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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rancher Cliven Bundy reveals the farm welfare issue - smart ranchers should tell him to mind his own business

When will ranchers circle their wagons around the dangerously recalcitrant Cliven Bundy, for the purpose of telling him to mind his own business?  An informative article in the blog Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) explains a little about the lot I don't know, regarding grazing rights for cattle that feeds on federal land.  After reading the blog, sent by a follower who lives in Bangor, ME, the information, as I understand it, means that rancher Bundy has drawn undue attention to the issue of cattle grazing fees.  In fact, Bundy owes the government a huge amount of money, because he refuses to pay the fees, while his cattle have been eating for free. Truth be told, if the federal government Bundy complains about sold the land to ranchers, the cost of feeding cattle would go up, meaning food prices would go even higher and, thereby, put at risk the entire US cattle farming business. Why? It turns out, cattle grazing fees are less of a cost to ranchers than the money needed to own and maintain private grazing land. 

Here's the blog titled Western Welfare Queens April 18, 2014:

Americans often look at the men and women who earn their living off the land in the west as rugged individualists. That may be true, but look a little closer at their books and many are less Marlboro Man and more Fat Cat. Under their weathered veneer is a public subsidy cowboy living high on the hog because of sweetheart deals including water, mining, crop insurance, grazing, livestock disaster, and other subsidies from Uncle Sam. There’s too much to cover in one Wastebasket, but since the issue of federal land management and grazing in the West was in the spotlight this past week we’ll look at that.

Grazing on public lands came into the fore recently when federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents seized Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle to settle the more than $1 million in fines he has racked up since 1993. The fines are a result of Bundy grazing his cattle on BLM lands where grazing is prohibited, land for which he didn’t have one of the 18,000 federal permits in the west.

Leaving aside the whole armed standoff and ridiculous constitutional questions that Bundy boosters raised (yes, they are federal lands, they were before Nevada became a state and Nevada gave up any claim to them to become a state; furthermore state law has a litany of provisions regarding the intersection of grazing and federal land) this latest incident highlights the problems with the nation’s grazing rules for federal lands.

Federal grazing rules are outdated, too generous, and don’t even come close to covering the costs taxpayers bear in maintaining federal grazing lands.

While the Forest Service has charged private cattlemen a fee to graze on public lands for 108 years, BLM is a relative newcomer – charging only since 1936. Supposedly BLM annually takes livestock prices, cost of cattle production, AND private grazing fees into account when setting the price. That’s hard to figure whengovernment data pegs private grazing fees at roughly $18 per Animal Unit Month (AUM represents the amount of forage (e.g. grass) a cow and her calf need for a month) throughout the west over the past two years. In Nevada the average private grazing fee was $15 per AUM. Yet this year the BLM fee is set at $1.35 per AUM.

These highly discounted rates come about because current rules enshrine the cost ranchers paid to graze on private lands in 1966, $1.23 per AUM, as the starting point for fees. This year’s $1.35 per AUM represents a whopping 12 cent increase over the last 48 years. And part of that is only because a 1986 Executive Order set a floor of $1.35 for the grazing fee. Even though the costs to graze on private land have increased substantially since Lyndon Johnson was president, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that in the 28 years since the 1986 Executive Order the annual fee has been set at the floor 16 times and has never exceeded $2.00, topping out at $1.98 in 1994. Simply taking inflation since 1966 into account the fee should be at least $8.97.

The fees charged for grazing permits fall far short of the cost taxpayers incur for opening these lands to ranchers. In 2005, the Government Accountability Office estimated that federal grazing fees covered a little more than 13 percent of overall program funding in fiscal year 2004, a pattern confirmed by the Congressional Research Service in their analysis of fiscal year 2009 spending. Certainly there are differences between private land and public land in quality, but there are also a variety of federal programs such as Wildlife Services (killing wolves and other predators) that also benefit ranchers.

The federal grazing program is a sweetheart deal for ranchers so it’s not surprising ranchers want to use that land. If you think about it, if they owned that land, they would have to maintain it and pay taxes on it. Having taxpayers subsidize your grazing fees is a much cheaper way to go. The vast, vast majority of ranchers using public lands are law abiding, responsible citizens. It’s just that the law gives them a trough full of subsidies at taxpayer expense.

Question from Maine Writer:  Does Fox News ever research anything the network reports, or do their incendiary reporters just accept yellow journalism as being good for their right wing ratings?  Since Republicans and right wing extremists are vocally opposed to all the US government supports, except , of course, for the Constitution according to them, then it seems to me Fox News should be on the side of investigative journalism, to find out how much money tax payers are investing in subsidies for cattle grazing.
Instead, Fox News reporters are hanging out like vultures on a battle field just frothing at the prospect of reporting on ranchers rights versus the federal government.  In fact, the real story is ranchers rights versus tax payers rights!
An even better idea is for the US Congress to cut grazing rights subsidies, instead of veterans benefits earned on the battle fields of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although Fox News clearly takes advantage of it's right to free speech under the Constitution, the fact is, the network violates the do no harm rule of journalism, ie, "report the news, don't create it".

Meanwhile, as Fox News buzzards circle the cattle grazing fields, looking for government conspiracies to improve ratings, the hard working, smart and compliant ranchers, who benefit from paying grazing rights fees, should take Bundy out to the range barn. That's the place where Bundy can get an education, from his peers, about what's at stake when tax payers figure out how much money we're pouring into their welfare system.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Cliven Bundy abuses his American citizenship to demand illegal free cattle grazing rights

Standing hypocritically in front of a high flying American flag while the incendiary Fox News network froths in anticipation of harmful violence, the rancher against the federal government is played out, again, like an orchestrated historical reinactment. Unfortunately, the only difference between this historic tension and a reenactment is that we don't yet know the outcome of this power struggle. Nevertheless, the fact is, rancher Cliven Bundy is breaking the law.

Rancher Bundy is a free loader, because his colleagues pay for the cattle grazing rights he protests against the federal government via the media.

Regardless of how sympathetic a figure Fox News is creating in Bundy's illegal resistance to a law everybody else adheres to, there's a lot the federal government can do, absent violence, to assure Bundy will eventually wind up in jail.  

In the event Bundy continues to uses the Fox News yellow journalism to misrepresent his unlawful behavior, the federal government, nevertheless, has the authority to hold the rancher's family and heirs accountable to abide by federal land use laws.  

Although I'm certainly not a lawyer, I suspect the Bundy family will be unable to sell any of their land while they owe the federal government over one million dollars in land use fees.

What irks me is how Bundy, or somebody who's staging the media events the rancher uses to create a brouhaha about how he's breaking the law, speaks like he's a misguided Moses, standing in front of a high flying American flag. In any other country on earth, Bundy would already be in prison. Bundy uses his American free speech rights to break the law, while he calls in Fox News to make his unlawful behavior look sympathetically legitimate. I don't know anything about land rights laws in the west, except that almost everybody abides by them. 

If Bundy believes these long standing land use laws are illegitimate, then he and his Fox News friends should be challenging them in the courts, including the US Supreme Court, rather than staging made for television stand off media events.  

Meanwhile, Bundy is delusional if he believes his defiance will win against the long view of the federal government. Bundy's land use will be seriously curtailed until he figures out a way to either pay his one million dollar back land use fees, or goes to federal prison for breaking the law or both.

Unfortunately, Bundy feels empowered by the yellow journalism of Fox News. This is exponentially tragic, because the ripple effect of the rancher's defiance will undoubtedly lead to spin off violence. In my opinion, anybody who wants to deliberately break the law should be punished. This includes Fox News, because, by fueling the rancher's delusional belief that he can defy the federal government in the media, they are contributing to whatever violence ensues in the future.

There's precedent for this premise. Oklahoma City bombing being the most heinous example. 

Fox News is enabling the rancher Bundy's delusions, as well as encouraging future violence resulting from the illegal power struggle over land use fees.    

Fox News and Cliven Bundy are using their free speech rights as Americans to challenge the federal government's authority.  

Of course, both Fox News and rancher Bundy have the right to challenge anybody, including the federal government. But, neither of them as the right to break the law or enable somebody to do so. Moreover, it's highly unlikely Bundy will be allowed to continue breaking the land use laws, regardless of how anxious Fox News becomes to support this illegal behavior.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Michael Bloomberg excercising free speech to stand up for gun safety while National Rifle Association complains

Free speech in America is a right for all citizens to appreciate and enjoy. Therefore, when the US Supreme Court equated money with free speech, it made perfect sense for former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to exercise his right under the Constitution, to give money for the purpose of fighting gun violence. It's his free speech right.

In other words, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has the right to support unmitigated access to assault weapons used to kill people, as interpreted by the Second Amendment. Likewise, Michael Bloomberg exercised his free speech rights to oppose unregulated access to guns used to kill people. He gave money to "Every Town for Gun Safety" and to oppose the unlimited sale of assault weapons.

Bloomberg's right to spend his money to exercise free speech rights has raised the ire of the NRA. Now, the NRA will be challenged by the grass roots movement that Bloomberg's free speech money is funding. Finally, the NRA will have competition over the influence they exhibit with politicians who, as a result of strong arm tactics aka "campaign donations" are left powerless to support gun regulations.

CNN reports -- Michael Bloomberg is investing a chunk of his personal fortune to minimize the influence of the National Rifle Association.

The former New York City mayor pledged $50 million to his new group Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization for his two other gun control groups: Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It aims to make the political climate more supportive of gun control.

The new organization plans to compete against the NRA by adopting its playbook. The NRA has built an impressive and effective organization that touts millions of members, a robust lobbying organization and a massive campaign arm.

"You've got to work at it piece by piece," Bloomberg told the The New York Times.

Thank you Michael Bloomberg.  Finally, somebody is standing up for those who are harmed and murdered in preventable gun violence. Rather than obsessing about Second Amendment rights, the Every Town for Gun Safety intends to prevent the useless loss of life because of zealots who believe guns are more important than protecting the lives of innocent victims.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Evil in Kansas City on the eve of Jewish Passover - Congress Must Act

Evil infects hate mongers like viruses attack healthy cells in polio or the deadly influenza. When people who harbor evil fueled by hate, and then access guns, the results are as deadly as any lethal disease.

It makes virtually no sense to see gun violence killing more innocent people than some infectious diseases. Consequently, it's incredulous for the US Congress to remain politically paralyzed, being unable to pass laws to regulate the sale of weapons or the ammunition used to kill people.

Tragically, the evil cocktail of hate, racism antisemitism and guns took hold of Frazier Glenn Cross 73, a white supremacist, when he shot and killed innocent Christians at Kansas City, Kansas Jewish Community Centers, on the eve of Passover. 

CNN is reporting that Cross opened fire at two Kansas City-area Jewish centers. But the three people he killed were Christian.

The suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, faces charges of first-degree murder. Organizations that track hate groups describe Cross, who is also known as Frazier Glenn Miller, as a long-time white supremacist.  At a news conference on Monday, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said that investigators had "unquestionably determined...that this was a hate crime."

What's also unquestionable is that Cross (aka Miller) had access to guns. In the absence of deadly weapons, the three innocent Christians, one being a 14 year old young man, who were killed in Kansas City, couldn't have become the victims of this violent hate crime. If the white supremacist had infected the three innocent victims with the plague or a nerve paralyzing toxin, the US Congress would, no doubt, be calling for ways to prevent people from gaining access to deadly biochemical weapons. But, guns are protected by the US Constitution under the Second Amendment so they  don't qualify as being as deadly as biochemical toxins. Although the intention of guns in the hands of a hate filled white supremacist are the same as access to deadly biochemical weapons, the US Congress will, nonetheless, do absolutely nothing to prevent gun deaths, while it's highly likely outrage would ensue to prevent the latter.

We feel tremendous sympathy for the victims of the Kansas City white supremacist killings.It's impossible to understand how evil can so easily overcome innocent people on the solemn occasion of Passover eve. Nevertheless, the mother of the 14 year old killed, who is also the daughter of a second victim, and who found both of their bodies, asks for prayers for herself and the others. As a survivor, she expressed tremendous faith, saying that the killings of her father and son will somehow lead to a spiritual community awakening, by bringing people together in shared grief. She's obviously a lady strengthened by her extraordinary faith.

By continuing to allow guns and ammunition to remain unregulated, our US Congress is behaving irresponsibly. Congress has the means to pass laws to prevent many gun violence deaths but remain unable to act - like they just don't get it....guns cause preventable deaths, it's as simple as that.

Meanwhile, political inaction permits evil, harbored by hate mongers consumed by delusions of power, to access guns for the purpose of infecting harm on innocent people.  

Our sincere sympathy to the innocent Kansas City victims of the Passover eve gun killings.  

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ukraine must not be the 21st century deja vu of 1939 Poland versus Hitler

Russia's President Putin's actions to challenge a take over of the Ukraine is like Adolf  Hitler's evil ambitions in the years before Europe was ravaged by the Nazi and the 1939 invasion of Poland.

In the mid, and late 1930s, France, and especially Britain followed a foreign policy of appeasement with Germany, Hitler and the Nazi political party. The objective of this policy was to maintain peace in Europe, by making limited concessions to German demands for claiming Austria and Poland. In Britain, public opinion tended to favor some revision of the territorial and military provision of the Versailles treaty after World War I. 

Moreover, neither Britain nor France in 1938 were militarily prepared to fight a war against Nazi Germany, so few years after the World War I horror.

Britain and France essentially acquiesced to Germany's rearmament (1935-1937), remilitarization of the Rhineland (1936), and annexation of Austria (March 1938). In September 1938, after signing away the Czech border regions, known as the Sudetenland, to Germany at the Munich conference, British and French leaders pressured France's ally, Czechoslovakia, to yield to Germany's demand for the incorporation of those regions. Despite Anglo-French guarantees of the integrity of rump Czechoslovakia, the Germans dismembered the Czechoslovak state in March 1939 in violation of the Munich agreement. 

Britain and France responded by guaranteeing the integrity of the Polish state. Hitler responded by negotiating a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union in the summer of 1939. The German-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which stated that Poland was to be partitioned between the two powers, enabled Germany to attack Poland without the fear of Soviet intervention.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Polish army was defeated within weeks of the invasion. From East Prussia and Germany in the north and Silesia and Slovakia in the south, German units, with more than 2,000 tanks and over 1,000 planes, broke through Polish defenses along the border and advanced on Warsaw in a massive encirclement attack. After heavy shelling and bombing, Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on September 27, 1939. Britain and France, standing by their guarantee of Poland's border, had declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. The Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on September 17, 1939. The demarcation line for the partition of German- and Soviet-occupied Poland was along the Bug River.

In October 1939, Germany directly annexed those former Polish territories along German's eastern border: West Prussia, Poznan, Upper Silesia, and the former Free City of Danzig. The remainder of German-occupied Poland (including the cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Radom, and Lublin) was organized as the so-called General gouvernement (General Government) under a civilian governor general, the Nazi party lawyer Hans Frank.

Nazi Germany occupied the remainder of Poland when it invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Poland remained under German occupation until January 1945.

Fast forward to 2014, and the world is in a deja vu situation.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed along Ukraine’s eastern border near Donetsk, Western leaders have worried that Moscow might use unrest in Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking areas as a pretext for an invasion.

LOVYANSK, Ukraine — For the first time, the Ukrainian government on Sunday sent its security services to confront armed pro-Russian militants in the country’s east, defying warnings from Russia. Commandos engaged in gunfights with men who had set up roadblocks and stormed a Ukrainian police station in Slovyansk, and at least one officer was killed, Ukrainian officials said. Although several officers were injured in the operation, as were four locals, officials said, the Russian news media and residents disputed that account, saying the Ukrainian forces had only briefly engaged one checkpoint. In either case, the government in Kiev has turned to force to restore its authority in the east, a course of action that Russia has warned against.

Putin's ambitions must be stopped. 

Economic sanctions have had a negative impact on Russia's stock market;  moreover, the currency of the ruble has been valueless, as a foreign currency, for decades.

Nevertheless, Russia's Putin is fiscally desperate. Money is owed to investors who extended their credit on the cost of the military and the opulence of the now passe Sochi 2014, Olympic Games.

Understandably, 21st century leaders are justifiably horrified by the prospect of challenging Russia and provoking the potential for another European conflict. Unbelievably, the only world leader who doesn't appear fearful of a European conflagration, like the prelude to World War II, is the Russian President Putin.

Ukranians can't become victims to Putin's ambitions. 

Ukranians don't have a puppet leader like the Syrian President Assad. Syria's president is supporting Putin's ambitions to maintain an open sea port at Tartus, regardless of the millions of innocent people, many of them Christians, who are murdered, tortured, killed and persecuted.

It will be difficult for all of Europe to hold together against Putin's ruthless vision to create a 21st century empirical Russia.

Yet, the horrible lessons of the 20th century must motivate the world to stand in opposition to the proliferation of Putin's evil ambitions.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gun violence epidemic rooted in wrong minded Congressional interpretation of Constitutional Second Amendment rights

Retired Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court said in 1991:
the Second Amendment, "has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime", said Justice Burger.

If only America's founding fathers in 1787, had foreseen health care as an inalienable right, maybe the political struggle around the basic concept of keeping people from morbidity  and death wouldn't be so unnecessarily decisive. 

Ironically, the Second Amendment rights provided by the founding fathers are defending the gun violence over the safety of ordinary people. Nevertheless, the health care people desperately need when they tragically become victims of preventable gun violence is not provided for in the US Constitution. Only the right to own guns to inflict morbidity and mortality is protected.

Now, former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is calling for a re-examination of how the Second Amendment has been protected since 1787, when the law was included in the basic rights of all Americans by the US Constitution.

A Washington Post article explains:  John Paul Stevens served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010. This essay is excerpted from his new book, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.”

Following the massacre of grammar-school children in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, high-powered weapons have been used to kill innocent victims in more senseless public incidents. Those killings, however, are only a fragment of the total harm caused by the misuse of firearms. Each year, more than 30,000 people die in the United States in firearm-related incidents. Many of those deaths involve handguns.

The adoption of rules that will lessen the number of those incidents should be a matter of primary concern to both federal and state legislators. Legislatures are in a far better position than judges to assess the wisdom of such rules and to evaluate the costs and benefits that rule changes can be expected to produce. It is those legislators, rather than federal judges, who should make the decisions that will determine what kinds of firearms should be available to private citizens, and when and how they may be used. Constitutional provisions that curtail the legislative power to govern in this area unquestionably do more harm than good.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new American federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”

When Stevens joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities. During the years when Warren Burger was chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge or justice expressed any doubt about the limited coverage of the amendment, and, he writes, he could not recall any judge suggesting that the amendment might place any limit on state authority to do anything.
Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.

In recent years two profoundly important changes in the law have occurred. In 2008, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects a civilian’s right to keep a handgun in his home for purposes of self-defense. And in 2010, by another vote of 5 to 4, the court decided in McDonald v. Chicago that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment limits the power of the city of Chicago to outlaw the possession of handguns by private citizens. I dissented in both of those cases and remain convinced that both decisions misinterpreted the law and were profoundly unwise. Public policies concerning gun control should be decided by the voters’ elected representatives, not by federal judges.

In my dissent in the McDonald case, I pointed out that the court’s decision was unique in the extent to which the court had exacted a heavy toll “in terms of state sovereignty. . . . Even apart from the States’ long history of firearms regulation and its location at the core of their police powers, this is a quintessential area in which federalism ought to be allowed to flourish without this Court’s meddling. Whether or not we can assert a plausible constitutional basis for intervening, there are powerful reasons why we should not do so.”

“Across the Nation, States and localities vary significantly in the patterns and problems of gun violence they face, as well as in the traditions and cultures of lawful gun use. . . . The city of Chicago, for example, faces a pressing challenge in combating criminal street gangs. Most rural areas do not.”

In response to the massacre of grammar-school students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, some legislators have advocated stringent controls on the sale of assault weapons and more complete background checks on purchasers of firearms. It is important to note that nothing in either the Heller or the McDonald opinion poses any obstacle to the adoption of such preventive measures.

First, the court did not overrule Miller. Instead, it “read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.” On the preceding page of its opinion, the court made it clear that even though machine guns were useful in warfare in 1939, they were not among the types of weapons protected by the Second Amendment because that protected class was limited to weapons in common use for lawful purposes such as self-defense. Even though a sawed-off shotgun or a machine gun might well be kept at home and be useful for self-defense, neither machine guns nor sawed-off shotguns satisfy the “common use” requirement.

Thus, even as generously construed in Heller, the Second Amendment provides no obstacle to regulations prohibiting the ownership or use of the sorts of weapons used in the tragic multiple killings in Virginia, Colorado and Arizona in recent years. The failure of Congress to take any action to minimize the risk of similar tragedies in the future cannot be blamed on the court’s decision in Heller.

A second virtue of the opinion in Heller is that Justice Antonin Scalia went out of his way to limit the court’s holding not only to a subset of weapons that might be used for self-defense but also to a subset of conduct that is protected. The specific holding of the case covers only the possession of handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, while a later part of the opinion adds emphasis to the narrowness of that holding by describing uses that were not protected by the common law or state practice. Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, or on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are specifically identified as permissible regulations.
Thus, Congress’s failure to enact laws that would expand the use of background checks and limit the availability of automatic weapons cannot be justified by reference to the Second Amendment or to anything that the Supreme Court has said about that amendment. What the members of the five-justice majority said in those opinions is nevertheless profoundly important, because it curtails the government’s power to regulate the use of handguns that contribute to the roughly 88 firearm-related deaths that occur every day.

There is an intriguing similarity between the court’s sovereign immunity jurisprudence, which began with a misinterpretation of the 11th Amendment, and its more recent misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. The procedural amendment limiting federal courts’ jurisdiction over private actions against states eventually blossomed into a substantive rule that treats the common-law doctrine of sovereign immunity as though it were part of the Constitution itself. Of course, in England common-law rules fashioned by judges may always be repealed or amended by Parliament. And when the United States became an independent nation, Congress and every state legislature had the power to accept, to reject or to modify common-law rules that prevailed prior to 1776, except, of course, any rule that might have been included in the Constitution.

The Second Amendment expressly endorsed the substantive common-law rule that protected the citizen’s right (and duty) to keep and bear arms when serving in a state militia. In its decision in Heller, however, the majority interpreted the amendment as though its draftsmen were primarily motivated by an interest in protecting the common-law right of self-defense. But that common-law right is a procedural right that has always been available to the defendant in criminal proceedings in every state. The notion that the states were concerned about possible infringement of that right by the federal government is really quite absurd.

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. 

As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

It is true, of course, that the public’s reaction to the massacre of schoolchildren, such as the Newtown killings, and the 2013 murder of government employees at the Navy Yard in Washington, may also introduce a strong emotional element into the debate. That aspect of the debate is, however, based entirely on facts rather than fiction. The law should encourage intelligent discussion of possible remedies for what every American can recognize as an ongoing national tragedy.
Copyright © 2014 by John Paul Stevens. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.

Of course, Justice Stevens is an expert on the US Constitution. We can't determine why the founding fathers gave gun ownership a high priority in crafting their brilliant document, while not addressing health care at all. Therefore, it's time to remedy both the phrasing of the Second Amendment and add an amendment to protect the right of all people to access health care. It obviously makes no sense to protect gun rights while ignoring the result of preventable morbidity and mortality caused by gun violence.  


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Putin has launched his blackmail campaign to withhold fuel to Europe - a temper tantrum that will eventually backfire

Russia's President Putin is desperately acting like the spoiled child who can't get his own way. Russia is short on cash and Putin is long on ego. So, now Putin is engaged in blackmailing Europe with threats to cut 18 nations natural gas deliveries, unless he gets his way - which means anything he wants. 

Remember when Putin stole a Super Bowl ring? Incredulously, he denies stealing it but everybody in the know let him get away with the theft, plus allowed him to lie about what he did. Robert Kraft was a perfect gentleman about the theft, preferring to not create an international incident, but in hind sight, the world should have seen the bully for who he is and demanded the ring to be returned. As a result of continuing to get his own way, Putin is now pulling the strings with Syria, and Crimea and the Ukraine while the rest of the world just issues one threat after another.

Nevertheless, Putin's Russia is short on cash and the ruble currency is useless outside of the country. So, maybe that Super Bowl ring Putin didn't steal will show up on an ebay auction, by an anonymous seller.  

It's difficult to say if Europe and the Ukraine can withstand Putin's dangerous temper tantrums and blackmail tactics. Eventually, Putin will have to sell his natural gas to somebody- like China. Yet, if those 18 European nations that received his blackmail letter would hold together, they're bound to create an economic crises in Russia when unsold gas is sitting around with no revenue forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Europe and the Ukraine are seeking alternative energy sources as their national defenses against any one nation holding hostage all fuel supplies. For example, atomic energy is abundantly evident throughout France and Germany.

Obviously, Putin is desperate for money or he wouldn't be using blackmail to get his way. 

Yet, just like a child who holds its breath in a temper tantrum, the way to break the habit is to let nature take its course and the breathing will naturally resume. Although Putin's tantrum is an extremely dangerous bully tactic, unfortunately, there's no other way to cure him but to let his money run out and he'll be forced to sell his Super Bowl ring to buy food.  

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