Lies of Omission

Lies of Omission
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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sagebrush Rebellion: If It Would Save Just One Life

The value of Ammon Bundy's stance in Oregon is illuminating the issue of federal ownership of land they have no right to own. But this, like so many other violations of the Constitution, requires the understanding of the Constitution in order to understand the issue. Unfortunately, most Americans have no understanding of the Constitution, its limitations on the federal government or the rights of the people it is required to defend.

They are locked into a simplistic understanding of the Constitution that creates the United States of America and little else. The fact that there is a United States of America, to them, means that the government is allowed to do whatever it wants. This is a view recently adopted by the Supreme Court. Rights are something that rich people are afforded, because they have the funds to hire lawyers that will argue for those rights. Public Defenders simply want to move the case through the system efficiently, which often means a plea of guilty for their clients. The facts, to them, are irrelevant. When one is paid by the state, they act in the interest of the state. This is exactly the position of the Supreme Court. They are paid by the federal government and they act in its interest.

There are so many cases that demonstrate that reality, I don't even want to go into it. Knowing it as a fact, is enough.

I applaud Ammon Bundy for his stance, if not his tactics. Often, since Bundy and associates occupied the federal building at the wildlife refuge, the Sagebrush Rebellion is mentioned in the news. Most people don't know what that is. The Sagebrush Rebellion began shortly after the newly created EPA, established in 1970 during the Nixon Administration, began to aggressively target farmers and ranchers of the West with longstanding rights to graze and farm on federal land.

Keep in mind, there is no Constitutional authority for the federal government to own land at all and many of these farmers and ranchers, especially ranchers, considered these rights to the range as absolute. Their contracts went back so many generations, they had no reason to suspect that it would ever come into question. They had spent thousands of dollars improving the land, putting in stock wells, fencing and protecting it from wild fires with the understanding that the original contract was safe and they could depend on this as the reason for their investment.

When the Bureau of Land Management wanted an enforcement arm to punish farmers and ranchers who did not properly kowtow to their whims, the EPA provided a means of punishment. The EPA could fine the farmers and ranchers for violations of regulations. The most common tactic was to have the Army Corps of Engineers label something a wetlands, often this could be anything from a pond to a lake on the property. Some of these "wetlands" were the result of heavy rain, but otherwise held no water at all. But that did not deter the EPA from its claim that the pond was being polluted by the cattle and the BLM had its means of punishing  these ranchers.

When these cattle ranchers rebelled against these tactics it was called a Sagebrush Rebellion. Since many of the Western state legislatures were made up of people, whose families had deep roots in the farming and ranching industry, the states themselves rebelled and brought into question the constitutionality of federal ownership of land. Eventually, the states were bought off, or coerced to cease their official strategy, leaving only those smaller ranchers without political clout to fend off the abuses of the federal government.

But, the principles remain the same: the federal government uses the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to do the bidding of the BLM. The individual ranchers are left exposed to suffer the effects of institutional thuggery. This is what happened to Bundy and the Hammonds and thousands of farmers and ranchers across the West. Since almost every state west of Kansas endures the oppression of federal lands exceeding 40% of the total land mass, with Nevada being burdened by 90% of its land mass, these conflicts necessarily arise there and not in Kansas, which endures federal occupation of only 1.2% of its land mass.

I thank Ammon Bundy for illuminating this issue once again. I would like to think the states would take up the flag of the Sagebrush Rebellion and pursue the idea of turning these lands over to the states and ultimately the people. But, our system is much too corrupt to obey the Constitution. It has gained too much power by ignoring it, that I can not see anything short of true rebellion that would square it.

As far as I am concerned, that is the value of the Malheur occupation. Ammon Bundy has put the Sagebrush Rebellion back into the headlines and maybe it took his actions to bring that issue to the fore. To that extent he has already been successful. I am not about to give him advice he neither needs, nor wants, but I would like him to use the momentum he has created to further the objective, not to encourage a bloodbath that would obscure his important message.

I ask Barack Obama: If it would save just one life, wouldn't it be worth abandoning these federal lands to the states or the people themselves?

Article I, Section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution The Congress has power

17: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

No where does it allow for random pieces of land to be held in reserve to the federal government on general purposes. It must have a specific national defense purpose or it is illegitimate.

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I am a published and produced writer, a novelist, a freelance writer, a playwright and blogger.