Monday, February 29, 2016

The Anti-Federal Lands Movement Viewed through an NFL Lens

By Bob Ferris

I sometimes grow frustrated when trying to characterize this nefarious, illogical and seemingly amorphous effort to steal and/or degrade our federal public lands (.  And it is confusing.  But maybe we need to look at it in terms of the familiar to truly understand it and broaden the public’s grasp of the situation.  With more than 100 million watching Super Bowl 50 in February, perhaps casting this effort it in terms of elements of the National Football League (NFL) might be a good place to start and would make it accessible to more.

Part of my thinking here also stems from the level and character of public discourse about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell related to his salary and antics.  Why can’t we get folks as charged up about this public lands thievery as we do about aspects of Mr. Goodell’s management of this football league?  It certainly cannot be because the owners and directors of this campaign to take away or ruin our public asset are paid less that Mr. Goodell or are any less rich than the NFL owners.  In fact, Mr. Goodell’s take of roughly $43 million annually pales when compared to Koch Brothers recent annual return of $6 billion dollars each.   And it cannot be the respective public interest as these public lands are visited by nearly 200 million people annually which is certainly on a level with the NFL.  Maybe it is just a matter of marketing and packaging?

So what if we just couch all these public land assaults as a “league?”  My vote would be that we call it the Anti-Federal Lands League or AFLL for short. This is works well because it can be easily said and remembered as the acronym can be simplified in license-plate speak as: Awful.  Need conferences too to make this more real?  What if we were to identify AFLL conferences based upon how they want to impact these federal lands?  Those entities (i.e., teams) that just want 320 million folks to sign over their legal rights to these lands (i.e., steal); why don’t we call them the Grabbing Land Conference (GLC)?  And those who just want to swoop in and take what they want and leave the rest of us with the resultant messes; we could call them the Degrading Lands Conference (DLC).

And what would a league or these conferences be without snappy team names?  The Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC (1,2,3,4) does not have that much appeal and leaves no room for mascots, so why not rename them the Virginia Viruses which makes them much more menacing and is more reflective of their true function in the political world?  The two other Koch-inspired entities in play, Americans for Property and Federalism in Action, could easily become the Green Apple Trotters and the Jumping Judas Goats for the style and delivery of their products or for leading citizens effectively away from their own self-interests respectively.

Just so we are not just picking on the Kochs, what about renaming Richards Berman’s (1,2,3) family of deceit-based attacks on federal lands (1,2,3) and those who would protect our precious assets (see video at end of piece) the K Street Night Crawlers which captures so much about who and what they are?  We also should think about a name for the mostly free-agent driven Bundy crowd—which recently lost a good portion of its starting line-up—perhaps they should be called the Deseret Dreamers (1,2.3)?  And even though their “quarterback” Ken Ivory (1,2,3) was recently traded to the Judas Goats (1) for an undisclosed amount we cannot forget financier Bert Smith‘s bankrolled American Lands Council (1,2,3) that given their casual pilfering of certain public coffers (1,2,3) could safely be called the Galloping County Clippers.

And cheerleaders? Boy do we have cheerleaders in this horde.  First we have the creative Constitutionalists such as KrisAnne Hall (1,2,3), George Wentz (1,2,3), Todd McFarlane (1,2), and the ghosts of W. Cleon Skousen (1,2) and Ezra Taft Benson.  We also have the megaphone mob that cannot seem to pass a microphone without channeling something that seems to be an unhappy but somewhat controlled combination of speaking-in-tongues and calling up their inner berserker.  Here we have seen Glenn Beck (1,2) praising Skousen and the paranoid ramblings of whole host of ranters such as Pete Santilli and Gavin Seim.  And then there are the AFLL legislators such as Michele Fiore (1,2), Rob Bishop (1,2,3), Mike Noel, and Jennifer Fielder (1,2,3,4) who just went from un-drafted cheerleader to quarterback of the County Clippers (way to go, Jennifer!).

And in case you were wondering, this effort has super-fans too.  Now when I think about super-fans I consider those pictured above but I also reflect on the quintessential super-fans of my generation which were (are) the Deadheads.  These folks often gave up friends, family, relationships and jobs to follow this band wherever and whenever until the last, last concert last year.  Take away the tie-die and patchouli and replace them with an assault rifle and an armored vest and you have the AFLL super fans: the Oathkeepers, III%ers and the assorted, self –anointed “patriots” dropping everything to attend the latest standoff regardless of whether or not they understand the issues or principles at stake (see Hal Herring piece).

Both the NFL and what I have characterized as the AFLL are run by very rich folks who want to make even more money.  This seems in part to be the American way, but with each we have to look at the costs, the benefits, and also the risks. The NFL provides us entertainment and we (taxpayers) occasionally have to pay for a stadium, but given the level of interest in this enterprise, some public good benefit can be argued.  The AFLL on the other hand seeks to take or destroy public lands enjoyed by nearly twice as many people annually as watched Super Bowl 50 and the AFLL offers us little save decreased quality of life, diminished health, and reduced recreational opportunities in return.  Moreover, for the AFLL to be successful it has to pervert our political system, compromise our US Constitution, and create a population incapable of critical thought.

I am hoping that once put into a structure that more people can appreciate and grasp that action can take place and be of a proper nature.  I hope that through this piece and the electronically attached materials that readers and those they share this with will recognize the extent and coordinated fashion of this attack.  Additionally I hope they will understand that it is absolutely about keeping public lands public but also making sure that management of these lands reflects the needs of all the ownership not just the privileged few that enjoy subsidized and discounted access to our collective riches.

In light of the above, we should not fall prey to the specious argument offered by AFLLers (1) that the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion has to addressed with some sort of non-trivial adjustment.  When we look at the essence of this underlying federal grazing situation we are really talking about making major revisions to policies and ownership because some of the roughly 20,000 public lands grazers out of 320 million federal lands owners (i.e., a part of 0.00625%) want more than just below market grazing fees.  It seems fairly straightforward that we should not let this minuscule minority be used as an excuse to change federal land ownership or as anything approaching logical leverage to dilute needed environmental protections.  In reality, the advocates of this position have simply painted a crack on the surface of a solid dam in hopes that we are imprudent enough to open the flood-gates.

Now I fully understand that folks have issues with the NFL—and I agree that Roger Goodell likely makes too much and I do not understand why this entity is a non-profit in the first place—but taking on the NFL while ignoring this AFLL beast seems a little like being overly bothered about what tune Nero was playing on his fiddle while Rome burned.  We have bigger fish to fry and we need to get to it.

So where do you go to help and get organized?  Good places to start would be with the above video put together by Richard Berman's group in their Green Decoys campaign to attack those groups he and his colleagues thought most dangerous to the effort to harm our public lands.  Then I would urge people to look beyond these groups to others that are working on federal lands issues or efforts to protect the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act (including those working on climate change), the Endangered Species Act and doing so in a manner that builds bridges with the broader environmental and conservation communities. Those who work in coalitions and try to rebuild this strong center must be rewarded and encouraged if we are ever to protect these lands, repair the damage wrought by these far too greedy forces and set our collective communities back on the pathway of building and enhancing our public lands, improving our quality of life and ensuring our continuance and that of our children and grandchildren.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Constitutional Sheriffs and the Vulnerability of Islands

By Bob Ferris

The ranchers making their pleas.
I have been thinking a lot about the so-called Constitutional Sheriffs of late.  For one thing it is an interesting construct as sheriffs per se are never mentioned in the US Constitution.  This whole issue becomes relevant again—just as we were breathing a sigh of relief from the Bundys—because another Pocket Constitution carrying Mormon family is threatening a similar confrontation in Piute County, Utah and now with the aid of a “Constitutional Sheriff.”  It is relevant here to mention that Sheriffs are not mentioned in the Utah Constitution either, but the Sheriff’s office in Utah was created legislatively through Title 17 Chapter 22 of the Utah code ergo they are hardly constitutional in nature.

Before I start many rant on this I want to create context.  One way to do that is to think about the scene in Mel Brooks’ immortal Blazing Saddles where the town has a meeting and all the folks in the meeting hall are Johnsons.  The scene is funny, but it also creates the impression of isolation and a closed society.  Johnsons marry Johnsons and while there is some diversity of thought within the group, they seem pretty homogeneous to the outside world.  One guesses that these Johnsons might be less accepting of outsiders—particularly foreigners.  They are also expected to be less educated than others in “the big city” and they are pretty much all white.

And what do we find in Piute County?  First we find it is a large place with very few people—a little more than 1,500 souls.  (For point of reference, my suburban high school had more students than their entire county.)  Moreover, demographically they are nearly snowball-white with just 0.2% of the population of African American decent which works out to 3-4 folks in this entire landscape.  And only two dozen or so of the citizenry were born in foreign lands.  Folks in Piute County graduate from high school less frequently than others in Utah and are half as likely as their fellow Beehive State residents to have a college degree.  And they seem to revel in this insularity as Ballotpedia gave them an “F” for transparency based upon what they offer the public on their website.  Evidently they like being “Johnsons” and are good at it.
“Sheriff Gleave asked [Jason Kling US Forest Service] what side he is on.  [Jason Kling] said he is on the side that is the best for the land and the people.  Official minutes of Piute County Commission January 11, 2016 Junction City, Utah
“Sheriff Gleave brought up another permit for Keith Anderton and Stanton Gleave that should have been put back into their hands 2 years ago.” Official minutes of Piute County Commission January 11, 2016 Junction City, Utah
“Sheriff Gleave informed Jason Kling [US Forest Service] that he will not allow this to be a Bundy situation. If that entails jailing the forest service he will do it!!!!”  Official minutes of Piute County Commission January 11, 2016 Junction City, Utah 
So in the context of the “Johnson dynamic” it should not come as a huge surprise that the rancher in question, Stanton Gleave (see here for past issues), can count on his nephew and Sheriff Marty Gleave to argue his case at a Piute County Commission Meeting held this past January and attended by Kali Gleave in the role of County Clerk and Auditor.  Moreover, it is not too surprising that this insular and cloistered set of communities would fall prey to and readily accept a line of reasoning—no matter how flawed—that would allow them to gain more authority over lands near them and thus become even more insular.  This acceptance of the views offered by the Constitutional Sheriff adherents and this annoying Pocket Constitution becomes even more probable when you examine the level of promotion of these ideas have had in this setting and with this type of audience that want this to be true and generally lack the analysis tools necessary to properly and objectively evaluate these ideas.

The illogic and the cognitive dissonance in this whole situation is simply staggering.  That any sheriff anywhere would think that he or she would have say over the way federal lands are managed flies in the face of the basic concept of land ownership (ratified by the Property Clause of the US Constitution, the Utah Constitution and case law).  Even the most conservative interpretation of the US Constitution—which I should add is not supported by case law—argues that the federal government has the same rights as a private land owner.  My sense is that that Sheriff Gleave is not telling other landowners in the area when and how to graze their lands.  And where is this function of natural resources supervision on federal lands listed under his duties described in Title 17, Chapter 22, Section 2 of the Utah code?  I looked and looked and could not find it.  

Federal Farm Subsidies Received by the Various Gleaves of Piute County from 1995 to 2012
Stanton Gleave $271, 929.21
Randy Gleave $77,340.25
Jan Gleave $61,159.35
Garrett Gleave $27,781.00
Marty Gleave $12,642.00
Jamey Gleave $11,410.00
Beth Gleave $1,640.00
Scott Gleave $1,640.00
Larry I. Gleave $35.00
It hurts the mind to figure under what line of reasoning Stanton Gleaves and also his nephew Sheriff Marty—who both hold and have signed federal grazing leases as well as receiving non-trivial amounts of federal agricultural assistance (see above)—can rightfully employ when they try to make the argument that the federal government’s role in the area has suddenly evaporated because they went to a seminar or two and hold in their hand an annotated copy of the US Constitution that costs less than a dollar?  Setting aside Marty Gleave's multi-tentacled conflict of interest in this whole affair, his ignoring these numerous contractual agreements he has drawn benefit from seems very much like the frustrated nobles of old who had their marriages annulled when male children were not forthcoming.  It is an action that lacks a certain moral color.

The illogic deepens when you consider that the Gleaves are pushing hard on an agenda espoused recently by 25 others—also holding these very same Pocket Constitutions—who are presently cooling their heels in jail and probably looking at surrendering their jeans for jumpsuits for the foreseeable future.  Now I understand that there is a “critical mass” argument being circulated, but with more than 2 million prisoners in the US what will be the real impact of these 25 or even eight more from Utah?  And with more than 320 million owners of these public lands why would their rights be rejected in favor of roughly 20,000 who have already enjoyed greatly discounted access to these lands.

There are so many issues here so I will close with this.  I spent far too much time watching the above video that specifically addresses a large portion of the issues raised by this incident and specifically made to address similar circumstances.  The take home messages from this are diverse but include the notion that Sheriffs in Utah are not Constitution but rather creatures created by the Legislature.  Moreover when you distill their responsibilities as it applies to federal lands their function is simple: Enforce state laws on federal lands.  So in this latter context I would ask Sheriff Gleave just exactly what Utah State law would these federal employees that you threatened to arrest be breaking by lawfully enforcing elements of the Taylor Grazing Act approved by Congress in 1934 and the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act approved by Congress in 1976?  It is hard to imagine how making extra-legal threats based on unproven and faulty legal analyses achieves your legislatively defined duty of keeping the peace.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Malheur a Dangerous American Tail Tale

By Bob Ferris
Conservative activist and “Liberty Speaker” Gavin Seim with the all too familiar annotated pocket constitution.
I listened with a mixture of horror and profound sadness to the last moments of the Malheur occupation.  Not a whole lot of “feel good” moments came out of that closing ceremony.  But one thing that David Fry said stuck for some reason.  It was something about his frustration over his act of voting not bringing the change he wanted.  I suspect that if there was a cluster of themes that could be distilled from this incident they would revolve around the pivot point of that idea offered up by this lost and lonely fellow.

David Fry the last to surrender.
During this armed siege we heard a lot of rhetoric from those at the refuge and many of us tried to make sense of what we heard so we could formulate logical responses.  That proved to be difficult, because a lot of it was not fact-based and much of it was illogical as well.  Applying facts and logic were not viable strategies because this was really about why America was not the way the occupiers wanted it.  And not by just a little bit, but enough to where they were willing to risk life and limb to bring about the change—even if they did not know what change they wanted.   (For a good look at this collection of ideas see Hal Herring’s excellent piece in High Country News.)

Why this did not work and will not work is that the “America” they aspire to lives in the far right tiny tail of the infamous bell graph.  It is in a word: Extreme.  This is two-standard deviations or more from the mean political tenor of the country.  And while this extreme view is somewhat valuable in terms of political debate and keeping us open to other ideas, it is not how or where the vast majority of us can or want to live.

The political bell curve is not static, but the extremes, while growing, remain relatively small.  
The whole situation reminds me of a friend I once had when my wife and I lived in Vermont.  Each year on town meeting day he would offer up ideas or put forward resolutions that never passed.  I know that he left those meetings sad and upset.  And I suspect the feelings he experienced were not unlike those felt by this collection of folks at Malheur.  But regardless of how this made us feel for our friend that did not mean that we all were willing to derail what we had to make him happier.

It is hard to tell who drifted from whom and when in this Vermont equation or at Malheur, but there is a clear and demonstrable separation almost as if there are two Americas—one where most of us live and another inhabited by extremists.  And while those who were at Malheur were patriots to one of these Americas they certainly are not viewed as “patriots” in the one where most of us go about our daily lives.

A couple of good examples of this America duality situation come from Gavin Seim and KrisAnne Hall the “negotiators” who were dramatically streamed to America during the last hours of the occupation.  In the extremist milieu they are well-regarded, heroic and even adored.  He is a popular Washington State activist and she is a former prosecutor from Florida who crisscrosses the country lecturing on the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  They have well-visited webpages (1,2), Facebook pages (1,2), YouTube channels (1,2) and sell a little merchandise here and there.  All is good in this “land” separated significantly from the middle of the US political spectrum.  Mr. Seim seems to be award-winning at much of what he does and Ms. Hall is the legal and Constitutional Attorney for the Coalition of Western States.  Cool.

As long as our friends above stay within their ultra-conservative cocoon all seems to go well for them, but when they venture out into the general population the picture is not as pretty.  One illustration of this is when Mr. Seim tried to run for Congress in Washington State in 2014.  Even though he ran in the conservative District 4 of Washington that once hosted Doc Hastings for years and seems to be friendly to Tea Party candidates, he was only able to garner about 2% of the vote in the primary. Now part of that could be Mr. Seim’s tendency for on-purpose collisions with law enforcement, the courts (1,2) or federal agencies in general, but it does demonstrate in a very statistical way that his message is not a vibrant one even in this fertile ground.
How the Broader World Characterizes Ms. Hall’s Constitutional Qualifications:
“…styles herself as a scholar of American history and the Constitution…”  Better Idaho January 2016
“…self-proclaimed constitutional lawyer…” Law Professor Michael Blumm Legal Memo January 2016
“…calling herself a constitutional lawyer.” Law Professor Suzanne Smith Legal Memo January 2016
“…self-described constitutional educator…” Southern Poverty Law Center February 2016
“…dubs herself a constitutional scholar…” Oregonian February 2016
“…self-proclaimed constitutional educator…” New York Times February 2016
Ms. Hall too is trapped in this two America dynamic.  Her website touts her as a constitutional educator and lawyer but when she trundles into the wider world she seems to be some sort of legal Rodney Dangerfield and gets scant respect from traditional media or academics.  Perhaps those looking see that the Coalition of Western States that she mentions (1,2) is essentially a website with a handful of posts set up by Mr. Seim following the first Bundy stand-off (1,2) rather than an organization of overt standing and gravitas.  Perhaps it is that her constitutional arguments are too fringe, but when one looks at those written and electronic sources beyond the Tea Party and “patriot movement” sweet-spots most mentions of her constitutional knowledge or skills are qualified or she is simply identified as a conservative activist or radio show host.  These characterizations are remarkable to me because in my more than three decades of professional work as a wildlife biologist no one in the mainstream press ever seemed to feel the need to identify me as a so-called biologist or self-proclaimed ecologist.
“The phone call's tone shifted with Hall's arrival on the line. What had until then felt like a crisis negotiation became a monologue on Hall's political views with pauses in which she checked in on the occupiers.
Her speech won Hall social media ridicule, with some saying she was doing more harm than good.” from Who is KrisAnne Hall? Conservative activist joins Oregon standoff negotiations Oregonian February 11, 2016 
The counter argument here for both Ms. Hall and Mr. Seim would probably be a Palin-style denouncement of the liberal bias of both media and universities.  Certainly that is expected, but then you look at how “We the People” reacted to Ms. Hall and Mr. Seim’s insertion of themselves into the occupation’s final hours.  The comments section on the Oregonian article is fairly brutal but it echoes what we saw on Mr. Seim’s Twitter feed after he declared victory over the FBI .   Absent in both is any semblance that Hall or Seim speak for any significant sector of America other than that tiny tail on the right.  Most recognized too that Mr. Seim and Ms. Hall seemed to be looking for praise for helping put out a fire that moments before they were throwing matches and gasoline towards (1,2,3,4,5).
"Gavin Seim, a right-wing activist who had set up the live feed, said after Fry had walked out that "America needs to learn from what just happened here. David's concerns and his fears reflect what all of America feels." in All 4 Oregon Occupiers Have Surrendered 
The above quote by Mr. Seim encapsulates a lot of this idea of the ultra-conservative "tail" thinking it wags the "dog" of America.  For it seems unsupportable that a person who garnered only 2% of the vote in an election truly knows the needs of America or should feel licensed to speak for all of us.  Moreover, through what logic does this tortured young man—David Fry—so bereft of control and direction reflect anything about anyone, but this small and estranged “tail” of America who planted themselves and their arsenals on land that clearly was not theirs? If America learns anything from this it is what it already knew: The tail should not wag the dog no matter how many guns the tail waves.

Mr. Seim being arrested for disrupting court proceedings.
The secondary dangers here are that folks will either believe Mr. Seim’s characterization or that the forces that want to bring harm to our country and steal our public lands (1,2,3,4,5) will amplify this molehill through smoke and mirrors into the mountain that it certainly is not.  I am encouraged in this when I see analyses like those completed by the High County News demonstrating the incestuous nature of the new Sagebrush Rebellion and the so-called “patriot movement.”  I think this is fine work but we need to also tie these actors to the promoters such as Seim and Hall and puppet masters like the Koch brothers and their allies (1,2,3,4) who use them as tools for this great and continuing injury to us all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

For KrisAnne Hall it is Time to Swim in the Adult Pool

By Bob Ferris

KrisAnne Hall spreading her version of the US Constitution and US history.
I noticed with interest that Tea Party activist KrisAnne Hall who has been masquerading as a “constitutional attorney” will be speaking to a closed meeting at the Idaho legislature.  The image that floated through my mind when I saw this was that of a child in a wading pool fantasizing about being an Olympic swimmer.  When one is a child we permit and even encourage this type of thinking and play-acting, but we should not when the one doing it is an adult.

Adopting the appellation of “constitutional attorney” implies two things. The first is that the bearer of such a title is an acknowledged expert on the topic of the US Constitution.  In this instance that would involve writing in law reviews about the US Constitution or perhaps arguing Constitutional cases or teaching the subject at a law school.  Amazingly KrisAnne Hall has done none of these things.  Certainly she has a radio show and writes a blog as well as having a few self-published books, but in terms of actions where it really counts there is nothing…bupkis.

And since she has let her fees to the Florida Bar lapse—for whatever reason—she is no longer permitted to practice law in her current state of Florida.  This makes her different than the more than 68,000 lawyers in that state who manage to keep their bar memberships current and this calls into question her clinging to the profession she no longer apparently practices.

Now many folks might not understand the importance of all this because when KrisAnne winds up and tells them about her version of the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers it seems to feed that beast within them that would rather blame the federal government for their woes than themselves or the darker powers unleashed by Citizens United.  But those of us who work in professional realms understand why all this is problematic and dangerous.  Moreover, it is no longer trivial as we have seen one person die because he was influenced by this or similar drivel.  And this public acceptance of the obviously untrue is costing the country much in terms of fiscal and psychological outlays as well as our global reputation.

In this I think the most productive action is to point towards an exemplar.  For instance, who did the Oregon Association of Counties’ leadership go to when they were trying to sort out the specious claims of KrisAnne Hall?  The answer to that is Michael C. Blumm a much published and much cited law professor from Lewis and Clark Law School.  Professor Blumm is an acknowledged authority in this field and he did not think much about Ms. Hall’s claims as evidenced by his legal memo to the Concerned Citizens of Harney County  and his opinion piece in the Oregonian.  Professor Blumm's view on this topic are broadly supported in all but the most extreme quarters (see 1,2,3,4,5).

Certainly there is room for debate on this topic, but the debaters should be those with standing on the topic and those with enough courage to put their ideas to the test in professional publications, courtrooms or classrooms.  Ms. Hall has not done this in fact her lack of profile in this arena where she claims expertise is surprisingly nonexistent (see above).  It is surprising until you compare what she claims and how little it comports with case law and history (see Professor Blumm's legal memo above).  I guess life is easy when one never leaves the wading pool of life to play with the big dogs in your profession, but the Idaho legislature should know better and should be taken to task for sanctioning poor and unsupported scholarship.


P.S.  It is not all that tough to get into Google Scholar.  Some of us do it without even trying.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Bundy Population Problem

By Bob Ferris
"We want to be able to make a living on the land," Macfarlane said. "We don't want our kids to have to go to the Wasatch Front or some urban area to have a lifestyle completely different than we were blessed enough to give them the opportunity to have."  Attorney Todd Macfarlane in After Finicum funeral, Cliven Bundy encourages more Utah ranchers to tear up grazing permits 
While I have sympathy for the ranchers' plight, very few in America are able to follow their parents' career pathway and it is certainly not a right.  Moreover, as we can see below what ranchers, like Cliven, really need to do (if this is their dream) is not tear up grazing contracts but tear open condom packages.

It is clearly a problem of their own making and we should not have to pay for the consequences of their irresponsible reproductive behavior.  Nor should the federal government be blamed for their excesses.  Given all this, the attacks on Planned Parenthood by US Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah become even more surreal (1,2) and the mailed marital aids to those at Malheur all the more appropriate.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pulling on the All Too Familiar and Ugly Threads of the Bundyite Rebellion

By Bob Ferris

A friend of mine on Facebook sent me the following electronic poster for an event in Halfway, Oregon this weekend posted by a page called "Rural Lives Matter."  Because she was concerned as many are in rural Oregon due to this Bundy invasion that continues and continues, I thought that I would check it out.

In several posts I have made statements about the clear origin and consistencies of this movement.  In those I have mentioned Cleon Skousen a fundamentalist Mormon and his organization the Freeman Institute that morphed into the National Center for Constitutional Studies run by Zeldon Nelson, another fundamentalist Mormon, who distributions Skousen's annotated US Constitution.  In these posts I have also mentioned the anti-Constitution crusade run by KrisAnne Hall and her Liberty First Ministry as well as the links to the White Supremacy movement and those who would like to see our country become a theocracy.  Mentioned too are links to the movement to wrest ownership of federal lands from the American public, keep the outlaw militias armed, and do away with cornerstone environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.  In many ways this becomes a god, guns and gimme sort of affair.  I have followed an event to page to poster to person pathway to look for these common threads.

Here is the starting announcement for the event posted on the Rural Lives Matter page on Facebook.

When we look at those commenting it does not take long before we see KrisAnne Hall's name.  It is interesting that this is supposedly local but there seems a need for RV parking?

You do not have to travel too far down the page to find this post which clearly shows this infamous image of Cleon Skousen's annotated US Constitution.  Mr. Skousen was rumored to be too conservative for membership in the John Birch Society (found ed in part by the Koch brother's father) but was part of their speakers' bureau.  On a side note this is an odd form of messaging as this comes from a small minority, so the "virus" message while extremely apt indicates that they will cause harm to the majority of us.  

Traveling to the "person" page of the fellow who posted the above.  We see first and foremost that he wants everyone to know that he is a Christian.

He would also like everyone to associate him with the Founding Fathers without understanding that Jefferson was a Deist and one has to read his complete letter about the Tree of Liberty to understand that while Benjamin Franklin thought that the participants in Shay's Rebellion were either wicked or ignorant, Jefferson was convinced they were simply ignorant and needed to be controlled and educated.  (Shay's Rebellion was one of the catalysts for forming a stronger central government in the Constitution and is important because it is similar to the Bundy situation and therefore gives us an idea how the Founding Fathers would feel and react to this.) 

Going farther down his page we now start getting into images of minorities and women.  
But that is fine because it is done in a spirit of Christianity.

But then we see our "friend" honoring someone who killed a black youth.  
And just to make sure that we understand where his in on race, he posts this.

But still he wants us to think of him as a "patriot."

Oops, make that an armed patriot.
This gentleman has not taken a visible position on public lands but Skousen was pretty extreme in terms of his views regarding the interpretations of the Enclave Clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17) and the Property Clause (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2) of the US Constitution.  And there is nothing on this page or in the various pages of the members that indicates that this movement is about love of country, but a lot of evidence that it is about the extreme and fundamental beliefs of those who hate laws, regulations and people--including their fellow Americans--when they do not comport with their own selfish interests or their religion.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Holy Hand Grenade of Ammon

By Bob Ferris

I watched a lot of Monty Python in the 1970s and 1980s.  One of my favorite movies was Monty Python and the Holy Grail and one of my favorite scenes was where the knights fought a supernaturally savage rabbit and lost, thus necessitating the use of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (above).  In regards to the above, I suspect that I have some biological “chip” in my brain that tells me that this is a movie and that rabbits do not kill armed knights so there is little need for the aforementioned Holy Hand Grenade.  I am not sure that all in America possess this “chip.”

My evidence?  Let’s start with the fellow in Florida who along with his partner sold armored vests emblazoned with elements of the III%er’s logo—(i.e., the functional equivalent of gang colors for white guys).  And while I think it is just ducky that they—Patriot Armor, Inc.—offer a $149.99 Christmas special (below) along with their political content and liberal shovelfuls of paranoia, my sense is that Michael Romos (above) was missing this “chip” when he thought it necessary to believe his own fear-based marketing and start collecting pipe bombs laced with bird shot, just in case.

Patriot Armor Inc. Christmas Package
Or what about the rosy-cheeked guy in New Hampshire who wanted to buy the "best" grenades possible for his efforts to bring back the “original” Constitution.  My sense is that he was likely missing that “chip” as well.  Moreover, I would bet dollars to Voodoo doughnuts (see below) that this fine gentlemen had been exposed to Glenn Beck, a National Center Constitutional Studies (NCCS) seminar, Tea Party darling KrisAnne Hall or some combination of the three at some point in his past. Because if “grenade boy” had the "chip" he would have understood that Glenn Beck’s extreme views are likely influenced by his need to atone for his past and that he was the one who that breathed new life into Cleon Skousen’s evil child of an organization (NCCS).

Voodoo Doughnut's Ammon Bundy offering.
As to Ms. Hall, the “chip” would have helped this fellow or those like him see through Hall’s hollow claims that she chose free speech over a salary when what she actually did was choose politics and preaching about an unsupported and extreme view of the US Constitution over practicing law.  Ms. Hall variously identifies herself as a constitutional lawyer or scholar, but she is no longer licensed to practice law in her home state of Florida which would make most de-emphasize the lawyer element and most constitutional scholars have publications in law reviews or other journals and Ms. Hall has none.  Yes she has a radio show and a website but she is correct in calling what she does a "ministry" rather than a "practice" as her former colleagues characterize their work as she has drifted from a field ruled by facts, rules and reason into an area ruled by faith.
“Mr. Bundy carries in his pocket a copy of the Constitution, which he believes draws its inspiration from the Bible. He told me: “Don’t we believe that Jesus Christ is basically the author of the Bible? Well, if the Constitution is inspired, who is the author? Wouldn’t that author be Jesus Christ again?” in The War on the West Rages On 
I would also argue that the Malheur occupiers and their supporters are missing this “chip,” but none so much as Ammon and Cliven Bundy.  For example, Ammon is still defiantly giving directives from his jail cell for the state and federal officers to remove themselves from Harney County.  Cliven too is issuing orders to Harney County on behalf of people who have given him absolutely no indication that he speaks for them and in a county that is not his.  But what would you expect from someone who thinks that Jesus wrote the Constitution via the child-with-a-chainsaw brand of logic exhibited above? If Cliven had the "chip" he would see himself as the rest of us do: A sad old man who is trying to steal lands and resources from the American people.
“It was always my opinion,” he wrote Peter Van Schaak the following year, “that matters of conscience and faith, whether political or religious, are as much out of province, as they are beyond the ken of human legislatures.” Gouverneur Morris quoted in Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris—the rake who wrote the Constitution (2003) by Richard Brookhiser (pp. 33)
If Cliven Bundy had the “chip” he would also understand that the US Constitution was written by a one-legged, George Washington-sized, frequent philanderer who was decidedly human and recklessly honest.  Gouverneur Morris (my collateral ancestor) is largely forgotten now, but he was a brilliant man who did in fact die painfully (while trying to remove a blockage from his urinary track with a piece of his wife’s whalebone corset), but he was a Deist and more inspired by reason than Jesus in act and thought.    My sense is that Gouverneur would see Cliven Bundy and the Bundyites as dangerous and un-holy grenades stealing America’s greatness along with its resources.  Uncle Gouverneur would likely take his cane to this rapscallion and be done with it and so should we.