A retaliatory strike

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This is the last of a three-part series from Pro-Libertate. Read the first part, “When the rustlers wear badges,” and the second part, “Covert surveillance, overt intimidation.”

The Gillettes filed their notice of tort claim against Malheur County on Aug. 1, 2012. On Sept. 26, while Sweeny Gillette was in Oklahoma buying cattle, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office dispatched 17 deputies to raid the Gillette family’s home. A separate raid was carried out against Ric Hoyt’s home.

Speelman’s affidavit in support of the search warrant is morbidly obese, yet severely malnourished in terms of actual evidence. In addition to being littered with errors of spelling and grammar, the 79-page document is suffused with speculation, clotted with conjecture, rancid with rumor and larded with leaps of logic. At one point in the bloated harangue, Speelman relies on paraphrased double hearsay in accusing Sweeney of fraud and claiming that he had made self-incriminating statements.

Any conscientious judge would have examined Speelman’s affidavit carefully, and rejected it quickly. It was Speelman’s tremendous good fortune that his affidavit was presented to District Judge Patricia Sullivan, a jurist who has never been inhibited by principle. Sullivan signed the document on the day of the raid, most likely without bothering to read it.

“I went to the door and was greeted by two sheriff’s deputies,” Kendra Gillette relates. “The next thing I knew 17 deputies were in my home. I asked my son Casey and his wife to leave. He reluctantly did, but only after they searched my car.”

Frightened to the depths of her being, Kendra Gillette called her husband and her attorney. While she was on the phone, Kendra Gillette was informed that she would have to submit to a pat-down search “for your safety and ours.”

“Something inside me just snapped,” she recounts. Not in the mood to be treated like a criminal, she informed the intruders in no uncertain terms: “Nobody is going to lay a hand on me — period!”

Composing herself, she walked out her front door “and looked at all the law enforcement in my home. Not one person would look me in the eye.”

She collected her 3-year-old son and went to pick up her daughter from school. In the car, Kendra Gillette says, she offered a prayer “asking my Heavenly Father to protect my family and forgive my enemies.”

A few hours later, she “went home to devastation. They had gone through every room, drawer and closet, and left a huge mess. My office was gone — all my drawers from my desk, my computer, fax machine, back-up discs, message books, file cabinets, cork boards, etc. were gone. My cellphone was gone; my laptop was gone.”

The pillagers had indiscriminately confiscated her business and personal financial records, as well as her checkbooks, leaving Kendra Gillette without the means to pay bills or meet the company payroll. For all of this, the malice of the MCSO was not exhausted.

Investigators contacted the local bank where the family maintained its business account “and alleged that [Sweeny Gillette and Hoyt] were being investigated for cattle theft and that the bank should protect itself because [they] would soon be arrested,” summarizes the lawsuit. This led the bank to foreclose on the Gillette family’s business loan — which was not in default — and seize their cattle.

The seized property and records — which included legally protected personal medical information — were never returned. No evidence was ever found of any criminal wrongdoing by Sweeny Gillette or his father-in-law. Ironically, almost exactly one year prior to the raid, Kendra Gillette had published a letter in the local newspaper, the Argus Observer, urging the use of modernized cattle tracing technology for the purpose of preventing cattle theft — a peculiar, if not inexplicable, gesture for someone who supposedly profited from that criminal practice. As a result of the concerted campaign of official harassment, the Gillette family’s estimated financial losses amounted to more than $6 million; the damages inflicted on Hoyt account for another $300,000.

Sweeny Gillette had practically no money to his name when he began his business as a teenager. He was in similar straits after relocating his family to Vinita, Oklahoma, where he rebuilt his business just as the price of beef headed skyward. Hoyt’s trucking company, however, was put into stasis for two years because of the merit-less “racketeering” investigation.

“People have been asking me, `What are you doing now? Are you keeping busy?’” Hoyt remarked when I contacted him in early November. “I tell them that for the last year or more all I’ve been able to do is write checks to lawyers.”

Speelman and his colleagues didn’t uncover a cattle theft ring, but they succeeded in shutting down a business that provided jobs in an economically depressed county at a time when unemployment was spiking. They also managed to rack up untold thousands of dollars overtime and travel expenses through road trips to destinations throughout the western U.S.

How and why did Sweeny Gillette and Hoyt come under the MCSO’s scrutiny? Matthew Mankee, a Portland-based inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who participated in the investigation, told me that some MCSO deputies were involved in a “task force” to investigate cattle theft. When I asked if the task force had received federal funds, Mankee declined to discuss the matter in detail, insisting that he couldn’t “comment on ongoing cases.”

Although the source of funding for the task force remains elusive, it appears to have been provided through a shell company called the Oregon Livestock and Rural Crime Investigators Association. The now-defunct company, which identified Speelman as “president,” had reported annual revenues of $86,000 and listed its business address as 151 B St. in Vale, Oregon — the location of the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office. Apart from Speelman, the company had one other employee, Deputy Robert Wroten, who is also a member of the Malheur County Rodeo Board (about which more will be said anon).

An organization of the same name appears to have been founded more than a quarter-century ago, and spent most of its time educating sheriffs about livestock law and related issues. However, the company involved in the Sweeny Gillette investigation wasn’t created until 2010 — and it was quietly disbanded just a couple of years later, at about the same time the Gillettes started discussing a lawsuit against the county.

Cattle rustling remains a problem in Oregon, albeit one that is difficult to quantify. As is the case with all varieties of property crime, law enforcement’s chief contribution where cattle theft is concerned is to offer an expensive demonstration of its uselessness. Seeking some way to justify its subsidized existence but lacking the skills to identify actual cattle thieves, the task force devoted its attention on Gillette’s very successful cattle business and his father-in-law’s cattle-shipping company — neither of which was proven to have committed an offense more serious than the occasional, quickly corrected paperwork error.

What role was played by Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe as his deputies committed what Sweeny Gillette’s lawsuit reasonably describes as “a litany of conspiratorial activities” at the expense of the Gillette and Hoyt families? According to the suit, on Nov. 29, 2011 — nearly a year before the armed raid on the Gillette and Hoyt homes — Wolfe called Sweeny Gillette to “apologize” for the methods used in the investigation, “claiming a sergeant and another deputy ‘made him do it.’”

It’s not clear how subordinates who serve at the pleasure of an elected sheriff could “make” him violate the rights of innocent constituents and drive their business into oblivion, then prolong the pretense of an impending prosecution for years in order to exhaust the financial resources the victims would need in order to pursue redress.

“Malheur County has a history of condoning and ratifying police misconduct,” contends Sweeny Gillette’s lawsuit, which provides abundant evidence in support of that claim.

Litigation ‘time bomb’

Earlier this year, Malheur County settled a civil rights lawsuit filed by Steve Hindi, founder of an animal rights organization called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK). Hindi was subjected to an illegal traffic stop by Malheur County deputies during the 2013 Big Loop Rodeo in Jordan Valley — an event in which the Sheriff’s Office had a financial interest. This happened after SHARK volunteer Adam Fahnestock was assaulted and arrested by MCSO deputies while he was attempting to video-record evidence of “horse tripping” — a practice that has subsequently been made illegal.

Hindi was able to obtain the dash-cam recordings of the stop, in which the one of the deputies candidly admitted that the unwarranted stop was made because of pressure from the “Rodeo Board” and expressed concern that “we’re going to get sued” before exclaiming: “Dammit, I was still recording!”

It cost Malheur County $12,500 to settle Hindi’s lawsuit. That figure is not even a tithe of what the county would have to pay in order to make Sweeny Gillette’s lawsuit disappear. The Gillettes and Hoyt are seeking a total of no less than $7.3 million in damages.

Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris appeared to allude to the Sweeny Gillette lawsuit during a county budget meeting last Feb. 12. Norris requested additional funding to pay the salary of deputy DA Michael Dugan, who prosecuted the 45th Parallel medical marijuana case (which was also fraught with official misconduct and is pregnant with potential lawsuits as well).

At one point late in the discussion, Norris enigmatically commented that “in the meantime you have some issues where attorneys in the drug case are seeking sanctions against the Sheriff’s Office and I don’t have anyone working on dealing with that issue. And it’s a time bomb ticking for the Sheriff’s Office.”

Neither Susan Gerber nor Larry Kiyuna, the defense attorneys involved in the 45th Parallel case, sought sanctions against the Sheriff’s Office; and Hindi had nothing to do with a “drug case” of any kind. However, the Gillette lawsuit has been a “time bomb” for the county since he filed the notice of tort claim in August 2012.

The MSCO’s misconduct has been so abundant that it’s unfair to blame Norris for losing track of some important details. Neither he, nor Wolfe, nor any of their underlings will suffer personal injury when the litigation “time bomb” goes off — unless that detonation is of sufficient magnitude to wake up the somnolent tax victims of Malheur County.

–William N. Grigg

Covert surveillance, overt intimidation

This is the second of a three-part series from Pro-Libertate. The first part, “When the rustlers wear badges,” can be read here.

Operating on the pretense that the Malheur County (Oregon) Sheriff’s Office was dealing with a multi-state “racketeering” operation, Sgt. Robert Speelman obtained a warrant in June 2011 to conduct secret video surveillance of Sweeny and Kendra Gillette’s feedlot in Ontario. A few months later he obtained a warrant to conduct “trash pulls” at the homes of the Gillettes and Ric Hoyt — Kendra’s father, who operates a cattle shipping business — in search of incriminating documents. This involved recruiting personnel from the Idaho Power Company and the Ontario Sanitation Service to help spy on their customers.

Through the use of such Gestapo-style tactics the deputies were able to produce irrefutable evidence that Gillette and his father-in-law Ric Hoyt were lawfully engaged in the practice of selling and transporting cattle to willing buyers on terms agreeable to both parties. But the musk of insinuation emitted by the deputies clung tenaciously to the family, poisoning their business relationships and destroying their standing among neighbors and friends.

In the absence of evidence that Gillette and Hoyt had done anything illegal, the MCSO escalated from defamation to undisguised intimidation. Investigators hired by the family would later discover that Sgt. Speelman and his comrades systematically contacted the Gillette family’s friends, relatives, and business associates, telling them that criminal charges against Sweeney were pending. Dr. Robert Derby, a veterinarian from nearby Nyssa, Oregon who had worked with the Gillette family, was confronted by deputies who demanded that he “cooperate” with the investigation, or face charges as a “co-conspirator.”

According to a lawsuit subsequently filed by the family, the MCSO “witch hunt” did not spare suspected heretics within the department. Among them, allegedly, was former MSCO deputy and livestock investigator Chance Stringer.

“At every meeting with law enforcement [Stringer] would hear [Sgt.] Speelman and others focus on Sweeney Gillette and how they were going to ‘nail him,'” asserts the lawsuit. “When Deputy Stringer spoke up on behalf of Gillette, attempting to explain why they were wrong, and that Sweeney Gillette was running a legitimate operation, he was threatened with criminal prosecution and accusations that he was part of Gillette’s criminal conspiracy.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Stringer quit the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and started a business on the Idaho side of the Snake River. Stringer, who is not a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment about the matter beyond saying that the whole affair was “behind him” and that he wants “nothing to do” with the continuing controversy.

By the winter of 2011, “rumors and gossip were running wild and our ‘friends’ in the community started avoiding us,” Kendra laments. “We heard the words ‘cattle thief’ constantly.”

Frantic to save their business and recover from the unwarranted attack on their character, Sweeny and Kendra reached out to the local media, their congressional representatives, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (in a spasm of misplaced confidence, they eventually contacted the FBI) — only to be ignored by public officials and shunned by their peers.

During the December 2011 Oregon Cattlemen’s Convention, Sweeny and Kendra — who were puzzled by the cold, hostile reception that greeted them — received a phone call from a customer in Wyoming informing them of a visit from MCSO Deputy Travis Johnson (who is now undersheriff) and an Idaho brand inspector named Lynn Gibson, who shaved and inspected cattle that had been purchased from the Gillettes two years earlier. No irregularities were discovered but the visit had the intended effect: The customer, who had bought more than $200,000 worth of cattle, never did business with the couple again.

In February of the following year, the Gillettes shipped cattle to a JBS kill plant in Arizona. The shipment was trailed by two MCSO deputies, who “re-inspected” the shipment and informed the plant owners that Gillette was a suspected “cattle thief.” As a result, the JBS accounting department contacted their bank and stopped payment on a $126,000 check.

The Gillettes did eventually receive their payment — but by this point it had become clear that they would have to leave Malheur County in order to make a living. They hired an attorney and a private investigator, made arrangements to sell their home and feedlot, and prepared to file a lawsuit against the MCSO.

Although Sweeny’s reputation had been unjustly destroyed in the Intermountain West, he was able to find a job buying butcher cows in Northeast Oklahoma. He and Kendra flew to Tusla in June 2012 to look for a house. Returning to Oregon, they set about wrapping up their business and family affairs, which meant selling their home and feedlot, working with an attorney to compose a tort claim against the MCSO, and preparing for the wedding of Kendra’s daughter, Blair.

When the rustlers wear badges

This is the first of a three-part series from Pro-Libertate.

Sweeny Gillette, a very successful cattle trader from Ontario, Oregon, had barely finished a pleasant chat with his ex-wife when his phone rang. In an agitated voice, Gillette’s attorney reported that he had just been contacted by a Malheur County deputy district attorney who accused the rancher of “unlawfully interfering with a witness” — namely, his ex-wife.

Since the attorney called literally seconds after Gillette had hung up, the call from the deputy DA must have come in the middle of the conversation with his ex-wife, who later insisted that she hadn’t told anyone about the phone call.

Both Gillette and his former wife were under surveillance by the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, most likely through a “trap and trace” system. This form of electronic eavesdropping records what the NSA calls “metadata” — the telephone numbers and Internet addresses of people who communicate with the subject of a warrant.

Gillette’s ex-wife was not the focus of an investigation, nor was she a witness. Her ex-husband, however, had been targeted by the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office for a campaign of harassment and defamation that would eventually destroy his business and drive his family out of the state.

Although he was never charged with a crime, Gillette suffered millions of dollars in losses — and the lawsuit he has filed against Malheur County may eventually require tax victims residing therein to pay millions of dollars to indemnify the department’s misconduct.

Multi-state campaign of harassment

In April 2011, Gillette owned 3,500 cattle, 130 acres of land and a feedlot. The business Gillette had built from the ground up after dropping out of school at age 14 was thriving: In the previous year, he had traded more than $7 million worth of cattle. He had loyal customers throughout the Intermountain West and a $2 million line of credit. The family was well-regarded in their community, and the business was well-respected within a cliquish and gossip-prone industry.

This happy state of affairs changed abruptly after Gillette was contacted by a federal investigator named Kirk Miller, who claimed that there were paperwork irregularities regarding a herd of 600 cattle the family was running on leased ranch in Nevada called Soldier Meadows. Gillette was given notice that his Bureau of Land Management grazing permit had been canceled and that he had 30 days to assemble the necessary paperwork and have the cattle inspected and identified by the appropriate authorities.

Gillette’s wife, Kendra, who took care of bookkeeping for the cattle company, was able to document that the paperwork was in order. The Gillettes flew to Reno, Nevada, and drove out to the ranch to show Miller their cattle and the necessary documents. The permit was reinstated — at the cost of $6,000 and the diversion of four days from their very busy schedule.

Within a few weeks, the couple began to hear rumors that their business remained under investigation by the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).

“At first, we just kind of laughed about it,” Kendra Gillette later recalled. “We even joked that the deputies wouldn’t have much fun following us around. We are pretty boring.”

Like too many people in similar circumstances, the Gillettes severely underestimated the perverse ingenuity that police and prosecutors display in finding ways to turn innocent people into criminal suspects. They also made the mistake of believing that the MCSO would be content merely to investigate their business, rather than setting out to destroy it by ruining their reputation and intimidating their customers.

“That summer we started getting phone calls from our customers telling us that an Idaho brand inspector and a Malheur County deputy were asking about Sweeny, wanting to look at cows we sold them and our paperwork,” Kendra Gillette relates. “Our regular customers were not returning to buy our cows.” One of the lost accounts was worth $500,000.

Within a few weeks, MCSO deputies began following trucks carrying Gillette’s cattle, often stopping and inspecting them for hours in the sweltering heat. Not surprisingly, this led to the death of some of the livestock. Other deputies — including Robert Speelman, who headed the “investigation” — fanned out to harass customers and business partners in Washington, California, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona. Without cause or explanation, deputies would trail cattle trucks to kill plants, where they insisted that it would be necessary to shave and “re-inspect” the stock purchased from Gillette.

Although the family was able to find new customers for their cattle, the damage inflicted to their reputation was quickly killing their business.

“We started losing money,” Kendra Gillette points out. “The kill plants started quoting us lower prices so they didn’t have the hassle of the Sheriff and Brand Department.”

–William N. Grigg

Either praise the police or shut up

This article originally appeared on Pro Libertate

Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia, members of the Persian elite were required to prostrate themselves before their new ruler. Polyperchon, one of Alexander’s generals, sternly rebuked one of the Persians whose self-abasement was seen as inadequate.

“Come on, don’t just touch the floor with your chin,” demanded Alexander’s arrogant underling. “Bang it, man! Bang it!”

Police union commissar Patrick J. Lynch displays more than a hint of that attitude in dealing with a public that at long last has become disgusted with routine and impenitent criminal corruption on the part of the state’s consecrated dispensers of violence.

For Lynch (whose views are very commonplace in law enforcement), any attitude toward police other than abject, servile gratitude is unacceptable and perhaps even criminal. This is true even of those who preface modulated discussion of unambiguous criminal misconduct with the familiar disclaimer: “Not all cops are bad.”

“Proclaiming that `not all cops are bad’ implies that rational people might somehow believe the opposite,” Lynch whined in a recent column for the New York Post. “It lends cop-haters a credibility they don’t deserve. And it minimizes the dedication and professionalism that police officers display, day in and day out, by implying that it’s the exception rather than the rule.”

From Lynch’s perspective, sycophancy toward the licensed purveyors of violence is a civic obligation, and the public has a duty to sustain the pretense that every single police officer is a divinely commissioned instrument of justice and the distillate of valor.

Lynch demands that the public accept the proposition that “all cops put their lives on the line to protect all New Yorkers.” The New York Police Department formally repudiated that claim in its official reply to a lawsuit filed by the heroic Joseph Lozito, who was cut to ribbons while taking down crazed serial killer Maksim Gelman in a subway car as officer Terrance Howell cowered behind a glass partition.

Howell was hailed as a “hero,” and the NYPD deflected Lozito’s lawsuit by insisting that “under well-established law, the police … have no special duty” to protect an individual citizen.

For cops, “officer safety” is always the prime directive. Lynch would contend that the public must embrace Howell as a hero because of his occupation — or, failing that, stifle any criticism of his behavior. Extolling him as a heroic exemplar is acceptable; describing him as an anomalous “bad apple” is not.

According to Lynch, police are victimized by an invidious double standard. After all, “when a patient dies on the operating table under dubious circumstances, elected officials don’t rush to reassure the public that not all surgeons are incompetent. If an airline pilot is caught drinking before take-off, TV talking heads don’t remind us that the majority of pilots are sober.”

Leaving aside the fact that the mechanisms of professional accountability for surgeons and pilots are much more demanding than those that exist in law enforcement, the most obvious problem with Lynch’s desperate analogy is that people in those professions are actually rendering a service to the public. Police have no enforceable duty to do likewise.

Doctors help their patients; pilots safely convey passengers to their chosen destinations. Private security personnel defend persons and property. For people in those professions, success is measured in terms of positive outcomes for paying customers, and failure is recognized as either unavoidable misfortune or culpable incompetence.

For police officers, by way of contrast, “success” results when those targeted in displays of government-sanctioned violence either submit or are subdued, often with lethal consequences — even when the recipient of that violence did nothing to warrant such treatment.

According to Lynch, the death of Eric Garner — who was suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes — at the hands of an NYPD thugscrum was a “success.” Once the officers had decided to abduct Garner, “failure” — meaning successful resistance by their victim — was no longer an option.

What should police do, Lynch complained in a recent press conference, “when we’re faced with a situation where the person being placed under arrest says, `I’m not going. I’m not being placed under arrest.’ What is it we should do? Walk away?”

If the arrestee wasn’t involved in an actual crime — and there’s no evidence that Garner had done anything other than embarrass plainclothes officers by breaking up a fight — then the inescapable answer is: Yes, the police should walk away.

“We don’t have that option,” Lynch asserts, which means that officers are entitled to “use necessary force to make that arrest.” In the case of Garner, this included the use of an illegal chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo, which resulted in a criminal homicide.

“There is an attitude on our streets today that it is acceptable to resist arrest,” grouses Lynch. “That attitude is a direct result of a lack of respect for law enforcement.”

Actually, that attitude is in large measure a reflection of the ever-escalating lawlessness of the government employees represented by Lynch and his comrades. It may also reflect a growing appreciation for the fact that resisting unlawful arrest — while considered a crime and prosecuted as if it were — is an ancient, venerable, and indispensable right of free people. Under the still-valid Supreme Court precedent John Black Elk v. U.S. (1900), a citizen has a legally recognized right to use lethal force to prevent the consummation of an unlawful arrest, and bystanders likewise have a right (and perhaps a moral duty) to intervene on behalf of the victim.

Like other agencies of its kind, the NYPD is well-stocked with the kind of privileged bullies who have mastered the art of simultaneously swaggering and simpering. Thus, anonymous NYPD sources described anti-police graffiti to the New York Post as “a disturbing hate crime.”

Through video surveillance, the NYPD identified 36-year-old Rosella Best as the culprit. Best tagged police vehicles and a public school with graffiti expressing such eminently defensible (if grammatically awkward) sentiments as “NYPD pick on the harmless,” “NYPD pick on the innocent,” and — in a display of familiar but increasingly justified hyperbole — “NAZIS=NYPD.” (Assuming that Best used only “public” property as her canvas, it’s difficult to identify an actual victim in this case.)

Best was charged with “criminal mischief as a hate crime.” Under Article 485 of New York Penal Law, a “hate crime” must involve “violence, intimidation [or] destruction of property” inspired by animus toward people on the basis of “race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation.”

Absent from that inventory is any mention of occupation as a “protected category,” which means that the NYPD must consider itself to be either a tribe, a cult or perhaps even a sexual orientation, most likely one that fetishizes sadistic mistreatment of the helpless.

The statute also specifies that the offending act must be intended to “inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage” and be intended to “intimidate and disrupt entire communities.” By filing a hate crimes charge against Best, the NYPD is certifying that its rank and file consists of people who are wounded and intimidated by public criticism. If the bold and valiant badasses of the NYPD must be protected from hurtful words, they’re obviously not the kind of people who “put their lives on the line to protect all New Yorkers,” as Lynch would have us pretend.

All police officers embody “selflessness and courage,” Lynch maintains. But there is one “nightmare” that burdens their waking thoughts and holds sleep in abeyance: accountability.

“We have watched in disbelief as the worst nightmare a police officer can have comes true,” wailed retired Jersey City Police Officer Robert Cubby in a post at LawEnforcementToday.com, referring to the prospect of criminal charges against Pantaleo for killing Garner. “An NYPD officer applied what was falsely called a choke hold. Moments later, the perpetrator gasped for air and died in the hospital.”

These two developments, Cubby would have us pretend, were not necessarily related. It’s not that Garner’s government-employed assailants killed him; he just chose that particular moment to die.

Now that the death of Garner — who was not a “perpetrator” of any sort, once again, but rather a man who had just broken up a fight — has been ruled a homicide, the “career of those involved from the NYPD dangles from a thread,” moans Cubby. “The officers face the worst possible nightmare; loss of their career and being thrown in jail for a good portion of the rest of their lives.”

The same would be true of anybody else who fatally assaulted another human being without cause. Cubby and people of his ilk assume that police officers must be beyond accountability for such actions and that the loss of their exalted station as dispensers of lethal force is a fate worse than death.

“While these officers now become defendants and have to, somehow, gather enough emotional strength to get through this horrible accusation [and] gather all their financial resources to defend themselves, stay out of jail and retain their jobs, it is time for the LEO family to support our NYPD brothers and sisters,” insists Cubby. He suggested that members of the state’s armed enforcement class display their solidarity with Garner’s killers through a “United We Stand with NYPD” social media campaign: Law enforcement officers and their friends were urged to change their Facebook profile picture to an upside-down NYPD flag. That green, white, and blue banner, which was adopted by the department in 1919, is draped over the coffins of officers who are killed in the line of duty.

After all, if a costumed tax-feeder can’t kill without consequence, what’s the point of living?

Cubby’s suggestion, it should be pointed out, was made before the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in August — which led to protests, riots and a Fallujah-grade crackdown by fully militarized “local” police. The well-publicized conduct of the police in Ferguson finally forced the public to confront what the police have become. This, in turn, helped propagate an epidemic of institutional self-pity within law enforcement, and Lt. Daniel Furseth of Wisconsin’s DeForest PD came down with a particularly severe case.

“Today, I stopped caring about my fellow man,” begins Furseth’s Oct. 14 essay in American Police Beat Magazine. “I stopped caring about my community, my neighbors, and those I serve. I stopped caring today because a once noble profession has become despised, hated, distrusted, and mostly unwanted.”

Furseth, like Lynch, is disillusioned not because of what their profession has become, but because of how it is perceived by an ungrateful public that is proving itself unworthy of their sanctified overseers. Furseth also seems deaf to the implications of his own overwrought, self-fixated rhetoric: If he stopped “caring” about the people he “serves,” shouldn’t he resign? Or is he admitting to being a state-licensed sociopath with permission to inflict violence on a public he now views with unfiltered scorn and unalloyed resentment?

“I stopped caring today because parents tell their little kids to be good or `the police will take you away,’ embedding a fear from year one,” complains Furseth, offering a variation on Lynch’s complaint that even people who respect the police understand that they are agents of violence. He likewise condemns those who quite correctly describe the police as “just another tool used by government to generate `revenue.’”

In offering that particular complaint, Furseth reveals himself to be either incurably disingenuous or a stranger to the concept of irony.

DeForest, Wisconsin, is a town of about 9,000 people located not far from Madison, the state capital. It is roughly 91 percent white and has a crime rate less than one-third the national average — and a violent crime rate so low it doesn’t make the needle twitch. Revenue collection through traffic enforcement and OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) “saturation patrols” are the chief functions of that police department.

Furseth proudly describes himself as the creator of the Capital Area OWI Task Force, which regularly conducts patrols for the purpose of “pulling over drivers as often as possible in a friendly show of force,” in the oxymoron-infused language of a local news account.

The DeForest PD’s 2013 Annual Report smugly observes: “One individual stated the following on a social media site: `Dude, I refuse to drive into DeFo with anything remotely illegal in my car, it seems like there’s a cop on every street.’”

That’s a sensible precaution, given that the “friendly” people responsible for that state of affairs are not only doing everything possible to wring revenue from visitors, but are also obsessively monitoring social media.

“We represent a `Police State’ where `Jackbooted badge-wearing thugs’ randomly attack innocent people without cause or concern for constitutional rights,” laments Furseth. “We are Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Rodney King all rolled into one….”

Notably absent from his jeremiad is any acknowledgement, however qualified or tentative, that the perception he laments could possibly be justified. If he possesses so much as a particle of principled concern for the rights of innocent people, Furseth will reach beyond his privileged peer group and offer support to a local family who suffered horribly “without cause or concern for constitutional rights” in a 3 a.m. no-knock SWAT assault.

DeForest is about a half-hour from Madison, which is where the family of Bounkham Phonesavanh — more commonly known as “Baby Bou-Bou” –resides. The 20-month-old child was nearly murdered by police in Georgia on May 28 during a 3 a.m. no-knock SWAT raid. Acting on the basis of purchased intelligence from a petty criminal, the raiders attacked the home without warning, hurling a flash-bang grenade into the living room. The infernal device exploded in Bou-Bou’s crib, blowing off his nose and ripping open his chest.

The Phonesavanh family was residing temporarily with an aunt in Georgia. The parents weren’t suspected of any criminal conduct; but that didn’t prevent the invaders from assaulting the father, leaving him with a permanent shoulder injury. No drugs or other evidence was found at the home, nor was the relative suspected of drug dealing.

The tiny victim was still in a medically induced coma when Habersham County Sheriff Jerry Terrell officially exonerated the officers who had nearly murdered him: “I stand behind what our team did. There’s nothing to investigate, there’s nothing to look at.” Public outrage eventually led to a grand jury inquest, which did little more than ratify the sheriff’s claims.

Following a six-day investigation, the grand jury declined to indict the law enforcement officers who participated in that atrocity.

The prologue to the grand jury’s “Presentment” is five pages of frothy self-justification and pious persiflage emphasizing the public-spiritedness of the panel and extending sympathy to both the victims and perpetrators of this atrocity.

“Nothing can be more difficult and heart-wrenching than injuries to one’s child,” the document asserts, before suggesting that inflicting such injuries can be just as traumatic to the exalted instruments of state coercion who nearly killed Bou-Bou. “[W]e wish to extend our sympathy also to the law enforcement officers involved… [W]hat has not been seen before by others and talked or written about, is that these individuals are suffering as well.”

That “suffering,” like the nearly fatal injuries to Bou-Bou, came after an investigation that was “hurried, sloppy, and unfortunately not in accordance with the best practices and procedures.” This wasn’t “criminal negligence,” mind you, but simply the regrettable result of “well-intentioned people getting in too big a hurry, and not slowing down and taking enough time to consider the possible consequences of their actions.”

This assessment might be appropriate in describing the distracted and inattentive cook who sets fire to a stove. Applying it to people who carried out an unjustified 3 a.m. military-style assault that left an infant fighting for his life is an obscenity.

The most abhorrent passage in this document comes on page 13, where “the parents and extended family” of the victim are cut in for a share of the blame, because they supposedly “had some degree of knowledge concerning family members involved in criminal activity that came in and out of the residence.” Bou-Bou’s parents had taken refuge with relatives in Georgia after their home in Wisconsin was burned down. They weren’t implicated in the alleged wrongdoing of their relative; they were simply desperate for a place to live.

Bou-Bou’s parents, who moved back to Wisconsin in July, have been saddled with more than $1 million in medical bills. After initially promising to help defray those expenses, Habersham County officials — displaying the selective, self-serving fastidiousness for “law” that is so typical of tyrants and bureaucrats — now insist that it would be “illegal” to do so.

Daniel Furseth is a neighbor to the Phonesevanh family. He ends his essay with a self-dramatizing flourish: “Yes, I stopped caring today. But tomorrow, I will put my uniform back on and I will care again.”

If the compass of his caring extends beyond his comrades in the coercive caste — and there is videotaped evidence that he has a soft spot for small children — Furseth really should extend his sympathies to the Phonesevanhs, perhaps by organizing a fundraising effort to help those innocent people pay the costs of restoring their mangled baby to health.
By doing so, however, Furseth would acknowledge that decent people have abundant reason to look upon the police with fear and suspicion. And that is a concession he probably cannot bring himself to make.

–William N. Grigg

How The Ferguson PD Will Whitewash The Killing Of Michael E. Brown

Edward Garner was unarmed when he was shot in the back of the head by Memphis police officer Elton Hymon. At the time, the short, slightly built teenager was scaling a fence, attempting to flee. Hymon knew that the suspect was unarmed and that the only threat he posed was one of escape. When Garner’s lifeless body was searched later, all that was found was $10 he had stolen from a nearby house.

At the time, Tennessee state law dictated that a police officer confronting a resisting or fleeing suspect “may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest” even when the suspect didn’t pose a threat to others. Garner’s father filed a federal civil rights suit against the Memphis Police Department that took 11 years to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that even where there is “probable cause to seize a suspect, an officer may not always do so by killing him. The use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable.”

While the Tennessee v. Garner ruling effectively repealed what was called the “Any-Felony Rule” regarding deadly force, and apparently contributed to a reduction in police homicides, it didn’t create an objective or uniform standard for police conduct. As one scholarly examination of the ruling and its impact summarized, “[T]he creation or modification of laws has never effectively modified police behavior.” Officers still enjoy broad discretion regarding the use of deadly force, as long as they can contrive some way to describe their decisions as the course of action a “reasonable officer” would follow in the circumstances as he perceived them.

What this means is that any use of deadly force is “reasonable” if the subjective perceptions of the officer lead him to believe he is threatened, and courts have traditionally been disinclined to “second-guess” those actions. This arrangement, in which the latitude enjoyed by police in using deadly force is defined by the timidity and dishonesty of the officer, is called the “objective reasonableness” standard.

The shooting of Garner happened almost exactly 40 years before last Saturday’s execution-style killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Like Garner, Brown was a teenager fleeing from a police officer. In the more recent case, however, there was no evidence that the fugitive had actually committed a criminal offense and no reason to believe that he had done anything to merit the attention of the officer who killed him.

Officer Hymon was responding to a report that a prowler was in the neighborhood long after sunset, and on the available evidence it’s clear that Garner had committed a burglary. By way of contrast, the still-unidentified officer who shot Brown accosted the victim and his friend, Dorian Johnson, on an uncluttered street in a quiet neighborhood on a previously uneventful Saturday afternoon.

Neither of the young men was doing anything suspicious to justify a police “contact,” so the officer synthesized one out of the ether. According to Johnson, as the cop drove by he bellowed at the pedestrians to “get the f**k on the sidewalk.”

Johnson, displaying immeasurably more civility than the armed functionary supposedly there to protect and serve him, politely explained that he was only a few hundred feet from his home. He recalls that the officer took offense, slammed on his brakes, threw his vehicle into reverse — nearly hitting the pedestrians — and growled, “What’d you say?”

According to Johnson’s account, the cop began to exit his vehicle, but his door slammed into Brown. At roughly the same time, the uniformed assailant grabbed the terrified 18-year-old by his neck. As Brown tried to escape, Johnson testifies, the officer repeatedly sneered, “I’m gonna shoot you.”

A moment later, the first of several gunshots was heard. Brown, who may have been grazed by the round, turned to flee; and Johnson quickly joined him. The officer fired a second shot at the fleeing victims, hitting Brown, who fell to the ground with his hands in the air, pleading: “I don’t have a gun — stop shooting!” The assailant fired several more shots, killing the unarmed teenager outside an apartment complex. His body was left about 35 feet from the vehicle, surrounded by empty casings from the officer’s gun. Brown was unarmed.

The narrative peddled by St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, interestingly, confirms critical elements of Johnson’s testimony, while gliding over critical and uncontested details. Bermar described the event as an “encounter” between the officer and “two individuals in the street.”

In fact, one of those individuals … allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car where he physically assaulted the police officer. It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car. After that the officer went back, came back out of the car, he exited his vehicle, and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer in fact shot the subject, and … they were fatal injuries.

The chief did not explain how an “encounter” escalated to a situation in which Brown supposedly “pushed the police officer back into the car.” This omission is intended to convey the impression that an 18-year-old black male simply attacked an unassuming police officer out of irrepressible malice.

Johnson’s version, on the other hand, depicts a police officer trolling for trouble. That characterization is facially credible, owing to what is known about the institutional character of law enforcement. Additionally, that testimony — unlike the shooter’s account — was offered firsthand, in public, by a witness who is not afraid to be known by both his name and his face.

Furthermore, Johnson’s claim that the officer was forced back into his seat after slamming the driver’s side door into Brown would explain how he was “pushed … back into the car” without being shoved into the vehicle by the victim. Johnson’s claim that the officer threatened to shoot Brown would both explain why a “struggle” over the gun would have occurred and justify any action the victim took to defend himself. There is no dispute that Brown was unarmed and attempting to surrender when he was fatally shot.

Immediately after the killing, the officer who shot Brown was placed on paid vacation and sheltered within a security cocoon. More importantly, he sought refuge in his supposed rights as defined by the “Garrity rule,” under which he cannot face criminal or civil prosecution on the basis of anything he discloses to police investigators.

Assuming that standard protocols are being followed, the officer is being advised by both his union representative and defense counsel, and his narrative is being tailored to fit the standard adumbrated in the Garner ruling. In fact, the story told by Bermar — which could be little more than a carefully cropped version of Johnson’s testimony — is, most likely, very close to the final draft of what will become the official version.

It must be understood that “reasonableness” in this context isn’t defined by the discoverable facts of a police shooting, but by the subjective perceptions of a privileged functionary who has been indoctrinated to see the public as an undifferentiated threat, whose primary concern is his personal safety and who is insulated by “qualified immunity” from the moral and legal consequences of his criminal aggression.

For this reason it is not only possible, but likely, that the Ferguson Police Department will essentially concede the accuracy of Johnson’s recollection, while insisting that the conduct described by that witness (and others on the scene) is appropriate under the “reasonable officer” standard.

It wouldn’t matter how the “encounter” began or whether the officer was acting on “reasonable suspicion” when he snarled a profane directive at the two inoffensive young men. Once the officer had decided to favor them with his attention, they were subject to his will and could be detained, abused or killed at his discretion. And his judgment is not subject to review by sublunary beings not clad in the vestments of the state’s punitive caste.

If (more likely, “when”) this version of events is officially ratified, the department will praise itself for its “professionalism,” the victim’s family will file a lawsuit that will eventually be settled by the city’s insurance carrier and the long-suffering black residents of Ferguson will resume their lives under what amounts to a low-grade military occupation.

The Vampire State Draws Blood

This article was originally published by Pro Libertate

Shigeru Mizuki, a historian and manga artist, has described a World War II muster call in which pilots were invited to volunteer for a kamikaze operation. Each was handed two ballots; one of them read “willing,” the other, “very willing.” Those who didn’t “volunteer” would be killed.

Imperial Japan, of course, was neither the first nor the last despotism to impose this eccentric vision of volunteerism. During the mid-1980s, a state radio broadcast in East Germany proudly announced a record-breaking national blood drive. In the audio equivalent of fine print could be found the critical, defining detail: “Most of the donors were volunteers.”

To celebrate what used to be called Independence Day, police in Oregon have announced a “no refusal” initiative for the Fourth of July weekend. Motorists who refuse to “volunteer” for a Breathalyzer test will be subjected to an immediate involuntary blood test, which will take place either at the side of the road, at a nearby medical facility or in a jail. Prosecutors and judges will be on call to rubber-stamp police requests for a blood draw warrant.

By treating the right to travel as if it were a state-granted privilege, the regime and its affiliates created a concept called “implied consent.” This amounts to a plenary waiver of individual rights for anybody who receives a State-issued driver’s license.

Under “implied consent,” police throughout the soyuz — like their East German antecedents — can detain any driver at their discretion, conduct a warrantless search of the driver’s vehicle and compel the driver to undergo a “chemical test” for alcohol, by way of either a Breathalyzer or the more invasive method of a bodily fluid test: blood or urine.

Refusal to submit to this procedure will generally lead to summary arrest for “per se intoxication.” Furthermore, as one legal advice website warns, “Under implied consent laws, in most states a driver’s license is automatically suspended for up to one year, even if the motorist is not found guilty of DUI.”

So, in the East German sense of the expression, those of us who have driver’s licenses have “volunteered” to be stopped, interrogated and searched and to surrender bodily samples at the whim of a DUI enforcement officer.

Under this totalitarian approach, “due process” consists of immediate judicial ratification of a police demand for self-incriminating evidence. The Breathalyzer is a notoriously unreliable technology, and police will readily admit as much — but only when that otherwise infallible device produces test results that exonerate a driver. The threat of an involuntary blood draw is being used to extort compliance with a scientifically invalid testing protocol — which in some cases simply serves as a prelude to even greater violations, including “rape by instrumentality” and torture.

In October 2011, a Federal district court for southern Indiana dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jamie Lockard. Lockard passed a Breathalyzer test but was kidnapped, caged and subjected to object rape by officer Brian Miller, who was shielded from accountability by invoking the mystical concept of “qualified immunity.”

Lockard was ambushed by Miller after supposedly running a stop sign. At the direction of his armed captor, who claimed to smell alcohol on Lockard’s breath, the motorist performed a Breathalyzer test, which returned a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.07 — well below the legal limit. Rather than releasing the victim — perhaps after handing him a ransom note (also called a “citation”) — Miller shackled him and faxed a search warrant application to a local judge, who approved the request within a few minutes. Since this happened at about midnight, it’s safe to assume that careful scrutiny of the application wasn’t a priority for the judge.

The driver was taken to Dearborn County Hospital and ordered to pee into a cup. When performance anxiety made this impossible, Lockard was charged with “obstruction” — a class D felony — because “he refused to voluntarily give a urine sample.” That charge reflects the East German understanding of the term “voluntarily.” Rather than waiting for nature to take its course, Miller and another officer named Michael Lanning pinned him down while a nurse prepared a catheter.

Initially, this act of state-mandated object rape was to involve a straight size 16 Foley catheter. Helpless to resist, Lockard pointed out that he suffers from an enlarged prostate. The nurse opted for a smaller gauge, but this didn’t help: Lockard described the pain he experienced as “just as if somebody would take a burning hot coal and stick it up your penis.”

After being raped, Lockard was caged for several days in order to extract a guilty plea for reckless driving. Rather than being compensated for the injuries inflicted on him, the victim received 180 days’ probation and a $100 fine, and he was assessed $165 to pay for the privilege of having the court inflict his sentence on him.

In dismissing Lockard’s lawsuit, the appellate court made mention of more than a half-dozen previous cases in which police were allowed to commit forced catheterization in search of ambiguous evidence supposedly lurking in the suspect’s bloodstream. Two of the relevant precedents — Sparks v. Stutler and Levine v. Roebuck — involved forced catheterization of inmates by prison officials. In both of those cases, a district court judge ruled that the procedure was an unwarranted outrage on the victim — only to be reversed by a Federal judge who ruled that object rape of an inmate is covered by the ever-expanding cloak of “qualified immunity.”

Lockard’s case was among the first to extend the practice of forced catheterization and similar procedures beyond prison walls into our larger prison society. Violations of the kind he endured are now routinely employed not only for DUI enforcement but also by forfeiture-hungry narcotics task forces.

Innocent drivers who submit to a blood or urine test and are fully exonerated by it will still be punished for their cooperation.

In April 2006, 19-year-old Lakeland, Fla., resident Robbie Stout was stopped by a deputy named Dennis Mosser, who spotted a bad brake light. Stout was the designated driver for a group of friends who had been shooting pool at a nearby bar. Mosser ordered Stout from the car and demanded that he perform a sobriety test.

Unlike the officer who detained him, Mosser had worked a full shift at a productive job before spending a late night with his friends. He was very tired, and disclosed as much to Mosser, because “I wanted to be honest with him. I didn’t want to lie to a police officer.”

Mosser, a trained liar who is rewarded for dishonesty, didn’t reciprocate, claiming that he had been up for 24 hours.

“Yes, he lied,” admitted department spokesman Jack Gillen, dismissing this crime as “an investigative technique” used to “gain rapport with the kid.” A more honest person would have described this as an effort to deceive and disarm the victim. Mosser’s deception extended to his choice of an uneven, sloping section of the road on which to perform the walking sobriety test.

After achieving his desired result, Mosser abducted Stout. Despite the fact that he scored a 0.00 on his Breathalyzer test and a blood panel showing that he had no drugs in his system, Stout was caged for the better part of a day, his family was forced to pay $2,500 in legal fees, and the spurious arrest remains on his record.

Another of Mosser’s victims, Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson, requested a blood alcohol test after being arrested. Despite the fact that the test showed that there wasn’t so much as a picogram of alcohol in Wilkinson’s bloodstream, he, like Stout, was handcuffed, fingerprinted, forced to pose for mug shots and briefly jailed. The charges against Wilkinson weren’t dismissed until several weeks later.

A few months later, the television program “Inside Edition” was able to document that DUI officers in Lakeland were under a strict quota (clothed in the euphemism “performance standard”) to make 10 arrests a month. To the surprise of no informed person, the program’s investigative team was able to verify that similar quotas have been assigned to police departments nationwide.

While officers who inflict lasting injury on victims such as Lockard are beyond accountability, drivers who decide to revoke their “implied consent” by resisting blood draws can be tortured into compliance and then punished for their resistance.

In 2007, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that officers who inflicted permanent damage on Russell Johnson while he was undergoing a compelled blood draw were protected by “qualified immunity.” Johnson suffered severe damage to a wrist after one officer placed the full burden of his tax-subsidized suet on one of the victim’s hands, while his comrade used a handcuff to restrain the other. Significantly, the injuries suffered by Johnson met the Bybee Memorandum’s definition of torture, since they resulted in “permanent impairment of a significant body function.”

About 10 years ago, Arizona became the first State to train police officers to collect their own blood samples. This procedure is now used in Texas, Utah, Idaho and other States. Police do receive training in emergency first aid, but they are not healthcare professionals — something Arizona resident James Green can confirm from firsthand experience.

Although he was arrested on suspicion of DUI within walking distance of a hospital, his abductor, a Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy, insisted on performing the blood draw all by himself. Two ineptly executed and thoroughly unhygienic needle-sticks later, the officer had extracted a blood sample — and in exchange had given Green an aggressive infection that cost him months of work and thousands of dollars.

When Brian Sewell was arrested by Pima County deputies, he understandably put up a fight rather than being siphoned by an armed stranger. Summary “street justice” was inflicted on Sewell through three Taser shocks that left him permanently disfigured. Charges against the victim were eventually dropped, but the scars inflicted while he was being “protected and served” are his for life.

“No refusal” initiatives have no measurable positive impact on the problem of drunken driving, if only because none of the testing protocols offers a reliable way to identify drivers who are dangerously impaired.

The blood alcohol limit of 0.08 is a political artifact intended to create a revenue stream for the political class by policing the bloodstream of the driving public. But Breathalyzers and related devices measure residual alcohol in the breath, not in the bloodstream. And, as noted above, even a clear breath, blood, or urine test isn’t treated as exculpatory.

If America were, to any extent, a country worthy of the heritage we celebrate on Independence Day, a proposed “no refusal” traffic enforcement campaign would provoke an armed mass uprising. Our colonial patriot forebears drew blood over impositions much less offensive than this.

–William N. Grigg

Eeek! An Armed Citizen!

This article was published by Pro Libertate on May 20.

“The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.” – A.E. van Vogt, The Weapon Shops of Isher

The presence of a single, nonviolent citizen openly carrying a firearm is sufficient to cause panic in people habituated to the evil idea that only state functionaries should be armed. So acutely alarmed do such people become that their first reaction is to call the police, thereby inviting the intervention of additional armed strangers who — owing to the indoctrination they’ve received and the “qualified immunity” they enjoy — are immeasurably more dangerous than the first.

The actual presence of armed citizens is not necessary to induce a panic among hoplophobes. All that is required is public discussion of the right to armed self-defense.

On May 16, the Idaho Republican Liberty Caucus and the Boise State University chapter of Students for Liberty sponsored an event devoted to the right to keep and bear arms at the BSU Student Union building.

The featured speaker that evening was Dick Heller, a resident of Washington, D.C., whose lawsuit resulted in a Supreme Court ruling recognizing (albeit ambiguously) that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms. (Full disclosure: I was also on the program as one of several preliminary speakers.)

Unfortunately, the event was sparsely attended, which isn’t all that surprising for a Friday evening during graduation season. In fact, the police officers deployed outside the auditorium nearly equaled in number those who attended the speech.

Just hours before the event, BSU officials demanded that the sponsors pay an additional $510 to hire extra security in the form of 20 additional police officers, who were on hand for the specific purpose of harassing any attendee who was exercising the right being discussed and celebrated at the event.

The Idaho Statesman reported that the police had been sent to watch “for people trying to open carry guns into the Special Events Center” and to turn away any armed citizen who refused to divest himself of his weapon.

“Boise State’s policy prohibits guns on university grounds,” observed the Statesman, dutifully — and, I’ll warrant, thoughtlessly — retailing an official lie: That policy applies only to members of the non-coercive segment of society, who are prohibited from carrying guns on campus.

BSU’s administration thus did its part, however modest, to advance the Progressive vision in which the most dangerous elements of society — private criminals and public agents of state-authorized violence — would cartelize firearms ownership.

That cartel is a very unequal partnership: The state’s privileged purveyors of officially sanctioned violence pose a far deadlier threat to the lives and property of the innocent than do their private sector counterparts.

Taken together, all of the non-state criminal syndicates known to history have failed to compile a body count that represents a significant fraction of the death toll compiled by governments in the 20th century. Yet advocates of civilian disarmament — which is the expression honest people use to describe what collectivists call “gun control” — are perversely determined to provide the most dangerous element of society with a monopoly on the use of force.

All political constitutions are designed to ensnare the kind of earnest and credulous people who believe such documents can restrain the ambitions of those who consider themselves entitled to exercise authority over others. People who display such pathological impulses generally won’t allow Constitutional “limits” on their powers to interfere with their plans for the rest of us.

However, just as Stalin preferred to hold public trials and extract confessions from people he was going to execute in any case, those who are determined to disarm the American public would prefer to exercise “legal” authority in doing so. This explains a proposal by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to subtract rights by adding five words to the Second Amendment: “when serving in the militia.”

Stevens, a longtime opponent of the right to armed self-defense, insists that proponents of armed self-defense misrepresent the clear intention of the Framers by saying that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms. However, he also insists that the same Framers somehow neglected to make that intention clear in the plain language of that Amendment.

Exhibiting the peculiar generosity for which Progressives are renowned, Stevens has offered to fix the defects in the Framers’ handiwork by re-writing it to reflect what he pretends is the true meaning of their words.

Thus, he suggests that the phrase “when serving in the Militia” should be added to the 2nd Amendment, which would then read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

In this way, Stevens says, government would be able to enact measures “designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands.”

Like most people of his persuasion, Stevens believes that firearms are endowed with peculiar properties: In the unhallowed hands of private citizens, they are implements of murder and mayhem; yet when touched by the blessed hands of the state’s anointed enforcers they are transmuted into instruments of peace, harmony and goodwill.

That point of view was expressed very candidly in “Armed to the Teeth: The World-Wide Plague of Small Arms,” a 2000 propaganda film produced by the United Nations. In familiar fashion, the U.N. agitprop film retailed the sympathetic fallacy, depicting firearms as objects endowed with an innate capacity for malicious evil: “Small arms are not fussy about the company they keep. They can murder indiscriminately. The gun that killed in Africa can murder again in Latin America, or in Asia.”

Rational people understand that a gun is a tool that can be used to murder human beings, or used to defend the innocent. The U.N.’s anti-gun film seemed to concede as much — while insisting that guns should be denied to everybody but designated agents of the state. Private ownership of firearms is “illegitimate,” the presentation insisted, and can bring only “insecurity, pain, suffering and devastation.” The only “legal” firearms, the film insisted, are those “used by armies and police forces to protect us.”

This arrangement is part of what the U.N. describes as its program for “human security,” which envisions, among other things, “norms of non-possession” of guns by citizens. Each national government would claim and exercise a territorial monopoly on force, overseen by the U.N.’s peacekeeping apparatus.

During the 2001 U.N. Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Isaac Lappia of Amnesty International’s chapter in Sierra Leone offered one of the few dissenting voices regarding the world body’s vision of “human security.”

In his address to the conference, Lappia pointed out that “small arms and light weapons” — that is, firearms that are commonly owned by private citizens — “are now the principal weapons” that are used “to facilitate serious crimes by law enforcement personnel — including police, prison authorities, paramilitaries and the army — where they commit persistent human rights violations including torture, rape, ‘disappearances’ and arbitrary killings.”

Seven years before the U.N. held its first global civilian disarmament summit in 2001, the world body presided over a lurid demonstration of its “human security” program in central Africa. The result was the Rwandan genocide, in which between 800,000 and 1.1 million people were slaughtered over the course of 103 days. The indispensable prelude to that bloodletting was a U.N.-conducted mission to disarm all Rwandans except for the army, police forces and government-aligned militias.

For decades, Rwanda had been the scene of cyclical interethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis. When the killing began in April 1994, the government was controlled by a “Hutu Power” faction. Obviously, most of the victims of were Tutsis, but the rampage also claimed quite a few Hutus who were seen as traitors by the “Hutu Power” regime.

The overwhelming majority of the victims were hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants. It is possible to outrun someone carrying a machete. However, behind the people armed with machetes stood agents of the government-aligned militia with machine guns.

“They take us from this building, this church,” recalled survivor Jeanne Niwemutusi, referring to the Hutu militias. “They have guns and knives and machetes, the people from the Government party, so we can’t fight back. We don’t have arms.”

Niwemutusi managed to survive because someone had broken the “law” by providing her with a hand grenade, which she used to frighten off several thugs who intended to hack her to pieces.

Within the past week, residents of a Nigerian village staged a desperate counterattack against the Boko Haram terrorist group (which, like most criminal bands of its kind, appears to have connections to the CIA).

At least some of the citizens who participated in the defensive action acted in defiance of Nigeria’s firearms laws, which — in keeping with U.N. mandates — established “norms of non-possession” by civilians.

Like armed citizen defense organizations that are coalescing in Mexico to deal with government-allied criminal bands, the Nigerians weren’t willing to prolong the pretense that the police and military were interested in protecting them.

Advocates of civilian disarmament routinely perform arias of outrage over a social problem they dishonestly call “gun violence.” Properly defined, the problem is aggression, which has no necessary connection with morally neutral inanimate objects called guns. If “gun control” of some variety is to be undertaken, the proper approach would be to deny that tool to people who advertise their intention to commit aggressive violence — which is why police should be the first to be disarmed.

“A gun is not a defensive weapon,” insists Emeryville, California Police Chief Ken James, who is a prominent supporter of civilian disarmament. James, who strikes me as someone whose mind boggles easily, said that his mind is “boggled” by the idea that guns could serve a defensive purpose.

“That is a myth,” he continues. “A gun is an offensive weapon used to intimidate and used to show power. Police officers do not carry a gun as a defensive weapon to defend themselves or their other [sic] officers. They carry a gun in order to do their job in a safe and effective manner, and face any oppositions [sic] that we may come upon.”

James’ candid assertion of the privilege to commit aggression underscores the wisdom of the arrangement described in A.E. van Vogt’s classic science fiction novella The Weapon Shops of Isher. That quasi-utopian story depicts a distant imperial future in which the dictatorial ambitions of the ruling empress are held at bay by armed citizens who enjoy a prohibitive advantage over the government’s police and military forces.

The guns designed by the weapons makers of that era can destroy all matter within the range of its owner, which means that “whoever possesses one of our weapons is more than a match for any soldier of the empress,” a weapons maker proudly explains to a time-displaced visitor from the 20th century. Understandably, he continued, “such a potent weapon cannot be allowed to fall, unmodified, into irresponsible hands. Accordingly, no gun purchased from us may be used for aggression or murder.” This is why no gangster, soldier or police officer was permitted to obtain one.

The objective was “to ensure that no government every again obtained complete power over its people,” explains weapon maker Lucy Rall. “A man who felt himself wronged should be able to go somewhere to buy a defensive gun” — one that was indestructible, “tuned” in such a way it could only be operated for defensive purposes by its purchaser.

It wasn’t necessary that every individual be armed: “What counts is that many millions of people have the knowledge that they can go to a weapon shop if they want to protect themselves and their families. And, even more important, the forces that would normally try to enslave them are restrained by the conviction that it is dangerous to press people too far. And so a great balance has been struck between those who govern and those who are governed.”

That “balance” could be described thus: The “rulers” pretend to govern, and we allow them to indulge that fantasy as long as they don’t attempt to coerce others into playing along.

Regrettably, a personal energy weapon of the kind described in The Weapon Shop of Isher isn’t currently available. The advent of open source 3-D printed firearms does suggest, however, that ere long it will be impossible for aspiring rulers to impose a firearms monopoly.

That prospect should be as heartening to those who love freedom as it is horrifying to people, like the execrable Charles Schumer, who believe they have the right to rule others.

–William N. Grigg

The BLM: Scourge Of ‘Lesser Breeds Without The Law’

This article was originally published by Pro Libertate.

The conflict between the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has laid bare evidence of deeply entrenched institutional racism.

No, I’m not referring to Bundy’s awkward but earnest effort to encourage people of all ethnic backgrounds to seek an end to the suffocating embrace of government paternalism. I’m talking about the fact that the BLM is an enforcement arm of a regime that continues to treat American Indians as “heathens” and “savages” with no rights worthy of official recognition.

Like Bundy, Raymond Yowell operated a small cattle ranch in Nevada and refused to pay the Federal government grazing fees to which it is neither morally nor legally entitled. In May 2002, the BLM mounted a paramilitary operation to confiscate Yowell’s 132-head cattle herd for refusal to pay grazing fees. The rustlers then billed the rancher $180,000 and began to garnish his monthly Social Security check when he declined to honor their impudent demand.

Yowell, 84, is a former chief of the Te-Moak Band of the Western Shoshone tribe. His ancestors were among the signatories of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty with the Federal government, which recognized the tribe’s sovereignty over a 24 million acre swath of Western lands the Shonshone called Newe Segobia, “The Land of the People of Mother Earth.”

As is the case with every such agreement, the Federal government acted in cynical bad faith, using the treaty to secure a foothold within a territory slated for assimilation into the continent-straddling behemoth being constructed through Manifest Destiny.

While demanding that the Shoshone refrain from interfering with telegraph lines and stagecoach routes, the Feds did nothing to discourage or deter illegal settlements on Shoshone land. In 1962, one year shy of the centennial of the Ruby Valley Treaty, the Federal Indian Claims Commission proclaimed that this pattern of Federally abetted “gradual encroachment” by Euro-American settlers and speculators had “extinguished” all Shoshone claims to their lands.

In the fashion of a rapist who offers to buy his victim breakfast in order to re-fashion his crime into a “date,” the Feds offered to “compensate” the Shoshones through a settlement amounting to 15 cents an acre. This figure was based on a valuation of the lands conducted in 1872 — long before the discovery of significant mineral wealth on the property, which included the Carlin Trend, which contain North America’s largest gold deposits.

The Shoshones refused to accept the Federal proposal. Those in charge of the land-grab bureaucracy replied with a “Sucks to be you shrug” and “paid” the money to itself, insisting that this bookkeeping feint somehow made the “transaction” legally binding.

At this point, it’s worth remembering this pious utterance by Commissar Harry Reid: “We can’t have an American people that [sic] violate the law and then just walk away from it.” This is precisely how the purulent regime Reid serves acquired its supposedly legal claim to lands in the State he supposedly represents.

The BLM was correctly described as part of a criminal syndicate in a Federal court ruling last year in the case of Nevada rancher Wayne Hage. The agency displayed its irrepressible criminal nature in its dealings with Yowell, conducting an officially licensed rustling operation in defiance of a Federal injunction that the Shoshone chief won through a pro se appeal. But the foundational assumption of Federal Indian policy is that Indians have no standing to assert their property rights. So Yowell’s legal victories did nothing to restrain official lawlessness.

“I looked at it as an illegal seizure,” Yowell said of the 2002 confiscation of his herd. “They took cattle without a court order. Now they are taking from my Social Security check.”

Before the BLM laid siege to his property, Yowell — like Bundy — made a futile appeal to his local sheriff for protection. For several years after the BLM stole his livestock and deprived him of his livelihood, the elderly rancher continued to petition the agency for relief.

“I kept writing letters to them saying I didn’t have a debt with them, that I never signed a contract,” Yowell observed in an Associated Press interview three years ago. “But they just ignored it. There’s no use talking to them.”

Yowell has filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Solicitor General’s Office is scheduled to file its response — most likely a motion to dismiss the petition — on June 4.

The regime has the luxury of time. It can continue mulcting the octogenarian victim’s Social Security checks while waiting for him to expire, along with the residual legal claims made by the surviving Shoshones.

From the regime’s point of view, all of this is a justified exercise of “plenary” authority over Indian lands obtained through conquest of an inferior race.

In the 1823 case Johnson and Gram’s Lessee v. William McIntosh, the U.S. Supreme Court held that while Indians “were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain possession of it,” they were denied clear title to their property — that is, the “power to dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased.”

Ownership of the land on which the Indians lived was supposedly transferred from them to the newly arrived Europeans through royal grants issued by monarchs acting on authority derived from the Pope. According to the court, those decrees by distant kings of whom the Indians had never heard were sufficient to “convey the soil as well as the right of dominion to the grantees.”

Henry Wheaton, who was the reporter for the Supreme Court at the time of that ruling, later wrote that the Indians tribes, as “heathens,” were “the lawful spoil and prey of their civilized conquerors” and that it was a “maxim of policy and of law, that the right of the native Indians was subordinate to that of the first Christian discoverer.” Arch-nationalist legal commentator Joseph Story elaborated on this idea, describing the Indians as “infidels, heathens, and savages [who] were not allowed to possess the prerogatives belonging to absolute, sovereign and independent nations.”

A brief filed on Yowell’s behalf observed that while cases subsequent to the 1823 Johnson decision “tended to omit explicit reference” to this doctrine of Christian conquest, its core precepts did occasionally bob to the surface. Thus in the 1877 Beecher v. Weatherby case, the court decreed that Indians should be dealt with in a fashion appropriate to “an ignorant and dependent race.” In 1946, the year Congress created the Indian Claims Commission to dispose of Indian land claims, Justice Stanley Reed batted away a suit filed by the Alcea Band of Oregon’s Tilamook tribe by breezily stating that “discovery by Christian nations gave them sovereignty over and title to the lands discovered.”

Nothing in the US Constitution justifies the institutionalized assumption that the Federal government had the right to act as “trustee” on behalf of its so-called Indian “wards.”

The Supreme Court struggled to find Constitutional warrant for that belief in the 1886 case United States v. Kagama. When the text refused to yield the desired outcome, Justice Samuel Miller (a Lincoln appointee, natch) threw up his hands and concluded that the plenary authority to regulate Indian affairs grew out of “the ownership of the country… and the right of exclusive sovereignty which must exist in the National Government, and can be found nowhere else.”

That ruling, one commentator wryly observed, introduced the “`it-must-be-somewhere’ doctrine of Constitutional interpretation.” Presumably, the power to treat Indians as dispossessed wards, like authorization for Obamacare, resides within the Constitution’s vast but inaccessible “Good and Welfare Clause.”

The “finders keepers” or “might makes right” approach to Indian affairs “has never been repudiated,” notes Yowell’s brief. “It is the continuing basis for all aspects of federal Indian law.” The Federal government insists that it is acting on “well-settled” legal principles. The brief ripostes that “slavery and racial segregation were considered `well-settled’ law, and were nonetheless subject to challenge as fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the principles of respect for human rights.”

About two years ago, the custodians of acceptable opinion held an orgy of outrage over a monumentally foolish essay published by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, in which the author defended the subjugation of the Indians as a legitimate exercise of “the right of conquest” by European settlers.

“The Native American tribes at the time of the European settlement and founding of the United States were, virtually without exception, steeped in the basest forms of superstition, had been guilty of savagery in warfare for hundreds of years, and practiced the most debased forms of sexuality,” Fischer opined. Since Indians, on Fischer’s proudly ignorant reading of the relevant history, “resisted the appeal of Christian Europeans to leave behind their superstition… for the light of Christianity and civilization,” their dispossession by the Federal government was not only defensible, but morally necessary.

Many of the same bien-pensants and self-appointed watchdogs who performed cadenzas of indignation over Fischer’s foolish little screed are prominent defenders of the BLM in its confrontation with Bundy, as the agency — following the same premises as those endorsed by Fischer — seeks to do to Bundy what it has done to Yowell, the Dann family and other members of the Western Shoshone nation who have sought to defend their lands.

The BLM is an indispensable element of the apparatus of dispossession that invokes a medieval doctrine of racial superiority and religious conquest to justify denial of Indian property rights. It continues to scourge people officially designated as “lesser breeds without the law.” And it enjoys the unqualified support of the same progressives who have dishonestly made Bundy a totem of intolerance.

–William N. Grigg

Bunkerville Was Not The BLM’s First Rustler’s Roundup

The raiders arrived at dawn. Contract cowboys backed by Bureau of Land Management rangers and other heavily armed law enforcement personnel fanned out across the desolate, but alluring, Nevada countryside to confiscate livestock owned by a family that — under a controversial claim of sovereignty — had grazed on public lands without paying fees to the Federal government.

“They have been overgrazing and damaging the land for years,” asserted BLM spokesman Mike Brown, who also pointed out that the family — the last holdouts in the region — had been fined millions of dollars for trespassing on public land. In defiance of Federal judicial rulings and the “consensus” of their representatives, the family persisted in claiming that they had a right to graze cattle on land their ancestors had settled many decades ago. The dispute had been going on for decades, and the institutional patience of the Federal government had been exhausted.

A previous roundup nearly resulted in tragedy when a member of the family doused himself in gasoline and threatened to set himself on fire. The 59-year-old man, who had no previous criminal record, was tackled, beaten by law enforcement officers, arrested and prosecuted on terrorism-related charges.

After spending several years in prison, that supposed terrorist, Clifford Dann, was allowed to return to the tiny, ramshackle homestead he shares with his 82-year-old sister, Carrie, who is the same age their elder sister Mary was when she died in an accident while repairing a fence in 2005.

Like the Cliven Bundy family, their distant Nevada neighbors, the Dann family, spent two decades fighting in Federal courts to defend their property against the depredations of the Federal government. As members of the Western Shoshone nation, the Dann family had inherited land that was protected by the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley and the U.S. Constitution — parchment barricades against aggression that were quickly reduced to ashes by the flame of elite ambitions.

When the United States assimilated northern Mexico following the aggressive war of 1846-1848, it exacerbated the regional tensions that would lead to the War Between the States. Nevada’s continuing status as a quasi-colony, rather than fully realized State, is a lingering echo of that conflict.

Such statehood as Nevada enjoys resulted from partisan machinations by Republicans who wanted additional Congressional seats in the event that the election of 1864 was thrown into the House of Representatives.

Statehood was rushed along with the help of an enabling act promising that Washington would sell off surplus lands beyond what would be necessary for the construction of military bases and similar facilities.

The promises made to statehood advocates proved to be as ephemeral as assurances of marriage and strict fidelity offered to a reluctant young woman confronted by an irrepressibly libidinous suitor. Washington’s treatment of the Western Shoshone was immeasurably worse.

Although the territory that would become Nevada was included in the cession made through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico never had a permanent presence there; and the Shoshone, quite understandably, never considered themselves to be Mexican subjects. The territory acquired huge strategic significance after the war began, owing to its abundance of silver and its location astride transportation and communication routes from California to the East. This is why Article 2 of the Ruby Valley Treaty specified that in exchange for leaving travel routes “forever free, and unobstructed” and for allowing stage and telegraph routes to continue “without hindrance, molestation, or injury,” the U.S. government promised that the then-extant boundaries of the Shoshone bands would remain inviolate.

The Ruby Valley Treaty, like all such measures, acknowledged the supposed authority of the U.S. President to consign the Indians to reservations when he considered it “expedient for them to abandon the roaming life, which they now lead, and become herdsmen or agriculturalists…” Those reservations were to exist within the boundaries of their ancestral lands, which once again were promised to them in perpetuity. The Shoshone were likewise promised annuities from the United States, and “compensation and equivalent for the loss of game and the rights and privileges hereby conceded.”

Those promises, like all others extended to American Indians, may as well have been written on the wind in disappearing ink.

“The Shoshone kept their end of the bargain,” recalled Western Shoshone National Council Chairman Raymond Yowell. “The United States did not. As more and more emigrants settled on our lands, the promise of peace wasn’t enough for the United States. Instead of dealing with us as a sovereign nation, the United States implemented a scheme to acquire title unlawfully.”

In 1946, the regime in Washington created a pseudo-judicial body called the Indian Claims Commission (ICC), the purpose of which was to dispose of outstanding land claims. The 1946 act permitted that Commission (it is axiomatic that any body called a “Commission” was created to facilitate fraud) to recognize as authoritative tribal spokesman any “identifiable group” within a given tribe, no matter how unrepresentative it might be.

In 1951, one tiny Shoshone band, the Te-Moaks (descended from a signatory of the 1863 treaty) filed an ICC claim on behalf of the entire nation. Eleven years later, the ICC settled that claim by ruling that the Shoshone claims had been extinguished through “gradual encroachment” of American settlers. Furthermore, the Commission ruled that the “taking” had occurred on July 1, 1872 — a date used to establish the value of the land, long before discovery of gold and other valuable minerals had occurred. In 1979, the Commission offered the Shoshone a $26 million settlement — an amount equivalent to about 15 cents an acre for the same land commanding $2.50 an acre when purchased by gold mining interests.

When the Shoshones refused to accept the settlement (which had been reached ex parte), the Department of the Interior paid that money to itself, absorbing it into an Indian trusteeship bureaucracy that was riddle with corruption and fraud.

About a decade ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sponsored a measure that would have “settled” the long-standing dispute with a one-time payment of $26,000 to each member of the Shoshone tribe. That bill was never enacted, and the money remained unpaid — which suited the Dann family just fine. They had never agreed to surrender their land, had never signed any documents and insisted on exercising their right to raise livestock on land that had been peacefully and productively used by their family for generations.

In 1974, the U.S. government sued the Dann family, claiming that they had committed “trespassing” by grazing their horses and cattle on land that legally belonged to them. Successive rulings by Federal judges upheld the government’s claims.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the Dann family’s appeal, insisting that the matter was closed when the Federal government paid itself $26 million to consummate the theft of the Shoshone lands. The Feds would eventually claim that the impoverished Indian family owed nearly $5 million in grazing fees and interest.

The BLM staged its first cattle rustling raid against the Danns in April 1992. At about 4:30 a.m., the ranch lands were invaded by a column of vehicles that decanted a platoon of BLM Brownshirts. Not intimidated by the bullying display, Carrie Dann plowed through the picket line and cast herself into a cattle chute to prevent hireling cowboys from loading her stolen cattle onto a truck.

“My land has never been for sale,” she told Eureka County Sheriff Ken Jones, who rather than defending his constituent’s rights was aligned with the invaders. “It’s not for sale now, it’s not for sale tomorrow, either. And that’s the way it is, Mr. Jones.”

As would happen more than 20 years later at Bunkerville, the BLM backed down and withdrew, restoring the stolen cattle to their rightful owners. But this gesture was purely a public relations ploy.

When the raiders returned the following November, Clifford Dann used a vehicle to block a road, cutting off a convoy of BLM trucks carrying the family’s livestock. Sitting down in the bed of his pickup, Clifford Dann immersed himself with gasoline and threatened to set himself on fire unless the federally licensed rustlers relinquished the stolen animals.

Feigning sympathy with the Dann family’s plight, Sheriff Jones told Clifford Dann that the cattle weren’t being confiscated and invited him to see for himself. When Clifford Dann stepped down from his truck, he was surrounded by a thugscrum of BLM Brownshirts, some of them sprayed him with fire extinguishers, others surrounding the 59-year-old man and assaulting him.

“Get him down! Get him down!” exclaimed Jones. “Break his f**king arm if you have to!”

Carrie Dann ran to help her brother, only to be seized from behind by a BLM agent.

“You’re hurting me — I’ve got a bad shoulder!” cried Carrie Dann.

“Then be a good old lady and quit struggling,” sneered BLM special agent Terry Somers, his voice dripping scornful condescension.

The stolen livestock escaped, but Clifford did not. Beaten and bloodied, he was taken into custody. Four months later, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for “assaulting an officer with gasoline” — that is, for being seized and beaten by BLM agents after he had poured gasoline on his own body. As he pronounced sentence, Federal Judge John McKibben pointedly said that the severity of his ruling was intended “to send a message to journalists, activists, and the Western Shoshone.”

With their brother behind bars, and their supporters understandably intimidated, the Dann sisters weren’t able to resist as several subsequent Federal raids systematically deprived them of their stock, much of which was left to die of neglect by the BLM.

For decades, the BLM had accused the Danns of damaging the delicate Crescent Valley ecosystem by “overgrazing” their herds — even though BLM commissar Somers admitted in 1994 that there was no evidence to sustain that charge. Once their grazing lands had been denuded of cattle and horses, the BLM leased it to a Canadian conglomerate that gouged huge open-pit mines out of the landscape and left the countryside contaminated with lead, mercury and cyanide.

It should be recalled that the Department of the Interior placed the value of the Shoshone lands at 15 cents an acre. It charged gold mining companies up to $2.50 an acre for leasing the lands that had been stolen from the Dann family. Gold mining is a worthy undertaking — when it is carried out through honest, mutually beneficial commerce, rather than government-abetted theft.

The Dann family and the Western Shoshone, acting out of desperation, made a futile effort at redress by filing a grievance with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the United Nations, an organization that is utterly worthless when it isn’t being aggressively harmful. In the meantime, the BLM directed its malevolent attention at non-Indian ranchers in Nevada.

In 2001, BLM hired contractors to steal the cattle of Nevada ranchers Ben Colvin and Jack Vogt, whose argument against paying grazing feeds was similar to that made by the Danns, to wit: The U.S. government had no legal and Constitutional authority to claim ownership of the range land.

The BLM and Forest Service likewise pilfered cows belonging to rancher Wayne Hage, who like the Danns spent decades fighting the Feds in court. Last year, in what must be regarded as little short of an epoch-shattering miracle, a Federal judge ruled that those agencies had conducted a criminal conspiracy against Hage and recommended that their administrators face criminal prosecution.

Unlike the Bundys, who are materially comfortable but not opulently wealthy, the Danns — like many American Indians — are desperately poor. Their ancestral claim to the land is stronger than that of the Bundy family, but this didn’t prevent the Feds from stealing their livestock and leaving them destitute.

Despite the significant differences separating the Bundys from the Danns, both families are involved in what can accurately be described — without the unfortunate ideological baggage — as an anti-colonialist struggle. The U.S. government had no legal right to ratify the theft of Western Shoshone lands, nor does it have the Constitutional authority to occupy and claim to own more than 80 percent of Nevada’s territory.

Bundy and his family were hardly the first Nevada ranchers to confront federally licensed cattle rustlers who operated under the protection of militarized law enforcement agents. They were, however, the first to fight back.

–William N. Grigg