America’s Real Oligarchy

The greatest assault on our liberties isn’t necessarily coming from the Executive or the Legislative branch. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t truly provide for ‘lifetime appointment’ of federal judges, but rather, as stated in Article 3, Section 1: “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.”

It is coming instead from the U.S. supreme Court. And yes, I did leave the word ‘supreme’ uncapitalized as ‘Supreme Court,’ is not a proper noun according to the U.S. Constitution; while ‘Court’ is the true proper noun, ‘supreme’ is merely an adjective.

Also, a judge can and should be removed from office if he or she fails to act with ‘good behavior,’ and this includes our supreme Court. Regardless of whether those who wrote the Constitution expected the supreme Court to attain the degree of authority it now holds, the Framers would be horrified by broad, autonomous power vested in lordship-like individuals for decades on end and their so-called ‘good behavior.’

In March of 2016, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg heard an abortion suit stemming from a Texas law that she was openly critical of soon after it passed. In the 1980s and 1990s Justice Anthony Kennedy along with six of his colleagues accepted dozens of paid trips from West Publishing, a regular high court litigant whose arguments the justices often favored.

In 2011 the court handed down a 5-4 decision in a major class action suit, Wal-Mart v. Dukes, and Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority that sided with the retail giant – even though earlier that year, three companies where Roberts owned as much as $450,000 worth of shares in filed pro-Wal-Mart “friend of the court,” or amicus, briefs. This amicus issue is not covered by the federal recusal statute, so Roberts was not required to sit out Wal-Mart.

In 2010, Justice Clarence Thomas voted in favor a striking down certain campaign finance laws around the time he attended a meeting organized by the Koch brothers, who are known for their vociferous opposition to such laws. In 2012 and 2015 Justice Elena Kagan did not step aside from cases related to the Affordable Care Act, though she helped craft its legal defense when working in the Obama White House.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito, along with Chief Justice Roberts have heard more than two dozen cases in the last few years, like Wal-Mart v. Dukes. Not surprisingly, the three have collectively sided with those companies nearly 70 percent of the time.

This is not ‘good behavior.’

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1804, “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

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Shutting Out the Nevada Voter

Nevada’s Senate Bill 499, signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval, took effect on October 1, 2015. Lawmakers behind the bill claim the goal was to increase ballot access for minor party candidates.

Unfortunately – and this was a known fact at the time – the opposite is true.

Here’s how the new law works: Voters in Washoe County’s District 4 — which includes Spanish Springs, Sparks and Wadsworth — have only two candidates running for the county commission seat, incumbent Vaughn Hartung and former state Senator Maurice Washington, both Republicans.

Nevada holds a primary on June 14, where candidates for state, county and local offices are cull ahead of the run-up to the general election in the November. This primary is in addition to the February caucuses where Republicans and Democrats picked who they want to represent them for president.

Democrats, independents and those registered with third parties will have no vote in the primary, yet the winner will be the only choice in the fall when those voters get a chance to take part. Under the old system, the two would have skipped the primary and been placed on the fall ballot where all registered voters would have a chance to pick between them.

Under the new system, the two will face off in the primary. The top vote-getter will be the only candidate listed on the fall ballot for WC-4 voters. In other words, Washington or Hartung will win and will represent all residents in District 4, even though non-Republicans were initially unable to vote.

Such action on the part of both parties within the Nevada legislature is not only disgraceful, but it’s empirical evidence that they are nothing more than mirror reflections of one another as they usurp power from the people and fail to represent them.

So Much for ‘Helpless and Harmless’

“At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government.” – Thomas Jefferson in a letter to A. Coray, October 31, 1823

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled law enforcement doesn’t need to show probable cause or get a warrant before obtaining cell phone records that show a person’s general whereabouts and phone usage. The opinion by a three-judge panel upheld the murder convictions of Donald Taylor for the 2010 killing of Michael Pearson during a marijuana drug deal in Las Vegas.

Taylor appealed his conviction, arguing that his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure were violated when law enforcement obtained cell phone location and use records from the cell phone provider. It was that information led to Taylor’s arrest.

Justice Nancy Saitta claims the warrantless access of Taylor’s historical cell phone location data didn’t violate his Fourth Amendment rights. She adds that the data didn’t provide content of Taylor’s calls or text message, only numbers, duration and the location of the cell towers routing the calls.

Such information interprets Saitta, are ‘business records’ and that Taylor has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

So much for the Section 18 of Nevada’s State Constitution which reads: “Unreasonable seizure and search; issuance of warrants. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable seizures and searches shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but on probable cause, supported by Oath or Affirmation, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, and the person or persons, and thing or things to be seized.”

Her interpretation also goes against the U.S. Constitution and the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It is time for the citizen’s of Nevada to stand up and force the state legislature to hold the Nevada’s judiciary accountable for its obvious disregard of our God-given liberties as expressed in both the U.S. Constitution and the state’s Constitution.

Righteous or Simply Right

America is angry. And a lot of people like to prove-up their anger by calling it ‘righteous,’ and pointing to Jesus, who flipped over tables and used a whip “fashioned from cords” to chase the money-changers from the Temple (John 2:16.) While many of us use this story to legitimize our actions, we’ve  little understanding about what this word, ‘righteous’ actually means.

The word ‘righteous,’ is defined simply as being morally correct. But what does it mean when used in conjunction with ‘anger,’ and ‘violence?’

The Holy Spirit commands us (II Timothy 3:16-17) as believers to put on the “new self” and “be angry” with a different kind of anger (Ephesians 4:24-26.) If you study, you’ll find that Jesus shows us what it looks like to be angry in a way that is pleasing to God.

There are at least 15 times in the Gospel where Jesus displays righteous anger outwardly. Here are but a few:

Jesus railed against the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in Matthew 23. Jesus overturned the tables when the sellers and money-changers turned God’s house of prayer into a “den of robbers” (Jeremiah 7:11.)

It was Jesus, who looked at around “with anger” when the Pharisees cared nothing whatsoever about a man with a “withered hand” who was there in the synagogue with them (Mark 3:1-5.) Furthermore, Jesus raged at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:33, 38,) while he “snorted like a horse.”

He even rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23.)

It’s interesting to note that Jesus didn’t fight to prevent his own arrest and he didn’t allow others to fight on his behalf; but he did fight in reaction to what he saw as morally unlawful and in the interests of others. For those of us with confrontational personalities, we might want to ask ourselves, “Is my motive to be right or to be righteous?” before ripping into an offending party.

If it’s simply to be right, we’ve got it all wrong. Of course, if you have to ask yourself the above question – it’s a near-guarantee you’re on the evil side of the equation as I’ve learned through some personal and painful experiences.

Another way to check ourselves is by examining our actions before they occur, after all Godly anger and violence is not vigilante justice, it is legal justice. Throwing an elbow into a man’s face for simply disagreeing with your opinion, is un-Godly, yet defending yourself from an act of overt violence is Godly.

In the end, the surprise of Jesus’ anger is that it sets us free, delivering us from evil. It enables us to let go of “the sin which so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1) and compels us to hate our own sin, and to “Abhor what is evil,” which is a New Testament commandment that is all too often ignored and disobeyed (Romans 12:9.)

Prince in the Lede

Seven-time Grammy winner Prince,  known for “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain,” has died at the age of 57. He was found dead in the elevator of his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota on Thursday.

But this isn’t what this article is about. Rather, it’s about why his death was important enough to be the first story in the majority of the national news media’s programming that evening.

There is a real science behind how the national news is presented and why. It’s ingenuous and rather simple, but very nefarious, especially when used as a propaganda tool.

It comes at us simultaneously in the form of agenda-setting and framing.

Agenda-setting describes the media’s ability to influence public opinion by telling us the news they want us to know and telling us what to think about the news that’s being presented. This stimulates the audiences into believing a particular issues importance, while framing, which is extremely subtle, causes the unsuspecting viewer to have a particular response.

Human interest stories, which appeal to emotion (a particular response,) are an excellent example of the media’s use of agenda-setting and framing. Most every night the final segment to a national newscast is the ever-popular human interest story.

This happens every time we sit-down and watch a national newscast — we’re manipulated into believing that certain news items like the passing of a famous musician has greater relevance to our lives than all the new regulations the federal government is imposing on our God-given liberties. And so you’ll know, the Federal Registry issued 142 pages of new regulations, rules and other notices on the day of Prince’s death.

What Can I Do for You?

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. I’ve spent a lot of time hurting and feeling like I’ve been gypped or something.

Like usual, I started out whining and complaining before I realized where I should have started – on my knees. When I finally did, I came with resentment and blame and little else, pissed at Him and pissed at myself.

After two-weeks of self-imposed ‘anger and finger-pointing,’ here is my take away: Many people come to Jesus thinking it’s enough to believe, to stand on the sidelines and cheer.

Of, this, I am guilty and it is the number one reason I am not a preacher today as I had planned years ago. Jesus isn’t looking for cheerleaders, nor is He simply looking for converts.

Nope, He’s seeking those who will follow Him whatever the cost. He’s looking for radical devotion, unreasonable commitment and undivided dedication.

We may share the ‘good news’, but it’s not always the same message Jesus shared. Our version is softer.

Many take this message and omit the more ‘bad’ parts because they’ll scare people away. Instead, we make it sound comfortable and easy: You don’t have to do anything but believe.

Reducing Jesus from wanting a radical relationship of self-sacrificing love and humility to something more like an eternal ‘life insurance agent,’ has made Him made ‘safe,’ something He’s not!

By watering down the Gospel we have taken that which is all about Jesus and made it all about us, which it is not. Instead we’ve made Jesus a part of our lives when He is our life!

We all have our favorite causes, but Jesus didn’t come to take sides. Well, here’s a radical thought: Jesus came to take over and He’s poised do so again.

And instead of coming to Jesus with expectations of what He can do for us, we need to ask, “What can I do for you, Jesus?”

Autograph

As Louis Baker stepped from the stage, he knew he had hit the big-time. The cheering, standing ovation, the slaps on the back from other performers and stage hands, all told him so.

Out back of the theater, Louis Baker discovered even greater adulation as a crowd of several dozen flocked around him screaming, yelling his name and begging for his autograph. Women even slip their names in his jacket pocket hoping to be his paramour in the near future.

It was all very heady for the young actor as he headed up the block to his single room flat. Once there, he lay in bed dreaming of what his new-found fame-and-fortune would bring, including a luxury suite along Fifth Avenue.

The following morning Louis Baker rose and quickly dressed. The broad sheets would be out and he wanted to know what the critics thought of his performance.

He hurriedly walked down the sidewalk to the corner where the newspaper stand held his future. Yet, before he could get there, he had a small mishap, a misstep in all actuality.

The up and coming sensation stepped in a pile of dog droppings. Immediately, he sought to find something to wipe it from his Oxford’s.

He reached down and picked up a solitary piece of paper and used to clean-off his shoe. That’s when he noticed the handwriting on the fragment of parchment – it read: “All the best, Louis Baker.”