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Monday, January 4, 2016

In Which We Ponder What Is and Isn't Tyranny

In Oregon, a group of armed militiamen have occupied some federal buildings at what is essentially a birdwatching venue.  They are doing this in support of Dwight and Steven Hammond, local ranchers who have been ordered to report to federal prison to complete sentences they received for setting fires on federal land.  Interestingly, from what I've read about the Hammond case, the protesters have a point: It sounds like the fires were set by accident, and the Hammonds have, in fact, already served jail time--they are being ordered back to prison because "a federal judge ruled that the sentences they had served were not long enough under federal law"--which I must admit sounds a little sketchy.  That being said, the Hammonds have apparently agreed to surrender as ordered, which makes the actions of the Birdbath Liberation Army seem somewhat disproportionate.

People like this often claim to be resisting the overreaching authority of a tyrannical federal government.  To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word [tyranny].  I do not think it means what you think it means."  Because despite what may well be a miscarriage of justice in the Hammonds' case, there is ample evidence that the federal government is not, in fact, a tyrannical dictatorship. For one thing, under a dictatorship, I suspect the BLA would find themselves bombed out of their enclave long before they could speak to the news media about how they are being repressed.

I'm reminded of a little throwaway gag George Carlin did on one of his concert albums.  Carlin, in the voice of an earnest reporter, informed us that someone had barricaded himself inside his home.  He went on to say that the person "is unarmed and nobody is paying any attention to him."  Of course, the BLA is armed, which makes this situation significantly less funny.

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