April 15, 2014

Cliven Bundy the welfare cowboy

Cliven Bundy's standoff with the Bureau of Land Management says a lot about conservative Christianity, white privilege, and racism in America.

Rancher in land dispute is a bully, not a hero

By Alan O’NeillI have been following the news on the proposed roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle that are grazing illegally on federal lands in Gold Butte managed on behalf of the public by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

I am familiar with the situation, as I served as superintendent of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area for the National Park Service from 1987 to 2000. In 1993, we reduced the number of cows that could be grazed on the Bunkerville allotment to 150 because of the emergency listing of the desert tortoise as an endangered species.

Because Bundy refused to remove his cattle to meet the 150 level and ignored repeated requests to do so, his permit was canceled in 1994 and the allotment was closed to grazing.

As the news coverage has reported, Bundy continues to graze his cattle and has refused to pay the BLM a grazing fee. The figure he owes the government exceeds $300,000. The estimate of cattle being grazed illegally since 1994 on the old Bunkerville allotment have ranged from 550 to more than 900.

It is unfathomable to me that 20 years after the Bunkerville allotment was canceled in 1994, we are still wrestling with getting his cattle off the range. And there were issues of overgrazing that allotment before 1994. It is my opinion that the BLM and the Park Service have done everything possible administratively to try to resolve the issue amicably. In addition, there are two federal court rulings upholding the agencies’ position, and the most recent ruling demanded Bundy not physically interfere with any seizure or impoundment operation.

Bundy is a bully who has used his threat of a range war and to do “whatever it takes” to stop the government from impounding his cattle to scare public officials.
Fox News’ demented poster boy: Why angry rancher Cliven Bundy is no patriot

The right's new fixation: An angry old white man who thinks freedom means not having to follow the law

By Edwin Lyngar
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.

Cliven Bundy syndrome: Why Christian conservatives think they’re above the law

From Hobby Lobby to the Nevada rancher, members of the far right share a dangerous, anarchic pathology

By Amanda Marcotte
[F]or some reason, Bundy’s outrageous theft of services from the taxpayers is not being taken seriously by the right-wing press. As Roy Edroso of Village Voice and Eric Boehlert of Media Matters have chronicled, the conservative response to the whole incident has ranged from minimizing the seriousness of the crime to outright cheering Bundy on in his efforts to use the threat of violence to continue stealing from the taxpayers.

It’s tempting to write this reaction off as a matter of idiocy married to identity politics. Bundy is a white guy in a cowboy hat wielding guns, which reads as “one of us” to many on the right, so they refuse to accept that he’s a bad guy no matter how much he threatens violence against federal officers simply for enforcing a law that applies to everyone. And no doubt that is part of what’s going on here. But really, what’s going on runs deeper than a knee-jerk desire on the part of the right to believe every white guy in a cowboy hat is a good guy. This is the logical extension of a push that’s grown in recent years from conservatives to argue that they, and only they, have special rights to simply disregard any law they don’t want to follow. And unfortunately that’s an argument that may be making headway this year in the Supreme Court.

The past couple of years have seen a surge in conservatives demanding special rights to disobey universally applicable federal laws on the grounds that they don’t believe in them. This argument has largely been treated favorably by right-wing media that would definitely not extend that courtesy to anyone else. The Hobby Lobby case is simply the most prominent. To recap, Hobby Lobby is arguing before the Supreme Court that because they don’t believe certain forms of contraception are allowed by their god, they shouldn’t be required to meet federal minimum standards requiring that contraception for healthcare plans offered to employees as part of their compensation package, even if the employees don’t believe in a birth control-hating god.

It’s alarming to think that Hobby Lobby is arguing that anyone should be able to ignore any law they want just by stating they don’t “believe” in it, but reading between the lines of their lawyer Paul Clemente’s arguments before the Supreme Court, it’s clear they think this right to exempt yourself from federal regulations should be exclusive to Christian conservatives.

Bundy the liar

It goes without saying that Bundy the welfare cowboy has no case. Indeed, he seems to be lying through his teeth:

BREAKING: Proof Cliven Bundy is Lying About ‘Ancestral Claim’ to Grazing Rights (Video)

By John PragerNevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his army of domestic terrorists that call themselves “militias” may claim that his family has been working taxpayer-owned land he has been using for personal gain since 1877, but property records tell a completely different story.

Bundy has claimed pre-emptive rights because of his family’s history on the land. “I’ve lived my lifetime here. My forefathers have been up and down the Virgin Valley here ever since 1877. All these rights that I claim, have been created through pre-emptive rights and beneficial use of the forage and the water and the access and range improvements,” Bundy said.

However, Clark County property records reveal that Bundy’s parents moved from Bundyville, Arizona and purchased the ranch in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt. Water rights were, as Bundy claims, transferred, but only to the ranch–not to the federal land surrounding it. In another blow to the welfare cowboy’s credibility, cattle did not graze on the land until 1954.

The Bureau of Land Management, Bundy’s nemesis, was created in 1946–the same year that Bundy was born, and two years before the family’s purchase of the ranch. However, Bundy won’t let little things like facts stop him! “My rights are before the BLM even existed, but my rights are created by beneficial use. Beneficial use means we created the forage and the water from the time the very first pioneers come here,” Bundy claims.

But hey–who needs “facts” and “reality” when you can focus on the delusion that, as Oathkeeper and Bundy supporter Justin Giles put it, “They are literally treating western United States citizens, ranchers, rural folks like this--are the modern day Indians. We’re being driven off of our lands. We’re being forced into reservations known as cities.”

The “Indians” of which he speaks would be the Paiute, who were forced onto reservations in 1875. They were promised the land that Bundy now inhabits.

Josh Marshall quotes TPM Reader JG:

Smarter Than It Seemed?I grew up in southern Utah, not far from the Bundy ranch standoff--and the stuff going on there turns my stomach. I share Josh's concern about letting the camo crowd scare off the BLM, though it's probably wise in the short term. Here's why:

I've got FB friends who are ranchers, and most of them are pretty right-wing, but even they are rolling their eyes at this guy. They've had conflicts with the feds/BLM over land use issues, and they're way more conservative than me on those issues, but they're really worried that Bundy is going to make things much harder for them in the long run. They're also angry, too, because they pay the grazing fees that Bundy has skipped out on. Bundy will have a crowd of aimless teaparty gun-toters, bored during a midterm election year, that will wave their guns (so to speak) around for a while, but Bundy's situation won't keep that crowd inspired very long. Everyone will be embarrassed about the whole thing eventually. I think it was wise for the BLM to let the Bundy wackos go full wacko for the cameras so the feds could be seen taking the high road for the time being. Bundy won't garner much sympathy for very long. He's a no-nothing Joe the Plumber in a cowboy hat.
Comment:  For more on conservative Christians, see Conservative Christians in Panic Mode and Conservative Christian Persecution Fantasies

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