Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The truth about Cliven Bundy

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Thomas Magstadt
Published: Thursday 1 May 2014

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.
— Anonymous, 17th century English folk poem

By now, everybody has heard or read about Cliven Bundy, the 67-year-old Nevada rancher who is defying the federal government.

The Bureau of Land Management says he owes $1 million in grazing fees for keeping his cattle on public land for the last couple decades.
Bundy claims that his family has been on the land since the 1870s and, ipso facto, all of his rights to run cattle onto federal land predate any federal grazing fees.
However, on closer inspection, it turns out that the facto in Bundy's ipso is a bit wacko.

Indeed, the Bundy hot-air balloon is rapidly deflating and even the hard right is hard-pressed to soft-pedal his addle-brained racist remarks, which recently came to light.
It's apparently true that a Bundy was grazing cattle on what is now federal land in Nevada before Nevada was Nevada, but county property records indicated that the family only moved from the Arizona town of Bundyville (you can't make this stuff up) to Bunkerville (!), Nev., in 1948. That's a mere 78 years' difference, but then who's counting?

Bundy, who has been illegally grazing his cattle on public land for a long time (since 1993), earlier this month chased off BLM rangers who, acting on a court order, endeavored to confiscate his entire bovine herd.

Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul expressed support for Bundy, and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller called the ranting rancher a "patriot." [Paul and Heller have both since denounced Bundy for his racist comments.] Nevada's other senator, Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is a staunch defender of public lands, calls the Bundy bunch "domestic terrorists." I'm thinking the truth lies somewhere at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that separates these two opposing views.

There's no doubt that Bundy's standoff with the federal government plays well in many parts of the country. It has all the things Americans love — cowboys, horses, guns, cattle — and at least two things Americans love to hate — taxes and intrusive government.

On the other hand, public lands belong to all of us. We're all taxpayers and polls consistently show that a lot of us are less than thrilled with a) how much we pay into the system; and b) what we actually get for our money. It's not so much that we mind paying taxes, it's rather that we'd like it better if everybody paid their fair share — including the Koch brothers and cowboys like Cliven Bundy.

There are about 16,000 ranchers across the country, and not a few in these parts. Ranchers pay relatively modest fees ($1.35 per head per month at present) to graze cattle on public land.

Everyone is required to pay taxes and fees to federal, state and local governments. We don't have to like it, but we do have to pay.

Bundy stopped paying grazing fees because the BLM ordered him to restrict the periods when his cattle grazed an area native to the endangered desert tortoise. Obviously, that doesn't set well with folks who don't like the Endangered Species Act, the EPA, "The Daily Show," or Democrats.

Bundy won the showdown at O.K. Corral — the government backed down after BLM rangers were met with armed Bundy backers — but the battle isn't over. According to a BLM spokesman, "Our focus is pursuing this matter administratively and judicially."

My own anecdotal evidence suggests that most ranchers do not side with Bundy on this one. The Nevada Cattlemen's Association, for example, is naturally sympathetic to the ranchers who make up its membership, but does not endorse Bundy's methods.

Yup, that sounds about right.

The poem quoted above was a condemnation of the English enclosure movement — fencing off common land and turning it into private property. James Boyle, a Duke Law School professor, notes that it "manages to criticize double standards, expose the artificial and controversial nature of property rights, and take a slap at the legitimacy of state power."

Boyle adds, "And it does it all [in very few words] with humor, without jargon, and in rhyming couplets."
That sounds about right, too.
Author pic
ABOUT Thomas Magstadt
Tom Magstadt earned his Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies. He is the author of "An Empire If You Can Keep It: Power and Principle in American Foreign Policy," "Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions and Issues," and "Nations and Governments: Comparative Politics in Regional Perspective." He was a regular contributor to the Prague Post in 1998-99 and has published widely in newspapers, magazines and journals in the United States. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the Czech Republic in the mid-1990s and a visiting professor at the Air War College in 1990-92. He has taught at several universities, chaired two political science departments, and also did a stint as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. He is a member of the board of the International Relations Council of Kansas City. Now working mainly as a free-lance writer, he lives in Westwood Hills, Kansas.


Anonymous said...

did you actually READ bundy's so-called 'racist' comments? doesn't appear so ...his comments weren't 'racist' at all. :( Try investigating a little harder if you're going to write for the public, please, instead of just showing your liberal/leftist hatred of the right.

Anonymous said...

yes.. the turtle! the poor turtle!! we put off dozens of atomic bombs in that desert but you are worried about a 'turtle' now? HARRY REID HAS AS PROPERTY RIGHT NEXT DOOR, 93 ACRES - LOOK IT UP. My goodness do you liberal writers ever actually research before you spew?

Anonymous said...

Good, balanced article.