I have little to add to John Hinderaker’s analysis of the Bundy ranch standoff, except this: if the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency, thinks it can establish “First Amendment Areas” while it goes about its business, it and the rest of the federal bureaucracy need to think again. First, the moral case for Bundy (who, as Hinderaker correctly notes, doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on):
Over the last two or three decades, the Bureau has squeezed the ranchers in southern Nevada by limiting the acres on which their cattle can graze, reducing the number of cattle that can be on federal land, and charging grazing fees for the ever-diminishing privilege. The effect of these restrictions has been to drive the ranchers out of business. Formerly, there were dozens of ranches in the area where Bundy operates. Now, his ranch is the only one. When Bundy refused to pay grazing fees beginning in around 1993, he said something to the effect of, they are supposed to be charging me a fee for managing the land and all they are doing is trying to manage me out of business. Why should I pay them for that..?
So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?
Well, this is what you get with gangster government. But, just as in the 1930s, when corrupt big-city machines like Tammany Hall worked hand-in-glove with both politicians and criminals — but I repeat myself — it’s going to take the public to rise up and destroy the rackets. Where is the Tom Dewey of our time, the two-fisted racket buster who sent legions of crooks to the slammer? We’re still waiting.
But a “First Amendment Area?” That’s something every American needs to denounce, as loudly as possible. No federal agency has the right to do this, and in a decent administration, the bureaucrat who thought up the idea and ordered the signs posted would be publicly defenestrated pour encourage les autres. There is, however, no accountability in the Obama administration and its corrupt enablers in Congress, for whom everything is a racket — either a source of personal enrichment or an opportunity to mete out some punishment to the regime’s ideological enemies.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The BLM’s stunt violated every one of the amendment’s proscriptions except the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses, and Obamacare is working hard on those. For the record, here’s the official spokesdroid’s explanation for the zones:
While anybody can express their free speech any time on open public lands in accordance with the codes and ordinances that exist, there are temporary closures of some of the public lands related to this impound operation and those are in place for public safety. So we identified two areas where the public could safely and conveniently express their opinions without having to go through the codes and ordinance process and apply for permits.
So this is the country we live in at the moment: militarized local cops and weaponized federal agencies, whose bureaucratic whims are enforced at gunpoint. It’s not the country I grew up in, nor one in which any right-thinking American would want to live.