Thursday, June 16, 2016

We don't have to take away all the guns. #NotAllGunOwners

My response to your logical fallacy:

           He doesn't represent all gun owners he does, however, represent a segment of the US population of US citizens who are known to the US government for their potential be involved with terroristic threats. So, though we knew enough about this guy to prevent him from getting on a plane there was nothing that could be done to prevent him from buying a gun.

We can prevent these kinds of citizens represented thusly from purchasing weapons easily. We could remove his and others' access and ability to legally purchase guns from a reputable and responsible gun seller forcing him yes to attempt to purchase guns illegally. I get that. But see this is the part where you lose me because that's where your side stops. You see no other options beyond – he could still have the potential to get a gun somewhere so we might as well not try anything else and just give out more guns. But see – FACTS. Facts are things which if you are a logical and reasonable person you will understand the facts are: countries with stricter gun control laws have fewer crimes committed with guns.  

No other country, let alone First World country, has the problems with mass shootings perpetrated by public citizens that his one does. We don't have to take away all the guns. Yes, this is American - you, me, we all are guaranteed the right to bear arms for personal protection and hunting and reluctantly recreation. Yes, I believe that there are reasons for good responsible gun owners to absolutely own guns. What I don't see are enough responsible gun owners being responsible, purposely deciding to make a choice about legal gun ownership and to do it in a responsible organized manner. Before you can get behind the wheel of a car there is a written exam, then you have to drive with an adult, then you can't drive after night, and you finally take an exam with a professional to critique your work to make sure you are ready to drive 5000 lbs of heavy metal through crowded streets full of other people. We do this because as a society we understand that cars are weapons, that they are dangerous and that there is at least a baseline of understanding you need before the rest of the people on the streets are going to feel comfortable with you behind the wheel. We have nothing like that for guns. Lethal, deadly, capable of taking out many people at once but there is no requirement for licensing, registering, insuring, waiting, learning, educating, or research. None of it. Why are so many responsible law abiding gun owners threatened by background checks, by waiting periods, by licensing? Why would there be a problem doing research on guns and their impact? If you want to preach that not all gun owners are irresponsible then I say: Put up or shut up. There's nothing responsible about denying common sense gun control.

Gun Eradication
Gun Abandonment
Hide your guns.

Gun Control. Simply be smart about them. Think about the fact that this country can't even study guns because lobbying i.e. the NRA has made it impossible. You know what else was impossible to study the long-term health effects of because big money lobbied against if – Tobacco. Hopefully, you're aware that everyone involved in those lawsuits has been found in the wrong. Much as I suspect stringent guns rights groups will be found to be. 

Why shouldn't there be background checks? Background checks are famously backlogged because of so much political back and forth. But you really can't wait 72 hours to handle that gun you just popped in and decided to buy today on impulse because it was shiny and pretty and lethal? If you're telling me that you can't wait 72 hours for a background check to clear then 1) You're too hyped up to safely handle a gun. We'll re-check in 72 hours. 2) You can wait. 

If your argument is that you believe that the Second Amendment unequivocally grants you or anyone else the right to own and do what you want with any gun you could ever want and multiples of them to boot then you are sorely mistaken. Firstly, when the Second Amendment was written they had single shot muskets not automatic or semi-automatic weapons. They likely never could have planned ahead for the advances in technology that would eventually be made leading to the advanced weaponry available today. Bringing me to my next point: These men were smart men who wrote the Constitution. A racist, homophobic, sexist, heathenry of men but for their time most were well educated leading them to be picked for the convention in the first place. If you were able to bring those men back to life today and you could somehow get them to look past all the other future-y shit to just sit down and listen to everything that has happened to this country over the last 200 years, somehow if they could grasp and understand our history with slavery and abolition, suffrage, Civil Rights, the Great Depression, two world wars, Vietnam, Iraq, 9/11. If you could show these men the loss but also the hope of all the people that fought through that crap to where we are today then show them Newtown, CT; and Aurora, CO, and Columbine High School. Show them the aftermath at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church or Pulse nightclub. Then you tell them that it was all done in their names, under the guise of protecting the Second Amendment and I find if hard to believe that at least one of those rough and tumble ride or die American men wouldn't punch you right in the face. If you could explain to them the weaponry available today and in this climate you think they would honestly tell you that you're upholding the spirit of the laws that they wrote?

Automatic and semi-automatic weapons like the Sig Sauer MCX and the AR-15 were built for military use. Designed years after they were all dead and meant to kill and injure the masses during war. Tell them this is weaponry that you're fighting to keep in the easy to obtain hands of terrorists, rapists, abusers, and let's be honest occasionally someone suffering from a psychotic break all because you support the Second Amendment. Explain there was an armed off-duty police officer working the door at Pulse but his more practical and logical weapon for protection was nothing in the face of a weapon designed for war. You have already of course explained that the LGBTQ community is a protected community in this country afforded the same rights and protections under the Constitution that they wrote so they'll understand the implications when you tell them that a US Citizen legally obtained military grade weaponry after being offended by two guys kissing to mow down more than 100 people.  

We know that there are ISIS sympathizers in this country and we know that people who feel different find solace in fringe groups who make them feel needed and wanted and a part of something. These groups fan the flames of anger and encourage them to hit  "soft" targets where they can do a lot of damage. Mateen took his anger and rage with himself for probably being gay and the hate he felt because it went against his belief system he been raised in and it erupted in the very way ISIS wanted. This lone wolf angry guy took aim at everything that makes America great: partying, love, acceptance, families, inclusion. He went after what we are as a people by targeting a vulnerable segment of our population and most right-wingers can't even admit that Gays were targeted at all. Explain that to these men, that you want to interpret the Constitution only in a way that in benefits you and not every person in this country and it is my belief you'll be told where you can shove it (but probably in better language because they're from the 1700's).

We could have stopped him because we could:

-Allow research and data gathering on gun crimes
-Deny suspected terrorists from owning guns
-Deny domestic abusers from owning guns
-Have a waiting period
-Require gun safety and licensing for all gun owners

You're right he doesn't represent ALL gun owners but he definitely represents every gun owner who isn't for COMMON SENSE. There are things that can be done but people's fear is what's stopping progress. It's always fear. No one is saying to take away all the guns, at least not me and not anyone I know. I'm saying show me you being responsible and logical. Make a push to change the gun policies we currently have because much like the failed drug war and ineffective criminal system – we don't have it right yet. Something those confused old white guys from the past are probably even more peeved about.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Machine

“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” –Rumi

In the past I have turned to my blog to post fiction and poetry, to post rants and vents, and to post thought-out and targeted arguments for and against various social issues. I don’t plan to change that modus operandi much. I will still post random videos, thoughts, and stories. However, I’m also taking this opportunity to go back to one of my first real loves: politics.

I’m sick of southern, old-fashioned, and sensitive sensibilities telling me what I can or can’t do, say, or wear. Yes I’m female, yes I have an opinion, yes I’ll voice it. I’ll question people and push them for answers because someone should. There should always be someone in your life who pushes you outside your comfort zone. Someone who helps you question the world and opens your eyes to more possibilities than you were ever aware even existed.

Growing up, I was convinced I would be a lawyer and a politician but like for many other people life happened and I changed my mind. I’m also a woman and I hear we tend to do that a lot. Regardless, I still love the thrill of the debate, learning and exploring policy and candidates, and ultimately coming to a conclusion.

The last time I was this charged up I was in college in Oregon. I was a conservative in a liberal town at a liberal college and I was studying political science; it was also 2004 so believe me when I say it was rough. I couldn’t understand where people were coming from, the issues that came up I’d never encountered before in small town America. For an unrelated reason, I left Oregon never learning what I feel I should have. It took many experiences and people to change around my way of thinking but now I wonder how I truly think and feel about things. Am I still stuck in my country ways or has living in cities finally opened my eyes? I don’t know but I sure want to find out.

Today I am re-launching Short and Loud as a more focused machine. While there will still be changes over the coming weeks I do have an end goal. My blog will still see short fiction and I am sure the occasional rant however for the rest of 2016 I plan to focus mostly on politics. Any time the incumbent can’t run there is always more interest and movement on both sides of the aisle so what better time to engage in something that has made my blood flow for years? Therefore, I plan to use Short and Loud to address topics from an unbiased or, at least, a searching-for-my-truth perspective. There are so many people in this world, especially women, who aren’t allowed to have a voice because of the country or region where they live, their religion, or the fear of radicalized warlords. I live in a place where I am allowed to not only have an opinion but I am able and encouraged to voice it. By the end of this journey, I hope I’ll feel confident in who I vote for as the next President of the United States; not necessarily confident that my choice will win but confident that I’m making the best choice for me and my future. It’ll be a journey of self-discovery that I’m inviting you all on.

To keep myself consistent and as neutral as possible, I will approach each topic in the same way

1. Pick a topic
2. How do I currently feel about the topic?
3. A history of the topic. Including if necessary: Constitutional interpretations and Supreme Court cases
4. A rundown of where each candidate still in the race stands on the issue
5. I will reexamine how I feel/think about the topic and come to a new conclusion or confirm my current position
6. Finally, I’ll pick a candidate who “wins” for each issue

By doing this, I hope to create for myself a litmus test to judge candidates with in the future and in the process learn who I am in my core. I think if I know how I feel about a topic then it’ll be much easier to weed out the politicians I disagree with. I have a list of topics I am hoping to cover moving forward however I am also open to suggestions. If there is an issue you would like to see a breakdown of in a non-biased way and simple easy to understand language please let me know.  

Welcome to my machine.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Got Educated, I Got Sick, And I Got Fired

I was recently asked this question on Facebook:
Why is it that democrats tend to think the answer is take from others who definitely have/might have worked hard for their money to those that cant/choose not to.

Below is my response:

Obviously not all rich Republicans think this way, I’m sure some are more moderate and reasonable when it comes to people overcoming life’s obstacles. The purpose of the meme is to illustrate the collegial experience for the 99%. The reason I saw this on the internet and liked it enough to post it is because I identify with the poor person in this scenario. (I don’t just post things I like; if I did you’d see 500 things a day from me.) The fact of the matter is you were raised by and are still part of the 1%, unlike you a nuclear church going family did not raise me, I was one of the poorest people in our class. I was raised by a single mom in a trailer on the Southside of town. I had no health care unless it was under the threat of actual death, as in, “If you’re not dying and I take you to the doctor I’ll kill you!” We knew doctors were serious business and we didn’t go unless we saw bones. Like yours my Mom is also a nurse so we weren’t required to use survivalist skills but we certainly weren’t healthy. I broke my wrist freshman year of high school; you can check the varsity soccer team photo you’ll see my cast, or what worked as a cast. It was a half cast held on with an ace bandage. When I went for my 6-week check-up they found a third bone broken that they hadn’t caught on the first set of x-rays. I was referred to an orthopedist who couldn’t get me in for another 6 weeks. I lost my cast the next day and my wrist just healed wonky. We didn’t have excess money for family vacations or meals out. While my friends at school talked about Machi’s and Cowboy Joes I was eating Manwich my Mom picked up at Roy’s. I had a friend tell me one day she’d never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart and never would and the next day I got a bag of hand-me-downs from Hollister and American Eagle.

I don’t know about you but I worked my ass off in school. I knew no one was paying for college, if I was going to go I was going to need scholarships and grants. I didn’t even have enough money to apply to college. Mind you, I got a job the day I turned 15 the summer before I started high school. I worked all summer and part of the fall and then got another job again the next summer and kept it until the second half of my senior year. I remember asking my dad for some money, something I never ever did, so I could send in my college applications. He asked me why I thought I needed to go to college because really, he said, I should just get married and have babies because that was all I was good for. A few of my friends banded together and brought me something like $200 but by then the deadlines had passed. I went to college anyway. It wasn’t perfect but I had scholarships, grants, and to cover the total cost my mom had to take a loan. Obviously, she didn’t have to but she did because it was my dream to get a degree and to do something none of my siblings were able to do. I spent two years in Oregon working in the residence halls for free room and board in addition to my work-study job on campus. I spent a year at GBC with scholarships and grants, and I finally graduated from the University of Tampa with the help of scholarships, grants, and debt. I want you to understand that while I was at UT I worked full-time, was a full-time student, had a part-time internship, a house, 3 dogs, a husband, and an hour-and-a-half commute one way. This is also about the same time I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and told I would never have children. After two separate surgeries, a divorce, and a cross-country move (all while still working full-time) I graduated with a 3.42 GPA a promotion and a new job in Tahoe. Finally closer to home and single things should have been great, yeah?

After an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s degree, a great work history with two internships and management experience my worth should be obvious after two years of employment. Instead I was told I wasn’t working fast enough or long enough. [Get this straight, this IS part of the story!] I was told to be on bed rest, much like Lena Dunham recently, because Endometriosis is a very real thing. My job required 60-70 hour workweeks with 10-12 hour days spent lifting and toting boxes on my feet. When two corporate executives show up you don’t get to go home and go to bed. I gave them 8-hour days for 15 days before I finally took time off until after my next surgery. Every day I took off I earned because of the time I had worked with the company. The day I came back to work I was told my position had been down graded and someone else was coming in to do my job. At the same time I was told that I was being written up for my poor performance in front of the executives. Then HR from Seattle called and told me I was officially on warning for not being able to keep up with my job duties; the fact that it was doctor’s orders and documented meant nothing, I was being squeezed.

Thankfully, the next week I had a job at UNR and left my position. Unfortunately, that was not the end of my health care crisis. I’ve had two more surgeries since then including a full hysterectomy and been fired by UNR twice. I was never under-performing, quite the opposite actually. My direct supervisors both loved me and I was often praised for my performance. I was well regarded and often went above and beyond to do my job duties even if that meant wearing a stick on heat patch, having a heating pad on at my desk, and being seen by my peers, colleagues, and employees doubled over in pain crying because I had to be at work for fear of losing my job. I only ever took off days that I had earned by rights in my contract with the State of Nevada. However, I couldn’t argue with them that even when I was at work I could be ineffective in my position because I was distracted by my illness. I heard the argument and am guilty of having made it myself to people to just get any job. I could work a drive-thru, I did it for three years in high school it must be like riding a bike. After this recession a highly educated person with a robust resume gets a job at a drive-thru making $7.25 an hour ($8.25 if you’re in NV) because that’s minimum wage. [Do you know that a large majority of people working minimum wage jobs are educated people, single parents, and minorities of all ages? It’s not about 16 year old kids making $15/hour.] As a 30 year old young-professional it’s demeaning to think I should take anything and be grateful when I am paying for an education that means I should be able to get something better. I have house bills, and student loans, and medical bills out the wahzoo plus a messy divorce and the whole living as a single person in a city 18.5 times bigger than my hometown while trying to graduate. I didn’t want to live outside my means but the truth was I was in an eat-or-be-eaten situation. Either I went into debt or I didn’t graduate. If I don’t graduate I can’t get the job with the promotion to get closer to home when I’m so sick to make more money to pay the loans. What would you choose when it’s your health that’s a life or death decision but to afford to be that sick you have to have a job that you’ve been at for more than a year to qualify for FMLA, which protects your job when you can’t be there for a finite period of time.

FMLA works to protect mothers that use maternity leave and dads with paternity leave (how’s your new daughter?). FMLA protects people with cancer, or who adopt a baby, or who need to care for an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s, or a son who’s an addict. Hillary Clinton championed FMLA as First Lady, before that there was no protection for people in these situations and we’re still the only civilized country that doesn’t protect maternity leave. FMLA is a hard won right for American workers. For me at UNR I worked there less than a year in each position and didn’t qualify for protected job status. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway Nevada is a right-to-work state meaning no one needs a reason to fire you and they don’t have to offer you three strikes. It’s state law. Besides, most state jobs are on probation within the first year and they can get rid of you for no reason at all within those first 365 days of employment with no need to explain themselves.

So tell me what to do in this position. Too sick to work but I need to work to pay my bills. I need to continue to see my doctors due to my chronic illness but have no job and no insurance but also no money to pay for private insurance. Oh wait, we have insurance I can get through a website that’s sponsored by the government and because I’m unemployed I might get help paying for it? That’s crazily exciting and helpful. Oddly the $12,000 I made last year meant I didn’t qualify for any help paying for insurance that I was required to get but also desperately needed and appreciated beyond anything. I know without it my only choice for health care when dealing with fertility based illness would be Planned Parenthood. That’s the clinic that’s run by a non-profit organization that helps mainly low-income and minority women gain access to all sorts of medical care. I knew Planned Parenthood was an option but I also of course knew how controversial the clinics are. That however didn’t even give me pause. When you have a chronic illness that literally drags you to your knees in pain, leaves your stomach heaving and retching acidic bile into your toilet it’s something that as a young woman in childbearing years with this condition you can’t take lightly. I needed specialist care to make sure I was okay and even with that care I was making 3-4 visits to the ER a year. Imagine those types of bills if you have no insurance, or you have the nifty bronze plans that the ACA offered to me in Nevada that had a $10-$12k out-of-pocket deductible or the $400/month platinum plan that covered the doctors I already had to continue my care.

If this were your wife or your daughter what would you do to stop their pain? A daily constant grinding pain in the pelvis. Think about early days of marriage and not being able to have sex with your wife without hurting her because her insides are covered in bleeding internal blisters that already hurt when she breathes let alone when you’re slamming into her. What would you do if your daughter cried everyday and barely ate anything while bleeding for 27 straight days? She should go to work, and suck it up, and smile, and be happy for less than $60 right? (7.25/hour for 8 hours; subtract taxes, social security, fees, and whatever else so maybe $50.) I’m sure it will all be worth it when she looks back and ponders her life with a headset and a clicking clock above her head saying, “Can I take your order?” every time a bell dings in her ear until she develops a tick that coincides with the knife like stabs she feels below her belly button.

See, here’s the thing: I used to be a REPUBLICAN –SHHH! I was raised in Elko with small town values with a Mormon mother and a very Mormon grandmother who I feared disappointing. I went to college as a Poli-Sci major in really liberal Southern Oregon where I spent my time arguing with hippies and laughed when I saw some crying hysterically in the dorms after Bush was re-elected. But then I grew up, and I started to question what I’d been taught, by who, and why. More importantly: I got educated, I got sick, and I got fired.

I was raised to work hard, to pay my dues and I did those things. I busted my ass everyday from the day I turned 15 until my body shut-down and told me it couldn’t handle any more days. I did all the right things in the right order and I still got screwed. Then there are people who make more than $1 million or worse a college football coach who makes $7 million with a publishing deal, a house, a car, a jet, and a Booster club who pay for everything else and you’re saying that guy can’t pay more in taxes? Bottling companies don’t pay taxes or water bills meanwhile people in Flint don’t have any water. It’s cool with you that billionaires kept taking millions in bonuses while families were left homeless because of their predatory and unfair lending and mortgage practices; ones that disproportionately focused on the already poor? These things are absolutely not okay with me and that is why three days ago when I finally registered to vote in Nevada again I registered as a Democrat, because I came from nothing, I had nothing growing up. Because I fought through work, and school, and an abusive relationship, a severe illness, and I graduated from college to make sure I could have a better life than the one I was used to. Because I know what it’s like to build your reputation as a great employee only to lose everything because of a health issue. Because I’ve depended on family, and friends, and unemployment, and Medicaid so I know how important these services are to people. I feel like I didn’t have the best of circumstances to contend with and still come out on top but I know I was very lucky with what I got. Most young women my age have kids to add to the struggle and a whole storyline involving elementary schools, and exes, and daycare, and rides, and schedules, and they get sick and they might to deal with Endo too. No, I was lucky but if I was one of the lucky ones how very bad must it be for the ones that aren’t so lucky?

So, there is one reason why a Democrat thinks it’s okay to take from the few supremely wealthy (I mean Snoop money pays for a guy just to roll joints) the 1% and give charitably to the lowest of the lower echelons: single-mothers, elderly, Veterans. Let’s fund public college, and pre-school, and recess. Let’s kick corporations and God out of a government they were never meant to be a part of.  For me and for 60% of people in our age bracket it’s time to #FeelTheBern!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why we can blame Christopher Columbus for the Pledge of Allegiance

Anyone who really knows anything about me will know that I take my allegiance to this country very seriously. That I label myself a patriot. I support the troops- not just because I have multiple family members and friends that serve or have served but because they provide a service I know I could never do. I like living here and while I think it might be fun to learn how to live in a different country
I would never give up my US Citizenship, my love for America, the 4th of July, Apple Pie, Baseball, or my freedom of speech. However, I would quickly give up our public education system as it continues to be ground into the dirt by the uneducated and the aging.

A history lesson that I was never taught in school is the story of the creation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy. The original simply stated:

                     I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands,
                     one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

That’s it. Overtime people wanted it adjusted to note that the flag was the American flag, and that people weren't pledging allegiance to the country they immigrated from. Fine. Let’s pledge to this country, the one we live in which so graciously allows us to do so and in contrast allows us to not.
Saying the pledge is in no way required. There is a Flag Code but it is unenforceable. You can’t be sent to jail for not saying the pledge, for not removing your cap, for not placing your hand on your heart. There is a rhyme and a reason for the way the flag is flown, how it is folded, and for the very pledge we recite in its presence.
Currently the pledge of allegiance is this:

                     I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
                     and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God,
                     indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

And therein lies the rub. The lie, the misdirection and the history lesson that wasn't. Under God was added to the pledge in 1954. That is 62 years after it was written. That is 60 years ago meaning under God has been a part of the pledge for less time than we've have the pledge! The statement was added in as a way to combat communism. Not because this country has freedom of religion, and not because the founding fathers said so, not because the minister that wrote the pledge added it in because of his love for his ‘creator’ but because Congress in the 50’s wanted a way to tell other countries during the Cold War that this country isn't godless.

Unfortunately, people now take it to mean that this country was founded on a belief in God, and not just any belief but a conservative Christian belief. Bellamy (the minister who wrote that pledge) did so during his post at the Youth’s Companion a magazine where he was tasked with creating a patriotic program for school children to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Columbus ‘finding’ America. He lobbied Congress to adopt the holiday and the president issued a proclamation declaring Columbus Day a holiday. Oddly enough, most places around the US no longer celebrate Columbus Day as it is seen as a denigration of the native and indigenous people of this country. Yet we still recite the pledge written to celebrate it and on top of that have edited the program to fill an anti-Cold War agenda that no longer serves the public interest.

The pledge has been tied up in controversy almost since the beginning. At the 50th Anniversary of the pledge in 1942 it was adopted as part of the national flag code and legislators around the country began requiring school children to recite it daily. In 1943 Jehovah’s Witnesses (one of the many religions covered under the First Amendment’s declaration to the freedom of religion) maintained that reciting the pledge violated their prohibition of worshipping icons and images. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled in the Witnesses' favor, supporting the idea that no schoolchild, or anyone else, should be compelled to recite the pledge. Because of their love of God and their belief in their religion to not idolize symbols or icons, they didn't feel they could pledge to this item, a flag, and the Supreme Court agreed. That is the correct protection afforded them through the Constitution.

It was 10 years later that under God was added after lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization and signed into law by Eisenhower. Proponents claim that the pledge’s reference to God is a nod to historical tradition not religious doctrine. But then – tradition means it would have already been happening for several of the past generations and in this case it was not. Instead it was added later to combat something else, to rub our country in another’s face. To be assholes.

I do not agree with people sitting during the pledge, creating a raucous to disrupt it, and I hate when people refuse to take off their caps. I remember a time some youths at the high school were sitting and gabbing during the National Anthem. When asked why, they said it was because they didn't have to because this was not their country. They were from Mexico, their parents had brought them here over the Rio Grande with coyotes to a country where they had a better chance of success, a better opportunity for education yet to them this wasn't their country and they didn't respect it. That was not okay with me. That type of attitude and behavior is despicable, disrespectful, and ugly. But for religious reasons, for non-religious reasons, for whatever reason you may have feel free to not say the pledge. But by George or God or Bob or Buddha respect it and what it stands for. Respect this country – one of the only where you can have a voice that disagree with the politicians and leaders. And then use that to your advantage, the advantage of your children and friends and neighbors and educate yourself before you make a fool of yourself. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Net Neutrality - The end of the internet as we know it

I want to share my most recently published story with everyone. Net Neutrality threatens the internet in a way we have never know. How far FCC restrictions and ISP control will go is unknown and it is up to us- the users of the internet- to speak up and prevent the end of Net Neutrality. Send you comments and your voice now!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dear Militia, Don't Tread on Me. Love- The Constitution

The news since Saturday has been riddled with controversy concerning the trespass of several heads of cattle on federal lands by Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Southern Nevada. While I have been interested in grazing rights before, something about this case made me want to do additional research. Also, after reading several posts about militias, the trampling of constitutional rights, and the mistreatment of protestors I really couldn’t help myself. Therefore, I have researched grazing rights, land use acts, and federal precedent leading up to this Bundy fiasco (you know since you don’t want to or don’t actually care enough about the issue to find out what it is actually about). The more nonsense I read by people that don’t know what they’re talking about the more my blood boils.

1- I don’t care about the Desert Tortoise or minor fees or fines.

2- The First Amendment 
     Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

a) The people have the right to peaceably assemble. I saw the video from the Bundy’s place too and here’s what working for the BLM under a federal court order were moving trucks off of federal lands. While they attempted to get back onto a maintained roadway protestors stood in their way. Bundy’s son walked in front of a large haul truck and was nearly run over. The officer with a taser and a dog told him to back up and get out of the way. He continued to advance and was tased. When he and others in the group continued to do it after being repeatedly told to back up, to step down, and to move away he was tased again. 3 times. The guy isn’t bright.

b) The US Supreme Court has upheld that the government may regulate the time, place, and manner—but not content—of expression. That doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want whenever you want in regards to the words you choose to express yourself with. Think yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Free Speech Zones have been used for years to help promote safety at places like abortion clinics, during Westboro Baptist pickets, national political party conventions, etc. Why this case should be exempt is beyond me. It in no way tramples on the rights of the protestors, and if they had been in the designated zone no one would have been tased, thrown, hit, bit or whatever else because they would have been safely behind a barrier where they were supposed to be.

 3- The Fifth Amendment

      This one is important because most cases argued in front of the Supreme Court regarding property and grazing rights use the Fifth Amendment.
     No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

a) Due Process - In the case of Bundy the argument could be that he’s being unfairly deprived of property. However, the guy’s 21 years of court orders more than cover the federal government’s procedural due process of notification.

b) Just compensation- Many cases have argued that they didn’t receive just compensation for the land based on their grazing permits when the government revoked them. Unfortunately, permittees aren’t guaranteed the land, have no vested interest or ownership of it, and as you’ll see below, the courts have ruled just compensation does not mean fair market value.

4- Everyone hates the BLM until fire season comes along and they’re all you’ve got between your house and the flames. Or when they are playing volleyball at Zephyr but that’s a separate kinds of love.

5- The Supreme Court
     It baffles my mind how so many people, many self-described true-blooded, honest, god-fearing Americans can spout their love for this country and then in the next breath tear it’s very structure down.      Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal judiciary. Article III, Section I states that "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Although the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, it permits Congress to decide how to organize it. Article III, Section II of the Constitution establishes the jurisdiction (legal ability to hear a case) of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court plays a very important role in our Constitutional system of government. First, as the highest court in the land, it is the court of last resort for those looking for justice. Second, due to its power of judicial review, it plays an essential role in ensuring that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power. Third, it protects civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the Constitution. Finally, it sets appropriate limits on democratic government by ensuring that popular majorities cannot pass laws that harm and/or take undue advantage of unpopular minorities. In essence, it serves to ensure that the changing views of a majority do not undermine the fundamental values common to all Americans, i.e., freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process of law.

a) The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld that the government retains ownership of the lands under its jurisdiction - like the BLM, the Forest Service-- anything under the Department of the Interior. See- Grazing and Property rights of permitters on federal lands.

b) If you love this country so much and you find yourself to be a great American then do us all a favor and uphold and fight for the decisions made by the highest court, our Supreme Court, which was established to uphold the constitution which you seem to all be treading on.

5- Many rebuttals I have heard contain the ‘fact’ that this land is owned by the Bundy’s Is that the land that belongs to the US government as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848? Because that land doesn't belong to the Bundy's, their parcel that is fee-simple, is theirs however the land that they have a permit to graze on is property of the US Government and they have the ability to revoke the grazing permit at any time. As they did in 1993 when this crap started. He has had 21 years to comply and they have been more than patient in waiting for him to do so.

6-Where’s PETA?
    This may be my favorite argument right now. Rumors swirl on the internet faster then Sally is pregnant would in a junior high hallway. Please show me one CREDIBLE source that can attest to any slaughtering of cattle, burying of cattle on the federal lands where they don’t belong and I will be more sympathetic to the cry that the BLM is mistreating these animals. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that they have mishandled animals- i.e. roundups of wild mustangs and burros but those animals aren’t owned or cared for by anyone and Bundy has had ample opportunities to move his cattle before any of this needed to happen.

7- We must fight before/what it the BLM decides our homes are on protected lands
     If you own your home or the land it is on, or are in the process of making payments to someone for that purpose then this is EXTREMELY unlikely to happen (READ- NOT POSSIBLE). I see the spirals in your eyes, the mantra you have been repeating for days - Bundy owns that land. No he doesn’t. There is such a thing as pre-emptive rights: a contractual right to acquire certain property newly coming into existence before it can be offered to any other person or entity. Also called a "first option to buy.” Again I go back to the Treaty in 1848. Even according to Bundy’s daughter (Shiree Bundy Cox) their family ‘bought’ the land in 1887, 39 years after the land was granted to the US. The only cases I could find granting pre-emptive rights were ones involving Native Americans because they pre-date us all! If you can find a better legal case or definition please let me know.

This isn’t tyranny- the government isn’t being oppressive by upholding the constitution. The officers with tasers weren’t being violent or aggressive until they had to be. I, of course, don’t want to see a pregnant woman thrown on the ground but think about it this way: Bundy has stated he will do whatever it takes to protect his alleged land. There are calls for militas, for weapons, for mobilization. Wouldn’t you, if you knew that was coming your way, rather be safe than sorry? On one of the Facebook pages I saw someone wrote they hope the BLM fires first so they can use their second amendment to protect their first. That is asinine, childish, foolish....I could think of some more ishes but I think, or at least I hope, you see my point. This is adults playing cowboy and it isn’t cute. This is adults pretending they remember history class and they don’t. This is adults behaving in a manner that teaches kids bad habits and behaviors. This is sad. Below are several of the court cases ruled on by the Supreme Court regarding land use, grazing, property, and water rights. Please take a look and remember this Court was established to uphold the Constitution- Maybe you should read it.

1890 Buford v. Houtz
         Buford’s own land was interspersed with land owned by the government - public lands. A nomadic sheep herder was grazing on the public lands and Buford wanted to prevent him from doing so, he wanted to fence his lands but would have needed to include the public lands as well which would have been illegal. The court found in favor of the sheep herder, concluding that public lands are a type of open-access resource for all to use on an equal basis until otherwise announced by the government. The court anticipated and dismissed an argument for exclusive ownership or private ownership of public lands. The decision stated that, “We are of the opinion that there is an implied license that there is an implied license, growing out of the custom of nearly a hundred years, that the public lands of the United States. . .shall be free to the people who seek to use them where they are left open and unenclosed, and no act of government forbids this use. . .No doubt...this has been done with the consent of all branches of the government...and with its direct encouragement.”

 1911 Light v. United States
          The court found that the failure for the government to object to ranchers grazing on federal lands did not give ranchers vested rights to use the range nor did it eliminate the federal power to recall any implied license for private use at any time.

 1911 United States v. Grimaud 
          Ratified the authority of then the new US Forest Service to declare regulations on its reserve lands. 

1917 Omaechevarria v. State of Idaho
         The court ratified an Idaho statute excluding sheep from grazing public lands that were traditionally grazed by cattle. The statute was found to have been enacted to prevent ‘breaches of the peace’ between range uses rather than provide any rights in public lands to specific citizens.

 In 1934 the Taylor Grazing Act (TGA) was established.
           The TGA was the first formal attempt by the US Government to regulate grazing in the public domain. TGA set up grazing districts and a fee and permit system as well as the Division of Grazing to regulate and protect rangeland.

  •  Permits were first given to land owners with a history of use on that lands (use in the preceding 5 years) 
  •  Gave rights to renewal of grazing permits at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior and entitled them to payment or compensation from new permittees for range improvements if the permit changes hands. 
  • Protected pre-existing rights, under existing law, unless otherwise provided in the act itself. 
  • Explicitly protected existing water rights. 
  • Grazing privileges would be recognized and acknowledged to be safe-guarded, however, the creation of a grazing district of the issuance of a permit would not create any right, title, interest, or estate in or to the land 
  • Section 3 states that the Secretary is authorized to issue permits to “bona fide” settlers and ranchers under his rules and regulations are entitled to participate in the use of the range. 
  • Section 7 says the Secretary is authorized to examine and classify all grazing district lands and open them to other uses, such as homesteading, where they see fit. 
 The US Code referring to these issues states the Secretary is authorized to lease additional land for grazing districts in order to promote orderly use of the district and aid in conserving the forage resource of the public lands therein (43 U.S.C)

 1938 Red Canyon Sheep Co. v. Ickes
          The government planned to trade lands currently being grazed under a permit by Red Canyon Sheep Co. in order to consolidate their holdings. Red  Canyon sued to stop the trade arguing that their private holdings and improvements would be valueless without the permitted lands, leaving them unable to run their business. The court found, “Yet, whether they [the permits] be called rights, privileges, or bare licenses, or by whatever name, while they exist they are something of real value to the possessors and something which have their source in an enactment of the Congress” (Red Canyon, p. 315). They also found that ‘water rights’ are vested interest but something less than full ownership because they are the right ONLY to use the water (usufructuary rights). The court looked at grazing and hunting on public lands finding “...both are subject to restriction or withdrawal, yet both are of value to the persons possessing them.” The court said that ‘real value’ to the permittee merits legal protection and invalidated the trade of the land, however they indicated that the protection is only against the illegal acts of the government. They refrained from ruling on whether other transfers or trades would be illegal under any other circumstances such as those presented in section 7 of the TGA. Therefore, protection of the permit against legal government actions was not addressed by this case. 

1944 Osborne v. US
         This decisions stated that “it has always been the intention and policy of the government to regard the use of its public lands for stock grazing, either under the original tacit consent or...under regulation through the permit system, as a privilege which is withdrawable at any time for any use by the sovereign without the payment of compensation.”

1951 Chournos v. US 
         Chournos had grazing lands he owned interspersed with lands permitted with the federal government. He temporarily lost his permits to the federal lands and sued for damages when they were reinstated. The court found in favor of the government, that they were well within their rights to reject the rancher’s application.

1955 Shufflebarger v. Commissioner 
         The Shufflebargers argued that their preference right to grazing land has value only for the years of the grazing permit, therefore is depreciable for tax purposes. The court found otherwise, stating that most permits are renewed indefinitely even while the government retains the right to cancel at any time. Permits, they said, are given to applicants who have an established preference which give the holder special consideration over other applicants. These preferences, the court noted, convey no legal right to the use of the range. A preferences is “a thing of value” and therefore subject to taxation as property according to the IRS.
         The Shufflebareer decision may encourage private-rights advocates by using the word “property” in conjunction with a grazing preference, but it is clearly a very different kind of property than the vested, compensable property rights.

1960 McNeil v. Seaton 
         McNeil sued to prevent the loss of his grazing privileges due to changes in the rules of eligibility made by the secretary of the Interior for his grazing district. The decision only safeguarded against other potential competitors for the land not the government. The court noted that the government may withdraw the permit at any time. A rancher can rely on preference only against other potential graziers. 

1963 LaRue v. Udall
         A Nevada grazing permittee was threatened with the loss of his permit due to a government transfer of the permitted lands to a private defense contractor. LaRue argued that under the TGA the transfer of the land was not authorized when it would destroy a ranch business. He also argued that he had pledged his permits as collateral on a loan and therefore could not have them revoked per Section 3 of the TGA. The court found in favor of the transfer stating that it was within Secretary Udall’s rights to do so, that the renewal of a permit is not a vested interest in the land that would prevent government action. The legal government action of the transfer of the land to a defense contractor was permitted to occur without compensation to LaRue.

1972 US v. Fuller
         This case centered on a condemnation action by the government of 920 acres of a range permittee’s base property owned in fee-simple. The legal question was whether the access or right to the permitted lands should be included in calculating the value of the fee-simple lands condemned. Here the Supreme Court ruled that the government should not compensate landowners for value ‘given’ by virtue of ongoing government action.
          Fuller owned a ranch, leased some land from the State of Arizona, and had grazing permits for nearby Federal lands. The government took most of his lands under eminent domain, which they are allowed to do under the Fifth amendment which states they must also provide just compensation to the property owner. The US argued that Fuller didn’t own much land and therefore couldn’t graze much cattle meaning his land wasn’t worth much. Fuller argued that even though he didn’t own the land his permits on the adjacent federal lands meant he could support a large cattle operation giving him property interest and increasing the property value. The US argued that the TGA explicitly said that permits do not create property interest. The Supreme Court found in favor of the US under the TGA and therefore they did not have to factor in that value when deciding how much to pay Fuller for the land. The court acknowledged that had Fuller been able to sell his land on the open market the grazing permits would have substantially increased the selling price. However, the 5th Amendment doesn’t require the government to pay fair market value only just compensation.

1996 Hage v. US
         This case has been tied up in the courts for years, much like the Bundy case. However, in 2008 Judge Smith ruled that the impounding of the cattle was not considered a taking since the USFS were well within their rights to revoke grazing permits. However, he did rule that the Hages had vested water rights based on the Ditch Act of 1866 and the fencing of the water sources resulted in a taking of water rights. In June 2013- Supreme court refused to review the Hage case. The last procedural step for the Hages involves the case being remanded back to the US Circuit Court of Federal Claims for a hearing and final order consistent with the Federal Circuit ruling.
(This is a very interesting and complicated case so I plan to do a separate post looking into it more.)