Push comes to shove in Oregon

Something more than 100 “militia” loons, including two of the leaders of the Bundy Ranch confrontation, have now taken over a federal building in rural Oregon in support of the demand that two ranchers convicted of arson on federal land not go back to prison after a federal appeals court found their original sentence to have been below the minimum provided for by law.  They are asking like-minded people to come join them, bringing weapons, and have announced that they plan to occupy the building for “years.”

The Obama Administration seems to have a much stronger hand to play in Oregon than it did in Nevada, where the Governor, the Sheriff, and a large part of the local populace supported the seditious conspiracy.Oregon has a Democratic governor, and the folks around the town of Burns – even including the two convicted arsonists – seem to want nothing to do with this publicity stunt. Of course it’s crucial to avoid a shoot-out, but it’s equally crucial to assert the rule of law. There’s no need here to repeat the back-down in Nevada, and the ringleaders need to go away for long, long time.

It’s also crucial that Republican politicians – most importantly, the Presidential candidates – be forced to take a stand for or against acts of lawless violence. And that’s not something the President can or should try to manage alone. Everyone needs to speak out, and keep speaking out.

Update The charge is “seditious conspiracy.”

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

22 thoughts on “Push comes to shove in Oregon”

  1. I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for statements; my key question will be "is this the same approach this person took to Occupy?"

  2. "The Obama Administration seems to have a much stronger hand to play in Oregon than it did in Nevada, where the Governor, the Sheriff, and a large part of the local populace supported the seditious conspiracy."

    Right, and that should tell you something: That the feds were being incredibly obnoxious in Nevada, making enemies all over the place. That kind of goes with owning most of the land in a state, and being heavy handed and arbitrary in how you administer it. It also goes along with all the abusive aspects of that Bundy ranch situation which you weren't talking about, like Harry Reid's profitable involvement, and how Bundy was set up to be the loser so Reid could make a nice profit.

    In this case the weight of public opinion isn't on the side of the insurrectionists, because the wrong here is not obvious and clear cut. Surprise: Militia loons can be in the right, and can be in the wrong. Just like the government.

    Time to nail them to the wall, (Figuratively speaking.) because they're in the wrong.

    THIS time.

    A general note on the militia movement: It wasn't growing like a wildfire back in the 90's without the federal government giving a hell of a lot of people legitimate grievances. Denying them legitimate grievances is the best way to keep the movement small.

    1. Again, you're normally of the opinion that landlords can act as arbitrarily as they want within the bounds of existing contracts.

    2. Nonsense.

      You have not responded at all to the comments pointing out the problems with your position on Bundy.

      Instead you reopen the matter here with some sort of accusation against Reid, complaints about "abusive behavior," and no reason whatsoever why Bundy shouldn't have paid his fees, which were emininently reasonable. The feds were obnoxious? Maybe, maybe not. Landlords are obnoxious sometimes. That doesn't mean you don't have to pay the rent. And it doesn't give you the right to threaten them with firearms.

      Get out of the fever swamps.

      1. Hopefully Mark will permit this to post.

        Don't read anything into my not responding to comments. Mark won't let me.

      1. Thanks very much for that link. I'd heard this claim a few times but it never occurred to me to dig into it. Politifact's closing paragraph is a devastating takedown of the entire concept. If, like Brett, I'd repeated this claim uncritically, I'd be deeply ashamed. I'm eager to hear what he thinks in light of the information you've given him.

    3. Just because something happens you don't like doesn't make your grievance legitimate. And even if it is legitimate, that doesn't authorize you to plan armed rebellion, blow up government buildings, and so on.

      The fact is that the militia types seem to be easily aggrieved. Let them go to court, or write their Congressmen, or conduct peaceful demonstrations, and so on. Let them also learn that some grievances are not legitimate.

  3. I grew up in Oregon and now live in Texas, so have to admit that it's sort of a relief to see that my current location isn't the only one where nuts roll freely. But just imagine if all that drive and energy were harnessed for good rather than goofiness. We'd have men on Mars by now.

    1. Oh, I don't know. Exploration for exploration sake is one argument for it. Historically, it has often been foolhardy and expensive. But there's much to be said for it as a basic part of what gives humanity meaning.

  4. This seems straightforward to solve.

    The ringleaders of this silly little rebellion have stated they’ll occupy (word!) the hole they’re in for years.

    Let them.

    Stop any new wannabe Shays from rolling in and let the morons already there forage until they choose to surrender. (A lot of these folks like to talk all woodsy, but in my experience, they tend to need a pickup truck and a tank of propane to camp overnight, so I imagine playtime will end fairly quickly.)

    The deference these loons always get in comparison to lefty protestors is an annoying double standard, but the double standard has existed for a log time, and I don’t see LEAs suddenly learning a new narrative on their own. We need to shove it down their throats. (Not my preferred language, but I’m not above adopting a frame, as they say, and as the LEAs seem to want an ugly one, they can eat it.) But that’s a different discussion.

    Once these idiots are occupying club fed in the obscurity they deserve, maybe we can have an adult conversation about legitimate grievances and what to do about them.

    But I doubt it.

    1. I have no recollection of Occupy being armed.

      On the other hand "by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States" doesn't require being armed; I'm pretty certain that physically blocking entrances has been considered to be "by force" in other context (union pickets and abortion-clinic protests.)

      Similarly with "Occupy didn't occupy federal property"; that seems like a distinction without a difference.

      1. "By force" as a legal term means the actual or threatened use of violence. Simply blocking a door doesn't count. These loons are not only armed, they have threatened to kill anyone that tries to remove them. That escalates this way out of the range where there's a meaningful comparison to Occupy or BLM.

        That it be federal property is an essential element of the crime of seditious conspiracy. Without that, there's no federal crime.

  5. Can we put all of them there? ba dump bump. (JK!) I actually have zero interest in sending people to Mars. Robots, sure.

    I don't know if this officially makes me a nut or not but… I think, the feds get one bite at the sentencing apple. If they bleep it up, too bad. I don't think these people should have to go back. It's cruel. (And no, I don't really know the back story of whether they meant to burn anything that wasn't theirs to burn, or any of that. Too busy.)

    1. I agree that prosecutors shouldn't be able to change their mind about the sentence they're seeking once a judge rules, but that's not what happened here. "The feds" is an imprecise term. The judge here overstepped his authority, and the ninth reined him in. Our politicized judiciary is littered with right-wing landmines, and it'd be dangerous to endorse the principle that any judge has the unreviewable authority to free any defendant. (Before objecting to that last sentence, reflect that the word 'unreviewable' is doing a lot of work.)

  6. According to reports the occupiers are free to come and go as they please.

    I do not understand the strategy here.

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