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Why the Standoff at the Bundy Ranch is a Very Big Deal

April 12, 2014
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By Michael Krieger

If you haven’t been following the unfolding drama at the Bundy Ranch about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas you need to start now. The escalating confrontation between irate local residents and federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the potential to take a very dangerous turn for the worse at any moment, as hundreds of militia members from states across the country are expected to descend upon the area and make a stand with 67-year-old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

Before I get into any sort of analysis about what this means within the bigger picture of American politics and society, we need a little background on the situation. The saga itself has been ongoing for two decades and the issue at hand is whether or not Mr. Bundy can graze his 900 head of cattle on a particular section of public lands in Clark County. Cliven Bundy has been ordered to stop on environmental grounds to protect the desert tortoise, but he has stood his ground time and time again. As a result, the feds have now entered the area and are impounding his cattle. According to CNN, Between Saturday and Wednesday, contracted wranglers impounded a total of 352 cattle. The Bundy family, as well as a variety of local residents have already had confrontations with the BLM agents. Tasers have been used and some minor injuries reported. Most significantly, militia members from across the country have already descended upon the area and it seems possible that hundreds may ultimately make it down there.

To me, the argument of who is right and who is wrong in this situation is the least interesting part of the story. I have noted time and time again that the feds are becoming increasingly out of control and belligerent to American citizens. We know the stories (think Aaron Swartz) and we know the overall trend trend. However, the reason the Bundy Ranch confrontation is so interesting, is that for whatever reason this particular incident seems to be striking a chord of dissent. It is often times the most random, unforeseen and innocuous things that spark social/political movements. This standoff has it all.

From CBS News:

LAS VEGAS (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — Militia groups are rallying behind a rancher whose cattle are being seized by the federal government.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that two militia members from Montana and one from Utah have arrived at Cliven Bundy’s ranch.

“We need to be the barrier between the oppressed and the tyrants,” Ryan Payne of the West Mountain Rangers told the Review-Journal. “Expect to see a band of soldiers.”

Payne said that militias from New Hampshire, Texas and Florida are likely to join and stand with Bundy and stay at his ranch.

“They all tell me they are in the process of mobilizing as we speak,” Payne told the Review-Journal, adding that hundreds of militia members are expected.

Lawmakers are adding their voices into the fray, criticizing the federal cattle roundup fought by Cliven Bundy who claims longstanding grazing rights on remote public rangeland about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said he told new U.S. Bureau of Land Management chief Neil Kornze in Washington, D.C., that law-abiding Nevadans shouldn’t be penalized by an “overreaching” agency.

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval pointed earlier to what he called “an atmosphere of intimidation,” resulting from the roundup and said he believed constitutional rights were being trampled.

The fact that a U.S. Senator and the Governor are publicly coming out agains the feds is in my opinion a very big deal and may signal the beginning of a true fracturing in the social fabric. Something that I have been expecting for many years.

Heller said he heard from local officials, residents and the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and remained “extremely concerned about the size of this closure and disruptions with access to roads, water and electrical infrastructure.”

The federal government has shut down a scenic but windswept area about half the size of the state of Delaware to round up about 900 cattle it says are trespassing.

Sandoval said he was most offended that armed federal officials have tried to corral people protesting the roundup into a fenced-in “First Amendment area” south of the resort city of Mesquite.

The site “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution” and should be dismantled, Sandoval said.

People being rounded up like cattle in these bullshit “First Amendment areas” is completely unacceptable.

BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon and Park Service spokeswoman Christie Vanover have told reporters during daily conference calls that free-speech areas were established so agents could ensure the safety of contractors, protesters, the rancher and his supporters.

Meanwhile, federal officials say 277 cows have been collected. Cannon said state veterinarian and brand identification officials will determine what becomes of the impounded cattle.

The kindling for social upheaval has been growing in America for quite some time. Disrespectful and ignorant statements from billionaire oligarchs like Sam Zell only make it worse. The question in my mind has always been what will the catalyst be to spark the brushfire? Will it be the Bundy Ranch? We’ll have to wait and see.

Personally, I hope cooler heads prevail and there is no violence, because once you head down the road of violent confrontation between the people and the feds you are opening up a can of worms that will not easily be bottled up again. In such a situation, everybody loses. However, my long-term fear is that unless the government and its puppet masters on Wall Street and elsewhere in big business change course, social upheaval will prove inevitable, whether the Bundy Ranch sparks it, or some other incident down the road. These are troubled times and they are likely going to get worse before they get better.

This picture basically says it all:

Bundy ranch

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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