Thursday, January 07, 2016

What The Hell is up with a Militia in Oregon (for non-Americans)

Current stand off in Oregon
For those of my readers who are not versed in the antics of American Politics, perhaps a bit of explanation is required to understand the Oregon Militia Stand-off.  This is not a historical anomaly, but rather 25% continuation of a long standing feud between Westerners and the Feds and 75% attention seeking among people who hate Obama.
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Let's start with the historical precedent.
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When the Western states were settled, massive amounts of land were held by the government - as they were all originally territories, not states.  Over the years, the Feds have given away vast tracks of land for settlement (homesteading) if you lived there.  That stopped in the early part of the 20th century except for many areas in the desert southwest.  But the Federal government still owns TONS of land out west.
Most of the Blue is National Parks or Forests.  Much of the Orangish is leased out by the BLM.
In Oregon (and other states too, but let's concentrate where the problem is), federal land and private land is interspersed.  Most of the federal land is now national forest or reserves.  The feds allow private farmers to graze the land (at a VASTLY cheaper rate than grazing on private land) - and so people who use the land - for a fee - tend to feel some type of ownership.  But there are things you can't do on federal land, even when you pay to graze there.
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Now, in this case, 2 ranchers were first accused of killing wildlife - lots of it - but nothing much came of that.  Then they were accused and convicted of starting fires to clear land (better for grazing).  These fires either were intended to, or accidentally, spread to federal land.  That is a federal offense and they pleaded guilty to this (as part of a plea deal that included no prosecution for killing wildlife).  The minimum sentence for arson on federal land is 5 years in jail.
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After accepting the deal, the presiding judge decided that 5 years was too long and set the sentence at 1 month for father and 1 year for the other (they are father and son I think).  Later, a different judge said this was illegal because the minimum wasn't a "guideline" but a requirement.  And sent the two back to jail to finish their sentence
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This is where it gets screwed up.  (I will try to use the term protesters here for those occupying a federal building / land - which is as judgement free as I can figure out how to describe them.)
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To protest the convicted men being returned to jail, a few men with big guns decided to occupy a federal building on the federal lands.  The original plaintiffs, in jail, have disavowed these protesters and requested Obama to commute their sentence.  Which he might have done, IF the protesters hadn't taken over the building.  But the President can't be seen to be giving into protesters right now.
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Now, this was easy to do because the building was empty for the winter - so they didn't have to order anyone out or anything.
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That is the backstory for the actual issue.
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The 75% of the story that is all about publicity, is that these protesters hate the Federal Authorities, the BLM and really hate a Black Democratic President.  Two of them are sons of Cliven Bundy who refuses to pay even the minimal amount to graze his cattle on public land.  A couple of years ago Mr. Bundy initiated a stalemate with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and ended up drawing a shit-load of protesting, gun-totting supporters to Nevada.
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It was a stalemate that the BLM backed down from - rather than getting into a shooting fight.  Which made sense at the time, but has only emboldened protesters over time.
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Still doesn't "make sense", but at least you understand.
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Cliven Bundy stand off in Nevada a few years ago.

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