"You'd Do It For Randolph Scott."

How many sheriffs around the country belong to the lawmen's version of the Oath Keepers? One number floated around is 4500 dues-paying members, out of 3006 counties in the US. Given that the Oath Keepers began in Granbury, I think we can assume there are quite a few in our fair state.

"You'd Do It For Randolph Scott."
"The Sheriff is near!"

I know I've evolved into sort of the topical guy in this august group. But honestly, it is getting more and more difficult. I recall a New Yorker cartoon set in an airliner.

That's the problem with both news, and the kind of weekly snark I peddle here. When it comes to politics today, anything you write is out of date by the time it's published. The Mar-A-Maga search warrant is a good example. Pretty straightforward, eh? He lied and withheld top secret documents, along with others that belong to the National Archives. The FBI gave up negotiating with him and being lied to, and went there to retrieve the files. And yes, there was a lot of very classified material there.

If it changed the path of a hurricane, It can declassify documents...
...or, save a marriage.

Then comes a request for a "Special Master," which sounds suspiciously like one of the upper levels of Scientology. Really? Now, the government knows classified stuff when it sees it, you know, the ones that say CLASSIFIED across the top in great big, non-sharpie letters? But they need some outside guy to separate the wheat from the chaff, or rather, the cancelled pornstar checks from the Putin emails? It's enough to make you laugh, if it weren't for the millions of folks who actually, I mean actually believe this malarkey. It is bilge more toxic than what was drained from the Battleship Texas.

So, you prepare to write about this Dr. Seuss level nonsense, and today a new book comes out from the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. This is a guy who says he was asked by the miraculously, newly sane Bill Barr, to prosecute Trump enemies like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Really? Kerry? It's as though that scene from "Becket" where King Henry II says, "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" were played by Adam Sandler.  All the while, at his latest rally, Carrot Top said that essentially, the forces of evil are trying to silence him. That's the kind of projection you wish you had had in the 7th grade with that Encyclopedia Britannica film.

This strategy in sports is called "flooding the zone." It means put enough defenders, or offensive players into an area to overwhelm the other team's ability to deal with you. The actual quote from that round mound of conspiracy, Trump advisor Steve Bannon, is "flood the zone with shit." In Hollywood fights, it's when the guy on the ground grabs a handful of dirt and throws it at his opponent, temporarily blinding him.

No, really. We were sorta, kinda building some sort of wall. 

Bannon, of course, is under indictment for fraud and money laundering, for his project, "We Build the Wall." Yes, this walking, talking ode to Axe body spray really convinced the rubes to send him money to build a border wall privately...a wall that a little girl demonstrated on YouTube that she could climb. A wall that can be cut open with a heavy duty saw. A wall that ends at New Mexico. A wall, a small portion of which, is sliding into the Rio Grande. The hoi poloi sent him $15 million for the project, which he and his buddies are accused of pocketing. That happened this week, so maybe write about that, eh?  

But wait, kids, there's more. And finally, I can write about something that won't change tomorrow because Trump belched out a tweet. On the state level, we find Governor Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star, which sounds like a Navy Seal movie starring Mathew McConaughey, is turning out to be the purely political ploy we all suspected, in addition to being a monumental cluster f**k.

In 2021, the Gov deployed an expensive collection of National Guard troops and state troopers to the border to, well, you know, shut it all down, illegal immigrant-wise. The 10,000 guardsmen deployed are unprepared, bored and angry. The Texas Tribune reports the cases of troops who had jobs and family concerns upended for an election year bit of Kibuki Theatre.

Thanks guys, for the campaign contribution.

The state troopers are accused of profiling drivers and engaging in too many high-speed chases. This has resulted in 30 deaths. The Dallas Morning News found that in Starr and Hidalgo Counties, more than 600 residents were stopped 10 or more times by troopers. More than 300 were stopped at least 20 times, and one person was pulled over 52 times in the period since March of 2021. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that guy doesn't look like Dolph Lundgren.

And then there is the even nastier accusation. Along with citizen soldiers and the boys in Khaki Stetsons, a number of right wing militia types have flooded the zone on the border with their AR's and AK's, hoping for some Kyle Rittenhouse action. Some citizens have accused the DPS folks of being a little too friendly with the white supremacist mob. If that sounds like the ravings of some "woke" ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center fever dream, let me introduce you to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. I covered one of their meetings when I was doing TV news in East Texas, and found it pretty damned troubling.

The group is the brainchild of a Mormon Sheriff from Utah named Richard Mack. If you want to place Mack in the nutcase food chain, he is a board member of the Oath Keepers. Yeah, the guys who were armpit deep in the January 6th attempt to overturn the election. Of course, the Oath Keepers came into being in the spring of 2009. What else happened in early 2009? Hold on, it will come to me. Ah, yes, it was when the black guy took office in Washington.

Their founder, Stewart Rhodes, yes, from Granbury, Texas, is under indictment for seditious conspiracy over the capitol riot. He had earlier called in the troops in 2014 to ride to the defense of Cliven Bundy, a rancher in Nevada who decided he just didn't want to pay grazing fees for running his cattle on federal land, fees that every other rancher on the continent understands have to be paid.

Lonesome Dove performed by Green Berets.

Later, they defended Bundy's son Ammon, when he inexplicably took over a bird sanctuary in Oregon, prompting another standoff. I know, a bird sanctuary? Anyway, Richard Mack was smack dab in the middle of all this, but his original street cred among fringe loonies, came when he won a limited Supreme Court case back in the 90's against the original Brady Gun Law. Before the FBI database was established for background checks, the government asked local law enforcement to help vet gun purchases. Mack found that intolerable, well truth be told, along with the whole idea of checking the criminal past of gun buyers, and challenged it in court. The court ruled they couldn't be ordered to do that, a Scalia opinion, and he became a hero to those guys whose spirit animal is an AR15.

Now, none of that matters now because the feds handle all that, but Mack was on his way. He formed an offshoot of the Oath Keepers called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. He fed gullible county mounties with the idea that they were the last constitutionally mandated line of defense against the government, and for that read, Democrats. He doesn't base that on the constitution because sheriffs are never mentioned. Believe it or not, he says that in England in the middle ages, the sheriff was the ultimate authority in the shire. Uh-huh. I know what your thinking, and the Sheriff of Nottingham is an excellent mental image. Mr. Mack seems to ignore the fact that this isn't England, and it isn't the middle ages. Other than that, a perfect example.  

Get thee hence, Brandon.

And by authority, he means the right to decide what federal laws will be enforced, in his constitutional judgment. Sheriff Mack would benefit from an actual reading of the document, you know, past the 2nd Amendment. Inside he would find something known as the Supremacy Clause...

Article VI, Clause 2

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

In other words, federal law trumps (no pun intended) local or state law in most cases. Yet, at the meeting I covered, and in the interviews that followed, Mack contended that the local sheriff had the authority to refuse to enforce laws that he or she deemed unconstitutional. That is, of course, how you say? Simply goofy. I don't want to shortchange any local sheriff, and there may be a few constitutional scholars in the bunch, but I'm guessing very few. And the idea that a peace officer can decide, on their own, what laws to enforce gives the word arbitrary whole new worlds of meaning.

Come on, Constitution, Smonstitution.

Now, if you go to their website, they also don't like mask mandates. That is among the chief concerns of sheriffs apparently. And they don't like the whole idea of federal lands. From the website...

Constitutional limits on ownership and/or control of land within a sovereign state should be returned to our policies and practices. States should have a plan for assuming control of all lands within their boundaries not obtained by Constitutional means.

On guns, the conspiracy theories bloom like summer roses...

We oppose “universal background checks” for many reasons.  One is that they can be used to create a gun owners’ list, which is a backdoor way to registration, and that can be used later for confiscation.

We haven't heard that one since the original Brady arguments of the 90's.  And just like radio maroon Alex Jones, they also peddle health supplements called "Global Healing," no, really. They also sell products to protect you from your 5G phone, gold and silver for when society goes to hell in a hand-basket, and healthy foods.

He is the Martha Stewart of the tin foil hat brigade. And he can whip up julienne fries in a twinkling. But the serious conspiracy nonsense, along with the sub-literate reading of the Constitution isn't a joke. And a lot of local law enforcement types seem to have swallowed it. In Texas, sheriff's from Panola and Houston Counties are quoted on the website, and local media stories about seminars by Mack show an incredible amount of gullibility from the gathered crowd. At the one I covered, Mack really had no answer when I asked about the chaos that would ensue if a sheriff in East Texas and one in Southern California had differing opinions on guns, immigration, etc. And the reason for the non-answer is that there isn't one. It's an insult to Bugs Bunny to call it loony tunes.

They actually believe this s**t?

But, in another disturbing development, in 2021, Mack was actually able to win official state approval for his “trainings” in Montana and Texas, which allows attendees to receive continuing education credit for attending his events. Yes, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE), the entity that issues and renews licenses for cops at every level in my state, officially counts these conspiracy-fests as official police training sessions. The absurdity of this is demonstrated by the fact that Mack has also claimed—again, falsely—that the county sheriff has the power to call out the “militia” to support him in his opposition to tyranny.

The thin line...well, the line anyway, between you and tyranny. 

How many sheriffs around the country belong? I searched diligently and couldn't find a definitive list. Mack says there are 4500 dues paying members, out of 3006 counties in the US, but finding names is tough. Given the Oath Keepers began in Granbury, I think we can assume there are quite a few in our fair state.

So, know that this silliness is going on all around and frankly, flying below the radar. Oh, did I mention the General Michael Flynn Holy Warrior tour? Maybe next time.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.