As SteynOnline readers well know, in the wake of Seal Team Six, America has also acquired a Bunny Team Six and a Deer Team Six. Now comes news from Nevada of Cattle Team Six. It's a long-running story of rights to graze on "federal land" vs protection of the "desert tortoise", but, like so many disputes with American bureaucrats these days, it ends with paramilitary commandos training their weapons on civilians:
Federal snipers with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trained guns on members of a family yesterday after they dared to stop and take video footage of cattle...
Whoa, hold that thought! "Federal snipers with the Bureau of Land Management". As I wrote only last week, if someone wants to stroll in to Fort Hood and shoot as many people as he's minded to, the fellows on the receiving end have to call 911 and wait for the county sheriff to send a couple of deputies - because "the only government department without a military force at its disposal is the military". But the Bureau of Land Management has snipers.
That aside, this was the passage in the Las Vegas Review-Journal story that caught my eye:
A few miles up the road, a "First Amendment Area" the BLM set up for rallies like this stood empty, save for a few signs attached to the outside of the orange plastic pen.
One of them read: "1st Amendment is not an area."
Indeed. The "First Amendment Area" is supposed to be something called "the United States". If the Bureau of Land Management gets to determine which sliver of turf you can exercise your right to freedom of expression in, then it isn't freedom of expression at all, is it? I'm less impressed by the First Amendment than I used to be, mainly because I'm having to spend a half-decade in court and a seven-figure sum for the privilege of hearing some judge years down the line inform me that my 270-word blog post is, in fact, permitted under the US constitution. (If you'd like to help lessen the toll of that seven-figure sum, I'd be awfully grateful.) But even so it's extraordinary that even twerp bureaucrats from the Department of Compliance feel comfortable setting up an "orange plastic pen" labeled "First Amendment Area". If an anonymous pen-pusher in the permanent bureaucracy can confine the Bill of Rights to tiny enclaves where it will be entirely ineffectual, then there is no Bill of Rights.
By the way, what's depressing about this is, if the issue worked its way in front of a judges or judges, the genius jurists would undoubtedly rule that, while an 11-foot wide free-speech zone is too narrow an interpretation of the First Amendment, it would be acceptable if you widened it to 17 or 18 feet.
~I was on The John Oakley Show in Toronto yesterday, and, noting my reference to Magna Carta, a handful of American listeners emailed to ask why I only mention laws eight centuries old. Yeah, I've noticed that, too - not just Magna Carta, but the Assize of Clarendon and the Charter of the Forest:
In 1217, King Henry III signed the Charter of the Forest, which despite various amendments and replacement statutes remained in force in Britain for some three-quarters of a millennium, until the early Seventies. If Magna Carta is a landmark in its concept of individual rights, the Forest Charter played an equivalent role in advancing the concept of the commons, the public space. Repealing various restrictions by his predecessors, Henry III opened the royal forests to the freemen of England, granted extensive grazing and hunting rights, and eliminated the somewhat severe penalty of death for taking the king's venison. The [National Park Service] have not yet fried anyone for taking King Barack's deer, but it is somewhat sobering to reflect that an English peasant enjoyed more freedom on the sovereign's land in the 13th century than a freeborn American does on "the people's land" in the 21st century.
And so, as happened to Japanese and European tourists at Yellowstone, you can be arrested for photographing the King's deer. That's why I quote this stuff: if a 13th century peasant enjoyed rights a 21st century American doesn't, something's gone badly wrong.
~I was on Brian Lilley's show on the Sun News Network yesterday, talking about Quebec's bipartisan economic statism. Click below to watch:
~Tomorrow, as usual, I'll be on air south of the border with Hugh Hewitt, coast to coast at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific.