This Sunday, Sept. 17, marks the anniversary of one of the most propitious days in the history of this country. On that day in 1787, the representatives at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution. It was ratified by the states and went into effect on March 4, 1789.
You remember the Constitution don’t you?
That’s the document that says the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed …” Not waive, delay or ignore parts of laws the president doesn’t like, such as immigration laws, which the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have Power To … establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization …”
This paroxysm of efforts to eradicate all monuments and place names that memorialize historic leaders of the Confederacy serves as merely a distraction from real problems, wasting time and money that could be devoted to worthy endeavors.
The latest target of this futile campaign appears to be the name of Jeff Davis Peak in Great Basin National Park.
According to the park’s website, the monicker was first attached to what is now Wheeler Peak, the tallest point in the park and the second tallest in Nevada. It was given that name by Lt. Col. Edward Steptoe of U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1855 while Jefferson Davis served as secretary of the War Department, a half dozen years before the Civil War began.
After the Civil War, during which Davis served as president of the Confederacy, an Army mapping expedition headed by Lt. George Montague Wheeler, named the peak for Wheeler and the Jeff Davis tag was shifted to a shorter nearby peak.
It is not too often a judge’s ruling is greeted by all sides as a victory, but that is what happened after federal Judge Andrew Gordon issued a 39-page opinion in the fight over the Clark County water agency’s bid to tap groundwater beneath White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties.
Judge Gordon said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could grant the right-of-way for a 300-mile network of pipelines across public land, but first, it has to address plans to mitigate the potential loss of wildlife habitat due to a draw down of the water table.
The suit was brought by White Pine County, the Great Basin Water Network (GBWN), several Indian tribes and environmental groups against the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and the BLM.
Whether you think the defendants in the Bunkerville standoff are a bunch of lunatic, dangerous gun-nuts who should be locked up and the key thrown away or upstanding patriots defending property and constitutional rights in the face of belligerent bureaucrats, it matters not what you think.
What matters is what jurors think.
So far jurors seem less than enthusiastic about embracing the pile of charges heaped on the first of the standoff defendants.
match any donations they decided to make to certain groups that he apparently identified as civil rights organizations. In a letter to employees Murren noted recent violence in Charlottesville and Barcelona and stated, “In the midst of this uncertainty, I want to affirm a clear-eyed, concrete view of the company in which you have chosen to invest your career, because on the question of human rights, MGM Resorts takes and unequivocal position: The protection of human dignity, demonstrated in the form of tolerance and respect for all people, is the core of our identity. We strive to create workplaces and entertainment spaces that are welcoming, open and respectful to all kinds of people, regardless of disability, age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious preference, gender identity or sexual orientation.” (His bold face and italics.)
The prosecutors broke the 17 defendants in the Bunkerville standoff into three groups. Six would be tried in April and the others — including 71-year-old rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons — would be tried shortly thereafter.
But in April the jurors convicted only two of the six of any charges. Jurors told defense lawyers after the trial they never came close to convicting four defendants, voting 10-2 in favor of acquitting two and splitting on the others.
The government decided to retry those four and rejected Cliven Bundy’s bid to move up his trial, saying he would have to wait in jail until after the retrial. That retrial ended this week with two of the four being acquitted and the remaining two acquitted of all but a handful of lesser charges. All have been freed.
Three years ago several counties and groups filed lawsuits in federal court seeking to block the water grab, claiming the federal land agencies had failed to properly evaluate the environmental damage and follow the law. The lawsuits claimed the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in approving the groundwater project.
This past week in a Las Vegas courtroom federal Judge Andrew Gordon heard nearly two hours of oral arguments from both sides seeking summary judgment.
The judge in the trial of four defendants in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff with BLM agents attempting to confiscate rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle has made it clear she will not allow a defense based on First or Second Amendment rights or claims that BLM misbehavior provoked the protest.
On Thursday she cut short the testimony of defendant Eric Parker after he tried to mention in his defense testimony a “First Amendment area” the BLM had set up to isolate protesters — an area that Gov. Brian Sandoval said “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution” — and attempted to mention where a BLM sniper was positioned.
Recently the 17 members of the Congressional Western Caucus — which includes Nevada’s Rep. Mark Amodei — took Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke up on his request for feedback on what to do about all the national monuments created in the past two decades, sending him a letter with specific recommendations about 27 of those monuments.
These recommendations called for vastly scaling back the size of two monuments created by President Obama in his last year in office at the urging of then-Sen. Harry Reid — the 300,000-acre Gold Butte in Clark County and the 700,000-acre Basin and Range in Nye and Lincoln counties.
The retrial of four defendants in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff at the Bundy ranch got underway this past week in Las Vegas, and this time the prosecution and the judge seem determined to avoid another mistrial due to a hung jury by eviscerating defense arguments.
Federal Judge Gloria Navarro granted a prosecution motion to bar presentation of evidence “supporting jury nullification.”
In April, the first of three scheduled trials for the 17 Bunkerville defendants — charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers — ended in a mistrial. The jury found only two of six people on trial guilty of some charges but deadlocked on the others.
It is that time of year again, when counties in Nevada and across the West squat on the street corner with their tin alms cups extended anxiously awaiting the tinkling sound of a few coins from the federal till — otherwise known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
Since 1977 Congress has parsimoniously paid out pennies on the acre to local governments to make up for the land the federal government controls but on which it pays no local property taxes. Since 85 percent of Nevada land is controlled by various federal agencies that is a lot of property tax to forgo.
Just a few weeks ago the Trump administration budget for this year proposed limiting PILT funding to an average of the most recent 10 years or about $397 million, but this past week in Pahrump Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced at a meeting with various Nevada officials that the PILT largesse this year will be $464.6 million, a 6 percent increase over the previous year. The about-face was roundly ignored.
Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.
The wheels of justice continue to grind in the federal criminal case against Cliven Bundy, four of his sons and a dozen co-defendants over the April 2014 armed standoff with federal agents trying to confiscate Bundy’s cattle at his Bunkerville ranch. All of the defendants have been jailed for more than a year.
The standoff occurred after armed Bureau of Land Management agents attempted to roundup Bundy’s cattle after he had refused for 20 years to pay grazing fees in the Gold Butte area. The BLM said he owed $1 million in fees and penalties.
The Democratic majority in the Nevada Legislature is doing everything they can erase everything accomplished by the 2015 Republican-controlled session. First, labor reform and a minor prevailing wage reform are rolled back. Now, they want to keep Nevada a territory instead of barging ahead into some semblance of statehood.
In 2015 the Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 1, which urged Congress to release about 7.2 million acres of federal public land to the state, which would have reduced the federal land control in the state from about 85 percent to about 75 percent.
Rep. Ruben Kihuen has unleashed a diatribe against President Trump over his executive order telling the Interior secretary to review national monument designations for the past 20 years, saying Trump doesn’t give a damn about Nevadans.
Democrat Kihuen flatly stated that most Nevadans support public lands and their permanent protection and criticized Trump for calling recent national monuments — such as the 1 million-acre Gold Butte and Basin and Range national monument designations Obama created in his final year in office — a “massive federal land grab.”
A law without enforcement is not a law.
Just as Obama essentially repealed the nation’s immigration laws by refusing to enforce them, Trump’s executive order telling the IRS to not enforce the congressionally passed Johnson Amendment — limiting the political speech of churches that receive tax exemptions — usurps the power of Congress.
It seems to be the right thing to do, but the wrong way to do it.
You’ll get your free speech when Nevada Democratic lawmakers say you can — if ever.
On Tuesday an Assembly committee heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would urge Congress to amend the Constitution to strike the free speech portion of the First Amendment. SJR4, sponsored by Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, specifically would erase the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that it was unconstitutional to forbid the broadcast of a movie critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just because it was paid for by a corporation.
When you work with words, your words should work.
While it was gratifying to see the morning paper finally get around to writing about the difficulty federal prosecutors are having getting jurors to convict armed protesters in Oregon and Bunkerville of conspiracy — Now, where have I read that before? — this one description of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy caused a bit of whiplash: “notorious anti-federalist rancher Cliven Bundy …”
President Trump’s signing of an executive order calling for a review of the national monument designations made in the past 20 years prompted the local newspaper to drag out the usual suspects to moan and groan about the need to “protect” the million acres of Nevada land that Obama designated as national monuments in his last months in office.
Trump called Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create monuments an “egregious abuse of federal power.”
An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an unlawfulor criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself but becomes unlawful whendone by the combination of actors. — Legal definition of conspiracy
The feds have a poor batting average of late in proving conspiracy.
Some people have a really strange concept of “democracy,” and that says a lot about some of the people elected to the Nevada Legislature.
Also, if you thought an earlier proposal to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day as a silly waste of time and paper, wait till you take a gander at Senate Bill 413.
SB413 proposes to designate the last Saturday in September each year as Public Lands Day in Nevada and require the governor to issue a proclamation encouraging the observance of said Public Lands Day.
There is considerable consternation in rural counties across the West over the Trump administration planning to cut the size of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) checks this year. The current budget blueprint calls for cuts but doesn’t specify how much.
Because the federal government does not pay property taxes, since 1977 Congress has seen fit to dole out to counties — calculated based on population and number of acres of federal public land — PILT checks to help pay for everything from schools, to police, fire, social services, etc. Since 85 percent of Nevada is owned by various federal land agencies, that is a lot of property tax to forgo.