Tag Archives: militia

Governor calls out State Guard to protect Texas from federal takeover

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott asked the State Guard to monitor a U.S. military training exercise dubbed “Jade Helm 15” amid Internet-fueled conspiracy theories that the war simulation is really part of an effort by President Obama to take over the state and force people to give up their guns.

The request came on April 28, a day after more than 200 people packed a meeting in rural Bastrop County and questioned a U.S. Army commander about whether the government was planning to confiscate their guns and implement martial law. Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said “conspiracy theorists” and “fear mongers” had been in a frenzy.

“It’s a sad when people’s greatest fear is their own government,” Pape said. “Think about the ramification of that. If Americans go to sleep at night worrying whether their own government is going to sell them out before morning, it’d be hard to sleep.”

Suspicions about Jade Helm intensified on some conservative websites and social media after a map labeled Texas, Utah and parts of California as “hostile” for the purposes of the three-month training exercise that begins in July. Such war simulations aren’t unusual, though the Army has acknowledged that the size and scope of Jade Helm makes it unique.

Texas and six other states are hosting the exercises on public and private lands. The Army says the terrain and topography in the areas selected are ideal to replicate foreign combat zones.

“It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott wrote. “By monitoring the operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”

Tea party groups such as InfoWars and the Oath Keepers are behind the frenzy.

While boosting his popularity with the fringe right, Abbott’s antics have drawn the scorn of many in his party. Former Republican state Rep. Todd Smith penned a letter to the governor, which stated in part:

“Let me apologize in advance that your letter pandering to idiots who believe that US Navy Seals and other US military personnel are somehow a threat to be watched has left me livid. As a 16 year member of the Texas House and a proud patriotic AMERICAN, I am terrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my Governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my Governor doesn’t have the backbone to standup to those who do. I’m not sure which is worse.”

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria attempted in vain to calm down the conspiracy-theory crowd in Bastrop, telling them that the exercise will involve 1,200 soldiers and all four branches of the military, according to the Austin American-Statesman. He said people with a “personal agenda” about the exercise had been spreading misinformation.

Lastoria spoke for two hours, but some left the meeting still unconvinced.

Pape told The Associated Press that some came from as far as Houston and Dallas to attend the meeting. He said the county could reap as much as $150,000 in economic activity from the exercise, which in Bastrop is set to include 60 soldiers, two Humvees and a helicopter.

Bastrop County is home to Camp Swift, the largest base for the Texas National Guard, and Pape said most people likely won’t even notice.

“There’s been a lot of dust thrown in the air, a lot of haze,” Pape said. “Those who wanted to raise concerns on the one hand succeeded. They’ve raised a lot of attention about this. But the fact is the message is clear: Jade Helm is a well-designed and a well-constructed training operation.”

Associated Press Writer Eva Ruth Moravec contributed to this report.

Time is overdue to repeal the Second Amendment

What country fetishizes, lionizes, valorizes, idolizes, and sacralizes guns as much as does our United States? OK, possibly Mozambique — the only country with an AK47 on its flag, but really, it’s long past time to end this obsessive “My Precious” attachment of Americans to instruments of death.

This morning of Dec. 25, 2014, of the nine top stories from US Reuters, six were about shootings — four new ones and two about the national movement against shootings of citizens by police. This pandemic of sick violence, punctuated by mass killings of children, has gone on far, far too long. It is long past time to repeal the stupid Second Amendment.

The fate of the Second Amendment should have been sealed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that past rulings by their predecessors were wrong, that in fact the amendment that provided for a “well regulated militia” really guaranteed every individual the right to own a gun. Wow. That is an interesting reading of the English language. What the Supremes have done is to not only warp the meaning and make it into twisted law, but to further prohibit states and local governments from declaring their places free of legal guns. The conservative court once again rules against the power of states, a principle that used to be associated with darn liberals who wanted to make sure everyone had the right to vote, for example, even though they weren’t properly white enough. Now when a city or state wants to outlaw firearms, too bad. The conservatives took away their powers and rights in favor of Big Brother.

The only logical path, given the clearly decided role of the Second Amendment, is to repeal it. American people are tired of mass shootings and police shootings and family feud shootings and sibling shootings and accidental toddler shootings and teen suicide by gun (highly popular).We are exhausted by the proliferation of death, of threats, of bloodshed, and by the NRA/gun industry moral garbage spewing forth every time someone challenges the ubiquity of guns.

Repeal the Stupid Second Amendment. Surround it, grab it, bring it in the back room, pull down the shades, and end it. OK, petition for it, get it on the ballot, and get it done by enough of the US populace, by enough people in enough states, to get it consigned to the dustbin of history.

Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and teaches in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University in Oregon.


Even before racist comments, there was limited support for right-wing rancher

For a while, in certain quarters, Cliven Bundy was celebrated as a John Wayne-like throwback to the Old West — a weathered, plainspoken rancher trying to graze his cattle and keep the government off his back. But that was before he started sounding more like a throwback to the Old South.

Conservative Republican politicians and commentators who once embraced Bundy for standing up to Washington are stampeding in the other direction – and branding him a racist – after he suggested that blacks might have had it better as slaves picking cotton.

The furor made it apparent how limited Bundy’s appeal ever was.

Bundy, 67, and his armed supporters thwarted an attempt by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management two weeks ago to seize his family’s cattle over his failure to pay $1.1 million in grazing fees and penalties for the use of government land over the past 20 years. A local land-use dispute soon turned into a national debate, with conservatives calling it another example of big-government overreach.

But the rugged West that Bundy was said to represent has changed, becoming more urban and less concerned about federal intrusion than it was during the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s and ’80s. In the urban areas that now dominate the West, there have been few stirrings of support for Bundy.

Even many fellow ranchers regard him as more a deadbeat than a hero.

“You’ve got hundreds of ranchers in Nevada who pay their fee regularly,” said Tom Collins, a rancher on the Clark County Commission. “On the grazing fee issue, Bundy doesn’t have sympathy from the ranchers.”

At the Bunkerville Post Office, Chad Dalton, a lineman for a power company, said that the case brought up important issues but that they should be addressed through laws, not with guns.

“It’s a fight to be had,” Dalton said from inside a car full of his children, “but I’m not sure he’s the one to lead it.”

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said Bundy was made into a hero by conservative activists and journalists in New York and Washington “who did not understand how extreme Cliven Bundy is … even among Sagebrush rebels and Nevada ranchers.”

In fact, the remote area outside Las Vegas where Bundy and his supporters made their stand is represented by a black Democrat, Rep. Steve Horsford.

The congressman said that many of the people in the small towns in the region, which has drawn an increasing number of retirees and tourists seeking to enjoy its open spaces, are upset with Bundy, who “does not reflect Nevada or the views of the West.”

The BLM claims Bundy’s cattle are trespassing on fragile habitat set aside for the endangered desert tortoise. Bundy says he doesn’t recognize federal authority over lands that his cattle have grazed on for years.

After the BLM called off the roundup and released about 350 animals back to Bundy, the rancher drew praise from many Republicans – most notably Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a likely 2016 presidential candidate – and condemnation from several Democrats.

Then, in an interview in last week’s New York Times, Bundy suggested that “the Negro” might have been better off during slavery rather than on government welfare.

In a statement the next day, Bundy defended himself by saying he is “trying to keep Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive.” At his regular afternoon address to the media and supporters at his ranch, Bundy apologized if he offended anyone. “I might not have said it right,” he said, “but it came from my heart.”

Before the newspaper story broke, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller, Republicans who got their political start in the sparsely populated northern end of the state, issued statements supportive of Bundy.

Bundy’s racial comments, however, drew bipartisan condemnation.

Heller’s spokeswoman said the senator “completely disagrees” with Bundy’s remarks.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose power base is in Las Vegas, home to most of Nevada’s Democrats, said Bundy “revealed himself to be a hateful racist.”

“But by denigrating people who work hard and play by the rules while he mooches off public land,” Reid added, “he also revealed himself to be a hypocrite.”

At a conference of Western Republicans in Salt Lake City, several conservatives reiterated their long-held complaints about federal control of vast swaths of the West. The federal government owns more than 80 percent of the land in Nevada.

Republicans complained that the federal holdings prevent development that could generate tax revenue for public services, and that environmental restrictions hinder ranchers and others who want to use some of the region’s scenic spaces. They distanced themselves from Bundy but said they hope his racial remarks don’t overshadow their concerns.

“This is bigger than one rancher in Nevada,” Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory said.

Report: 12 gay men face execution by Libyan militia

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is monitoring a report from Libya, where 12 men said to be gay may face execution.

GLAAD’s website, referring to a post from the Gay Star News, said a militia in Libya has taken into custody the dozen men who attended a private party in Ain Zara, a suburb of Tripoli, on Nov. 22.

The militia’s “special deterrence unit” posted a photograph of the men, along with threats to mutiliate and kill the men, on a Facebook page that was created on Nov. 20. Comments on the page are encouraging violence but at least one, from Human Rights Watch Libya, urges the militia to turn the men over to civil authorities.

The militia, according to GSN, appears to be a group of extreme Salafists.