WHY YOU SHOULD BE SYMPATHETIC TOWARD CLIVEN BUNDY

On Saturday, I wrote about the standoff at Bundy Ranch. That post drew a remarkable amount of traffic, even though, as I wrote then, I had not quite decided what to make of the story. Since then, I have continued to study the facts and have drawn some conclusions. Here they are.

First, it must be admitted that legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. The Bureau of Land Management has been charging him grazing fees since the early 1990s, which he has refused to pay. Further, BLM has issued orders limiting the area on which Bundy’s cows can graze and the number that can graze, and Bundy has ignored those directives. As a result, BLM has sued Bundy twice in federal court, and won both cases. In the second, more recent action, Bundy’s defense is that the federal government doesn’t own the land in question and therefore has no authority to regulate grazing. That simply isn’t right; the land, like most of Nevada, is federally owned. Bundy is representing himself, of necessity: no lawyer could make that argument.

That being the case, why does Bundy deserve our sympathy? To begin with, his family has been ranching on the acres at issue since the late 19th century. They and other settlers were induced to come to Nevada in part by the federal government’s promise that they would be able to graze their cattle on adjacent government-owned land. For many years they did so, with no limitations or fees. The Bundy family was ranching in southern Nevada long before the BLM came into existence.

Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one. When Bundy refused to pay grazing fees beginning in around 1993, he said something to the effect of, they are supposed to be charging me a fee for managing the land and all they are doing is trying to manage me out of business. Why should I pay them for that?

” data-lightbox-gallery=”lightbox[gallery-YHfr]

“>border-resources-bundy-ranch

The bedrock issue here is that the federal government owns more than 80% of the state of Nevada. This is true across the western states. To an astonishing degree, those states lack sovereignty over their own territory. Most of the land is federal. And the federal agencies that rule over federal lands have agendas. At every opportunity, it seems, they restrict not only what can be done on federal lands, but on privately-owned property. They are hostile to traditional industries like logging, mining and ranching, and if you have a puddle in your back yard, the EPA will try to regulate it as a navigable waterway.

That is only a slight exaggeration.

” data-lightbox-gallery=”lightbox[gallery-YHfr]

“>bundy.ranch_.nev

One could say that Cliven Bundy is just one more victim of progress and changing mores. The federal government has gotten more environmentally-conscious, and now we really, really care about desert tortoises. (It was the designation of desert tortoises as an endangered species that gave BLM the opportunity to squeeze Bundy in the early 1990s.) But here’s the thing: the Bureau of Land Management–the federal government–is not necessarily anti-development. Rather, its attitude depends entirely on what sort of development is in question.

Thus, BLM has developed a grandiose plan to develop vast solar energy installations on federal land across the Southwest. Wind power projects are favored, too. In fact, the same BLM that has driven Nevada’s ranchers out of business has welcomed solar projects with open arms. Some have claimed that Harry Reid is behind the BLM’s war against Cliven Bundy, on the theory that he wants the land for a solar project in which his son Rory is involved, along with the Chinese. I don’t believe this is correct. The solar projects are located north of Las Vegas, 30 miles or so from the area where Bundy ranches.

But the connection is nevertheless important in two respects. First, BLM has promulgated aregional mitigation strategy for the environmental impacts of the solar developments. Let’s pause on that for a moment: the excuse for limiting Bundy’s rights is the endangered desert tortoise. But wait! Don’t they have desert tortoises a few miles away where the solar projects are being built? Of course they do. That’s where they get to the mitigation strategy, which may involve, among other things, moving some desert tortoises to a new location:

The Gold Butte ACEC is preliminarily recommended as the best recipient location for regional mitigation from the Dry Lake SEZ. This ACEC is located 32 miles (51 km) east of the Dry Lake SEZ.

Gold Butte is the area where Bundy ranches. There are a few problems with the Gold Butte location as a mitigation area; one of them is that there are “trespassing” cattle:

The resource values found in the Gold Butte ACEC are threatened by: unauthorized activities, including off-road vehicle use, illegal dumping, and trespass livestock grazing; wildfire; and weed infestation.

So it is possible that the federal government is driving Bundy off federal lands to make way for mitigation activities that enable the solar energy development to the north. But I don’t think it is necessary to go there. Rather–this is the second and more important point–it is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s BLM, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans. Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor.

” data-lightbox-gallery=”lightbox[gallery-YHfr]

“>Solar energy projects don't draw BLM snipers

Solar energy projects don’t draw BLM snipers

The new head of the BLM is a former Reid staffer. Presumably he was placed in his current position on Reid’s recommendation. Harry Reid is known to be a corrupt politician, one who has gotten wealthy on a public employee’s salary, in part, at least, by benefiting from sweetheart real estate deals. Does Harry Reid now control more than 80% of the territory of Nevada? If you need federal authority to conduct business in Nevada–which is overwhelmingly probable–do you need to pay a bribe to Harry Reid or a member of his family to get that permission? Why is it that the BLM is deeply concerned about desert tortoises when it comes to ranchers, but couldn’t care less when the solar power developers from China come calling? Environmentalists have asked this question. Does the difference lie in the fact that Cliven Bundy has never contributed to an Obama or Reid campaign, or paid a bribe to Reid or a member of his family?

Based on the evidence, I would say: yes, that is probably the difference. When the desert tortoises balance out, Occam’s razor tells us that the distinction is political.

So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?

 

Comments

comments

Obama’s war on White House women

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds – USA Today

We’d be closer to pay equity if Democrats would stop cheating their own female staffers.

The “War On Women” theme was a key componentof Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. And since politicians tend to repeat what works, the Democrats are pushing the same theme again for 2014 — and, no doubt, as preparation for a Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 where all opposition will be treated as evidence of sexism. But have they taken it too far? Just maybe.

One clue is that even the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, generally a reliable Democratic ally, isn’t buying the Democrats’ “revolting equal-pay demagoguery.” Marcus writes:

The level of hyperbole — actually, of demagoguery — that Democrats have engaged in here is revolting. It’s entirely understandable, of course: The Senate is up for grabs. Women account for a majority of voters. They tend to favor Democrats. To the extent that women — and in particular, single women — can be motivated to turn out in a midterm election, waving the bloody shirt of unequal pay is smart politics. Fairness is another matter. Since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, it has been illegal for employers to pay women less than men for the same work.

The problem is that comparing what all men and all women earn is deceptive. Men tend to choose more jobs that require long hours, or that are dangerous — hence the much higher rate of vocational death among men than women — but that also pay more. Women tend to prefer jobs that offer flexible or shorter hours, and clean indoorconditions.

Indeed, as Amy Otto notes, a recent puff piece on Jay Carney in The Washingtonian,though largely mocked for its photoshop errors, inadvertently revealed the gender-gap cause: Carney’s wife, high-profile journalist Claire Shipman, “works part-time now for ABC News, something she’s done for five years, which has given her more flexibility to write and hang out with her children. Flexibility, she says, is what most working mothers really want.”

That’s probably right, but part-time jobs that give you flexibility to hang out with your kids generally don’t pay as much as hard-charging jobs that keep you at the office all night. And would it be fair to the office all-nighters if they did?

Then it turned out that the Obama White House itself pays women workers less than men. White House Press Secretary Carney didn’t mention his wife’s choices, but did argue that the number was misleading because women held different jobs. Well, yes. Federal law says you have to pay people the same for the same work; it doesn’t say you have to pay secretaries the same as press secretaries. This is true both in the White House, and in the private businesses that the White House was attacking.

But that’s just the beginning. As the Washington Post reported, many vulnerable Democrats have a pay gap, too:

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado pays women workers 85 cents for every dollar he pays men.

Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana pays women 88 cents on the dollar.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia pays women 75 cents for every dollar he pays a man.

Rep. Gary Peters pays women 67 cents for every dollar that a man makes.

And Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska pays women in his office 82 cents for every dollar that a man makes.

If I were the GOP, I’d start running attack ads in these legislators’ home states, quoting President Obama and asking why these Democrats hate women. It just might work — and it would certainly drive home a useful lesson about bogus statistics. Which President Obama — who is now even attacking unequal dry cleaning bills — could use.

Comments

comments

Rand Paul: US ‘Can’t Invite the Whole World’

By Associated Press

Sen. Rand Paul says potential White House rival Jeb Bush was inarticulate when he described immigrants who come to the United States illegally as committing an “act of love.”

In an interview that aired Sunday, Paul said that those immigrants “are not bad people” but added the United States “can’t invite the whole world” inside its borders.

Paul, the Kentucky Republican eyeing a 2016 campaign, says Bush should have kept his focus on controlling the U.S. borders.

Bush, a former Florida governor, says the GOP cannot demonize immigrants and should show compassion. He described illegal immigration as an “act of love” by people trying to provide for their families.

Paul was interviewed on ABC’s “This Week” during a visit to early nominating New Hampshire.

Comments

comments

Enabling an IRS witch-hunt

By The New York Post

 

Elijah Cummings was his characteristically restrained self last week when he accused Republicans who voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of putting themselves “on the same page of history books with [Joe] McCarthy.”

From the start of the investigations into the IRS targeting of conservative organizations, Cummings has accused Republicans of a witch-hunt. But recently unearthed e-mails highlight his own involvement with the IRS, contradicting his earlier denials.

During hearings back in February, Cummings objected to testimony from the founder and lawyer for True the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting voter fraud. When attorney Cleta Mitchel said the group was looking into whether Cummings had put her client on the federal “radar screen,” Cummings called her statement “absolutely incorrect and untrue.”

Later, the Maryland Democrat also objected when founder Catherine Engelbrecht suggested Cummings had helped spur the IRS investigation. Again Cummings interjected. Asked whether he was willing to assure Engelbrecht “he did not direct nor his staff direct anyone at the IRS to investigate you,” Cummings replied, “I can assure you of that.”

E-mails from his office tell a different story. They show Cummings staffers communicating with the IRS about True the Vote several times between 2012 and 2013. They also show Lois Lerner trying to get information Cummings requested. Not only that, just days after Cummings demanded information about True the Vote training, the IRS made the same request.

In other words, Cummings was right all along about a witch-hunt. What he didn’t tell us was he was one of the hunters.

Comments

comments

How Obama’s Justice Department Selectively Blocks Mergers By Republican CEOs

By Kerri Toloczko – Forbes

Like all mergers, the proposed $45.2 billion Comcast CMCSA +1.58% merger with Time Warner Cable TWC +1.26%—the largest and second largest cable providers in the nation—has its advocates and critics.  There are certainly important questions about what impact the merger would have on consumers—but there are equally significant issues associated with the highly politicized approval process.

FINAL CARTOON COLOR 04.11.14

The Obama Department of Justice, led by Eric Holder, must review the merger and decide whether to approve or block it.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and Justice Department have a long track record of pushing the rule of law aside and making decisions based on politics.   Will the proposed Comcast merger with Time Warner TWX +0.84% Cable receive the scrutiny it deserves, or simply be fast-tracked for approval based on politics?

Let’s look at some history—which is detailed in a new Frontiers of Freedom report.  In 2009, the Obama Administration gave Solyndra, a failing California solar panel firm, a $536 million “loan.”  Shortly thereafter, Solyndra was fully bankrupt.  Prior to the loan, Solyndra executives and board members gave generously to Barack Obama, including Tulsa oil billionaire and Obama bundler George Kaiser, one of Solyndra’s main investors.

United Health Group is expecting higher earnings thanks to ObamaCare.  After United supported passing the plan, one of its subsidiaries, Quality Software Services, Inc. won a contract of $90 million for the rollout of Healthcare.gov.  United Health’s Executive Vice President Anthony Welters and his wife are significant Obama donors and bundlers.  The Administration did not perceive any conflict of interest in providing the nation’s largest health insurer with the keys to Healthcare.gov.

If money buys favors from the Obama Administration, a lack of it produces the opposite.

In 2011, AT&T announced it would seek permission from the government for a $39 billion merger with T-Mobile.  Processing the application was expected to take at least twelve months.  But within five months, the Department of Justice announced it had filed a lawsuit blocking the friendly merger.

Enter AT&T CEO Randall L. Stephenson, well known to be a free market Republican favoring  pro-growth tax reform and opposing Obama-style redistributing income from the working class.  Mr. Stephenson has a long history of Republican giving, and averaging the three election cycles between 2006–2010, AT&T employees supported Republican candidates by 60%.

Key government players during merger talks were Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Renata Hesse, now Deputy Attorney General for Anti Trust at DOJ, and of course, Attorney General Eric Holder, who runs the most blatantly politicized DOJ in history.

FCC Chairman Genachowski is a longtime technology advisor for Barack Obama, serving on his transition team.  Obama appointed him FCC Chairman in 2009.  He and his wife, another Obama appointee, are long time Obama donors.  Ms. Hesse, then in charge of the AT&T merger at FCC, has donated more than $6K to Obama for America.  In a policy forum last year, Ms. Hesse stated the Obama Administration’s approach to antitrust was “vigorous enforcement.”  But does that apply evenly across all merger applications?

On February 14, 2014, Comcast announced intent to acquire Time Warner Cable in a deal worth $45.2 billion—$6 billion more than the AT&T/T-Mobile deal.  This merger would also result in an approximate 40% market share.  Overseeing this application at DOJ will be vigorous enforcer Deputy AG Hesse.  As with AT&T, will the FCC and Department of Justice deny the Comcast merger, and in record time?

If AT&T is “red,” Comcast and Time Warner Cable are deep “blue.”  In 2012, Comcast employees donated $465K to the Democrat National Committee vs. $114K to the Republican National Committee and supported Obama over Republican Mitt Romney by nearly four to one.  Time Warner donations were $442K Obama and $28K Romney.

Comcast also has two Obama cronies working the merger.  CEO Brian Roberts is an Obama golfing buddy whose political giving is 90% Democratic.  Overseeing the merger is Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen.

Cohen and his wife have given upwards of $500Kto Obama while raising another $2.2 million.  During a Democrat fundraiser at Cohen’s house, President Obama quipped, “I have been here so much the only thing I haven’t done in this house is have Seder.”

Obama once publicly stated, “we’re gonna punish our enemies and … reward our friends.”  Executive Branch action on the Comcast/Time Warner deal will demonstrate if this caveat applies to merger policy.  A number of Congressional Committees will review the merger, including a Senate Judiciary hearing on April 9.

In addition to analyzing financial details of this merger, Administration history of crony capitalism screams for Congressional inquiry to determine if the Executive gives preferential treatment to corporations with friendly donors.   Merger approval or denial should be based on objective analysis, not which political party enjoyed the loudest clink in its campaign jar.

If that’s the case, no matter what merger wins, consumers will always lose.

 

Comments

comments

%d bloggers like this: