Category Archives: Politics

Wall Street May Not Be The Enemy: It’s the friends we need to watch

“Wall Street” is an extremely elastic catch phrase, useful for politicians of all stripes.  For example, we have Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) reminding us at every possible moment that he “voted against the bail out.” And, we have politicians from the other side of the aisle excoriating the traders for all the ills of modern America.  Both are off the mark.

Wall Street sign

First, beware the thinly veneered populism of Senator Heller.  Yes, he did vote against the bailout – an extremely safe vote at the time – but, NO he hasn’t stopped being the Bankers’ Boy he’s always been.  Let’s remember that while he was offering himself as the Little Guy’s Candidate he was voting on June 30, 2010 to recommit the Dodd-Frank Act to instruct conferees to expand the exemption for commercial businesses using financial derivatives to hedge their risks from the margin requirements in the bill.  Then, on June 30, 2010, he voted against the conference report of the Dodd-Frank Act.  Heller wasn’t finished.

In 2011 he and then Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced S. 712 – a bill to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act.

“What S. 712 does is to (1) repeal measures which require banks to have a plan for orderly liquidation (another word for bankruptcy), (2) repeal requirements that banks keep records of transactions which would need to be transparent in case an “orderly liquidation” is in order, (3) repeal the establishment of an oversight committee to determine when a bank is becoming “too big to fail,” and is endangering the financial system — an early warning system if you will.  The new requirements governing (4) Swaps would also be repealed, along with the (5) Consumer Protection bureau.” [DB 2011]

Few could have been more obviously promoting the interests of Wall Street traders than Heller and DeMint. [DB 2012]  Few could have been more readily apparent in their enthusiasm to protect the financialists from the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act including the Volcker Rule.

Volcker Rule

A word about the Volcker Rule:

“The Volcker Rule included in the Dodd-Frank Act prohibits banks from proprietary trading and restricts investment in hedge funds and private equity by commercial banks and their affiliates. Further, the Act directed the Federal Reserve to impose enhanced prudential requirements on systemically identified non-bank institutions engaged in such activities. Congress did exempt certain permitted activities of banks, their affiliates, and non-bank institutions identified as systemically important, such as market making, hedging, securitization, and underwriting. The Rule also capped bank ownership in hedge funds and private equity funds at three percent. Institutions were given a seven year timeframe to become compliant with the final regulations.” [SIFMA]

Yes, Senator Heller et. al., if the Dodd-Frank Act is repealed then the financialists on Wall Street may go back to gleefully trading all manner of junk in all kinds of packaging with no limits on bank ownership of hedge and private equity funds.  Let’s remind ourselves at this point that capitalism works.  It’s financialism that’s the problem.  Under a capitalist form of finance resources (investments) are moved from areas (funds) with a surplus to areas (businesses) with a scarcity of funds.  Under a financialist system capital (money) is traded for complex financial instruments (paper contracts) the value of which is open to question.  Not to put too fine a point to it, but the “instruments” seems to have whatever value the buyer and seller agree to whether the deal makes any sense or not.  The Dodd-Frank Act doesn’t forbid “financialism” but it does put the brakes on.

Notice, it puts the brakes on, but doesn’t eliminate the old CDOs.  Nor does it prevent the CDO with a new name: The Bespoke Tranche Opportunity.  It works like this:

“The new “bespoke” version of the idea flips that business dynamic around. An investor tells a bank what specific mixture of derivatives bets it wants to make, and the bank builds a customized product with just one tranche that meets the investor’s needs. Like a bespoke suit, the products are tailored to fit precisely, and only one copy is ever produced. The new products are a symptom of the larger phenomenon of banks taking complex risks in pursuit of higher investment returns, Americans for Financial Reform’s Marcus Stanley said in an email, and BTOs “could be automatically exempt” from some Dodd-Frank rules.” [TP]

Zero Hedge summed this up: “This is the synthetic CDO equivalent of a Build-A-Bear Workshop.” We’re told not to worry our pretty little heads about this because, gee whiz, CDOs got a bad reputation during the Big Recession of 2007-2008, when they were just “hedging credit exposure.”  Yes, and ARMs got a bad reputation when they were just putting people in houses… Spare me.

And, we’d think that after the CDO debacle of 2007-2008, some one might have learned something somehow, but instead we get the Bespoke Tranche Opportunity and a big bubble in really really junky bonds.   That would be really really really junky bonds:

“Junk bonds are living up to their name right now. As we have noted in the past, the lowest-rated junk bonds may have inflated a $1 trillion bubble at the bottom of the debt market. The thing is, it never should have gotten that way.” [BusInsider]

Indeed, back in the bad old days no one could issue CCC bonds.  Now, we have Central Banks supporting Zombie Companies, low yield Treasuries making investors look to more “speculative” debt, and more demand for high yields meant that purveyors of Junk found a market for their garbage. [BusInsider] And, of course, someone out there is hedging all this mess.

Lemmings Here we meet the second problem with financial regulation in this great country.  Not only would the Bankers’ Boys like Senator Heller like to go back to the days of Deregulation, but the Financialists are hell bent on Yield! High Yield!  Even if this means supporting Zombie Companies which should probably just die already; even if this means allowing the sale of Bespoke Tranche Opportunities; and, even if this means selling bonds no one would touch only a few years ago.  The quarterly earnings report demands higher yields (As in: What Have You Done For Me In 90 Days Or Less) and investors jump like lemmings off the cliff.

We’ll probably keep doing this until someone figures out that in these schemes the chances are pretty good that “getting rich fast” more often means going broke even faster.  Thus the financialists package Bespoke Opportunities and C (for Crappy) Bonds.

Said it before, and will say it again:’  What needs to be done is —

  • Continuing to restrict the activity of bankers who want to securitize mortgages, under the terms of existing banking laws and regulations.
  • Continued implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act.

To which we should add, “restrict the creation and sale of artificial “investment” paper products which add nothing to the real economy of this country, and instead soaks up investment funds, and creates Bubbles rather than growth.

 

Read more atSIFMA, “Volcker Rule Resource Center, Overview.” Desert Beacon, “Deregulation Debacle,” 2012.  Desert Beacon, “Full Tilt Boogie,” 2011.  Think Progress, “High Risk Investments,” 2015.  Zero Hedge, “The Bubble is Complete,” 2015.  Bustle, “Is the ‘Big Short’ Right?, 2016.  Bloomberg News, “Goldman Sachs Hawks CDOs,” 2015.  Huffington Post, “Big Short, Big Wake Up Call,” 2016.  Market Mogul, “BTO, Deja Vu” 2016.  Business Insider, “Trillion Dollar Bubble,” 2016.  Business Insider, “Bubble Ready to Burst,” 2016.  Seeking Alpha, “OK, I get it, the junk bond miracle rally is doomed,” 2016.  Wolfstreet, “CCC rated junk bonds blow past Lehman moment,” 2016.

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The Manufactured Martyrs: Nevada’s Bundyland Bunch

Bundy 2

There are specious arguments, and then there are those which are just downright hysterical. Hysterically funny or screaming tantrums hysterical;  the defense of the Bundy Bunch looks to fit into both those categories.

Cliven Bundy wants to be released from Federal custody because the government is holding him as a Political Prisoner?  At least according to attorney Joel Hansen:

“The government seems to be afraid that it might lose in a jury trial, so it wants to keep him in prison, in solitary confinement, as long as it can because he, like Nelson Mandela, is a political prisoner,” Hansen wrote. “There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution allowing the federal government to hold political prisoners without a trial. Nothing.” [LVRJ]

For those unfamiliar with the right wing of Nevada’s right wing politics, Joel Hansen is part of the Hansen Family Party, aka the Independent American Party which boasts 70,323 registered voters in Nevada, making it the third largest party in the state. The numbers sound impressive until it’s noted that there are 585,890 registered Democrats and 493,612 registered Republicans; and, 295,319 registered as non-partisan. [NV SoS]  As recently as 2002 the Hansen family was the heart of the IAP in Nevada, and members were running for all manner of offices – some inviting controversy with then Secretary of State Dean Heller by not filing campaign financial reports with his office. [LVSun]

So, where does Joel Hansen find the justification for comparing failing rancher Cliven Bundy with international hero Mandela?  We can start with the IAP Platform:

“We believe that to maintain freedom, our political institutions must be founded upon faith in God and upon moral laws and principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution for the United States, the Bill of Rights, and the Holy Scriptures.  We believe that the function of government is to protect life, liberty, property, and the fundamental and God-given rights of the people, and that anything more than this is usurpation and oppression.” [IAP

And they do mean Anything, including the management of federal land and properties.

We oppose intrusion of the federal government in areas that rightfully belong to the states.  We favor abolishing federal control of all lands, except for necessary forts, military bases, post offices, etc., as enumerated in, but limited by, the Constitution.  We support the return to the states of all lands unconstitutionally seized, acquired or controlled by the federal government (10th Amendment), and those taken unconstitutionally as “required” for that state to join the Union. [IAP]

Indeed, manufacturing martyrs requires believing that federal management of federal facilities, and federal lands, constitutes “usurpation and oppression.”

Further, the Hansen-Bundy philosophy requires looping into the realm of a fantasy in which the armed resistance to BLM operations, and the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge meets the definition of a “peaceful protest.”  Additionally, it’s still a peaceful protest even if it was originally estimated to cost $3.3 million to clean up the mess made at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and then the estimate increased to approximately $6 million by March 23, 2016. [OregonLive]  Evidently, abandoned homes, compromised bank accounts, and death threats to workers at the Malheur Refuge were part of a “peaceful protest?” [OregonLive]

Cliven Bundy’s problems, however, stem not from the Malheur assault and occupation – that bundle falls to his offspring — but from his response to BLM attempts to enforce federal regulations on lands it is tasked to manage near Bunkerville, NV.

“Bundy faces 16 felony counts, including extortion, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, conspiracy to impede or injure a federal officer, assault on a federal officer, threatening a federal law enforcement officer and using and carrying a firearm in a crime of violence.

Bundy and 18 others — including four of his sons, Ammon, Ryan, Melvyn and David — were charged in a new federal indictment in Las Vegas last week in connection with the April 12, 2014, Bunkerville showdown.” [LVRJ]

Bundy Armed

Photos from the Bunkerville “peaceful protest” don’t seem to argue for an interpretation of a  non-violent approach to discussing issues of cattle operations with the Bureau of Land Management.

 

Hansen and his client have a bit of a problem trying to turn the actions at Bunkerville into Bunker Hill.  Either the demonstrations at the site were peaceful, and none of the armed gunmen actually intended to fire their weapons, or it was a exemplar of armed resistance to the Federal oppressors and usurpers – at which time it’s no longer a “peaceful protest,” and that part about “obstruction of justice,” and “threatening law enforcement officers” is  both relevant and provable.

Hansen: “Does Mr. Bundy have the right to raise a constitutional question about the legality of the high-handed tactics of the BLM?” Hansen asked in his court papers. “Of course he does — and particularly by making statements about the actions of the BLM and by the exercise of people’s First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and the people’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” [LVRJ]

By this logic, if one were to show up at a BLM office, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, fully loaded, and pointed at the personnel inside, this would be “making a statement?” Exercising freedom of speech? And, just showing support for the 2nd Amendment?  This ought to explain fully and quickly precisely how the sons decided that taking over a wildlife refuge was a “good idea.”   It goes nowhere toward explaining how attorney and IAP pillar Joel Hansen is going to turn the muggers into martyrs.

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Local Water, the EPA: Beyond Goodsprings

Water Faucet EPA

The Reno Gazette Journal reports that there are 23 local water systems in Nevada which are not in compliance with drinking water standards (there are currently 22, but more on that later).  Three local systems listed in the article have lead contamination levels exceeding the lead standard, 15 ppb (parts per billion) as the “action level.”  The public needs this information. However, the agency responsible for establishing the maximum contaminant level (MCL) standards is the whipping boy of choice for the Republican Party.  In short – it really doesn’t do to get up in arms about water or air pollution levels and then call for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The regulatory system isn’t all that complicated. The EPA establishes the standards and then it’s up to the states to devise the implementation.  There’s a reason for this. Setting national standards means that states can’t compete in a ‘race to the bottom’ in which some states seek to attract industry by lowering standards until they are in competition to achieve the status of “Worse Than Any Pig Would Ever Consider in a Sty.”  And, potentially damaging everyone else’s air and water in the process.  However, this hasn’t stopped Over-Hyped Demagogue Donald Trump from calling for handing over environmental regulation to the individual states.  [WaPo]

Nor has this made much of an impression on Seven Mountain Dominionist Ted Cruz; “Cruz has called the EPA a “radical” agency that has imposed “illegal” limits on greenhouse gases from power plants. “I think states should press back using every tool they have available,” the Texas senator has said. “We’ve got to rein in a lawless executive that is abusing its power.” [WaPo]

Ohio Governor John Kasich has been critical of the Michigan attempts to address its man-made, GOP inspired, water quality issues in Flint, MI, but hasn’t been on top of the situation with the Sebring, OH water contamination. [TP]

The 2008 Republican national platform was exceptionally mealy-mouthed about environmental protection:

“Our national progress toward cleaner air and water has been a major accomplishment of the American people. By balancing environmental goals with economic growth and job creation, our diverse economy has made possible the investment needed to safeguard natural resources, protect endangered species, and create healthier living conditions. State and local initiatives to clean up contaminated sites — brownfields — have exceeded efforts directed by Washington. That progress can continue if grounded in sound science, long-term planning, and a multiuse approach to resources.”

It’s not likely that much more will come from a 2016 version.   Nor should we expect much in the way of support for addressing the national problems associated with our drinking water systems.  Remember the ASCE’s Report Card on American Infrastructure (2013)?

“At dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA). The quality of drinking water in the United States remains universally high, however. Even though pipes and mains are frequently more than 100 years old and in need of replacement, outbreaks of disease attributable to drinking water are rare.”

Not to put too fine a point to it, but as a nation we’re running on a Run-to-Ruin system in which local water distributors are functioning with outdated infrastructure while trying to maintain acceptable levels of quality.  Goodsprings Elementary School offers us an example of what can happen given a 1913 building and 21st century water quality standards. [RGJ]  If Goodsprings was an isolated example, then we could address the aging pipes and move on, but it’s not that isolated, nor that uncommon.  Current EPA estimates indicate we are having to replace between 4,000 and 5,000 miles of drinking water mains in this country on an annual basis, and that the annual replacement rate will peak sometime around 2035 with 16,000 and 20,000 miles of aging pipe needing to be replaced each year. [ASCE]

Putting The Public Back In Public Utility

I am going to start with some basic assumptions. First, that a family or person should be able to move to any part of this great land and expect to find clean water running from the faucet.  Secondly, that it is not a good idea to allow individual states to set drinking water standards, since some might find it inconvenient or inexpedient to set scientifically reliable standards in the interest of “development” or “industrialization.”  Such a piece meal approach would put paid to the first basic assumption.   So, if we’re agreed that any person in this country should have a reasonable expectation of clean drinking water then we need national standards.

Some of the standards are easier than others.  Arsenic contamination levels offer an example of a complex problem with some nuanced related issues.  The MCL (maximum contaminant level) for arsenic was lowered in 2001 from 50 ppb to 10 ppb. Public water systems were to be in compliance by January 23, 2006. [EPA] [More information at FAS pdf] The Reno Gazette Journal reports ten Nevada water systems not in compliance.  One, the McDermitt GID has recently been declared in compliance with a current projected annual running average below 10 ppb after the system put in a new central well.

Arsenic enters the drinking water systems one of two ways, either through industrial activity or as a naturally occurring contaminant.  If the system is west of the Rocky Mountains it’s a reasonably good bet that the arsenic is naturally occurring.  It’s probably not too far off the mark to say that if the standard were set at 15 ppb most Nevada water systems would be in compliance, but the standard is 10 and that’s ultimately what matters.

The smaller public water systems have more trouble meeting the standards than the larger ones, as described by the BSDW:  “The smaller systems are the ones that tend to struggle with regaining compliance because they typically have limited financial resources so we have to collectively figure out ways to help that community get back to compliance,” said Jennifer Carr, NDEP deputy administrator. “Larger systems such as TMWA also have more personnel to tackle projects whereas some of our smaller water systems are operated by one person who might be doing another side job.” [RGJ]

And, now we’re down to the gritty part: Where does the money come from to resolve contaminant problems with arsenic? Or, for that matter, other water infrastructure issues?    The State Revolving Fund provides low interest loans for water infrastructure projects in the state; and can in some circumstances offer “forgiven” loans to small public water services.  The “bottom line” is that in 2016 there will be a need for approximately $279 million for arsenic treatment, groundwater treatment, storage tank replacements, metering systems, and distribution lines in Nevada.  And, the worse news, “Not all will be funded.” [KTVN]

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund was created in 1996 to support water systems and state safe water programs.  “The 51 DWSRF programs function like infrastructure banks by providing low interest loans to eligible recipients for drinking water infrastructure projects. As money is paid back into the state’s revolving loan fund, the state makes new loans to other recipients. These recycled repayments of loan principal and interest earnings allow the state’s DWSRF to “revolve” over time.”  [EPA]   As of 2014 this system had provided $27.9 billion to water suppliers to improve drinking water treatment, improve sources of drinking water, providing safe storage tanks, fixing leaking or aging distribution pipe, and other projects to protect public health. [EPA] The EPA estimates that small public water systems nationwide, those serving populations less than 3,330,  will need approximately $64.5 billion for infrastructure needs. [EPA 5th report pdf]

What was the Republican controlled Congress’s response? They may have avoided a shutdown, but the waters weren’t exactly flowing:

The bill provides $863.2 million for the DWSRF  well below President Obama’s request of $1.186 billion and more than $40 million below the programs FY2015 appropriation.While the figure represents the lowest DWSRF appropriation in several years, it is significantly above the FY16 funding levels originally proposed by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, each of which would have cut DWSRF funding to below $780 million. [UIM]

What have we learned?

  • The Republican candidates for the presidency show little to no enthusiasm for infrastructure investments in general, and beyond bemoaning the state of Flint’s water system which must be someone’s fault “just not ours,” even less enthusiasm for funding local drinking water improvement projects.
  • The Republicans in Congress were only too happy to cut funding for the best source for local public water companies projects, in the name of “fiscal responsibility” – meaning, one could think, that preserving tax cuts for the rich is preferable to providing clean drinking water to everyone.
  • The infrastructure needs in this country are serious and go well beyond fixing bridges and filling pot-holes.  This, and we’ve not yet reached the peak of distribution line replacement needs coming up in the next 20 years.
  • “Austerity” is a lovely buzz word, and “We’d love to do it but we just can’t afford to” is a fine campaign trail stump speech phrase, but these won’t keep the water coming from the tap clean and safe.  We need to stop thinking of our infrastructure as an expense and begin to consider it for what it is – an investment; an investment in the capacity of our cities and towns to provide basic services so that economic activity can take place.
  • And, NO it isn’t a good idea to abolish the EPA.

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Oh The Kids These Days! Young GOP laments Oldsters’ Platform

Little Old Lady Someone, somewhere is going to craft an article or blog post pointing out the obvious: That the old GOP coalition of social conservatives and fiscal conservatives was a marriage of convenience, not a mutual love match for time immemorial.  Perhaps it takes the kids to say it.

“The Washoe County Republican Party adopted a platform at their county convention on Saturday many young Republicans felt was too focused on socially conservative issues – and might turn potential voters away during the general election.” [Reno GJ]

I’m not advocating holding one’s breath until the Big Pundits begin talking about the Republican Party in disarray.  However, the combined efforts of the Trumpery and the Cruz Seven Mountain Dominionists, are not conducive to drawing fiscally conservative but socially moderate younger people into the GOP fold.  The identity crisis among Republicans is in full view and the kids are watching.

As the right wing of the right wing becomes the voice of the GOP, consider how these comments would sound to younger ears:

“Titus warned that if conservative Christians give up on trying to shape government to biblical specifications, they will end up like the Amish, with special protections for their religion but “no influence in the greater society”

“God didn’t call us to just be in a closed-off, religious community, God called us to exercise dominion,” he said.

He repeated that public officials who disagree with marriage equality should defy the law and “make people remove us from office, if that’s what it’s going to take you, ‘you can remove me, but I’m not going to just ask you to give me a special privilege, or resign and will no longer function in a civil capacity.’ What that does, I think, is basically sounds the bugle of retreat.” [RWW] (emphasis added)

That’s right kids, the Christianist Right doesn’t want respect – they want dominion, and they don’t much care if your gay friends are mowed down in the cross fire.  In fact, they welcome it. And so, the Washoe County GOP voted on their platform, without debate:

A majority of party members ratified the platform without debate, including planks such as denying man-made climate change, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and abolishing legal prostitution in the state. [Reno GJ]

This platform option assumes the old coalition of Money and God, but it also presupposes a foundation based on Cruz-ian theocratic philosophy:

‘Cruz resonates with the evangelical culture warriors. He mixes what New York Times columnist David Brooks describes as political “brutalism” with a belief that he is engaged in a fight with the devil for the soul of the nation. It is only a matter of time before Cruz assumes the role of the Old Testament prophet Elijah and tries to cast down fire from heaven to destroy the “prophets of Baal” who oppose his campaign.

When Cruz says he wants to “reclaim” or “restore” America, he does not only have the Obama administration in mind. This agenda takes him much deeper into the American past. Cruz wants to “restore” the United States to what he believes is its original identity: a Christian nation.” [WaPo]

That this nation never existed isn’t relevant to Cruz or other socially conservative (mostly white) Republican voters.  It’s simple,” His (Cruz)goal is to lead a Christian occupation of the culture and then wait for the Second Coming of Christ.” [WaPo] It doesn’t sound like the kids are into that.

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Power for the Loons: A small electric co-op considers what to do with the Loons at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

Harney Electric Map Harney Electric Cooperative is the power transmission and distribution provider for approximately 20,000 square miles of southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada, and right in the midst of their service territory map is the Malheur Wildlife Refuge – currently occupied by more loons than pin tails, swans, and geese.

The Co-op has about 4,000 power meters, 350 miles of transmission line, and more than 2,400 miles of distribution line across the six counties shown on the map.  And there are numerous voices asking why the power hasn’t been cut off at the Malheur Refuge…

A major consideration is Safety.  Harney Electric, for all its territorial expanse, isn’t a very large company.  In fact, the members read their own meters. The company audits meter readings once a year, but for all 12 months of the year the meters are read by the customer/members and not by designated meter readers.  The main office is in Hines, OR (population 1,510) with a branch office in Orovada, NV (population 155) and another small satellite office in Fields, OR (population 120).   It isn’t too far off the mark to say that the administration and management of the co-op is a case of everyone knowing everyone else – employees included.  No one is particularly excited about sending in a lineman to shut off the power at the Refuge since the Loons have an unfortunate track record of actually shooting and killing people.  Case in point: the two miscreants who joined the Bundy Militia for a time in Their Great Delusional Standoff in southern Nevada, and then saw fit to assassinate two police officers in Las Vegas. [MSNBC]  There’s frankly little way for the power company to win —

If they send in an unarmed lineman – do the Loons take offense and physically attack the lineman?  If they send in police or national guard with the lineman – does this constitute an “assault” by the authorities, and also place the lineman in peril?  Should the lineman and a police escort approach the “boundary” does this create a justification in the twisted minds of the trespassers for the shooting to start?  No one in charge at the power company is particularly happy about the prospect of seeing a lineman’s body draped in a Tea Party flag.

Gee, offer some naysayers – why can’t the co-op cut the power off well outside the range of the Loons?  That assumes that the co-op has isolation capacity, and the equipment already installed to shut down portions of the distribution line.  Since its founding in 1961, the co-op’s primary concern has been to get power to isolated areas, NOT how to shut off power to isolated portions of its service area.   The co-op has shut off power to the Frenchglen, OR BLM fire station [OregonLive] as of January 7, 2016, another target of the Loons, but not occupied by them.  The integrity of the BLM fire station at Frenchglen is an important component in the safety of Harney Electric Cooperative’s transmission and distribution lines in southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada.

And then there’s the matter of the bill.  The Bundy Loons are using metered power to prepare their grilled cheese sandwiches – the current rate for power at minimum is $28.75 per month for the first 150 kilowatt hours.  No one’s heard how the Bundy’s intend to pay for the power they’re using – any more than anyone’s figured out how they intend to pay for the $1 million in back grazing fees and penalties they already owe.  However, this time the Bundy’s aren’t ripping off the federal government – they’re ripping off the customers of a small electric cooperative.

If the Loons keep up their occupation to March 1, 2016 they should be mindful that Harney Electric’s minimum rate will increase to $31.50 per month with a 9 cent charge for every kilowatt hour after 150.  Security light pricing will be at $9 a month for a 100 watt light on a meter or transformer pole, and the charge for a specially placed pole will be $11.80 per month.  If the Loons are using a 150 watt security light, that will cost them $13.00 per month.

Somewhere in the midst of their Grand Delusion about Sticking It to the Federal Government, the Loon Militia (#YallQaeda) in their Cowliphate, have forgotten that it isn’t the Federal Government keeping the lights on at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, it’s a small electric cooperative, which expects its customers to read their meters and pay promptly.   It appears that the Bundy definition of Liberty incorporates taking what they want, when they want it, without consideration of how this narcissistic selfishness impacts others … like the Harney Electric Cooperative and its customers.

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Silhouettes in Courage

It’s been confirmed that the perpetrators of the Bundystan sit in at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge are free to go into town for their “snacks.”  There are at least two ways to view this element of the situation. One, the authorities are allowing the continuation of the occupation of federal property in ways that are inconceivable to those who remember the May 1985 assault on Osage Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. [Guardian] Another perspective is that the authorities aren’t taking the Grand Occupation of the YallQaeda Militia as seriously as the YeeHawdists wanted.  Thus, this isn’t the Alamo – it certainly isn’t Ruby Ridge, much less Waco.  And, there the YallQaeda sits — assured in their own minds that their actions will cause significant discourse about public land management and a Rising of the Populace – being held up to ridicule instead of admiration.

Case in point: The man who says he won’t be locked in a concrete box is more than happy to sit inside a blue tarp for the duration —

Tarp Man Granted that prisons are unpleasant places in which to reside, but being stuck in a chair under a tarp in  weather not predicted to get much over 17 degrees Fahrenheit at night for the next week isn’t my idea of Freedom.  And, to do so while insinuating that you’d fight to the death before you’d leave the “comfort” of your Little Blue Tarp because you won’t tolerate  an arrest, leaves one wondering if some kind soul won’t donate a copy of Magnus Mill’s 1998 novel “The Restraint of Beasts” to help the ‘patriots’ pass the time?

The wildlife refuge has been a contentious issue for the Hammond family for some time [TPM] but with the Hammonds reporting to authorities to complete their prison sentence there seems little for the YallQaeda to do but crank up the verbiage and get the perfectly predictable Twitter backlash.  The level of self delusion is, indeed, remarkable.  Who, while illegally occupying federal property, would NOT think arrest warrants are a logical outcome?  Ammon Bundy cites his “credible sources” as informing him of impending arrest warrants [Oregonian] Well, gee… what would a person expect in the circumstances?

There are some voices in support, albeit tangential at best. For example, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) used his time on the House Floor to excoriate the Bureau of Land Management for its insensitivity to the “culture” of the American West. [Oregonian]  However, Rep. Walden’s aim seems a bit off the mark,  if for no other reason than the Malheur Refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Walden was explicit is his condemnation of illegal occupations, and his speech was hardly a ringing endorsement of the Bundy Bunch.

So the Bundy Boys Camp Out will continue until the residents of Burns, OR have exhausted their patience, and the YallQaeda has worn out its welcome.  The federal, state, and local reaction seems to imply that (1) there aren’t very many occupiers, and (2) they aren’t actually doing very much; except sitting in an isolated camp from which the TV trucks will depart for the Next Shiny Object getting cold and wondering why the Great Insurrection hasn’t started.

Silhouettes in courage.

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Dispatches from Bundystan

Dispatch Case While the Bundyites and their associated #VanillaISIS #Y’AllQaeda #YeeHawDist members, there are some informative and serious pieces of background writing which deserve our attention.  One of these is Elaine Hunt’s piece for Lets Talk Nevada, “Senator Dean Heller on the Bundys and the BLM.”   Hunt provides local context for the ongoing situation between the “Sovereign” Bundys, including the stances taken by city and county officials.

There’s no shortage of articles available concerning the tactics which might be adopted to resolve the situation in the Malheur Wildlife Reserve.  Newsweek offers its advice on how the Federal government can resolve the issue peacefully.  The Washington Post provides some context for the ongoing fight over public lands in Oregon.   The piece also provides a bit of encouraging news: The government position that the Bundy Gang is invading the area is taking hold with local officials in the local area.

Meanwhile, authorities are planning to cut the power to the facilities at the Malheur Refuge [Guardian] To which the #VanillaISIS responded they were ready – however, surely they know that if the Federal and local agencies cut off traffic to the Refuge it won’t be all that long before they’ve run through the gasoline in the pickups to run a generator?  This point highlights some questions which such radical activities raise in general.

Question Marks

# How do radicals convince themselves that there is a vast reservoir of support for their cause?  From the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791, with sporadic anti-tax violence until 1794, which ended with the “rebels” fleeing in the face of Washington’s collection of 13,000 militia members from Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – to John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on the Harper’s Ferry federal arsenal – to Charleston murderer Dylann Roof’s pathetic attempt to “start a race war” [Nwk] – to the equally pathetic request of the #Y’AllQaeda for people to send “snacks” and come to join them – the radicals have vastly overestimated the breadth and depth of their causes.

# Why do movements such as #Y’AllQaeda almost invariably include leadership which indulges in pseudo-military activities rather than actually enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces?   Oathkeepers being the exception, as would be the likes of Timothy McVeigh, many of the self styled Militia types don’t  have what might be considered even para-military training.  Target shooting, gun collecting, and video games don’t create real soldiers.  A point which appears to have escaped many militants.

# It’s interesting that some of the loudest critics of range management often include individuals who aren’t all that successful in ranching enterprises?   Previous  Nevada protests, in Elko County (Gardner), and in Nye County (Hage), were sparked by the actions of individuals who blamed the Bureau of Land Management for problems they may very well have created for themselves. 

I suppose we’ll always have among us those who have inflated views of their own agency, and unrealistic perspectives concerning the level of support for their own cause.  The play-soldiers will continue to conflate fantasy with professional military reality.  And, those who cannot accept or admit their limitations will invariably blame others for their problems.  The trick is not to allow this to fester and metastasize in the body politic.

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