Friday, February 17, 2012

Prairie dogs and liberty

Yesterday, I attended a public meeting that illustrated much of what is wrong with the nation. First, a bit of background:

In this part of Utah, we have a rodent named the Utah Prairie Dog. This cute little critter rules Iron County. Why? Because it is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act (EAS) as threatened. This status gives it certain protections which elevate its rights above those of humans. The presence of a prairie dog or its burrow on private property substantially diminishes the value of that property because it cannot be developed, farmed or otherwise used for normal human uses without significant restrictions and expenses. This imposition by the EAS is, to me, a clear violation of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution:
"No person deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Although title and tax obligations remain in private hands, the EAS essentially has taken substantial control of portions of private property all across the nation and here in southwestern Utah without due process (ie court hearings and usual eminent domain proceedings) and without compensation. But, we still pay taxes on that government-damaged property. The central government has essentially taken this property to protect (raise) prairie dogs at the expense of property owners. Property owners are not compensated, as required by the Fifth Amendment, for the loss of use and diminished value of their land.

Even though this variety of prairie dog is listed as threatened, they are ubiquitous. They are in our residential yards, alfalfa fields, a golf course, and two airports. They are even digging up our cemeteries!

Over the 40 years since the Utah Prairie Dog has been listed as threatened, the central, state, and local governments have spent millions of dollars and countless man-hours to save and count it -- even to dust it for fleas. After all that effort and expense, no meaningful change in population is evident. It should be noted that nearly every species that has existed on earth has gone extinct without the assistance of man. (That is not to justify man causing or accelerating the extinction of any species -- including the Utah Prairie Dog -- that is not inherently bad such as the smallpox virus.)

Several plans to save our prairie dog have been implemented with no effect. Creating and implemented these plans are extremely tedious and time-consuming. In order to comply with the EAS, they require truck-loads of paper, environmental studies, armies of government bureaucrats from multiple federal, state, and local agencies, and endless public meetings such as the one I attended yesterday. Among these ineffective plans is the current rangewide Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Implementation Program (UPDRIP) which was was initiated in 2009.

Yesterday's meeting was related to developing a new Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) which presumably would succeed where all other efforts have failed over the past 40 years. (This is beginning to look like an intentional eternal jobs program for bureaucrats.) The meeting was, on occasion, quite tense as citizens, property owners, and their local elected officials vented their frustrations.

Early in the meeting, I pointed out the very obvious fact that every member of the team that is writing the new plan is a government employee, that the team has absolutely no representation from the people who are affected by this varmint. The response was that these status meetings are open to the public and that when the final plans are ready, there will be public hearings. Another property owner replied that that is too late -- we need to have a hand in writing the documents now because we are affected by it and we even have solutions. This panel of bureaucrats is so open to public opinion, that every meeting has been abruptly terminated while the public was making its comments. (Isn't it convenient to have a 2-hour meeting to discuss a 40-year-old problem?)

One possible solution the bureaucrats say they are working on is to identify and develop federal land of suitable habitat where the prairie dogs can be relocated. One citizen said that if the government wants to know how to raise prairie dogs, ask any alfalfa farmer in the county -- he's raising lots of them. It is obvious that alfalfa fields make excellent prairie dog habitat. It was suggested that the HCP include establishing alfalfa farms on federal land solely for the use of the prairie dogs. The idea was immediately dismissed as if it were impossible.

As the discussions developed, it became abundantly clear that the root of the perpetual prairie dog problem is attitude. Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution states in part that "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States...." Nevertheless, it seems that many government bureaucrats (including those in that room) view themselves as dukes and earls and that we commoners are their realm. They see themselves as experts on everything and we peasants are stupid and uneducated dolts. I should point out, however, that government "experts" in the US and other nations have:
▪ sent our best men and women to die in battle for causes deemed noble by the "experts," often with inadequate training and equipment because that's what the "experts" consider adequate;
▪ repeatedly destroyed our economy;
▪ created a national debt which is unsustainable and with no end in its exponential growth in sight;
▪ destroyed our education system;
▪ mandated what crops farmers may grow as well as how, where, and how much;
▪ forced car manufacturers to produce vehicles that don't meet our needs. (Families used to drive big station wagons. Now families must drive big gas-guzzling SUVs because the traditional station wagon was regulated out of existence.);
▪ closed thousand of acres of productive farmland to save non-viable minnows, insects, etc.;
▪ subsidized and bailed-out market failures such as electric cars, solar and wind energy, corrupt banks, and unprofitable manufacturers;
▪ banned traditional light bulbs;
▪ mandated the burning of food (corn) as automobile fuel (ethanol) even though it takes more energy to produce the fuel than it produces itself;
▪ created countless families who now have been totally dependent on government handouts for generations;
▪ forced countless fathers out of the home because his presence limits the amount of government aid the family receives;
▪ murdered millions of Jews, Armenians, Blacks, Chinese, indigenous peoples and other undesirables over the past couple of hundreds of years alone;
▪ closed thousands of miles of roads Americans once used to access "public" lands in the West (now that land apparently belongs only to the "experts");
▪ restricted or banned the keeping and bearing of the constitutionally-protected and best means of self-protection -- a firearm;
▪ closed countless factories by over-regulating industry or because it suits the will of unions; and even
▪ destroyed the flavor of french fries.
There is no question that government "experts" have had some positive impacts. But on the whole, I'd say that their negative impacts have far outweighed any good they have done.

Yesterday, the "experts" rejected every suggestion given by the citizens of our little community -- even offers of volunteer labor to help identify and establish new habitat on government-owned land and to help relocate the prairie dogs! After all, what can we commoners do? We aren't as smart as they are.

Yesterday, I pointed out that this effort to save the Utah Prairie Dog is older than many of the "experts" on the government panel. Frustrated with that simple fact, and to avoid another 40 years of ESA abuses of local property owners and taxpayers, I demanded a deadline, suggesting 5 years. I demanded the right of property owners to shoot every prairie dog that hasn't been relocated by the deadline. I believe that only a firm deadline to save the animal will institutionalize sufficient initiative in those "experts" to get the job done. Indeed, I believe a deadline is actually essential to the rescue of the species because, without a deadline, the "experts" will continue to drag the effort out for decades.
A goal is a dream with a deadline. — Napoleon Hill
But, after all that, one of the things that annoyed me the most was that they kept referring to was the oft-repeated pronouncement that everything must be in compliance with the EAS and that we commoners aren't smart enough to understand or comply with that law.

The leader of the team cut off public input just when I was about to read a pertinent phrase from Article VI of the US Constitution:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. (emphasis added)
Contrary to the apparent belief of yesterday's government team, the Endangered Species Act is not the supreme law of the land. In fact, it violates the supreme law of the land!

Every one of those bureaucrats (in fact, every federal, state, and local bureaucrat across the nation) must learn enough about the Constitution (which they swear to uphold) to recognize when the laws, regulations, and policies they implement and enforce violate the supreme law of the land. They must muster the courage and integrity to refuse to enforce laws, regulations, and policies that violate the Constitution and the rights of Americans. You see, "...all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..." (Declaration of Independence, emphasis added). Our founders wrote a Constitution that describes a sharply limited form of government and delegated to it only sufficient power to protect our rights -- not to protect prairie dogs and snail darters.

No reasonable person wants to push the prairie dog or the snail darter out of existence for the convenience of anyone. If the government "experts," and the cost of supporting these aristocrats, would just go away, we Americans would be able to keep the resources we need to form organizations (such as the Mule Deer Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, and Wild Turkey Federation) that will actually do something productive to save threatened and endangered species.

Americans are good and generous people (at least we were before government "experts" destroyed our moral fiber). If government would get out of the way and if it were reduced to its constitutional size and power, Americans would be free to take care of themselves, their families, their neighbors, and the prairie dog. Sadly, we no longer have that liberty. Instead, our wealth has bee squandered by government "experts" to satisfy their central-planning objectives.

We are ruled by government "experts" and prairie dogs. I don't know which is worse.
A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years. — Lysander Spooner
It's time for voters study the Constitution and to elect only politicians who also study the Constitution and who will ardently comply with the Constitution and who will sunset or eliminate immediately all agencies, laws (eg ESA), regulations, policies, and judicial decisions that are not in full compliance with the US Constitution.

Yes, that little public meeting illustrated much of what is wrong with government at all levels, the least of which is complete and utter disdain for the experience, knowledge, and opinion of the voters.

Do you have enough government, yet? If not, how much is enough?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A city park for dogs?

In response to a homework assignment, a college coed at Southern Utah University, Sarah Scott, decided Cedar City needs a dog park. She found some like-minded people in town to start a movement to that end. Unlike the other 14 parks our small city has, the dog park would be a place where dogs would be free to run off-leash. With regard to pets, there would be no other difference between the dog park and most other parks in the city.

Here are some of my concerns:

1 - On their website dog park advocates cite several reasons to support their dog park. Every reason given is already satisfied with current infrastructure and by persons using good judgment with regard to the type of pet they own. Adequate opportunities to exercise dogs already exist such as sidewalks, parks, and each dog owner's own property. My wife has been quite capable of exercising our Labrador-mix from her wheelchair in our own yard and on daily walks in the neighborhood.

2 - With the exception of a few people who need a service dog, responsible dog owners do not have dogs larger than can be entertained and exercised on their own property.

3 - Dog park advocates claim that having a dog park will enable owners of bored and overweight dogs to take better care of their dogs. Such owners are inherently irresponsible. Having a dog park available is unlikely to change the owner's behavior nor benefit his neglected dog in any way.

4 - On their website, dog park advocates have identified proposed park rules. There is no indication as to who will enforce these rules or whether the rules will be added to the city ordinances to enable the city to enforce park rules. If the rules are to be made law (as would seem to be necessary, since advocates want to use city-owned property) there seems to be no plan to pay for the additional cost of city enforcement. I assume, therefore, that park advocates expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab to enforce park rules. A quote from the website "Dog Bite Law": "...failure to enforce its own rules and regulations may result in governmental liability. Dog parks frequently are governed by special rules that are either posted or part of the local municipal code. If an irresponsible dog owner has a habit of breaking those rules, and the local animal control officers do nothing despite being informed, a person who sustains personal injuries or injuries to his or her dog may prevail against the municipality."

5 - Park advocates have claimed that the dog park will be established at no cost to the taxpayer. Then, they contradict themselves by expecting city property to be used for the park site. They expect to use city RAP (Recreation, Arts, Parks) funds, and federal LWCF (Land and Water Conservation Funds) -- all derived from taxpayers. (In previous correspondnece, I have already expressed my concerns to the City Council about using federal money to fund local projects.) None of this is free money from Heaven. It is money extracted from taxpayers! On their website, advocates say, "These funds are already obtained tax funds that are collected in our already existing taxes and are used for Recreation, Arts, and Parks. It is money that will go to other areas if it is not used by us." They somehow seem to believe that taxes that were collected in the past is somehow free money.

6 – Proposed dog park rules would ban un-neutered adult male dogs and female dogs that are in heat. That would seem to discriminate against a substantial portion of the dogs in this city and their tax-paying owners. They even propose banning children under age 8 from interacting with their own dogs in the dog park. If it is so important for dogs to have their own park for exercise and socialization, how do park advocates expect fertile dogs to socialize and exercise? Surely, they don’t expect fertile dogs to exercise by playing with their owners in the back yard and by taking walks with their owners in their own neighborhoods!

7 - The proper role of government is to protect the rights of the people -- not to entertain them or even to do for them what they presumably cannot do for themselves. Most of what all levels government does could be done better and cheaper by private enterprise -- including parks and recreation. We must learn to stop expecting government to fix all our personal problems, real and imagined, to and satisfy all our desires -- including providing a place for our pets to play. We must learn to take care of ourselves and our pets at our own expense.

8 - It's bad enough that I am forced to pay city RDA (Downtown Redevelopment Agency) taxes that are used to maintain and repair property owned by private businesses simply because they are located downtown. Now, I'm expected to pay for a place for dogs to catch Frisbees and to socialize! I am one taxpayer who is tired of paying somebody else's bills through my taxes. Now, they expect me to pay for the entertainment of their pets!

9 - I'm told that his city has 14 parks and recreation properties and has spent over 22 million dollars on parks and recreation over the past 5 years. The city is spending money on parks and swimming pools as if the money is falling from the sky. The dog park advocates seem to have the same attitude.

10 - One park advocate argues that, although she has no children, she pays taxes to educate her neighbors' children. Therefore, she thinks it is appropriate to use funds extracted from taxpayers to provide a park for dogs. While the appropriateness and wisdom of a government school system is another topic upon which I could rant, the two situations are hardly similar. Having a well educated citizenry benefits society as a whole by preparing youth for the occupations and leaderships roles they will take as adults. Properly educated (as opposed to indoctrinated) youth become wise voters, elected officials and other community leaders. A dog park, on the other hand, is just a dog park -- a park that will benefit a small minority of dog owners. A dog park does nothing for the general welfare of the community as does education.

11 - The entire world is in a severe debt crisis. It will not get better until political leaders at all levels -- even Cedar City -- learn to exercise restraint and good judgment in spending. Without extreme and immediate restraint, the central government has (and will have) so encumbered the nation with so much unsustainable current and future debt that taxes must necessarily rise to the point where there will soon be nothing left for local governments to tax in order to support and maintain existing local projects such as our aquatics center, let alone a new dog park. To prepare for this, the City Council must immediately begin to exercise restraint and wisdom in its spending habits.

12 - I consistently have, and will continue to, vote against any political office holder who votes for projects or activities that are unaffordable or unnecessary. I support only candidates who show good judgment. I take time to urge everyone I know to do likewise.

We don't need to use city and taxpayer resources to satisfy a person's homework assignment. I urge the Cedar City Council to reject the movement to establish a dog park or anything like it on city-owned property using any form of public funds.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Politicians don't listen

One thing I have noticed about events such as political party conventions, the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the NRA Annual meeting, and similar gatherings of all political stripes is that celebrity speakers almost never stick around to listen to the other speakers or to the attendees. I must assume that is this is because such speakers:
1 - think they are too important to stay longer,
2 - think their time is too valuable to stay longer,
3 - think they already know more than the other speakers,
4 - think they already know more than the attendees,
5 - think attendees are mere useful idiots, and/or
6 - don't want to be confused or bothered by opinions other than their own.

This phenomenon pervades the nation's entire political system. Very few politicians want to hear the opinion of another politician or of a constituent. (They do seem to listen to lobbyists with lots of money and stock tips, however.) The only constituent input a typical politician gets is poll briefings by his staff.

Take a look at the congressional debates as broadcast on CSPAN. A substantial portion of the speeches given by congressmen on the floor of the House or of the Senate are to nearly empty rooms. Why? Because politicians have lots to say, but none want to listen. So, speeches are scheduled for the middle of the night. A congressman who wants to have his say gets out of bed at 3 AM, goes to the Capitol Building, delivers his speech to an empty room and a CSPAN camera, then goes home before the next speaker begins. His staff then edits out embarrassing content and publishes this heroic empty-room speech. There is virtually no true congressional debate or discussion on any legislation.

All politicians must take the time to listen to every speech given at political conventions, on the floor of Congress, CPAC, NRA Annual Meeting, and other similar meetings in which they participate (or should participate). Each politician must commit himself to sitting through all of every event at which he speaks. We commoners will respect them much more if they do.

All that said, I don't place all the blame on politicians. We voters must also shoulder a significant portion of the blame for all that is wrong in our nation's political system. We persistently elect men and women who don't share our values because we we don't take the time to study their values and records. (We even have a president whose past is almost completely unknown except for what he chose to put in a couple of books.) Instead, we vote based on an "R" or a "D" next to their name. We even vote based on the color of a candidate's skin! Then, we complain about the horrid government we have. (Congress now has a mere 10% approval rating.) Then, we reelect the same bums back to office -- no matter how corrupt and incompatible with our values they prove to be. Politicians know all about, and exploit, our civic laziness and illiteracy.

Most American voters seem to know what's happening on American Idol, the so-called "reality" shows, and national sports, but they can't name even one local elected official let alone how any local politician stands on local issues. Few can name more than one or two state-level politicians let alone how any state politician stands on state issues. It is rare to find a voter can correctly name more than a couple of federal politicians let alone how any they stand on national or global issues. Even fewer can correctly identify more than a couple of politicians at any level by sight or by a photograph. They do, however, have the false belief that Sarah Palin said she can see Russia from her house.

So, why should politicians listen to constituents when so many of whom clearly are fools? And, why should politicians listen to each other when so many of them are corrupt?

Friday, February 10, 2012

A sailor's life belt

Academy Award Nominee Gary Sinise makes a moving Spoken Word Performance, honoring one of our brave servicemen from WWII.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting around (through) the "gun-free" school zone

Federal law (18 USC 922(q)(2)(B)(ii)) bans firearms within 1,000 feet of a school. I suppose the intent of this legislation is noble -- to protect school children. However, it ignores the simple fact that those with violent criminal intent, by definition, ignore and disobey the law, no matter how noble the law may be.

This is one of our countless laws that prohibit harmless behavior simply because someone doesn't like it (malum in se -- eg, peaceful possession of a firearm). We should only have laws which prohibit and punish behavior that is inherently wrong (malum prohibitum -- eg, shooting school children).

Countless (probably millions) responsible, innocent Americans have unknowingly violated this federal law for at least three reasons:

1 - They don't know about the law or
2 - They can't see the invisible lines that define that 1,000-foot federal "gun-free" zone
3 - It is virtually impossible to navigate a typical city without encountering the 1,000-foot perimeter of a "gun-free" school zone.

Utah has a similar law.

To cure this problem in Utah, SB.249 has been introduced in the 2012 Utah Legislative session. It will eliminate criminal liability for law-abiding persons who enter a school zone with a firearm. This bill will not affect any criminal penalties for criminal behavior with a firearm. This liberty is already exercised by persons with concealed firearm permits. I know of no situation where this has been a problem. It is, therefore, evident that the possession of a firearm does not cause responsible people to go berserk in school zones.

Absent any threatening behavior, a person with a gun is no more dangerous than a person with a car.

SB.249 is a small forward step toward restoring our pre-Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I urge the legislature and the governor to enact this bill immediately.

Related commentary:
The lunacy of banning guns in schools
Stop arbitrary gun bans near schools
Gun-free school zones
Enact HR.2613 (Citizens Protection Act of 2011) immediately!
End federal gun-free zones!
Yet another deadly gun-free zone
Gun-free zones kill again! (1)
Gun-free zones kill again! (2)
Gun-free zones kill again! (3)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

We want a dictator

As I watch the Republican presidential candidate debates, one thought that persistently comes to my mind is that the election process has evolved to the point where it is designed only to pick the best dictator. The same goes for the candidate selection process in the Democrat Party.

Nobody is examining candidates of either party to determine each individual's core beliefs and principles which will influence their decisions and their willingness/ability to receive counsel from wise and informed advisors. Nobody is exploring their results as a leader. Instead, the probing from debate moderators is designed to reveal whether candidates already have the desired pre-established decisions ready for immediate implementation – without seeking advice from appropriate experts or Congress.

Clearly, everyone should have some decisions already firmly established -- some lines in the sand. For example, I expect that a married president would already have firmly in his mind and heart that he would never engage in sexual activities with a subordinate. I would expect him to have the firm intent and courage to veto any legislation that is not in full compliance with the Constitution. But, that has hardly been the focus of any question posed by a debate moderator.

Instead, questions have been designed to determine how well candidates have formulated the way in which they will rule as dictator, if elected.

I would like to hear a candidate respond, if asked, "What is the capital of Trashcanistan?" that he doesn't really care what the capital of Trashcanistan is, but would seek appropriate knowledge and advice to wisely deal with Trashcanistan in a constitutional manner should the need arise.

Sadly, by today’s criteria, in the minds of news media, political party leadership, debate moderators, and the voters, such a candidate would be labeled indecisive. And, we want decisiveness at all costs -- a dictator.

What we really need are candidates for every elected office in the land who have sound character based on moral principles, who have the necessary organizational skills to assemble the best possible team of advisers, a firm resolve to follow and defend the Constitution, and who understand and live by the principles of liberty. We need leaders who know how to surround themselves with competent and moral advisers to whom they delegate and from whom they demand accountability (Obama's selection of Eric Holder as Attorney general comes to mind as an extremely poor example). We need voters who insist on, and recognize, these qualities. The current political selection process does a horrid job of finding and electing those candidates. But, it does a very fine job of electing people eager to impose their will on the rest of us -- dictators.