Law

Breaking News! Sheriff Plans on Upholding Constitution

It speaks volumes about the current gun control hysteria when a county sheriff states that he plans on upholding the Constitution and his statement is considered news. Ada County sheriff, Gary Raney, did exactly that in a “Reader’s View” editorial in the Idaho Statesman.

As an elected official and a sheriff, I have the great honor to take an oath of office. Very few occupations include the special pride that comes with the trust inherent in an oath of office, but mine does.

In that oath, I swore to uphold the Constitution and laws that we live under in this great nation. Those words were my promise that I would not use my own personal interests to decide what is right and wrong. I swore to work within our system of law and justice to fairly enforce what you, through your elected representatives in the Legislature and Congress, have decided should be the law of our land. Those laws are set upon a foundation of checks and balances, embodied in the separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

When we forsake the law or disregard those checks and balances, we take the first step down the path towards anarchy.

I have been asked many times in the past couple of weeks whether I will uphold my oath to defend the Constitution and proclaim an intolerance of federal action against the Second Amendment.

Many others have indulged that pressure and now we see Oregon sheriffs, Wyoming legislators and others making hollow promises to protect you from the intrusions of the federal government. Let me respectfully remind you that we are the federal government, the state government and the local government.

I did not swear to uphold just part of the Constitution. Our Constitution includes the right to keep and bear arms, but it also includes the “supremacy clause” that says that every state shall abide by the laws passed by our Congress.

So, despite the fact that I personally oppose some of the gun control measures currently under consideration, my oath requires me to uphold the laws that are passed by our federal and state representatives.

When we disagree with those laws, the checks and balances built into our government point us toward the proper remedy: changing the laws or challenging them in the judicial branch. As to whether or not the president has the power to issue executive orders limiting our Constitutional rights, that is another matter to be decided by the Supreme Court, not by 44 different sheriffs in Idaho.

We live in the greatest society the world has ever seen and we enjoy that because of the founding principles our forefathers established in our Constitution. It would be hypocritical and irresponsible of me to forsake that Constitution and the wisdom of generations that have followed it.

I fear that passions have led people into a rally of mistruth. It is time we truly respect the Constitution and our system of justice. Regardless of your personal opinion on the Second Amendment, embrace everyone’s liberty and use our well-established process to pass laws and contest them.

Hollow promises and threats will only divert people from doing the right thing — honoring the truth and being involved in a process whereby our rights and liberties are protected by a respect of the law, not by rhetoric.

Raney’s statement is news because his position is in the minority among Idaho sheriffs. Consider, for example, Madison County Sheriff Roy Klingler.

President Obama introduced proposals for sweeping federal gun control. Klingler said ahead of that announcement, he had no reservations being outspoken against gun control legislation.

“I personally am sick and tired of the government putting regulations in place that affect our personal rights, our property rights and the Constitution,” said Klingler.

“I think these states passing these laws are out of control,” he said. On Wednesday, the White House will propose federal firearms control — something Klingler said he cannot support.

Or, the newly elected Canyon County Sheriff.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue says he won’t enforce any new federal firearms restrictions, joining a chorus of county sheriffs across the U.S. who have publicly denounced President Barack Obama’s executive orders.

As I pointed out in an earlier post,  the Idaho State Legislature is contemplating legislation, to be introduced by Senator Marv Hagedorn, revisiting the state’s ban on guns in schools and courthouses. Considering a recent event when a group of scouts visited the Capitol, I wonder if the Legislators might decide to follow through on plans to eliminate the ban on guns in schools and courthouses but reinstate a ban where their own personal safety is a concern.

A man with a handgun used a tour for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as cover to inspect legislators’ desks and reach into a waste bin on the House floor.

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said: “To think that somebody is bold enough to have followed these children around with a sidearm in plain sight — who is also bold enough to go through trash cans, take pictures of representatives’ desks and shuffle their papers — all of that created a great deal of concern.”

As a result, public access to the House and Senate chambers has been suspended on weekends and after 6 p.m. weekdays, though the Capitol remains open until 10 p.m.

The man attached himself to an evening tour led by freshman Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, who had been asked by a constituent to show the Cubs and Scouts around. “I thought he was a parent,” Holtzclaw said, noting that the troop leader assumed the man was a security officer because of his gun.

The man’s identity is unknown. He left the Capitol after an unarmed guard confronted him. The man said something like, “If I’m not being arrested or detained, I don’t have to answer your questions.”

Guns and long knives were banned in the Capitol from 1996 to 2008 by executive order. Gov. Butch Otter let the order expire, citing a 2008 law in which the Legislature said it had exclusive power to regulate guns in Idaho.

Signs were erected outside the House and Senate galleries after the 2012 Occupy protests. They list prohibitions: food, drinks, men wearing hats, signs, sitting on rails, cellphones, distracting noises. Bags are subject to search. But there is no firearm ban.

The unknown man was obeying the law. He was “carrying”, but left his hat outside the Capitol. Once they reinstate the firearm ban in the Capitol, we can file this under “political hypocrisy”.

The Idaho Legislature Joins the Former Confederacy and the Wild West

The New York Times has a pretty straightforward editorial today that points out the motives of state legislatures passing laws to block Federal law concerning firearms.

State lawmakers in Wyoming didn’t need to hear President Obama’s gun-control proposals on Wednesday in order to attack them. A week ago, before the White House had even decided what actions to take, Republicans introduced a bill in the Wyoming Legislature to block any federal limitation on firearms, such as an assault weapons ban. A federal agent seeking to enforce such a ban would be guilty of a felony and face five years in prison.

This ludicrous bill would be laughable if the idea weren’t spreading. A similar bill filed in Tennessee would also make federal gun enforcement a state crime, though it’s more “moderate” than Wyoming’s: federal agents doing their jobs would be charged only with Class A misdemeanors. Inevitably, a bill like Wyoming’s has been filed in Texas. And, in Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant announced that the state would block federal gun measures. A proposed law in the state would claim that Washington has no jurisdiction over weapons made in Mississippi.

There’s no point in telling these fanatics that federal gun restrictions are completely constitutional, even under the Supreme Court’s latest interpretation of the Second Amendment, or that federal law pre-empts state law. They already know these bills will be unenforceable. They are merely legislative fist-shaking, letting pro-gun voters know that lawmakers share their antipathy to the Obama administration, and signaling to the National Rifle Association and other gun-manufacturing lobbies that they are worthy recipients of rich political contributions.

Already, states like these have done enormous damage to public safety by acceding to the N.R.A.’s demands for laws that are anything but symbolic. The gun lobby hasn’t been content with the ability of Americans to lawfully possess hundreds of millions of handguns and assault rifles. It wants gun owners to be able to carry these weapons anywhere they want, even among children, concealed or displayed, and preferably without the annoyance of permits, background checks, or safety precautions.

After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, the N.R.A. defied logic and pushed a bill to allow guns on college campuses. Thanks to help from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative organization of state lawmakers to which the N.R.A. contributes heavily, five states now allow campus guns. Only nine states prohibit guns at sporting events, and just 26 prohibit them where alcohol is served.

Wisconsin actually allows guns in the public gallery that looks down on the state assembly, and the N.R.A. pressured lawmakers last week to keep it that way. The N.R.A. and the American Legislative Exchange Council were behind the “stand your ground” laws that allow people to shoot others if they believe they are in danger, which has led to hundreds of deaths while allowing killers to walk free.

State gun laws matter. Of the 10 states with the most restrictive laws, seven also have the lowest gun death rates, according to a study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Similarly, lax gun laws correlate to a high level of gun deaths.

That’s why it’s good to see several states step up to their responsibilities to prevent violence instead of following the southern and western states that appear to be encouraging it. New York was out front this week in passing a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, among other measures. A similar ban is moving ahead in Illinois. New Jersey and Connecticut are moving more slowly, appointing task forces to make recommendations, but are at least heading in the right direction.

California is considering legislation that would limit sales of ammunition, requiring background checks and permits for bullet buyers. Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the site of so much carnage, has reversed his opposition to new restrictions, proposing universal background checks as well as an overhaul of the state mental health system to identify those who should be kept away from weapons.

Still, too many states continue to put their citizens at risk as they pledge ever-greater fealty to the gun manufacturers. It’s time the states became laboratories for safety rather than violence.

Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman explains how the Idaho Legislature plans to deal with the   “Panic” caused by the fear that Obama will come for our guns!

In one of the most Second Amendment-friendly legislatures in America, the pressure to respond to the Connecticut school massacre and President Barack Obama’s gun control ideas has prompted a flurry of behind-the-scenes action.

Compounding the interest is the largest freshman class in Idaho history — a group eager to address constituent concerns.

To manage the flow of legislation, House Speaker Scott Bedke has informally assigned a point person, Republican Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, a former volunteer lobbyist for the NRA who helped pass Idaho’s conceal-carry law in 1990.

“I don’t want a bunch of redundant bills,” Bedke said Thursday. “I want the common themes consolidated into individual bills. Put the ideas in the arena, let’s do the research and let’s have the debate.”

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who authored a failed 2011 bill to allow guns on college campuses, is leading a similar effort in the Senate and working with Gov. Butch Otter’s chief of staff, David Hensley.

Hagedorn said he’s exploring two legislative avenues: school safety and protection of gun rights. “Do we have holes we need to fix, along with what we’re doing for the schools?” he said.

Boyle said she’s received about 150 emails and uncounted phone calls and text messages urging her to act immediately. Meanwhile, she said, talk radio is ablaze with callers saying, “What’s the Legislature doing? They’re doing nothing!”

“I think we’re all getting the same kind of emails of panic,” Boyle said Thursday. “They’re scared, really scared, about losing their guns, or their right to purchase a gun or ammunition, or any component to make their ammunition.”

Boyle said she hopes to gather the proposals into several bills in about two weeks, and urges both lawmakers and constituents to be patient.

“Mostly it’s the freshmen, worried because their constituents are and they don’t know what to say to them and they want to react quick,” Boyle said. “The people who are worried are students of history — they have seen what Hitler did, what has happened in countries that disarm people.”

But Boyle called for a “measured approach” that will pass court tests and “truly protect not just children but all citizens from crazy people.”

Bedke and Hagedorn said they prefer the word “concerned” rather than “panic” to describe public sentiment.

“But if you look around enough, I’m sure you can find panic,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “I’m certainly concerned.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, didn’t designate Hagedorn as a Senate gatekeeper but said he’s pleased Hagedorn is leading on the issue. “There are very few people I’d feel more comfortable with,” he said.

Hagedorn said he won’t revive his guns-on-campus bill because it was strongly opposed by university presidents and would be a distraction.

But Hagedorn said it’s time to revisit the state’s ban on guns in schools and courthouses. “One of the things we need to consider is if a person today has a right to protect themselves and carry a gun, when they go into a gun-free zone is there a liability on the state to then take over that protection?”

Boyle said she’s consulting police officials and has determined that arming school employees and providing advanced training for violent emergencies is a top priority.

“It’s one thing to carry a gun and it’s another when you have some crazy person coming at you. Police are trained on that, so that’s why they’ve been helping us,” she said.

Idaho’s 115 school districts would be able to decide whether to arm employees, but the legal incentive to do so would be high, Boyle said.

“They’re going to have to take responsibility. If they’re not going to accept protection for those students, they’re going to have to accept the liability that they haven’t done that,” she said.

The one line in the article that explains exactly the direction the legislature will take is this: “To manage the flow of legislation, House Speaker Scott Bedke has informally assigned a point person, Republican Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, a former volunteer lobbyist for the NRA who helped pass Idaho’s conceal-carry law in 1990”.

Idaho- The Right to Work for Low Wages

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The lie told to Idaho voters in 1987 is that Right to Work legislation would increase compensation and improve the economy. The facts tell the opposite story. The 23 Right to Work states lag behind the rest of the nation in both wages and benefits. For example, Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) looked at the evidence:

[O]ur findings — that “right-to-work” laws are associated with significantly lower wages and reduced chances of receiving employer-sponsored health insurance and pensions — are based on the most rigorous statistical analysis currently possible. These findings should discourage right-to-work policy initiatives. The fact is, while RTW legislation misleadingly sounds like a positive change in this weak economy, in reality the opportunity it gives workers is only that to work for lower wages and fewer benefits. For legislators dedicated to making policy on the basis of economic fact rather than ideological passion, our findings indicate that, contrary to the rhetoric of RTW proponents, the data show that workers in “right-to-work” states have lower compensation — both union and nonunion workers alike.

Economist Gordon Lafer provides the numbers.

RTW laws lower wages for union and non-union workers by an average of $1,500 a year and decrease the likelihood employees will get health insurance or pensions through their jobs. By lowering compensation, they have the indirect effect of undermining consumer spending, which threatens economic growth. For every $1 million in wage cuts to workers, $850,000 less is spent in the economy, which translates into a loss of six jobs.

What about Idaho? Here is what the Idaho Department of Labor reported yesterday.

NAMPA, IDAHO — The Idaho Department of Labor says the state ranks last in overall earnings by full- and part-time job holders.

The median annual wage in Idaho is $23,192. The department estimates a family of four needs $39,000 a year to sustain itself but only about a third of Idaho jobs last year paid that much.

Idaho has one of the highest rates in the nation in which people work more than one job. He also noted that can be difficult for women with kids with no child support.

“That’s another tough situation when you have these low-wage jobs and the economy is evolving away from the higher wages to the lower wages,” he said.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said it has experienced an increase in requested services. In June 2011, about 20 percent of Idaho’s population received help in Medicaid, food stamps, child care and cash assistance. The highest rate of people receiving help was in Canyon County.

“I think a lot of parents who may have lost a job and in turn lost health coverage for their family turned to Medicaid,” Idaho Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said. “It was mostly children who came on.”

Don’t expect these facts to find their way into discussions among Idaho Republican legislators this year.  Because, as Gould and Shierholz pointed out, the facts will likely matter only to those legislators “dedicated to making policy on the basis of economic fact rather than ideological passion”, and that doesn’t describe many Idaho Republican legislators.

Clackamas Deja vu

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It sounds familiar doesn’t it? A gunman, dressed in body armor, wearing a mask and carrying an assault rifle, goes on a shooting rampage before taking his own life.

In this case, it was in the Portland, Oregon Clackamas Town Center Mall.

What follows will also be familiar. Stories from the survivors. Theories as to what caused the shooter to do what he did. The narrative will be numbingly familiar, but there will be no serious discussion about gun control. The only gun control that Americans seem willing to accept is the one from gun manufacturers- make assault rifles so cheap, they jam before the carnage gets too massive.

Farmer Crapo

In this case, at least, the Angry Gnome got it right. When Americans like the Baptist 10 break the laws of another country, the United States respects that country’s sovereignty.

When it comes to the criminal justice system in other countries, there is very little that the United States government can do to inject themselves into the process.

Idaho’s senior Senator, Mike Crapo, is not so concerned with legal niceties. He is going to “speak with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in coming days to voice his concerns on how the church’s volunteer group of 10 people was treated.”

We should understand by now that Crapo will never miss a chance for political posturing. With his mentor Larry Craig (a master at political posturing) gone,  it is up to Crapo to pick up the mantle.

However, it was not the posturing that caught my attention when I read the headlines in the Idaho Statesman this morning- Is U.S. doing enough for the 2 Idahoans left in Haiti? No, it was this quote:

There were significant efforts to ensure the interests of our detainees were properly handled,” Crapo said Thursday. “There were also a number of circumstances where the water didn’t get to the end of the row.”

I can visualize readers throughout Eastern and Southern Idaho smiling and nodding at that last line. “See Maude, even though that Crapo boy got his law degree from that high falutin Harvard back east, he is still a farm boy at heart.”

He might have to translate when he has his visit with the Secretary of State.

The Eminent Tribunal

After the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision, which ruled that slaves were property, not persons, and effectively made slavery legal in the territories, Lincoln declared in his first Inaugural Address that

The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court . . . the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

In a letter written in 1820 to William Jarvis, Thomas Jefferson expressed his deep reservations about judicial review,

You seem … to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps…. Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

Jefferson and Lincoln understood the dangers of a Supreme Court intent on activism. For those who think the latest outrage by the Roberts Court is an aberration, I suggest reading Packing the Court, the latest book by Pulitzer Prize winning historian, James MacGregor Burns.

Burns argues that, with the exception of the Warren Court, the Supreme Court’s historic role has been “as a choke point for progressive reform,” and that in “the Gilded Age of the late 19th century” and the “Gilded Age at the turn of the 21st,” the justices “fiercely protected the rights and liberties of the minority of the powerful and the propertied.” The American people, he concludes, “cannot expect leadership from unelected and unaccountable politicians in robes.”

Burns sees the Roberts Court for what it is, but, of course, no one listens to historians.

Friday afternoon, while listening to NPR on my car radio, I heard David Brooks explain to concerned (liberal) listeners that the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was nothing to be concerned about because corporations are as likely to back Democrats as Republicans. Later that evening, while watching PBS NEWSHOUR, here, again, was Brooks telling us,

I do not necessarily think it is great for the Republican Party and terrible for the Democratic Party, because when you look at who is willing to subsidize corporations and erect regulatory barriers, both parties actually do that. So, I think it will have bad effects, but not necessarily partisan effects.

I can’t wait to read David Brook’s column in the New York Times so I can find out what he really thinks about this landmark court decision.

Why is David Brooks, the “go-to” conservative pundet of the main stream media?  Because his analysis is always framed around partisan politics. The Citizens United ruling will have “bad effects”, but not partisan effects, so no need to worry.

Fortunately, there are some in the media who, like Burns, understand the import of those “bad effects.”  For example, the editorial in The New York Times The Court’s Blow to Democracy does a nice job of putting the decision into historical perspective.

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.

Ruth Marcus explains the “shoddy scholarship” that was used to argue the “brazen power grab”. This by the same court that brought you Bush vs Gore.

In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.
Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power-grab part.
I agree with them. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts had not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process. As bad as the court’s activism, though, was its shoddy scholarship.

In The Washington Post, Michael Waldman considers the implications of the Court’s power grab,

The Supreme Court on Thursday upended a century’s worth of campaign finance law. An immediate question raised by the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision is whether this will flood elections with suddenly legal corporate money. Less understood but deeply significant is what this shows about the court and its relationship to the Obama administration and Congress.

This far-reaching ruling augurs a significant power struggle. For the first time since 1937, an increasingly conservative federal judiciary faces a progressive and activist Congress and president. Until now, it was unclear how the justices would accommodate the new political alignment. The Citizens United decision suggests an assertive court, eager to overturn precedent, looming as a challenge to President Obama’s agenda.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious recourse to the activism of the Bush/Roberts Court. Burns anticipated a “coming crisis” where an “conservative, obstructionist” court would confront a liberal President and Congress. His radical suggestion is that the president should “announce flatly that he or she would not accept the Supreme Court’s verdicts” unless the people pass a constitutional amendment explicitly authorizing the justices to strike down unconstitutional laws.

Even though Burns makes a convincing case that “Judicial Review” was not the intent of the authors of the Constitution and is, in fact, unconstitutional, it would be political suicide for Obama, or any other contemporary President, to challenge the Court in that manner.

FDR, frustrated by the “nine old men” on the conservative court blocking New Deal legislation tried to pass legislation reforming the court. The political backlash was such that he ended up withdrawing the bill before it went down to overwhelming defeat.

Not a Good Week for Progressives

This has not been a good week for the American people. Thanks to the election of Scott Brown, it now appears that health care is dead. Air America has declared bankruptcy.

But, really, those concerns pale compared to what the activist Roberts court did today.  See here here here here and here.

Below is President Obama’s response.

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

I wonder how the “populist” Republican tea baggers will respond?  After all, the say they are against Wall Street and the powerful self interest groups that silence the voice of the average American. Get ready for another giant tsunami of hypocracy.