Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Border Patrol brain drain: Agency losing more agents than it can hire

As the president renewed his call for a border wall, the agency charged with building it is facing a manpower crisis. The Border Patrol is losing agents faster than it can hire them. The agency is already 2,003 short of what is congressionally mandated and the president ordered it to hire 5,000 more agents. “It is an employment crisis,” said agent and Tucson union chief Art Del Cueto. “We are losing more agents than we can hire.” According to a GAO report last year, the Border Patrol is losing 905 agents annually, while hiring only 523. Some are retiring but many with five or 10 years of experience are taking higher-paying jobs in other federal agencies in less remote areas with better schools, health care and job opportunities for their spouses...more

H.R.732 - Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017

Printus LeBlanc writes

One of the most overlooked actions Attorney General Jeff Sessions took was to end third-party settlements. Under the previous administration, the Justice Department allowed companies it fined to pay third-parties organizations not associated with the original crime. Not only did the department allow the offenders to pay third-parties, they received double the credit for doing so. The payments would go to Obama administration approved organizations such as National Council of La Raza, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and the National Urban League. All left leaning organizations that help the help the Democrat Party carry out its mission. Congressional investigators estimate at least $3 billion went to third-party groups during the Obama administration. Sessions issued the order on June 7, 2017, stating, “When the federal government settles a case against a corporate wrongdoer, any settlement funds should go first to the victims and then to the American people— not to bankroll third-party special interest groups or the political friends of whoever is in power,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Unfortunately, in recent years the Department of Justice has sometimes required or encouraged defendants to make these payments to third parties as a condition of settlement. With this directive, we are ending this practice and ensuring that settlement funds are only used to compensate victims, redress harm, and punish and deter unlawful conduct.” The Sessions led Justice Department has also ended the “sue and settle” scheme. Under the Obama administration, left-leaning groups would sue the federal government to enforce a regulation in a new, expanded way. Because the Obama administration agreed with the left-leaning groups, they refused to defend the federal laws on the books, and would “settle” the suit by signing “consent decrees” that functioned as new regulation. Not only did the practice create new regulations devoid of congressional oversight, but it also became a cash cow for liberal law firms. Because the government refused to mount a defense, the left-leaning groups were entitled to substantial attorneys’ fees, paid for by the taxpayer. This was another scheme to fund the left and change the laws without going through Congress. But thanks to Sessions, this is no longer happening...For these reforms to become permanent — and to prevent them from happening again — the Congress should pass specific pieces of legislation. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has a bill H.R. 732, Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017 that has already passed the House, and now sits in the Senate awaiting action. The House has also put the legislation in the upcoming budget, Sec 540, but unfortunately, the Senate has yet to act...

Embedded below is the House Report on this bill. Encourage your Senators to support this legislation.

'New California' movement seeks to divide the Golden State in half

Bradford Betz

Two men have launched a campaign to divide rural California from the coastal cities, motivated by what they referred to as a “tyrannical form of government” that doesn’t follow the U.S. Constitution or the state one, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Unlike the failed 2016 campaign to split California into six states, the “New California” movement, founded by Robert Paul Preston and Tom Reed, seeks to consolidate rural California into a distinct economy separate from the coast. "After years of over taxation, regulation, and mono party politics the State of California and many of its 58 Counties have become ungovernable," the movement declares on its website. Preston and Reed say the citizens of the state live “under a tyrannical form of government that does not follow" constitutional requirements. "There's something wrong when you have a rural county such as this one, and you go down to Orange County which is mostly urban, and it has the same set of problems, and it happens because of how the state is being governed and taxed," Preston told CBS Sacramento. The "founders" have evoked Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution as justification for establishing a new economy with a new state constitution. The "founders" have evoked Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution as justification for establishing a new economy with a new state constitution. It states that a consensus must be reached by the state legislatures of California as well as Congress. The process, according to New California representatives, could take 10 to 18 months. The New California movement unveiled a “Declaration of Independence,” earlier this week that called for a “free and Independent State” with “full power to establish and maintain law and order, to promote general prosperity.” Fox News

Australia's Akubra hat girl kills herself after online bullying, family says

A 14-year-old girl who was the face of Australia’s iconic hat company Akubra killed herself after enduring online bullying, her family said Sunday. Amy “Dolly” Everett, who began the ad campaign when she was 8, died last week to “escape the evil in this world,” her father Tick Everett wrote in a Facebook post. The family did not reveal the extent or the reasons why the girl was bullied. “This week has been an example of how social media should be used, it has also been an example of how it shouldn't be,” Everett wrote. The family released a separate statement on Wednesday to Australia’s ABC Network saying their daughter’s death was the world “crashing down” on them, but thanked the public for the “overwhelming” support. "This is all we are capable of at the moment and ask for your respect to give us time to grieve," the family said. "Our daughter Dolly was the kindest, caring, beautiful soul, and she was always caring for animals, small children, other children at boarding school who were less fortunate than herself.” Akubra also posted a tribute to Dolly Everett on Tuesday, saying the company was “shocked and distressed” to hear about the girl’s death...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Here's a tune that too many people won't understand - Feelings of a Countryman by Bobby & Mark Atkins

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Majority of U.S. National Park Service board resigns, saying it was ignored

Most members of a U.S. National Park Service advisory board, appointed while Barack Obama was president, have resigned after saying they were ignored by President Donald Trump’s administration, the panel chairman said on Tuesday. The National Park System Advisory Board, whose creation was authorised by the U.S. Congress in 1935, is tasked with advising on matters such as the designation of historic and natural landmarks. Seven of the panel’s 10 members have submitted their resignations, Tony Knowles, who chaired the panel and was among those quitting, said by telephone. The advisory board sought a meeting with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, but did not secure it, Knowles said. The non-partisan panel included Republican members, said Knowles, who was the Democratic governor of Alaska from 1994 to 2002. Reuters

Ramona Morrison Replies

Concerning my post of the article BLM made serious mistake with show of force at Nevada standoff retired agency officials say , Ramona Morrison wrote:

Fascinating rewriting of history by two former BLM Officials. Here is my response to the Author:

“In your Bundy article quoting Ford and Abby, you might want to investigate Clark County, NV BLM land auctions and Abby and Ford’s connection to them, including settled lawsuits. In addition, for those horrified with 200 armed federal bureaucrats surrounding the Bundy family, prior to protestors showing up, to gather cows, you need look no further than Bob Abby for the blue print and MO. The differences were the scale of the operation, Abby never had a court order, and he never raided a ranch right next to a major freeway, i.e. witnesses.”

For at least part of what Ramona is referring to, see  
Former BLM chief pushed deal favoring his future firm -- IG  Former Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey was "personally and substantially" involved in the sale of federal lands in Nevada that would have earned his future consulting firm $528,000, in violation of an ethics pledge he signed, the Interior Department Office of Inspector General said in a report released today. The report also concluded that Mike Ford, a consultant and former BLM employee who was Abbey's business partner before and after Abbey's tenure as BLM director, leveraged his connections to agency leadership to gain insider knowledge of the land sale and expedite its approval. The joint investigation by the IG and FBI was requested by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Interior's solicitor and former House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)...

Enviros unhappy with Bundy Trial result, 'Trump is coddling violent zealots; 'Bundy is still an outlaw'; 'Public is being robbed'

I don't normally enjoy reading press releases from environmental orgs. But I'll have to admit, I experienced some type of gleeful joy in reading this from the Western Watersheds Project

 “Bundy is still an outlaw when it comes to his grazing actions, and the prosecutorial failings in the Bunkerville case do not excuse him from the decades of unauthorized livestock trespass on our public lands,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project. “BLM needs to enforce the law and remove his cattle, which are destroying habitat for threatened species.”

 “The Trump administration is coddling violent zealots and preventing the public from feeling safe to enjoy our new national monument,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director. “Zinke needs to stop this illegal grazing, which amounts to theft from the American people and future generations. Our government can’t allow Bundy to claim our protected public lands as his personal empire and defend his theft with force and intimidation.”

 “Nothing in yesterday’s ruling absolves BLM of its duty to protect public lands on behalf of the American people. BLM must remove Bundy’s trespassing cattle,” said Chris Krupp of WildEarth Guardians. “We will continue to call for the roundup of Bundy’s cattle until BLM meets its obligation.”

 “The feds shouldn’t avoid the chance now to ensure that some justice is served to the American public that is being robbed by this family. Gold Butte and the desert tortoise still deserve protection,” said Kirsten Stade of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

And here are some others

"This is a very sad day for America's public lands," said Peter Walker, a University of Oregon geography professor who studies the social and political environmental aspects of the American West and is writing a book on the Bundy family's conflicts with the federal government.

"This court decision will cause every person who agrees with the Bundy ideology to believe they can threaten federal employees on public land with firearms and pay no cost," Walker said

The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation and advocacy group, said the outcome “should send a chill down the spines of anyone who values our parks, wildlife refuges, and all public lands.”.

“My organization has been following the Bundys and their criminal activity for 10 years,” Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director for the Center for Biological Diversity said. “We are absolutely outraged at the incompetence of the prosecutors and the department of justice in handling this case. There is clear evidence that laws were violated by the Bundys and the militia that they roused.”

The most egregious is the one by Peter Walker saying the ranchers would "pay no cost." LaVoy Finicum is dead and Cliven Bundy spent 700 days in jail based on lies by the U.S. Attorney. I would say those are pretty high costs.

I also find it disconcerting not a one expressed concern about the prosecutorial abuses.

Shame on me, though, cuz I still get a certain pleasure reading  those quotes. After all the pain Ive seen them inflict on others, let me just take a moment to enjoy this.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Our selection today is Hank Thompson's 1956 recording of The Blackboard of My Heart

Monday, January 15, 2018

BLM made serious mistake with show of force at Nevada standoff, retired agency officials say

By Maxine Bernstein

Cliven Bundy and his two sons have repeatedly denounced the massive buildup of armed tactical officers, surreptitious surveillance and use of stun guns and police dogs near the family's Nevada ranch in the days leading up to the 2014 federal roundup of their cattle. Now two retired high-level managers with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are condemning their agency's militarized show of force during that operation. Their criticism underscores deep divisions over how the government handled the case from the beginning all the way up to last week's remarkable dismissal of federal charges against the Bundys...The presence of more than 100 federal law enforcement officers was a highly unusual tactic to corral cattle. Many dressed in camouflage and carried rifles. Some took up sniper positions at observation posts near the Bundy ranch. "It was a strategy that certainly was a poor one,'' said Robert Abbey, who served 30 years with the bureau, including eight years as its Nevada state director and then his final three years as national director through 2012. "In hindsight, the agency knew or should have known better.'' Land resource managers or range conservationists traditionally run the roundups of trespassing cattle in eastern Oregon or Nevada with the help of local sheriff's deputies, said Abbey and Mike Ford, who retired in 1999 as the land bureau's Nevada deputy director. "It was never a law enforcement action in the BLM I grew up in,'' said Ford, who worked in the agency for 25 years. "For whatever reason, the BLM elected to turn this Bundy situation into a 100 percent law enforcement operation. That in my opinion was a grievous error. This entire operation was handled poorly from the beginning.''...The Bureau of Land Management brought in the FBI for back-up after then-Sheriff Doug Gillespie had the Las Vegas Metro Police Department pull out before early April 2014. The sheriff was concerned about the timing of the impound during the spring when cows were having calves and the failure of the BLM to heed his advice to wait...If the bureau moves in again to impound the cattle, local authorities must play an active role from the start -- but as support, not leaders, Ford said. That should include the county sheriff, the state of Nevada, the Nevada Cattlemen's Association and perhaps county commissioners and local government "that Bundy purports to recognize,'' he said...more

This case raises so many questions, and I'm pleased to see that Congressmen Bishop and Westerman have initiated  an inquiry. Perhaps this is just a first step, but I'm not convinced asking BLM to assess it's own actions, identify problems and propose solutions, will provide the public or Congress with sufficient information to fully analyze what happened and why. Until we have a complete picture of who did what and when, any proposed changes in policy or procedure would suffer. Here are some things Congress should be pursuing.

° There should be an inventory of BLM law enforcement assets. First of course, would be the number and type of personnel, and an examination of their authority, including the statutory authority for their classification. Also, an inventory of the number and type of weapons, the number and type of vehicles, the number of aircraft, including drones (owned or leased), the amount and types of ammo, the number of attack dogs or other tools and equipment in BLM's possession.

° A complete list of the personnel and their agency which were involved in the Bundy ranch operations (to include NPS, FBI and all federal agencies).

° A complete list of assets that were deployed for the Bundy operation by all agencies. 

° A thorough review of all memos, emails, phone logs, notes, etc. to determine what factors and alternatives were considered prior to undertaking the operation

° A thorough review of all memos, emails, phone logs, notes, etc. to determine who made the final decision to undertake the operation as a law enforcement effort and who made the decision to continue the operation by bringing in the FBI after the Clark County Sheriff withdrew his officers

° A thorough review of all memos, emails, phone logs, notes, etc.. to determine who, and on what basis, made the decision to stand down.

° A thorough review of all post-operation memos, emails, phone logs, notes, etc. to determine who was responsible for providing agency documents to the U.S. Attorney's office, and any issues related to the prosecution of the case.

° A complete explanation of the authority and role played by BLM management and line officers and the same for the DOI Office of Law Enforcement and Security (OLES), and how those dynamics played out prior to and during the operation.

° An explanation and analysis of why BLM refuses to comply with state law on trespass the way other landowners do, so that the confiscation and disposal of livestock is accomplished by state officials.

I'm sure others will have additional items, but these are my preliminary thoughts. I would welcome comments or other ideas, keeping in mind the January 24th date of the Congressional staff briefing.

Again, for the public to have meaningful input, we must first have a complete understanding of all that occurred during the operation. Only then could we make reasonable recommendations for change.

Perspectives: Things the media may have missed while covering the Bundy case

Bryan Hyde

It was fascinating to watch Navarro’s growing recognition of just how badly the prosecution had been violating the rules that govern due process. When she outlined her reasons for dismissing the case last week, Navarro called out the government’s flagrant misconduct in no uncertain terms. When she announced that a “universal sense of justice has been violated,” it was clear that the truth had finally triumphed. I don’t know what might have changed in Navarro’s understanding or within her heart since the previous two trials, but I’m grateful she took the approach she did. It’s no secret that throughout the trial, the Bundy family had consistently called upon their supporters to pray for Navarro as well as other members of the government’s team that their hearts would be softened. Before entering the courtroom last Monday, Ryan Bundy led those waiting in the hallway in a heartfelt prayer. In his prayer, Bundy specifically prayed for Navarro – for her well-being and for her to be guided in her understanding. As Navarro later explained the relevant precedents and case law that supported her decision to dismiss with prejudice, I’m certain she saw many heads bowed in prayer in her courtroom. When her decision was announced, the celebration that swept through the courtroom was mostly silent tears of joy with occasional whispers of “thank you, God” and “praise God.” This reaction underscores a powerful spiritual dynamic that has been ever-present from the very beginning of this saga, though rarely reported on or understood by the public generally. The Bundys have placed their trust in God from the start. I can sympathize with those who would dismiss such things because they haven’t experienced them personally. If I had not seen and experienced them firsthand for myself, I would be inclined to doubt as well. The difficulties and pain of the past couple of years have not broken this family. They have become stronger in every way. Their faith in God has been strengthened, not diminished, by their suffering. Their marriages and family ties have been forged in the fires of hardship. The intense heat and pressure directed at them has served to refine them like diamonds. They are battle-hardened but not bitter or hateful. When they speak, the Bundys still speak with love but also with the conviction of people who genuinely have skin in the game and who have been willing to suffer for their beliefs. Armchair quarterbacks simply don’t have that kind of credibility...more

Fed's misconduct in Cliven Bundy case stems from Ruby Ridge

James Bovard

Federal judge Gloria Navarro slammed the FBI and Justice Department on Monday, Jan. 8, for “outrageous” abuses and “flagrant misconduct” in the prosecution of Cliven Bundy and sons, the Nevada ranchers who spurred a high-profile standoff with the FBI and Bureau of Land Management in 2014. Navarro condemned the "grossly shocking” withholding of evidence from defense counsel in a case that could have landed the Bundys in prison for the rest of their lives. Navarro, who had declared a mistrial last month, dismissed all charges against the Bundys.
Navarro was especially riled because the FBI spent three years covering up or lying about the role of their snipers in the 2014 standoff. The Bundys faced conspiracy charges because they summoned militia to defend them after claiming FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim but newly-released documents vindicate the BundysIn an interview Saturday, Ammon Bundy reviled the feds: “They basically came to kill our family, they surrounded us with snipers. And then they wanted to lie about it all like none of it happened."
Many of the heavily-armed activists who flocked to the scene feared that the FBI snipers had a license to kill the Bundys. Their reaction cannot be understood without considering a landmark 1990s case that continues to shape millions of Americans’ attitude towards Washington: the federal killings and coverups at Ruby Ridge.
Randy Weaver and his family lived in an isolated cabin in the mountains of northern Idaho. Weaver was a white separatist who believed races should live apart; he had no record of violence against other races — or anyone else. An undercover federal agent entrapped him into selling a sawed-off shotgun. The feds then sought to pressure Weaver to become an informant but he refused.
After Weaver was sent the wrong court date and failed to show up, the feds launched a vendetta. Idaho lawyer David Nevin noted that U.S.:
“Marshals called in military aerial reconnaissance and had photos studied by the Defense Mapping Agency. They prowled the woods around Weaver’s cabin with night-vision equipment. They had psychological profiles performed and installed $130,000 worth of long-range solar-powered spy cameras. … They even knew the menstrual cycle of Weaver’s teenage daughter, and planned an arrest scenario around it.”
On August 21, 1992, six camouflaged U.S. Marshals carrying machine guns trespassed onto the Weavers’ property. Three marshals circled close to the Weaver cabin and killed one of their dogs. A firefight ensued and 14-year old Sammy Weaver was shot in the back and killed as he was leaving the scene. Kevin Harris, a family friend, responded by fatally shooting a federal marshal who had fired seven shots in the melee.
The next day, the FBI sent in its Hostage Rescue Team snipers with orders to shoot to kill any adult male outside the Weaver cabin. A federal appeals court ruling later noted that:
“FBI agents formulated rules of engagement that permitted their colleagues to hide in the bushes and gun down men who posed no immediate threat. Such wartime rules are patently unconstitutional for a police action.”
FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shot Randy Weaver in the back after he stepped out of his cabin, wounding him. Horiuchi then shot and killed Vicki Weaver standing in the cabin door holding their 10-month old baby. A confidential 1994 Justice Department task force report concluded:
“The absence of a (surrender demand) subjected the Government to charges that it was setting Weaver up for attack.”
 Weaver and Harris surrendered after an 11-day siege. At their 1993 trial, federal prosecutors asserted that Weaver long conspired to have an armed confrontation with the government. The feds bizarrely asserted that moving from Iowa to a spot near the Canadian border in 1985 was part of Weaver’s plot. After an Idaho jury largely exonerated the defendants, federal judge Edward Lodge slammed DOJ and FBI misconduct and fabrication of evidence in the case.
Regardless of the judge’s condemnation, FBI chief Louis Freeh in 1995 exonerated the FBI for its actions at Ruby Ridge. That year, after I slammed Freeh’s whitewash in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, Freeh denounced my “inflammatory and unfounded allegations.” Five months later, I snared a confidential 542-page Justice Department report on Ruby Ridge, excerpting its damning findings in a Wall Street Journal piece. The coverup unraveled and the feds paid the Weaver family $3.1 million to settle their wrongful-death lawsuit. A top FBI official was sent to prison for destroying key evidence
But the FBI sniper who killed Vicki Weaver never faced justice. When Boundary County, Idaho, sought to prosecute Horiuchi in 1998, the Clinton administration invoked the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (which blocks local and state governments from challenging federal power) to torpedo their lawsuit. Solicitor General Seth Waxman absolved the sniper because “federal law-enforcement officials are privileged to do what would otherwise be unlawful if done by a private citizen.”
While that claim may sway federal judges, it often fails to charm jurors. A Justice Department brief in the Bundy case revealed that prosecutors dreaded jury nullification — “not guilty” verdicts due to government abuses. That specter spurred prosecutors to withhold key evidence from both the court and the defense counsel, resulting in a mistrial and dismissal of charges.
Judge Navarro rightly declared that “a universal sense of justice has been violated” by federal misconduct in the Bundy trial. Americans’ trust in the FBI and Justice Department will not be restored until those agencies are compelled to obey the law and the Constitution. Until that happens, federal prosecutors should continue fearing verdicts from Americans who refuse to convict those whom the feds wrongfully vilify.
James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

These Birds of Prey Are Deliberately Setting Forests on Fire

A new study incorporating traditional Indigenous Australian ecological knowledge describes the largely unknown behaviour of so-called 'firehawk raptors' – birds that intentionally spread fire by wielding burning sticks in their talons and beaks. These flying firestarters are spread across at least three known species – the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) – but while their hell-raising may be observed in Indigenous knowledge, that's not so elsewhere. "Though Aboriginal rangers and others who deal with bushfires take into account the risks posed by raptors that cause controlled burns to jump across firebreaks, official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading hampers effective planning for landscape management and restoration," the international team explains in their paper. While news of aerial arsonists fire-bombing the landscape may seem surprising or even shocking, the researchers are eager to emphasise that this destructive phenomenon has actually been witnessed for untold millennia. "We're not discovering anything," one of the team, geographer Mark Bonta from Penn State Altoona, told National Geographic. "Most of the data that we've worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples… They've known this for probably 40,000 years or more." According to the team, firehawk raptors congregate in hundreds along burning fire fronts, where they will fly into active fires to pick up smouldering sticks, transporting them up to a kilometre (0.6 miles) away to regions the flames have not yet scorched. "The imputed intent of raptors is to spread fire to unburned locations – for example, the far side of a watercourse, road, or artificial break created by firefighters – to flush out prey via flames or smoke," the researchers write. This behaviour, documented in interviews with the team and observed first-hand by some of the researchers, sees prey driven toward the raptors by a wall of flame, enabling them to engage in a feeding frenzy upon fleeing or scorched land animals...more

Also repoerted in Live Science 

Question: Would the BLM brand  these birds as terrorists, like they did with the Hammonds?
See Hammond Family: Ranchers or Terrorists
The Case for Civil Disobedience in Oregon
Editorial - Justice not served in Hammond case

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Its Swingin' Monday and we bring you Pins and Needles by the bluegrass group The Whites. The tune is on their 1984 album Forever You.