tortoises, The Tea Party all explained.

You're probably read about the recent showdown at a ranch in Mesquite, NV where a bunch of Tea Partiers and others showed up to face down the federal government over a land dispute.  And even after reading articles about it you're probably still wondering what the heck went on.  Here's a primer.

 The federal government is comprised primarily of idiots. These idiots made up a bunch of stuff about a tortoise to squeeze ranchers off of federal land. The only apparent beneficiaries of this policy are the big industrial beef producers who see less competition from cows which eat actual grass, but there's no actual evidence they were behind this whole thing, which makes it even more perplexing. The truth is that the particular tortoises at issue eat cow poop.  If the government were smart and not stupid they'd be paying ranchers to graze cows in Desert Tortoise habitat, assuming they really care about the tortoises instead of some other, undisclosed, objective.  However, it is the government's land and they can, within reason, decide what to do with it subect to a grazing law dated 1916 or somesuch. The Supreme Court has ruled that limiting or even banning grazing to not save a  not endangered species is reasonable and not in conflict with the grazing act. So everything the government is doing is perfectly legal. Heck, compared to other parts of Nevada which the government nuked from above and below for thirty years, the government is being downright benevolent here.

One of the people affected by the fees and restrictions placed on the use for cattle grazing of public lands which are also tortoise habitat is a guy named Cliven Bundy.  Cliven Bundy is also an idiot. He thinks that he owns land that the federal government conquered fair and square in 1848, even though his family didn't settle it until 30-something years later. He also thinks that even if he doesn't own the land then Nevada does, even though Nevada specifically disclaimed ownership of it in 1864, also before Bundy's family's cows allegedly started grazing the land.  And just to complete the idiocy trifecta, he may or may not even recognize that the federal government exists even though Nevada, which he does apparently agree exists, specifically submitted its autonomy to the federal government.  There's no word at this point as to whether he has a conniption fit when he sees a courthouse flag with a fringe on it. 

Bundy didn't pay his grazing fees and he ignored limits the government placed on the number of cattle he could graze on the government land at issue.  So there was a legal process. Partly because Bundy had a fool for a client but mostly because the federal government is entitled to act upon its own land how it wishes even if it is stupid, Bundy lost at every turn. Various unpaid grazing fees, fines, injunction costs and other stuff began to add up to real money. Not real money by government standards; they've probably spent more than the total amount Bundy owes on helicopter fuel counting his cows. But real money by normal person standards.

The government tried to collect but has been unable to do so with more traditional methods like seizing bank accounts, probably because Bundy doesn't have much actual money but possibly because he's pretty good at staying under the radar, financial-wise. So they put a lien on his cows. A lien, not a lean, so they didn't tip them.  Which is good, because about the only thing that could make this whole story more farcical is cow tipping.

News that the government was threatening to execute the lien (which is to say, take away the cows) brought out a whole new group of idiots who think that the government collecting fines is the same as communism and being stupid about a turtle on the government's own land is the same as having a FEMA death camp right on the infield at Talladega. These idiots have guns. They're no match for the government but they've got guns. The government remembered the grief they got for Waco, and those guys actually needed killing. So the government left. They'll probably sneak in some Friday afternoon when the last set of idiots goes back home and the press isn't looking.

That's where things stand.   A small side issue is the craven cowardice of several elected officials, who will not say that the government is wrong on any of the merits of the case but will say that the government is being too heavy handed and will refuse to say exactly what the federal government is supposed to do.  More generally, they refuse to say exactly how it is that the government generally is supposed to deal with people who violate its lawful orders.  Anyone think Governor Sandoval would *not* send the Nevada State Police or whoever to forcibly close down a casino which refused to pay gaming taxes?  Or even a restaurant which refused to allow food inspectors admittance?  That's one of the reason the government should have fewer laws; at the end the only way to enforce them is with violent force so the laws should be worthy of of that level of coercion. 

The only good outcome of all of this is to demonstrate the wisdom of the Founding Fathers when they created an individual right to bear arms.  Just like with speech, it's people who are the most objectionable who often best establish the importance of our constitutional rights. 

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