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Posts published in January 2016

End it now

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This damned armed stand-off in Burns, Oregon, has got to come to an end. It’s escalating to dangerous proportions. Three more out-of-state gun-toting “patriot” groups have now joined up. It’s got to be stopped. Now!

What started as some far-right nut cases with rifles holding an isolated Oregon, federal game refuge hostage has gone from that to now drawing more right-wing seditionists from other states as a rallying point. And they’ve now taken an entire community hostage - the community of Burns.

Guys with rifles slung over their shoulders are roaming the streets at all hours. People are being directly threatened - including the elderly parents of the Harney County Sheriff. Tires were slashed on the sheriff’s personal car. Schools have been closed for two weeks. Members of a local Native American tribe are being harassed and frightened. Citizens of Burns are literally being held prisoner because of these seditionists.

There’s no local radio station in Burns - only a weekly newspaper. So, the town is filled with swirling rumors and people are having a hard time finding out what’s really going on. Social media has been the main source of information and we all know how reliable that can be.

The sheriff has been extremely patient. But, when he met with the Bundy boys last week, they refused his offer to get safely out of town until all of their “demands” are met. Demands that will never be met. At that point, it would seem, the time for patience ended.

One of the more disappointing features regarding how this situation has been allowed to fester into something more dangerous, is the seeming near non-reaction of government. At all levels. County commissioners are hiding under their blankets. They’ve publically said nothing. Oregon’s governor issued one news release saying how awful this situation is and asking the Bundys and their followers to leave. The feds have been silent. Nothing from the F-B-I except another news release saying “We’re keeping an eye on things.” The only visible law enforcement presence near the occupied federal property was when the sheriff came to talk last week and a couple of vehicles of armed folk followed him in. And silently back out.

The Bundy Bunch is in the small compound of the Harney Wildlife Refuge. They’ve moved federal heavy equipment out front as barricades if attacked. Media is corralled several hundred yards away - out of sight of the place.

The plain fact is the seditionists are free to come and go as they please. And they please a lot. They go to town to eat in local restaurants - buy five gallon cans of gas for their small generators - shop for groceries with rifles at the ready - hit the bars when they need a stiffener. One of them used social media to plead for money to supply his needs “for the struggle,” then took the proceeds to a Burns bar and got blitzed. O’Shaughnesy was his name. Stealing money is his game.

In all previous encounters with these heavily armed “constitutionalists” across the country, government has backed down. No shots fired. No one hurt. No arrests. As a result, the seditionists are getting bolder, more organized, more heavily armed and more of a threat to the rest of us. They feel emboldened each time they “face down the terrible federal monster.” And do it with impunity.

Some government entity - or all of them - needs to act. Shut these bastards down. Block all communications. Turn off all electricity. Turn off all water supplies. Overnight temperatures last week dropped to near zero in the area. No heat, no water and no way to communicate with families or other supporters can become great non-violent but effective “weapons.”

However, if a government push-back produces shots fired from inside the compound, an armed response will be necessary. Required. I’d hate to see it end that way. But these guys are nothing but criminals. They have no legitimacy in the eyes of the law. They’ve committed criminal if not seditious acts. Offered safe passage and a pat on the back, they refused. But leave they must. Peacefully or otherwise.

When I was a kid, like almost all kids everywhere, I used to push my parents and their rules. I learned where to stop just short of their response triggers. That’s what the Bundy’s and their criminal ilk are doing with our government - from county locals to the feds. All previous encounters have ended with figures of governmental authority backing down and walking away. These guys have learned to just “hang in there” because they know no one is going to move against them. But someone must.

The occupation is 30 miles outside an isolated desert community, clustered in a very small compound, well-known to local law agencies and with no non-participants that can get hurt if shots are fired. Such ideal conditions for stopping these guys cold may never exist again. This is where it can end with the least amount of casualties.

One more thing. Something that hasn’t got a lot of media attention. While overwhelming local sentiment opposes the majority governmental land ownership in the area, committees of locals and feds have worked for decades to operate together. To work out their differences. Sensible locals admit relations are better than ever and cooperation has greatly improved. Not perfect. But better. All that work, over all that time, can be blown to bits if these out-of-state terrorists walk peacefully away from this.

There’s more at stake here than getting the Bundy’s and their cretin sycophants out of the compound and out of the state peacefully. Large ruptures of many relationships in Harney County and other western states could be a terrible, long-term price to pay.

The Bundy boys have been given their chance. And then some. It’s time to get ‘em out. Or take ‘em out. Now!

First take/lands

In this time of so much discussion and protest (notably around Burns, Oregon) about the public lands - operated by the federal government - a headline from Idaho ought to be getting more attention than it has.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that two Texas billionaire brothers, the Wilks, have bought 38,000 acres of land around the Joseph territory in Idaho County. (Previously, they had bought around 300,000 acres in Montana.)

The land had consisted of privately-held ranches in the area, and there's nothing legally wrong about the transaction. However, the Tribune also reported this:

"During a recent Idaho County Commission meeting, comments were made that residents believe public access to the Joseph Plains area for hunting and recreation, which has been granted in the past by the previous landowners, has been closed off since the Wilkses took over. The comments took place in a conversation about the proposed Lochsa Land Exchange."

Private means private. Public means you either might have outright access to it, or at least a shot at it.

The massive public lands around Burns are public lands, which have been open for a wide range of uses by members of the public, including ranchers. Turn it private, and some people in Idaho County could tell you what some of the possibilities are. - rs

Better than nothing?

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When Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said last week, “It’s not lost on us that we’re dealing with people’s lives here,” he was saying something that needed to be said . . . in that, a lot of Idahoans probably do think concerns about their health care have been lost on the legislators. Or at least on many of them.

When the Idaho Legislature has in recent years discussed establishing a health insurance exchange, something many other states have, the debate has tended to center on a discussion of just how evil the federal government is. The health of Idahoans wasn't a factor, at least in their debate. Sometimes didn’t come up at all.

Lawmakers will get another chance to consider all this beginning Monday, when the legislature returns to town and starts to review a proposal on health care from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter has asked committees to look into the subject of expanding Medicare in Idaho as many other states have, and from those panels has gotten back responses in the affirmative. Actually following through remains politically problematic, mainly because the Idaho Legislature has given no indication it wants to go there. Evidently by way of trying to do something that might win legislative support (and it may), Otter proposed last week a $30 million program intended to address the medical needs of the 78,000 or so Idahoans who have no affordable health coverage.

The plan would cover enrollment at a clinic near where people live, and patients there could get an assessment and a plan for meeting their health needs, and maybe a prescription discount. Those are not bad things, and could help some people’s health and maybe reduce emergency room use. But actual substantial medical care, meaning more significant (or expensive) care such as hospitalization, the core of what an expanded Medicaid would provide and the kind of issues that have ruined many lives financially and otherwise, would not be covered.

Idahoans would get a health service some of them don’t have now. But the proposal drew a quick response from a large group of health care providers which pointed out its severe limitations.

Neva Santos, Executive Director, Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, said, “While investing in primary care is useful, as offered by PCAP, it will not provide the needed diagnostic or treatment options to maximally keep patients out of the emergency room or from costly hospitalization.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett: “We’re still paying into the Medicaid expansion program we don’t receive any benefit from, so the dollars go to other states. We’re still taking care of CAT fund and indigent funds in our counties and cities, and now we’re being asked as taxpayers to pay $30 million for a new program.”

Expanding Medicaid would, by some estimates, save state taxpayers $173 million over the next decade.

Hill acknowledged that Otter’s proposal wouldn’t cover near what Medicaid would, but “There are other states that are looking at other alternatives that we may learn from, that we may be able to emulate somewhere down the road. We’ve gone 100 years without providing this service, we want to do it right. And this seems like a good step.”

He and Health & Welfare Director Richard Armstrong pointed out too that enacting this program wouldn’t mean Idaho couldn’t do more – such as a Medicaid expansion – later. And that’s true.

But it’s not hard to image future legislators saying, “We already took care of that,” whenever is raised the subject of actual serious medical coverage for the 78,000.

Reading: WA’s initiatives

From a notice by David Ammons of the Washington Secretary of State's office:

FYI: As WA lawmakers prepare to open their session on Monday, the people’s process of writing laws by initiative got its start Friday.

By mid-afternoon, 24 proposals with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, including 13 from initiative activist Tim Eyman. His measures deal with making it tougher to raise taxes in Olympia, bringing back $30 car tabs, express lane tolls, and other issues.

Kurt Ludden of Seattle filed seven initiatives, dealing with medical marijuana, and the initiative process. Other sponsors submitted measures dealing with a single-payer health insurance system for Washington, grandparents’ visitation rights, and faculty carrying handguns.

The process of filing is easy — pay a $5 filing fee and submit the proposed wording. History shows, however, that usually only a few actually make the ballot. It takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters — and the Elections Division recommends bringing in at least 325k to cover duplicate and invalid signatures. The deadline this year is July 8.

Initiatives are sent to the state code reviser for review as to form, and then on to the attorney general for a ballot title. Ballot titles can be challenges by sponsors or foes in court. After all that, it is up to sponsors whether to actually print up 20,000 or more actual petition sheets for signature collection. Many sponsors do not take that final step, and many do not gather enough signatures to qualify.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kim Wyman has provisionally certified two initiatives to the Legislature as the Elections Division begins the signature-verification process. They are I-732, dealing with carbon taxes, and I-735, petitioning for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign fundraising.

First take/Natural born

The new birtherism is biting Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate well-liked by many of the people doing the biting.

The old birtherism - the attempt to show President Barack Obama was born somewhere other than the United States, despite the birth certificate and contemporary newspaper listings saying otherwise - was always bunk. The new is different: There is no question about the facts, only about interpretation of law. The catch is, there's no official interpretation of law.

The constitution says that president of the United States must be a "natural born citizen." It does not define the term, and in all the years since the document was written no court - which is where the term would be defined - ever has defined it. My understanding long has been that it means you have to have been born in the land area of the United States, either its states or its territories. That would include people like Barry Goldwater, born in the territory or Arizona, or John McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone, which was at the time a United States possession. A lot of people have defined the term the same way. But there's never been an "official" definition.

Cruz was born in Edmonton, Canada; his mother was a U.S. citizen. That's not in dispute, and never has been. Cruz has released his birth records, and in 2013 formally a Canadian citizenship he long held on account of his birth location. The facts are clear; but how does that match with the "natural born citizen" requirement in the Constitution?

The senator, of course, maintains that he clearly is qualified, and maybe he is. In looking for a senator of what "naturalized" meant in constitutional terms, a court could seize onto the 1790 passed (shortly after the Constitution went into effect) of the Naturalization Act, which meant to clarify that people born outside the United States to citizens were also considered citizens. And Cruz' United States citizenship never has been in serious dispute.

The reality is, no one knows. When rival Donald Trump calls on Cruz to seek a court declaration one way or other on the matter, he's running some clever (and somewhat exploitative) politics, but the counsel may actually be the right thing for Cruz to do. Trump points out that if the legal question isn't resolved now, Democrats surely will make it a much bigger issue in the general election should Cruz become the Republican nominee, and that is correct. Some of Cruz' own backers are signing on to that line of thought.

None of this is something Cruz would want in the air just as he's trying to lock down a win in the Iowa caucuses. But it may be something that he has to deal with sometime soon. - rs

Labels and apostasy

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One of the shameful aspects of modern politics is the tendency of people to define those holding differing views with perjorative labels. For example, in a recent column I complimented a conservative Republican state representative, Luke Malek, for displaying solid judgment and genuine dedication to his public service in a town hall meeting he held.

This was apparently too much for a Tea Party ideological critic of Malek’s, and in particular, Rep. Carol Nillson Troy. Note that I too am using a couple of labels to define the critic. His letter to the editor was a classic case of using the guilt by association and the false syllogism devices as rebuttal. Others might simply call it the “straw dog” device.

To this particular critic it was further proof that these two representitives had to be RINOS, Republicans in Name Only¸because they were being complimented by a “liberal Democrat.” Of course “liberal” despite its derivative from the Latin word liber (to free, to be free) just as libertarian is also a derivative, is now a nasty perjorative.

For the record I have always labeled myself as a business Democrat or an Andrus Democrat - that is a social liberal who is fiscally conservative. By that I mean I believe government has an obligation to help those who through no fault of their own cannot help themselves and government is the only agency that can realistically provide the needed help. However, we have to pay for that government assistance as we go. It is simply immoral to pass debt along to our children and grandchildren, as we have been doing. Both parties are guilty of this.

Thus, I support the solutions of the Simpson/Bowles Commission which came up with a solid set of recommendations that over a period of time would restore fiscal sanity to the nation.

Here’s the real ignorance in calling me a “liberal Democrat.” Even a minimal amount of research would reveal that in the eyes of many Democrats I’m at a minimum an apostate---one who deviates from orthodoxy---if not an outright independent. I vote for the person, not the party. I own firearms and rifles, have a concealed weapons permit and I believe friendship trumps partisanship any day.

I even have a copy of a resolution passed in 1982 by the King County Democrats drumming me out of the Democratic party for apostasy. They were outraged that I had played a major role in forming a Democrats for Dan Evans for the U.S. Senate committee. We bought our own ads and sent a group reflecting our diverse membership barnstorming around the state.

Evans defeated a true self-described super liberal, Congressman Mike Lowry, for the seat held by the legendary Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. Many observers felt our committeee had been a critical part of the former three-term governor’s success.

I helped because Dan was a friend, I’d served on the Northwest Power Planning Council with him, and he asked.

This was too much for the late Karen Marchioro (Later the state chair) and her associate, Geoff Smith. The day after I received my expulsion notice I received the first of continuing requests for money for the party.

I compounded my apostasy in 1988 when I publicly supported a friend and the mentor to a future partner, the conservative U.S. Senator, Slade Gorton. Because of my role then as a major business figure in the Inland Northwest (regional vice president for Kaiser Aluminum), Slade asked and I cut television and radio ads supporting his candidacy.

Of coure that meant I again supported Slade in 2000 when he narrowly lost (2200 votes out of 2.4 million cast) a re-election bid to Maria Cantwell. When my business partner and former Gorton chief-of-staff, Mike McGavick, challenged Senator Cantwell in her 2006 re-election bid, I supported Mike. Friendship in my book always trumps partisanship and loyalty to those who have displayed loyalty to you is among the highest, and most rarely found, of political values.

It might further surprise readers to learn that the first Idaho officeholder to ask me to be his press secretary was a former Idaho governor and then U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan. While I greatly admired Len, I respectfully declined.

I am a self-described business or Andrus or conservative Democrat. To all those out there who want to label me as something else, go ahead, show your ignorance. Make my day.

First take/gun tax

Interesting Daily Beast article today on Seattle's new gun tax - a tax on gun and ammo sales, effective just about a week ago after it survived not long before a court challenge.

Many types of gun-related legislation on a local level runs into a buzz saw of legal problems, in Washington (and many other states) notably the state law (pushed through by the NRA) that local governments cannot regulate guns in any way. Taxes are a different matter, not subject to that kind of rule.

The taxes are not so large as to be intended to curtail gun or ammo purchases. They amount to $25 on each gun sold, two cents per round of .22 caliber ammo, five cents per round for other rounds.

They would provide money for research on gun violence, something Seattle has done on its own hook in the past but hasn't been followed up.

In some ways this isn't a huge deal. But as part of a series of national indicators that policy on guns actually may be amenable to some significant change, maybe it is. - rs (photo/Michael Saechang)

Someone’s going to die

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There’s a time bomb ticking in our western states that’s going to blow one of these first days. And Americans are going to die. Whether it’ll be a gun-happy citizen out to prove some sort of perverted loyalty to the old Constitution, or a lawman who’s finally pushed into a corner, depends on who shoots first. And who shoots last.

The latest Oregon standoff is near our eastern border - about 30 miles outside of Burns in Harney county - one of the largest such jurisdictions in the nation at some 10,000 acres but only about 7,500 people. From beautiful to desolate, it’s remote by all definitions. Can be hot like the fires of Hell in the summer - frozen as the arctic in the winter. Conservative by the traditional definition of that word - not by the standard use today which too often equates to craziness.

Some 200 people have taken control of a federal BLM site 30 miles out of town. Several brick buildings and a few trees. Men, women and children in the compound. Along with enough guns and bullets to take over a small country. The occupants - some with past criminal convictions - have vowed to stay “40 years” or more. While claiming peaceful intentions, they say they’ll shoot if fired upon.

The pretext for the outlaw’s illegal activity was to come to Oregon to defend two ranchers they believed were being persecuted by the court system. Under appropriate law - and as a result of a legal conviction for their crime - the father and son were not being “persecuted” and have peacefully turned themselves in to serve their sentences. So, it would seem the armed interlopers should go home. Right? Not hardly.

Even the Harney County sheriff now says that whole “protect the innocent” claim was B.S. and the intent of the occupiers is - and has been from the start - to confront government. They’re using social media to loudly urge like-minded government haters to come to Oregon, join the movement and make the BLM compound their rallying point for a national offensive to attack government at all levels.

Two of the loudest voices in the compound are those of two sons of Nevada criminal Clive Bundy. Bundy was the focus of an armed confrontation two years ago in which feds backed down even though he’d been convicted of not paying over $1 million he owed the BLM for past grazing on federal lands. Our lands. Our money. Yours and mine.

Both Bundy boys have served time on convictions for this and that. They are what they are - small time criminals with experience in our judicial system. When the NY Times did a well-researched story on the first Bundy confrontation, it found many gun toters on-site had previous criminal and mental problems. Some were actively wanted by the law. It can reasonably be assumed the same situation exists in Harney County - likely with some of the same offenders.

This is at least the third such confrontation forced by armed outsiders in Oregon in the last year. The other two ended with the law backing down and occupiers doing high 5's for “whupping those damned feds again.” In my opinion, the Harney county situation must not end the same way. These people must be stopped. There. Now.

While I don’t want to see anyone killed in or outside the compound, there are ways to bring this illegal occupation to a head - and to an end. First, use existing technology to block cell phone use. No communications in or out not controlled by law enforcement. Isolate those bastards in every possible way. Second, cut electricity. All of it. Temperatures there this week will be about 30 degrees during the day and low 20's and teens at night. Third, cut the water. All of it. Nothing like backed-up toilets and no bathing for making very close quarters uninhabitable.

Shortly, based on my own survival training, I believe three things will happen. First, parents will want to get their children out. Let ‘em out. Second, the occupiers will start arguing among themselves. Not all are hardcore or there because this is the most important thing in their lives. Maybe for the Bundy boys, but not all. They’ll want out. Let ‘em out. Arrest ‘em. Third, just sit tight with guns holstered. Outlast ‘em. They’ll either start a fight the law can win or they’ll give up. I’d bet on surrender.

There should be no concessions. None. Haul their criminal butts off to the Harney County jail. Try each one on whatever charges are appropriate. Jail time for those convicted. Which should mean all.

A basic precept of our national freedoms is that we are “a nation of laws.” While administration of those laws should be done with compassion and tempered by situations at hand, we cannot - must not - allow roaming bands of armed citizens to go unchallenged when they decide to ignore our laws. Laws all of us are expected to obey. Some large American cities are being faced with the same situation. Large groups - armed or not - are flaunting the legal process we must maintain.

Citizens of Harney County have not flocked to support these criminals. News reports and social media are filled with demands that law enforcement at all levels end this occupation and punish all those involved. Get ‘em out!

One more thing. To the media. All media. The people illegally inside that federal compound are not militia. Not in thought, word or deed. The occupiers may call themselves that. But the rest of us - starting with the media - must not. They are defending nothing. They are offending many.

These are armed criminals whose activities border on insurgency. We have laws aplenty to deal with insurgency. If action isn’t taken to stop these folks, they’ll keep coming back again and again. This is the largest collection of them law enforcement has encountered. If they aren’t met with the full force of the law this time, the next “incident” will be larger and more dangerous. And maybe not in such a remote location where they can be confronted as easily.

Eventually, someone will pull a trigger. Someone will die. If this mess in Burns can be ended peacefully, I’m all for it. But if it takes the full efforts of law enforcement at every level to do it with gunfire, now is the time. And 30 miles out of Burns, Oregon is the place.

First take/Hammonds

While the sit-in crew at the Malheur refuge near Burns has been accomplishing little but generating a rich vein of humor, the underlying case of the Hammonds is another matter, and shouldn't be forgotten in the barely-associated video-friendly events of Harney County.

Scan back through the history of the Hammonds and the Bureau of Land Management, with which they have dealt for decades as land users (for ranching and related purposes), and mostly you see a fairly ordinary run of debates and disputes. They are far from the only people with disagreements over the management of BLM lands and private use of them, and differed mainly in their setting of fires on those lands - to block invasive plant species say the Hammonds, or to cover up for deer poaching say the feds.

Two other things make this case unusual and a cause for wider concern.

One is the use of mandatory minimum sentences, which put a five-year floor on prison time for the Hammonds. The Oregon federal judge who presided over the case and then sentenced them ordered less time, saying five years "shocked the conscience" for the offenses involved; the 9th Circuit didn't particularly argue with that, but said the law is the law and five years is the minimum. This is a good case example of why mandatory minimums are bad policy.

The second - which was what led to the first - is the use of harsh terrorism laws in the Hammonds' case. Those laws, many not well thought through and passed in a panic after 9-11, have been used since in many cases far from their original intent, and whatever the level of the Hammonds' guilt in fire-setting, they certainly are no terrorists.

These cases ought to a basis for revisiting some of these laws. And the Oregonian probably is right too in calling on President Obama to reduce the Hammonds' sentences to something more in line with what they actually did. - rs

A national non-story

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The New Year begins with the national media taking a non-story and blowing it up into front page stuff in the New York Times and the lead story of CNN. The story concerns a band of armed know-nothings from Nevada who have taken over the visitors center at Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

I have spent a lot of time in that area over the years. We visit there each spring and each fall relishing an area generally without cell phone service and more cattle than people. As a result, I have gotten to know a number of area ranchers and county officials quite well. I also know the area’s history. And, when you put that all together, it is little wonder that Harney County’s local officials and ranchers want nothing to do with these interlopers.

The catalyst for this effort is the sentencing of two local ranchers on a charge of arson for setting range fires on federal land. Just as people in Idaho’s Owyhee desert and Clearwater Valley take the threat of fire very seriously after major fires this past summer, range fires are also a major threat in the high desert area of Harney County. The Miller Homestead fire in that area in 2012 burned 160,000 acres and forced the evacuation of the community of Frenchglen.

The Nevada group says that they are prepared to occupy the facility until federal land in the area is returned to state and local governments. That is the first hint that these folks did no homework before staging their takeover.

In 1876, Dr. Hugh Glenn, a successful California rancher, dispatched one of his employees, Pete French, with 1200 head of cattle to be trailed to Oregon in search of pasture land. French found it in southeastern Oregon. Forming a partnership called the French Glenn Company. Eventually the firm owned over 70,000 acres of land and 45,000 head of cattle. But, just as today there are protesters upset with the federal government, in 1897 there were homesteaders upset with Pete French and his control of so much land. On December 26, 1897, one of those upset homesteaders, Ed Oliver, pulled a gun on French and killed him.

The property was eventually purchased by Swift and Company. By 1935, they determined that it was unprofitable and sold 64,717 acres to the federal government for $675,000. This is now most of the land that makes up the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. The land which, although purchased by the federal government from private owners, the protesters think should be given to state and local governments.

There are a couple of other things the protesters seem to be oblivious to. The first is that even though the land is designated a federal refuge, it has continued to be managed as productive agricultural land. The series of canals and ditches originally developed by Pete French are still used to distribute water throughout the refuge where the huge expanses of natural hay that originally attracted French, continue to grow and are cut and bailed by local ranchers to feed their cattle during the winter.

There are also ranchers who have taken advantage of the flow of tourists that visit the refuge each year. The Jenkins family runs the Round Barn visitors center which has an expansive inventory of books, western wear and other consumer items. They also operate a commercial tour service.

The Thompson family owns and operates the historic Diamond Hotel in the center of the refuge. It is an important supplement to their ranching income and a major attraction for tourists visiting the refuge. And there are other ranching families who have also become part of the areas tourism economy.
But, perhaps most importantly, most residents of Harney County aren’t appreciative of outsiders coming in and trying to run their lives. That applies not only to external governmental forces, but also to out-of-area private citizens, whether they are well intentioned environmentalists or armed protestors occupying federal property.

I’ve spent some memorable evenings sitting with my friend Dan Nichols out at his ranch enjoying a finger or two of single malt Scotch. Nichols is a long-time Harney county commissioner and through him I have had the opportunity to obtain a fairly good understanding of the sensitivities of the ranchers in Harney County.

In the January 4 front page story in the New York Times, he was quoted as saying, “This county isn’t supportive of what’s being done here at all. Once again, it’s a bunch of those who live without the county telling us what we need to do, how we need to be doing it, and the repercussions if we don’t.”

My guess is that if the national media would pack up and go back to the east coast, this group of renegades would quickly dissipate and go back to doing more productive things. And they will. Just wait until they have spent part of a winter in the high desert country of Harney County, Oregon.