The Lesson of Nevada — C.J. Box

 

What is the takeaway from the Feds vs. Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada now that the Feds have high-tailed it? (Caution: the answer may be disconcerting to some readers.)

I won’t go into all the particulars here. The best and most balanced summary I’ve read was written by Logan Churchwell and Brandon Darby in Breitbart and I’d urge you to read it here.

StatesThere were no pure white hats on either side. Cliven Bundy comes off as a little cracked, given his rhetoric and his claims that the federal government never owned the BLM land in the first place. Of course, they do. They practically own all of Nevada.

His failure to pay grazing leases really muddies the water. Even though I think all federal land (with the possible exception of a few national parks) should be sold to the states or auctioned to the highest bidder, Cliven Bundy is not someone I want to stand behind, much less hang around with. His greatest talent may have been his willingness to give countless interviews to sympathetic journalists and bloggers who whipped the story into a froth and publicized the showdown. There’s that.

But, boy, did the Feds screw up, even if they had a leg to stand on when it comes to the legal issues (and they did). Unfortunately, they went well beyond their legitimate claims into some very shaky territory. They wanted the cattle off BLM lands to save the desert tortoise — even though studies have shown that the tortoises likely thrive on grazed land. It also doesn’t advance their cause when you find out the Feds planned to euthanize tortoises in their “refuge area” due to lack of funds.

Like Waco and Ruby Ridge, the Feds could say they had the law firmly behind them. And, just like Waco and Ruby Ridge, they overplayed their hand by dispatching armed agents, including snipers, attack dogs, and contract cowboys to steal Bundy’s cattle. They even created a cordoned off “Free Speech Zone” for protesters to bake in. As if free speech needs to be cordoned.

In the west, the BLM is usually thought of as the least tyrannical federal land management agency. Unlike the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there aren’t a lot of stories of rogue BLM toughs oppressing taxpayers. I guess that’s changed now. Hovering over all our federal agencies is the EPA, which doesn’t need no stinking land (they control the air we breathe and the water we drink) in order to impose their will. They have armed agents of their own.

When the managers of federal lands turn into an army of occupation amidst the people who pay their salaries, bad things are going to happen.

The Feds didn’t expect to face the hundreds of armed citizens and militia-types who poured in to confront them. That never happened at Waco or Ruby Ridge. In Nevada, the Feds retreated when they realized they were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned.

That’s the takeaway.

 

Post Script: Another observation. Unlike Waco and Ruby Ridge, nobody was killed in Nevada. The dispute will likely be settled in court. Isn’t that as it should be?

 

Photo via Reuters; Graphic via General Services Administration

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  1. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    Actually it already has been settled in court (twice) and Bundy lost both times, but he refused to comply with the court orders.   As in most cases, if the court makes an order and you don’t comply, the guns come out.

    • #1
  2. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Your map shows the real root of the problem: the Federal Govt owns way too much land. This kind of thing is inevitable under these conditions. BTW, I think the history of this is that the ranchers supported Federal ownership at one time in order to get cheap grazing rights and to keep the farmers and their fences away. Then when the environmentalists gained sway the fees were increased in order to discourage cattle production, squeezing the ranchers economically. Is that correct?

    • #2
  3. A42NT1 Member
    A42NT1
    @

    My takeaway is that, next time, the Feds will show up with twice the firepower. Or perhaps avoiding the whole confrontation by launching a few drone-based hellfire missiles to take care of any trespassing cows. 

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Like.

    • #4
  5. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Perhaps when the founders lamented a standing army they envisioned the army of weaponized bureaucrats we have now rather than an actual military.

    • #5
  6. C.J. Box Inactive
    C.J. Box
    @CJBox

    OkieSailor:

    Your map shows the real root of the problem: the Federal Govt owns way too much land. This kind of thing is inevitable under these conditions. BTW, I think the history of this is that the ranchers supported Federal ownership at one time in order to get cheap grazing rights and to keep the farmers and their fences away. Then when the environmentalists gained sway the fees were increased in order to discourage cattle production, squeezing the ranchers economically. Is that correct?

    That is certainly the case in Nevada.  Bundy is the last working rancher in that area.  The rest have been squeezed out.

    • #6
  7. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump
    @TheMugwump

    The takeaway, my dear Mr. Box, is that the government, yet again, contrived an excuse to impose its will over ordinary citizens.  What is it about the people who make policy that they can never tell the truth when a lie will do?  This incident, as with so many others, should inform the American people that the government simply can’t be trusted to look after their interests.  A society built on lies cannot stand.  You can ask the people of the former Soviet Union what that looks like in practice.

    • #7
  8. PracticalMary Member
    PracticalMary
    @

    The lesson always is: it’s not really about marriage or ‘healthcare’, it’s not really about illegal aliens, it’s not really about the environment, and it’s not really about one rancher not paying his BLM fees…

    • #8
  9. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Bundy may be  a bit dotty, but since his family has been on the land for over 100 years and have see the government demands encroach to the point that they can’t make a living any more, I can forgive some craziness on his part.  I’m glad to see that the state is standing  behind him, though I’m disappointed in Nevada for not standing behind marriage.

    • #9
  10. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    OkieSailor:

    BTW, I think the history of this is that the ranchers supported Federal ownership at one time in order to get cheap grazing rights and to keep the farmers and their fences away.

    If that’s the history, then perhaps the real lesson here is “be careful what you ask for, because someday you might get it good and hard”.

    To rent rather than own puts you, to a great extent, at the mercy of your landlord. And if your landlord  is  the government…

    • #10
  11. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    I just finished Breaking Point a couple of weeks ago.  Now, we see the BLM getting into the act along with the EPA, Forestry Service, et. al. and I have to wonder if your scenario of drones and missiles might come true.  

    It is very disturbing that our government agencies feel the need to weaponize against  regular citizens.  Waco and Ruby Ridge were both mentioned.  Don’t forget Elián González.

    • #11
  12. PracticalMary Member
    PracticalMary
    @

    Other lessons: yours will just be a passing ‘story of the hour’, and do not depend on Right Media to guard your back. Also, who else but somebody a little crazy (eccentric) would take on the BLM? Somebody the opposite of those who won’t even admit they’re Conservative (or vote Republican) at work? Those who just dislike disrupting family dinners (or Facebook)…I understand why and can’t blame them, but neither do I poo poo this rancher.

    • #12
  13. Tim H. Inactive
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    To rent rather than own puts you, to a great extent, at the mercy of your landlord. And if your landlord is the government…

    Yes, that’s an important lesson, M.F.R.   On a tangent, this is a reason why I’ve been uneasy with the arguments by some conservatives, in the wake of the housing bubble, that seemed to denigrate owning a house and property, promoting renting instead.

    I buy the argument that the government shouldn’t promote bad mortgage risks, but the goal of owning your own property (as soon as you can afford it) should be a conservative goal.  Living at the mercy of a landlord and not having control over the land you inhabit is not ideal.  Owning property promotes freedom.

    …And that’s even more important when it comes to the government.

    • #13
  14. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Sending snipers to collect fees seemed a bit extreme. But now you are telling us that they were not just out for the money, they also wanted to save some tortoises so they could be rounded up and properly killed? Somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better.

    • #14
  15. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    My takeaway is this: 

    On the GLoP Culture podcast, the “Charlie Brown Syndrome” was discussed.  Lucy (the liberal progressive utopian) holds the football, Charlie (the conservative) tries to kick the ball and ends up on his backside.  This is what happens when liberals troll conservatives.

    But conservatives can also troll themselves, slipping up without the benefit of Lucy’s help.  I’ve seen a lot of conservative support in the media for Cliven Bundy.  I believe much of this is reflexive support for “the little guy” in a case where the Feds did, indeed, overplay their hand.

    But Cliven Bundy is not someone who should be championed by conservatives.  He is a crackpot.  Such support merely gives the left more tar and feathers to dump on our heads.  The sublety of “this particular guy is a nut, but the case highlights issues regarding federal ownership of Western lands” is going to be either missed or deliberately ignored in the media frenzy.

    And imagine what would happen if someone were shot and killed.

    That said, I will acknowledge that this case underscores why the Second Amendment is a wonderful thing; it provides a last line of defense against tyranny.

    • #15
  16. Mr. Dart Inactive
    Mr. Dart
    @MrDart

    CJ, what if Joe Pickett (with a little help from Nate) poked around a bit and found out that none of this had anything to do with tortoises?  What if it’s more like the plot of Chinatown and may even involve LA Department of Water & Power?  Noah Cross is gone but the desire to bully little people for a project that pays off the right people is still there.

    As you well know the BLM didn’t back down because of citizens with guns.  They retreated strategically.  Mr. Bundy won the day but he’ll lose the longer war.  They’ve been stockpiling rounds by the millions.  And, by the way, what kind of American puts up a tripod and sniper rifle to shoot a fellow citizen over the notion that cows and tortoises can’t share scrub land the size of some US states?  (Well, they did find one who would shoot an unarmed woman and her baby when Bush 41 was prez so…)

    Meanwhile, those “contract cowboys” apparently didn’t even know enough to pair off the calves and mamas.

    • #16
  17. user_7742 Inactive
    user_7742
    @BrianWatt

    I think the takeaway, despite the dubious legal stance by rancher Bundy, is that this is a flashpoint revealing the anger and utter outrage that many Americans feel about the slow and methodical advance of a tyrannical state to appropriate land and usurp rights – whether grazing or water or logging or gun rights – using bad environmental science, ignoring logic, and ignoring the will of the people. The Bundy incident is one of thousands of other incidents over the last 90 or so years that are indicative of an America marching toward totalitarianism on Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

    In the film Casablanca, when Richard (Rick) Blaine is asked by the Nazis what he would think if they invade New York, he responds, “Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I would advise you not to try to invade.” I’m not sure why that comes to mind just now. 

    • #17
  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Tim H.:

    I buy the argument that the government shouldn’t promote bad mortgage risks, but the goal of owning your own property (as soon as you can afford it) should be a conservative goal.

    Afford in what sense, though? We have the money saved to buy a house now, if we wished. But the deep-blue, high-allergen state we currently live in is one we’d hoped, before the crash, to leave ASAP. We’re only still here because my husband’s job here pays so well. Why buy here when we doubt we’ll be staying here long-term?

    What we can “afford” is intimately related to our priorities, and there can be good reasons to not make homeownership your highest priority.

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Johnny Dubya: And imagine what would happen if someone were shot and killed.

    If supporters didn’t show up en masse to defend him and his cattle, I think the odds of “someone” being shot and killed would have increased dramatically.

    • #19
  20. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    There are people in our country who are at odds with the federal government.  The odds are so pronounced that it might be deemed the front end of a war between the federal government and American citizens.

    To the best of my knowledge that is the purpose of Obama’s training, which is to pit various groups of people against one another and against their government.  It would appear that he has succeeded wildly.

    It is now being employed by several government agencies against Americans.  Mistrust as a national paradigm.  We’ve come a long way in the wrong direction.

    • #20
  21. user_352043 Moderator
    user_352043
    @AmySchley

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    OkieSailor:

     I think the … ranchers supported Federal ownership … to keep the farmers and their fences away.

    If that’s the history, perhaps the real lesson here is “be careful what you ask for, because someday you might get it good and hard”.

    A quarrel had arisen between the Horse and the Stag, so the Horse came to a Hunter to ask his help to take revenge on the Stag. The Hunter agreed, but said: “If you desire to conquer the Stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws, so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may keep steady upon you as we follow after the enemy.” The Horse agreed to the conditions, and the Hunter soon saddled and bridled him. Then with the aid of the Hunter the Horse soon overcame the Stag, and said to the Hunter: “Now, get off, and remove those things from my mouth and back.”

    “Not so fast, friend,” said the Hunter. “I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present.”

    • #21
  22. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    L’affair Bundy also points an interesting lens on the question, when are the laws made by democratically elected representatives of the people themselves illegitimate?  The many rules of the various federal agencies operate under a cloak of legitimacy because of Schoolhouse Rock.  Even though we know better (or should), we tend to think that every law came out of our representatives in Congress or a state legislature.  This is the basis for this reflexive respect for rule of law hits, even though we know that it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Like the proverbial iceberg floating in the ocean — with the mass of the berg unseen underwater and presenting the greatest danger.

    A big government results in a lot of, let’s call it administrative law, i.e. rules made by unelected administrators.  These have built up enormously and created an occupying force.  These agencies are a hammer and see everything as a nail to be pounded. People have differing levels of tolerance for being beaten on.  However, the natural trend is for these agencies is to hit more nails and thereby pass by increasing numbers of people’s tolerance levels.  At some point they will hit a critical mass, and so long as the 2nd amendment survives, change will come.

    • #22
  23. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    C.J. Box, I enjoy your books enormously, and was very pleased that you chose to come in on this very controversial issue. I read the Breitbart piece when it came out last week. It was, by far, the most factual and complete breakdown. For me, a major issue, mentioned several times above, is the recurring theme of governmental forces coming to almost any policing event from serving a warrant to collecting cattle dressed like Ninjas and armed to the teeth. What has happened to civil discourse between law enforcement and the public? I read this morning that the Postal Service has purchased large amounts of ammunition. What the hell is going on?

    • #23
  24. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    I agree that, very likely, Mr. Bundy is legally wrong in his actions. I also wonder to what extent this entire debacle is being pushed and fueled by Harry Reid which would make any attempt by Mr. Bundy a futile effort before it started. There is an enormous amount of wrong on both sides of this issue, enough that something other than the courts which are no more than political tools need to be displaced by some entity with no political or financial interest in the outcome. I don’t believe that BLM or Mr. Bundy are about to let things sit as is for very long. It seems that unless someone can intervene whose only interest is in finding a just solution then a blood bath will likely ensue.

    • #24
  25. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Johnny Dubya: But Cliven Bundy is not someone who should be championed by conservatives. He is a crackpot. Such support merely gives the left more tar and feathers to dump on our heads.

    He’s not a crackpot.  He’s a guy who’s attempting to preserve his family’s life against an overweening, relentless bureaucracy.  Some of his arguments are bogus, but so what?  Bogus arguments don’t mean he loses his livelihood.

    As to thinking the left will stop beating on the right if we use impeccable arguments: that’s a crackpot notion.  They’re looking to win a war, and they’ll use any tool they can, including making up crackpot stories and attributing them to us.

    • #25
  26. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    Great article, C. J.

    • #26
  27. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    I agree with CJ down the line.

    I grew up in south-central Utah on a ranch.  My father and father-in-law both ran livestock on BLM land (my father-in-law also ran his cattle on Forest Service land in the summer). Unlike Bundy, they paid their grazing fees.  Nor did they make the ridiculous claim that federal land is not federal land. 

    Yes, our federal agencies have been coopted by the environmental left.  Yes, they have unreasonably cut back on grazing.  Yes, the fees for what they do allow are too high.

    CJ’s description of how the feds overplayed their hand is absolutely correct.  Even when they’re legally correct, they can’t help being a bunch of bully boys.  They remind me of a large St. Bernard running around a china shop, knocking stuff over, breaking it, and then cluelessly wondering how it happened.

    So, is Bundy a bit nutty?  Yes.  Hero?  Not really. 

    Is this a useful lesson about government overreach?  Absolutely.

    • #27
  28. user_123768 Inactive
    user_123768
    @edwarddentzelcom

    This Bundy Ranch thing reminds me of what Barack Obama said about the coal industry what was it . . . 5 years ago? He’s not going to FORCE the coal industry out of business; he’s simply going to make it so it’s impossible to DO business. The BLM isn’t forcing Bundy to go out of business. Instead, they limited his area, restricted the size of his herd, etc. to the point no $$$ can be made. 

    C.J., since you’re a writer like I am, it would be like the Government passing a law saying: C.J., we’re not saying you can’t write anymore, it’s just that you’re not allowed to use a pen, pencil, marker, typewriter, word processer, etc. ever again. So, writing isn’t illegal. Instead, possessing anything used to write is.

    Does any of this sound familiar? Free speech is legal, but speaking isn’t. Religious freedom is legal, but praying isn’t. Gun possession is legal, but using a gun isn’t. The Bundy Ranch episode is just the latest mile marker on the path. Is Bundy kooky? Probably. But he saw this coming 20 years ago when he stopped paying his fees, so he has better foresight than the rest of us.       

    • #28
  29. Super Nurse Inactive
    Super Nurse
    @SuperNurse

    OkieSailor:

    Your map shows the real root of the problem: the Federal Govt owns way too much land. This kind of thing is inevitable under these conditions. BTW, I think the history of this is that the ranchers supported Federal ownership at one time in order to get cheap grazing rights and to keep the farmers and their fences away. Then when the environmentalists gained sway the fees were increased in order to discourage cattle production, squeezing the ranchers economically. Is that correct?

    Yet another case in which the government became a tool of special interests- first one (ranchers), and now another (environmentalists). If we left the land in private hands, we wouln’t have artifically created losers in the situation. Big government is a tool for evil, regardless of the intent. The little guy, be he farmer or rancher, hiker or hunter, cannot prevail against the full force of the US government.  

    • #29
  30. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Thank you for providing that diagram to help me visualize how much land the federal government owns.  If the federal government is going to own that much land, it’s either going to need to be much more accomodating to its use by private citizens.  Otherwise, it needs to sell some of it off.

    It would be nice if Mr. Bundy undestood better what he is doing.  It’s pretty clear that he is breaking the law, like Martin Luther King did, but King understood what he was doing.

    • #30
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