Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bundy update

The battle lines are hardening in Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's so-called "range war" against the federal government over his right to graze cattle on public lands.

Arguments have moved from the Nevada desert to the nation's capital, where Nevada's two US senators, Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Harry Reid, recently faced off on a television public affairs show in Las Vegas.

Heller described Bundy's cadre of armed supporters as "patriots," during the show, What's the Point. Reid repeated his claim that the so-called militia men are "domestic terrorists."

Officials from the Bureau of Land Management say Bundy is illegally running hundreds of head of cattle in the 600,000-acre Gold Butte area, habitat of the federally protected desert tortoise. Bundy, 68, has refused to pay BLM grazing fees since 1993, arguing in court filings that his Mormon ancestors worked the land long before the BLM was formed, giving him rights that predate federal involvement. For years, he has threatened to forcefully protect his cattle.

Federal officials moved in to remove the animals, but called off the round-up nine days ago, saying they wanted to avoid violence, a spectre presented when dozens of supporters - many armed with rifles and automatic weapons - gathered at the Bundy ranch 90 miles (144 kilometres) north of Las Vegas.

For now, the standoff has remained a war of words, with Bundy seen as a modern folk hero among free speech advocates and others who believe that the federal government has no right to tell a Nevada rancher how to run his cattle on state land. Environmentalists call Bundy an illegal squatter.

In the television interview, Heller called for a Senate hearing on the dispute.

For his part, Reid appeared to get testy when asked on the show to explain his remark. "Just what I said," he responded tersely.

Heller then prompted another face-off, saying: "What Senator Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots. We have a very different view on this."

"If they are patriots, we are in trouble," Reid shot back, criticising the supporters for showing up with assault weapons and boasting about putting children in the front of the pack.

Heller says the BLM amped up tensions in the long-simmering dispute over Bundy's cattle by dispatching armed officials to help round up the animals. "I want to talk about the fact that they have this kind of authority and the ability to bully and come in with 200 armed men into a situation like this," he said.

Reid replied that the armed supporters were breaking federal laws: "These characters walk around with their Constitution in their pocket. They should read the Nevada Constitution."

Reid refused to speculate on what will happen next. "I don't think it is going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen."

The government has said the cattle round-up was a "last resort" to enforce court orders ruling that Bundy has failed to pay more than $US1 million in fees since 1993 for his cattle to graze on public land. Forcing him either to pay or to give up his cattle is a matter of fairness to the 16,000 ranchers who do follow the rules, US officials say.

On his own blog, Bundy has posted the creed of a national militia movement that has come to his support. Over the weekend, he also posted pictures of cattle that had been killed and buried during the BLM collection earlier this month.

"Digging up 1 of the HUGE holes where they threw the cows that they had ran to death or shot," reads a website caption under the picture of a bulldozer removing an animal carcass. "I feel that this NEEDS to be put out for the public to see."

Bundy says he has as much right to graze his cattle on public lands as those who hike, camp or even advocate the protection of the threatened desert tortoise and other wildlife.

For years Bundy has insisted that his cattle aren't going anywhere. He acknowledges that he keeps firearms at his ranch and has vowed to do "whatever it takes" to defend his animals from seizure.

"I've got to protect my property," he has told the Los Angeles Times. "If people come to monkey with what's mine, I'll call the county sheriff. If that don't work, I'll gather my friends and kids and we'll try to stop it. I abide by all state laws. But I abide by almost zero federal laws."

But environmentalists said on Monday that his actions set a bad precedent.

"It's not just about the desert tortoise. The precedent this sets is dangerous - to let people like Bundy have free rein over public lands," said Ken Cole, National Environmental Policy Act coordinator for the nonprofit Western Watershed Project.

"It's very clear that these public lands are not his. Under a public trust doctrine, the BLM and National Park Service manage these lands for the American people."



The High Cost of Liberalism

Thomas Sowell

Liberals advocate many wonderful things. In fact, I suspect that most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world envisioned by liberals, rather than in the kind of world envisioned by conservatives.

Unfortunately, the only kind of world that any of us can live in is the world that actually exists. Trying to live in the kind of world that liberals envision has costs that will not go away just because these costs are often ignored by liberals.

One of those costs appeared in an announcement of a house for sale in Palo Alto, the community adjacent to Stanford University, an institution that is as politically correct as they come.

The house is for sale at $1,498,000. It is a 1,010 square foot bungalow with two bedrooms, one bath and a garage. Although the announcement does not mention it, this bungalow is located near a commuter railroad line, with trains passing regularly throughout the day.

Lest you think this house must be some kind of designer's dream, loaded with high-tech stuff, it was built in 1942 and, even if it was larger, no one would mistake it for the Taj Mahal or San Simeon.

This house is not an aberration, and its price is not out of line with other housing prices in Palo Alto. One couple who had lived in their 1,200 square foot home in Palo Alto for 20 years decided to sell it, and posted an asking price just under $1.3 million.

Competition for that house forced the selling price up to $1.7 million.

Another Palo Alto house, this one with 1,292 square feet of space, is on the market for $2,285,000. It was built in 1895.

Even a vacant lot in Palo Alto costs more than a spacious middle-class home costs in most of the rest of the country.

How does this tie in with liberalism?

In this part of California, liberalism reigns supreme and "open space" is virtually a religion. What that lovely phrase means is that there are vast amounts of empty land where the law forbids anybody from building anything.

Anyone who has taken Economics 1 knows that preventing the supply from rising to meet the demand means that prices are going to rise. Housing is no exception.

Yet when my wife wrote in a local Palo Alto newspaper, many years ago, that preventing the building of housing would cause existing housing to become far too expensive for most people to afford it, she was deluged with more outraged letters than I get from readers of a nationally syndicated column.

What she said was treated as blasphemy against the religion of "open space" -- and open space is just one of the wonderful things about the world envisioned by liberals that is ruinously expensive in the mundane world where the rest of us live.

Much as many liberals like to put guilt trips on other people, they seldom seek out, much less acknowledge and take responsibility for, the bad consequences of their own actions.

There are people who claim that astronomical housing prices in places like Palo Alto and San Francisco are due to a scarcity of land. But there is enough vacant land ("open space") on the other side of the 280 Freeway that goes past Palo Alto to build another Palo Alto or two -- except for laws and policies that make that impossible.

As in San Francisco and other parts of the country where housing prices skyrocketed after building homes was prohibited or severely restricted, this began in Palo Alto in the 1970s.

Housing prices in Palo Alto nearly quadrupled during that decade. This was not due to expensive new houses being built, because not a single new house was built in Palo Alto in the 1970s. The same old houses simply shot up in price.

It was very much the same story in San Francisco, which was a bastion of liberalism then as now. There too, incredibly high prices are charged for small houses, often jammed close together. A local newspaper described a graduate student looking for a place to rent who was "visiting one exorbitantly priced hovel after another."

That is part of the unacknowledged cost of "open space," and just part of the high cost of liberalism.



The High Cost of Liberalism: Part II

Thomas Sowell

Liberals can be disarming. In fact, they are for disarming anybody who can be disarmed, whether domestically or internationally.

Unfortunately, the people who are the easiest to disarm are the ones who are the most peaceful -- and disarming them makes them vulnerable to those who are the least peaceful.

We are currently getting a painful demonstration of that in Ukraine. When Ukraine became an independent nation, it gave up all the nuclear missiles that were on its territory from the days when it had been part of the Soviet Union.

At that time, Ukraine had the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. Do you think Putin would have attacked Ukraine if it still had those nuclear weapons? Or do you think it is just a coincidence that nations with nuclear weapons don't get invaded?

Among those who urged Ukraine to reduce even its conventional, non-nuclear weapons as well, was a new United States Senator named Barack Obama. He was all for disarmament then, and apparently even now as President of the United States. He has refused Ukraine's request for weapons with which to defend itself.

As with so many things that liberals do, the disarmament crusade is judged by its good intentions, not by its actual consequences.

Indeed, many liberals seem unaware that the consequences could be anything other than what they hope for. That is why disarmament advocates are called "the peace movement."

Whether disarmament has in fact led to peace, more often than military deterrence has, is something that could be argued on the basis of the facts of history -- but it seldom is.

Liberals almost never talk about disarmament in terms of evidence of its consequences, whether they are discussing gun control at home or international disarmament agreements.

International disarmament agreements flourished between the two World Wars. Just a few years after the end of the First World War there were the Washington Naval Agreements of 1921-1922 that led to the United States actually sinking some of its own warships. Then there was the celebrated Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, in which nations renounced war, with France's Foreign Minister Aristide Briand declaring, "Away with rifles, machine guns, and cannon!" The "international community" loved it.

In Britain, the Labour Party repeatedly voted against military armaments during most of the decade of the 1930s. A popular argument of the time was that Britain should disarm "as an example to others."

Unfortunately, Hitler did not follow that example. He was busy building the most powerful military machine on the continent of Europe.

Nor did Germany or Japan allow the Washington Naval Agreements to cramp their style. The fact that Britain and America limited the size of their battleships simply meant that Germany and Japan had larger battleships when World War II began.

What is happening in Ukraine today is just a continuation of the old story about nations that disarm increasing the chances of being attacked by nations that do not disarm.

Any number of empirical studies about domestic gun control laws tell much the same story. Gun control advocates seldom, if ever, present hard evidence that gun crimes in general, or murder rates in particular, go down after gun control laws are passed or tightened.

That is the crucial question about gun control laws. But liberals settle that question by assumption. Then they can turn their attention to denouncing the National Rifle Association.

But neither the National Rifle Association nor the Second Amendment is the crucial issue. If the hard facts show that gun control laws actually reduce the murder rate, we can repeal the Second Amendment, as other Amendments have been repealed.

If in fact tighter gun control laws reduced the murder rate, that would be the liberals' ace of trumps. Why then do the liberals not play their ace of trumps, by showing us such hard facts? Because they don't have any such hard facts. So they give us lofty rhetoric and outraged indignation instead.



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