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Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  1 degree F on both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind NW, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky has a low overcast, there is fog over the channel and it has just stopped snowing, after depositing another 3" last night.  The humidity is 82% and the barometer is steady, currently at 30.07".  The roads are hard-packed with ice and snow, and there is at least a foot of snow on the ground where it is undisturbed by the wind.  It often gets much colder than at present in January, but the month isn't over yet, either.
   The Oregon militia standoff (See posts of Jan. 4 and 5) continues, but seems to be disintegrating. The Hammonds, the ranchers who have reported to prison, have asked the militia occupying the federal wildlife building near Burns, Oregon, to go home, as have the local sheriff and the local citizens assembled in a town hall meeting.  The occupiers have been negotiating with the FBI, and they have turned away armed reinforcements.  All things considered, if no one pules a trigger, and everyone is patient, this thing will end soon.
   What won't end is the underlying injustice: of the sentencing of two local ranchers to prison on  ridiculous charges; or the un-redressed grievances of the ranching community; or the arrogance of the federal government, and in particular the present administration, in the appropriation of land for federal "monuments"';  or the imbalance of power between the states and the federal government vis a vis land ownership and management.
   The latter problem is the root cause of much of this and other such controversies.  Consider the following statistics regarding federal ownership of lands within state boundaries: Oregon, 53%; Nevada, 85%; Utah, 66%; Alaska, 61%.  The Western states average over 50% of their land owned and managed by the federal government.  This means that the federal government, and Washington politicians and lobbyists, control an enormous amount of the economic and environmental potential of the those states.  That means Washington controls water, grazing, forestry and logging, roads, mining and oil and gas exploration and production.
   Not only has that control has been overbearing and prone to corruption and abuse,  but it has been very much in the hands of land management ideologues who don't seem to like people, and are more concerned with scientific and historic abstractions than with the livelihoods of local citizens who live on the land.
    Federal ownership of local lands has not remained static nor declined, but has aggressively expanded through executive order and has continually taken lands out of any kind of economic use.  Land owners are forced to go bankrupt when denied traditional grazing rights, and then their lands are absorbed by the feds.  It's no wonder the ranchers are "up in arms."
   Contrast that with the Eastern and Midwestern states, where on average the federal government owns only 2% of the total land; and with another Western state, geographically giant Texas,  in which 95% of the land is privately owned, and which manages all its own public land save the 2% that is federally owned (primarily in one or two large national parks).
   The western militias aren't the only public that sees a continually expanding federal government as a growing menace to their freedom and prosperity, and a lot of folks will identify with the ranchers and protesters when they analyze the infringement of the federal government on their own interests.
  The IRS is a threat to the freedom and well-being of us all and should be abolished.  The EPA controls the air we breath and soon will control every drop of water we drink or use, and what we plant and harvest; I propose it be shrunk by 75% and renamed the Environmental Opportunity Administration. The BLM should be renamed the Bureau of Land Sales, and sell itself out of business. The other alphabet agencies should likewise be shrunken considerably, or eliminated entirely.
   There's an awfully lot of work to be done before we get back our land and our freedoms.

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