The Bulletproof Patriot

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Bell Icon - White EdgesAs I pointed out the other day in what has turned out to be a relatively unpopular position on the issue (albeit the factually correct one) [1], Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters are wrong in their belief that the public lands in the Gold Butte region where Bundy grazes his cattle are the property of the state rather than the federal government.  Those lands were purchased by the federal government from Mexico in 1848 and have remained in federal ownership ever since.  They were also specifically excluded from the territory placed under state jurisdiction when Nevada's constitution was executed in 1864.

This is not a states' rights issue and anyone thinking otherwise needs to expend all of ten minutes of research to bear this point out.  The Nevada state constitution can be read elsewhere [2] and the important language comes in the third paragraph.

Cliven Bundy is not engaged in a states' rights battle.  Period.

As to whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ought to be prohibiting Bundy from grazing his cattle on the 600,000 acres in the Gold Butte area out of concern for a federally protected desert tortoise is another matter entirely, and I hardly believe that a tortoise coexisting with one head of cattle per square mile is a justifiable imposition upon a man whose family has been ranching the area since the state came into existence.  However, Bundy's refusal to pay relatively minimal grazing permit fees and penalties of $1 million since 1993 damages his case before the courts.  The 2014 BLM grazing permit fee is $1.35 per Animal Unit Month [3] (one cow and calf per month).  For a total of 900 cattle, one year of grazing fees is approximately $15,000, or 1.7% of the value of the cattle, not exactly a huge expense considering that the grazing fee is an alternative to buying feed.

Now, as enlightening as it is to learn that "there is no such thing as an illegal human being" but that "trespass cattle" require an armed federal operation, I'm not entirely sure what to make of the armed militia response to the BLM confiscation of Bundy's cattle for two reasons.  First, the cattle confiscation occurred as the result of multiple court orders wherein Bundy's rights to ownership of said cattle were suspended as a lengthy result of lawful due process (although whether the ownership of said cattle was lawfully transferred to the government is unknown).  Second, the militia response seems to be following the popular model of an Alex Jones-esque delusional, screaming wildman [4] devoid of virtually all fidelity to both the Constitution and God in favor of some sort of concocted, disorganized, uneducated, and headlong lurch to protect "gun rights" at all costs.

The stories which have surfaced regarding certain statements made by former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack about a potential strategy at the ranch to place women and children at the front of the lines so they would be shot first for the cameras if the feds chose to engage is outrageous and deplorable and stinks to high Heaven of a movement which is utter bullshit and completely devoid of both responsibility and honor.

If this [5] is who the liberty movement is, I will have nothing to do with it:

We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front.  If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.

Let us not be so presumptuous to forget that the American Revolution was not a hastily devised scheme suddenly thought up one famous Wednesday in 1775.  It ignited slowly, over a period of decades in which the colonists had literally no other recourse since they had zero representation in their own governance.  We are not in that position today.

The colonists were guided by their faith and mutual respect for life and liberty.  If the Bundy ranch supporters are today's equivalent, I'm sorry to say that faith and mutual respect seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

The natural right to an armed rebellion and revolution is a card we need to keep squarely in our back pocket for when the appropriate time comes.  Keep your barrels oiled and your powder dry, because today is a good day for petitioning for redress of grievances yet again to our brethren within the federal government.

It is not a good day for a revolution.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Bell-Icon-White-EdgesRancher Cliven Bundy, the focus of the emerging territorial and property rights dispute north of Las Vegas, Nevada [1], is wrong on his claim that the federal government has no legal or Constitutional justification for control over such lands, which is currently administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  I'm actually a little surprised by this myself, as I usually can comfortably side with states' rights without any Constitutional conflict whatsoever, but this one looks quite clear.  The federal government does indeed have rights to property ownership, so long as the original owner of the land voluntarily ceded such ownership.  Per Article 4, Section 3 [2]:

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.

A great many libertarian or states' rights-oriented types naturally believe that the federal government should not be involved in land ownership within the boundaries of the individual states, and I am generally one of them.  However, simply believing this is not enough to justify such a position when the Constitution itself provides for such ownership, as Article 4 clearly does.  In addition to the explicit Constitutional authority to govern such public lands, there are plenty of examples of states ceding territorial claims to the federal government at the time of the country's founding.  The original 13 states ceded title to 237 million acres of "western" lands between 1781 and 1802 [3].  Other examples of lawful federal acquisition of land include the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 and the purchase of Florida from Spain in 1819, both of which were executed by a Senate-ratified treaty and neither of which are disputed.

That said, this would be a wholly different issue if the federal government was asserting ownership over land which was not ceded by the state of Nevada.  Unfortunately for Bundy's supporters, Nevada's state Constitution explicitly grants such authority of certain public lands to the United States right up front [4]:

In obedience to the requirements of an act of the Congress of the United States, approved March twenty-first, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-four, to enable the people of Nevada to form a constitution and state government, this convention, elected and convened in obedience to said enabling act, do ordain as follows, and this ordinance shall be irrevocable, without the consent of the United States and the people of the State of Nevada:

...

Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; and that lands belonging to citizens of the United States, residing without the said state, shall never be taxed higher than the land belonging to the residents thereof; and that no taxes shall be imposed by said state on lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States, unless otherwise provided by the congress of the United States.

This clause is quite clear - the People of the state of Nevada "forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within" the state and that such lands "shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States."  It doesn't get much more clear than this - the lands under BLM control were legally ceded to the United States and the state of Nevada has no claim over them whatsoever.  By extension, neither does Bundy, despite his assertion of having been using the land as family ranchers for more than one hundred years.

So, the question has devolved from one of Constitutional authority to one of realistic necessity and public use.  The BLM prohibiting Bundy from allowing his 900 cattle to graze on some 600,000 acres of public land doesn't exactly fit under most definitions of "necessity" since 1) cattle do not irreversibly damage or otherwise impair the land from current or future public use, and 2) the footprint of the cattle is miniscule - 900 cattle on 600,000 acres equates to approximately one per square mile, hardly a noticeable imposition and certainly not worthy of a substantial and armed federal response, particularly when one head of cattle can routinely graze on less than a hundred acres, even in high desert.  One head certainly doesn't need 650 acres for grazing, unless I'm wildly off in my understanding.

Perhaps even worse, it's looking like small militia units are being called up from various states to respond to this in defense of Bundy's property rights [5].  While I strongly support and encourage the formation and maintenance of private, local militia units, they need to be exceedingly careful in how they use their presence since even the slightest misstep could trigger a backlash against the entire liberty movement, particularly when such a backlash could be Constitutionally justified as the current one seems to be.

A spokesman for the one of the militia groups said as much to local 8 News Now: I’m not 'afraid to shoot,' he said...  'This is what we do, we provide armed response,' Jim Lordy, with Operation Mutual Aid, told the local broadcast station. 'They have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.'

Mr. Lordy also said 'many more' militia groups are coming to the site to join in the Bundy family defense.

'They all tell me they are in the process of mobilizing as we speak,' another member told the Review-Journal [6].

I have no dispute with a concern about tyrannical government or the use of armed citizen militias as a deterrent to the same (and actually believe this is a good thing which is unique to Americans and suggestive of at least part of the population understanding how precious their liberties truly are), however I would strongly caution the militia members in this case from acting irrationally or prematurely, lest they provoke a reverse-Ruby Ridge situation wherein the federal government is on the receiving end of provocation.  If the militias fire the first shot here, there will be little legal justification for doing so and little public sympathy if the feds overwhelmingly return fire.  Truth be told, the militias should pack up, head home, and keep their powder dry for the time when an unjustifiable intrusion into civil liberties arises, which at the pace things are moving recently, may not be too far ahead.

As always, blind faith in a belief is not the same as strict adherence to principle, and this case is no different.  While the concepts of private property and states' rights are of paramount importance to the American philosophy of self governance, certain exceptions may well be Constitutional and must be accepted as lawful by supporters of individual liberty if they seek to be faithful to principle.  Otherwise, we're nothing more than a lawless nation of men competing in armed groups.

Regardless, this certainly seems to be a mountain-out-of-a-molehill situation, and the federal government does indeed appear to be overreaching on authority for a relatively minor "violation" of Bundy refusing to pay for grazing permits.

While it is certainly true that we live in a world in which private property rights are under attack at seemingly every turn, this particular dispute is a nonissue Constitutionally and should be dealt with as such by reasonable people on both sides.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Sons of the revolutionNot long ago, we were a people who believed two very simple things about personal, American commerce:  First, that you had a right to deny business services to whomever you pleased, at your own risk, and secondly, that the federal government had no legal standing to compel a private business transaction between two parties.  Both of these beliefs have found themselves functionally murdered in a spectacular bloodbath over the course of the past several years, particularly with the enshrinement of Obamacare's individual mandate within the codices of Supreme Court jurisprudence and American case law and the most recent upholding of the New Mexico Supreme Court decision requiring that Elane Photography engage in a private business contract with a party it has deemed to be religiously questionable (a gay couple). The First Amendment expressly prohibits government from infringing upon the religious activities of Americans [1]:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The word "Congress" in the First Amendment text has been expanded to include state and local governments by incorporation through the 14th Amendment in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940) [2], a questionable process which itself is the product of the Progressive Era and deserving of further discussion another time.  Regardless, we are left with a restriction against national and local government prohibiting both the creation of a state religion (which lawfully existed in several states at the time of the Constitution's ratification) or the free exercise thereof.  In the New Mexico case at hand (Elane Photography v. Willock [3] [4]), the court determined that Elane Photography's refusal to provide professional business services to a gay marriage ceremony violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act (NMHRA) [5]:

We hold that Elane Photography’s refusal to photograph Willock’s commitment ceremony violated the NMHRA. In enforcing the NMHRA, the NMHRC and the district court did not violate Elane Photography’s constitutional and statutory rights based upon freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the NMRFRA. We affirm the district court’s denial of Elane Photography’s motion for summary judgment and its decision to grant Willock’s motion for summary judgment.

Elane Photography appealed to the Supreme Court, which denied the petition Monday afternoon [6], effectively stomping out the last vestiges of personal choice in business and suggesting that all businesses must engage in all business opportunities, even if they find them personally repugnant or otherwise questionable for any reason whatsoever.

This flies squarely in the face of the American concept of individual liberty because it abridges the freedom of the business owner to choose who he does business with in the name of political correctness.  That the Supreme Court allowed such an insulting ruling to stand without Constitutional review (and affirming the First Amendment right of business owners to control who they do or do not do business with) says a great deal about how far this nation has drifted away from the originally intended loose federalist framework wherein the only government on your mind throughout the day and continuously interrupting your weekly routine is the one assembled under the dome of your statehouse - in other words, the one closest to you and most readily changed by those it affects.

The Left has largely hailed the opinion, albeit blindly so (as is the case with so many things), without realizing the impact such a decision has on the free exercise of the individual to guide his own life, instead proclaiming that the courts and legislatures have somehow managed to stamp out yet another homophobic business practice in the name of "progress."

They are right, of course, that if such a decision existed during the 1960s and prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we would have had businesses everywhere openly refusing to do business with blacks and in fact did have plenty of such cases.  Unfortunately, the protection of the liberty of the individual reigns supreme over the feelings of any and all minority parties, however wrong that may seem, and is ultimately constrained by the goodness of the people and a trust that they will eventually right their own wrongs.  Few observers today of the younger generations, including those on the Right, would have a difficult time making the case that racism has been nearly expunged from society.  Not wholly, of course, as abject stupidity will always exist in any number of forms within groups of people as history has repeatedly borne out, but to the degree that instances of clear racism are rather rare for most people in modern America, including minorities.  The younger generations, such as my own, simply do not care about race and as a result tend to behave in a more or less colorblind manner.

But that's the problem - these colorblind generations are effectively self-regulating their own businesses in accordance with their own conscience and those in power simply can't have self regulation occurring outside of governmental control as allowing such a situation to exist and propagate throughout society might lead to people taking care of themselves and their neighbors without needing their Congressman to mandate equality for them.

If you'd like to open up a bakery and choose to exclude blacks from your business, you should be free to do so, because ultimately the decision to engage in stupidity is yours to make, and with the speed that information travels these days, your business is likely to sink long before your first tax bill ever becomes due.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Bell Icon - White EdgesThis is fantastic.  Now that President Obama has unilaterally and illegally issued a grand total of 16 delays and extensions to the various Obamacare mandates [1], another major delay creeped out just today, hidden among other delays for businesses.

Oh, and yes, such delays are in fact illegal.  While many statutory actions by the Congress contain language imparting a certain amount of flexibility to adapt the law in various ways to "the Secretary" (of whatever department the law empowers), Obamacare contains no such language.  "The Secretary" is not given any sort of leeway in choosing how or when to implement the plethora of insurance mandates, minimum coverage requirements, or fines ("taxes") that Obamacare requires.  The law simply specifies the date such mandates go into force.  Period.

For any Progressive foaming at the mouth to point out to me that the President is simply "making the law more flexible" to "improve the transition period" or "ease the burden" (out of concern for the "general welfare") of the Obamacare activation we're currently experiencing, allow me to simply remind you that all executive actions supported by the Left could be mirrored by future Presidents on the other side of the political spectrum.  For example, although the law does not afford the President the ability to alter how income taxes are collected, a future President might simply declare through executive fiat that the imposition of individual income taxes in excess of 10% of gross earnings is an unfair burden upon the average American (out of concern for their "general welfare") and therefore all existing IRS tax brackets are void and a 10% flat tax comes into effect.

This is the lawless bed you're making, Progressives, so be prepared to lie in it and waste away, because Republican party hacks will milk it for all it's worth.

No President has the power to unilaterally alter the law, unless given specific authority by the Congress, regardless of political party affiliation.  Not this one, not the next one.

None of this is stopping the Huffington Post, however, from continuing to accuse the generic House Republican of wanting to clobber the poor and uninsured by delaying the individual mandate [2]:

Delaying health reform's individual mandate for five years, as a House bill would do to offset the cost of permanently cancelling scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to physicians, would mean about 13 million more uninsured Americans in 2018 compared to current law, with similar increases in most years that the mandate isn't in effect, a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis reveals.

Consistent with earlier CBO and outside analyses of the effects of repealing the mandate entirely, the new CBO figures show that the bill -- which the House is expected to vote on Friday -- would undermine health reform's implementation and produce serious harm...

Consistent with its previous estimates, CBO likely assumes that without the individual mandate, healthier and younger individuals would be more likely to remain uninsured, leaving the pool of people enrolled in individual-market coverage less healthy and hence more costly to cover.  That drives up premiums.

The House has voted to repeal Obamacare several times - this isn't new.  But the President hasn't.  Until today (sort of).

Buried deep within language released today by HHS [3], the President has directed Secretary Sebelius to delay the individual mandate until 2016.  Apparently the President hates the poor.  And the uninsured.  And he wants to "undermine health reform's implementation and produce serious harm."  He also apparently wants to "[drive] up premiums."

How convenient that the President is delaying the individual mandate, the portion which the entire law depends on to both force (at gunpoint) widespread coverage and "contain" costsuntil his sorry ass is out of office and the midterm elections are over.  The President is not king.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Back in early 2012 I published an April Fool's article glamorizing a nonexistent federal Constitutional Convention in Cheyenne [1].  While that post was a hoax, this one is not.

On December 7 of last year, 97 state legislators from 30 states met in Mount Vernon, Virginia, the home of George Washington, to discuss the objectives and strategy of the growing movement to call a Convention of States under Article V of the Constitution for the purpose of proposing amendments [2], specifically those dealing with a balanced federal budget and Congressional term limits, both of which enjoy significant popular support across party lines, with a balanced budget requirement polling as high as 85% [3].

Per Article V [4]:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

I had the opportunity to attend a townhall meeting organized by Colorado State Senator Kevin Lundberg last week, one of the key figures in the Article V movement.  I will publish additional details on the Article V Convention in the coming weeks, but for now consider the following key points regarding how such a convention would play out and how it would likely be organized.

  • Calling such a Convention would require a joint resolution being passed by 2/3 (34) of the state legislatures.  As of this writing, at least 18 states already have such a resolution in place, including the State of Colorado.  Several other states are actively pursuing this resolution and multiple parallel efforts are underway and gaining steam.  There is a very real possibility that all 34 necessary resolutions will be in place prior to 2016.
  • There is no possibility of a so-called "runaway convention," similar to the one that produced the Constitution we currently enjoy, as an Article V Convention would occur within the bounds of the existing Constitution and would be limited to the issues addressed within the state resolutions (most of which are limited to a balanced budget and term limits).
  • While an Article V Convention has never occurred in our history, it is a lawful and reasonable 'relief valve' to enact Amendments similar to the power that Congress possesses each and every day.  The Article V process being followed is simply the proscribed alternative channel for proposing Amendments when the Congress refuses to act.  Let's not forget that the ultimate power of governance within our federalist system does not lie with the Congress - it lies with the States and the People, and this is their method of righting grievances.
  • Any Amendments offered by the Convention would still require ratification by 3/4 (38) of the states, either by their legislatures or by a separate ratification convention.  This is the normal process that has historically been followed when Congress has proposed Amendments.

While the scope of the current Article V Convention push may seem rather limited, keep in mind that even passage of a balanced budget amendment would make significant inroads towards reducing the scope and power of the federal government and stuffing it back into the box of enumerated powers that were originally intended.  The expansion of government into virtually every facet of American life did not begin in earnest until the creation of the Federal Reserve and the establishment of the Income Tax (16th Amendment) in 1913, both of which are relics of the Progressive Era of Woodrow Wilson.

Before the federal government had the ability to directly tax its citizens and establish a fiat currency (which began in 1913 and became more or less complete when the gold standard was illegally set aside in 1971 in violation of Article 1, Section 10 [5]), the federal expenditures rarely exceeded revenues and never by greater than 15%, which happened only once in 1909 [6].  Today, spending routinely exceeds revenue by 25% or more (and as high as 67% in 2009) and the national debt stands at $17.411 trillion [7], or 102% of GDP [8].

Debt is not wealth.  It's time to put a stop to the never ending growth of government and shackle it back to the powers enumerated in Article 1, Section 8.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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Sons of the revolution smallCome February 7, 2014, the Treasury will lose the legal authority to continue borrowing money without regard for the nation's debt ceiling.  The ceiling was last officially suspended on October 17, 2013.  The day prior to the suspension, the outstanding debt stood at $16.747 trillion.  When the suspension passed, the debt increased by $329 billion overnight and today stands at $17.342 trillion [1] [2].

Over the previous period, in which the Treasury was permitted to act without regard to a borrowing limit, it borrowed an average of $2.51 billion per day (not including the overnight jump on Oct 17), equivalent to an annual deficit of about $916 billion or about 24% of the $3.78 trillion the federal government expects to spend in 2014 [3].

The authority to increase this borrowing limit further is dependent upon Congress passing yet another "compromise" piece of legislation soon, which is why Progressives everywhere are salivating over the leveraging power they seem to think they possess after the media fallout from the "government shutdown" last year, the impacts of which were rather minor and not felt anywhere near as far as some have convinced themselves into believing.

Presumably, that would be the reason for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to express concern that the House Republicans may raise a stink over a new debt ceiling bill not being properly originated as the Constitution requires [4]:

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said leaders are still trying to determine whether they will move a clean debt ceiling bill first or allow the House to act.

The Senate in the past has initiated the process of increasing the debt limit. But with the narrow timeframe, some members expressed concern that Republicans could gum up the process by arguing such a bill would have to start in the House, citing the portion of the Constitution that requires bills involving revenue to originate in the House.

To be perfectly honest and clear, which would be a stark change of course for Senator Durbin, the object "gumming up the process" wouldn't be House Republicans.  It would be the Constitution.  Per Article I, Section 7 [5]:

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

The purpose of this Constitutional requirement was to further divide the powers between the People and the states, since the Senate was originally intended to be comprised of members appointed by the various state legislatures, a balance which was thoroughly destroyed during the Progressive Era of the early 1900s, when "reformers" convinced the states that it was somehow a good idea to cede their representation in Congress to the whims of the public at large, a move which has done more to destroy the framework of the Republic than perhaps any other in our history.  The resulting 17th Amendment provided for both the House and the Senate members to be elected directly by the People [6].  Under the original intent of Article I, reserving the power for raising revenue to the House guaranteed that those who would end up paying for any spending that Congress engaged in had the first and only say in which revenue-related bills would appear in Congress.  The Senate (the states) could only propose or concur with amendments to such bills, but could not propose bills themselves.

Nothing about this process or the purpose of it is unclear.  But, to Senator Durbin (along with many others in Congress), the requirement to have all revenue-related bills originate in the House is outdated, dusty, and old.  This is a very dangerous precedent to continue because it furthers the general disregard for Constitutional principles, which were established for a very good reason, that being to guard the Peoples' liberties first and provide for the needs of the nation second.

To be perfectly clear, any debt ceiling bill which originates in the Senate is flatly illegal, and any member voting in favor of such a bill, in clear violation of Article I, Section 7, is a danger to the functioning of this free Republic and should be immediately dispatched from Congress.

Liberty or death,

The Bulletproof Patriot

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TBP supports the Convention of States project to call an Article V convention for the purpose of amending the Constitution to limit the powers of the federal government.

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