The Malheur “Rebellion”, Beyond the Snark

As of this evening, Bundy and his merry men are refusing to go away quietly, per the Huffington Post:

The leader of a group of armed protesters occupying the headquarters of a U.S. wildlife refuge in rural southeastern Oregon on Thursday rejected a sheriff’s offer of passage out of the state to end the standoff.

During a meeting at a neutral site, Harney County Sheriff David Ward offered to escort Ammon Bundy and his group of occupiers out of Oregon, but Bundy declined…

Following the brief meeting, Bundy told reporters that he would consider Ward’s position, but the sheriff had not addressed their grievances. “We always consider what people say,” Bundy said.

The takeover that began on Saturday at the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles (48 km) south of the small town of Burns, is the latest incident in the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a decades-old conflict over federal control of land and resources in the U.S. West…

Federal law enforcement agents and local police have so far kept away from the occupied site, maintaining little visible presence outside the park in a bid to avoid the deadly violence that erupted during conflicts with militants in Idaho and Texas in the 1990s…

Harpers, despite its staunch no-freebies policy, has unlocked a report on the long venal history behind that “Sagebrush Rebellion” grift — “The Great Republican Land Heist”:

… In 1885, William A. J. Sparks, the commissioner of the General Land Office, reported to Congress that “unscrupulous speculation” had resulted in “the worst forms of land monopoly . . . throughout regions dominated by cattle-raising interests.” West of the hundredth meridian, cattle barons had enclosed the best forage along with scarce supplies of water in an arid landscape. They falsified titles using the signatures of cowhands and family members, employed fictitious identities to stake claims, and faked improvements on the land to appear to comply with the law. “Probably most private range land in the western states,” a historian of the industry concluded, “was originally obtained by various degrees of fraud.”…

This culture passed seamlessly to the Bureau of Land Management, which was created out of a merger between the Grazing Service and the General Land Office, in 1946. That same year, members of the American National Livestock Association met in Salt Lake City to discuss how best to undermine what few regulations had been placed on them. The Taylor Grazing Act had made grazing permits revocable. The livestock-permit holders wanted this provision overturned, for obvious reasons. But the stockmen’s ambition went further: they wanted the federal government to transfer control of all federal land, including the national parks, to the states…

One could write a postwar history of the West as a chronology of ranchers’ resistance to federal regulation, and the center of resistance has always been Nevada. In 1979, following the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which for the first time mandated environmental protection of territory controlled by the BLM, cattlemen pushed a law through the Nevada state legislature declaring that federal public lands were now the property of the state. They called it the Sagebrush Rebellion Act. The cattle barons styled themselves “sagebrush rebels,” and engaged in acts of defiance against the BLM, opening dirt tracks onto grazing allotments that had been closed, bulldozing new roads, overstocking their allotments, violating permit agreements, and refusing to pay grazing fees. As the rebellion spread, a conservative interest group called the American Legislative Exchange Council joined the fight. ALEC was founded in 1973 to craft “model legislation” for state governments; it brought together conservative state legislators and industry representatives in closed-door sessions. Copycat Sagebrush Rebellion Acts were passed in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and New Mexico…

The ALEC agenda has also found its way back to Congress. The vehicle has been the Republican leadership in the House Committee on Natural Resources, which controls the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. The bills proposed in the most recent congressional session speak for themselves. The State-Run Federal Lands Act, sponsored by Representative Don Young, a former ALEC member from Alaska, authorizes federal-land managers to “enter into a cooperative agreement for state management of such federal land located in the state.” The Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, sponsored by Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, directs the secretary of the interior to “offer for disposal by competitive sale certain federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.” With Republicans now in control of both the House and the Senate, these bills have a good chance of passing…

The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands, to reduce their worth in the public eye, to diminish and defund the institutions that protect the land, and to neuter enforcement. Bernard DeVoto observed in the 1940s that no rancher in his right mind wanted to own the public lands himself. That would entail responsibility and stewardship. Worse, it would mean paying property taxes. What ranchers have always wanted, and what extractive industries in general want, is private exploitation with costs paid by the public…

Mother Jones has a short profile of one of the most enthusiastic legislative figureheads for the billionaires’ land grab:

As a young man, Ken Ivory served as a Mormon missionary in Guatemala. These days, he’s still looking for converts. Ivory, a Republican state representative from a Salt Lake City suburb, has spent the past three years traveling the American West to convince state and local officials that they can claim millions of acres of federal land to use as they wish…

… Ivory’s concept has caught on beyond the militia types who are demanding that the feds give up control of their holdings such as the eastern Oregon wildlife refuge currently held by armed occupiers. The Republican National Committee has endorsed the idea of turning over federal land to the states, and in March, the Senate passed a budget amendment sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would create a fund for selling or transferring the land. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has set forth a proposal that the federal government cannot own more than half the land in any state. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also endorsed state or private control of federal land… Read more








Rahm-Boned: First Blood Part II

I usually reserve the phrase “cartoonishly evil” for tinpot dictators, certain former Bush administration officials, and hedge fund executives, but Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may actually need to grow a mustache to twirl after this.

City of Chicago lawyers, after meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, demanded the Laquan McDonald family bury the video showing the killing of their son by a police officer.

Emanuel said last month that Stephen Patton, Chicago’s corporation counsel, briefed him “towards the end of March” about what the dashcam video showed and about the proposed $5 million settlement with McDonald’s estate. After that briefing, Patton’s second-in-command, Thomas Platt, drafted settlement language to keep the dashcam video hidden for at least several years, according to emails reviewed by The Daily Beast (PDF).

Michael Robbins, an attorney for the McDonald estate, balked at the demand.

“The provision as drafted, that we maintain the confidentiality, of the materials—principally the dash-cam-video—until the criminal charges are concluded, which could be in effect for years, is entirely unreasonable,” he wrote to Platt on April 6. “Nor was any such broad sweeping confidentiality provision discussed during our meetings.”

“I’ll call you,” Platt wrote Robbins on April 7.

That was the same day that Emanuel was fighting for his political life in a runoff election after he failed to win 50 percent of the primary vote in the February. (Emanuel won with 56 percent against Chuy Garcia.)

Emanuel has maintained since McDonald’s death that he has never seen the dashcam video, but the emails prove the mayor knew exactly what the footage showed when city lawyers negotiated a deal that would at least delay the video’s release. Emanuel’s lawyers were offering $5 million in hush money to keep the video hidden just weeks before the runoff election.

And the biggest part of the deal—that McDonald family attorneys agreed to keep the video to themselves until criminal proceedings were concluded—just so happened to be inked the day after Emanuel was re-elected.

I mean it was rather obvious that the $5 million was offered to get McDonald’s family to stop talking, but wanting to bury the video for years under legal mumbo-jumbo on top of all that just makes Rahm a colossal asshole.

Not that he wasn’t one before.

The first draft was sent to the McDonald estate’s attorneys by Platt on March 31. The draft said that the estate would only be free to release the video after potential charges were dismissed by a prosecutor or after a criminal trial was over. Emanuel and his underlings at the Law Department would have preferred this, because it meant the video would have been buried under lengthy legal proceedings that could have taken years.

On April 8, one day after Platt’s phone call, the McDonald estate’s attorneys suddenly agreed to keep the dashcam video hidden. The only thing that changed in the settlement agreement regarding the video was the deletion of a line that said the estate agreed with the city releasing video would harm ongoing criminal investigations.

One week later, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the $5 million settlement in just 36 seconds. Emanuel banged a gavel to mark the approval and the end—or so he thought—of the greatest threat to his mayoralty.

Emanuel wrote in a December op-ed in the Chicago Tribune that the settlement couldn’t be part of a cover-up because it was the McDonald family’s attorneys who approached the city wanting to settle.

Nice guy, that Rahm.








Bulldozers And Baloney

So, remember in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy how Ford Prefect managed to get Arthur Dent away from lying down in front of a bulldozer that was trying to tear down Arthur’s house by convincing the bulldozer driver that Arthur didn’t really need to be physically there wallowing in the mud, and that if the wrecking crew just assumed Arthur was going to be there and wasn’t actually there, then the bulldozer guys didn’t actually have to be there either and everyone could go down to the pub and have a pint (which is what Ford and Arthur did)?

Yeah, it’s apparently exactly like that in Oregon.

“Right now, they are allowed to come and go as they want,” says Bill Fugate, a spokesman for the Oregon State police.

The unknown number of militia men involved in the stand off are calling themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. The group sent an alert message to supporters Monday asking for snacks as they are holed up in the refuge center, but authorities confirm that they are free to drive to the grocery store and pick up snacks.

Fugate says that to his knowledge, law enforcement are “not monitoring what they are doing.”

“We are not monitoring their movements,” Fugate says.

Because, officer, it’s vitally important that we go to the right now and have a few stiff ones, you see, and you can just assume we’re occupying the place and we’ll get some Funyuns and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos while we’re out and then hey, we return the favor and you guys can grab some beers once we get back, see?

Hey, why not. Pretty sure General Washington would have agreed to the whole thing too.








Tuesday Evening Open Thread: Entertaining Ourselves to Death

Donald Trump is the harbinger of our political future. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Showtime is investing in the 2016 election. The cable network is partnering with Bloomberg Politics on a new weekly series, appropriately titled The Circus, which will air from January through November.

“Americans are captivated by the 2016 presidential election, and a real-time political series of this nature has never been done before,” said Showtime Networks president David Nevins. “People don’t want to wait a year to see how and why things played out and the impact they had. Everything today is immediate, so there’s no better time to change the way American politics are covered. Mark [Halperin] and John [Heilemann] are the preeminent chroniclers of the presidential scene with their deeply influential books, and I’m thrilled that, along with Mark McKinnon, they will bring their years of expertise and the pedigree of Bloomberg Politics to Showtime in a truly dynamic and innovative way with The Circus.”…

From Showtime’s advertising:

THE CIRCUS will follow multiple individual stories and key characters from the campaigns and capture their unique perspectives in weekly half-hour shows between January and November. With intimate, behind-the-scenes access, cameras will offer viewers a look at what the public rarely sees and explore the high human drama inherent in the pursuit of the Oval Office…

Under the leadership of the Game Change guys and “No Labels” McKinnon. It’ll be a yooooge, very classy, no-limits game-changing series — bigly.

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Apart from despairing for the future, what’s on the agenda for the evening?








Monday Evening Open Thread: Pointing, Mocking…

Jim Newell, at Slate, inserts tongue firmly in cheek — “What If Republican Voters Don’t Value Seriousness Anymore?”:

Republican presidential candidates and their super PACs have begun 2016 by appealing to the primary electorate’s sobriety, despite scant evidence of its existence. Various candidates, with the key exception of Donald Trump, are offering a message of serious leadership, a trait either that too many candidates possess for voters to decide among them or one about which few voters care. The message serves as both a lament over the decidedly unserious nature of the 2015 leg and a hope for a better stretch in 2016: Either voters will come around to valuing seriousness as voting nears, or Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate….

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, like Santorum, is a previous winner of the Iowa caucuses. And Huckabee, like Santorum, is losing pitifully this year as novice candidates like Cruz and Ben Carson suck up Iowa’s social conservative vote. “This has been, of all the election cycles I’ve been involved in, this has been one of the most bewildering,” Huckabee, per the Des Moines Register, said at a Sunday event, “because it’s almost as if the more experience, the more preparation one has had for this job, it’s almost like it’s a detriment than it is an asset.”

Huckabee should feel especially offended, since he has experience as both a longtime governor and a conservative entertainment personality who’s constantly spouting off attention-grabbing nonsense. But his venting of frustration at the oddness of this cycle harkens back to New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait’s description of the process in September, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out: “The Republican presidential race has appeared to take the form of a kind of reverse meritocracy, in which the candidates with real political accomplishments (Walker and, before him, former Texas governor Rick Perry) are driven out, and novices with strong television skills rise to the top.” This remains the dynamic of the race…

The immediate rebuttal, of course: Serious? These guys are friggin’ terminal! But then again, isn’t this the predictable outcome of every Repub campaign since at least Dubya scraped into office with the help of his old man’s SCOTUS appointees? They’ve happily assured their voters that all those complicated consensus-reality issues are not really important (“We create our own reality”), not like performing the proper ritual obeisances to Heartland America God’s Gift Mightiest Military World Leadership FREEDUMB!!! As a result, the (remaining) Republican voter base doesn’t care about “serious” leadership — they want to vote for the loudest, glossiest, most posturing Cheerleader-in-Chief. And gods know, there’s not one GOP candidate this year who isn’t trying to give them just exactly that!
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Apart from the usual P&M, what’s on the agenda for the evening?