Nevada Ranch Standoff and Racism

Recently, the Federal Government backed down from a standoff with a Nevada rancher who later gave some racist remarks in public. I didn’t want to address any aspect of the controversy during the days leading up to and immediately following Passover and Easter. I wanted to focus on the Kingdom of God and the Holy Days. Now that the Holy Days are passed, I want to address rancher Cliven Bundy and his standoff with the Federal Government.  There are several issues here and I want to discuss the facts first and then separate the issues for some analysis.  If you know the facts, feel free to scroll down to the opinions and analysis.

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The facts, as of this writing:

Mr. Bundy’s family has raised cattle on the same land in the southern tip of Nevada since the late 1800s.

A portion of the land, they own outright. Another portion of the land is claimed as public land by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Bundy family owns the water rights and the forage rights in the public lands on which they ranch. They do not however own the grazing rights. The Bundy family’s use of the lands pre-dates the formation of the Bureau of Land Management by over 50 years. Mr. Bundy has made improvements to the water supply and roads in BLM land and paid all the state and local grazing fees and some of the Federal fees. However, Mr Bundy has conducted a court dispute over most of the fees the BLM claims he owes and the size of the herd he grazes on the lands.

This court case of Bundy vs. BLM lasted approximately twenty years and recently concluded in favor of the government, as Mr. Bundy exhausted his last legal appeal.

BLM did not respond as most agencies have done, in most cases, in the past. In most cases where a citizen owes money to the government, the government places a lien against the citizen’s property and accounts. Under such a lien the government could seize a portion (or all) of the funds in the citizen’s bank accounts and also seize a portion (or all) of the proceeds from sales of property. So, basically, if the BLM wanted to be normal here, they would have gone to court, gotten the lien and then when Mr. Bundy sold his cattle, the BLM would have claimed the money they were owed.

It should all be very civilized and NOT involve a sizeable cadre of armed agents in way, shape or form.

What the BLM actually did in this case was to dispatch approximately 200 heavily armed Agents to the land where Mr. Bundy ranches.

BLM also began to remove his herd from the land. Some of these cattle were reported found by the Bundy family in mass graves last week. Others were wrangled and possibly sold by a private contractor who reportedly would be paid nearly $1 million by BLM to wrangle and sell the cattle. The amount BLM claimed Mr. Bundy owed was also approximately $1 million.

The Bundy family and supporters from across the country gathered against the armed Rangers and Agents near a highway overpass in the southern tip of Nevada. There were much publicised altercations between the Bundys and the Agents, involving words, taunting and government tasers, but no shots were fired at people. Some of the cattle may have been shot.

Last, weekend after the government withdrew the armed cadre of Rangers and Agents, Mr. Bundy spoke at length with his supporters and two members of the press.

Mr.  Bundy spoke about his views on many topics including Federal overreach, the welfare state and race. He made some very controversial statements about race.  A few days later the New York Times, and NBCnews.com reported on the questionable remarks; even the Daily Mail in the UK picked up the story. A video of Mr. Bundy making the racist statements was obtained by conservative news website, TheBlaze.com and posted there for all to see. The video pretty much matches what was reported in the New York Times.

Many conservative and libertarian leaders who had publicly supported Mr. Bundy in his standoff against the armed BLM Rangers and Agents, began to distance themselves from Mr. Bundy following the reports of the racist statements.

It is however noteworthy that Mr. Bundy employed an African-American body-guard who could be seen within arms reach of Mr. Bundy in all the recent photos regarding the standoff and its aftermath. Late last week a video surfaced of a reporter questioning the African-American body-guard about how he could possibly guard a racist like Mr. Bundy. The bodyguard’s response was telling.

The African-American body-guard said that Mr. Bundy does not actually behave as a racist.

In fact Mr. Bundy had treated the African-American body-guard with dignity and respect and in the same manner that he treated his own family, during the entire term of his employment. The bodyguard further stated that he agreed with Mr. Bundy’s cause against the BLM and that he would take a bullet for Mr. Bundy.

So, those were the facts as best I know them today. Here are my opinions:

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My opinions/analysis

About the Federal Government owning large portions of land:

There’s a BLM info-graphic showing that the Federal Government owns over 85% of the land in Nevada.  It also shows that BLM owns 70%, or more, of the land west of the Mississippi River, including Alaska.  If the constitutions of the states in question allow it, then apparently it’s legal.  But with the national debt of the US approaching $17.5 trillion, that is to say slightly more than the total of goods and services produced in the US last year, the government should sell much of this land to pay off the national debt.

About the grazing fees:

Mr. Bundy lost the court case. He should have made an offer in compromise to settle the dispute and paid future fees. Whether or not he did this does not in any way justify the government seizing his herd. BLM should have employed a lien, like every other agency at every other level of government does in nearly every other such case.

About the armed agents:

Nor is the BLM in any way justified in sending approximately 200 armed Rangers and Agents to oversee the removal of Mr. Bundy’s herd. The Federal response was overreach in the extreme.

When BLM dispatched so many armed men to the scene, the situation stopped being about unpaid fees and started being about a disproportionate response.

Until US troops went to Poland for training last Thursday, the government’s armed to response to Mr. Bundy was greater than its armed response to Russian incursions in the Ukraine! If US government is going to employ armed men and women in a situation, it should be against our nation’s enemies and in support of our allies and interests – not against our own citizens. The government’s response to Mr. Bundy has also been far greater than its response to illegal immigrants. If 200 armed Agents and Rangers had been employed in several cities, rounding up illegal immigrants for deportation, I would probably be writing in support of such action, but that’s another topic for another day.

About the racist statements:

Mr Bundy reportedly wondered aloud whether Black people might have been better of under slavery than under the welfare state. Considering the number or out-of-wedlock births, the number of abortions and the number of incarcerated men in the U.S., I would say the whole country is ill-served by the welfare state.  But NO ONE should be enslaved!

NO ONE should be enslaved.

Everyone should be free to determine the terms of his or her labor and compensation.  Everyone should own the product of his or her work and have the opportunity to sell that product for a fee the seller and buyer find fair.

I just celebrated and wrote about the Passover and Easter. Passover is a Holy Day about the Almighty Himself intervening 3500 years ago in the affairs of men to bring His people out of slavery. I think this makes G-d’s position on slavery abundantly clear. It’s bad, it’s immoral and no-one should be subjected to it.  Easter is about how G-d opened His Kingdom to all who would enter regardless of what color their skin is or who their ancestors were.

The scriptures do provide for voluntary servitude for a period of seven years in exchange for release from debts. The word slave is used to describe this arrangement in the King James Bible, but in today’s understanding it would be more like indentured servitude as practiced in Colonial times in North America.

Regarding racist behavior by Mr. Bundy:

Actions speak louder than words. What Mr. Bundy said about slavery was outlandish. But his African-American bodyguard’s statement that Mr. Bundy treated him with dignity and respect shows that Mr. Bundy’s actual behavior is quite in line with what the U.S. accepts in civil society. That is to say, in the U.S., we do as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., admonished us in the 1960s: we judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We judge people by what they actually do, not by the size of their bank account. It appears that Mr. Bundy also judges people by their actions and not their skin color.

We should all take care what we say aloud, and what we write on the Internet, for it is written, “By your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.”

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