Tag Archives: US Constitution

Bump stocks gone! May they never return!

The Donald Trump administration has banned bump stocks.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of the administration’s decision.

On that small but important score, we’ve made our society a little safer from extreme gun violence.

Bump stocks were thrust into our national conscience when a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas, Nev., killing 59 country music festival attendees. The moron used a weapon that had been turned into a fully automatic machine gun with a bump stock, a device one can attach to these weapons.

There can be only one reason to attack a bump stock on a weapon such as the one used by lunatic who opened fire in Las Vegas: it is to turn that weapon into a killing machine.

The Supreme Court had received an appeal from gun-owner rights groups that wanted the court to overturn the ban that took effect this week. The court said “no” to their appeal.

This is a good thing for Americans who are concerned about the spasm of gun violence that has become all too commonplace in our society.

Does this ban prohibit hunters, target shooters or those who just collect firearms from pursuing their right to “keep and bear arms” in accordance with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

Not in the least.

Instead, it allows law enforcement authorities and the courts to sentence individuals to prison terms of as long as 10 years while paying fines of as much as $100,000. No one’s rights are compromised.

It goes to show you that, yes, we can impose reasonable restrictions on these weapons without endangering the Second Amendment.

Voting ‘no’ on reducing voting age

I am going to be called a stick-in-the-mud, a fuddy-duddy, a grouchy old man.

Too bad. I do not think we need to reduce the voting age in this country from 18 to 16. The idea is drawing support from political progressives. Even the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi — who’s older than I am — has climbed aboard the Let ‘Em Vote at 16 bandwagon.

I won’t argue the point about whether those in their mid-teens have brains that are developed fully enough for them to make rational, reasonable and well-considered decisions on who to elect to public office.

I do know, though, that young voters today — those in the 18- to 21-year-old range — vote in far fewer numbers than those of us who are a good bit older. Is there an argument to be made that giving those who are 16 years of age is going to boost that voter turnout rate? If so, it doesn’t make sense.

I get the argument that those who are affected by gun violence ought to have their voices heard at the ballot box. The argument goes that those younger students are the victims. Therefore, they have earned the right to cast votes for those who are responsible for making policies relating to gun ownership.

Look, I heard the argument back when I was coming of age that if we were old enough to go to war we were old enough to vote on the politicians who would send us to war. I went to war in 1969 before I was old enough to vote. I served some time in Vietnam, came home and then became politically active upon my separation from the U.S. Army.

Then we ratified the 26th Amendment to the Constitution to reduce the voting age to 18. The 1972 election saw the voter turnout plummet from what it was in the 1968 election.

It’s enough that we have granted 18-year-old the right to vote. There’s no need to go lower.

Because I’m a fair-minded guy, I want to share with you an essay published in the New York Times that makes the case in favor of reducing the voting age. You can read it here.

My mind is made up.

New Zealand PM acts swiftly, decisively and with passion

National sovereignty is a wonderful thing. It gives nations the ability to enact laws on their own without regard to how other nations handle crises.

Such is the case in New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced a nationwide ban on all assault weapons and a stiffening of penalties for those who break the law regarding firearms possession. The country’s parliament needs to sign off.

Can you hear the grumbling now from here? From the United States of America? Where this kind of swift governmental action regarding firearms is unthinkable?

Ardern’s action is in response to the massacre of 50 people who were gunned down in two Christchurch mosques. A suspect is in custody; he purports to be a white nationalist who detests immigrants.

How does this apply to the discussion of gun violence in this country? Well, we have this Constitution here that guarantees in its Second Amendment the right of citizens to “keep and bear arms.” Our system of government precludes the kind of ultra-rapid response that Prime Minister Ardern has demonstrated.

For the record — once again! — I want to stipulate that I do not want the Second Amendment repealed in this country. I favor it in principle. I believe in the concept of firearm ownership. I have a couple of weapons myself.

That all said, I also believe there are ways to legislate improvements to the Second Amendment that protect the rights of citizens to own guns while increasing the standards for those who want to purchase them. In other words, I favor universal background checks.

I also believe we need to regulate gun shows to ensure that firearms purchased at these events are channeled into the hands of those who deserve to own them.

Our Constitution and our form of government are vastly different from much — if not most — of the rest of the world. Thus, I have no intention of seeking to foist a New Zealand-style response to this tragedy on the United States.

We just need in this country to seek some common ground on this most knotty issue of gun ownership, gun violence and the carnage that keeps erupting.

The slaughter of those worshipers in New Zealand has gotten the world’s attention. It also grabbed that country’s leaders by the throat and created a climate that seeks an immediate remedy.

If only we could get that kind of swift action in the United States of America.

No need to mess with SCOTUS numbers

I’ll be clear right up front.

Leave the U.S. Supreme Court numerical composition alone!

Some of the Democratic candidates for president of the United States are declaring their discomfort with the fact that the SCOTUS comprises nine justices. They express openness to increasing the number of justices sitting on the nation’s highest court.

Why? Because they dislike the assault on the court mounted by Senate Republicans, notably the refusal by the GOP majority in the Senate to give a Barack Obama nominee a hearing after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

Let’s hold on a minute. Catch our breath. Take a moment or two to think about this.

The SCOTUS has operated for better or worse with nine justices since the founding of the Republic in 1789. The Constitution empowers the president to nominate individuals to serve on the court; it also empowers the Senate to confirm those nominees.

The court as well as the presidency are subject to the ebb and flow of the political tides. Am I happy with the way the Senate stiffed President Obama in 2016 when he nominated Merrick Garland to succeed Justice Scalia? No. I am not! The Senate GOP leadership exercised its political power brazenly and recklessly by denying the president a chance to nominate a highly qualified jurist to sit on the Supreme Court.

But . . . that’s what the Constitution allows!

We all understand that “elections have consequences.” We’re going to conduct a presidential election in 2020. Voters have the chance in November of next year to fundamentally shift the balance of power at the very top of the political chain of command.

I am going to argue that’s the way you bring change to the Supreme Court, not by monkeying around with the number of justices who sit on that bench.

The court and the presidency have survived for as long as there has been a United States of America. So, too, has the nation.

Call me a judicial stick-in-the-mud if you wish. There is no need to overreact.

VPOTUS is getting roasted … for loyalty to POTUS?

I am going to shock, maybe stun, critics of this blog — and perhaps supporters of it — by offering a word in defense of Vice President Mike Pence.

He is getting roasted, skewered, sliced and diced because he expresses admittedly blind loyalty to Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.

I am baffled a bit by the criticism. It’s as if his praise of the president has caught critics by surprise, that he shouldn’t be saying all those nice things about the guy who selected him to run on the Republican Party presidential ticket in 2016.

Let me stipulate, as if I need to do so: I detest the idea of Donald Trump serving as president. I cringe, too, when I hear Mike Pence speak so sickeningly about the president’s so-called accomplishments. I want Donald Trump removed from the office at the earliest possible opportunity. I also want Pence to hit the road right along with Trump.

Trump’s amorality is stunning in its scope. I am puzzled as well that Pence, a deeply religious man, even would have agreed to run alongside the slug who won the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

But he did agree to run as VP. The two of them won the election. Pence serves at the pleasure of the president. I am going to presume, therefore, that he likes being vice president and that he finds plenty to do to keep himself occupied during the day.

So I am left to ask: What do the Trump-Pence critics expect the vice president to do or say about the president? When has any vice president been openly contemptuous of the head of state, head of government and the commander in chief?

Perhaps the VP could dial back the tone and tenor of the praise he slathers all over the president. Do you remember how former Defense Secretary James Mattis praised the men and women who served under him, but didn’t offer a single word of praise for POTUS as he was announcing his resignation from the Pentagon?

Is that what Trump critics want from the vice president?

Let’s get real. It ain’t going to happen. The vice president took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, just as the president did. However, there is no way on Earth that the U.S. government’s No. 2 man is going to turn his fire on No. 1.

Bring it to the middle, candidates

I dislike radicals on both ends of the vast political spectrum.

Yes, that includes the far lefties who at the moment seem to be dictating the direction the Democratic Party appears to be heading. I guess it’s understood that I harbor an intense loathing of those on the far right; no need to elaborate there.

The 2020 presidential campaign is taking shape.

You’ve got the incumbent on side, Donald Trump. Where he stands on that spectrum remains a mystery to me. He is a Republican In Name Only, the RINO in chief. He’s also a serial liar, a self-proclaimed genius and also a self-proclaimed self-made zillionaire; now that I think of it, the latter two items are related directly to the first one. He is an amoral narcissist who possesses zero empathy for the plights of others. He spent his entire pre-political life enriching himself and looks to me as if he governs in the same manner.

I want the president out of office, but you know that already.

As for the Democrats, I tend to tack toward the centrists. I don’t like the far-left rhetoric that comes from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke . . . and many among the rest of horde of Democrats running for their party’s nomination. That leaves, oh, Amy Klobuchar. Then we have a one-issue hopeful: Jay Inslee.

I remain a devoted centrist. I am a deficit hawk. I want us to remain vigilant in the war against international terror. I favor strong border security (although I do not want to build Trump’s Wall along our southern border). I want to retain the Electoral College system for electing presidents.

On the flip side, I want stronger — not weaker — environmental regulations. I believe Earth’s climate is changing and we need to tackle the crisis head on. I believe transgender Americans deserve to serve in the military if they wish. I support the Affordable Care Act and believe the U.S. Constitution gives women the right to choose whether to terminate their pregnancy and whether same-sex couples have the right to be married.

My hope over time is that we can move the dialogue from the fringe and toward the center.

I am not confused. I once was a radical lefty. The older I get the more shades of gray I see on many issues.

It starts, too, with electing someone who appreciates the majesty of the office to which he or she will be elected. The guy we’ve got now needs to go.

House turns up the heat on AG Barr

The vote is not legally binding, but it represents the growing pressure from both sides of the aisle on the Justice Department to disclose as much of the report as possible.

So it was reported by National Public Radio on a stunning vote taken by the House of Representatives. The House voted 420 to zero demanding that Attorney General William Barr release for public review the report he soon will get from special counsel Robert Mueller on the issue of conspiracy and collusion (allegedly) by the Donald Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

Barr is under no legal obligation to follow the House lead, which NPR has acknowledged. However, William Barr is a seasoned Washington hand. He served as AG during the George H.W. Bush administration. He’s no novice. Barr knows all about the power inherent in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which lays out congressional authority line by line.

Mueller’s report must be made public. The House is demanding it of the Department of Justice, which appointed Mueller to the special counsel post in the first place.

The president has derided the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt.” He calls the collusion matter a “hoax” and a product of “fake news.”

The public needs to see for itself whether the president is correct or if he is seeking to undermine a legitimate investigation into the attack on our electoral system by a foreign hostile power.

Let the public see it.

Re-read your oath, Your Honor

A Texas state district judge needs to take another look at the oath he took when he became a judge way down yonder in Comal County.

On Jan. 12, 2018, Judge Jack Robison ordered a trial jury that had voted to convict a woman of sex trafficking and the sale and purchae of a child to reconsider its verdict. He said God had told him the woman was innocent and that her conviction would be a “miscarriage of justice.”

The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct has issued a public warning to the judge. A public punishment is deemed more severe than a private one, as it puts the sanction against a jurist on the public record.

The jury, by the way, did not acquit the woman; it still found her guilty of the crime and sentenced her to 25 years in prison. An appeals court, though, declared a mistrial stemming from the judge’s outburst.

Why re-read the oath? Because the only time the judge even says the word “God” is at the very end when he or she says “so help me God.” Judges take an oath to uphold state and federal law and to be faithful not to God but to the  U.S. Constitution.

Judge Robison blamed his outburst a year ago on a memory lapse related to some medication he was taking. And to his credit, he did report himself to the judicial conduct commission.

Still, it would be instructive for this judge — as well as all other jurists — to understand fully what their solemn oath entails. They pledge to be faithful to laws written by fellow fallible human beings.

Whatever devotion these judges feel toward the Almighty needs to be kept private.

POTUS to block ‘fake news’ outlets? No can do

Oh, please, Mr. President. You cannot do what you are threatening to do.

Just because the Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez, has decided that Fox News is too much in bed with you and your administration and has ruled that Fox cannot host any Democratic primary debates this coming year, you cannot invoke the power of your high office to retaliate.

Really, Mr. President? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids that kind of interference from the government in the affairs of a free press. Really. It’s in there, Mr. President.

Tom Perez’s gambit falls outside the constitutional prohibition of such activity, given that the Constitution doesn’t even mention political parties.

What you are threatening to do, sir, flies directly in the face of what the founders intended when they provided specific protections for a private enterprise known as the “free press.” It’s the only such protection written into the Constitution. You would do well to read it, grasp what it means and stop this idiotic tit-for-tat game you’re playing with the media.

But I get that it plays well with your base. They love the grandstanding, the posturing, the hyperbole. They think you’re “telling it like it is.”

Actually, Mr. President, you’re telling it like you believe it is. Since your true believers agree with you, that’s all that matters to you.

Settle down, sir. Just stop that idiotic relationship with Fox News. Stop calling Sean Hannity and asking him for policy advice. He doesn’t know enough about the real world to give you any counsel that’s worth a damn as it is.

Why not a maximum age for POTUS?

Garland, Texas, resident Cynthia Stock poses an interesting question today in a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News.

She notes that we have a minimum age for U.S. senators (30 years); she doesn’t mention that you have to be at least 25 years of age to run for the U.S. House and 35 to run for president.

Stock wants to know why we don’t impose a maximum age for presidential candidates. Hmm. Let me think. Does she have a couple of senior citizens in mind, such as 77-year-old Sen. Bernie Sanders (who’s running for the Democratic nomination) and former VP Joe Biden (who might run for POTUS in 2020)?

The nation needs fresh ideas, fresh vision, fresh leadership, she writes. I wonder if “fresh” is code for “young.”

That’s not a half-bad notion, the more I think about it.

I oppose term limits for members of Congress. I suppose you could take that argument even farther by repealing the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that limits presidents to two elected terms; perhaps we could replace it with another amendment that places upper-end age limits on presidential candidates. Or would that amount to “age discrimination”? I’ll have to think about that.

Stock, though, makes another good point. She notes how the presidency has aged so many of its officeholders. President Franklin Roosevelt was not even 65 years of age when he died in April 1945 of a cerebral hemorrhage; same for President Johnson when he died in January 1973. The presidency took savage tolls on both those wartime presidents.

They were not old men when they died. The office made them much older than their years on Earth.

I’m not endorsing what Ms. Stock has proposed. I just thought it to be worth noting.