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Historical
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Title: Blood, Delusions, and Corruption in the American West
Source: Reason
URL Source: https://reason.com/2019/09/15/blood ... rruption-in-the-american-west/
Published: Sep 16, 2019
Author: Brian Doherty
Post Date: 2019-09-16 09:49:30 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 195
Comments: 6

book1

(Bloomsbury)

Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff, by Anthony McCann, Bloomsbury, 448 pages, $30

On January 2, 2016, Ammon Bundy and a few dozen armed militiamen seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. Their aim, they said, was to protest the imprisonment of Steven and Dwight Hammond, two ranchers convicted of committing arson on public property. More broadly, they had a host of complaints about the federal government's ownership and management of Western lands.

But Anthony McCann sees a kaleidoscope of deeper meanings in the 2016 standoff—crises of work, race, manhood, and history swirling together in a "whacked out American story." McCann, a professional poet, admits that his natural allegiances going in to the story were more with the liberal-progressive side, although he doesn't seem the type even before diving into the story to get quite as radical as those who crudely mocked the Malheur militants (by, for example, mailing them plastic penises) or wished them grievous harm. In Shadowlands, his nuanced account of the occupation and its aftermath, he treats the occupiers and the loose "patriot" movement surrounding them mostly fairly. Meanwhile, the feds' behavior frequently appalls him.

An occupier offers one of the story's blunter morals when he tells McCann, "The government might kill you if you tried to form a commune." McCann concedes the point. The "experience at Malheur," he writes, "seemed to bear this out."

The government's case against the Hammonds revolved around two occasions when the ranchers set fires on public lands. The Hammonds insist that they set the first fire to control invasive plants and the second to keep a wildfire from reaching their property. The government insisted the first fire was actually meant to hide evidence of illegal deer hunting and that the Hammonds had a record of threatening federal agents. Many Westerners believed the Hammonds, and a judge deliberately gave them a shorter sentence than the legal mandatory minimum. They were already out of jail when an appeals court overturned that decision, ordering them back into custody to serve additional time.

The Hammonds would eventually receive a presidential pardon from Trump (something he has only done 10 times, nearly always for people seen as key parts of his political and ideological coalitions). But that didn't happen until July 2018. As the ranchers returned to their cells in late 2015, many militia types gathered in the nearby town of Burns, Oregon, to protest the revised sentence. They were angry, but most of them did not support Ammon Bundy's plan—divinely inspired, he insisted—to occupy the Malheur headquarters and turn it, possibly for many years, into a mutual-aid commune for ranchers and for anyone else who wanted to help recreate true American freedom via a thinly conceived effort to "unwind" all federal land ownership.

Ammon, a Nevada native, had never been to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge before. He was a son of Cliven Bundy, the 21st century's leading crusty symbol of sagebrush rebellion. The Bundys had been at the center of an earlier land-use drama stemming from their refusal to pay federal grazing fees; it came to a head in 2014, when the family fought the government's attempts to take their cattle as a penalty. When a YouTube video showed a Bureau of Land Management agent tackling Ammon's aunt and then tasing Ammon when he tried to intervene, the footage inspired sympathizers across the nation to assemble at the Bundys' Nevada ranch. Many of those new arrivals were armed. The government then appeared to give up its plan to take the Bundy's cattle.

In fact, the feds were merely biding their time: In 2016 they arrested the Bundys and some of their allies. But before then, the Bundyites were ecstatic with the feeling of having made tyrants blink. Chasing the dragon of that feeling led many of their fans to follow Ammon to Malheur—though many of the people who ended up there had personal motives with little if any connection to the Bundys. Some, McCann reports, had a vague sense of liberties curtailed. Others were conspiracy theorists. A few, he argues, just seemed to be suffering from a crisis of the modern American man unmoored from meaningful work or community.

The occupiers included old hippies, Mormons, disillusioned veterans, libertarians protesting police brutality, Ren Faire diehards, a man who believed literal angels had led him to the refuge, and only one practicing rancher. (Even Ammon before this Malheur adventure had relocated to Idaho and was running a truck maintenance business.) They also included several federal provocateurs and informers, including the militant who seemed most obsessed with weapons training.

McCann provides plenty of perspectives from locals who thought their uninvited visitors were an aggravating and sometimes scary nuisance. But with an impressive act of imaginative sympathy, McCann also sees and describes an admirable humanity in the rebels, even as he finds many of their ideas perplexing, absurd, or dangerous.

Such ideas include the notion, derived from the radical right-wing group Posse Comitatus, that the sheriff is the sole legitimate vector of political authority over the people; an interpretation of the "enclave clause" of the Constitution in which it bars most federal land ownership; jury nullification (a power McCann concludes is real and important, yet also best kept mostly mum about); and Ammon's brother's belief in the dizzyingly baroque legal doctrines of the "sovereign citizens," who deny that the federal government has any authority over actual living human beings and who file a lot of nonsensical paperwork to that effect.

The moment in the Malheur story that bears the most emotional weight is the murder by Oregon state troopers of LaVoy Finicum, but it gets strangely short shrift in a book that can get very emotional at times about distant buttes and surging mountain weather. Police blocked a road that Finicum and other occupiers were driving on to meet a sympathetic sheriff in a neighboring county. He pulled over abruptly at the side of the road and got out of the truck, at which point FBI agents started shooting; state troopers then killed him as he stumbled about in the snow.

McCann doesn't discuss the ensuing indictment of an FBI agent for lying about firing on Finicum. McCann does note that at times the public rhetoric of the occupiers could make them feel like a death cult. It is, he writes, "disorienting to recognize how, in writing this book, I've become entirely used to watching people publicly declare their readiness, even eagerness, to die."

McCann recounts at length the Northern Paiute Indians' history in the Great Basin containing the Malheur refuge, including the 1880s trail of tears they followed as they were driven from their ancestral lands. The occupiers awkwardly attempted to pal up to the Paiute, but the tribe would have none of it. The tribal council's sergeant-at-arms, Jarvis Kennedy, tells McCann that although some supporters of the occupation tried to bond with him over their support for the Standing Rock pipeline protests happening during the first trial of Malheur occupiers, he hoped to "see 'em hang." The occupiers may have felt a kinship with the displaced Indians, but for Kennedy they were simply re-enacting the tribe's displacement as farce.

In the end, no occupier was hung, literally or figuratively. Some pleaded guilty before trial, but in the first group trial, not a single conviction was won.

The government wanted to hit the seven occupiers on trial with a felony charge for standing around armed in a federal building. So instead of the easier-to-prove trespassing, the defendants faced the trickier charge of conspiracy to intimidate federal employees. This required delving into the intent of the men and woman on trial. McCann notes that he "had no desire to see federal power grow more comfortable with deciding what protest activity was unlawful conspiracy to intimidate." It didn't help the government that not a single named federal agent claimed to have been intimidated.

McCann thinks the occupiers' vision of devolved control over federally owned land would lead to a corporate hellscape in which no American would ever set foot in nature again. But for all of McCann's disagreements with the occupiers' ideas, he was repelled by the police corruption exposed in the later trial of the Bundyites for their original 2014 stand in Nevada. As he writes, the government "willfully withheld substantial evidence that the Bundys had been, at least partly, telling the truth" about federal agents' "surveillance, snipers, and provocations." The government also tried to hide four separate assessments, "none of which characterized the Bundys as a threat." (Environmentalist fears about Bundy cattle harming desert tortoises also turned out to be undocumented.) A judge threw the case out in January 2018, citing "flagrant prosecutorial misconduct."

The public conversation around the Malheur occupation made McCann feel that, "beyond a common allegiance to the Dollar and the Pentagon, 'We' were little more than a bunch of people who hated each other." It's possible this book could help some Americans see past that hate and begin to understand one another. But another of McCann's comments casts a darker shadow: Noting that not just the Malheur occupation but America at large is rife with veterans of our forever war in the Middle East, he observes that "this country is now full of men and women with long-term personal experience of contemporary guerrilla insurrection."

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#1. To: Deckard (#0)

On January 2, 2016, Ammon Bundy and a few dozen armed militiamen …
Ammon Bundy Quit The Militia Movement After Breaking With Trump On Anti- Immigrant Rhetoric – and after saying:

The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don't want to associate myself with warmongers.

For more than six years Ammon Bundy and his family amassed hundreds of followers and supporters willing to pick up a gun at a moment's notice and rally to their side for a confrontation with the federal government.

Bundy led two armed standoffs against the feds in Nevada and Oregon, and his family quickly became the face of a growing militia movement, bringing a national spotlight to armed groups eager for a conflict with what they believed to be an overreaching government.

The militia groups, with members holding a mix of right-wing, anti-government, and conspiratorial views, had been growing since 2008 thanks to their heavy use of social media and binding opposition to then-president Barack Obama. The standoffs in 2014 and 2016 made the Bundy family, including Ammon, leading figures in the movement.

So when he logged on to Facebook last week to speak to his supporters in defense of the caravan of Central American migrants gathered at the southern border, a frequent target of President Trump, he figured he'd face some criticism.

"To group them all up like, frankly, our president has done — you know, trying to speak respectfully — but he has basically called them all criminals and said they're not coming in here," Bundy said in the video. "What about individuals, those who have come for reasons of need for their families, you know, the fathers and mothers and children that come here and were willing to go through the process to apply for asylum so they can come into this country and benefit from not having to be oppressed continually?"

Bundy went on, dispelling conspiracy theories that billionaire George Soros was behind the caravan or that terrorists were using the group to sneak into the US.

But the backlash from his supporters was immediate, with many repudiating Bundy for his views. Followers who had traveled to his father's ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014 during an armed standoff with federal agents over unpaid cattle grazing fees said they regretted doing so. Others claimed Bundy was being paid by left-wing "globalists" to switch sides. Some told him they wished he was dead, or that militias had never supported his family.

Bundy was shocked by the swift reaction.

"I expected to get a decent amount of pushback, but I also believed that I could explain to them why I'd taken those positions and why," he told BuzzFeed News. "But you know, I've always had these kinds of thoughts that people were not really listening to the principles of things, that they had aligned with me for some other reasons, and that some of those [reasons] are good and some of those might not be, but this last video kind of confirmed that."

So on Tuesday, Bundy shut down his social media accounts and said he was stepping away from the public light and the "patriot groups" that had gained national attention while supporting the Nevada ranching family. The decision to quit wasn't an easy one, Bundy said, but the movement's unforgiving opposition to the migrant caravan and what he called a dangerous and blinding support of President Trump left him with no choice.

"It's like being in a room full of people in here, trying to teach, and no one is listening," he said. "The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don't want to associate myself with warmongers."

Bundy's sudden exit marks a defining moment in the so-called "patriot movement," one his family helped bolster over the past four years. Members of militia groups would talk about being part of the Bundy standoffs as a point of pride, a sort of street cred for militia.

While Bundy said he supports many of Trump's policies and is grateful for his presidential pardon of the ranchers at the center of the 2016 standoff in Oregon, he disagrees with his depiction of immigrants at the border and his approach to governing.

"I believe President Trump, the best way I could explain it, is that he's a nationalist, and a nationalist in my view makes the decision that best benefits the nation, not the individual," Bundy said. "That is not freedom, and that is not what America was built upon."

For those who have followed the Bundy clan and their clashes with the federal government, the 43-year-old's defense of immigrants was not a complete surprise, even if it was to his supporters.

His father, Cliven Bundy, has previously defended immigrants from Mexico and Central America, citing their desire to provide for their families as a human right — an opinion echoed by Ammon Bundy in his videos. Both men have said they believe migrants have a legal right to apply for asylum in the US, and that it is lawmakers' duty to give them that opportunity.

Read the remaider of the article here.

On the day of reckoning in the end, was as it all for nothing – just for absolutely nothing?

Salute,
Gatlin

Gatlin  posted on  2019-09-16   10:52:48 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Gatlin (#1) (Edited)

"It's like being in a room full of people in here, trying to teach, and no one is listening," he said. "The vast majority seemed to hang on to what seemed like hate, and fear, and almost warmongering, and I don't want to associate myself with warmongers."

Who exactly appointed Ammon Bundy to lecture the patriot militias or the public about asylum policy? What qualifies Bundy to lecture people on the topic?

The Bundy's are basically redneck Nevada Democrats, not people who really fit in with the Right. The same could be said of George Zimmerman who got massive support from the Right but he was personally a fairly liberal Democrat from a multiracial immigrant family who had always lived in varied ethnic settings. Or the attention given to Ruby Ridge considering what Randy Weaver is actually like in real life.

I always thought the Bundys were flaky, that it wouldn't end well. The Bundys were not that sympathetic as victims of the feds. And some of the militias showing up at the Bundy locale, loading their scary black rifles and pointing them toward federal and state employees from positions of concealment, it was a bad look for the militia movement IMO. Then after the brouhaha at the ranch eased up, the FBI and state cops gunned down one man for no good reason after the Ammon Bundy takeover of the (seasonally closed) federal wildlife refuge was just over the top; Bundy was protesting prison sentences from a few ranchers who set a careless fire and burned some federal land.

There was a bit of info that came out a few years ago when the original federal case against the Bundys was declared a mistrial due to DoJ/FBI misconduct toward the Bundys and again when they attempted to prosecute them.

On December 20, 2017, Federal judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the Bundy case, citing gross misconduct by the federal government. In her ruling, Judge Navarro stated, "The court does regrettably believe a mistrial in this case is the most suitable and only remedy...." The primary example related to a claim made by defendant Ryan Bundy, who claimed that there were snipers around the property, and that they called for backup only because they felt threatened and isolated. The federal government denied this. Later in the trial, a witness confirmed the presence of a federal videotape, proving that snipers were in fact on the property. This, along with five other pieces of evidence, would have greatly affected the trial. Judge Navarro ruled that "the government falsely represented the camera that was on the Bundy house was incidental, not purposeful." She stated that the U.S. Attorney's office (which prosecuted the case) knew of this evidence, but would not acknowledge it. This, she decided, violated due process.

On January 8, 2018, Judge Gloria Navarro declared the mistrial to be with prejudice, effectively dismissing the charges, on the grounds that the defendants could not receive a fair trial. "The court finds that the universal sense of justice has been violated," the judge told the Los Angeles Times.

So we saw a federal judge throw out the case entirely and with prejudice. It does help set a precedent in such cases.

Bundy was then tried for his actions at the Malheur Refuge.

In July 2016, with six weeks before the beginning of the first trial in the case, nine of Bundy's fellow militants pleaded guilty, including three of nine militants who were part of Bundy's "inner circle". Of those three, two were reported to be negotiating "a resolution to a federal indictment in Nevada as well" (see below).[82] By August, the total number of militants pleading guilty had increased to eleven.[83]

On October 27, 2016, Ammon Bundy was found not guilty on all counts.

So Bundy's closest buddies tried to sell him out and plead guilty. But Ammon had the last laugh. I can only imagine the legal bills for all this. And Ammon owns a truck repair shop in Idaho. He doesn't even live at the ranch with Cliven and hadn't for many years. He has a wife and 6 kids in a 5000+ sq ft house in Idaho where his truck repair business is located.

And then there's the Mormon hillbilly element to the Bundys.

In July 2018 Ammon Bundy at a speaking engagement in Smithfield, Utah claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also commonly referred to as Mormons, is currently infiltrated by socialists, globalists and environmentalists. He said this same group of environmentalists, educated in “government” schools, have infiltrated the lower and middle levels of the LDS Church. When asked if LDS church members can trust local religious leaders, Bundy stated that it is up to the individual to determine if these leaders can be trusted.

Bundy also claimed that the federal government’s prosecution of him and his supporters following confrontations in Nevada and Oregon is really a “battle of high priests” of the LDS church. He said his father, himself and his attorney are all high priests in the church. But so are the lead U.S. attorney prosecuting his family, the chief judge in Oregon and former Nevada Senator Harry Reid.[86]

At the time of Bundy's standoff with federal officials the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement critical of the actions of those occupying the Malheur Refuge. The statement said, "this armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis."

Bundy has publicly claimed to be an active and devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[87]

I think I like Al Bundy more than Cliven and Ammon Bundy.

Tooconservative  posted on  2019-09-16   14:06:08 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  


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