Harney County, Oregon: Some Thoughts

January 7, 2016

R-O-T-F-L-M-A-O over the events in Harney County, Oregon. I certainly hope the situation ends peacefully, but if the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge get some justice I won’t lose a moment’s sleep.

The background for the story can be found here. In simple terms, Dwight and Steven Hammond—a father / son due, and both bad actors—set fire to federal property. They were convicted. They were sentenced and resentenced. They have surrendered and are in prison.

Notwithstanding all of that, some good ole boys decided to get behind the situation and take a stand, after G-d told them to. (Here’s the video from Ammon Bundy, and I need to warn you in advance that it’s incoherent. It’s also 19:27 long, and I did not listen to the whole thing.) So they took over a National Wildlife Refuge—and, by the way, a place where birders go—to show support for the Hammonds and protest the federal government’s ownership of Western lands.

I do need to spend a moment focusing on the Bundys. Cliven Bundy is a wealthy Nevada cattle rancher who relies on the Bureau of Land Management for property on which his cows can graze. Alas, he didn’t want to pay the BLM anymore, and what with Wingnuts and crazy-ass R elected officials, he made hisself into somebody a year or so ago. The federal government stepped back, in light of Ruby Ridge and Waco, turning Cliven Bundy into living royalty, as opposed to a dead martyr. (If his heirs are smart—they aren’t—they won’t start spending when he dies, for I expect the feds will collect the BLM debt from his estate in probate proceedings.)

I also need to spend a moment talking about the BLM. It’s a boondoggle, without doubt, but it’s a boondoggle which favors ranchers. Basically, ranchers can own fee title—that’s 1L Property Law lingo for “you own it all”—to a small parcel, and lease lots of federal land from the BLM for grazing. Alas, and I know this will shock any readers who rent, when you sign a lease, the landlord gets to tell you what you can and cannot do. And that’s where the Bundys and their ilk—folks who can’t abide anyone telling them anything—and the feds part company.

Anyway, being sons of royalty in the Kingdom of Wingnuttery, Ammon and Ryan Bundy organized this farce. They’ve been at it for several days. Recent news? One of the occupants took donation money, left the occupation, and drank up a chunk of what he took. Details here. Sheriff David Ward wants the occupiers to leave, and so do residents, despite the fact that many are not federal government fans.

The latest news? Sheriff, Bundy Meet on Neutral Ground to Discuss Ending Refuge Occupation. Forgive me please for getting effete—like the scorpion who stings the frog in the middle of the river, it’s who I am—but Send In the Clowns by Stephen Sondheim popped into my head. In particular, I focused on the line “Don’t you love farce?” Back in the day, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers did bad sh*t. Motives aside, they bombed stuff. This crew—the Bundys and their pals, whatever of them haven’t run off on account of the cold, the lack of snacks, or the missing beer—is an embarrassment to radicalism, truly! The sheriff or the feds need to make a deal with these sorry a**holes and throw them in the pokey. As President Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas in An American President) said: “We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.” The Bundys and their fellow travelers are not serious people.

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