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In post–World War I Italy, the rise of fascism in that country was marked by Benito Mussolini’s thugs, who made a point of visually distinguishing themselves by wearing black shirts as they engaged in intimidating tactics against Mussolini’s political opposition. Germany’s Adolph Hitler liked that idea so much that he copied it for his political militants—only there, the choice of shirt color was brown.
In the United States, green shirts are the preferred uniform color of the National Park Service.
The park service’s enforcement arm, a graduating class of which is pictured above, has been pretty busy during the partial government shutdown. But not in a good way. Ed Morrissey explains how they’ve made the transition to becoming “Obama’s Private Army”:
The United States established the Civil Service 142 years ago, in response to the massive corruption that followed from the previous “spoils system” in Washington DC. Prior to that, all federal employees served at the pleasure of the President, and jobs got handed out to those who boosted the fortunes of the party in power.
The result was rampant abuses of power, payoffs and kickbacks, and unaccountable performances at the federal level. It took nearly 40 years to transform the federal workforce into an independent and professional corps, and almost 70 years before Congress formally forbade civil-service workers from conducting political activities, through the Hatch Act of 1939.
Seventy-four years later, the civil-service system has been exposed as a failure – at least in this administration. Instead of an independent workforce of professionals who implement federal regulation in an even-handed and competent manner, we have returned to the era of partisan retribution and politically-motivated malevolence.
Basically, President Obama’s politically appointed administrators have given the park service’s employees very politically motivated marching orders, which they’re acting to carry out:
The Park Service appears to be closing streets on mere whim and caprice. The rangers even closed the parking lot at Mount Vernon, where the plantation home of George Washington is a favorite tourist destination. That was after they barred the new World War II Memorial on the Mall to veterans of World War II. But the government does not own Mount Vernon; it is privately owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The ladies bought it years ago to preserve it as a national memorial. The feds closed access to the parking lots this week, even though the lots are jointly owned with the Mount Vernon ladies. The rangers are from the government, and they’re only here to help.
“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” an angry Park Service ranger in Washington says of the harassment. “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
Morrissey describes what making life more difficult for people has meant:
When the shutdown went into effect last week, NPS reacted not by going off the job or closing national parks alone, but by actively blocking access to areas normally accessible 24/7 without impediment. That included putting up signs and guards at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, despite the fact that (a) the memorial was built with private funds, and (b) there are no gates or barriers under normal conditions at the memorial – nor at the Lincoln Memorial, nor at the Martin Luther King Memorial, both of which were similarly shut down by the National Parks Service.
When people simply moved the barricades to access the memorials, the supposedly shut down NPS arrived on scene to wire them together. When people gathered anyway, the US Park Police arrived on horseback to disperse them. Stephen Hayes asked an NPS spokesperson who ordered these actions, and was told that the Office of Management and Budget – a White House agency – ordered them to barricade the memorials.
It gets even worse than that. Unknown at the time but reported this week, the National Parks Service chased down a group of senior citizens at Yellowstone National Park when the shutdown commenced on October 1st. After informing the busload of tourists, some of whom were tourists from other countries, that the park was no longer accessible, the rangers locked them into a closed hotel for several hours with armed guards posted at the exits. When finally allowed to get back on the bus and leave Yellowstone, rangers stopped the tourists from pausing to take pictures, chasing after them for “recreating.”
Fox News has a video interview with one witness to the Yellowstone park closure who personally experienced the heavy-handed police state tactics used by the National Park Service’s enforcers.
In one case, the political masters of the National Park Service have even attempted to close down the public’s access to the ocean. All in pursuit of President’s Obama’s goal to make the partial shutdown of the federal government as painful as possible to regular Americans.
In light of these abuses of power, a good question to ask is why have such people been allowed to have so much authority over regular Americans that they can deny them access to the nation’s natural treasures at their political whimsy?
The only correct answer is that they shouldn’t. The best answer we have to address that situation is to turn the management and operation of the nation’s national parks over to the people, through the private sector. It’s a model that has been proven to work, provided only that the forces of political intimidation are denied the power to disrupt them.
And that should start with a massive reform of the National Park Service.
National Park Service