Nevada citizens are being charged $12.5 million every two years by private clubs

private-place

Every two years, the residents of Nevada pay an average of $12.5 million of public money and the beneficiaries are two private organizations that are themselves tax exempt.

Yes, $12.5 million that does not benefit our education system or support our medical system and does not help those less fortunate.

In fact, the $12.5 million does not buy a single tangible item. So how is this money spent?

Perhaps, by now, you have guessed that I am talking about the Republican and Democratic parties and the upcoming primary election. According to the website www.openprimaries.org, The average cost for a state to hold a “closed primary” election is $12,513,317.95. Nevada is a closed primary state in that only those voters registered as either Republicans or Democrats are allowed to vote for their party members. Of course, those that are not registered to those two parties are allowed to vote for about six non-partisan positions.

Primary contests may resemble conventional public elections in nearly every way — down to the polling places and the neighbors serving as judges — but they are, in fact, private functions. Technically, these are not elections, but instead, a means of selecting candidates that each party wants to run against other political contenders.

However, political parties are private organizations. They make their own rules for how they nominate candidates — how they select delegates to conventions and what those delegates may do. These organizations are free to do what they like with the results both locally and in the aggregate and take their chances that voters will go along.

The big question is, why are the citizens of Nevada having to foot the bill for these private, non-profit political organizations to pick their candidates?

I am not saying that these two parties should not be able to select who they want to put forward on the ballot during the general election, I am just saying that the citizens of Nevada should not have to pay for the process.

In essence, these two parties are private clubs for which you must be a member to vote in the election of officers. Like all other private clubs, they should have to pay to print and mail election ballots to each person registered to their party and pay an independent party to tally those votes.

Yes, I know that most people consider the expense of a primary election as part of the democratic process. But I ask you, is it really democratic to eliminate the majority of candidates in a closed voting system before the general election when everyone is allowed to vote for whomever they want?

As of April 2018, there are 1,427,752 registered voters in Nevada, and they break down as follows:

  • Democrat                 547,912                38%
  • Republican              486,283                34%
  • Independent*         393,557                28%

While the Democrats lead the Republicans by 61,629 registered voters, the real race lies in convincing the 393,557 nonpartisan and other independent voters to vote for whomever the two parties select to be their candidates.

Nationally, the number of Americans that identify as political independents is even more startling at 42 percent, while only 29 percent identify as Democrats and 27 percent identify as Republicans. For a more detailed breakdown of these numbers, you can read the full Gallup report of January 8, 2018.

Unfortunately, despite the growing trend toward independent voting, the U.S. political system is still entrenched in a two-party system whereby, if you are not a Republican or a Democrat, you have very little chance of succeeding politically. And within each party, if you are not one of the favored candidates you also have very little chance of going forward, even in your own party. Donald Trump being the exception to that last statement.

As such, participation in the election process, particularly local and mid-term, is falling. Part of the apathy during elections is the fact that many people don’t feel that their vote counts or that their favorite candidate can get elected against politicians that are heavily backed by political organizations and PACs.

However, that could change if we change the way we elect our representatives and one of the alternatives is through the use of Ranked Choice Elections.

t1200-RCV_ballot

In the Ranked Choice Election, anyone who wants to run for a particular office can run, and the voting public can vote for them as either their first, second, or third choice candidate. The winner is the person that receives 51% or more of the votes. If there is not a 51% vote getter, then the person with the highest number of first and second choice votes that puts them over the 51% threshold, is considered the winner.

I fully understand how important it is for both the Democrats and the Republicans to fight to keep the election process status quo. Both parties want to keep a stronghold on their political ideals and agendas. Even more important is to elect candidates who, once in office, will hold to the party line when items come up for a vote.

However, just think about how the dynamics would change if a third of the politicians holding office were independent of the two main parties. How many more political standoffs could be avoided and how many more non-partisan bills would be passed?

Not only will Ranked Choice Voting create more interest in the election process, but it would also allow for the election of more independent candidates. More independent candidates would cut down on all of the partisan politics that we see in the state and federal legislature and perhaps see better legislative decisions.

At the very least, Americans need to stop paying for the Republicans and Democrats to select the candidates that they wish to run against other political contenders. Eliminate partisan primary elections.

 *Independent voters are made up of Nonpartisan 303,084, Independent American Party 63,472, Libertarian 14,089, and Other 13,912.

A word about the author:

My name is Craig A. Ruark, a freelance writer, and journalist. I am not, in any way, a political analyst or reporter. However, since my 18th birthday, when I first registered to vote, I have steadfastly kept abreast of the platforms of the politicians and the issues of the day.

From 1973 until 2008, I was registered as a member of the Republican Party and I voted in every election whether it was municipal or national. However, I voted for the individuals and the issues and not always straight party tickets.

In 2008, the Tea Party, in my opinion, kidnaped the Republican Party and moved it to the extreme right, leaving me standing near the center of the political spectrum. And while the Democrats did move more toward the center, I became disenchanted with both parties, so I changed my voter registration to Non-Partisan, and remain so today.

I don’t believe in party ideals, I believe in independent thinking and what is good for all people.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ranked Choice Voting

t1200-RCV_ballot

Participation in community elections is falling. Part of the apathy during elections is the fact that many people don’t feel that their vote counts or that their favorite candidate can get elected against politicians that are heavily backed by political organizations and PACs.

I will say that in 1973, on my 18th birthday, I registered to vote as a member of the Republican Party. Since that time, I have voted in every election, not always straight ticket, whether it was municipal or national.

In 2008, the Tea Party kidnaped the Republican Party, moved it to the extreme right and left me standing by myself near the center of the political spectrum. So, I registered Non-Partisan and remain so today.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is entrenched in this two-party system whereby, if you are not a Republican or a Democrat, you have very little chance of succeeding politically. And within each party, if you are not one of the favored candidates you also have very little chance of going forward, even in your own party. Donald Trump being the exception to that last statement.

In order to create more interest in the election process, we need to make the process fair for all candidates. There is a wave of communities and states that are adopting Ranked Choice Voting in certain types of elections. I think that it should be for every type of election, but like most things, you start small and build.

In the Ranked Choice Election process, the Republicans and the Democrats can still have their primary elections if they want to show solidarity in their party. However, I don’t think that the citizens should have to pay for a formal election to help a “club” pick who they want to represent them.

In the Ranked Choice Election, anyone who wants to run for a particular office can run, and the voting public can vote for them as either their first, second, or third choice candidate. The winner is the person that receives 51% or more of the votes. If there is not a 51% vote getter, then the person with the highest number of first and second choice votes that puts them over the 51% threshold, is considered the winner.

Not only will Ranked Choice Voting create more interest in the election process, but it would also allow for the election of more independent candidates. More independent candidates would cut down on all of the partisan politics that we are seeing in the state and federal legislature and perhaps see better legislative decisions.

Right now, none of the states or communities that allow Ranked Choice Voting use that process for the presidential election. However, I am in hopes that one day, probably not in my lifetime, that Ranked Choice Voting will be the standard.

Posted in Constitution Rights, Politics, Public Interest | Tagged | Leave a comment

Internet Lies and Fake News

 

10-commandments

One of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou Shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Most interpret this Commandment to forbid speaking falsely in any matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising and designing to deceive our neighbor.

However, that Commandment seems to be thrown aside when it comes to politics.

Don’t get me wrong, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects everyone’s Freedom of Speech, and I believe that everyone has the right to express their opinions. And opinions can take various forms, from political cartoons, to photo captions and bold statements.

No doubt everyone has seen side-by-side photos depicting how a Republican/conservative thinks or acts, compared to how a Democrat/liberal thinks or acts. That is simply back and forth rhetoric, and each side uses them with their own slant. For the most part, there is some truth albeit mostly exaggerated for effect.

However, that type of political hyperbole a very different from the outright lies that are being told to sway public opinion. Unfortunately, this disturbing trend is more accessible and is exacerbated by the use of freeform Social Media.

I mentioned one of the Commandments because an acquaintance of mine is one of the biggest offenders that I have seen on Facebook. And, this acquaintance happens to be a very successful pastor of a church with a radio show that is broadcast in several cities and a television ministry.

It is one thing to be taken in by these false reports, but it is another thing to leave these posts on your webpage, even after finding out they are “FAKE,” and deleting any comments documenting they are fake.

The following are a few examples, some more egregious than others.

Trump Building

This first example is a video that is being circulated around the internet. In the video, a woman claims that she is a squatter in Trump Tower and has been living there for nine years. She states that on her second day, the housekeeping staff found her and reported her to the front desk. Both the in-house security and police came to remove her, but when Donald Trump found out about her, he told them she could stay. She goes on to say that not only does she live in the building rent-free, but Mr. Trump also makes sure that she receives three meals a day from room service and fresh flowers every day.

What would seem like a nice gesture on the part of Mr. Trump, this is actually a completely fabricated story. Based on the camera angles and the landmarks outside the window, it is agreed, by most experts, that the video was shot from Trump Tower. However, most speculate that the window is not in a suite but more likely from a common area window.

Trump Hotels spokeswoman, Jennifer Rodstrom, says the woman depicted in the video is not a guest and there is ‘no validity’ to her claims.

Although the real identity of this woman is not known, nor is the exact motive behind the video, everything stated in the video is a lie.

 

this-year-will-go-down-in-histor-for-the-first-31302234

This next gem looks like it is posted on a bulletin board, we don’t know where, and is supposed to be a quote from Adolph Hitler. If you search the internet, you will see this quote presented in many ways.

However, researchers and historians have never found where Hitler ever said that quote. In fact, that quote does not make sense.

First, there was no Nazi gun registration measure enacted in 1935: major reforms were passed in 1919, 1920, 1928, 1931, and 1938.

Second, Hitler wouldn’t have needed such a measure because of strict licensing laws that had already passed under the Weimar Republic — which ironically, was designed to disarm the Nazis and Communists who were shooting each other in the streets, and prevent an armed coup d’état such as Hitler’s 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch.”

Whether you are fighting the banking community, big corporations, evolution, abortion, gun control, gun rights, atheism, or promoting vegetarianism, you need cast the specter of your opponents’ terrible intentions. The easiest way to do this is to just make up a quote, make up a date, attach a famous name to it, and post it anywhere online. Your particular community’s echo chamber of self-confirmation, self-reinforcement, and self-congratulation, will take it from there and rebroadcast it around the world with lightning speed.

Judge

The text for this photo reads:

Justice Hansam al Alallawalahi-Smith from the 22nd Circuit Court of Appeals reached the media this week as he overturned a ruling out of Dearborn, Michigan. This ruling permitted two critical and violent tenets of Sharia Law to be practiced here in the U.S.

President Trump used an old precedent and an executive order to remove al Allalawaralahali-Smith from the bench, citing gross negligence of his duties and wanton disregard for the United States Constitution.

Democrats can’t stop complaining over this, claiming that since the appointment wasn’t Trump’s, he can’t use the precedent to fire him. Trump responded that people always want him to think about the Office in these situations. His only statement was,

“THE OFFICE HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO LET HIM GO FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY.”
Under title 18 US Code Subsection 1209.3, a judge who sits on a high court such as appeals or supreme is forbidden by oath from knowingly usurping the Constitution of the United States for religious or political purposes, as those actions in and of themselves serve only to attack our sacred rule of law.

Hamallamalla-Smith faces up to 20 years in prison and will certainly lose any chance he has of ever practicing law of any kind. Our researchers found that his law degree, obtained from Sali al-Answanara University at Caledonia in the UAE, may not have ever been valid for use here in the US.

Conservative Movement

This story first appeared on a website called As American As Apple Pie in July 2017. The website’s disclaimer reads, Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site’s pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental, and all images should be considered altered and satirical.

The photo is an actual Los Angeles Superior Court judge named Halim Dhanidina. Court spokeswoman Mary Hearn pointed out that Dhanidina is not a federal judge, but rather a sitting judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court, which is “a trial court for the state of California… California trial courts hear state matters, not federal.”

Even if you did not know the origin of this piece, high school civics should have taught you that no “22nd District Court of Appeals” exists. The appellate courts are organized into twelve regional circuits and one federal circuit. There is also no “systematic infusion clause” (whatever that means), to any amendment in the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment mostly deals with issues relating to citizenship, not religious beliefs.

This next piece comes around every year just before it is time to file your taxes.

Space Pen

This is another case of making up a story to prove a point. Snopes.com does a really good job of detailing this false story. https://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

The fact is, Paul Fisher, founder of the Fisher Pen Company, located in Boulder City, Nevada, spent his own money and time to engineer the first retractable, pressurized pen. He sent his invention to NASA who tested it in their zero-gravity simulator and found that it worked flawlessly. Fisher was awarded the contract to supply pens for all of the manned space flights. NASA never spent a dime on the development of the pen.

Walt Disney and his cartoons have been demonized by religious organizations for quite some time. Just like conspiracy theorists that question the moon landings, 911, the Kennedy assassination, and many other events, a lot has been read into Disney cartoons. The validity of these accusations I leave up to you, however, the following is a gross misreprentation.

Disney

The text for this picture reads:

DEMONIC DISNEY.
Seducing the world through fantasy and fun. Teaching children that witchcraft and sorcery is just a fun time everyone deserves! — with Precious Aeby.

This graphic was created by Mexican artist Rodolfo Loaiza for a series called “Disenchanted Disney.” It features two characters from older classic Disney animated feature films — Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid and Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty. However, the kiss Loaiza depicted did not actually appear in any Disney television program or film.

While the poster is deceiving, it is not totally false. There is a kiss in the cartoon “Star vs. the Forces of Evil.” However, the kiss is not between two main characters, nor is it between two males. Instead, the kiss is between two girls in the back of the frame among dozens of kissing couples at a concert. The camera pans the audience and the kissing couple, circled in the photo below, is only seen for a split second. Unless you were looking for a lesbian kiss, you would not really notice.

same-sex-kiss

This next item is a favorite of those who don’t like the current immigration policy.

Towed

Y o u G o t t a L o v e T e x a s !

The city of Dallas passed an ordinance stating that if a driver is pulled over by law enforcement and is not able to provide proof of insurance, the car is towed. To retrieve the car after being impounded, they must show proof of insurance to have the car released. This has made it easy for the City of Dallas to remove uninsured cars. Shortly after the “No Insurance” ordinance was passed, the Dallas impound lots began to fill up and were full after only nine days.

Over 80% of the impounded cars were driven by illegal’s. Now, not only must they provide proof of insurance to have their car released, they have to pay for the cost of the tow, a $350 fine, and $20 for every day their car is kept in the lot. Guess what? Accident rates have gone down 47% and Dallas’ solution gets uninsured drivers off the road WITHOUT making them show proof of nationality (VERY IMPORTANT TO DEMOCRATS!).

I wonder how the Democrats will get around this one?

Just brings tears to your eyes doesn’t it?

GO Dallas!!

According to Snoops.com, this is also “Mostly False,” but the facts and explanation are better explained here https://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/dallas.asp

 

Looking at these seven examples by themselves, and in this format, they don’t seem that threatening or that big an issue. Yes, they are stories that could be true but instead are lies and falsifications that were developed to serve a purpose—public persuasion. And, when you blend these seven manipulated stories into a mix of dozens or more personal opinion and political statements, they become the “period” to your point. People will react to what they believe is a real-world event and become motivated to your way of thinking. It is called propaganda.

There is a saying that “all is fair in love and war.” With the political divide that exists today, I am assuming that most people consider politics as war. However, it still disappoints me that people, especially a leader of a “Christian” congregation, would continually post propaganda lies to try to sway readers.

However, I guess what disappoints me even more, is that people will not even bother to check the facts to make sure what they are reading is true.

I am posting the links to three articles about two men who have made an incredible living by writing these FAKE NEWS articles and the type of people that swallow them hook-line-and-sinker.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/27/554050916/paul-horner-fake-news-purveyor-who-claimed-credit-for-trump-s-win-found-dead-at-

https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/23/503146770/npr-finds-the-head-of-a-covert-fake-news-operation-in-the-suburbs

https://www.newswhip.com/2017/05/fake-news-jestin-coler/

Posted in Constitution Rights, Ethics, Social Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gun Control

A circle of handguns representing common semi-automatic and revolvers that are commonly purchased and used in the U.S.

I have developed this forum as a means to convey information on the subject of sustainability and being green.  Most view this subject matter to pertain to things that effect the environment, either with positive or negative results.  But sustainability is also about people and what affects them.  Thus, the pertinence of this topic in this forum. (This article has been updated since the October 1 shooting in Las Vegas)

There is, and has been for many years, a lot of talk about gun control. To me, gun control was what my father taught me when I was a young boy of around the age of ten.

Grip the pistol lightly with my right hand and just the tip of my index finger on the trigger.  Place the palm of my left hand on the pistol grip with those fingers wrapped around the top of the right-hand fingers.  Stand with my feet shoulder width, left leg slightly forward and extend both hands forward.  Pull back slowly and evenly on the trigger.  And practice.

Today, all the rhetoric is not about how you control your gun, but instead about identifying and controlling the violence enacted by criminals and mentally disturbed people with their guns. Something that I think might be a losing battle until the time we can master the art of the Vulcan mind meld.

However, short of being able to control the minds of other people, we can control and allow the acquisition of guns by law-abiding citizens (e.g., those who do not have a history of social violence, mental illness, or criminal activity).  Now obviously, there will be those that will slip through the system. Just as the saying goes, ‘there are two types of sailboat operators –those who have run aground and –those who about to run aground,’ there are and will be those gun owners who might fit the category of exclusion but have yet to flip the mental switch.

The solution that I speak of is the mandatory registration of all guns. (For purposes of this article guns will mean both handguns and rifles of all types).

So, what is the concern here?  Most of what I have been hearing is fear from U.S. citizens, that if their gun is registered, then the Federal Government will have the ability to come to your home and seize your guns.  Quite frankly, I find that whole concept paranoid and crazy.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

This Amendment provides that all citizens (those who have not lost their Constitutional Rights through the Court System) the right to keep and bear arms and that that right cannot be taken away without an Amendment to the Constitution. And if you know anything about the process for amending the Constitution (see below for details), you would know that repealing the Second Amendment would be impossible.  The only other thing that the Federal Government could do would be to declare war on its citizens—which I also do not see happening.

Therefore, if you a legal, law-abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with stricter laws for the acquisition of a gun.  If you are a law-abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with the stricter tracking of guns.  And, if you are a law-abiding citizen –you should have nothing to hide.

When my father passed away February of 2000, I inherited a nearly new Smith & Wesson 380 semi-automatic pistol, with the original box and purchase receipt from 1988.  In 2015, I was at the firing range with that pistol when it malfunctioned.  I contacted Smith & Wesson (S&W) and was given a pre-paid shipping label to send the pistol back to the factory for repair. A couple of weeks later I received a telephone call from S&W informing me that my S&W 380 (which had not been manufactured since the early 90’s), could not be repaired and to my amazement was offered a free replacement pistol.  Also, since S&W did not have any 380’s in stock, I had a choice of new semi-automatic replacement pistol of either 9mm or 45 calibers.  Now that is what I call customer service.  So, back to the point of this story; according to Federal Laws, even though this is a replacement weapon, S&W could not send my new pistol directly to me, but instead must transfer it through a licensed FFL gun retailer in my town of Las Vegas.  Oh, and by the way, S&W is also reimbursing the full amount of the transfer fee as well, again great customer service.  After giving S&W the name of a local retailer with whom I wished the weapon sent, I called the retailer to let them know that they would be receiving my weapon from S&W.  They had me fill out the transfer paperwork in advance along with an $80.00 transfer fee.

The point of this is to say that even though I am paying a transfer fee, it does not mean that the new pistol is registered in any way to my name.  It is only an internal record at the retail store that shows they received a pistol from S&W, and they legally transferred that pistol out of their inventory.  It is still up to me to register that new pistol into my name.

In the past, in order to register a weapon in Nevada, you had to go to one of several police sub-stations with your unloaded weapon, have it inspected by the officer, serial numbers recorded and your identification checked.  The gun owner then received a “Blue Card” showing that you are the owner of that weapon.  There was no charge for registering a weapon. However, in 2015 that process went away, and Clark County residents no longer have to register handguns with Metro.

Now, let me state that I am not naive enough to think that just because a gun is registered to someone that it will prevent them from doing bad things with that weapon.  Not at all!  However, if we start now, by registering all guns at the point of sale, it will significantly slow the proliferation of illegal (unregistered), guns from getting onto the streets.  This process will not happen overnight and may, in fact, be a ten-year process. But as more and more guns are registered, it will leave less and less unregistered guns on the street until the supply is dwindled down to a more manageable number.  And, through this process, at the very least, the guns will be traceable back to a person that legally purchased that gun and then, either gave it or sold it to someone who in turn does bad things –like go on a shooting spree.

The next step is to pass a law that severely penalizes a person who buys a gun legally and then turns around and either sells or gives that gun to another person without a background check or changing the registration. So, in turn, if a crime is committed with a gun, the person to whom that gun is registered could be severely penalized for contributing to a crime or the death of another person.  With this penalty clause in effect, a registered (and legal) gun owner will think twice about selling his gun on the black market.

The other day I was listening to an interview with a young man that grew up in the Watts neighborhood of L.A.  He like most of his friends was involved in gang activity even as a very young boy.  He told the interviewer that during times of heightened gang activity he would be given a gun by one of the older members of his gang and told to use it against rival members.  If the gun were used, he would “ditch” that gun by literally throwing it away, because it is better not to be caught by the police with a gun and because unregistered guns were both plentiful and easily replaced.

In addition, and in light of the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, 2017, there needs to be a system in place whereby a person buying five or more guns within a two to three-month period, should sound an alert to the local police departments and FBI. I am not saying that a person should not be allowed to purchase that many guns, but it should put up a flag for investigation.

Is this some sort of euphoric dream?  I don’t think so.

Again, I say, if we start an aggressive registration program today, ten years from now we may have eliminated 90% of the illegal handguns that are on the street and used by gangs.

The trick is, how do we make it both convenient and affordable for conscientious, law-abiding citizens to buy and register handguns.  The simple way would be to authorize licensed gun dealers to process the “legal” registration when they sell a handgun.  Things are so automated these days, with computers and internet connectivity, that the $25.00 background check fee should include the issuing of a registration card as well.  Once you have one gun registered, an additional $10.00 registration fee for additional guns would be a reasonable price to pay to the retailer as a processing fee. With this system in place, if I wanted to sell one of my registered guns to a friend or stranger, I could go to my local gun dealer, have him be the middleman in the transaction to assure that a proper background check was made and that the registration of that handgun was transferred from me to the new buyer, thus relieving me of all responsibility of that gun.

Once we overcome the hurdle of limiting the amount of illegal guns that are on the streets, and have a handle on who owns guns; we can then address the issue of mental stability/illness and how to record and report persons that appear to have, but not yet openly displayed, violent tendencies, without violating their personal rights.  This will be a much more tedious process and I am sure will include enough lawyers, politicians, and doctors to fill each and every hotel room in Las Vegas.

Craig A. Ruark

Conscientious Handgun Owner

Constitutional Amendments

There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution for how to propose an amendment. One has never been used.

The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. This is the route taken by all current amendments. Because of some long outstanding amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment (for example, see the 21st and 22nd).

The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is a discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

Regardless of which of the two proposal routes is taken, the amendment must be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of states. There are two ways to do this, too. The text of the amendment may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention. See the Ratification Convention Page for a discussion of the makeup of a convention. Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default. Only one amendment, the 21st, specified a convention. In any case, passage by the legislature or convention is by a simple majority.

The Constitution, then, spells out four paths for an amendment:

  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)

It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal or ratification. This point is clear in Article 5 and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 US 378 [1798]):

Posted in Constitution Rights, Gun Control | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Help, I can’t turn on or off the lights in my home

Well, actually, I can turn the lights on or off, IF,  I get out of my chair and walk to the wall switch, but who wants to do that in this day and age.

This last Christmas, my sister sent a present to me, an Amazon Echo. In case you have not seen the ads on TV or pop up on your Internet searches, Amazon Echo is a device that sits on a shelf in your home, connects to your WIFI and controls devices such as lights, HVAC, and other electrical appliances. All that you have to do is say, “Alexa, turn on my Living Room light” and Voilà, the light comes on.

To make this work, you need to buy what is called a smart WIFI plug that operates through your WIFI system. Once the Lamp is connected to the smart WIFI plug, you download the software to your Smartphone.

The plug that I chose is manufactured by TP-Link and their smartphone app is called Kasa (don’t ask me why—it just is).

kasa

Once the Kasa app is on your phone, it will locate the various TP-Link devices in your home. I have two plugs, and two wall switches installed. For security reasons, you need to connect each individual plug or switch to your WIFI with the WIFI password and give each one a separate name such as “Livingroom Light.” A little time consuming at first but it is for your own security. You can also by WIFI operated front door locks that operate the same way, and that is where the security really matters.

tl_hs100_0

Now that you have the all of the plugs and switches connected to the app on your phone, you can then connect them to the Amazon Alexa app on your phone and start using voice commands to control each device.

Alexa is so good that she can hear me from any room of my single-story home.

amazon-eco-deals

When I was a kid, we used to have to walk, nine feet across Shag carpet, just to turn the dial that changed the channel on the TV.

tv

Nowadays, in the world of remote control, you can turn on and off practically everything in your home with your Smartphone. And with the Amazon Alexa or the new Google Home, the control is totally by voice—except for today.

As the sun was setting this afternoon, I asked Alexa to turn on my Livingroom light. Unfortunately, Alexa could not “find the device” and the light did not come on. However, I am resourceful and simply opened the Kasa app on my phone, pressed the button for the Livingroom light and it responded nicely.

Not a total loss, but I had to actually pick up my phone, open an app and push a button—how lame is that?

The problem, as it turned out, is with the Amazon Cloud. Three days ago, on February 28, 2017, the Amazon Simple Storage Server (S3), started throwing errors into the system and disrupting thousands of customers throughout North America. It just so happens that on February 28, I was trying to put out a client newsletter and the mail service, Constant Contact, was having difficulties because of the S3 problem. Likewise, I received a notice from someone saying that their report would be delayed because the Emma newsletter service was having problems with their cloud server.

Once Amazon got their S3 Cloud service up and running, then the trickle-down effect began. Companies like Constant Contact had to go into their system and do whatever they needed to do to reconnect with S3.

But some of the fallout was delayed. The TP-Link software that I use to connect with Alexa, stopped working two days later, and after placing a call to customer support, I was told that the S3 problem caused it and that their engineers were working on a fix.

The point of this story is, we now live in a world where computers that once were the size of an entire single story home, are now thousands of times more powerful and fit in the palm of your hand. We can find answers to any question within seconds by searching Google or Bing. And now, we can control our lights, temperature, music, and just about everything else in our immediate environment with the sound of our voice. Except—when we lose the computer server that makes everything run.

In the future, we are looking at driverless cars, drones, and robots that will take us places, deliver things, and do our work. But, we had better have the know-how and be prepared to get up out of our chairs to manually flip a switch if something goes wrong with the “cloud.”

 

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Jim Rhodes and the Clark County Commission play a game of Cat and Mouse

By Craig A. Ruark, LEED AP (BD&C), Freelancer Writer

But who is the cat and who is the mouse?

It has been said, that if you look up the “controversy” in the dictionary, a picture of Jim Rhodes will appear. Not that Jim Rhodes has not built some pretty nice homes and communities in Las Vegas because he has. However, the wake of government battles and litigation from contractors, architects, and engineering firms that follow each new development gets longer with each project.

Currently, Rhodes is applying for a zoning change from low density rural to high-density community development on a ridge that sits 1,500 feet above the pristine Red Rock Conservation Area. In his proposal, Rhodes company Gypsum Resources LLC. proposes to build a “village” on the plateau of Blue Diamond Hill, the site of a gypsum mining operation that has been in existence for over 80 years.

blue-diamond-hill

Gypsum, a chalky like substance, is composed of calcium sulfate dehydrate and used in the production of construction wallboard. Gypsum is ideal because the product is noncombustible, easy to install, has an insulation factor, accepts most finishes, and is durable. Durable, that is until it meets water. The one weakness in wallboard is that the gypsum is water soluble and tends to melt under a massive amount of H2O.

Since spending $54 million to purchase the James Hardy Gypsum Mine in 2003, Rhodes has made it known that he intends to reclaim the mining site in order to build a “scenic village” on the approximately 2,100 acres of land.

In 2010 a conceptual plan was submitted to the Clark County Planning Commission for a waiver from the currently zoned one home per two-acre parcel to a higher density of 2.5 homes per acre, resulting in the construction of over seven thousand homes. The Commission, in 2011, came back with stipulations that lowered the amount to just over 5,000 homes and a stipulation as to where the access road to the property can be built along with a provision for recreational green space.

In the meantime, a group of environmental activists calling themselves ‘Save Red Rock’ had formed to protect the Red Rock Conservation area from any residential encroachment and protested before the County Commission during the public comment portion of the agenda.

Because of the public outcry against the residential development project, Rhodes agreed to entertain a land swap with the Bureau of Land Management. The problem was, convincing the BLM of the deal. Rhodes along with members of the Clark County Commission and Save Red Rock traveled to Washington D.C. to speak with the head of the BLM. The proposal was a land swap that would allow Rhodes to develop an equal amount of property elsewhere in the valley and for the BLM to take ownership of the private parcels of land on Blue Diamond Hill. After four years of discussion, the BLM finally determined that due to the extensive mining that has been performed on the site over the last eight decades, that the land did not have and environmental value and that the BLM was not interested in a land exchange.

After the BLM had made their final decision, there was a debate as to whether, after so much time had passed, the 2011 conceptual plan was still valid. The Save Red Rock group took the matter to court to ask a judge to rule on the validity of the 2011 conceptual plan, and that case is still pending.

During all of this time, the County Commission sued the Save Red Rock group to prevent them from re-hashing all of their protest items during future meetings. The County lost that case and was told that Save Red Rock has the right to speak at all public meetings.

The decision by the BLM and the pending court case left Rhodes in a quandary. So not to lose any more time, the Rhodes team then drafted a new 2016 Conceptual Plan that incorporated all of the Commission’s previous comments and submitted the new concept to the County Commission for approval.

Based upon the filing of the Rhodes 2016 plan, the project was properly noticed and placed on the agenda of February 22, 2017, meeting. The Save Red Rock group, who had been actively working to acquire signed petitions against the construction of over 5,000 homes and some businesses on Blue Diamond Hill, went to work asking protesters to show up at the County Commission Meeting. On February 22nd, there were over 120 people that spoke against the development, with a maximum time of three minutes each, and approximately 20 individuals, most of who identified themselves as Rhodes employees, stood up to speak on behalf of the development. Save Red Rock also presented the Commission with 45,000 petitions against a residential development on Blue Diamond Hill.

After seven hours of passionate pleas on behalf of the Save Red Rock group, it was time for the Commissioners to weigh in on the subject. Commissioner Steve Sisolak opened the discussion with a series of questions to the County’s legal counsel Robert Warhola, during this questioning it was brought out that according to County records, Rhodes had paid the fees and filed the required follow-up paperwork in a timely manner and that the 2011 Conceptual Plan was still valid. “Whatever you decide today, the 2011 concept plan is in place, and the developer can move forward regardless,” Warhola, who specializes in land use and zoning law, told commissioners.

“Well, if the 2011 plan is still valid, why are we voting on a second Conceptual Plan,” asked Sisolak.

With that news, Commissioner Susan Brager, whose district the project is located, made a statement that she will vote against the 2016 plan unless Gypsum Resources wanted to withdraw the plan without prejudice so that there would only be one plan in place. Project planning consultant and spokesman Ron Krater said the plan submitted in 2016 was done for “an abundance of caution,” and Attorney Jay Brown, representing Gypsum Resources agreed to the withdrawal without prejudice.

A motion was made by Brager to accept the withdrawal, and Sisolak opened the discussion on the motion to the rest of the Commissioners.

Chris Giunchigliani took a great deal of time debating with Warhola as to the validity of the 2011 plan and stating her objection to any development at all on Blue Diamond Hill. Joining Giunchigliani in expressing concerns over the development was Commissioner Lawrence Weekly and upon voting both Giunchigliani and Weekly were the only two dissenting votes.

When the decision was announced, there was a burst of loud booing and a few cheers from the crowd that had been sitting for over seven hours and felt that their voices were not heard.

Sisolak, appearing on KNPR’s State of Nevada, claimed that his vote to accept the withdrawal of the 2016 plan was vote to help save Red Rock stating that the commission did not “approve one home, one street light, one store, one road going into Blue Diamond Hill or Red Rock for that matter.” He said the commissioners voted to let Rhodes withdraw his 2016 plan for the site, which essentially sets the clock back to 2011.

Save Red Rock attorney Justin Jones, also appearing on KNPR’s State of Nevada, had a different take on the outcome of Commission meeting. “I think the commissioners had an opportunity on Wednesday to do the right thing and turn down the proposal that was before them,” he said.

But what if the 2016 Plan had not been withdrawn and the Commission had voted against its approval, the result would be the same, with the 2011 plan still in place. And since the 2011 plan was not on the agenda, no action could be taken on that issue without proper notice.

So now the games begin.

Rhodes must complete a traffic study, drainage study, and show how they intend to bring all the utilities up a 1,500 hill to support the community that they want to build.  

Based on current statistics, water will perhaps be the largest obstacle that this development faces. The average family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day. Assuming just 300 gallons per day average for 5,000 homes would mean a minimum of 1,500,000 gallons of water each day that would need to be pumped 1,500 vertical feet to serve that community. It is a given that the Developer must install the power, sewer, and water lines to the houses and businesses. However, building on that plateau would also require between 4 and 6-million gallons of water to be stored to serve that specific community. Given the distance from current utilities to the new development and the cost to build a pumping station and water storage reservoir will cost the developer upwards to $100 million.

If the County Commission decides after seeing the traffic study and other plans that they will not change the zoning to allow more than one home per two acres resulting in a maximum of about 700 homes it, according to Sisolak, “would be very cost prohibitive to build the infrastructure needed.”

The County, at this point, is in control of what happens on Blue Diamond Hill. They have the right to determine how the access road will be built, the type of lighting that can be used, how much water will be needed to account for emergencies, and all other components that are ruled on for a typical subdivision.

The question is, how will the County Commission act when given the hard choices? In addition to the water and utilities, there is the following issues to consider.

  • Drainage: Once you build roads, sidewalks, buildings and other solid surfaces, you significantly decrease the amount of area that can absorb rainfall and increase runoff. Storm runoff picks up whatever is on the ground (e.g. oils, grease, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, paper, etc.), and no matter how well you build the drainage infrastructure, there is over 1,500’ of fall from the Blue Diamond Ridge plateau to State Route 159, and much of that runoff will collect down below, damaging the existing environment.
  • Trash: In addition to rain events, the wind will be an important factor. Humans generate trash, and a great deal of it is plastic and paper. In my neighborhood, It seems as if the wind always blows on trash day and when I look out my window, I always see trash blowing down my street. Just think about how far paper and plastic will blow from an elevation 1,500 feet above the Red Rock Conservation area with a prevailing wind from the south.
  • Light Pollution: The developer stated that they would use “dark sky technology” to keep the light pollution from hindering the night sky. However, no matter how good the technology, with 5,000 homes and additional businesses’ along with street lights, landscaping lights, and security lights, the top of Blue Diamond Hill will look like a cloud of light suspended in mid-air. The reflection from the concrete, sides of buildings, glass, vehicles, and other reflective surfaces will create a dome effect over the plateau and significantly decrease the visibility of the sky in that direction.
  • Visual Impact: The developer presented charts showing that only 12% of the structures would be visible from State Route 159. Those statistics are based on the site lines to the current surface elevations of the plateau. However, the developer showed plans to construct two and three story buildings which would rise 23 to 35-feet above the surface. Of course, those building along with trees, light poles, and other ancillary structures will create a very un-natural look to the plateau compared to the surrounding terrain, without a natural transition and more than half of the structure roofs would be visible from the road below. As you move away from the ridge the roof lines, trees, and other tall structures will be entirely visible, and there will be a stark contrast between the desert brown rocks and sharp peaks surrounding the flat plateau of imported trees, plants, and structures. 

Not only are the views from the Red Rock Conservation area important, but equally so are the views from Las Vegas looking west. From most of the Valley, Blue Diamond Hill is very visible at the forefront of the Spring Mountain Range. To build a plateau town in front of the beautiful Spring Mountain Range spoils the natural beauty for hundreds of thousands of residents who may never hike or bike Red Rock but still enjoy the beauty from afar.  

  • Traffic: Although the developer has agreed to have the road access to the development on State Route 160 (one mile east of SR 159); there will no doubt be a significant amount of traffic that will use SR 159 to Charleston in order to access the 215 and Summerlin Parkway. The traffic of SR 159 will significantly increase.
  • Soil Stabilization: Of course, the developer is responsible for the proper development of a project site and not the County Commission. However, having worked for two geotechnical engineering companies, I have learned that developers cut corners as often as they can in the name of profit. I have seen nesting issues, improper compaction issues, and issues were over excavation to a certain depth was called for and not performed. As it has been pointed out, Blue Diamond Hill is the site of an open-pit gypsum mine which has been excavated over the past 80 years. As it was pointed out, gypsum dissolves when applied with water over time. Even with suitable import fill, the gypsum will still be subject to water over time. Placing landscaping for 5,000 homes and some businesses on that plateau will require irrigation. It may take ten or more years but water seeping down to the gypsum base will start dissolving the mineral and cause caverns to develop. Perhaps, if the project is approved, the Developer should be made to tell future home buyers, in very large letters, that: “The home you are buying has been built on a former gypsum mine, and while the Developer has used prudent engineering to develop the foundation, it cannot be guaranteed that over time, the gypsum below will not dissolve and create cavernous sinkholes.”
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Trump’s Gold

I am not a prognosticator of world events or political outcomings, in fact, I have shied away from political controversy altogether. What happens in Washington, D.C. has very little effect on me as an individual except for my taxes and health insurance. However, on a global scale, both the president and Congress have a great impact on our environment.

As Donald J. Trump takes office as the 45th President of the United States, he also inherits the power to change the destinies of many corporations. One such company is Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

Northern Dynasty, for those of you unfamiliar, is a company that owns the rights to the Pebble Mine, the largest, untouched, gold and copper deposit in the world. However, one problem exists, the deposit is located in Alaska and next to Bristol Bay, a watershed estuary and the most valuable salmon fishery in the northwest.

bristol-bay

Over the last several years, Northern Dynasty has applied for and been refused the rights to develop the Pebble Mine due to its proximity to this pristine ecological sanctuary. Mining, as we all know, is a dirty business and runoff from the tailings and the cyanide used to leach gold, mobilizes arsenic and other metals that in concentration could quickly pollute and kill the salmon that return to Bristol Bay each year to spawn.

The Obama administration through the EPA has essentially barred Northern Dynasty from permitting the construction of its Pebble Mine. However, as president-elect, Trump and his transition team have met with corporate officers of Northern Dynasty. Trump, during his campaign, has stated that the EPA has overstepped its authority in many areas and has pledged to roll back regulations.

And now, as Donald Trump takes office, Northern Dynasty has been sending out advertisements promoting “Trump’s Gold.” Northern Dynasty, which had been trading at around fifty cents per share has suddenly risen to close to one dollar a share. Estimates are, that if Northern Dynasty receives preliminary approval to start the permitting process to open their mine, that their stock will skyrocket.

However, the permitting process is just the beginning. And, even if the mine is permitted under the Trump administration, it takes millions of dollars and nearly four years to build the infrastructure needed to start a mining operation.

So here is the question for all of you “business experts.” If you had, for many years, been fighting environmental regulations and activists, only to get a reprieve from someone that quite possibly would only be in office for just four years, would you risk those millions to actually build your mine? Or, would you build your kitty, hold it in reserve and run with the profits when the next administration shuts you down.

In fact, why would power companies, coal mining companies, or any other EPA regulated company revert to previous non-ecological operations on the whim of a single president? The public backlash alone could be detrimental.

Please note, at the beginning of this article; I said that “I am not a prognosticator.” However, I am a pragmatist and had lived in Las Vegas long enough to know that when a table grows cold for one person, it grows hot for another. But eventually, the table will flip again, and those that were losers and who are still in the game will again become winners.

Despite Donald Trump’s denial of climate change, the majority of scientist, world leaders, and the general public agrees that we need to band together to save our planet.

I predict that Trump’s legacy will only be four short years and then sanity will once again take over. The next president, just as Trump will lessen environmental regulations, has the power to reinforce stricter environmental regulations and therefore bring companies back to today’s compliance standards, if not to an even stricter standard.

A few companies may see the inauguration of Trump as an opportunity to relax their environmental protection systems and reap the benefits of not having those overhead expenses. Of course, they will not pass along those savings to their customers or even divulge that they have relaxed their commitment to the environment. They simply, will take their money, thank Trump, and prepare for the time when they, once again, must toe the environmental line.

As for the Pebble Mine, if you invest, take your profits early and get out before the Bristol Bay tide begins to change. Trump’s Gold, is certainly a fool’s gold.

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