The Oregon standoff

The current stand-off between armed militia guys and the feds in Oregon has its comical side. While I deplore the tone of this Deadspin article, it’s also pretty funny, and reflects an attitude towards the militia guys that will increasingly become the norm. They’re already late-night fodder; never a good thing. And the militia’s rather desperate call for snacks suggests, at the very least, that someone maybe didn’t think this through very carefully. Still, it’s a dangerous situation, and one that deserves a nuanced appraisal.

Here are the facts, as I understand them. (And, as always, if I get this wrong, let me know). A father and son, Dwight and Steven Hammond, were supposed to report to federal law enforcement yesterday. In 2012, they were convicted of setting fire to federal lands adjacent to their property. Most sources I’ve seen have said that the fire they set was intended to cover up for their having poached deer on that land. (Defenders of the Hammonds dispute that). Anyway, they were convicted, sentenced, and served their time. But appellate courts, reviewing their case, found that they should have received harsher sentences under federal anti-terrorism guidelines. So, on Monday, they were supposed to go back to jail to do more time.

I don’t blame the Hammonds for thinking the whole thing is massively unfair. Granted, the increased sentence has been thoroughly adjudicated, including a Supreme Court endorsement. Still, I’d be ticked if I were them. I don’t really see why this act of arson warrants another five years in prison for a 73-year old.

But now come Cliven Bundy’s boys to complicate things. The militia guys are there because this whole thing ties into one of the more contentious issues in the west, federal land use policies. On the extreme edge of the land use debate, we find Ammon and Ryan Bundy. The two Bundy brothers have joined forces with friends who share their views, and travel around the country injecting themselves into various national controversies regarding federal control of land. So this small group has occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, probably to provide safe haven for the Hammonds (who don’t seem to want it), and also, as Ammon Bundy has said, to create a base where patriots can gather in defiance of the tyrannical federal government.

The United States government controls huge chunks of land in the West, in Oregon, Nevada and Utah, among other western states. The Bureau of Land Management is seen as administering those lands in a high-handed and confrontational manner. Ammon Bundy calls the BLM’s fees for ranchers’ grazing rights unconstitutional. That means, for the militia, this is a question of high principle. The specifics of the Hammonds’ case is getting lost here.

It also appears that the Bundy militia were sort of hoping for a lot more people to join them. Blaine Cooper, a member of the group, went on Facebook and asked for people to send them ‘snacks.’ He suggested that food and other supplies could be mailed to them. They’re hoping, in other words, for supplies to be delivered to them by the federal government’s mail service, to the federal government address they’re currently occupying, in defiance of the federal government. All this suggests that maybe this plan wasn’t all that carefully thought-through.

So how big a deal is this? Honestly, their poor planning reminds me of is John Brown, and Harper’s Ferry. I wouldn’t call the Bundys ‘terrorists.’ But Brown was indeed a terrorist, an ideological fanatic. He took over the federal armory in Harper’s Ferry, hoping to inspire a slave insurrection. Again, his forces were few in number, short of supplies, and poorly trained. If slaves didn’t revolt and join him, he had no chance of success whatsoever. And, in fact, his takeover was very short-lived, and the federal forces (under the control of an officer named Robert E. Lee), had little difficulty capturing him.

But what Brown may have really been hoping for did come true; a bloody, ferocious intra-regional conflict. What was the proximate cause of the Civil War? Sure, Fort Sumpter. But that was more symptom than cause; really, war was inevitable once Abraham Lincoln was elected President. And his election became inevitable when the national Democratic convention, in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1860, couldn’t agree on a candidate, splitting the party. And that result was the inevitable consequence of ‘bloody Kansas,’ the battle over whether ‘the territories’ would be slave or free. And Kansas was bloody, in part, because of a series of murders committed by John Brown against slave owners. John Brown therefore might be remembered as the most spectacularly successful terrorist in history.

Brown was successful, in part, because on one point (and one point only), he was unequivocally right; he believed chattel slavery to be a moral abomination. He was successful because his message was seen as compelling by many Americans, and terrifying by many others. And the war came.

I use him as a parallel because he launched his insurrection so badly ill-prepared, as the Bundys seem to have done. I cite Brown, because his example shows how terrible the consequences of his kind of revolt can be, and because thinking of him in connection to the Bundys scares me to death. And I think that fear may be why some folks on the left have referred to the Bundy militia as ‘terrorists,’ and called for an armed response.

But on sober reconsideration, an armed response to the incidents in Oregon would mark a criminally misguided overreaction. The Bundy militia does not actually pose much of a threat to anyone. They haven’t taken hostages, for example, and haven’t shot anyone. They’re just occupying some buildings in a remote and obscure federal land use facility.

Also, they’re wrong, dead wrong, on every point. No one’s going to rally to their call (oh, a few people might, perhaps), because their call is too kooky to take seriously. Of course the federal government can constitutionally own and administer land. In fact, determining issues of property ownership and control is one of the most essential duties of any government anywhere.

And ranchers are not getting short-changed. In fact, as recently posted, ranchers are getting a great deal from the BLM. Federal grazing fees are 93 percent lower than the average market rate. The BLM’s fees only cover around fifteen percent of their costs; the rest of the tab is picked up by, well, you and me. Taxpayers.

So the Bundys’ argument is entirely notional, unconnected to any actual reality. It’s a cloud cuckoo land insurrection. They believe that it’s unconstitutional and illegal for the federal government to own land and to charge ranchers to use it, no matter how good a deal ranchers get. That’s frankly a nonsensical argument, and it will increasingly be seen as one as this controversy continues. Their cause is not morally or legally compelling. And they don’t seem to have sufficient supplies to hold out all that long.

Let’s resolve this peaceably. Or, as the LDS Church put it, in an official statement on this matter: “we are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can — and should — be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land.” Amen. Or, instead of citing Captain Moroni (who wasn’t, let’s face it, bothered by the legal minutiae of land use policies), let’s quote Acts 5, and Gamaliel: “Refrain from these men, and let them alone. If this work be of men, it will come to nought. If it be of God, you cannot overthrow it.” I’m betting on the former.

4 thoughts on “The Oregon standoff

  1. Anonymous

    Love this piece, Eric. And I hate that this is connected with the church… sheesh. Your sentence, “It’s a cloud cuckoo land insurrection.” made me laugh.. but your hope that all ends peaceably echoes my hopes as well. Keep writing!


    If one asks the question, “WHY did the BLM start a Land Consolidation Program in 2010?” {after hellacious clinton returned from China in 2009},

    and follow the timeline of the Hammond’s intensified persecution beginning in June of 2010, an enquiring mind might start to wonder…

    Were the Hammonds’ targeted as a test case in Oregon ?

    The following timeline of events merging in 2010 (the indictment against the Hammond’s was June 2010 ) gives one pause to wonder…

    Sources and links have been incorporated into the article: if the reader questions the source, an easy google search will verify other

    sources/links that report the same data. Here goes, it’s long, but if you read it all, you might wonder….

    Were the Hammonds’ targeted as a federal test case for BLM’s 2010 Land Agenda?


    In August of 1994, when BLM and FWS falsely arrested Dwight and Steve Hammond for protecting their legally owned water rights,

    Mr. Hammond did not counter sue for damages and false arrest. He went back to ranching

    Interim actions of BLM from 1994 to 2006 included arbitrary revocation of 3 (three) separate grazing rights held by Hammonds.

    In August of 2006 BLM Ranger Orr and FWS had Sheriff Dave Glerup arrest Dwight and Steve Hammond.
    The local county prosecutor reviewed all charges and declined to prosecute.
    District Attorney Tim Colahan dismissed all 2006 charges after reviewing them, and allowed the charges to move into statutory expiration.

    In June of 2010, acting preemptively before the statue of limitations expired from the 2006 dismissal by District Attorney Tim Colahan,
    BLM re-filed ,adding on an additional 17 counts.
    Indictment United States v. Hammond et al, No. 6:10-cr-60066-HO filed 2010-06-17 chief Judge Ann L. Aiken

    This is where one could say, after they knew Amanda Marshall was going to end up being their prosecuting attorney:

    After all, four (4) different US Attorney’s for the state of Oregon in less than 16 months
    is nothing short of ludicrous. One could also say the three preceding US Oregon State Attorney’s refused to prosecute
    the Hammonds’, and that is why they didn’t get to keep the position.

    [It is imperative to remember the Hammond’s are the last private landholders in and around Mahler Refuge].

    Let’s take a look at the timelines involved for Ms.(Sally) Amanda Marshall appearing on the scene in 2010.

    From October 2003 to July 2009, Karen Immergut was the U.S. Attorney for Oregon: she resigned

    From July 2009 to Feb.3, 2010, Kent Robinson was the interim U.S. Attorney for Oregon. After 7 short months, he was replaced.

    From Feb. 5, 2010 to ________, Dwight C, Holton was the interim U.S. Attorney for Oregon

    Nov. 17, 2010 Obama nominates Amanda Marshall as U.S. Attorney for Oregon

    How did S. Amanda Marshall, a sub-par attorney in the child advocacy section, with no federal prosecution experience, get to U.S. Attorney for Oregon?

    The ten (10) candidates that applied for the position were:

    1. Dwight Holton – Oregon interim U.S. Attorney from Feb.5, 2010
    (until Amanda Marshall).
    Known for his tough prosecution of environmental crimes
    Endorsed by Oregon Sheriff’s and Oregon’s State Police Officer’s Association.

    2. Kent Robinson – Oregon interim U.S. Attorney from July 2009 to Feb.3, 2010. Thirty years experience in the Justice Dept.

    3. Josh Marquis – Clatsop County district attorney

    4. John Foote – Clackamas County district attorney

    5. Rob Bovett – Lincoln County district attorney

    6. John Haroldson – Benton County district attorney

    7. Ken Perry – Portland lawyer

    8. Robert Hutchings – Lane County public defender

    9. John Hummel – Portland lawyer

    10. Amanda Marshall – child advocate lawyer. Attended East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai.

    By October 28, 2009, three applicants remained on the list: Josh Marquis, Kent Robinson, and Amanda Marshall.

    Kent Robinson withdrew his application for unnamed reasons, and the final list submitted to the White House included only Josh Marquis and S. Amanda Marshall.

    Amanda Marshall…”may as well have had an inappropriate working relationship with Judge Aiken that should have potentially led to Judge Aiken to recuse herself from the Hammond re-sentencing.

    Prior to being nominated by President Barack Obama as U.S. District Attorney Amanda Marshall worked for the Oregon Department of Justice in Child Advocacy Services. Judge Aiken has been the presiding President of the Child Advocacy Services Board since 1998.

    Take into account that the only testimony used to establish “malicious intent” on part of the Hammonds derived from Dusty Hammond,
    Dwight Hammond’s grandson, a mentally incompetent 13 year old whose case has been overseen by Child Advocacy Services and
    the potential for wrongful collusion begins to crystallize.
    Initially in the trial Dusty Hammonds testimony was disqualified by Judge Mike Hogan due to his mental capacity.
    Despite this Dusty Hammonds testimony is assumed to have been used by Judge Aiken in determining malicious intent
    by the Hammonds to qualify them under the terrorism statute for re-sentencing.”

    “This is not the first instance of Judge Aiken potentially failing to acknowledge inappropriate relationships when presiding over a case.

    In a 2013 complaint of Judicial Misconduct filed against Judge Aiken, a class action by Oregon lawyers against the Oregon State Bar,
    the Supreme Court of Oregon Chief Justice Thomas Balmer and Jeff Sapiro, it is alleged Aiken failed to disclose similar relationships.

    It is clear that Judge Aiken has a vested interest, politically, judicially and personally in the Malhuer Reserve and in all likely hood
    should have not presided over this appeal,” considering her ties to the situation and the key individuals involved.”


    2010 was also a pivotal year for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Congressman Rob Bishop (Utah) discovered their plans in missing pages not submitted to Congress. Bishop is the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
    Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Utah, California
    The fact that these missing pages of BLM’s plans to consolidate all its’ checkerboarded lands were not submitted for approval to Congress cannot help but lend credence to their illegal activities and collusion with local authorities to acquire Hammonds’ ranch. Again: Hammonds’ are the last private landholders around Mahler Refuge.

    More Political Incest: Jake Klonoski is an Attorney Advisor in the Department of the Inspector General 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
    In 1978 (judge) Ann Aiken married James Klonoski, and Jake Klonoski is their son.

    The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is where Amanda Marshall submitted her appeal to send the Hammonds’ back to prison for more jail time.

    “In order to re-sentence the Hammonds as terrorists the United States Government had to file an appeal Under 18 U.S. Code 3742 (B).

    According to the code; “…The Government may not further prosecute such appeal without the personal approval of the Attorney General, the Inspector General,

    or a deputy inspector general designated by the Inspector General. The same Inspector General where Jake Klonoski is employed as a key Attorney Adviser.”

    Only 1% of the 5,000 odd appeals are ever picked to be heard in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    “Each year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals receives upwards of 5,000 requests for a new hearing before all the court’s judges, said Kelly Zusman, appellate chief for the U.S. attorney’s office in Oregon. The judges only hear about 1 percent of those requests. “They grant very, very few,” she said.”

    “Judge Aiken was also the presiding Judge in a 2006 case that overturned several key provisions of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 which she found violated the supremacy of the Federal Environmental Protection Act.”
    “A management plan that the Hammonds were key in helping construct.”

    “It should be noticed that the Hammonds, as acknowledged by Congressman Walden, were instrumental in development

    of the co-operative plan.”

    Judge Aiken’s decision weighed heavily based on affidavit testimony by Harney County Judge Stephen Grasty, whose actions have come into question and extreme scrutiny since the occupation began.”

    Harney County ‘judge’ Stephen Grasty, has a brother that is a BLM supervisor.

    Steve Grasty is not a real ‘judge’ in the legal, judiciary sense. Harney County, Oregon has a strange system (yes, there are a lot of things
    in Harney County that are not normal) where the three elected country commissioners (of which Steve Grasty is one), refer to the third
    commissioner as ‘judge’. This is an administrative body, NOT judicial.

    The Real Judiciary system in Harney County, Oregon is called Harney County CIRCUIT Court.

    Harney County BLM Manager is Rhonda Karges, who is married to Chad Karges, the manager of Mahler Wildlife Refuge.

    The BLM expended no monies or efforts in putting out the 139 acres of fire they accused the Hammonds’ of deliberately setting.

    So why the $400,000 fine the Hammonds’ were forced to pay?

    The State of Oregon has its’ own wildfire insurance policy through Lloyd’s of London.

    So why the $400,000 fine the Hammonds’ were forced to pay?

    If the BLM and corrupt county officials that perjured themselves were not guilty of collusion in their agenda to obtain the last checkerboarded piece of land in and around Mahler Wildlife Refuge, why did they insist on being first in line to buy the Hammond’s ranch?

    There is more ‘evidence’: 12-31-2015 affidavit filed stating Assistant US Prosecutor Papagni called Kendra Matthews and Lawrence Matasar (Hammonds attorneys) and that Papagni told Hammonds’ attorney’s if the Hammond’s made any ‘fuss’, they would be reporting to a harder prison and at a much earlier report date. PDF court document

    Other information: No ‘fire arson’ experts were ever produced to testify against the Hammonds’. It was just BLM saying it was arson.

    No deer bones, or other evidence was ever produced by prosecution against the Hammonds’.

    (deer bones aren’t going to burn up in a simple grass fire)

    If the ‘hunting party’ allegedly witnessed this ( the hunting guide’s permit comes from BLM), it would seem odd

    why none of them popped out their cell phones, or camera’s to take pictures of such alleged crimes

    Note: Most people think Frank Papagni prosecuted the Hammond’s: but he was Assistant US Attorney for Oregon.

    Amanda Marshall, State US Attorney for Oregon, was his boss.

    Look up pdf.file China Speaks: they say America & her lands and resources belong to them


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