Reid says this is a nation of laws not men — what a hoot!

On the ongoing standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville, Harry Reid told a Las Vegas TV station:

“It’s obvious that you can’t just walk away from this. And we can speculate all we want to speculate to what’s going to happen next,” Reid told KSNV-TV. “But I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen. We are a nation of laws, not of men and women.”

Is this the same Harry Reid who simply ignored the law of the land and cut funding for Yucca Mountain? Is the Harry Reid who let Obama change the ObamaCare law of the land 40 times without the consent of Congress? Is this the Harry Reid who told Obama to ignore Congress and raise the debt ceiling? Is this the Harry Reid who broke the rules of the Senate to end the filibuster on certain nominations? Is the same Harry Reid who used that filibuster rule to confirm a Homeland Security nominee he had strong armed for a Las Vegas hotel?

As rancher Wayne Hage once testified before Congress:

“It is warming to know that with regard to the Courts that we still have the Rule of Law. Although as I have found out it is nearly impossible to defend a persons property and rights in the courts due to the financial burdens and the length of time involved. (My Mother and Father filed the original case and were not able to live long enough to see the end of the litigation. My step Mother died before there was an end to the litigation and it is looking like my siblings and I may be in old age before this is concluded.) However there it is becoming very apparent that there is no rule of law with regard to the employs of the BLM, USFS and perhaps the DOJ, there we have the rule of man. I remind congress that Aristotle explained that the difference between a correct form of government and perverse form of government is that the former is the Rule of Law and the latter is the rule of man.”

The bottom line on state taking control of federal land

The preliminary draft report from the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force goes quickly to the bottom line: It costs the federal government to manage public lands, while states earn a profit when they take over the land.

The BLM loses 91 cents an acre on land it controls, while the average income for the four states that have public trust land is $28.59 per acre.

The draft report said the state could net $114 million by taking over 4 million acres of BLM land. Taking over all 48 million acres could net the state more than $1.5 billion — about half the current annual general fund budget.

The R-J has a story on the draft.

Read the report.

Paying the same but getting less from your local newspaper?

 

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Remember that boorish January editorial in Las Vegas newspaper that promised to provide readers more content in the midst of massive layoffs?

“The plan is to make better use of space on our daily opinion page to include more perspectives,” said the editorial. Apparently that means dropping local editorials on Saturdays and Mondays and running Bloomberg View editorials instead. At least that is what happened the past two Saturdays and Mondays.

At least today’s editorial page had a local commentary on the death of long-time Assembly Speaker Joe Dini by Ed Vogel. The tagline in print said, “Ed Vogel is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s capital bureau chief in Carson City,” even though he was retired a month and a half ago.

The paper also published a piece by Vogel on Sunday about the author of the law that made gambling legal in Nevada. It had no tagline.

Cattlemen stand by rule of law but explain the problems being caused by BLM ignoring the law

When the tensions first began to escalate at Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch as the Bureau of Land Management began rounding up cattle that they said were trespassing on federal public land, the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association distanced themselves, issuing a statement that NCA “does not feel it is in our best interest to interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter, and in addition NCA believes the matter is between Mr. Bundy and the federal courts.”

The association, which represents about 700 Nevada ranchers, has since issued a longer statement. NCA still does not take sides in the Bundy matter, but it spells out the ranchers’ concerns about property rights and the BLM’s failure to fully comply with the laws under which it is congressionally required to operate. The following includes the entire statement, which begins:

“(Elko, NV) April 16, 2014 – The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association believes that private property rights are at the foundation of our country and our liberty, and we know that the rule of law protects those property rights. Our policy supports private property interests that exist on public lands, including water rights and grazing rights. We also support the continued multiple use of public lands, as authorized by law and confirmed by the courts. It is under this framework of the rule of law that our property rights and multiple uses are protected.

“The multiple-use statutes allow timber, grazing, wildlife, recreation and other uses to carry on side-by-side in a way that, as the statute reads ‘will best meet the needs of the American people.’ Increasingly, we see the federal government placing higher priority on uses other than grazing. This not only violates the multiple-use statutes, it violates the grazing and water rights that are also protected by laws such as the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA). Under the TGA, ranchers have a right to graze livestock on federal lands based on historical utilization. While this property interest is complex by nature — given that it exists on surfaces owned by the federal government — it is nonetheless a real property interest that is taxed and saleable. It must be protected. On the same token, ranchers who exercise their grazing rights are obligated to pay a grazing fee as established by law.”

Though the statement doesn’t mention the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause, that portion of the Bill of Rights was penned to protect private property and require fair compensation when property is taken by government, whether through outright possession or by making the property less valuable through restrictions on use or access. In Bundy’s case he was told 20 years ago he could not graze during the only time of year in which he could fatten his cattle and make a profit. Bundy decided to stop signing restrictive grazing permits and paying grazing fees. The NCA statement goes on to describe what has happened to Bundy and is happening to many other ranchers:

“Ranchers such as Mr. Bundy have found themselves with their backs against the wall as, increasingly, federal regulations have infringed on their public land grazing rights and the multiple use management principle. This is not only devastating to individual ranching families; it is also causing rural communities in the west to whither on the vine. In the west, one in every two acres is owned by the federal government. Therefore, the integrity of the laws protecting productive multiple use is paramount to the communities that exist there.

Desert tortoise

“The situation in Nevada stands as an example the federal agencies’ steady trend toward elevating environmental and wildlife issues over livestock grazing – in violation of the above mentioned laws and principles. Well-intentioned laws such as the Endangered Species Act — which are factors in Mr. Bundy’s case — are being implemented in a way that are damaging  to our rights and to our western families and communities. In Bundy’s case the designation of his grazing area as a critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise gave the BLM the rationale they needed to order a 500% decrease in his cattle numbers. There never was any scientific proof that cattle had historically harmed the desert tortoise.”

This is a point seldom mentioned in the media coverage. The BLM ordered Bundy to reduce his cattle numbers by 500 percent, even though there was not then and is not now any scientific proof that cattle grazing in any way harms tortoises or their habitat. In fact, biologists have found desert tortoises thrive where cattle are present.

Greater sage grouse

While Bundy’s problem is the desert tortoise, every rancher in 11 Western states is watching closely federal plans to declare the greater sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a move that will prove to be far more devastating than the ham-fisted efforts to protect desert tortoise. Of course, the feds are paying no heed whatsoever to the fact there were very few grouse until cattle came along to improve the range with their droppings while ranchers improved water sources.

But Bundy has lost his case in federal court twice. Though he had strong arguments about water rights and grazing rights and the fact the federal government has no business controlling so much land in a sovereign state. The judge had to go by a 9th U.S. Circuit Court ruling involving another Nevada rancher who refused to pay grazing fees after being kicked off his own grazing range on Forest Service land.

The NCA makes the pro forma rule of law statement:

“However, in accordance with the rule of law, we must use the system set forth in our Constitution to change those laws and regulations. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not condone actions that are outside the law in which citizens take the law into their own hands. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association (NCA) works hard to change regulations detrimental to the sound management of public lands in a lawful manner and supports the concept of multiple uses on federally managed lands and encourages members of the livestock industry to abide by regulations governing federal lands.

“Furthermore, Nevada Cattlemen’s Association supports effective range management through collaboration with resource management agencies and interested parties to achieve rangeland management goals for economically viable ranch operations and the conservation of wildlife species.”

Collaboration can be difficult when the federal agency has the power to dictate what is proper range management and has no incentive whatsoever to compromise or listen to sound science, when the environmental radicals — who elect their Washington, D.C., bosses — continuously clamor, sue and settle.

The statement concludes:

“With the above stated this case was reviewed by a federal judge and a decision was rendered to remove the cattle. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association does not feel it is our place to interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter. Additionally, NCA believes the matter is between Mr. Bundy and the Federal Courts.

“We regret that this entire situation was not avoided through more local government involvement and better implementation of federal regulations, laws, and court decisions. While we cannot advocate operating outside the law to solve problems, we also sympathize with Mr. Bundy’s dilemma. With good faith negotiations from both sides, we believe a result can be achieved which recognizes the balance that must be struck between private property rights and resource sustainability.”

The problem is that our federal agencies have no respect or even passing concern for private property rights and would rather chase off every rancher, farmer, miner, logger, oil and gas explorer, off-roader, hunter, fisher and hiker rather than risk someone disturbing some presumably threatened bug, bird, reptile, minnow, weed or mammal. It is range management by knee-jerk reaction and by whim, instead of reason and science and compromise.

Protesting roundup of Bundy cattle. (R-J photo by Jason Bean)

April 19, 1775, and the ‘shot heard round the world’

Battle of Lexington and Concord

Capt. John Parker wrote a couple of days later:

“I, John Parker, of lawful age, and commander of the Militia in Lexington, do testify and declare, that on the nineteenth instant, in the morning, about one of the clock, being informed that there were a number of Regular Officers riding up and down the road, stopping and insulting people as they passed the road, and also was informed that a number of regular troops were on their march from Boston, in order to take the Province stores at Concord, ordered our militia to meet on the Common in said Lexington, to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered, not meddle or make with said Regular Troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult us, and upon their sudden approach, I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse and not to fire. Immediately Said Troops made their appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon and killed eight of our party without receiving any provocation therefore from us. …………………John Parker”

It was Parker who told the assembled militia on Lexington Green:

“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

British Maj. John Pitcairn filed this report:

“When I arrived at the end of the Village, I observed drawn up upon the green near two hundred of the rebels. When I came within about one hundred yards of them, they began to file off towards some stone walls on our right flank – - The Light Infantry observing this, ran after them – - I instantly called to the soldiers not to fire, but surround and disarm them and after several repetitions of these positive orders to the men, not to fire, etc. – - some of the rebels who had jumped over the wall, fired four or five shots at the soldiers, which wounded a man of the Tenth, and my horse was wounded in two places, from some quarter or other and at the same time several shots were fired from a Meeting House on our left — upon this without any order or regularity, the Light Infantry began a scattered fire, and continued in that situation for some little time, contrary to the repeated orders both of me and other officers that were present.”

From the Salem Gazette on April 25, 1775:

At Lexington, six miles below Concord, a company of Militia, of about one hundred men, mustered near the Meeting-house; the Troops came in sight of them just before sunrise; and running within a few rods of them, the Commanding Officer accosted the Militia in words to this effect: ” Disperse, you rebels — damn you, throw down your arms and disperse;” upon which the Troops huzzaed, and immediately one or two officers discharged their pistols, which were instantaneously followed by the firing of four or five of the soldiers, and then there seemed to be a general discharge from the whole body: eight of our men were killed, and nine wounded.”

From the Linzee family archives:

“On their way, some of the Officers captivated and otherwise infamously abused several of the inhabitants, and when the body arrived at Lexington meeting-house, which was veiy early in the morning of the ever memorable nineteenth of April, they in a most barbarous and infamous manner fired upon a small number of the inhabitants and cruelly murdered eight men.

“The fire was returned by some of the survivors, but their number was too inconsiderable to annoy the regular troops, who proceeded on their errand and upon coming up to Concord began to destroy by fire and water the stores & magazines, until a party of them again fired upon and killed two more of the inhabitants. The native bravery of our countrymen could now no longer be restrained; a small party, consisting of about two or three hundred men, attacked them with such spirit and resolution as compelled them to retreat.”

A British statement form Whitehall on June 10, 1775:

Lieutenant-Colonel Smith finding, after he had advanced some miles on his march, that the country had been alarmed by the firing of guns and ringing of bells, despatched six Companies of Light-Infantry, in order to secure two bridges on different roads beyond Concord, who, upon their arrival at Lexington, found a body of the country people under arms, on a green close to the road; and upon the King’s Troops marching up to them, in order to inquire the reason of their being so assembled, they went off in great confusion, and several guns were fired upon the King’s Troops from behind a stone wall, and also from the meeting-house and other houses, by which one man was wounded, and Major Pitcairn’s horse shot in two places. In consequence of this attack by the rebels, the troops returned the fire and killed several of them.”

The British set out to confiscate colonial armament. The armed colonials turned out to stand in their way.

When armed camps face each other, all it takes is one shot fired in anger or by accident. It was a shot heard round the world, and it may not matter who fired it or why. It ignited a conflagration.

Commissioner Tom Collins tells people to do as he says, not as he did

Back in May 2010, the Clark County Commission held a hearing on whether to ask Congress to designate the Gold Butte area a National Conservation Area.

During the hearing Commissioner Tom Collins said:

“Just to back up to 1993, 1994, I stood out on a hill — I was a freshman legislator in the Nevada state Legislature — and I stood out on a hill with, I don’t know, 30 or 40 other people and stood out there with Cliven Bundy and his family and John and Ellie Ahearn and few other folks. And we were saying come on federal government, come take my cows, come and take me, whatever. We’re standing out there, a bunch of us armed, in protest of the federal government changing in the laws out there.”

He went on to emphasize that Gold Butte is federal land and every citizen has a stake in that land.

Tom Collins (R-J photo)

Gold Butte is the area where Bundy and a few armed, self-styled militia types in recent weeks faced down well armed BLM agents who were backing up contract cowboys who were confiscating Bundy’s cattle, which they said were trespassing on federal land and for which Bundy had not paid grazing fees for 20 years.

At the time, this same Tom Collins said in a phone conversation with Piute County (Utah) Commissioner Darin Bushman, about the possibility of Utah ranchers and ranch hands showing up to support Bundy, that the Utahns should mind their “own (expletive) business,” calling them “inbred bastards.”

Collins also suggested that anyone coming to Clark County had “better have funeral plans.”

“I’m trying to do everything I can to discourage anybody who tells me they’re coming here with loaded guns,” Collins told a Las Vegas newspaper reporter. “I’m going to tell them not to come,” adding that “all these gun-packing folks just need to go home.”

He later apologized for the remarks.

What a difference 20 years makes.

R-J quotes the state Constitution … up to a point

Harry Reid to the right of R-J columnist, if that is possible. (R-J photo by John Locher)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal quotes the Nevada Constitution in the story today in which Harry Reid calls armed opponents of the BLM’s confiscation of Cliven Bundy’s cattle in the Gold Butte area “domestic terrorists.”

The story states:

“Nevada’s 1864 Constitution, however, cedes rights to the vast stretches of public land to the federal government.

“’The people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States,’ the state Constitution says in the ordinance section.

“Reid noted many of the protesters care deeply about the Constitution, both state and federal.

“’Nevada’s Constitution sets out very clearly the situation,’ Reid said.”

That’s accurate, though incomplete.

The story leaves out a footnote:

” [Amended in 1956 and 1996. The first amendment was proposed and passed by the 1953 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1955 legislature; approved and ratified by the people at the 1956 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1953, p. 718; Statutes of Nevada 1955, p. 926. The second amendment was proposed and passed by the 1993 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1995 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1996 general election, effective on the date Congress consents to amendment or a legal determination is made that such consent is not necessary. See: Statutes of Nevada 1993, p. 3136; Statutes of Nevada 1995, p. 2917.]“

The Legislature and the voters — by more than 56 percent in 1996 — repealed the so-called Disclaimer Clause. But for 18 years the Congress and the courts have done nothing to carry out the will of the voters of Nevada.

So, what does the state Constitution really say now?

In reply to Reid, Bundy said it was the armed-to-the-teeth BLM agents who were the terrorists.