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








Spies (Really Do) Like Us, Or The Man From K.O.C.H.

Team WIN THE MORNING commits acts of investigative journalism for once, and guess which major right-wing political donors are so wealthy and powerful that they have their own 25-person strong in-house intelligence gathering agency to spy on liberals with?

The competitive intelligence effort, reported here for the first time, also hints at the audaciousness of the Koch network’s mission. While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly.

A key to accomplishing the mission, from the Kochs’ perspective, is countering super PACs and other big-money groups funded by rich liberals, as well as allied public sector unions and academic and media elites. The Kochs’ allies feel that those forces have worked together for decades with Democratic politicians and government bureaucrats to institutionalize the philosophy that heavy regulation and taxation of business is the only way to ensure an equitable society.

The Kochs concluded that defeating this well-funded left-wing infrastructure requires tracking the professional left in real time ― a capability they realized they lacked after the 2012 election. In the run-up to that election, the Koch network spent $400-million-plus attacking Democratic politicians and policies, only to see President Barack Obama win re-election and his party maintain control of the Senate. A forensic audit of the network’s efforts concluded the Kochs had been out-maneuvered by the left on the airwaves, in the data war and on the ground. Vowing not to let that happen again, the network began investing in the competitive intelligence team and other efforts to keep tabs on the left.

To be sure, the Kochs’ operation isn’t the only one focused on pulling back the curtain on its opponents. In fact, liberal activists and groups have frequently worked to expose the activities of the Koch brothers and their network. But the competitive intelligence team, like so many other Koch-backed programs, appears to be unique in its scale and its thoroughly methodological approach.

The outfit is run by a former CIA operative named Mike Roman, and from all indications it’s a very professional deal. Keep in mind that if it was a left-wing business group that had its own intelligence group tracking conservatives in real-time, there would be congressional hearings, subpoenas , endless breaking news stories, and conservatives screaming that American take up armed resistance to overthrow “tyrant” Obama’s network of spies.  Hell, those attacks on the “Dems” private Stasi” would be coming from the right and the civil libertarian left.

But it’s the Koch Brothers, so it’s okay. And of course, the paranoid style runs deep.

In addition to delving into the left, the competitive intelligence team also monitors potential Koch network threats, according to sources familiar with it. It tracks people deemed suspicious outside the offices of Koch network groups, circulating be-on-the-lookout photos to internal network email lists, while keeping an eye on the network’s own ranks for possible leakers or disloyal employees.

One former network executive remembers an email containing a photo of a man identified as an operative with the environmental group Greenpeace who allegedly had been spotted taking his own photos outside the network’s cluster of offices in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington.

Connor Gibson, a Greenpeace researcher who focuses on the Koch network, said he visits its component groups’ offices once a year to pick up their tax filings, and he speculated he could have been the operative photographed by the competitive intelligence unit. While he said he’s never sought to conceal his identity during such visits, he added “If the Kochs consider me an opponent, I’m flattered.”

In another instance, sources say, Roman’s team set out to identify an IT contractor who was working for one of the network’s groups and was posting anonymous messages to Reddit, proclaiming that he worked for the Koch brothers but despised their stances. Within 48 hours, the team had sleuthed out the offender and his contract was terminated.

“They were scared to death of moles,” said the former executive.

A separate source ― an organizer who’s worked with the unit ― described it as “a full opposition research operation, only at about 10-times the level of any political campaign.” The organizer added “my guess is that most people inside the network don’t even know about it.”

Understand that this is the logical endpoint of believing your political opponents as an enemy that needs to be ferreted out and destroyed, to spy on them, track them, identify them, and to conduct counter-espionage against, all in the name of controlling the country’s politics.  And they have access to billions in resources in order to do it.

The Kochs see liberals — fellow Americans, mind you — as people who must be tracked in real-time.

This is who controls American politics.








Trans-Plutocratic Plunder

Have you read the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal yet? You can read it right here, as no less a personage than President Obama himself informed me via email the other day. I’ve only made it to Chapter 2 so far (there are 30 chapters). It kicks insomnia’s ass.

As CP Pierce points out, Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs says it’s a lousy deal that should be voted down. According to Sachs, TPP’s provisions “enshrine the power of corporate capital above all other parts of society, including labor and even governments,” and while it gives lip service to social fairness and sustainability goals, “the agreements are thin, unenforceable, and generally unimaginative.”

Climate change isn’t even mentioned, according to Sachs. Senator Warren also gives the proposal a frowny face.

Pierce concludes that this deal, along with education policy, “is going to be one of the only acts of [Obama’s] presidency with which the president justifies the criticisms levelled at him from the left.” Sounds about right.

If these analyses are accurate, I’m glad the Democratic candidates are fleeing the TPP like workers running toward daylight from a collapsing mine. But if the pessimists among us are to be believed, some version of a shitty deal is inevitable because Global Economy.

Maybe President Obama is among those pessimists and that’s why he supports this particular shitty deal. I’ve quoted my old co-blogger StrangeAppar8us on this topic before because he was so right about the declining influence of national sovereignty and rising power of multinational corporations:

In truth, nations have been obsolete as sovereign organizational units for some time. There are sovereign corporations and sovereign piles of capital, but nations are basically accounting entries associated with a particular profile of a) indigenous resources, b) comparative labor costs, c) relative social stability, d) relative currency strength and e) relative weakness of business taxation and regulatory controls. Local military power still matters, and some nations still command a certain reflexive residual deference to their post-WWII/Cold War primacy. However, in an age of cheap intercontinental shipping and wire transfers, nations are basically cultural theme parks competing for ticket sales.

One of my cousins once played “Goofy” at Disney World, wearing a hot, stuffy costume in the 90-degree heat for minimum wage while toddlers kicked him in the shins and older children whacked him in the nuts with replica light sabers. Welcome to the New Economy, fellow characters.








Open Thread: They Bought You, They Own You

It’s like borrowing money from your in-laws — once you’ve accepted their generosity, they feel compelled to give you advice on how you’re spending “their” hard-earned cash. The NYTimes chronicles the gradual breakdown of civilities, as “Big Donors Seek Larger Roles in Presidential Campaigns“:

… In an election cycle that is already on track to break spending records, and with few limits on contributions to “super PACs” and other outside groups, big donors have never been more important. No longer satisfied with sitting on the sidelines and writing big checks, many of them are eager to play larger roles in the campaigns.

They expect their views to be heard quickly and their concerns taken seriously, sometimes creating headaches and potential awkwardness for the campaigns and super PACs, which must tend to the contributors and their seemingly endless suggestions and questions.

On one hand, the campaigns and their affiliated groups rely on the financial support and appreciate the occasional insights that come from people who have been successful in other fields.

On the other hand, they find themselves devoting more and more time to stroking donors’ egos, weighing their ideas, and soothing supporters whose panicked phone calls can be prompted by anything from an alarming Twitter post to a small stumble on a morning show.

“Donors are demanding a lot these days, man, and they want answers and they want results, and a lot of them hit the panic button a lot,” said Theresa Kostrzewa, a Republican lobbyist and donor based in North Carolina, who is supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. “This is a new day. Donors consider a contribution like, ‘Well, wait, I just invested in you. Now I need to have my say; you need to answer to me.’ ”

Referring to the maximum direct donation to a candidate that the Federal Election Commission allows, she described the sentiment as: “I gave $2,700. I’m entitled to 2,700 opinions.”… Read more








Open Thread: Return from the Dead?

I find it very amusing, now that Scott Walker is an ex-candidate, all the tv newsfeeds put up a clip showing that the notorious “bumped my head on the kitchen cabinet” bald spot is rapidly turning into an early-stage combover. Presidential!

Also, Liz Mair — who got hired & fired by the Walker campaign back in March — took a pretty sweet victory lap around twitter earlier this evening:

Another investigation, Scotty? Which of your underlings will get thrown under this bus?