Having resisted the temptation to say anything about the latest right wing darling – militia nutcase Cliven Bundy and his Patriot Cattle – but the tie-in to last week's post about George Zimmerman hit me over the weekend. As any sober and literate review of the facts and history of the situation shows, Bundy has absolutely no legal argument whatsoever beyond ultra-right militia/survivalist/Tax Protester nonsense about refusing to recognize the authority of the federal government. The neat thing about the federal government is that it exists whether or not some mouthbreather thinks it does, and it has authority over him regardless of whether he thinks it does. To argue otherwise simply is to claim that each individual can decide which laws he chooses to follow and when, which is to say that there are no laws at all. A law isn't a law if it can't be enforced.

A law that can't be enforced is a suggestion.

What reminded me of the Zimmerman post is the people who rushed to Bundy's defense, armed to the teeth with their well-regulated militia arsenal.

These people, who are obviously more heavily armed than the average American, are precisely the kind of people who shouldn't have guns. These are people who stopped working (or perhaps they're unemployed welfare queens?) and drove hundreds of miles to "defend" a man who is absolutely, completely, and indisputably wrong – a grifter, in essence, who wants to use public resources without paying for them with his lunatic "patriot" beliefs as justification – because they are so enthusiastic about the chance to point a loaded rifle at an employee of the federal government. That is why they came, and that should be profoundly disturbing. They dropped everything and disrupted their lives for a week to jump on what might be their one big chance to get in a gun battle with the government.

We're supposed to arm ourselves, their logic goes, to resist the tyranny of the government. Unless the definition of tyranny now encompasses enforcing laws passed by elected officials, this does not appear to qualify. This would seem to be an effort to start a fight. These are people who grew up reading about Waco and Ruby Ridge and Timothy McVeigh and simply can't wait to live out their own fantasies – you know, the typical things boys fantasize about doing like killing ATF agents and blowing up courthouses.

There is great danger in indulging these people.
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There is great danger in acting like this guy has any sort of argument or that we should listen to Both Sides and keep an open mind. I didn't see Patriots rallying to keep borrowers from being railroaded out of their homes by an auto-penned foreclosure notices, not to mention their silence on thousands of other instances of unpopular or unfair laws being enforced. The government has put itself at risk by backing down and setting a precedent – if enough gun-toting lunatics show up, they'll back down. It's terrible. This guy is so, so far away from having any sort of relevant or valid argument to support his position that a zero-tolerance response is the best strategy. When this came up in my class, for the only time I can recall in 10 years of teaching I absolutely shut somebody down for expressing an opinion.
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"No, actually we don't get to decide which laws we follow or what authority the government has over us" was harsher than things I usually say in front of students, but I feel like people who support this guy need to be told unequivocally how ludicrous this line of logic truly is.

It's a sad day, despite it being obvious why the media would benefit from covering this, when a bunch of assholes spouting "sovereign citizen" gibberish and pointing guns at public officials get treated like a group of people whose ideas deserve to be heard and given due consideration.

48 thoughts on “FREEDOM FROM LOGIC”

  • redneck bolshevik says:

    Those who immediately booked it for the Bundy bunker like to go all bukkake on the graves of the Founding Fathers. There's a tool called Wikipedia. It can be right; it can be wrong; most of the time it's in the ballpark. Over their patriot cowboy campfires and 2nd Amendment circle jerks, maybe one of them can bring up the wiki on the Whisky Rebellion, and then the Shays Rebellion. Take a look at how their love interests, the Founding Fathers, handled those little dust-ups. Wasn't much question in Washington's mind, for example, about the authority of the central government.

  • I'm sure I'm not the only one to note the weekend passing of two anniversaries, one of a bombing in Oklahoma City, the other a bombing in Boston. Anyone who wants to know what real patriotic love of country looks like—and for that matter, what real resistance to attempted oppression—can tune into the marathon today and find the guy running on an artificial limb.

  • Bundy has been ignoring cease-and-desist orders and fines for illegal cattle ranching since 1993. The reason he thinks he can do as he pleases is that, for the last 20+ years, he has been able to do as he pleases. Also, while it in no way excuses Bundy's actions, the federal government looks a little silly when it simultaneously claims urgent action is needed to protect an endangered tortoise, and doesn't bother to do anything for two decades. If the law had been enforced in 1993 then it wouldn't have come to this.

    That said, I agree Bundy cannot be allowed to go on like this without setting an incredibly dangerous precedent. I hope we are only seeing a tactical retreat by the federal government. As Ed observes, most of these "protestors" must have jobs and homes they need to return to at some point. If the feds wait a week or two for the media circus to die down and some of the crazies to go home, any enforcement operation would be much easier and less likely to end in bloodshed.

  • When I looked at the news footage of all the militia nuts in camo with assault rifles, I thought to myself that this would be a great time to disabuse these people of the notion that their rights supersede those of the nation as a whole. And I would like to see the government use a couple of Apache assault helicopters to drive the point home. No bloody standoff. Just a warning to stand down IMMEDIATELY and if it is ignored, light the whole lot of them up. And thus will end the meme that they need to armed to the teeth to protect us from government tyranny.

  • What bothers me the most is how every militia man in the conflict was never asked a simple question: "What is the government doing that is illegal to this rancher?" I know they wouldn't back down in the face of logic, but nobody tried, and all the news reports DON'T expose these guys as lawless lunatics.

    They are always jumping at shadows, claiming the federal government is on a dictatorial rampage and takin' away all our "freedumbs!" Yet nobody asks them exactly what freedoms they are losing.

    I tell you: IF (big IF there) the federal government goes rogue. IF they decide gun ownership on the whole is bad (I own one, mostly because I'm a gamer and I think it's cool). IF the government actually suppresses peoples right to say things (even right wing talk shows, but criticism is NOT the same thing as removing your 1st amendment rights, Rush). Any of those "IF"s? I'll be right alongside these patriots with my pitiful pistol fighting the federal government.

    And I'm just about as liberal as you can get. But since I see NO evidence of an "out of control" fed, I am not going to drive down to some hell-hole desert/field just because some nut decides he hates paying a single tax because "they" weren't spending it the exact way he wanted it to be spent. If I did that, I wouldn't pay a single tax, since even gasoline tax never seems to go to our infrastructure any more.

  • So, let's take a step back and review: not long ago, a construction worker eating at a cafeteria took his empty soda cup and did what people all over the USA do…refilled the cup at the soda fountain. When approached by a member of the police for his 'crime', he expressed surprise because there were no signs posted near the soda fountain, and offered to pay for the refill. For that he was arrested, jailed, and fined. For being arrested, he lost his job. Now he's an unemployed felon.

    OTOH, we have a guy who blatantly broke the law for 20 years to the tune of over a million dollars and is being supported by all the gunzloonz.

  • Unfortunately I think the government was right to back down (for now).

    Not because I think Bundy is right, but because I think these people desperately wanted another Waco or Ruby Ridge.

    I say let the smoke clear, wait until the yahoos go home, and then quietly and discreetly arrest him. No muss, no fuss.

  • It's interesting to me that when liberals revolt against government policies, they "occupy" one of the most important, media-friendly places in the planet. When conservatives revolt, they truck on out to a wasteland so godforsaken that it took 20 years for anyone to care whether they're trespassing.

    I'm not sure what it means; it's just an interesting contrast.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    No more martyrs for these treasonous traitors!

    That's what they are – NOT patriots – treasonous traitors!!!

    And the MSM should be making that plain to people.
    Sadly, the MSM continues to play its "Both sides are to blame," "He-said/she-said," games.

  • Uhhh…do those cows just live out there on that land or are they sometimes rounded up and sold?
    When they are sold, does the government collect its money?

    Seems to me the debt should be $0 at this point and the herd should be pretty small.

  • "No, actually we don't get to decide which laws we follow or what authority the government has over us" is somewhat misleading as it suggests a sort of apostolic subjugation to the will of others rather than the need for critical vigilance.

    Actually, we do get to decide and we do it every day; compliance with a law confirms that law and, if we do not agree with it, then there are systems in place to amend, alter or renew the law.

    The real challenge is to get the 'elected officials' you speak of to enact laws in the sense of Hobbes's benevolent dictator rather than as a vote-catching bribe.

  • The federal agents there weren't armed. I think it's pretty reasonable for unarmed people to back down from armed-to-the-teeth lunatics looking for a shootout. Plus, it isn't over–the feds have said that much.
    What I'd like to ask the militia who showed up why they keep waving the American flag around, given they think they need to rebel from the government.

  • Thought exercise:

    What do you think these libertarians' reactions would be if a group of communists started a commune on federal land and paid no taxes and refused to leave after years of hounding. And then when government agents came to evict them their buddies from around the world came armed with guns and using women as human shields. You think they would be ok with that?

  • Quietly arresting Bundy is a given. Finding and quietly arresting the yahoos who were pointing guns at federal agents is what is needed.
    This stuff is FBI territory and I imagine some pretty daunting penalties follow conviction. Terrorizing federal agents with deadly weapons is text book terrorism. We've all seen the photos. Round 'em up and book 'em.

  • I agree with Fred. My thought was the they should set up roadblocks on all the roads leading away from there. Somewhere out of sight of the scene of the conflict. Arrest everyone for obstruction of justice, confiscate their weapons as they are evidence to be used at the trail. The Feds should seize anything of value belonging to the Welfare Rancher to pay his debts and then arrest him.

  • Remember when Occupy Wall Street showed up armed to the teeth and forced the government to back down? Yeah, neither do I.

  • I'm pretty sure that this current nonsense started because, after innumerable court judgements against Bundy for not paying the BLM use fees and his refusal to pay the subsequent fines, there were liens against his property. The cattle – conveniently wandering loose on BLM land – were the easiest of Bundy's property to seize and sell off at auction first. That's why some of the Feds were seen 'armed to the teeth' with paintball guns, the better to mark which beeves to round up.

  • I heard the Feds are been careful because they don't want another ruby ridge. I say fuck it. You mess with the bull you get the horns.

  • Your pointing out the fantasy-fulfillment aspect of this farce is one of the gold nuggets for which I pan in Gin And Tacos.

    So painfully obvious, yet all other commenters seem to have missed it, like the purloined letter.

  • Former governor Huckleberry tried to ridicule the government by reducing the issue to an argument over a single blade of grass. While he and his Fox buddies lionize Bundy they are overlooking the obvious and ridiculous picture of Bundy as a cowboy who hides behind women during a gunfight. I guess they are willing to take their heroes as they find them.

  • I agree with what Major Kong and Talisker have said.

    Quietly arrest Mr. Bundy when the opportunity presents then extract the financial penalties he owes and prosecute him for the crimes he has already committed.

    As cinematic and satisfying as a scenario might be where the rule of law is restored in a storm of hot death raining down from helicopter gunships onto a mob of 'domestic terrorist' evildoers, I think it would be better for the country as a whole if this situation were resolved with a minimum of violence.

    Being manipulated into the tea bircher real life manifestation of 'Red Dawn' (as it would be edited together on Fox News) would be a gift to every red-state 'conservative' incumbent in need of fresh shit to rub in his hair while shrieking about president Blackula's plan to steal their FREEDUMB!

    It is a rake that responsible people can choose NOT to step on.

  • I have paid almost no attention to this Bundy character–isn't it all over? Or are there still gunmen laying in wait for the Feds? Whatever the case, yes, I think the Feds played it well. Let them all tire of their game, arrest Bundy when he comes to town for whatever he might need in town and let that be the end of it.

  • ""No, actually we don't get to decide which laws we follow or what authority the government has over us" was harsher than things I usually say in front of students, but I feel like people who support this guy need to be told unequivocally how ludicrous this line of logic truly is."

    Except the line of logic in and of itself isn't what's totally ludicrous, is it?

    Don't people often decide that some laws should not be followed, and refuse to follow them, and that's a damn good thing? Pretty much any kind of sit-in, direct action, concientious objection, etc., involves deciding that the law is wrong, and the government (be it state, local, or federal) has no autority over that particular issue and/or that the government is simply wrong on the matter and cannot be supported, followed by a decision to blatantly not follow the law. It would have been hard to protest for labour rights, or against segregation, or to stop wars you don't believe should be fought (or, for that matter, dump tea in Boston Harbour) without employing some form of logic along the lines of "the government has no right".

    Now before anyone jumps down my throat and calls me a troll, yes, I think these people are ignorant idiots, and that, yes, they are using the above logic as little more than a convenient excuse to pick a gun fight with the government simply because yes, they're freeloading lunatic assholes. Also, violent.

    But I'm a bit wary of dismissing the whole logic of protest…of saying, in essence, that no, it's not true that some laws (passed by elected officials though they may be) are unjust and should not be followed, and that we have no right to choose to defy governemnt "authority" through refusal. That logic has a long and often beneficial history.

    The problem here is something else. The real problem is the is the misapplication of an argument to serve the self ("I don't accept the government's authority to tax me because I'm a freeloader") as opposed to serving a greater cause ("I don't accept the government's authority because the law is fundamentally unjust"). Or perhaps, the distinction between "I don't accept the government's authority at all" vs. "I dont' accept the governments authority when it's immoral." Also, there is the obvious issue of non-violent, accept-the-consequences-to-prove-my-point version vs. the whole shoot-unarmed-people-to-prove-my-point issue.

    Sorry to nit-pick, but there's an important distinction. And dollars to doughnuts, the right is going to throw up the "liberals do it too" argument at some point. Which is why the real difference between refusing to follow, say, Jim Crow laws and the refusal to pay for grazing rights has to be deliniated.

  • @EM: You're confusing non-violent civil disobedience with pointing guns at law enforcement personnel.

    If someone breaks the law by, say, chaining himself to a railing in protest, then fine. The cops cut him loose, and he will be prosecuted for breaking the law. A person who practices civil disobedience views this as a valid price to pay in order to draw attention to his or her cause.

    Threatening to kill a policeman for trying to enforce the law is something entirely different. This could politely be called *uncivil* disobedience, and impolitely called treason.

  • I agree with those who have said that since nobody was actually shooting, and the danger of such ended when the unarmed Feds left, this was the correct response. Now that's done: watch the videos, arrest these idiots at their workplaces, grocery stores, etc. if they're not tracked down and arrested (all of them), Ed is correct in identifying this as a very dangerous precedent.

  • The moral and ethical approach to resisting an unjust law is to openly defy it, and then submit to the legal consequences. That's why Dr. King's letter was from Birmingham Jail and not a fortified compound. That's why Thoreau went to jail instead of paying the poll tax. That approach requires a significant degree of personal courage – if I had had to sit calmly at a lunch counter and keep my tongue and hands in check while jeering haters poured coffee over my head, I'm not sure if I could have done it.

    If Bundy had surrendered to the Feds, while protesting the merit of his cause, he would have my grudging respect. Instead, he did it the coward's way, and has my contempt.

  • "The government has put itself at risk by backing down and setting a precedent – if enough gun-toting lunatics show up, they'll back down. It's terrible."

    I 100% agree. Not good at all.

  • Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    I have to wonder how long the Bundy ranch will keep going if the government shuts down water or electricity feeds to the place. You have to wonder how long a bunch of yahoos protesting would last under those conditions, especially if they made a point of arresting anyone making a supply run back to town.

  • Robert – "That's why Dr. King's letter was from Birmingham Jail and not a fortified compound." Very well put. Thanks.

  • @ Talisker & Robert

    Not disagreeing with you. Just saying that this distinction is very important and should not be lost in the discussion, because sooner or later, someone on the right is going to confound the two. That's my point.

  • I'm glad that you put this up as it is inline with a reply I was going to put to Nick on the subject of "responsible gun owners" v. "Gun-nutz(TM)". Hey, it's a long weekend and I've had a pig on a spit to eat and martinis to drink—priorities man ;)

    Quite simply Nick is this what a "responsible gun owner" looks like? As when I define a Gun-nutz(TM) this is the text book example.
    Anyone who says, "2nd Amendment Remedies" or shows up in a public space to "prove a point", or trains a weapon on legally sanctioned agent in the course of their duty = Gun-nutz(TM).

    I honestly, couldn't think of what the BLM agents could do without playing into the Gun-nutz narrative. That's the frightening thing. The Govt either becomes a toothless tiger, or it plays into the "tyrannical government" narrative. FYI: Shay's is where that slave owning douchewad, coined the phrase about "The tree of liberty" needing to be watered.

    It sure as hell shouldn't be allowed to go unchecked though. If they are going to bust these arseholes they need to organise to nail *everyone* of them within an hour. Giving them no time to contact each other and become entrenched.

  • Carrstone: yeah sure go ahead and choose which laws pertain to you and which do not. You're obviously of that infantile school of "thought" that wears a t-shirt with: "It's only illegal if you get caught."

    So in your world view, anyone who commits murder is justified in doing so because they believe the laws prohibiting murder do/should not pertain to them.

    You do realise we went to war on this issue. You **Lost**.

  • In response to Alan C. above, I don't remember it either but then again I'm much too young to do so, as the left did show up armed again and again to secure the meager economic freedoms we enjoy today.

    Unfortunately I am coming to believe the window for resolving these issues without a return to violence has closed or is rapidly shutting. Certainly we all abhor violence, but it did take 40+ years of getting brutalized by Pinkertons and the military to secure things like a weekend. It may take the same to keep it.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    Let's crank it up a notch….

    A group of American Muslims decided to have some sort of monthly event on National Park Service land, but refused to apply for any permits or pay any legally-required fees, citing the fact that they don't recognize the authority of the US federal government, because "the earth belongs to Allah".

    The NPS takes the Muslims to court, wins multiple times, but the Muslim-Americans refuse to stop having their events on public land, pay fees, or even fill out applications. Finally, the NPS sends in some armed rangers to expel the Muslims, but before they can do that, armed Muslim-Americans show up, threaten violence, point rifles at NPS rangers, and intimidate the NPS into leaving.

    Would the same people on the right refer to these Muslim-Americans as "freedom fighters" or even "militias"? Or would they be referred to as terrorists?

  • "The federal agents there weren't armed."

    what? of course they were armed. They were BLM and other federal agents with arrest and deadly force powers. but they just had sidearms and not hardware like the protestors.

    near the road where the BLM was, the mob was told to "keep your guns in your cars" and they complied. The rootin tootin gun brandishing took place elsewhere.

  • hmm reading more.. there was an incident AFTER the feds had given in..

    "As roughly 250 protesters and mounted cowboys approached the gates for the BLM compound the agents inside pointed rifles at them and warned them over loudspeakers to get back or they would be shot. Meanwhile, militia members and other armed citizens took up positions opposite the BLM personnel with their rifles trained on the feds."

  • I don't think they even wanted to get into a gun fight with the feds. They just wanted to pose for news cameras.

  • "How many virgins await these guys in heaven if they die as martyrs?

    The same number as awaits them everywhere else they go–ZERO.

    "I don't think they even wanted to get into a gun fight with the feds. They just wanted to pose for news cameras."

    What do you call a bunch of U.S. soldiers withn gummint issue firearms, in Afghanistan? Soldiers.

    What do you call a bunch of blowhards with military style weapons in the MurKKKan Outback? Idiots, bullies, cowards? Take your pick.

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