Monday, February 1, 2016

Bundy, Malheur - and reality

It does not require a doctorate in economics to guess that the feds would
have come out well ahead in 1969 if they had simply paid ranchers the full
market value of the animals supposedly killed by coyotes and let it go at
that. This conclusion becomes still more attractive if one accepts Cole's
calculation that the hundreds of coyotes bagged in 1969 by traps, snares,
baited cyanide canisters, hunting dogs and bullets would have dispatched
approximately 55,000 jack rabbits, had they been permitted to live to
perform this service for the ranchers of Arizona. Because 150 jack rabbits
consume enough forage to support one cow or five sheep, the coyote carnage
in 1969 cost more than $50,000 in lost cattle production.

- John Alcock, Sonoran Desert Summer


I have been closely following the "standoff" at the Malheur Wildlife
Refuge, near Burns, Oregon. I have not been one to apply the label of
terrorist, activist, or any descriptor really to these people following
the Bundys and their "friends."

For surely it is (or was, it is near it's end)  at best, a protest. At
worst - politically - it is sedition, acting with arms against the

But that is not my fight. Stop telling me I am "misinformed" and refrain
from calling me a stooge of the government because I think Harney Co.
Sheriff Dave Ward has done fine work under difficult circumstances.

I've thought long on this (which is why I'm a day behind on putting this
blog together). In fact yesterday morning I took a long walk thinking
about all the strings I need to tie together to make my point.

Ok... sigh... grab your coffee, sorry there are no more doughnuts (my cop
friends ate the last ones) but hopefully I'll give you something (or a few
things) of substance to chew on. Oh, and no photos today.

What I'm NOT going to do? I'm not going to talk about the Constitution, or

No... I'm going to start this with some words I posted on Facebook the
other day:

Whether you are right or wrong on your issues is a moot point because your

You came into my state and took over a resource that is open to us ALL and
shut it down so NO ONE could use it.

When we approach righteous grievances for redress, we cannot go armed and
paranoid, prepared to commit violence. Rather - as MLK and many, many
others have taught and done - only thru non-violent civil disobedience can
we be effective. We can blockade. We can hunger strike We can speak, using
our big people words.

As a long time activist on many issues I've always shunned any advocates
for violence in my circles. Advocates for violence are (imho) one of 2
types - 1) they are agent provocateurs, undercover plants from the
police/govt intending to create a situation that involves criminal
activity, or 2) they are crazy and dangerous.

And if you want to be warriors, "defending your people"... ?

... be like the 200 or so warriors that fought off damn near the whole US
Army when Chief Joseph attempted to take his people to Canada. THAT is how
WE roll here in Oregon.

The world needs smart. The world needs cooperators, not conspirators.

The age of conquering and conquerors is over. It's dead. Swords into
plowshares. It's time for the One Straw Revolution

That last part - the age of conquering and conquerors is over - is very
important. Weaponry has come to a point that makes violence, especially
warfare, obsolete. There is no longer any end served from war other than a
maintenance of chaos and tyranny.

What drives the engine now is not territorial expansion. With economics
now a global enterprise and consumerism the be-all and end-all of modern


sorry! Had a coffee snort on that one...

... now it is a drive for extraction of resource. Yes, natural resources have always been extracted and yes that's how the world was built. Great. But the house that was built is on fire, the foundation is crumbling and the cupboards are near bare.

All resource extraction to this point has pretty much relied on the myth that we can do this forever. We can't. And we've been so sloppy in our going about all this consumption that we've once again soiled the nest. So not only can we not going about doing things the way we have been but we must also begin undoing our calamitous system and rebuilding a system that fits with some basic natural laws.


... resources are finite

... we don't shit in our own well.

... nor do we shit in our neighbor's well.

And that is what the Bundy cabal did. They came into Oregon and shit in our well. We certainly don't have everything right but damned if we don't try. Sometimes we get it right (saving our entire coastline for all of us). Sometimes we need to be creative. 

Like that time when Richard Nixon was supposed to be coming to Portland but fears of tens of thousands of hippies and yippees coming to town to protest prompted Gov Tom McCall into action! Yes, something needed to be done. So what did this Republican governor do? Why, what any common sense individual would do, he threw a free rock festival.

The Vortex

Yep. A republican governor threw a free party, kept the cops away and let the hippies play. There were no hippie riots and I don't believe Tricky Dick made it at all.

The "hippies" have earned their spot in Oregon. They came, they worked, they spent money, bought land and homes and raised families. Read about the Hoedads.

Planting trees is the sort of mind-numbing stoop labor that most people go to college in order to avoid. Loggers shudder when they contemplate the rigors of tree planting. It is winter work, cold and wet and mud-spattered grubbing on steep mountain sides. It has always been done by those at the very lowest levels of the Northwest social order, hillbillies, drifters, derelicts, migrant farm workers and illegal aliens. And yet, a survey of the Hoedads Inc. membership in the late 1970’s found that planters with post-graduate degrees were more common among them than high school drop-outs.

In it's beginnings Oregon was also pretty damn racist. White was right. And the Malheur was treated no differently. Why? Because it was Paiute land. And what ruined it for the Paiutes?

[from the DailyKos] For most of the 1800s and earlier, Eastern Oregon was largely the territory of the Northern Paiute. The Malheur Indian Reservation was created in 1872 to set aside a small part of their former territory exclusively for Native Americans. The reservation was established by executive order of President Ulysses Grant. This was necessary since Congress refused to ratify the 1868 treaty negotiated with the Paiute (there’s rarely been any political benefit to treating Indians fairly).

Ok, sounds good right? Give the indigenous folks a spot of their own? 

[from that bedrock of liberalism, The Oregon History Project] By 1875 more than 700 Paiute and Bannock Indians were spending their winters on the reservation, an agricultural school had been established, and several dozen Indian men were learning how to farm. The administration of the reservation, however, was severely hampered by a steady reduction in federal appropriations. Agent W.V. Rinehart complained to his superiors that “it is the avowed policy of the Government to make the Indians self-supporting, and yet I am left without the means to make the initiatory steps for the furtherance of that policy….I ask if it is fair or reasonable to circumscribe the already limited energies of a people whom God made as free as the deer on their mountains; to curtail their natural means of subsistence by herding them upon reservations, that the dominant race may enjoy their territory, and then expect them to support themselves without assistance?”

Rinehart’s complaints fell on deaf ears. Appropriations were reduced again the following year, medical supplies arrived nearly a year late, and to make matters worse, local stockmen had begun encroaching upon reservation lands. Some were so bold, Rinehart wrote his 1878 report, “that they have even taken up their residence within the limits of the reservation, and make no secret of their intention to occupy and use the land.” [emphasis mine - ae]

Ahhh... there is Ammon Bundy's historical context. Except instead of the gubmint, the Bundy's gang occupied the Paiute's land. Right, it's all coming clear... we were assholes then and we're still assholes.

But, I don't equate the Bundys with the folks on the east side of the state. I've met them. I lived with them down in Adel. And for me and my family it was a journey into "hostile" territory. I was a long-haired hippie working for a locally despised environmental organization, The Nature Conservancy.

But you know what? I worked hard and the ranchers and other locals saw the changes to the ranch I'd been tasked with renovating. They became our friends, especially John Lane, Earl and Jean Rogers and Bill Hickey and his son. 

And THAT dear friends and readers, is my point. The local folks in Lake County treated us with respect and let us prove ourselves. 

Coming into a community and holding a part of it hostage shows no respect and deserves no respect.

And it wasn't like these Bundyites just suddenly showed up. Oh no... they had been in the area in the fall:

[from the OregonianOn Nov. 5, a Thursday, Ward met the men who would cause him so much grief. They gathered on the second-floor law library at the courthouse, more often used for researching legal precedent than setting the stage for rebellion. Among those there were Ammon Bundy and a self-styled militiaman from Montana, Ryan Payne, and two self-described patriots who head organizations in Bend and in Idaho.

There once was a time early in the 20th century when the Sandhill Crane (over 200 pairs breed at the Malheur WR) was in trouble. Through actions to save habitat and protect the birds Sandhill Cranes have a strong population.  And in many places cranes are revered and/or celebrated.

Heck, Nebraska has their own party to celebrate the Sandhills, Audubon's Nebraska Crane Festival

Japan almost lost their crane population, Red-crowned Crane: Sarurun Kamuy (God of the Marshes), but took strong measures to protect their surviving populations.

And in Africa... Largest Protected Environment in South Africa Declared

All of that leading me to this... what would have happened had the Bundy's been creative instead of creepy? What say, oh.... they came to Sheriff Dave Ward, the BLM, the ranchers and townspeople of Burns and said, "we need a forum where we can present our case and hear from others with interest in how we as a community deal with the feds and this bloated bureaucracy that has grown around use of public lands."

Suppose they had said, "we want to create an event, maybe say... a Crane Festival! With artists, politics, forums, education, music. Something that can draw a crowd of friendly people to Burns and the area that will come, spend some time and money, mybe get a little education and then leave."

But no, Allan's fantasies remain Allan's fantasies. A world where cooperation, compassion and some good-neighborness have higher priority than armed thugs screeching about their version of the Constitution (which, like the Malheur, belongs to all of us) remains a pipe dream.

These were no heroes. Men on a mission? perhaps, but an errant one. One that wasn't inclusive of basic human dignity and respect for others had no chance of success.

The world of man is at a crossroads. We can become true planetary stewards (save the rhinos, save the elephants, save the whales, the orangs, etc, etc) or we can continue our slide into a hole we ourselves dug. A hole that only cooperative (not coerced) action can bring us out of.

Cooperation, what a concept. Asshattery unwelcome. Solutions, not more problems. Let's use our big people words and put the guns down.

I'll give the last word to Jim Caswell (served as director of the Bureau of Land Management under Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne), writing in the Jan 27,2016 opinion pages of the Idaho Statesman:

Frustration around public lands is real. But that doesn’t make violence the right response or land transfers a realistic solution. The best answer to our problems is to join hands to fix the management, and to keep the truly greedy hands driving this debate off our public lands.


Read more here:

more reading:

Sustainable Cowboys or Welfare Ranchers of the American West?

Who Wants A Burns Standoff? Not The Sheriff, The Ranchers, Or Even Cliven Bundy

Ammon Bundy, Montana militia leader planned land takeover for months

Oregon standoff: Bundy occupation leaves scars behind

Tribe to protesters occupying Oregon wildlife refuge: ‘We were here first … get the hell out’

one of the few times I agree with the Oregonian: Sheriff Dave Ward, the true patriot in Harney County's spectacle: Editorial

about Malheur:

Malheur Standoff Puts Science in the Crosshairs

The Bannock War

Occupation, Resistance, and History in Malheur


A Man only learns by two things, one is reading, and the other is association with smarter people.

- Will Rogers