The Watering Hole, Saturday, March 5th, 2016: This Land Is Still Our Land

I’ve written before about the emails from the American Land Rights Association that somehow end up coming to my office, and how Charles Cushman has been involved with the Hammonds, the scofflaws whose imprisonment for starting fires on federal land provided the match that started the Malheur Wildlife Refuge ‘insurrection.’

Earlier this week another ‘newsletter’ email arrived, containing, in part, the following:

War In The West, the Hammond Story
Stop Land and Water Conservation Fund

The War In The West: Time To Stop Federal Land Acquisition

Robert J. Smith, Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research 1/15/16

Media attention on the plight of Dwight and Steven Hammond in Burns, Oregon — sent to prison as “terrorists” — has focused more on the activities of some who have come to their “support” than on the cause of the broad-based unhappiness with the federal government.

But first it is important to clarify the Hammonds’ “crime.” Most reports note they were prosecuted for arson on federal lands. They were prosecuted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, passed following the 1995 bombing of the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. Bombing a federal building is an act of terrorism. Burning 140 acres of grass, sagebrush and weeds to halt wildfires and remove invasive brush is not terrorism.

Ranchers, farmers, foresters and miners homesteaded the West, often before government reached that far, or states or counties were created. The successors of these landowners are today surrounded by a sea of federal lands. Across the West over half the land and resources are owned by the federal government. In Oregon it owns 53 percent of the land, and 75 percent in Harney County, home of Burns and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The county is over 10,000 square miles in size, larger than nine states. With a population of barely 7,000 people, it is effectively a federal colony, controlled and administered by the federal government.

The federal government owns 85 percent of the state of Nevada and 64 percent of both Utah and Idaho — effectively making rural landowners little more than serfs, precluding utilization of natural resources, reducing the tax base and impoverishing local and county governments, which are then unable to fund schools and police…

Evermore onerous government regulations make it difficult for landowners to use their lands and often next to impossible to cross the government lands on historic rights-of-way for access to water and grazing lands. Selective enforcement of laws like the Endangered Species Act can prevent landowners from using land that has no endangered species, but does have habitat the species could use if they were there…

Yet even with this hegemonic control of the rural West, the federal government continues to acquire more land. It is expert at making regulatory harassment so onerous that eventually farmers and ranchers simply give up and sell out to the government — becoming what the Feds euphemistically refer to as “willing sellers.”

Anger against such treatment arose during the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, when state governments demanded a return of their land and resources and equality with states in the East. That opposition to federal ownership was tempered by the Reagan Administration’s easing of the regulatory regime.

But as the federal government has accelerated its efforts to acquire more land and force people off their lands, mounting opposition and calls for change have flourished. Another Sagebrush Rebellion is underway, headed by counties and state legislatures. Several Western states have introduced legislation demanding the return of their lands. Both houses in Utah have passed such legislation and Governor Herbert has signed the law.

It is time to place a moratorium on any additional land acquisition by the federal government, to undertake an inventory of government landownership at all levels, and to begin taking steps towards devolution of federal ownership and return the lands and resources to responsible and caring ownership and stewardship. This would not threaten genuine environmental amenities and values.

America has a long tradition of successful private ownership of wildlife refuges, parks, and forests. If, for instance, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were owned by a conservation organization, such as an Audubon Society, it would not be able to bully and harass its farming and ranching neighbors who willingly share their lands with the wildlife, but would have to deal with them in a legal and peaceful manner — while still protecting the wildlife.

It is ironic that Americans are still fighting colonial subjugation by a hegemonic government — located now in Washington, D.C., rather that England. James Madison wrote: “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort.” That is what Oregon is really about.”

There was a lot more about related topics, but the above is enough for the time being. The missive ends with:

“Google Alert: You can find additional information about national issues and battles American Land Rights has been involved in by going to Google and typing in the following search terms one at a time: Chuck Cushman, Charles Cushman, Charles S. Cushman, American Land Rights Association, National Inholders Association and League of Private Property Voters.”

Well, actually, no you CAN’T find additional information, because if you type in those search terms, they all lead back to the American Land Rights Association–some directly, some by a more circuitous route. I tried to do a bit more digging.

According to Buzzfile, the “Business Description” of the American Land Rights Association is:

“American Land Rights Association, which also operates under the name National Inholders Association, is located in Battle Ground, Washington. This organization primarily operates in the Business Associations business / industry within the Membership Organizations sector. This organization has been operating for approximately 44 years. American Land Rights Association is estimated to generate $500,000 in annual revenues, and employs approximately 6 people at this single location.”

Okay…so what does the category “Membership Organization” mean?

“The Membership Organizations sector covers 7 categories including Professional Organizations, Labor Organizations, and Political Organizations.

[Emphasis mine.]

Alright…a little more digging…how about, who is the “League of Private Property Voters”?

VoteSmart.Org says:

“Description:
“LPPV is a coalition of more than 800 grassroots organizations that advocate the rights of property owners, including farmers, ranchers, woodlot owners, residents of rural communities, owners of recreational property, and inholders of private property located within and adjacent to federal lands. It also includes cabin permittees, off-road vehicle owners, equestrians, snowmobilers, hunters and recreational shooters, and livestock grazers, foresters and miners who make productive use of federal lands.”

I found a ‘biography’ of Mr. Cushman – a bit outdated, but quite telling – oh, and this ‘biography’ has him at “Property Rights Foundation of America”(R):

“April 1999
Chuck Cushman is the executive director of the American Land Rights Association (ALRA), formerly the National Inholders Association, which is a public interest advocacy organization that works to protect landowners across America who are affected by various growth management schemes as well as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act (wetlands) and other Federal land use regulatory laws.

Mr. Cushman is also the Chairman of the League of Private Property Voters (LPPV), which was organized in 1990 to develop and publish the Private Property Congressional Vote Index, a Congressional vote scorecard designed to let the public know how each Congressman and Senator voted on important land-use issues. Almost 500,000 copies were distributed in 1996.

Referred to in various press reports as the “Desert Fox” and “Mr. Rent-A-Riot,” Mr. Cushman has worked over 24 years to help local communities get on the political playing field and compete effectively with Federal agencies and extreme environmental groups who seek to eliminate private uses and public access from “their” lands. He is widely respected for his successful leadership of local communities against those groups and individuals who seek to remove inholders and multiple-users by condemnation or whatever other means they can achieve.

He has written numerous articles on inholder rights; lectured at colleges and universities; appeared as an expert guest on Late Night America, Today on NBC, All Things Considered on public radio, CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC news; been a subject of segments of 60 Minutes, The Newshour with Jim Lehrer and CNN Presents; has been featured in numerous national magazines regarding land-use issues; appeared as guest speaker before hundreds of multiple-use and private property advocacy groups and political interest organizations.

ALRA and LPPV have become significant players in land use and private property issues throughout the United States. ALRA has 18,000 members in 50 states and is acknowledged as a successful advocate for property owners and users of Federal and state lands in all manner of natural resource areas across America.”

If they’re the same organization, and it appears that they are, how have ALRA and LPPV “become significant players” – especially when, as I found in my previous post on ALRA, there appears to be only two employees, one of whom is Charles Cushman?

I next tried looking into the National Center for Public Policy Research. Wikipedia says:

“NCPPR’s work is in the areas of environmental, retirement security, regulatory, economic, and foreign affairs. Particular areas of interest include global warming, endangered species, energy policy, environmental justice, property rights, legal reform, Medicare reform, health care, Social Security, civil rights, foreign affairs/defense and United Nations reform/withdrawal…

NCPPR is a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition, whose object is described as “dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”.

Amy Moritz Ridenour was and is still, as far as I can tell, the president of NCPPR. Amy has previously been on the wrong side of some major issues, i.e., writing op-eds on behalf of Big Tobacco. And, boy howdy, look who used to be a board member of the NCPPR: the infamous Jack Abramoff, lobbyist extraordinaire.

“Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a member of NCPPR’s Board of Directors; he resigned in October 2004 after NCPPR’s Board of Directors concluded he had violated the organization’s conflict of interest policy.

In October 2002, Abramoff directed the Mississippi Band of Choctaws to give $1 million to NCPPR, and then told Amy Ridenour to distribute the funds to Capital Athletic Foundation ($450,000), Capitol Campaign Strategies ($500,000) and Nurnberger and Associates ($50,000). In June 2003, Greenberg Traurig, the firm that employed Abramoff, sent $1.5 million to NCPPR, of which Ridenour distributed $250,000 to Capital Athletic Foundation and the remainder to Kay Gold LLC, both controlled by Abramoff. Ridenour said in testimony that she believed Abramoff co-conspirator Michael Scanlon was the owner of Kay Gold (Kaygold).

The Wiki page for Amy Ridenour includes:

“According to Nina Easton’s Gang of Five, Amy Moritz was a veteran organizer of the College Republican National Committee. She was a candidate in 1981 for election as national chairman of the organization, opposed by Jack Abramoff.
Abramoff, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist persuaded Moritz to drop out of the race by promising her the appointed position of executive director. With the only serious competitor out of the way, Abramoff won the election easily.

Although Moritz was later rebuffed by the “Abramoff-Norquist-Reed triumvirate” and only given the titular position of “deputy director”, she continued to work with the group and became a good friend of Norquist. Abramoff would also later become a director of the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR).

Lastly, on a whim, I decided to simply put in a search for “Robert J. Smith, Senior Fellow, National Center for Public Policy Research” – and laughed when the only relevant result was a link to the same diatribe that ALRA sent, as posted at – wait for it – The Daily Caller.

The kicker was a comment posted at the Daily Caller thread by none other than Amy Ridenour:

Amy Ridenour [to] Esef Brewer • 2 months ago
You’re not the most clever bird in the nest, are you? Try hunting and fishing or even walking on many federal lands sometime and learn the hard way.

One might have thought that someone who helped bilk Native American tribes out of millions of dollars really shouldn’t be commenting about “federal lands” on a public forum…but then, The Daily Caller isn’t all that popular a public forum, which means that Amy is right at home there.

This is our daily Open Thread – I’ve had enough delving for today, now it’s your turn to talk.

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 18th, 2016: ICYMI

Some updates on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge situation from the weekend:

Yesterday, DailyKos had this story about Child Protective Services removing Robert “LaVoy” Finicum’s fourfoster children from his Arizona ‘ranch.’  I love the [literal] money quote:

“That was my main source of income,” Finicum said. “My ranch, well, the cows just cover the costs of the ranch. If this means rice and beans for the next few years, so be it. We’re going to stay the course.”

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting:

“That represents an enormous loss of income for the Finicums. According to a 2010 tax filing, Catholic Charities paid the family $115,343 to foster children in 2009…

Since then, Catholic Charities has increased payments for foster care significantly, but it does not itemize the dollar amount the Finicums were paid in subsequent years.”

On Saturday, January 16th, a few members of the Center for Biological Diversity tried to protest the occupation of the refuge.  From Raw Story:

“We’re here to speak up for public land, which belongs to the public,” the group’s executive director, Kierán Suckling, said. “These people are trying to take the land away.”

Pete Santilli, part of the occupying group, picked up a bullhorn and started shouting over him, calling the conservationists “communist,” “fascist,” and saying, “You’re under arrest for bull****ting.”

Ah, yes, Pete Santilli.  At first I had him confused with Rick Santilli, the idiot whose ranting on CNBC more or less started the Tea Party plague.  However, this Pete Santilli seems to be cut from much the same cloth.  Pete is the one who, on his radio show back in 2013, spouted the following regarding then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away,” he said. “I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you’ve killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all.”

Santilli continued: “On behalf of all of those people, I’m supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.”

According to his bio, “Pete Santilli is a Former U.S. Marine, Consumer Advocate, Former Coca-Cola Executive, Corporate Whistleblower, Radio Talk Show Host. Pete Santilli is a professional hell raiser…”

Santilli also led a protest outside the FBI’s temporary setup at the Burns Airport on Saturday.  However, it appears that Santilli is merely a supporter of the occupiers:

“Asked about the demonstration outside the FBI’s headquarters, [Robert] Finicum said Santilli is an “independent journalist” and is not part of the group occupying the Refuge.”

On the agenda for today, according to The Oregonian, is a ‘lecture’ by KrisAnne Hall, who is described as “a Florida attorney and radio talk show host” (although she reportedly no longer holds a license to practice as an attorney in Florida.)  Ms Hall is planning to ‘sovereign-splain’ the supposed legality of the Bundy-led occupation of the wildlife refuge:

“Her assistant said she will cover two topics: sovereignty of the state and the constitutional limits of the federal government’s control.

Hall is an outspoken critic of the federal government who supports privatization of federal lands.

“The people are not acting lawlessly,” Hall said in [a] video. “It is the federal government that is acting lawlessly.”

For a tutorial on the warped version of the legal belief system that these deluded people are trying to establish, see this post on Friday’s ThinkProgress.

And for continuing updated coverage, The Oregonian puts up a daily “what you need to know” article along with related articles.

This is our daily Open Thread – feel free to talk about anything you like.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 9, 2016: The Hole In The Head Gang

Whenever anyone tells you they are doing what God wants them to do, run. And I don’t mean for president. It’s amazing how many people claim God told to run for the same public office, especially in America, which is officially and constitutionally a secular nation. There were all those Republicans in 2012 who said they heard God calling upon them to run for president. The fact that none of them even came close to winning might suggest in an otherwise free thinking person that maybe those claims of being told by God to run were false. Not lies, exactly, just inaccurate. In fact, it makes a lot more sense to believe Satan told these people to run for high office. Why we never ask them if this was a possibility is beyond me. When you have at least four people standing on a stage each claiming to be there because God told them to run, why just accept that as truth? Why not grill each one and ask them why would God do such a thing? (And why would he tell even more of them to run this time?) It seems to me that an allegedly all-powerful deity wouldn’t bother with democracy. He could just make a bunch of write-in ballots appear all over the country, naming the person he wants to be president. That’s within his capabilities, isn’t it? Does anyone truly believe God wanted George W. Bush to become president in 2000? So much so that he rigged an election in a state governed by his brother to make the victory happen? And then addled the mind of several Supreme Court Justices, just to make sure? And then went further and told George to invade Iraq? Why believe anybody when they say God told them to do something? With no witnesses around to confirm it? Is there any reason to believe them? Even Adolf Hitler thought he was doing what God wanted him to do, so one really should question anyone making such a claim. Which is why I question Ammon Bundy’s claim that he is doing what God told him to do, even how to do it (which apparently included not preparing for it.) It may offend you to hear me say this, but it’s stupid to believe an all-powerful, all-knowing being would care about political candidates or sports athletes. It really is. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And that’s precisely why it should disqualify anyone for public office when they claim God told them to run for that office. And an athlete that says his or her talent comes from God must think very lowly of their alleged Creator that he would endow them with athletic ability to entertain us, but not endow scientists and medical researchers with the talent and intelligence they need to find cures for diseases like cancer. OTOH, if you believe God created everything, you have to believe God created cancer. Otherwise your entire set of beliefs is false and unworkable. So how much does God really love you, that he would take your child away from you with cancer? God did not tell any of those people to do any of those things. They told themselves to do those things.

And why would God talk only to Ammon Bundy, and not his brother or any of the others there? And why would he put a lot of false notions in his head about the issues he’s supposed to be defending? These folks clearly do not understand the concept of “We The People.” They do not understand that the federal government IS us, and that we have constitutionally granted it powers to act on our behalf in preserving and protecting those lands. That the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge they claim to be taking back for the people already belongs to We The People. Nor do they seem to understand that the People closest to them (geographically) do not want them there, and do not want them to claim they are speaking for us. That they want the invaders to leave. (This was from a group Ammon Bundy helped form.) And they should leave, especially if they are illegally accessing the federal computers at the refuge they occupy. Regardless of the rationales they put out, they are not within their rights to do this. And they’re not right in their reasons for doing this. Nor are they right in the logic they use to come to the conclusions they have. The property they have improperly seized belongs to all of us, meaning it belongs to you and me, too. Would you want a bunch of armed delusional people squatting in your back yard saying they’ll use deadly force if anyone tries to make them leave? Because that is what they’re doing.

There is seriously something wrong with people who think the way these people think. Whether it’s the idea that God exists and tells several different people to do the same pointless thing (run for president against other people he told to run for president, or take over a publicly owned wildlife refuge in the middle of winter), or that the American federal government has no connection whatsoever to the People of America, these people clearly have a hole in their heads. They are the types who believe County Sheriffs have more authority than the federal government. They’re wrong here, of course, because they have occupied federal property, which makes what they’re doing a federal crime. It’s also a crime to use federal employee badges to access federal computers, which they obviously did. (The reporter said three of the four computer screens had screensavers running on them. I think it very highly unlikely that the people working at the refuge left those computers running over a long holiday weekend. Ammon Bundy’s brother Ryan claims they didn’t touch anything in that room, even though the reporter saw him try to hide the badges.) The best thing to do would be to have the local sheriff (whom they believe has more authority than the federal government, even on federal property) explain to everyone in that group that they are in violation of federal law, that they will be charged with violations of federal statutes once the occupation ends and they are brought out, that no one has any intention of firing upon them first, and they might as well give up now before anyone gets hurt over their complete and total ignorance about what they’re doing. I don’t want to see anyone die over this ridiculous issue. But the occupiers are the ones who brought guns to this showdown and threatened to use them. If any of them are killed, I’ll simply say what I always do when bad people die: I will not celebrate the death of any man, but I will not weep for this one.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the occupation of public property by delusional wingnuts, or anything else you wish to discuss. Just don’t set up camp on my property.