- Spitfire List - http://spitfirelist.com -

Extremism in the Defense of Stupidity is a Vice, Part 3: The Bundy Brigade’s Doomed Manifest Destiny

Ammon Bundy’s standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge [1] headquarters out in the woods near Burns, OR, is proving to be zany, dangerous, and generally harmful to the public good, which is what we might expect at this point given the nature of the Bundy family’s foray into politics and policy-making [2] in recent [3] years [4]. And it’s taken a number of steps towards the surreal in recent days with growing number of closely affiliated militia outfits have been issuing “we support you, although not this particular occupation” messages to the Bundy Brigade.

These groups include the Committee of Safety, an organization formed by individuals closely affiliated with Bundy who also support the concept of citizen grand juries that can put on trial public officials for treason and implement the death penalty [5] (it might sound familiar if you’re in Arizona [6]). And the Committee of Safety was set up in mid December to enforce those rulings [7]. Then there’s the Pacific Patriots Network, a militia group that claims to support Bundy’s goals, just not his recent efforts, and also decided they were going to protect both the government and Bundy Brigade from each other. With guns at the gates of the refuge headquarters [8]. And other vets are declaring fraud, feds, and folks about to freak out have filled the whole operation [9].

All the while, Ammon Bundy continues his strategy of talking about taking two steps forward in negotiation a resolution while actually make one step back type of by issuing the same unworkable demands. As of early Thursday, it was looking like Sheriff Ward was going to offer the Bundy Brigade a safe escort out of the refuge on Friday. At least that was the plan. And Sheriff Ward and Ammon did indeed meet on Thursday to discuss the proposal and Ammon agreed to leave …but only after all his demands were met [10]. That’s just how Sheriff Ward’s past month has been going [10]:

The Oregonian/OregonLive
Sheriff, Bundy meet on neutral ground to discuss ending refuge occupation

By Les Zaitz |
on January 07, 2016 at 3:10 PM, updated January 07, 2016 at 8:41 PM

CRANE — Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, backed up by two other sheriffs, met face-to-face Thursday with protest leader Ammon Bundy [11] to try to bring a peaceful end to a weeklong occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“I’m here to offer safe escort out,” the sheriff told Bundy. “Go back and kick it around with your folks.”

The sheriff initially said he planned to call Bundy on Friday to see what he and his group decided.

But later Bundy told reporters that the protesters won’t leave until federal land in the county is turned over to residents to manage on their own.

“Until we can see that there is a great momentum and the people can get doing that themselves, then we will remain,” he said. “That could be a week, that could be a year.”

After hearing that, the sheriff said there would be no call, but he wouldn’t say what his next step would be.

The parley between Bundy and the sheriff lasted between five and 10 minutes and took place in the open, at the intersection of a state highway and the back route to the refuge. It was another in a series of twists and turns the past week that have drawn national and international attention to this sparsely populated high desert country.

Bundy and about 20 other militants took over the headquarters compound of the refuge on Saturday and additional protesters have been arriving in the past day. Bundy, a member of a Nevada ranching family, has said repeatedly that the occupation was to protest the imprisonment of two Harney County ranchers and to demand that the federal government give over ownership of federal land to local control.

Ward was encouraged to reach out directly to the militants at a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Burns that drew an estimated 400 people. Several speakers urged the sheriff to do just what he did Thursday, and several ranchers had volunteered to join him if needed to end the occupation.

Ward was accompanied to the remote location by Sheriffs Brian Wolfe of Malheur County and Andy Long of Tillamook County as well three rigs carrying heavily armed law enforcement officers.

Ward met Bundy on the side of Lava Bed Road, a handful of media surrounding the men. Bundy was accompanied by Ryan Payne, a self-styled militiaman from Montana.

Ward explained he was there to resolve the standoff. He said he didn’t want anyone to get hurt.

“We need to find a peaceful resolution and get you guys out of here,” he said.

Bundy, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, told Ward, “We mean no harm to anybody.”

Bundy went into his oft-repeated comments about why the militants had arrived to take over the refuge.

“We’re here for the people of Harney County,” he said. “We’re here because people were being ignored.” He said citizens have complained over and over about federal land-use issues.

“Yet, sheriff, you would not address those concerns,” Bundy said. “We’re getting ignored again.”

Ward replied, “I didn’t come here to argue.”

In his most pointed comment at the roadside session, Ward calmly advised Bundy that “at some point, this is all going to have to be resolved.”

Payne tried to engage Ward in a discussion over a list of grievances that the Bundy group has made about a criminal prosecution of two local ranchers, of management of federal lands and about abuses of the Constitution.

“You have an obligation as a public servant to address these issues,” he said. Ward said that wasn’t the purpose of their meeting.

The men shook hands, Bundy and Payne returning to the small convoy that brought them to the scene on a gravel road roughly 20 miles east of the refuge. It was apparent Bundy brought a security detail with him.

Ward said he has tried every tactic he knows to end the occupation.

“I want to give them every opportunity to leave peacefully,” he said. He sensed Bundy and the others weren’t interested.

“I don’t feel like they think they’re getting enough attention yet,” Ward said.

According to Sheriff Ward, “I don’t feel like they think they’re getting enough attention yet.”
LOL, Sheriff Ward might be correct in his perception of things because it’s very possible that the militia doesn’t feel it’s getting enough attention. But it’s hilarious if he’s correct because they’re definitely getting attention. The national media is there [12]. They’re just not getting the kind of attention [13] they set out [14] to get [15].

Still, it’s hard to argue that they haven’t received attention given all the national news articles that detail their [16] demands [17]. But considering the levels of delusional theatrics on display by the Bundy Brigade who knows, maybe they are straight up delusional enough to fell that they haven’t received enough attention yet and if just a few more Americans hear about their cause there’s going to be an outpouring of support for their cause (and presumably a flurry of similar armed standoffs on federal lands across the nation).

The Harney Countey “Committee of Safety” and its highly unsafe “citizens’ grand juries”
And it’s that delusion that makes the a peaceful resolution to this standoff so complicated at the moment. It also isn’t encouraging that the Bundy Brigade has a local political support group, the Committee of Safety, that was assemble with the help of people like members like Michael Emry [7], a man who supports the idea that citizens can assemble “citizen’s grand juries” and arrest and convict public officials of capital punishment. And there’s active discussions of creating a “citizens’ grand jury” through the Committee of Safety. And the Committee also includes the President of the Harney Country GOP, Tim Smith. And this Committee was set up weeks before Ammon Bundy pulled his stunt, but not long after the resentencing of Steven and Dwight Hammond, when militia types started showing up in the area in early December and began stalking and harassing federal employees. As we can see, the Committee of Safety is rather ironically named [5]:

Raw Story
Here’s why Oregon militants might be planning to ‘arrest’ the sheriff and execute him for treason

Travis Gettys
08 Jan 2016 at 14:32 ET

The Oregon militants may be plotting an extralegal maneuver to remove county officials — or worse — for failing to support their demands after taking over a federal wildlife preserve.

A group of residents established the Harney County Committee of Safety last month, after some of the militants arrived in the area and tried to recruit supporters of local ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond — who were ordered back to prison this week to finish their sentences for illegally setting fires on public lands.

The committee of safety — made up of six community members [18], including a retired fire chief, two ranchers and the president of the county’s Republican Party [19] — was formed to file grievances against the government.

The concept is promoted by so-called “sovereign citizen” groups and is based on shadow governments set up by the Continental Congress in the months before American Revolution, said J.J. McNab [20], an expert on right-wing extremist groups.

The Continental Congress in 1774 sent a list of demands, called the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, to King George III — and the Bundy family and their backers sent a “notice (for) redress of grievances” [21] Dec. 11 to several Oregon and Harney County officials challenging their authority in the Hammond case.

“We do not believe there is any threat to this community from this group,” said Tim Smith [22], a committee member and president of the county GOP.

The committee will meet Friday evening, where they will presumably discuss state and local officials’ refusal to acquiesce to their demands to release the ranchers from prison and turn over federally owned land to local control.

The safety committee also includes members [7] of the III Percent, a loosely organized pro-firearms militia group, to help enforce the rulings of the “common law grand jury” formed at the same time in Harney County.

“After we organized the citizens’ grand jury together with a safety committee, we could take over lands through proper redress,” said Michael Emry, founder and publisher of The Voice of Idaho — and a common law jury activist.

A group of Emry’s associates in the III Percent militia, Bundy ranch sniper [23] Eric “EJ” Parker, announced Friday afternoon [24] they were on their way to the standoff in Oregon.

Common law, or citizen’s grand juries, are an extra-legal maneuver promoted by sovereign citizens and their ilk to hold public officials accountable for angering right-wing activist groups.

Similar bodies have been formed in Florida and elsewhere to “indict” elected officials [25]President Barack Obama, in particular [26] — for perceived constitutional violations.

McNab said [27] these phony grand juries indict on only one charge — treason, which is punishable by death.

The Bundys have voiced support for a variety of right-wing fringe ideas, particularly the “posse comitatus” notion that no legitimate governments exist above the county level, and they believe in no higher law authority than the county sheriff.

However, posse members have embedded an implicit threat [28] in their belief system.

If the sheriff violates his oath of office, as determined by the right-wing extremists themselves, “he shall be removed by the posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and at high noon be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.”

Sheriff David Ward, who was sworn into an interim term Jan. 2, said his elderly parents had been harassed [29] since the militants arrived — and his wife has left town after a group of strangers followed her home and she awoke to find her tire slashed.

The sheriff said he had received numerous death threats after saying he agreed with many of the militants’ concerns — but not their tactics.

“You’re not invited to come here and bother with our citizens,” Ward said [30]. “I don’t believe that just a handful of people have the right to come in from outside of our area and tell us that we don’t know how to live our lives.”

McNab said she believes the militants may be planning to take the sheriff into custody if a common law grand jury indicts him.

One of the militants, Jon Ritzheimer, drew the attention of Capitol Police in September for his plot to “arrest” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for treason after she voted in favor of the Iran nuclear deal.

Ritzheimer, who is best known for his anti-Muslim rallies in Arizona, became infuriated after the Oath Keepers and some Michigan militia groups backed away from his plot to kidnap Stabenow and other elected officials.

“Ritzheimer, who is best known for his anti-Muslim rallies in Arizona, became infuriated after the Oath Keepers and some Michigan militia groups backed away from his plot to kidnap Stabenow and other elected officials.”
Yep, Jon Ritzheimer, one of the leaders of the Bundy Brigades, was openly plotting the arrest of Senator Debbie Stabenow and charge her with treason over her support of the Iranian nuclear deal back in September [31]. And in mid December we have the formation of the “Harney County Committee of Safety”, which includes not only Tim Smith, the president of the Harney County GOP, but also members of the “III Percent”, a group that appears to be willing to enforce the ruling of “common law grand juries”:


The safety committee also includes members [7] of the III Percent, a loosely organized pro-firearms militia group, to help enforce the rulings of the “common law grand jury” formed at the same time in Harney County.

And note that Common law activist Michael Emry also said that the purpose of the formation of the Committee of Safety in Harney County is to provide enforcement capabilities to a people’s grand jury [7]. And following the organization of the citizen’s grand jury and conviction of officials that don’t go along with their agenda, they’ll apparently be able to “take over lands through proper redress”:


“After we organized the citizens’ grand jury together with a safety committee, we could take over lands through proper redress,” said Michael Emry, founder and publisher of The Voice of Idaho — and a common law jury activist.

A group of Emry’s associates in the III Percent militia, Bundy ranch sniper [23] Eric “EJ” Parker, announced Friday afternoon [24] they were on their way to the standoff in Oregon.

Common law, or citizen’s grand juries, are an extra-legal maneuver promoted by sovereign citizens and their ilk to hold public officials accountable for angering right-wing activist groups.

But that’s not all the “citizen’s grand jury” can do. It can also charge public officials with treason (for not following their ideology) and hang them:


McNab said [27] these phony grand juries indict on only one charge — treason, which is punishable by death.

The Bundys have voiced support for a variety of right-wing fringe ideas, particularly the “posse comitatus” notion that no legitimate governments exist above the county level, and they believe in no higher law authority than the county sheriff.

However, posse members have embedded an implicit threat [28] in their belief system.

If the sheriff violates his oath of office, as determined by the right-wing extremists themselves, “he shall be removed by the posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and at high noon be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.”

Wow, that sure sounds a lot like what Jon Ritzheimer was proposing for Senator Stabenow. And what Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes proposed for Senator John McCain at a rally attended by Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward [6] (who is now challenging McCain in the primaries [32]).

So, might this “Harney County Committee of Safety” be planning some sort of “citizens’ grand jury” against Sheriff Ward and other Harney County officials that don’t agree to their demands to free the two ranchers and turn over control of federal lands? Maybe, but based on the letter they sent to Ammon that is highly supportive of this efforts but not his methods, any citizens’ grand juries and subsequent hangings will probably not be associated too closely with wildelife refuge standoff because of the bad press Ammon created for the Committee of Safety’s goals (of putting on trial, convicting, and hanging government officials) [33]:

The Oregonian/OregonLive
Oregon standoff: Harney County group asks Bundy to leave but takes on his cause

By Luke Hammill |
on January 08, 2016 at 8:08 PM, updated January 08, 2016 at 8:27 PM

BURNS — Members of a local group previously affiliated with Ammon Bundy, the leader of the armed militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, indicated Friday that they now want him to leave.

Before the occupation [34], Bundy created a website [35] for the Harney County Committee of Safety, named after the “committees of safety” that served 18th-century revolutionary interests before the United States won independence from Great Britain.

But a draft letter presented by safety committee leaders at a public meeting asked Bundy to get out of town – though it thanked him for drawing national attention to the fight for local control of federal lands in the county.

“We ask that you organize your people, explain that your point has been made and leave in a peaceful and honorable fashion,” the draft reads. “This will allow us in Harney County to carry on with the business of improving the lives and opportunities that our beautifully blessed county offers through its bounty of natural resources.”

The committee hasn’t yet finalized the letter or delivered it to Bundy and it wasn’t immediately clear if the committee would follow through. Not all of the six committee members have signed the letter.

The group – led by area businessman Tim Smith, the vice chairman of the Harney County Republican Party, among others – intends to organize and unite the county around the issues Bundy has raised, several speakers said at the town hall meeting. Bundy, a small businessman from Arizona, is the son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led a standoff with federal authorities in 2014 over unpaid grazing fees.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, apparently all of them supporting the idea that local residents should be able to control federally owned public land. The burgeoning political movement could provide Bundy and the rest of the militants, who have so far refused to leave the refuge in spite of Sheriff Dave Ward’s offer to peacefully escort them out, an opportunity to stand down and still save face.

No one officially representing the protesters at the refuge spoke at the meeting. But various out-of-state groups who have come to Burns to support the occupation, including the “3% of Idaho,” attended the gathering.

A resolution drafted by the committee and read aloud to cheers and applause supports “the development of a plan to provide the expedient, systematic and harmonious transfer of all currently managed federal lands within Harney County to the jurisdiction of the people of Harney County.”

Rural Harney County found itself in the national spotlight after the re-sentencing of ranchers Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven Hammond, inspired protests and led to Bundy’s occupation of the federal bird sanctuary. The Hammonds were sent back to prison after a court ruled that they hadn’t served long enough sentences for setting fires that damaged federal land.

The draft letter to Bundy praises him for “shining a light on the Hammond case here in Harney County. Your actions have created a national focus on the Hammonds and other issues here and across the West that have created mutual distrust, anger and unrest between the people of the land and the federal government. We thank you for stirring us to action.”

But the draft letter goes on to tell Bundy that the committee members “were very upset that you chose to take the aggressive action of occupying the refuge and did it without our knowledge or any local approval, and in a fashion that has created huge distrust and loss of credibility of and for us as a group and as residents within the community.”

The draft continues: “We approved of most of your message but disapprove of your unilateral methods of occupation.”

“The committee members “were very upset that you chose to take the aggressive action of occupying the refuge and did it without our knowledge or any local approval, and in a fashion that has created huge distrust and loss of credibility of and for us as a group and as residents within the community.”
Yikes. The Committee of Safety, which was basically set up by Ammon’s fellow radicals for the purpose of this Hammand protest, thinks Ammon Bundy’s methods are too over the top. And it’s solution? Start a political movement to push the Bundy agenda in order to give Bundy space to save face while standing down. This is the plan by Harney Country GOP President Tim Smith, although it doesn’t sound like he’s got the rest of the Committee of Safety’s full support:


The committee hasn’t yet finalized the letter or delivered it to Bundy and it wasn’t immediately clear if the committee would follow through. Not all of the six committee members have signed the letter.

The group – led by area businessman Tim Smith, the vice chairman of the Harney County Republican Party, among others – intends to organize and unite the county around the issues Bundy has raised, several speakers said at the town hall meeting. Bundy, a small businessman from Arizona, is the son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led a standoff with federal authorities in 2014 over unpaid grazing fees.

It sure looks like Tim Smith has some more uniting to do. Which insn’t surprising given the nature and stated purpose of the of the group.

And then there’s the fact that as the above article notes, the Harney County Committee of Safety was formed last month after some of the militants arrive in the area to recruit supporters. And as the article below points out, those outside militants weren’t just trying to gather local supporters. They were there to stalk and intimidate federal employees too [36]:

The Washington Post
The government closed its offices in Oregon days before the armed takeover due to fears of violence

By Lisa Rein
January 8, 2016

The federal government began shutting its offices in eastern Oregon days before the showdown with armed anti-government protesters began this week, because of mounting hostility and security threats, officials said Thursday.

With threats against individual employees and a campaign of intimidation by out-of-town ranchers who had been in the isolated area for weeks, federal officials at agencies from the U.S. Forest Service to the Bureau of Land Management started sending more than 150 people home as early as Dec. 30.

That was three days before a group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom holed up with guns inside a wildlife sanctuary in remote Harney County to protest the arson conviction of two local cattle ranchers who set fires to federal lands.

“A lot of the rhetoric was aimed at the federal government, and we just didn’t know what might happen,” said Randall Eardley, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, which employs about 100 permanent and 20 seasonal or temporary workers in its offices just outside Burns, Ore., the county seat.

“It became a serious safety concern for the employees,” Eardley said. He and other federal officials said self-described militia groups showed up in the Burns area in early December, weeks after a federal judge resentenced local father-and-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond to five years in prison for arson.

The protesters, with harsh anti-government rhetoric and an aggressive social media campaign, began stalking some federal employees as they left work and leaving threatening messages on office phones, officials said. Some employees reported cars they did not recognize parking on the street outside their homes at night.

“One of the things they seemed to be doing was trying to drum up support for their cause from the community, and that includes a lot of federal employees,” Eardley said. “People were not providing the support some of them hoped for.”

The threats were reported to federal law enforcement authorities in the area who appear content right now to monitor the situation and wait out the protesters.

Local planning for the closures, in consultation with senior officials in Washington, D.C., started weeks ago, officials said. The Bureau of Land Management made the decision to close as early as Dec. 28, concluding that the environment around Burns was not safe for its employees, who issue permits to ranchers for grazing and other uses.

….

Yep, not long before the the “Harney County Safety Committee” was getting set up, militants that are now part of the Bundy Brigade standoff showed up in town and started stalking and threatening federal employees:


“It became a serious safety concern for the employees,” Eardley said. He and other federal officials said self-described militia groups showed up in the Burns area in early December, weeks after a federal judge resentenced local father-and-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond to five years in prison for arson.

The protesters, with harsh anti-government rhetoric and an aggressive social media campaign, began stalking some federal employees as they left work and leaving threatening messages on office phones, officials said. Some employees reported cars they did not recognize parking on the street outside their homes at night.

And although we haven’t heard of any direct threats against Sheriff Ward, let’s not forget that his wife was forced to leave the town over safety concerns after getting stalked and having her tires slashed [29] and his parents have both been threatened [37].

So while it might seem kind of hard to imagine that the Bundy Brigade could be planning something as insane as charging local officials with treason and executing them, it’s a little harder to rule the idea out when you consider Jon Ritzheimer was publicly advocating doing that very plan to a US Senator just a few months ago and the currently occupied wildlife refuge was closed over fears of violence after this same group showed up in the area and started threatening federal employees.

The Pacific Patriot Network’s Heavily Armed Surprise De-Escalation Strategy
Given everything we’ve seen, it’s hard to be particularly optimistic about the possibility of sane resolution. Sane negotiations takes two to tango and the Bundy Brigade doesn’t do sanity well. But that doesn’t mean the situation is static. Because guess who just volunteered to act as a “peace-keeping force” in the area to ensure a Waco-style ending to the standoff doesn’t take place: the Pacific Patriot Network, a militia groups that claims to agree with Bundy’s goals, just but not his tactics. Sounds like a certain safety committee.

And according to the Pacific Patriot Network’s leader, Brandon Rapolla, his militia members are there to make sure neither side, the Bundy Brigade or the government, escalates the dispute and suddenly showing up with this declared intent of getting into the middle of this all is their plan for de-escalating the situation [38]:

Reuters
Militia groups meet with leaders of Oregon occupation, pledge support

BURNS, Ore. | By Jonathan Allen

Fri Jan 8, 2016 7:20pm EST

Members of self-styled militia groups met on Friday with armed protesters occupying a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, pledging support for their cause, if not their methods, and offering to act as a peace-keeping force in the week-long standoff over land rights.

During the 30-minute meeting at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a leader of the occupation, Ammon Bundy, told about a dozen representatives of such groups as Pacific Patriots Network, Oath Keepers and III% that he had no immediate plans to abandon the siege.

“I was asked to do this by the Lord,” said Bundy, a Mormon, as some of the militia members nodded in understanding. “I did it how he told me to do it.”

Earlier on Friday the Pacific Patriots Network called on its members to establish a safety perimeter around the refuge in remote southeastern Oregon to prevent a “Waco-style situation” from unfolding.

In 1993 federal agents laid siege to a compound in Waco, Texas, being held by the Branch Davidians religious sect for 51 days before the standoff ended in a gun battle and fire. Four federal agents and more than 80 members of the group died, including 23 children.

The Pacific Patriots Network has previously said that while it agrees with Bundy’s land rights grievances, it does not support the occupation, a position leader Brandon Rapolla reiterated during the meeting.

Bundy thanked Rapolla and handed him a small roll of bills, which he said came from donations.

“We’re friends, but we’re operating separately,” Rapolla, a former Marine who helped defend the Bundys in 2014 in their standoff with the U.S. government at their Nevada ranch, told Reuters in an earlier interview.

The militia members are not joining the occupation, but are sleeping in their vehicles or in hotels in Burns, he said.

Rapolla said he had also taken sausage McMuffins to FBI agents who are stationed at nearby Burns Municipal Airport to monitor the occupation and had coffee with deputies from the county sheriff’s office on Thursday.

The meetings were friendly, he said, and he told them that they were there to make neither side escalates the dispute.

“That’s really the point of militias: it’s community involvement,” Rapolla said. “If something happens in your community, that’s what militias are for.”

Some two dozen armed protesters have occupied the headquarters of the refuge since last Saturday, marking 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.

The move followed a demonstration in support of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven, who were returned to prison earlier this week for setting fires that spread to federal land.

A lawyer for Hammond family has said that the occupiers do not speak for the family.

Ammon Bundy met briefly with Harney County Sheriff David Ward on Thursday but rejected the lawman’s offer of safe passage out of the state to end the standoff.

During a press conference on Friday morning, Bundy seemed to soften his position, saying: “We will take that offer but not yet and we will go out of this county and out of this state as free men.”

Federal law enforcement agents and local police have so far kept away from the occupied site, maintaining no visible presence outside the park in a bid to avoid a violent confrontation.

“That’s really the point of militias: it’s community involvement….If something happens in your community, that’s what militias are for.”
Yes, according to Rapolla, the point of militias is community involvement. So, for instance, if a militia creates an armed standoff by taking over government property and begins making demands, you just call in another militia to intermediate between the government and occupying militia. It’s just helpful community involvement! What a fun vision for how government should operate.

So how exactly do the Pacific Patriot Network propose to act as middle-man in this situation? Well, we just found out: They offering to provide armed “security” for both the Bundy Brigade and government officials. They’re issuing “articles of resolution” to both sides too although no one else gets to see what they those articles are apparently.

So despite Steven and Dwight Hammond’s repeated rejections of Bundy’s offers of “protection” from the government, the Bundy Bridge feels like they can go ahead and use the Hammond’s case to occupy a wildlife refuge and make revolutionary demands and an armed standoff. And now we have the Pacific Patriot Network offering to protect both Bundy and the government from each other. Militia-style government sure is complicated! Once the militias succeeds and we basically don’t have a federal government anymore and militias are running every county, the Pacific Patriot will presumably mostly mediate standoffs between rival militias. And those rival militias will mediate back. And all will be well.

You might suspect that Ammon Bundy would be mighty pleased by this latest offer of support by the Pacific Patriot Network given that their offer is really just the latest attempt to normalize the idea that militias wielding vigilante justice is just a normal thing that happens. Oddly, though, Ammon claims to be highly displeased with the Pacific Patriot Network’s self-declared offer of protection. Why? Ammon is concerned that seeing so many heavily armed militia men at the wildlife refuge will convey the wrong message to the world. Yep, armed men would send the wrong message [8]:

The Oregonian/OregonLive

Heavily armed ‘security detail’ shows up at Oregon standoff encampment

By Kelly House |

on January 09, 2016 at 2:00 PM, updated January 09, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Update at 2 p.m.: Armed members of the Pacific Patriot Network are leaving the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Joseph Rice, a spokesman for the network, told reporters that his group presented occupation leader Ammon Bundy and other protesters with “articles of resolution.”

He didn’t say what was in the document, but noted that his group wants to move the sides to an end to the standoff.

Then network members got into most of the cars and trucks they’d parked nearby and started heading out of the reserve.

Rice didn’t address whether his group would return, saying only: “We are moving on to present them (the articles of resolution) to other government agencies.”

The network is maintaining a neutral stance in the dispute, he said.

Update at 1:45 p.m.: Todd MacFarlane, a Utah lawyer acting as a mediator, said occupation leader Ammon Bundy doesn’t want the armed visitors there.

Bundy’s message: “We don’t need that. We don’t want it and we’re asking you to leave,” MacFarlane told reporters at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

MacFarlane said he had just met with Bundy and other leaders of the occupation.

They’re “alarmed” by the arrival of Pacific Patriot Network members, some carrying rifles, and concerned about the perception they convey.

“This was the last thing in the world they wanted to see happen,” MacFarlane said.

Bundy didn’t request the presence of the network, he said, and has “tried to put out the word: ‘We don’t need you.'”

*****

12:30 p.m.:

BURNS — A week into their standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Ammon Bundy and his band of militants have given the place a new name and acquired a rifle-wielding “security detail.”

Members of the Pacific Patriot Network, a consortium of several groups from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, arrived mid-morning, carrying rifles and sidearms and clad in military attire and bulletproof vests.

Their leader, Brandon Curtiss, said the group came to “de-escalate” the situation by providing security for those inside and outside the compound. About a half-dozen rifles were visible among the two dozen new arrivals. They aren’t staying in the compound, Curtiss said, but are patrolling the perimeter of the reserve.

The ornate sign that used to greet visitors with “Welcome To Your National Wildlife Refuge” now advertises the headquarters of the “Harney County Resource Center” in white block letters over a blue background.

The new name gives credence to the protesters’ claim that the refuge and all on-site buildings, equipment and supplies now belong to the people of Harney County. It also hints at their intent to stay here for the long haul.

LaVoy Finicum, one of the group’s most vocal members, said the Bundy crew appreciates the Pacific Patriot Network’s help, but “we want the long guns put away.” Bundy didn’t appear at the daily morning news conference.

Finicum said the refuge occupiers are now taking up the cause of other area ranchers who have complaints against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. He wouldn’t name the ranchers, but said the militants plan to dismantle a fence that keeps one rancher’s cattle off some federal land.

It’s all part of an increasingly bizarre scene at the bird sanctuary 30 miles south of the county’s largest town, where a standoff that has often resembled a friendly bonfire party is beginning to look more like an armed occupation.

….

So far, law enforcement officers have made no attempt to force him out, although Bundy and the group have a standing offer from Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward to avoid arrest if they leave peacefully. It’s unclear whether that offer comes with a deadline.

Other than the presence of the new visitors, the refuge headquarters remained much the same as it has throughout the week: Power remains on in the buildings, militants and local residents can travel back and forth to town freely and no roadblocks exist on the way to the refuge.

Meanwhile, the new sign at the refuge seems to indicate that the militants are digging their heels in deeper. The sign comes with a fresh moniker for the group members, who now call themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom. Their ranks appear to have grown beyond the core 20 to 25 protesters, but it’s impossible to say by how many because of all the comings and goings.

The Pacific Patriot Network members say they don’t support the refuge takeover, but agree with Bundy’s crusade against federal land managers.

On Saturday morning, Curtiss said he intends to meet with standoff organizers as well as local public officials and law enforcement to come to a “peaceful resolution.”

“We are not the militia, and we are not a militia,” he said, adding that he “they’re here for everybody’s safety, on both sides.”

Law enforcement authorities including the FBI and sheriff’s deputies from across the state have converted the Burns school district headquarters into a makeshift command post with around-the-clock security. However, they have no evident presence in or around the refuge.

On Saturday, militants openly drove government-owned vehicles and heavy equipment around the compound, proclaiming that the trucks and backhoes now belong to the local community. At the same time, they limited access to the refuge buildings, arguing that letting reporters and photographers inside would pose a safety hazard.

Meanwhile, members of the Pacific Patriot Network guarded the refuge entrance with guns in their hands and masks concealing their faces.

“No comment,” one of them responded when asked what kind of gun he was carrying.

“Meanwhile, members of the Pacific Patriot Network guarded the refuge entrance with guns in their hands and masks concealing their faces.”
Wow, so the Pacific Patriot Network’s heavily armed members are were guarding the refuge earlier Saturday as part of their “de-escalation” attempts, but they left later in the afternoon following Ammon Bundy’s “alarm” over having heavily armed men at the refuge. We even have LaVoy Finicum, who was interviewed by NBC sitting outside, covered in a tarp, with his rifle in lap (and threatening to shoot any federal officials who tried to arrest him) [39] telling reporting that the Bundy crew appreciates the Pacific Patriot Network’s help, but “we want the long guns put away.”

At the same time, the leader of this particular Pacific Patriot Network group, Brandon Curtiss, made of point of telling reporters that “we are not the militia, and we are not a militia…they’re here for everybody’s safety, on both sides,” which is strangely at odds with what the head Pacific Patriot Networks, Brandon Rapolla, said about the point of militias being “community involvement”. But given the general detachement from reality we’ve seen throughout this entire psychodrama we probably shouldn’t be surprised by any of this.

Veterans on Patrol carry out mental health intervention and meet Blaine Cooper’s fist as charges of fraud fly
Sadly, about the only thing that would be surprising at this point is if this entire mess really can be resolved without some sort of bloodshed given the clear determination by the Bundy Brigade to martyr themselves one way or another (note Ammon’s references to God telling him to do all this). Well, ok, without serious bloodshed. It turns out there’s already been bloodshed. But it wasn’t from a gun. It was from Blaine Cooper’s fist following another attempt at “de-escalation” when Lewis Arthur, who describes himself as an anti-violence patriot and head of the Veterans on Patrol activist group, made his way there to “de-escalate”. As the article below describes it, Lewis and two friends approached the refuge with the mission of extracting Ryan Payne, who they say is a suicidal veteran prone to violence under stress (the Bundy Brigade had better hope he’s wrong! [40]) and one of three ended up getting sucker punched by Blaine Cooper [41]. It wasn’t the most effective “de-escalation” attempt.

At the same time, the article notes that John Hildinger, another well-known figure in the ‘Patriot’ movement, says he’s received all sorts of damaging information about some of the main figures in the Bundy Brigade. Hildinger is now publicly charging Blaine Cooper with being a federal informant and pleaded with Jon Ritzheimer, who actually did make a video suggesting a willing to die in a gun battle with the government [42], to watch out for Blaine Cooper who was going to end up getting Ritzheimer killed. So in addition to the Pacific Patriot Network coming in to “de-escalate” the standoff between the Bundy Brigade and the government, we now have outside members of ‘Patriot’ movement attempting to “de-escalate” the Bundy Brigade’s own sense of martyrdom with charges of mental instability and fraud [9]:

Raw Story
Oregon militants brawl as friends beg them to go home: ‘You’re surrounded by informants’

Travis Gettys

08 Jan 2016 at 09:53 ET

Rumors and harsh facts arriving from outside the grounds of an Oregon nature preserve appear to be roiling the armed militants who have taken over a federal building in hopes of sparking an armed confrontation with government agents.

At least one of the militants, Joe “Capt. O” Oshaugnessy, left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge amid drinking claims [43] after arguing with participants over bringing their wives and children [44] to the standoff, and another — Brian “Booda” Cavalier — left the compound [45] after news reports revealed he had lied [46] about serving in the military.

A former compatriot-turned-opponent claims one of the most prominent militants, Blaine Cooper, sucker-punched [41] one of his friends — sending the counter-protester to the hospital with a concussion and serious facial injuries.

Lewis Arthur, who describes himself as an anti-violence patriot and head of the Veterans on Patrol activist group, said he arrived Wednesday [47] with three other men to remove a “radicalized” and “suicidal” veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has a tendency toward violence when he’s placed under stress.

“We came up here to de-escalate the situation and to convince someone that having the federal government killing you is not going to make you a martyr, and the majority of the ‘patriots’ are pounding on their keyboards — they’re not going to rise up,” Arthur said in a video posted Thursday evening on Facebook.

Arthur said the 36-year-old Cooper, a former friend, attacked a member of his three-man crew during an argument over their mission to remove women, children and Ryan Payne — a U.S. Army veteran who has bragged [48] about setting up sniper teams to target federal agents during the 2014 standoff at Bundy ranch.

“(Payne) made it very clear out there that he wanted the federal government to go and take him out,” Arthur said. “I had to come up here because I know what he wants.”

However, Cooper and other militants say Arthur, who set up a camp across the road from the nature preserve, initiated the fight [49] by assaulting a guard and trying to enter the compound.

Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizona militiaman known for organizing anti-Muslim rallies, disputed that Payne hoped to become a martyr to the “patriot” cause and said Arthur was merely seeking “a couple of seconds of fame.”

John Hildinger, who was arrested on a Maryland firearms charge on his way to the anti-Obama “Operation American Spring” rally in 2013 and is well-known in the “patriot” movement, said he had been receiving damaging information about Cooper, Payne and Brian “Booda” Cavalier — all of whom he described as loose cannons — from multiple sources.

The 57-year-old Texan, who is not at the Oregon standoff, said in a pair of videos that he supported the cause [50] — but he disagreed with their strategy and the leaders the militants had chosen.

He said Cavalier was a “mean motherf*cker” with multiple drunken driving convictions, and he said the Arizona tattoo artist had insinuated himself with the Bundy family and “scared off” anyone who tried to get close to them.

“You never served in the military and you said you did,” Hildinger said. “When you were called on it, you said, ‘I’m sorry they said that,’ and when someone stood up and said, ‘No no no, sir — we’re accusing you of stolen valor,’ you said, ‘You’ve got your job to do and I’ve got mine.’ Lying is not a job, sir — so you’re squashed. I’m glad I don’t know you.”

Hildinger said Payne was lying about serving as an Army Ranger and had three sealed criminal charges against him, and he cautioned the militants to stay away from him.

“You’re a liar, sir — and I have a special message,” Hildinger said menacingly. “Jay LeDuc [51] says, ‘How’s that patch working out for you now, bitch?”

But he saved his harshest criticism for Cooper — who he accused of being a federal informant who got border militiaman Kevin “KC” Massey <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/2014/10/border-militias-commanding-officer-turns-out-to-be-a-felon-arrested-on-gun-charge/”>arrested on firearms charges.

“KC Massey is locked up, he’s still got 41 months to go, Blaine — and I have no doubt that it was your mouth that put him there,” Hildinger said. “I don’t know what KC thinks, but I’m sure that he hopes you live forever.”

Hildinger said Cooper, whose real name is Stanley Blaine Hicks, had amassed 16 felonies under his birth name and another felony under his chosen name — which is the name of Jesse Ventura’s character in the 1987 movie “Predator.”

Those include multiple counts of assault — both with and without a deadly weapon — and making threats, along with several alcohol- and traffic-related offenses, and Hildinger accused Cooper of stealing thousands of dollars of photography equipment from the border militia’s Camp Lone Star.

“Everybody’s got a past, but goddamn, boy — you’re a habitual criminal,” Hildinger said.

Hildinger said Cooper had failed to correct the inaccurate perception [52] that he was a U.S. Marine veteran.

“F*ck you,” Hildinger said. “Hear me, Blaine — you’re a paid informant. You have no visible means of employment. You support a family, a house and you travel the country.”

He said Arthur and his friends had traveled from Arizona to collect a homeless veteran that Cooper and others intended to use to spark a violent confrontation with federal authorities.

“Blaine Cooper, you’re not smart enough to be an op,” Hildinger said. “You’re a paid informant — you’re there to get people killed.”

Hildinger urged Ritzheimer, who he considers a “badass Marine,” to cut ties with Cooper before he got them both in trouble or even killed.

“Jon has a family, a younger wife a little baby,” he said. “They were crying yesterday and they were talking to me about you, brother, but said you wouldn’t listen, you wouldn’t come home. You’re surrounded by informants.”

Well, the solidarity of the Bundy Brigade is certainly getting tested. Not only have they largely failed to attract direct support from other militia groups, but it appears that some members of the ‘Patriot’ movement are so sick of their tactics that they’re now publicly dishing out the dirt on all these guys and leveling charges of some of them being a paid informants and others being just psychologically unstable and suicideal. And to add to the layers of weirdness, we find Jon Ritzheimer defending Ryan Payne from the Arthur Lewis’s assertions that Payne is suicidal with an eye on martyrdom:


Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizona militiaman known for organizing anti-Muslim rallies, disputed that Payne hoped to become a martyr to the “patriot” cause and said Arthur was merely seeking “a couple of seconds of fame.”

One again, Jon Ritzheimer is the guy that made the “Daddy swore an oath” video to his kids where he explained that he’s willing to die for his cause [15]. So when John Hildinger says:


“Jon has a family, a younger wife a little baby,” he said. “They were crying yesterday and they were talking to me about you, brother, but said you wouldn’t listen, you wouldn’t come home. You’re surrounded by informants.”

Hildinger’s presumably not kidding (Unless he is [53]).

If it Doesn’t Make Sense it’s Because it Doesns’t Make Sense. And Stupid is as Stupid Does
So let’s summarize the situation:
– In early December, members of what is now the Bundy Brigade began showing up in Burns, Oregon, and started stalking and harassing federal employees.

– Soon afterwards, the “Harney County Committee of Safety” was established with six members, including Tim Smith, the president of the Harney County GOP, as well as member of the “III Percent”. The purpose of the committee was to file grievances against the government, and based on the composition of the membership (and timing of its formation), it’s very possible that the filing those grievances is a prelude to the formation of a “citizen’s grand jury”, a “sovereign citizen”-style concept that allows for goverment officials to be charged with reason and hung (if you live in Arizona and follow the local politics, this should sound familiar [6]).

– The Harney County Committee of Safety recently issued a letter pushed by Harney County GOP President Tim Smith that Ammon Bunyd be praised for his efforts but not his methods and that starting a political movement to push is cause is a way to allow the Bundy Brigade to stand down while saving face.

– Now that the wildlife refuge is occupied and the Bundy Brigade’s demands have been made, we have the Pacific Patriot Network offering to step in and protect both the Bundy Brigade and the government from each other.

– At the same time, Arthur Lewis of “Veterans on Patrol” and John Hildinger, a well known ‘Patriot’, are both questioning either the sanity of integrity of key Bundy Brigade members. Sucker punches transpired.

– Saturday, the Pacific Patriot Network shows up at the refuge to demonstrate its methods of “de-escalation”, which involves having heavily armed members guard the refuge entrance and issuing “orders of resolution” to both Bundy and the government.

– Finally, and hilariously but also relievingly, Ammon Bundy asks the Pacific Patriots to leave, saying their armed presence sends the world the wrong message.

It’s kind of a hard situation to dissect since there’s almost nothing coherent about it. But that’s also a pretty good way to summarize it: an incoherent mess created by people that clearly want what do amounts to a far-right political revolution, but don’t want to actually declare it as such. It’s like trying to pull off a “soft coup” via the simultaneous threats of violence and pleas for non-violence. Revolution via projected doublethink [54]. It certainly hasn’t worked [55] thus far in terms of rallying broader public to the cause since even the supporters who were at the Bundy Ranch standoff aren’t fully behind them, but Ammon Bundy continues to pledge to stay for years until his soft coup demands are met. Plus we have folks like Jon Ritzheimer making “I’m ready to die” videos and the Veterans for Non-Violence trying to extract Ryan Payne over fears that he has similar goals. And that all suggests that the Bundy Brigade really does see ending this standoff in a violent fight with the government as a totally acceptable outcome even if they don’t win over more than their core audience.

Of course, we can’t forget that the charges that some of these guys are federal agents could be true. Who knows what’s going on [56].

It’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy (that’s doomed). It’s also Manifest Destiny (that’s doomed). It’s also planning on killing people and die in a blaze of glory (of doom).
Part of what this whole situation so tragic is the parallel it has with another phenomena that has been rocking the US in recent years and really is getting [57]: suicidal people just deciding to kill a bunch of people and go out “in a blaze of glory”. For a variety of reason, more and more people in the US seem to have decided that ending their life violently, often killing complete strangers in the process, is a really cool way to die. Sure, the Bundy Brigade’s mouths keep saying that they don’t want to die in a blaze of glory, but their hands clutched to their guns say otherwise as do their mouths when they say they’ll shoot anyone that tries to arrest them. And there’s clearly a political dimension to all of this as the case with the suicidal mass killers who target the government in their final violent act they’ve chosen to end their life. So we really need to ask ourselves if we’re seeing a sort of slow-motion copy-cat group version of that same “mass killer targets government” phenomena that’s sweeping the US: Cliven Bundy’s sons and a bunch of their buddies have hit the point in life where they don’t care what happens and are will to kill random federal employees in order to end their life in a blaze of glory. It sure looks like that might be what we’re dealing with here. Or maybe they just feel confident there’s almost nothing they can do that will get them shot because why would they fear it?

With all that in mind, you have to wonder what the best non-violent ways are for dealing with the situation. It’s a rather horrible situation because even if they did have legitimate grievances, you can’t establish armed standoffs as a tolerable method of addressing your government. They basically picked one of the worst means possible to catalyze political change. And a multi-year long standoff is highly problematic for a variety of reasons. And the longer this goes on, the greater the legal charges are inevitably going to be, and they no doubt realize that which is only going to make them more willing to die in a blaze of glory [39].

So let’s hope the rest of the ‘Patriot’ movement, the non-suicidal component, can put their heads together and figure out a vision for the Bundy Brigade’s future that simultaneously doesn’t involve the rest of the US capitulating to their demands of the Bundy Revolution but also doesn’t include dying in a blaze of glory. Because they need help. And if they can’t come up with anything, let’s hope the government can end it without bloodshed (ok, more [9] bloodshed) because bloodshed is exactly what suicidal individuals who want to go out in a blaze of glory desperately want.

What’s a form of conflict resolution that’s the kind of behavior we’d like others, including other societies, to copy-cat? Humans are clearly copy-cat-ish in nature and the Bundy Brigade, like many of those before them who planned on ending their lives with an act of mass violence, would like to see copy-cats following their example. And the Bundy Brigade really wants copy-cats since they clearly want to spark a nationwide revolution. But the state and federal employees who are harassed, stalked, and might be killed by a Bundy Brigade with an itchy trigger finger (and could be hung if the Bundy Revolution succeeds) certainly aren’t going to be interested in more copy-cats of this nature. And neither should anyone else who doesn’t agree with the idea that you should feel free to engage in arm standoffs to settle political disputes. That attitude is just really, really unhelpful. Especially in a democracy.

As an example of how unhelpful the Bundy philosophy is, the whole Bundy Brigade stunt at the refuge probably made it more difficult for the politicians at the state or federal level to address any aspects of the Steven and Dwight Hammond case if there really is something unfair about their sentence. Any potential change in laws or policy now get tainted with the idea of validating armed standoffs as a means of political wrangling. And if the Hammonds do have a valid case for changing their sentence, a legal victory for them now gets tainted with the idea that it rewards arm standoffs as a legal negotiating tactic. It’s no wonder they continue [38] to not support the Bundy Circus [58]. Their case has taken on a tragic third-party context that they totally didn’t ask for and now the crew that created legal havoc for the Hammonds is trying to overthrow the political and legal system.

Ironically, the most help the Bundy Brigade has done for the Hammonds is increase sympathy for them. Not by bringing attention to them but by showing up and being so unhelpful in such a high-profile way. It’s like a militia Adam Sandler movie that’s really happening and actually kind of dangerous.

But at least they don’t appear to be getting much traction outside with the public because that would be bone chilling. One but when you factor in things like the details of Ammon’s Bundy demands to turn over federal land the whole things would be skewered even worse than it already has been once since the proposal isn’t to sell the federal land off to with open bidding options to everyone in the US or even everyone in the state. It’s to give it back to the people that have ‘Ancestral Rights’ to the land, and that primarily includes people Cliven Bundy. And not many more. Just a relative handful of families with the oldest land rights get to claim that federal land. That’s going to be really popular. And it brings up the obvious question of the Native American lands rights that were routinely ignored, which, in the case of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, is the Paiute Indians who owned the land 15,000 years. And when asked about those ‘Ancestral Rights’ of the Paiute Indians, Ammon Bundy said he thought the Paiutes were also abused by the federal government and he hoped they would be free of the federal government too. [59]

So it’s worth noting that if we’re to look at the people who would actually hold the ‘Ancestral Rights’ to the actual Bundy clan’s ranch back in Nevada, it the Moapa and Paiute tribes by a federal treaty [60]. And that means the Bundy clan’s ranch is in violation of a federal treaty that isn’t getting enforced. And since it’s a federal treaty, which Ammon Bundy doesn’t think should apply anyway except in his very strict ‘sovereign citizen’-ish way, it’s unclear how he would interpret the Paiute’s claim the the wildlife refuge land but since Ammon Bundy still demands that the Paiutes’ Milheur Wildlife Refuge land be opened for logging, ranching, mining and recreation [61], it’s very likely that Ammon Bundy has an idea for how to handle the claims of the Paiute, Moapa, or any other Native American tribes that want to assert their ancestral rights. It’s a plan that’s uniquely American: Manifesty Destiny [62]:

Quartz
The Oregon militia standoff is a mess of America’s own making

Jake Flanagin
January 06, 2016

A standoff [63] between self-styled American militiamen and local law enforcement near the town of Burns, Oregon, has entered its fifth day. On Jan. 2, armed protesters occupied the federal park headquarters in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and informed local officials they would not be moving anytime soon.

While currently peaceful, the gun-toting men and women say they were inspired by the prosecution of two area ranchers who set fires that spread onto federally owned land. The charges against Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond appear to have been merely a pretext, however. The group is spearheaded by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of infamous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy [64], who made headlines of his own two years ago. Bundy Sr. executed a similar standoff in April 2014 after federal government officials attempted to remove some of his cattle from federally owned land. The protesters seem to no longer be motivated by the welfare of the convicted ranchers (who, it’s worth noting, may have set fire to federal land in order to cover up poaching [65]).

Indeed, in a phone interview [66] conducted by The Oregonian, the Bundys mentioned the Hammonds only once. And in addition to their demand that the ranchers be released from federal custody, they called on the government to turn over control of the Malheur National Forest. “We’re planning on staying here for years,” Ammon Bundy said. “The best possible outcome is that the ranchers that have been kicked out of the area, then they will come back and reclaim their land, and the wildlife refuge will be shut down forever and the federal government will relinquish such control.”

These gun-toting ranchers are an outgrowth of something quite insidious—and uniquely American. It’s easy to dismiss these guys as outliers, a group of crazed, Second Amendment fanatics run amok in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest. But it’s also important to understand what underpins the Bundy family’s antics. Because these gun-toting ranchers are an outgrowth of something quite insidious—and uniquely American.

Manifest destiny, for those unfamiliar with term (i.e., not educated at a US high school), is the philosophical concept [67] that inspired America’s early territorial growth in the 19th century. Employed as a cultural justification for the westward expansion of the United States, manifest destiny held that the American people possessed an innate, special (often described as divinely ordained) set of virtues that entitled them to the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It’s what drove settlers down the Oregon Trail, secured the Mexican Cession, and brought about the incorporation of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

At the time, people were intoxicated with the idea of continentalism. But the reality was far from romantic. The land gobbled up by continentalist settlers wasn’t unoccupied, after all, forever intertwining the grand destiny of white America with the terrible fate of the American Indian.

It is this same sense of noxious entitlement that lives on in Cliven Bundy, and in the countless other anti-government elements advocating against government land-ownership in the American West.

Land rights are complex [68], as are the rules that govern what is considered public and private land. Some of these rules can and should be interrogated. The federal government owns an absurd amount of territory, some of which could surely be put to use benefitting struggling agricultural outfits.

[see map of federal land [69]]
But a substantial amount of federal land ownership is essential to maintaining what’s left of this country’s ecological integrity [70]—something we nearly destroyed in our slash-and-burn, 19th-century westward foray. And should federal ownership be surrendered (an extreme hypothetical), what’s to stop characters like the Bundy clan from seeking more? What’s to stop them, for example, from demanding the rights to federally protected Native land?

At the end of the day, the Bundys seem to care less about the preservation of constitutional rights and more about the preservation of their own right to use land, wherever and however they might wish. It’s about money and profits and feeling entitled to resources in a land that was never theirs to begin with. For all his “pioneer mentality,” Cliven Bundy is a hardly a struggling frontiersman. [71] These men are driven by the same greed and narcissism that inspired the original seizure of Native American land and usurpation of non-American sovereignty.

Dismiss them as one-offs at your own peril.

….

“At the time, people were intoxicated with the idea of continentalism. But the reality was far from romantic. The land gobbled up by continentalist settlers wasn’t unoccupied, after all, forever intertwining the grand destiny of white America with the terrible fate of the American Indian.”

Yep, there’s absolutly no getting around the fact that the modern US was accomplished by a giant land grab (and Native American genocide [72]), and it’s hard to avoid seeing the parallels between Ammon Bundy’s land grab ambitions (recall that God told Ammon to do all this [73]) and the spirit of Manifest Destiny. It was that general “I have a lot of guns and God consents with me using them to do a big land grab (and mass extermination) because my way of government is divinely inspired” attitude that made Manifest Destiny a self-fullfilling prophecy and the modern US possible. There’s no getting around that. And now we’re seeing the Bundy Brigade test the waters to see if a micro-version of Manifest Destiny is possible.

How does this get resolved? Well, on a metaphorical level, the US sort of deserves Ammon Bundy as a lesson in Native American experience and what it’s like when a bunch of crazy guys just show up and take stuff with guns. But on reality level, Ammon’s antics and general goals and messages are so toxic they undermine democracy if validated. His ideas harm society. It’s sort of impressive for a man who claims to talk to God. It’s like super-villain powers just through bad ideas that simultaneously promote violence as a means of conflict resolution while undermining democracy. And Ammon has God’s word (and a bad case of affluenza [74]) guiding him into this seemingly suicidal lunge towards his Manifest Destiny of self-declared Constitutional martyrdom by leading a couple dozen men to commit a stupid act that even the Committee of Safety can’t even fully back in order to promote a set of bad ideas. He also compared himself to George Washington on Monday in an interview with Jacobin when he speculated that the government was waiting so long because it has plans to wipe them all out [75].

Y’All Qaeda [73] indeed (Except for the undercover federal agents). They may not be quite as bat shit insane as al Qaeda but they’re still peddling a violent, religiously mandated, non-viable political and economic
worldview that may be get widely mocked in pop culture, but does have quite a few adherents in the lands with the mos federal land. And that’s why we can’t forget that, for a few months in 2014, Fox News and the right-wing radio fell in love with Cliven Bundy before his comments about “the Negro”. [76] And we already know the Koch brothers helped bankroll that positive media coverage since it promotes their land privatization agenda. So while Ammon Bundy’s may have sort of jumped the shark with his stunt this time and just needs to find a “face saving” exit to claim victory without actually accomplishing anything, that also means this is almost certainly not going to be the last time he tries a stunt like this.

So while we’ll likely see the feds find a non-violence solution this latest iteration of the Bundy Rebellion, part of the long-term solution involve a lot more than just dealing with the Bundy clan’s increasingly reckless shenanigans. It involves reducing the appeal of that general attitude regarding the proper role of federal government. That might involve turning over some of the land, but if there’s one thing that could really help lead us towards us solution it would be to accept the reality that beef is wildly unaffordable given it’s greenhouse gas emission, water consumption, and and other environmental/pollution/anti-biotics/super-bugs/other health/animal welfare mega-concerns [77], there’s just no reason at all for anyone to be eating any beef. If it’s low resource/pollution fake beef or or real meat you grow in a lab [78], have a blast. But beef as a frequently eaten source of protein should really be phased out ASAP because it’s easily the most resource intensive of all mainstream meats, and doing so really should involve a federal program that provides a variety of stimulus measures for community impact by a shift away from beef. Ditto for other grazing creatures. And logging and mining. Mining is filthy and we should really leave something for Bambi’s endangered forest brethren. Transitioning to an economy that isn’t based on harvesting or trashing large swatches of the ecosystem should be a goal of any future economy. It’s just cleaner and healthier and makes more sense. And that points towards one long-term general approach society can use for dealing with the appeal that exists out there for the ideas Ammon Bundy is normally peddling because this fixation on dismantling the federal government is one of those doomsday policies solutions that can simultaneously have appeal to people feeling despair and to folks like the Kochs [79].

So the longer this goes, the likelier we return to the days when Fox is swooning over a Bundy rebellion [80]. And there’s a long-term solution recurrent pushes angry ranchers and billionaire backers of bizarre and useless theories. At least it’s part of a long-term solution. It this solution only work at warding off things like the Bundy Brigade appealing to people if it’s used correctly: the long-term solution is to make a Good Big Government. And then use it in non-stupid or corrupt ways. Or not very much. A stronger, more generous social safety net that the federal government should have been provided decades ago when it was possible.

Expand social security and give universal health coverage. Free college. And tax the hell out of the Donald Trumps and Koch brothers of the world and Wall Street to finance a safety-net that guarantees a healthy purchasing power for everyone. Poverty hurts. A federal government is really good at helping with that. Potentially. it has to be allowed to become good at it. If that federal system of future that we could have probably put in place decades ago but chose not to due to an anti-government hysteria ever actually gets put into place, the array of services that can be made universally available affordable only with the help of the a functional federal government is a pretty strong selling point for a sane approach of government and policy. And one of the lessons throughout the 20th and 21st centuries is that the federal government is capable of doing immense good but not if it’s not allowed to. But it’s potentially quite difficult to do it right even when policy-makers are allowed to try because real-world challenges and big bureaucracies are difficult to align. But that’s all just a reason to try harder to make government work. We need a government that works, and at this point almost all Americans (and everyone else) really do need the government programs that federal government provides that almost certainly wouldn’t be part of a Bundy (or Koch/Fox) world if they really had their revolutions.

And not only would a federal government that doesn’t let anyone slip through the cracks help fight the appeal of the Bundy/Koch philosophy, it would also help prevent crazy people from doing crazy things in general by preventing them from going crazy in the first by removing stress. Or de-stressing them if they’re kind of nuts in general. Stressed out people do irrational things, and while Ammon Bundy himself doesn’t quite fit the profile of someone that’s about to snap from too much stress, some in his group may not be entirely ‘there’ if the various accusation we saw above have any merit. Just imagine how much a nice safety-net would assist in the prevention of such an individual feeling pissed enough to join the anti-government standoff in the first place. Would you be more or less likely to join a seemingly suicidal standoff if you had awesome federal government services? Seems like less likely. For a country like the US that could be a pretty useful side-effect of strong, generous government services and benefits. Fewer violent incidents because people aren’t all stressed out about paying for food and rent and and don’t end up joining the militia in their to-the-death standoff. Fewer other crazy acts too. It’s just less likely that people flip out and kill a bunch of people, or or join the militia to-the-death showdown when you have awesome public services.

So let’s keep in mind that Big Government, as long as its costs to benefit ratio is decent, really is probably the best long-term antidote for appeal of the Bundy-style political arguments against the federal government that delivers things like social security. And a long-term strategy is desired in this area, because even if Ammon Bundy’s antics didn’t like a fire this time they will be back. Maybe Ammon will pop up again or his dad or another brother will lead a different standoff. But possibility of the Kochs resuming thir support for the kind of “activism” can’t be dismissed. They did it before and it’s so useful for their interests. Good Big Government really is one of the best solutions for a ton of different tasks. Preemptively quelling Bundy standoff by draining them of interest is just one of many of Good Big Government’s useful aspects.

Good Big Goverment is a solution to a wide variety of problems (that’s why it’s a must these days compared to the alternatives), but it’s also an ironic solution in this case problem of the Bundy Brigade’s standoff. Normally Good Big Government is just generically useful and not ironic. It’s something that’s easy to forget, and if you forget it entirely, you might join the militia and end up in a showdown. Don’t do that.

Good Big Government is just generically useful. Repeat as needed.