Pox Americana

"Politics is a disease for dirty little animals." – HST

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Band of Blubbers

Anti-Government Protestors Occupy National Wildlife Refuge In Oregon

When Ammon Bundy and his “citizens’ militia” recently took over a couple of buildings at Oregon’s Malheur National Refuge, the revolution they had hoped for failed to catch fire. The masses of armed sympathizers they expected to come trundling down the dirt road to swell their ranks never materialized. Instead, they were roundly savaged. The mockery got so bad that at one point I almost felt sorry for them. Almost. And then, just when the derision was reaching fever pitch, the red hot story faded and spun in circles over the ice of the winter doldrums. With the exception of a few entertaining episodes–a member legging it to the nearest town to booze away donation proceeds, two yahoos arrested for hijacking federal vehicles for a Safeway run, and boxes of dildos threatening to overwhelm their high desert Alamo–not a lot was happening. The whole affair was settling into the inevitable reality of bird sanctuaries the world over: utter boredom.

It appears, however, that the proverbial pooch has now been screwed. Ammon, along with a handful of other supporters, was arrested by the FBI after being pulled over en route to a community meeting in the nearby(ish) town of John Day. What exactly went down is still hazy, but according to reports, “shots were fired.” When the smoke cleared, Ammon’s brother Ryan was wounded in the arm, while another–Robert “LaVoy” Finicum–lay dead.

Finicum’s death is awful, of course, but hardly surprising, given his statements leading up his final blaze of glory, where he basically said that he’d rather be killed than arrested. He was one of the chief spokesmen for the group, first coming to prominence during his now-legendary night interview under a blue tarp. He went on to further notoriety when he complained that the feds had taken away his foster sons at this Arizona ranch, who he nauseatingly described as his “main source of income (so much for rugged western independence).” Soon after he starred in what can only be described as an exploitation porn video where he rifles through stores of Native American artifacts, while paying lip service to the “concerns of the Paiute people,” the dispossessed tribe who have repeatedly condemned the occupation and called for this shower of bozos to leave. You can almost see his turgid member pulsating under his Wranglers as he fondles the sacred items.

As lamentable as Finicum’s mortal perforation is, we must see the silver lining in his ultimate sacrifice. After all, he walked away from a loving wife, along with a huge Arizona ranch filled with fat cows and a steady supply of state sponsored, indentured teenage servants. He looked deeply into his soul and saw that he no choice but to give his life fighting for the miners, loggers, and ranchers of the world. No longer could he stomach to see those poor white corporate interests crushed under the patchouli-scented boot of tree-hugging state oppression. He joined a band of Mormon warriors carrying forth the vision of Joseph Smith, along with the rifles and muscle of Brigham Young. And unlike most, he had the privilege to die doing something he loved: playing at soldier. This, my friends, is something to be celebrated.

The Bundys got what they’ve wanted all along: a martyr. Finicum will be beautified among the tinfoil fringe, but will he become the next Randy Weaver? I doubt it. Weaver may have hated the government (along with Jews and anyone on the brown side of, say, Romanians), but at least he kept to himself. The only thing he was ever guilty of occupying was his own private Ruby Ridge, Idaho: twenty acres and a cabin in the thick of the sticks. Bundy and company crawled out of their dusty sewers and tried to fuck it all up for the rest of us with swagger, half-cooked “sovereign citizen” horseshit, and guns. Lots of guns.

These guys were on their way to John Day to supposedly form a “shadow government.” Their overall objective was to replace all of the elected officials in the area with their own, unelected people, since they reject any authority except their own. That’s right. Somehow, what they say goes, because they’re “from the land.” The rest of us–city slickers and libtards galore– not so much.

The fact that they were so easily caught beggars belief. Sure, there were “shots fired” and a guy did die. But the rest of them gave up. Even hardliner Jon Ritzheimer, who, on his way to Oregon filmed this teary goodbye to his wife and kid, surrendered to authorities in Phoenix. But the question remains: Why did they even leave the area? Did it not occur to them that, once along on a rural highway, the feds just may pounce? Were they lured out? Even so, isn’t the whole point of an armed occupation to fucking occupy? They sure acted dumb all along, but could they really be such colossal mouthbreathers?

There are still plenty of armed men hunkering down in the Malheur Refuge, but the main heads of the hydra have now been severed. These bitter enders may try to ride out the winter, but if I were a betting man, I’d wager my life supply of beef jerky that they’re gonna skedaddle, and that it’s going to happen STAT.


Who Will Think of the Poor, Oppressed Ranchers?

crying cowboy

We’re nearly a week into the comedy of errors over at Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and it seems that the self-styled militia’s little revolution has failed to pick up steam. Instead, Ammon Bundy’s rabble of potbellied mongos has been plastered with scorn and derision, mostly from that marvel of inventions known as the internet, which at times can assemble itself into a veritable Leviathan of snark.

Twitter, as awful as it can be, proved best at generating insults. It gurgled forth the first bits in a cascade of open mockery: Y’all Qaeda. VanillaISIS. Yee-hawdists. The Cowliphate. Yokel Haram.  The Bundy Bunch was then roundly laughed at for sounding a clarion call for ‘snacks.’ The skewering continued all week, culminating in yesterday’s pièce de résistance in which proto-hipster Colin Meloy (vocalist for Portland’s insufferable Decembrists) penned a series of Oregon militia erotic fan fiction tweets:

The tsunami of lampoons almost proved too good to be true, for what better way to gut the legitimacy of an odious man or movement than through vicious satire? There were those who took exception to this approach, however, including Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic, who chastised liberals for not taking this opportunity to make common ground with the right over the issue of mandatory minimum sentencing. After all, isn’t that what this is about? Dwight and Steven Hammond were sent back to the clink to serve out five years for a couple of burns that got out of hand. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. The judge initially tried to sidestep the federal sentencing guidelines (which seem to be some kind of anti-terrorism measures), only to be later overruled by an over-zealous D.A. with a hard-on for these guys. Shouldn’t we all be standing up to such inflexible, Orwellian government policy?

Yes, of course we should, but like I mention in my first piece , Bundy, et al, are just using this issue as an excuse to press forth a very different list of grievances. Much to the chagrin of both the Hammonds and others in the local community, they hijacked this situation in a pathetic attempt at a land grab. That’s all it is. Look no further than their chief demand, that the federal government relinquish all control of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge so “the people can control their resources.” This refuge was established in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt and is enjoyed by birders and hikers from around the world. Who these resource-controlling “people” are, and what Bundy wants to do with the land is anyone’s guess, though based his previous rhetoric, we can only assume that he intends to open the refuge up to private development (read: ranching) and shut the rest of us out.

And herein lies the problem with these guys: They’re not patriots. They’re not fighting for the “common man.” They’re thieves. They’re greedy assholes. They represent big, vested commercial interests that want to chew up the land for their own personal profit. That’s it. They cast the BLM and other federal agencies in the role of some nefarious alien, when in fact all of those great federal holdings belong to us rather than some remote collection of federal offices. It’s OUR land. It’s mine. It’s yours. It’s held in public trust for all of us to use and enjoy, as long as we follow the rules. I camp and fish on BLM land every time I am home and treasure it massively. These guys, out of an overblown, obscene sense of entitlement, want to take that away from all of us. They want to steal from the commons, fence it off, put up NO TRESPASSING signs, rape it at will, and shut the rest of us out.

Since when did ranchers become such a marginalized, oppressed group? How good do they have to have it before they stop crying, moaning, and threatening the rest of us with their guns? As written about extensively, American ranchers enjoy nearly-unfettered grazing access to BLM lands at well-below market rates. Taxpayers subsidize their businesses, and a lot of them profit handsomely from it. The Hammonds own over 12,000 acres. Cliven Bundy–Ammon’s father who started this whole brouhaha–is a millionaire. Many ranching families are. Wrap your head around that. The man has millions in the bank from profiting hand over fist from the federally-subsidized cattle business, yet not only does he refuse to pay grazing fees, he doesn’t even recognize the authority of the feds to hold ANY land. In fact, old man Bundy went so far as to claim the BLM land he grazes on is HIS. Why? Because he says so, that’s why.

Ranchers and the federal government have long been at odds, but things heated up in the 80’s and 90’s during the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion. What we have now is a continuation of that, an upping of the stakes. The fact that these privileged families whine and complain as if they’re somehow scraping by under the boot of the big bad government just rattles my brain. They mistake regulations and bureaucracy for “tyranny,” when most of them have never even remotely tasted the meaning of the word. They live in a world of unlimited entitlement, and all of this talk about “returning the land to the people” ignores the savage fact that they live on land stolen from indigenous people through relocation, warfare, and outright genocide. It’s funny how not one of them ever suggests giving back any acreage to anyone brown. Just ask the Paiute–who were occupying the land when whites began “settling” the area–what they think about this sad insurrection. Oh wait. Someone already did.

Some have described the Bundys and their ilk as “government welfare queens,” which really isn’t off the mark. Even Ammon Bundy is not immune to the allure of easy federal money, having procured a $530,000 government load to fund his truck maintenance company (Take that, goverment!). I however, prefer to refer to them as drama queens. Any sort check on their assumptive freedom to profit from the land as they see fit is met with cries of “Tyranny!” and “Revolution!” These are the shrill screams of exaggerators, the essence of hyperbole. They wouldn’t know real oppression if it tied them down and peed in their faces. They wail about a falling sky when they’ve never had it so good.

This is white privilege in a nutshell, and they deserve every ounce of ridicule hurled their way.

Here We Go Again

do not tread

We’re only three days into the new year and I already got a serious case of déjà vu. That’s right ye patriots, it’s time for another uprising against that big bad federal government courtesy of everyone’s favorite racist Mormon dingleberries, the Bundy clan. Remember them? Just two years back doddering patriarch Cliven Bundy ignited a brouhaha with the Bureau of Land Management when he continually refused to pay the use fees on the public land where he grazed his cattle. The wheezy old cowboy became a cause celebre. Wingnuts and wannabe soldiers flocked to his ranch to lay down their lives in the Great Second American Civil War. Bundy was lionized by the conservative media as a “true American” and a “patriot,” with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity tossing the geezer’s proverbial salad on air each day.

A Mexican standoff with federal agents ensued, with the camo-clad militia mongos pointing their stand-in dicks at the said feds, who, in the interest of avoiding a bloodbath over cattle fees, wisely stood down. On the right Bundy was hailed as a hero, then quietly abandoned by all but a few when he launched into a series of eyebrow-raising monologues that could have doubled for the jello-spattered mumblings of your racist Alzheimer’s grandpa. Even President Obama chimed in, noting that, “As a general rule, things don’t end well if the sentence starts with, ‘Let me tell you something about the Negro.'”

Well, if the lack of a body count last time left you wanting, don’t despair, because they’re back, only now Cliven’s son Ammon Bundy has taken the reins; currently he heads up a group of militia-types who have taken over a small government building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. They’re armed to the teeth, and though they claim to be peaceful, they seem to be itching for for a fight, claiming that they “won’t rule out” violence if it comes to that.

What is their beef this time, other than general and open hostility to the existence of the federal government?

Dwight and Steve Hammond are father/son ranchers in the area, and are responsible for at least three uncontrolled burns that spilled over into the neighboring wildlife refuge and scorched well over 100 acres of public land. Both were eventually convicted of arson and spent three months and a year in jail, respectively, only now they’ve been re-sentenced to five more years, since the original sentence didn’t meet the federal minimum for the crime. That’s right, the original prosecutor and judge “goofed” and now the old man (73) and his son (46) have to go back to the hoosegow. This family owns 12,000 acres of land in the area and is a kind of pillar of the community. The locals are outraged at this “re-sentencing,” which, while technically legal, reeks of double jeopardy. It seems to me that these guys are getting railroaded and I don’t blame people for being pissed off.

My sympathy, however, does not extend to Bundy and his cadre of weapon fetishists. These guys have descended into this community uninvited in an attempt to hijack this situation in order to serve their own extreme right-wing agenda. Many local residents resent their intrusion. They remind me of the hardcore Marxists or anarchists that often try to wrest the helm at various protests on the left. I believe that many of these guys want the government to come in guns blazing, because in their deluded minds, they’re on the vanguard of a second revolution. They think that they’re going to be the spark that ignites the great revolt against government “tyranny,” which will bring about some sort of great libertarian utopia. In this fantasy world the white man will be able to exploit the land as he sees fit, with no federal fetters to hinder him in his quest for personal profit.  In a video posted to Facebook, one of the militia members states:

“We’re planning on staying here for several years. And while we’re here, what we’re going to be doing is we’re going to be freeing these lands up, getting the ranchers back to ranching, getting the miners back to mining, getting the loggers back to logging, where they can do it all under the protection of the people.”

What is clear here is their objectives are more in line with the interests of capital than those of the people. Surprise surprise. No wonder the Republican party and the American mainstream right-wing establishment either openly encourage these nutbars or just quietly approve. They’ve been cultivating this cesspool of crazy for sometime now. Stoking fear and paranoia keeps getting their guys elected; in turn, corporate interests are served.

It’s interesting how the media has chosen to portray these folks. “Armed protesters,” is the term I saw floated around on more than one site. The semantic choices of the headline writers never fail to betray their racial bias. We whites are always tagged with the least-threatening labels, even when we’re walking arsenals of bullets, bigotry, and delusion.

So how will this go down? Last time federal agents retreated in the face of so many white men with guns. Will they do the same again? One can only imagine the immediate wrath and hell fire that would reign down if this were a group of armed blacks, American Indians, or Muslims. I wouldn’t be writing about a standoff: I’d be reflecting upon a body count. If you want to see how the U.S. government deals with unruly blacks with guns, look no further than the bombing of the black liberation group M.O.V.E. in Philly some 30 years ago, which killed 11 people, left 250 kids homeless, and burned down 61 houses.

I suspect Obama will play a cool hand with this one. He doesn’t want his presidency stained with something like a Waco. He knows better than to make martyrs of these loons. The best move is to let them shiver away the winter in that glorified shack in the high desert of eastern Oregon. Perhaps he–and the rest of us–should just ignore them, since that is exactly what I’m sure they fear the most.

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