Bouncing Around with the Bubble People

Bubble HouseI wondered, while drafting the last post, why anyone on the planet — much less in the litigious United States — would propose a robust defense of exactly the same arguments is his defense of the ridiculous (Bundy) that were all tossed out of court in a previous case (Gardner)?  Why continual dismissal of the repeated talking points wouldn’t deter someone from appealing to them once more as revealed wisdom?

A person would have to inhabit a very tightly enclosed bubble to have missed the point that these arguments wouldn’t be any more successful than they had been in prior litigation.  But then, when an individual comes to assume that his or her beliefs are, in se, facts, indeed articles of faith, it stands to reason they’d be repeated.   The Bubble People are impervious to the rest of the world and its reality.

They have their very own self-sustaining history.  A history, for example, in which “faith” not “government” freed the enslaved people in the American south. [Salon]  Let’s grant that some of the most ardent Abolitionists were people of faith, but had we waited for the efforts of the Underground Railroad to rescue all the 3,950,528 people enslaved in the Confederacy we’d still be discussing the issue.

Lincoln may not have started his presidency as an enthusiastic adherent to the abolitionist cause, but his Gettysburg Address calls for a “new birth of freedom,” not merely the reinstitution of the status quo ante bellum.  Besides which it’s rather difficult to forget the approximately 750,000 men who died in that war, and to ignore the fact that some 364,000 were fighting for a government seeking to end human slavery.

And if the actual story of America doesn’t support the atmosphere in the bubble — rewrite it — the Jamestown Settlers were socialists, Alexander Hamilton has been misinterpreted by pointy headed liberals as espousing a theory of strong central government, Franklin D. Roosevelt caused the Great Depression, Senator Joesph McCarthy was no raving opportunistic radical — he was a hero!  At least that’s the story had it been written by a Texas school board member: “We are adding balance,” Texas school board member Don McLeroy said. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.” [McClatchy]

If they don’t accept commonly accepted historical narratives and themes why would we expect them to adopt the uncertainties of science and scientific inquiry?

Global climate change is a hoax.  Except for the 9136 scientists who agree that global climate change is a reality. The Bubble People would prefer to hear from the one who doesn’t agree. [SAm]  Disagreement on how much is anthropogenic or on the extent of warming is taken as “proof” there is no consensus.  Evidently unable to accept the intrinsic skepticism of science, the Bubble People don’t want anything that isn’t 100% certain — like their articles of faith. [Salon]  Not only do they not “believe,” they really don’t want any more information which might test their tenets. Witness Congress in 2011:

“House Republicans, led by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), killed the budget-neutral provision to create a climate service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s proposed Climate Service, or NCS, would have consolidated NOAA’s existing, widely dispersed, climate-monitoring capabilities under a single management structure to meet Americans’ rising demand for authoritative and timely climate information. [Think Progress]

And, it’s not just climate science they don’t want to know about — they’ve opposed research into gun violence as a public health issue.  Republicans in Congress have opposed funding for research in this area for the past twenty years, and the current Congress is no exception.  [ProPublica]  The Gun Lobby response — there’s no way to be pro-gun and also pro-research as if the two were mutually exclusive, and a dismissive “we don’t need more research  we need more prosecution.” [ProPublica]

It’s easy to imagine a robust “LA LA LA LA LA  I can’t hear you!” coming from inside the Bubble.  They’ll make up their own history, their own science, their own political science, their own medical conclusions, their own jurisprudence … they’ll repeat it even if it’s only among themselves.

“One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopædia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots!” –Brave New World

Ignorance becomes a comfort zone, one from which the Bubble People are loathe to emerge.  Even though ignorance is definitely not bliss, and curiosity is closer to satisfaction, they’ll stick with their thoroughly absorbed notions of truth — protected from the discomfort of having to accept and then function from a new set of information or concepts.

They will prefer short term comfort to long term prosperity, and see the world as a zero sum game in which every change they must make means something taken from them rather than a new opportunity for self discovery.

For some, they will be the man in the cave who has depended on lightning strikes for his fire, and is lost when the embers die.  Sad.

Leave a comment

Filed under conservatism, Politics, Republicans

The Gardner Case and Bundy’s Relitigation

BundyThe Bundy flap isn’t the first time someone has tried, and failed, to avoid grazing fees and restrictions on Nevada public lands.  On February 25, 1997 a decision was handed down in U.S. vs. Gardner (107F 3d 1314) which upheld the federal jurisdiction over lands in the Humboldt National Forest. [Dkos]

In 1988 the Forest Service issued a ten year permit to the Gardners to graze a portion of the Humboldt National Forest.  In August 1992 a fire burned over 2,000 acres of the Mica C & H and Mica Creek Addition Allotments.  The Forest Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife reseeded the burned area and advised the Gardners that the land could not be grazed for two years, in order to let the renewed vegetation take hold. The Gardners didn’t graze any cattle on the allotments in question during 1993.

The controversy began in 1994:

“On May 13, 1994, Gardners sent a letter to the Forest Service stating that they intended to resume grazing on the burned area within 3 days. On May 18, 1994, the Forest Service observed Gardners’ livestock grazing on the burned area. On May 19, 1994, the Forest Service hand-delivered a letter to Gardners advising that they were violating the terms and conditions of the permit by grazing cattle in the burned area, and requiring that the livestock be removed from the burned area by May 22, 1994. Gardners did not remove the livestock.” [Scholar]

And now we have to go back to the strange interpretations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago.   The Gardners asserted that public lands acquired from Mexico could only be held in trust for the states because a previous case [Pollard's Lessee v. Hagan, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 212, 11 L.Ed. 565 (1845)] determined that lands ceded to the U.S. from Virginia and Georgia to pay off Revolutionary War debts was held in trust for future states.  The problem, the court explained to the Gardners:

“Before becoming a state, however, Nevada had no independent claim to sovereignty, unlike the original thirteen states.   Therefore, the same reasoning is not applicable to this case, in which the federal government was the initial owner of the land from which the state of Nevada was later carved. Thus, as the United States has held title to the unappropriated public lands in Nevada since Mexico ceded the land to the United States in 1848, the land is the property of the United States.”  [CaseLaw] (emphasis added)

The decision went a bit further, incorporating the ‘property clause’ into the argument:

“Thus, as the United States has held title to the unappropriated public lands in Nevada since Mexico ceded the land to the United States in 1848, the land is the property of the United States.   The United States Constitution provides in the Property Clause that Congress has the power “to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.”  U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3, cl. 2.   The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the expansiveness of this power, stating that “[t]he power over the public land thus entrusted to Congress is without limitations.” [CaseLaw]

Now we’re back to Pollard’s Lessee again.  Having dispensed with the jurisdictional issue, the court reviewed the Gardner’s contention that they didn’t have to follow federal rules because of the “Equal Footing Rule,” i.e. all new states come into the union on an equal footing, but Nevada being some 80% federal land isn’t therefore on an ‘equal footing’ with the other states.  The court didn’t agree.

The problem with using Pollard as a precedent in this case is that Pollard concerns water (shores  and land beneath navigable waters) and the Gardners were claiming that what applied to rivers and streams applied to dry land.   Decisions in Scott (1913) and Texas v. Louisiana (1973) both determined that the ‘equal footing’ concept did not “reserve title to fast dry lands to the states.”

The next argument the Gardners put forth concerned the ‘disclaimer’ clause in the Nevada Constitution.

 ”When Congress invited Nevada to join the Union in 1864, it mandated that the Nevada constitutional convention pass an act promising that Nevada would “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States․”   Nevada Statehood Act of March 21, 1864, 13 Stat. 30, 31 § 4.   The state constitutional convention did so.   Ordinance of the Nevada Constitution.5

Gardners claim that this clause is invalid and unconstitutional as an attempt to divest Nevada of its title to the unappropriated lands within its boundaries. [CaseLaw]

This argument fell apart quickly when the court noted that Nevada never had any title to the land in the first place.  (see above)

Enter the 10th’er Argument.  “Gardners argue that federal ownership of the public lands in Nevada is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment.   Such ownership, they argue, invades “core state powers reserved to Nevada,” such as the police power.”  [CaseLaw]  They lost this round as well, the decision said:

“Absent consent or cession a State undoubtedly retains jurisdiction over federal lands within its territory, but Congress equally surely retains the power to enact legislation respecting those lands pursuant to the Property Clause. [citations omitted] And when Congress so acts, the federal legislation necessarily overrides conflicting state laws under the Supremacy Clause.”

As inconvenient as Article IV, paragraph 2 may be for the advocates of anarchy, the Supremacy Clause remains in place:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

In short, what Cliven Bundy attempts is little more than the relitigation of the Gardner Case.  He tried the “jurisdiction” argument, the “equal footing argument,” and  the “disclaimer clause” argument, and they all failed — again. [Bundy Notice 2013 pdf]

If he can’t relitigate the Gardner Case, then perhaps Bundy believes he has a case similar to the one in Estate of E. Wayne Hage v. U.S?  This is problematic because the Hage Case involved both grazing permits and water rights, further it also included disputes about improvements made to the property.

“The Hages’ regulatory takings claim and claim for compensation pursuant to 43 U.S.C. § 1752(g) are not ripe, and we therefore vacate the Claims Court’s award of damages. To the extent the Hages’ claim for a physical taking relies on fences constructed in 1981-1982, this claim is un-timely. To the extent the physical takings claim relies on fences constructed in 1988-1990, we reverse because there is no evidence that water was taken that the Hages could have put to beneficial use. Finally, we affirm the Claims Court’s holding that the Hages are not entitled to pre-judgment interest for any rangeimprovements award because the Hages failed to identify a cognizable property interest. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” [BlbLaw]

However much the ultraconservative media and pundits may like to speak of  this case as an exemplar of a “win” against the Forest Service, the issues were far narrower and the stance taken by the Bundy Brigands has far more points of comparison with the Gardner Case.

Not to put too fine a point to it, but all that remains to Bundy’s Brigands are long discredited right wing talking points, conspiracy theories, highly dubious Constitutional theorizing, and the bluster of the 2nd Amendment Solutions Crowd.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics

Gaps and Gaping Holes

You’d never believe it because of  all the noise  from the Something For Nothing Crowd, those “over-taxed, over regulated” denizens of the right wing wailers club on talk radio, and LTEs, BUT “Federal Income Taxes on Middle Income Families Remain Near Record Lows.”  For those who aren’t inclined to accept the proposition — there are numbers to back this up from the Brookings Institution in chart form.  Thus the “Taxed Enough Already” assemblage are essentially bellowing that they would prefer to have their public services like military protection and transportation systems paid for by someone else, anyone else, everyone else.

OK, if Burdensome Income Taxes aren’t holding back the recovery from the 2007-8 Recession back, how come the economy feels sluggish? There’s an interactive map which shows which states are still struggling, hint — Nevada’s in a deep green, and in this instance that’s not a good sign.

Nevada’s down 6.4% in terms of employment since December 2007, Arizona is down 4.8% in the same time period, New Mexico is off 4.6%, Mississippi is down 4%, and Alabama is down by 5%.  Nevada and Arizona have the dubious distinction of being a member of the Sand States which experienced a housing bubble. which also serves to explain why Florida’s employment is 2.4% off of December 2007 levels.

Let’s assume, once again, that capitalism works, and we might further agree on the notion that making things matters.  Manufacturing creates the goods which we exchange with one another; someone is paid to make the products, someone is paid to transport the goods, someone else is paid for wholesaling them, and someone is paid to sell them.  There is a glimmer of hope in this sector given the last report from FRED.

Future Capital ExpendituresThe line represents the percentage of manufacturers who expect to make capital expenditures (read expand) their capacity, and as of now the number stands at 31.63%.

Of course, all this depends on the pesky little intrusive concept of Aggregate Demand.  How many people need or want ‘stuff’ and are willing and able to pay for it to keep this merry-go-round moving? One of the factors which may very well be keeping the situation sluggish is the Aggregate Demand Gap.  What we do know is that demand lines track with the unemployment rate.

We can play with numbers related to regulation levels, or to taxation, or to labor quality concerns until B0ssie comes home to be milked, but the most consistent tracking between aggregate demand and sales figures is, was, and will be, employment and wage levels.

Here’s where the economic inequality factor comes into play.  Income inequality isn’t a left wing conspiracy theory about the rich getting so rich the other 99% need income redistribution to reduce the inequities.  It’s about generating the aggregate demand necessary to sustain and grow our economy.

For example, in Nevada the average income between 1979 and 2007 grew by 8.6%.   Income for those categorized in the top 1% increased by 164% while the incomes for those in the lesser brackets actually declined by 11.6%.  What we’ve ended up with is a state economy in which the average income of the top 1% is some 29.5 times greater than the remaining 99%. [EPI]  In fact, Nevada is among the top five states in which the income gap has widened, joining Alaska, Wyoming, Michigan, and Arizona. [MSN]  These facts would be meaningless without some context that serves to describe what they mean in terms of aggregate demand.

The last year for which online data is available by state (pdf) from the IRS is 2007.  During that filing year there were 1,280,234 tax returns filed by Nevadans.  Of those returns 841,451 or 65.7% were filed by people reporting $50,000 annual income or less.  189,079 were filed by those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 (14%), and another 105,870 reported earnings between $75,000 and $100,000 (8.27%). 108,548 reported income between $100,000 and $200,000 annually (8.48%) and 35,339 reported income over $200,000 (2.76%).   Here’s where the income gap rubber meets the aggregate demand road.

Some 79% of Nevadans were earning $75,000 annually or less.  If we add in those making between $75,000 and $100,000 the percentage is 87.97%.  When between 79% and 88% of the income earners in a state are looking at potential income declines the aggregate demand drops accordingly.  If income for the majority of earners can be expected to decline by about 2.41% each year over a 28 year period, then the aggregate demand gap should come as no surprise.

The generalized “1%” becomes 2.76% of Nevada’s income earning population.  Their income increased to almost 30 times the income of the remainder, by about 164%.  It’s a fine thing they are doing well, but there aren’t enough of them to sustain and grow the commerce necessary for long term, state wide, economic growth.

Thus we have a situation in which middle income earners in the Silver State are paying less in federal income taxes, but are hardly in a position to expect significant economic growth in a state in which income increases are being siphoned off to the top 2.76%.  How much more elevated might the line in the capital expenditures graph be if more people could afford more goods? Especially in those ‘sand states’ which were hardest hit in the last Great Recession?

Leave a comment

Filed under Economy, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation

Voices in the Wilderness

When the Northern Nevada Development Authority compiled its study of agriculture in Nevada (pdf) the report offered some insight into the political views which inform economic practices.

Unsurprisingly, the report cited the following survey results concerning the lack of expansion or “impediments to business growth,” “The biggest impediments to business growth were identified as laws and regulations (23.0%),transportation costs (20.9%), cost or availability of goods or materials (15.3%), reduced consumer spending (10.2%), and financing (10.2%).” Also unsurprisingly, the Federal government was the “impediment” for 65.5% of the respondents, 20.2% cited the state, and 10.8% blamed county or local governments.

“Regarding Federal agencies, the primary challenges for Nevada Agricultural companies are reported as excessive fees, burdensome permits, adjudication and process time and the lack of empathy in dealing with real world issues.” [AgriNV pdf]

The problem with words like “excessive,” “burdensome,” and “lack of empathy,” are that they describe qualitative impressions rather than quantifiable factors.  Let’s look at the fees first.

Grazing FeesNow, we might ask is the grazing fee “excessive” when it’s $15 in Nevada, but $19.40 in California? Or $33.50 in Nebraska? Or $17.50 in Colorado. Or is it “excessive” because the fees are $9.00 in Arizona? Or, $13.50 in Washington? [NASS]  For those wishing to delve into the weeds and details of the formulation, the National Agricultural Statistics Service provides the calculations. (pdf)

Is it “excessive” when the price at the Fallon Livestock Exchange (pdf) ranges from $144 to $242/per for steers? From $118 to $210 for heifers?  And, we should note at some point that states without federally available land for grazing have their cattle operations on private land, land often subject to modified property taxation.  Eastern growers complain Western ranchers are getting a government subsidy, while Westerners complain about the cost of transporting cattle.

There are those who accept the notion that “ranching for profit is an oxymoron,” however, this doesn’t have to be the case.  A major caveat should be inserted at this point — size matters.  Because profit margins tend to be tight the larger operations will almost inevitably be more profitable than the smaller ones.  IF the ranch is not one of the major models, then keeping labor costs low is essential, as is placing more emphasis on grazing than on feeding.

There are two other factors which bear consideration. First, the debt/equity ratio is an essential factor just as it is in any business.  For example, some cattlemen have fallen for the siren call — buy more land — or buy more ‘stuff’ — and profits will increase.  However, there is a point at which the debt level impinges on the credit capacity and the manager/rancher is headed toward the predictable financial disaster.

Secondly, altogether too many ranches have too much overhead.  There are buildings, shops, assorted equipment, etc. all of which must be depreciated and all of which can be a drain on the business end of the operation. [BFmag]

Are fees “excessive” if the rancher is getting a reasonable price for the cattle at auction, BUT has a ranch too small to be economically viable in this general economy, or has taken on too much debt, or has too much overhead, or has hired or taken on too many people on the payroll?

And, those “burdensome regulations?”  Is a regulation burdensome if it entails too much time to fill out paperwork? Or, if it cuts the profits? Or, must it do both?  Is the regulation a burden if it requires the individual to change methods or means of production instead of maintaining the status quo?  If a person were to consider any imposition a burden if it caused him or her to make any changes in means or methods then nearly all restrictions of any nature could be considered “burdensome.”  In short, the term may well be an instance in which an ideological expression is translated to an economic factor.

Here’s where the conflicting interests in a multi-faceted economy come into play.  The rancher may want to graze cattle ‘fence to fence,’ but the local tourism sector may need for grasses and other vegetation to remain on stream banks to enhance the trout fishing which draws enthusiasts and their dollars to the communities along a river.  The rancher may want to let cattle munch down the fire prone cheat grass in an area, but fire fighting interests would be better served if the burned areas were restored with alternatives to invasive vegetation, which might need to be restricted until the new vegetation takes hold.  A rancher may not consider local wildlife much more than pests, however in a wider, broader, view the wildlife may have environmental and economic value beyond the measure of a ranch’s profit margin.

Lacking empathy?  If we accept the definition that empathy is the ability to understand another person’s condition from their perspective, then other questions arise.  Are the respondents to the survey looking for empathy or sympathy?

Empathy generally means that one person understands the situation in which another person finds him or herself; sympathy acknowledges the condition and seeks to offer comfort or support.  A official may very well understand with some precision what a rancher is concerned about, but a rule or regulation might easily be such that there is little comfort or support which can be rendered.  If by ‘empathy’ the individual wants the official to fix his or her problem, make it go away, or modify general rules so that he or she doesn’t have to make any changes then this goes well beyond empathy, and often beyond sympathy.

Generally speaking none of us wants to readily admit that a goodly portion of our problems are of our own making.  And, it’s entirely more satisfying to assert that they are the result of onerous forces beyond our control.   So, when we hear from an individual that “excessive fees,” “burdensome regulations,” and “lack of empathy” prevent him from creating a better business (of any type) how do we factor in his possible superfluous overhead? Her potential debt to equity ratio which impinges on management flexibility? His prospective over-extension of employment costs? Her conceivable  lack of capacity to utilize economies of scale?

How do we interpret responses such as “the federal government is impeding the expansion of my business” when we don’t know if the operation in question, whether agricultural, commercial, or industrial, had any viable capacity for significant economic growth in the first place?

It’s not that agriculture is unimportant, or that we might be justified in  dismissing the complaints out of hand. Agricultural activities add about $5.3 billion annually to Nevada’s economy.  The sector employs approximately 60,700 persons.  Alfalfa hay is the predominant crop, worth approximately $232,100,000 in a 2012 USDA report. This makes sense considering that cattle operations represent 62.5% of all agricultural receipts, or about $732,883,000. [AgriNV pdf]  However, the numbers pale when we consider that the total civilian workforce in the state totals 1,367,000. [BLS] Thus agricultural employment is about 4.4% of the total Nevada labor force.

The voices are real, they are in the wilderness, and they are complaining.  However, the time it takes to get permitting accomplished will not be reduced by cutting personnel from the Department of the Interior, or from the Department of Agriculture.  The time available for the BLM officials to attend to individual problems will not be enhanced by stripping its budget or freezing the number of people who can be hired to fill vacant positions.

Wishing that the Taylor Grazing Act had never been enacted, or that the Federal government didn’t exist, or that  clean water regulations don’t matter, will not make it so.  Empathy for “real world” issues means coming to terms with the business environment in which any enterprise must operate.  Even in the wilderness.

Leave a comment

Filed under anti-immigration, Economy, Politics

A Well Tuned Whine at the Bundy Ranch

Bundy 2Just what do you say to lawbreakers when they refuse to cooperate with legal decisions?  In Public Lands Council vs. Babbitt the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, yes, the Bureau of Land Management did have the Constitutional authority to enforce the provisions of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, 43 USC 315.  What do you say to a freeloading rancher who lost in a Federal District Court in July 2013 (pdf) and again in October 2013 (pdf)?

Nevada’s own freeloading rancher, Cliven Bundy, doesn’t have any “right” to graze his cattle on public land. The land is not his property. He has no deed for the property, it is not for his sole and exclusive use.  [TWN]  There is no “land grab” because the land never belonged to Mr. Bundy in the first place.  How much simpler can the issue be? It is public land, the administration and management of the land is established in 43 USC 315, the law was confirmed as Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 15, 2000 in a 9-0 decision from Chief Justice Rehnquist’s court.  [Oyez Project] And, not one but two Federal judges have informed Mr. Bundy he has no case.

It isn’t too difficult to come to the conclusion that Mr. Bundy is all for the U.S. Constitution — until a law he doesn’t personally like is declared Constitutional.  He may be all for law and order — until the law doesn’t suit his purposes.  What do we call the people who violate or ignore laws with impunity?  The answer is commonly “anarchists.”

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has another answer. He called them “Patriots.” [Roll Call]   Heller offered yet another example of his “Government as Bully” perspective, “I take more issues with BLM coming in with a paramilitary army of people, individuals with snipers, and I’m talking to people and groups that were there at the event, and to have your own government with sniper lenses on you, it made a lot of people very uncomfortable.”

Let us parse.  What’s a “paramilitary army of people?” On March 15, 2014 after twenty years of trying to get Mr. Bundy to comply with orders,  the Bureau of Land Management informed Mr. Bundy, by letter, that his cattle were “trespassing” and would be impounded.  Mr Bundy’s response — to ask the Clark County Sheriff’s Department for “protection.”  Bundy gives interviews by the hay wagon load and fans the fire of his displeasure. [WaPo]  Members of so-called freedom-fighters gather in Bundy’s support.   Bundy family members confront law enforcement personnel, and one is tazered after he kicks a police dog.

That “paramilitary army” of people were law enforcement personnel, BLM employees, and cowboys hired to round up and impound the cattle.

On the other side, a very visible group of Bundy supporters is the Oath Keepers organization, closely associated with the Tea Party, and infamous for proudly announcing what orders they will not obey. The organization includes members of the 3%’ers and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack who refused back in the 90′s to enforce the Brady Laws.  [MJ]

Perhaps Senator Heller was ‘inartful’ using the term Paramilitary, but the word usually means an organization the structure, training , culture, and function of which is similar to the military, but is NOT considered a part of a state or federal military branch.  So, who has gathered a “paramilitary army of people?”  From the photographs of the scene the honors appear to go to Mr. Bundy.

But, Senator Heller is disturbed that people have their own government with sniper lens on them. It makes them uncomfortable.  At the risk of flippancy, when is it acceptable to have those who have broken the law for 20 years feel “comfortable?”

The radical right gives every appearance of wanting another drama — another Ruby Ridge, — another Waco, — another armed confrontation with authority, especially federal authority.  Senator Heller’s unfortunate use of the word “Patriot” offers sustenance to the fantasies of the radical right wing which feeds on these scenarios, and revels in the scripted Hollywood versions like Red Dawn.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is more accurate calling antigovernment types like Bundy “domestic terrorists.” [previous post]  Certainly, there are euphemisms which might make the lawbreakers and their allies more “comfortable,” perhaps we could call them “puerile anti-authority activity advocates?”  However, it is not particularly helpful to apply euphemisms to assuage the tender sensitivities of extremists while ignoring the deleterious ramifications of their intentions, and covering their lawlessness with a patina of polite phrases.

The strident whining of the radical right extremists with its cacophony of hypocritical complaints is out of tune with a nation of laws — not of men.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Heller, Politics, Reid

Domestic Terrorism Home on the Range

BundyThe Nevada Progressive leads off this morning with a column on “Everytown,” and the efforts of those who seek reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, a post following “Clear and Present Danger” on the Bundy Anarchists in southern Nevada.  It’s both timely and appropriate to put these thoughts in close proximity.

“There’s really no way to candy-coat it. The extreme fringe of the far right who have once again gained national prominence thanks to Cliven Bundy’s nationally televised temper tantrum are not interested in mere protest. And it’s time for all the rest of us to recognize the clear & present danger of legitimizing this kind of behavior. ” [TNP]

There’s “right wing,” and “far right wing,” and then there’s that “extreme fringe of the far right.”   As the Rachel Maddow Show illustrated, they are both armed and dangerous.   We have an unfortunate roster of hits and near misses to prove the point.

The Bloody and Near Bloody Decade

On April 19, 1995 Timothy McVeigh bombed the Federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The 7000 pound truck bomb caused massive loss of life and damage.  McVeigh was among those on that Extreme Fringe of the Far Right, who could refer to the children killed that day as “collateral damage.”  There was a near miss in July 1995 when antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk tried to purchase an machine gun and plastic explosives in order to carry out his proposed attack on the Austin, TX Internal Revenue Office.  Polk was sentenced to 21 years in a Federal Prison.

On October 9, 1995 the Extreme Fringe scored a hit on an Amtrak Passenger Train in Arizona, leaving antigovernment messages, some signed “Sons of the Gestapo.”  There was another near miss in November 1995 when members of the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia were arrested while in the process of planning bombings and attacks on abortion providers and gay bars.

The antigovernment message almost hit close to home when in December 1995 a drum filled with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil failed to detonate at a Reno, NV IRS office.  The tax-protester was arrested, tried, and convicted.  It would seem that the designation “tax-protester” might be a bit mild for someone who had demolition on his agenda.

January 1996 literally started out with a bang, when the Militia under Commander Pedro, Peter Kevin Langan, tried to shoot it out with the FBI in Ohio.   The year continued with a terrorist in Hood River, Oregon stockpiling 460 pounds of Tovex explosive, 746 pounds of ANFO blasting agent, and a collection of homemade hand grenades.   April 12, 1996 Larry Shoemake takes his Neo-Nazi extreme fringe behavior into the open and goes on a shooting spree in Jackson MS.  He killed one African American man and wounded seven others during his racist shooting rampage.  A few days later members of the Militia At Large of the Republic of Georgia are arrested for distributing shrapnel packed pipe bombs to their membership for their ongoing “war” with the government.  In July 1996 the Viper Team in Arizona is arrested after they were found videotaping federal facilities as potential targets for their antigovernment attacks.  But, there was no “near miss” on July 27, 1996 when Eric Rudolph detonated his bomb in Olympic Park in Atlanta, GA during the Summer Olympics.

Near misses were prevented from becoming real hits when members of the Washington State Militia, the Phineas Priests, and the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia were arrested in 1996 before they could carry out their plans.

Eric Rudolph was back in action in 1997 when he bombed an abortion providing health care center in Sandy Springs, GA, an Atlanta gay bar, and an abortion provider in Birmingham, AL.  The year also included a thwarted attempt by the Black Dawn group to stockpile 35,000 rounds of ‘heavy’ ammunition and artillery shells, and another attempt to bomb an IRS office in Kalamazoo, MI.  Perhaps the most hazardous near miss came on April 27, 1997 when a Militia planned to cover an armed robbery by blowing up a natural gas refinery in Fort Worth, TX — a facility close to a local elementary school.

This wasn’t the end of antigovernment action in 1997, which included an explosion in Yuba City, CA, a fire in the Colorado Springs, CO IRS office, and a planned attack on Fort Hood wherein the Fringe group thought foreign troops were being trained.

Eric Rudolph wasn’t finished, in 1998 he set off a nail packed remote controlled bomb at a Birmingham abortion provider’s building, and during the same year the Ku Klux Klan planned to assassinate a federal judge in East St. Louis, IL.  More attacks were planned in Michigan by the members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan, thankfully foiled.  The Republic of Texas should perhaps get the prize for the most bizarre attack plan to assault President Clinton and other federal officials, “Officials say the men planned to use a cactus thorn coated with a toxin like anthrax and fired by a modified butane lighter to carry out the murders.” [SPLC] There were eight more incidents, of varying efficacy and harm from 1998 to 2000.

So, what should we have learned in that half decade?

If nothing more, we should have learned the definition of Domestic Terrorism as set forth in 18 U.S. Code 2331:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

And, yes, the acts and intended acts during that decade would certainly seem to fit the definition of Domestic Terrorism as established in the law.   Bombings, assassinations, and fires, would qualify as dangerous activities designed to intimidate and coerce, and even kill.   We should also have learned that antigovernment fringe extremists are quite likely to attack federal offices, to assassinate people associated with activities with which they disagree, and to otherwise seek to intimidate and coerce when they fail to convince.

We don’t have much trouble labeling such individuals as Eric Rudolph, the Phineas Priests, the New Dawn, the North American Militia, and other groups as domestic terrorists — but there is an inclination to be entirely too parsimonious with the term when an individual or group is characterized as a “protestor,” or an “activist,” when what they really advocate is armed opposition to legitimate authority.

Fast Forward

There are more incidents during the past 19 years which illustrate the extent to which extreme right wing fringe elements are willing to go in promoting their delusional beliefs.  No one should argue that ultra- beliefs have no Constitutional standing. However, remembering the definition of domestic terrorism in 18 U.S. Code 2331 should provide us with a guide line for what could be considered domestic terrorism –

Is it an activity involving, “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State?” Does the activity have the intent to (1) intimidate? Or (2) influence policy, or (3)  affect conduct by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping?

On July 27, 2008 J.D Adkisson opened fire at the Knoxville, TN two were killed, seven were injured.  Mr. Adkisson drafted a four page letter in which he described how he hated liberals and gays, and blacks, “and anyone who was different than him.” [HuffPo] On June 10, 2009  Neo-Nazi James von Brunn shot a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum.  Adkisson surely intended to do as much ‘destruction’ as possible in the Unitarian Church in Knoxville, and von Brunn had an extensive history of right wing activities seeking to intimidate and coerce in the name of White Nationalism.  And to these two examples of domestic terrorists we should add Frazier Glenn Cross to the roster.

Granted that this post has listed individuals who have stepped over the edge of reason and committed, or sought to commit, heinous acts which deserve all the opprobrium they receive.  However, these individuals aren’t necessarily steaming in their own personal stew. They are justified each time someone “protests” in the name of “freedom.” They find rationalization each time someone is an “activist” for antigovernment causes.  They are easily swayed by the antigovernment rhetoric of right wing news and opinion outlets, and they are taking their cues from those who would fan their fires.

They are the Neo-Nazis, the Neo-Confederates, the Southern ‘Heritage’ types, the disaffiliated gun enthusiasts, the antigovernment crusaders, the social and cultural warriors… and they can be armed and dangerous. [Salon] [Alternet] [Salon]

Enter Cliven Bundy, disgruntled freeloader on federal (public) land, and those who would feed his fire:

“The involvement of armed militiamen—and Bundy’s promise to “do whatever it takes” to reclaim his cattle—doesn’t appear to phase conservative activists who have turned Bundy into a cause célèbre. Before this weekend’s confrontation, National Review Online, Fox & Friends, and American Thinker all blamed the government for mounting tensions. Two groups affiliated with Americans for Prosperity, a political organization funded primarily by the Koch brothers, spent the weekend tweeting their support for Bundy, Media Matters reported. Sean Hannity, who on Friday hailed Bundy as a capitalist hero—”When your cattle graze there, that keeps the price of meat down for every American consumer”—invited Bundy back on the air Monday for a second, easygoing interview in which he made only glancing reference to the armed confrontation.” [MJ]

“Blame the government” + “glancing reference to the armed confrontation” = a problem.   April 2009 Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Naplitano drew verbal fire from conservatives for daring to suggest that right wing extremists constituted a terrorist threat in the United States.  Her department’s report, which rightly noted that some of the ‘militia types’ and ‘radical right wing’ groups were potentially dangerous (witness the list above), was vilified in the conservative press as an attack on Conservatism, Conservatives, veterans…. but it was as prescient as it was accurate.  Look at Picture Number 3 from NBC, captioned: “Protesters gather at the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp near Bunkerville, Nevada on April 12. Hundreds of states’ rights protesters, including militia members, showed up at corrals outside Mesquite to demand the animals’ return to rancher Cliven Bundy. Some protesters were armed with handguns and rifles at the corrals and at an earlier nearby rally.”

When is a “protester” a “domestic terrorist?”  Do people armed with rifles and handguns facing off against government officials and agents create a situation “dangerous to human life, in violation of  criminal laws?” What usually happens when someone brandishes a firearm before an officer of the law?

Did members of that crowd “of hundreds” seek to intimidate, coerce?  Of course they did — that’s why they were there, to coerce the federal officials from implementing federal land use policy.

The problem with hyper-sensitive thin skinned (albeit mostly white skinned) conservative ‘protesters’ is that when criticized for radical behavior, behavior which stimulates the warrior fantasies of delusional individuals, they whine loudly that they are being “attacked.” They are defending Freedom (read their own self interest), and the American Way of Life (read white and disgruntled).   Here’s a hint: If you are aiming a firearm at a BLM encampment, you are not ‘defending America.’  If you are standing in your phony camo-costume armed and disrupting law enforcement officials, you are not ‘protesting.’ You are — a domestic terrorist.

Recommended reading: SPLC, “Terror from the Right,” Ken Sofer, “17 years after Oklahoma City,” Think Progress. Matthew Harwood, “Law Enforcement/Right Wing Terrorists,” Salon. “Terrorist Attacks and Related Incidents,” Johnston Archive.  Molly Redden, “Everyone on the Far Right Loves...” Mother Jones. Reuters, “Bundy Ranch Standoff Emboldens Militia Groups.”  Brian Jencunas, “Why There’s Nothing Conservative About Cliven Bundy,” HuffPo.  “Almost 100 Hate Crimes Linked to One Website,” HuffPo.  NBC News, “Standoff at Bunkerville.”  Sarah Posner “Neo-Confederates and the Revival of Theological War“, USC Annenberg.

1 Comment

Filed under conservatism, Gun Issues, Hate Crimes, Politics

TANF in Nevada: Myths and Real Numbers

When the Department of Health and Human Services ran the numbers for TANF recipients in a comprehensive FY 2010 study it reported 10,269 “active case” families in Nevada. [DHHS pdf]  20% of those were single individuals, 35.4% were two member households, 23.7% were in three member households, 12.6% were in four member households, another 5.2% were in five member households, and 3.2% were in six member households.  Thus, 59.1% of Nevada’s active TANF cases involved homes with two or three members.   Thus much for the right wing delusion that people on “welfare” lie about just “making babies” for the lack of anything better to do.  The “average” household size for TANF recipients in Nevada is about 2.6 persons.

Who is receiving TANF benefits?  In Nevada about 41.5% of the active cases did not involve an adult. 48.4% involved one adult, and 10% included benefits for two or more adults in the household.

Looking at the numbers for TANF recipients and the percentage distribution of TANF families by the number of recipient children we find that 45.5% included one child, 28.5% two children, 14.4% three children, 6.4% four children, 3.5% five children.  (Table 4)

The same trend is visible if we look at TANF recipient families in Nevada in which there was no adult eligible for assistance, 43.9% of the cases included one child, 29.2% two children, 15.4% three children, 7.3% four children in the household, and 4.1% with five or more children in the family.  (Table 5)

The picture emerging from the Nevada numbers is further illustrated in subsequent tables for TANF recipients in households with one adult (Table 6) and with more than one adult (Table 7) — most cases involve individuals with one child, and the households receiving TANF support declines thereafter.

Those attempting to imply that TANF beneficiaries are “those people in the inner city…” (a well known Dog Whistle) won’t find much support in the Nevada numbers either.

Of the active cases in FY 2010 35.6% were of Hispanic heritage (of any race), 31.8% were White, and 27.1% were African American. 2.1% were Native American, 1.8% were Asian, and 1.6% were Other.  (Table 8)  To put it another way, 67.4% of Nevada’s active TANF cases were NOT African American households.  If we look at the adult TANF recipients the numbers are essentially the same — 23.7% are of Hispanic descent, 42.1% are White, 26.8% are African American, 2.6% are Native American, and 2.8% are Asian. In short, 65.8% of the adult recipients are NOT African American.  [Table 21]

There are 19,518 children eligible for TANF benefits in Nevada, and 42% are of Hispanic descent, 26.3% are White, 26% are African American, and 1.7% are Native American. [Table 35] Again, the face of welfare in Nevada certainly isn’t predominantly black.  Sadly, these are the figures which cause some to complain that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be repealed or replaced with a more stringent test for U.S. citizenship.  However, this argument can’t be buttressed from these numbers alone because the underlying assumption that the parents of the child are necessarily “illegal” can’t be determined from the overall statistics.  Further, the ramifications of repeal or replacement of the 14th Amendment is a societal and legal discussion which deserves its own forum. And, for emphasis on this point — of the 19,518 children included in active TANF cases in Nevada 98.3% are U.S. citizens, and 1.7% are “qualified aliens.” [Table 40]

And then there’s the Teenaged Mother nonsense — also not in evidence if we look at the numbers from Nevada.  There were 3,875 adolescent recipients of TANF benefits of whom 82.9% were NOT parents, meaning the Teen parents comprised 17.1% of Nevada’s TANF recipients.  [Table 10]

What do we know so far?  We know that large families aren’t “on” TANF, and we know that for the most part these families aren’t African American, they aren’t “illegals,” and we know that most of them aren’t the stereotypical adolescent parents.

Why might older adults in the households receiving TANF benefits not be recipients themselves?  64.8% of the “assistance units” (think of a household) had no adults included in the Nevada TANF program. 24% of these were ineligible because they were receiving SSI benefits, and another 75.4% because they could not prove citizenship.  [Table 12]  There goes that whopper again — non-citizens signing up for “welfare.”   Nevada’s rules are simplicity itself: “All persons applying for or receiving TANF must provide satisfactory evidence of citizenship or qualified non-citizenship status.”  Taking a look at the issue from another direction, of the 7,034 adult recipients of TANF benefits 91.7% are U.S. citizens and 8.3% are “qualified aliens.” [Table 26]  “They” are obviously NOT “coming here to get on welfare.”

One of the more depressing numbers shows up in Table 30, in which we find that of the active case adults (7,034) approximately 41.1% are working.  This says perhaps too much about the level of wages and the kinds of jobs available for TANF households that a person could be holding down a job and still be below the poverty line in terms of TANF eligibility.    We’d expect the 52.4% of the unemployed and the 6.5% of the discouraged workers to be earning less than sub-poverty wages, but not necessarily that 41.1%.

49.8% of the male TANF recipients and 38.9% of the women are employed, and still not earning enough to break over the poverty line.  [Table 30]

And, down goes another bit of right wing mythology about families receiving public assistance in Nevada.

Imagine our right wing friend sputtering, “but but but…they don’t work!”  Not. So. Fast.  In bureaucrat-ese the important element is the PRP, or in English — a personal responsibility plan.  Here is the Federal summary of what’s required in a Personal Responsibility Plan:

“The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) established a framework for creating a time-limited, work-based assistance system that emphasizes a “work first” approach. It requires states to meet federally mandated work participation rates by engaging recipients in federally defined activities. All recipients with a work requirement must participate in one or more of nine “core” activities, of which vocational education is one, for 20 hours per week. Recipients with a child age six or older are required to participate for 30 hours per week and two-parent families are required to participate for 35 hours if they don’t receive federally-funded child care assistance and for 55 hours if they do. For any hours required over 20, recipients can participate in core activities for more hours or in three additional non-core activities, two of which may encompass vocational education — job skills training directly related to employment, and education directly related to employment (for recipients who have not completed high school or the equivalent).”  [DHHS] (emphasis added)

In other words, in order to qualify for TANF assistance the individual must be working, seeking work, in a job training program, or in school.

Now, what do we know?  No, there aren’t any Big Families involved in our major public assistance program, and they aren’t predominantly African American, and they aren’t that stereotypical teen mother, and they aren’t non-citizens or undocumented workers, AND they aren’t allowed to “sit on the stoop drinking beer and listening to boom boxes.”

But wait, how about all those “other benefits” which are commonly tacked on in an attempt to demonstrate that Welfare Queens (not the corporate or ranching variety) are leaching us dry?

Of the 10,269 active TANF cases in Nevada as of FY 2010, some 99.3% were eligible for medical/health care services.  Assistance slides rapidly down hill thereafter.  73.7% were eligible for SNAP (food stamp) benefits, receiving an average of $425.04.  Zero (0%) were receiving public housing, and only 14% were receiving any form of rent subsidy.  7.9% were receiving some form of federally subsidized child care, and another o.6% received state or locally subsidized child care assistance. [Table 13]

The adults are not, as a rule receiving any disability benefits, because of the 7,034 recipients in the report 99.6% received no disability benefits.  [Table 23]  Those ‘reports’ which lump all the possible benefits together and purport to demonstrate that Welfare is a Great Drain, aren’t drilling down to the actualities of TANF benefits and their distribution.

About 4.8% of TANF households in Nevada have some ‘outside’ resources, but as Table 14 demonstrates, not much.  The average child support contribution is $211.04 per month, and for the 22.3% who have cash resources the average is about $202.76.  We can’t add these together because not all households receiving child support payments are those in which there are other cash resources, and vice versa.

The report does tell us that adults receiving TANF benefits are young, but not necessarily very young.  9.4% are under 20, 50.5% are between 20-29, another 25.3% range from 30 to 40, and 12.5% are between 40 and 49.  Only 2.3% are over 50 years of age.  [Table 18]

The pattern holds by gender as well. 1,369 men were TANF beneficiaries, and most were between the ages of 20-49. Only 27.9% were older than 40 years of age.  [Table 19]  5,639 recipients were women, of whom only 10.8% were under 20.  53.7% were between the age of 20 and 29, 23.9% were between 30 and 39, and 11.6% were over 39. [Table 20]

One part of the common perspective is established in the Nevada figures, adult recipients are predominantly single. 63.9% are single, 23.6% are married, and 6.8% are separated.  Another 5.4% were divorced, and 0.3% widowed. [Table 22]

We should also refrain from making generalizations about the levels of education achieved by TANF recipients.  Of the 7,034 adult beneficiaries 1.7% have no formal education, 37.6% have some education between grades 1 and 11; 54.1% have completed grade 12, and 6.6% have some education beyond high school. [Table 25]

There another myth that need challenging — that those who accept public assistance are dooming their souls to a life time of subservience to the government and destroying their work ethic. Again, the real numbers don’t square with the mythology. The TANF families in active cases including children receive assistance for an average of 17.9 months in Nevada. The state of South Dakota has the highest average in the report, some 50 months.  [Table 41]

Even if we consider the stereotypical (and highly inaccurate) face of welfare as the African American teen mother then her 75.3 years of life expectancy would mean that in Nevada she would spend only 17.9 months of her expected 900 months of life on this planet receiving TANF benefits, or about 1.9% of her life span.

If we look at the tables for children receiving TANF assistance in Nevada the picture remains similar. There are 4,266 children receiving benefits (in homes where the adults are not). The number of months for which benefits are paid averages out to 28.1. [Table 42] Hardly a life time of dependency.  Can we argue that the child who received benefits might at some point in his or her life also require assistance as an adult?  One could, but that would require assuming that children once beneficiaries of assistance will necessarily require assistance as an adult.  Even if we accept this questionable proposition, the numbers dictate that the assistance will not be a life time dependency but a short term benefit of 17 to 18 months on average.

As we examine the active TANF cases for Nevada in FY 2010 there are several issues that should be resolved by the figures.  Welfare in Nevada is NOT  Black, it is not necessarily a teen mother, it is not undocumented workers, it is not a life time subservience, it is not lucrative, and it is not draining the Yankee Work Ethic (whatever that might be) from the souls of the recipients.

Only in the highly generalized, ideological, world of right wing propaganda does the mythology drive the perception of welfare as a trap net.  The real numbers tell a very different story, in which we do provide a safety net for our citizens, and by extension our economy.

Comments Off

Filed under Economy, Politics