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Range Wars, Statism, and the Constitution

When I first heard that the federal government was going after a rancher’s cattle in Nevada, my first reaction was to wonder why it was such a big deal.  But the controversy with Cliven Bundy, a rancher in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert, should be important to every freedom-loving American.

The major media reports, of course, tended to focus on the fact that Bundy hasn’t paid “grazing fees” to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to the tune of anywhere from $300,000 to over $1 million, depending on who you ask…but as tends to happen with the mainstream media these days, they leave out some important details.

The land where Cliven Bundy grazes his cattle is, supposedly, “public land.” This is, of course, assuming that such a thing as “public land” exists anymore – these days, “public land” really means “government land.” Bundy and his family have been ranching there for over 100 years, for far longer than the BLM has even existed. Since their livelihoods depend on it, the Bundys have taken care of the land, ensuring there was water for their cattle, as well as for other animals. And grazing their cattle there provided other benefits, as well. The cattle’s grazing cleared out the underbrush, helping to keep the area safe from wildfires.

first-amendment-areaBut as tends to happen, the creeping incrementalism of the heavy hand of government couldn’t leave these southern Nevada ranchers alone. The BLM came in to “manage” the land, and because they alleged the area’s ranchers were over-grazing, they instituted fees that ranchers had to pay in order to use this “public” land. Over time, the BLM”s restrictions made it impossible to raise cattle in that area. They finally just declared the land to be off limits to ranchers, ostensibly to reserve the area as a refuge for the endangered desert tortoise. By the time the feds came out in force to round up the Bundy’s “trespassing” cows, the rest of the ranchers had been forced out; the Bundy ranch was the only one left.

The government’s initial response to the Bundy cattle’s “trespassing” was somewhat perplexing. Dozens of heavily armed BLM agents showed up and established a huge command center. Freelance cowboys were hired. Snipers were deployed. There were even rumors of an Apache attack helicopter. The show of force was ridiculously overwhelming for an operation to round up some cattle.

There are many aspects to this debate. As I mentioned, one thing that continues to come up is the fact that Cliven Bundy has not paid BLM fees for years. The thing that tends to go unmentioned, however, is that Bundy has faithfully fulfilled his obligations to the State of Nevada. His agreement with the state government for use of the land predates the BLM.

There are also legitimate questions as to the federal government’s authority to own the land in Nevada – and in any other state, for that matter. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to purchase land from state governments, but only for specific purposes, and only with the consent of the state’s legislature.

Wilderness management and turtle protection are not among the approved reasons for which the federal government is constitutionally allowed to own state land.

WHO OWNS THE WEST

In many ways, this is reminiscent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions in Wyoming. The EPA, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice got together one day and just decided that a huge chunk of Wyoming, including an entire town, would no longer belong to the state of Wyoming, and instead would be part of the adjoining Indian reservation. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution, federal statutes, or jurisprudence giving these federal agencies the authority to unilaterally take this action.

When people heard about what the feds were doing to the Bundys and their ranch, it caused quite a stir. A lot of Americans have been on edge lately, as the federal government has continually taken more and more liberties, taking actions that defy the Constitution and oppress the American people. The BLM was stealing a private citizen’s livelihood, violating the First Amendment by establishing a “free speech zone,” closing down “public” land and threatening arrest for anyone who stepped foot on it, and using heavy-handed tactics against protesters.

As thousands of freedom-loving Americans began traveling to the Nevada desert to protest this federal overreach, it soon became clear that the feds didn’t have it in them to win this battle. Overcoming the protesters would have required a massive show of force – the kind that very well could have sparked a much larger rebellion, if not, eventually, another American civil war…and, unfortunately, just the kind of confrontation that some of the protesters – and some of the higher-ups in Washington may have been after.

And then something unexpected happened. While the protest was gaining steam, many people across America were asking why the BLM had shown up in the middle of the Nevada desert with such a massive show of force. Why were they armed with automatic weapons? Why were they deploying snipers? Why were they being so heavy-handed with those who were protesting their actions? The Bundy’s use of the land had been in contention for over a decade, so why now, were they suddenly making this massive power play? And why were they doing all of this to protect the desert tortoise, when the BLM was euthanizing desert tortoises because they had more on their hands than they could deal with? Were they keeping the tortoise endangered on purpose?

Those questions were answered soon enough. It seems that the federal government had plans for that land that extended far beyond protecting any endangered species. There were plans for a land deal, with links back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to have Chinese companies move in to deploy “green energy” projects on that land. As it turns out, the head of the BLM was a former senior adviser to Harry Reid.

Suddenly, the massive show of force makes sense. And with the Democrats’ obsession with expanding anti-gun laws, I’m sure that an armed conflict between government agents and protesters would have been a welcome development for Reid, as well.

Green energy has long been synonymous with government corruption in the eyes of those Americans who have been paying attention. More than once, President Obama has given massive government loans, or loan guarantees, to green energy companies run by campaign donors, only to see those companies fail, and the taxpayers on the hook for the bill.

Shockingly, within hours of the evidence of this corrupt land deal being published by InfoWars, and going viral thanks to The Drudge Report, the BLM has backed down, leaving little doubt as to the government’s true motives. It is still unclear just what will become of the cattle that the feds already illegally rounded up, but for now, it appears that the Bundy family will not have their livelihood taken from them by a rogue federal government.

The-People-vs-BLM

This shows just how powerful freedom-loving Americans can be when we stand together and refuse to back down. It also shows the importance of the new media, which will report the truth on the stories that the traditional mainstream media either ignores or spins to exonerate an oppressive government.

But those patriotic Americans who have been following this story with some trepidation, anticipating, and perhaps even looking forward to the onset of violence should be wary.  Only after our very last nonviolent option is exhausted should armed conflict be considered viable.  We are not there yet, and while it behooves us to be prepared, we must let cooler heads prevail, lest we make a bad situation worse.

Liberalism

My latest column is up at AND Magazine!

Here is an excerpt:

Liberalism (n): a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

 

Whenever I hear political commentators refer to America’s left-wing as “liberals,” I have to cringe. It gives me visions of Indigo Montoya from The Princess Bride saying, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

 

Perhaps this is one reason why, while John F. Kennedy is still lionized by both sides of the political spectrum, Democrats tend to gloss over his rather liberal views on taxation.

 

Back in the day, the cry by those considered Liberals was “Power to the people.” Over time, however, “Power to the people” has become “Give me free stuff.” Unfortunately, the label “Liberal” continues to be erroneously applied to those who would trade individual liberty for an ever-expanding police state, an all-powerful federal behemoth, a dictatorial national executive, and above all, an endless stream of hand-outs.

 

Continue reading here.

Obama’s April Fools Joke

043012-fashion-white-house-barack-obamaYesterday, the nation was treated to President Obama spiking the football on Obamacare, lauding its supposed 7.1 million sign ups since October.  The president touted the 7 million threshold as the point at which the Affordable Care Act cannot be repealed.

As with anything this administration says about Obamacare, the argument is fundamentally flawed, to the point of being a bad joke.  There are so many unanswered questions about these numbers – and the only reason they remain unanswered is because the administration doesn’t want them answered.

  1. If the website is fixed, as President Obama, Secretary Sebelius, and others have insisted it is, why was it still crashing on the last day before the sign-up deadline?  As they were fixing the website, they apparently didn’t have the foresight to make the web
  2. If 7.1 million people have created accounts in the federal and state exchanges, how many of those people are actually real?  We already know that President Obama has more fake Twitter followers than the number of Obamacare signups…so have there really been 7.1 million accounts created, or are they using technology to pull a fast one?
  3. Of these 7.1 million accounts created, how many actually chose to purchase insurance through the exchange?  After all, since the HealthCare.gov website collects people’s information on the front-end, it’s entirely possible to “sign up” without actually choosing a plan.
  4. Of the people who actually did choose one of the exchange insurance plans, how many were put on Medicare or Medicaid? (the number is significant)
  5. How many people who actually chose one of the exchange insurance plans did so because they had lost their previous plan due to Obamacare mandates and regulations?
  6. Of the people who have actually chosen one of the exchange plans, how many have actually paid?

US-POLITICS-CARNEYWhite House spokeshole Jay Carney has stated multiple times that the administration is collecting data, but they seem to be extremely hesitant to publish that data in any meaningful way, if at all; likely because the numbers would be extremely embarrassing to the White House, and prove to the nation that the entire program and everything positive the Democrats have said about it is a scam.

The truth that the administration and the media continue to ignore is that Obamacare continues to be an utter failure.  The first class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Nevada exchange by people who signed up and started paying premiums, yet haven’t received insurance coverage.

A RAND study has found that only one-third of Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured, meaning Obamacare has primarily been serving those people whose insurance it eliminated.  According to that study, the number of newly insured Americans under Obamacare is a dismal 858,000.  Remember, while the administration is touting 7 million sign-ups, the goal was to bring insurance to tens of millions of Americans who purportedly did not have health insurance.  They haven’t even reached one million.

Perhaps the most laughable thing President Obama said in his speech:

[W]e didn’t make a hard sell.  We didn’t have billions of dollars of commercials like some critics did.  But what we said was, look for yourself, see if it’s good for your family.  And a whole lot of people decided it was.

This is ridiculous!  No, they didn’t “make a hard sell,” they made it required under the law! And this is not to say that there haven’t been plenty of commercials for Obamacare.  Heck, President Obama has been traveling the country, to the tune of at least hundreds of millions (if not billions) of dollars, giving his own personal ad campaign in the form of interviews and speeches.

 

OCare Ad

The biggest lie President Obama told: “the debate over repealing this law is over.”

The debate will never be over, Mr. President, as long as all your administration can do to defend its banner achievement is to spread lies.  For every example the president gave in his speech of people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, there are thousands who have been harmed by it, in the form of higher insurance premiums, the loss of policies they were satisfied with, being denied access to their regular doctor, the loss of access to hospitals and specialists, the confusion as to whether they actually have insurance, even though they signed up through one of the exchanges.

The truth is, while there may be hundreds of Americans benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, there are millions who have been harmed by it, and millions more will be harmed by it once the employer mandate kicks in.

The debate over repealing this law is not over, Mr. President, because there is a better way.  It is just unfortunate for the millions of Americans your law harms that we have to live under it for now.

The Era Of Corruption

In our modern age, you would think that things would be done differently.  Just listen to how the Obama administration talks about Russia and their actions in Ukraine and Crimea – according to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, these things just aren’t done anymore.  The days of nations invading other nations and taking them over have past.  That just isn’t how the world works anymore.

And yet, no matter how much these Soviet-era actions may offend modern sensibilities, some simple truths don’t change just because we want them to.  Might still makes right, even when it’s wrong.

In many ways, it is the same domestically here in America. Our politicians prattle on about doing what is right “for the children,” and about the need for the government to regulate and control every aspect of every Americans’ life, all for our own protection.  And yet, these people who deign to dictate what’s best for us in every aspect of our lives continue to be those people least worthy of the trust necessary for the power they wield.

In these modern times, one would think that we would have moved beyond the days of bribery and kickbacks, and yet it seems that we are returning to the bad old days, where the people of America have less and less power, and our nation is increasingly run by politicians in the pockets of unions, political parties, lobbyists, and corporate interests.

and_image_1396016385Here in California, three state senators have been brought up on charges of corruption in the past year. The most recent and most alarming of these is Senator Leland Yee, who for years has crusaded for tougher gun laws, ostensibly to protect the people of California.  His crimes are notable because, in addition to the traditional “pay for play” corruption – taking kickbacks in exchange for political favors – Yee was caught accepting campaign donations in exchange for setting up illegal weapons deals.

The same day that charges against Senator Yee were made public, the mayor or Raleigh, South Carolina was also charged with corruption.

By now, we’ve all heard the stories about Governor Chris Christie’s Bridge-Gate scandal, where his staff purposefully closed traffic lanes to tie up traffic in retaliation for a mayor’s refusal to endorse Christie.

And there are hundreds of other stories from states across our nation about politicians abusing their power, using their elected positions for personal gain, lying in order to get elected, lying to cover their abuses once in office, betraying the public trust.

And it is even worse at the federal level.

LoisLernerToday, the IRS is used as a political weapon in ways that would make Richard Nixon blush, yet what was an impeachable offense forty years ago is glossed over as a mere political disagreement today – despite significant evidence of criminal behavior, no criminal investigation has commenced.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can illegally put thousands of guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, lose track of those weapons, lie to Congress and obscure a Congressional investigation, and face no repercussions. Attorney General Eric Holder still has not answered for charges of contempt of Congress for his role in obstructing their investigation.

The administration can lie continually about its signature legislative achievement, call it “the law of the land” based on a sham Supreme Court ruling, but change it on a whim without Congressional approval, and then mock their political enemies for wanting to do away with it, yet while the administration fails in implementing the law at every step of the way, no bureaucrat or cabinet member faces any consequences for these continued failures.

Our federal government can bail out corrupt banks, and any corporation it deems “too big to fail,” and use laws, policies and programs to give kickbacks to their political allies, yet We the People are left to pay the inflated prices, while being tied down in the red tape of their ever-increasing regulations, with little recourse but to shoulder our burdens and carry on.

The larger danger than the corruption that pervades our political landscape are the people in America who either don’t care, or only care about corruption when the other party engages in it. But the truth is, no matter the party – Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green, Peace and Freedom, Constitution, or whichever political party a corrupt politician belongs to, it is the responsibility of the citizens of the United States of America to unite against them.

The sad truth is, unless and until that happens, our nation is doomed to fail.

California Corruption

My latest column is on the cover of AND Magazine!

Here is an excerpt:

and_image_1396016385California State Senator Leland Yee (D) was arrested this week in a massive FBI raid that included not just the senator, but over two dozen people involved in organized crime in the San Francisco area.

 

The Golden State just can’t seem to catch a break.

 

The criminal complaint reads like a crime novel. An undercover FBI agent masquerading as East Coast mafia was able to infiltrate the Chee Kung Tong organization based in San Francisco. According to the complaint, Chee Kung Tong apparently has its “legitimate” side as a community organization, which they use to mask their many criminal enterprises. Throughout the course of the investigation, FBI agents were able to uncover money laundering operations, nationwide drug trafficking (including marijuana and cocaine), sales of illegal cigarettes and stolen liquor, illegal firearms sales, and murder for hire. Chee Kung Tong has ties to the Chinese Triad organized crime syndicate.

 

Criminal charges in the complaint range from low-level enforcers, all the way up to Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, the head of Chee Kung Tong, and even further up into the California State Senate.

 

The complaint tells how an undercover FBI agent was able to work his way up in Chee Kung Tong, eventually coming into contact with San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson, a fundraiser for Senator Yee. Jackson illegally sold firearms to the agent, and also attempted to get the agent to help his son Brandon set up cocaine trafficking operations (Brandon was also party to at least one of the murder-for-hire plots, and was already involved in marijuana trafficking).

Continue reading here.

ATF Out Of Control

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) raided a local gun shop here in Bakersfield, California, called EP Armory.  The store had been open for all of six days when federal agents swooped in and shut them down.  They also raided the home of the store’s owner.  An unknown number of items and documents were removed from the EP Armory storefront.   Soon after the ATF took these actions against EP Armory, the owner of Ares Armor of National City, California, filed a temporary restraining order against the ATF to prevent the agency from seizing the company’s customer information.  Luckily for Ares, they had advanced warning, and were able to take action before federal agents busted down their door.   Not that the restraining order stopped the ATF from busting down their door – federal agents later raided Ares Armor to get the customer information, basically using disinformation and legal trickery to get around the restraining order.

EP Lower

At issue in both of these incidents is something called an eighty-percent lower receiver (the EP in EP Lowers stands for Eighty Percent).  Under federal law, it is legal for a person to build their own custom firearm for their own use (as long as they are able to legally own a firearm under the law).  This firearm does not need a serial number, does not need to be registered with any government agency, and cannot be sold or transferred in any way, shape or form (unless a serial number is obtained and permanently attached to the firearm).  This is perfectly legal in the United States of America, and in the state of California.

Completed lower receiver

Unlike a completed lower receiver, an eighty-percent lower is incomplete – by definition, eighty percent of the manufacturing process has been completed, but there is still a significant amount of work to be done.   For further clarification, the lower receiver is the one part of the gun that the ATF classifies as a firearm.  In this case, we’re talking about lower receivers for AR-15 semiautomatic rifles – you know, those scary black rifles people in the media are always so freaked out about.  Because they are incomplete, eighty percent lowers are not classified as firearms by the ATF.

Traditionally, most lower receivers, and pretty much all eighty-percent lowers have been made from aluminum, but new materials and manufacturing methods have made it possible to manufacture sturdy, trustworthy polymer lower receivers.  Chris Cook, the owner of EP Lowers, came up with a method to manufacture high quality polymer eighty-percent lowers that are more affordable than, and don’t require the heavy machining of aluminum eighty percent lower receivers.  According to ATF regulations, these new eighty percent lowers did not fit the definition of a firearm.

Not, that is, until the ATF decided to change the rules.  Due to their affordability and ease of completion, EP Lowers got very popular very quickly, and the government, which doesn’t seem to like any firearms they can’t easily track and confiscate (with the exception of those they trafficked into Mexico), decided they needed to do something about this.

The ATF has a “process” (if you can really call it that) known as Letter Rulings, whereby they can arbitrarily change the rules pretty much whenever they want.  This is how, at one point, the federal government ended up classifying a 14-inch shoestring as a machine gun.

And so, the ATF just arbitrarily decided one day that these polymer eighty-percent lower receivers were firearms that were being sold illegally…and the only conclusion that can be drawn from their quest for customer information is that they are now on a mission to confiscate those receivers from everyone who purchased one – even if it was legal at the time of purchase.   The ATF has abused its authority in deciding that something which it once had no problem with was suddenly an illegal firearm, and if they do begin confiscating these lower receivers, it will constitute a massive breach of the Second Amendment.

And, of course, it doesn’t stop there (it never really stops with this administration, does it?).   In a similar action to the one on the EP Lowers, the ATF arbitrarily decided that one company’s new muzzle break was actually an illegal “silencer.”

A muzzle break is a piece of metal attached to the end of the barrel of a rifle.  Its function is to reduce recoil by redirecting the gasses expelled out of the barrel when the rifle is fired.  They can also be engineered to reduce muzzle flash.

In this case, the muzzle break was also designed to direct noise forward, away from the shooter – not to silence the shot, just to redirect the sound generated by it.   As they have to do (in order to avoid being in the same type of situation as EP Lowers and the shoestring manufacturing industry), Innovator Enterprises, Inc., which created the muzzle break, went to the ATF for a determination on the legality of their device.  The ATF decided it was a silencer.  The company sued in an effort to overturn the designation, and that’s where the fun begins.

Apparently, the ATF has a list of six “characteristics” that it uses to define just what, exactly, qualifies as a “silencer.”  In this case, apparently the muzzle break had three of those six “characteristics,” so the ATF said it was a silencer.  No testing was done to see if the device actually muffled the sound of a gunshot.  No regulations or laws were cited to support its classification as a silencer.

Understandably, a federal judge threw out the ruling, forcing the ATF to actually do its due diligence in determining whether the muzzle brake actually qualifies as a silencer.

These, of course, are just a couple of incidences in what has been a long history of irresponsible and unethical behavior by the ATF.  And since the ATF has lost track of thousands of guns that they trafficked into Mexico, and apparently can’t even keep track of their own firearms, it makes one wonder what business they have bullying American citizens and businesses.

Clinging to the Titanic

No matter how bad the news gets, America’s leftists simply refuse to acknowledge that anything negative could possibly be going wrong with their baby.

 

We’ve left the realm of utter ridiculousness far behind us.  It isn’t funny anymore.

 

In fact, as funny as President Obama’s recent appearance on “Between Two Ferns” was, the only truly un-entertaining part was when the president did what he actually went there to do: shill for Obamacare.  At least the rest of it had some comedy value, but listening to the same tired lies over and over about how great this travesty is just gets old, no matter how the administration tries to dress it up.

 

When Matt Drudge tweeted about making his first Obamacare penalty payment, the Left – including the White House – jumped all over him, claiming he was lying, because the penalty for refusing to play the administration’s game supposedly doesn’t have to be paid until next year…maybe they should have educated themselves before attacking Drudge, though, since most businesses pay quarterly tax estimates, instead of a single return the following year, as individuals do.

 

Drudge is still under attack by leftists who apparently didn’t get the memo.  Maybe it’s time to simplify the tax code just so the Left won’t be stuck making such fools of themselves.

 

Meanwhile, there’s yet another delay in place – this time for everyone.

Obamacare-Meme

March 31 is the latest arbitrary deadline to get covered…but, surprise, surprise, if you can’t get covered in time, you can get an extension.  Ostensibly, if you had difficulty signing up for Obamacare, you can get your extension and sign up later.  But, conveniently, the government won’t be verifying whether anyone who files for an extension actually had any trouble signing up, or had even tried to sign up.

 

I wonder if the extension also applies to people who signed up for insurance on Healthcare.gov but still haven’t received insurance coverage.

 

The sad truth is that this system still doesn’t work.  Even today, millions more have lost their insurance than have gotten it under Obamacare.  People who sign up for the exchanges aren’t getting insurance coverage.  Millions who have signed up haven’t paid for anything.

 

The whole thing is a nightmare in the making, but don’t tell the Democrats that; they’ll be clinging to this sinking ship until long after they’ve drowned us all.

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