Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why Cliven Bundy And His Far Right Defenders Are Totally Wrong

"As long as millionaire Cliven Bundy gets to graze his cattle on public land for free, in contempt of three court orders and in violation of the law, this is not over.

Bundy and the suckers he brought in from the militia movement think they’ve won a huge victory against federal “tyranny,” and will only be more aggressive about breaking the law in the future." -   Thom Hartmann on

The problem with the secessionist - Confederate South and the Far Right in general, is they fail to identify with  the right causes when they manifest and too often back the wrong ones. (Flash to the Confederate States of America demanding secession and the "right" to exist as an independent nation.)  Or flash a bit backward to the aftermath of the 2012 re-election of Obama when millions actually signed petitions online to secede from the United States.

Now, the far Right's minions, including "militias" who've traveled from as far as Florida,  are working themselves into a froth over one Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy (any relative of Ted Bundy?) who they claim has been shafted by the federal government. As usual,  facts and truth are the first casualties of hysteria, and it's no different in this case.

First let's get a few of the facts out there:

- Bundy does not recognize federal authority over land where his ancestors first settled in the 1880s, which he claims belongs to the state of Nevada.

- . The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  disagreed and took him to federal court, which first ruled in favor of the BLM in 1998.

- After years of attempts at a negotiated settlement over the $1.2 million Bundy owes in fees failed, federal land agents began seizing hundreds of his cattle illegally grazing on public land last week.

- After footage of a BLM agent using a stun gun on Bundy's adult son went viral in far-right circles, hundreds of armed militia supporters from neighboring states flocked to Bundy's ranch to defend him from the BLM agents enforcing the court order.

- The states'-rights groups, in echoes of Ruby Ridge and Waco, came armed and prepared for violence. "I'm ready to pull the trigger if fired upon," one of the anti-government activists told Reuters.

- Not eager to spill blood over cattle, the BLM backed down Sunday and started returning the livestock it had confiscated. The agency says it won't drop the matter and will "continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially."

Now, let's start clearing up the muddied landscape.

First, there is no such thing as "states' rights".   (Which anyone who's taken a proper U.S. Government course in H.S. would know).   States have prerogatives, not rights, because states exist as governmental entities not as persons-individuals. Prof. Garry Wills (‘A Necessary Evil: A History Of American Distrust of Government’, Simon & Schuster, 1999) further reinforces this point in his chapter ‘Constitutional Myths’(p. 108). He notes that citizens alone possess rights, which neither the states nor the federal government share. Both the latter retain powers and prerogatives, but not rights. Hence, the subtext is that rights can only accrue to human individuals.  As he puts it (ibid.)

“The states have no natural rights. Their powers are artificial, not natural – they are things made by contract.”

One of the things made by contract in this case inheres in Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution:

All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States.


The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.

The paramount-allegiance clause, a product of the era in which Nevada gained statehood, originated in Nevada's first (and unofficial) constitutional convention of 1863. Some 3,000 miles to the east, the Civil War raged between the federal government in the North and West and the rebellion that had swallowed the South.

The preceding citation and excerpt is critical because it bears directly on rancher Bundy's claims. This is something all right wing, anti-fed supporters of his would do well to process.

According to Bundy, "I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada." However, Bundy said in a radio interview last Thursday. "I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing." 

The problem is that this position directly contradicts the contractual document I already cited from Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution - which most certainly DOES recognize the United States government as existing and even having hegemony to the extent that:

The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority

So right wingers need to re-read that very carefully before getting their panties in a twist.

This means Bundy is also off the wall as when he told Sean Hannity in an interview last week (emphasis added): 

"Well, you know, my cattle is only one issue—that the United States courts has ordered that the government can seize my cattle. But what they have done is seized Nevada statehood, Nevada law, Clark County public land, access to the land, and have seized access to all of the other rights of Clark County people that like to go hunting and fishing. "

In fact, the feds did no such thing! The embrace and recognition of the federal government's powers and state prerogatives in reference to it was already enshrined in the state constitution. READ IT AGAIN!  

Secondly, it is clear that what Cliven Bundy is really all about is secession. He doesn't even want to be regulated by the state (as per its federal gov't references) so basically wants it to secede from the Union. I guess he also wants it to shelve its Article 1, Section 2  and re-do its constitution. Not bloody likely!

Getting back to the actual legal issue, Bundy's claim that the land belongs to Nevada or Clark County didn't hold up in court, nor did his claim of inheriting an ancestral right to use the land that pre-empts the BLM's role. "We definitely don't recognize [the BLM director's] jurisdiction or authority, his arresting power or policing power in any way," Bundy told his supporters, according to The Guardian.

But again, this contradicts Article 1, Section 2  of the Nevada constitution that he professes to hold so dear.  The state constitution's framers, who were overwhelmingly Unionist, retained the clause in solidarity with the Union when they gathered in July 1864.The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled in Texas v. White in 1869 that secession had been unconstitutional and that "the Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible states."

Now, if the people speciously standing with Cliven Bundy really want to get on the right side of a cause, as opposed to merely being wrong and strong, they'd do better to stand with the besieged ranchers of Pinon Canyon, in Colorado. They now face another land grab by the U.S. Army for not only training exercises, but drone testing! At stake is nearly 235,000 acres of land they currently call their own. See e.g.


In other words, if you're going to pick a fight with the feds, do it for the right reasons  (and in the right places!) not the wrong ones. Standing with Cliven Bundy in Nevada is the wrong cause and the wrong place. Lining up with the Pinon Canyon ranchers in Colorado is the right cause and in the right place. Think before you become all hysterical at who's right and who's wrong - oh, and it also helps to read the relevant state constitution!

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