Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sheriffs standing with the people against the Feds

I have reported earlier that sheriffs in New Mexico are threatening to arrest federal agents if they attempt to enforce unconstitutional federal acts in contravention of state law.

The even better news is that sheriffs in other states are doing the same. Sheriff Brad Rogers of Elkhart County, Indiana has told Food and Drug Administration agents they will be arrested if they go on Amish farmer David Hochstetler’s land. Having falsely alleged that raw, unpasteurized milk sold by Hochstetler had caused several cases of food poisoning, the FDA filed a complaint in federal court to support their attack on the farmer.

I have consumed raw milk for years and can affirm that it is not only safe, but much healthier than pasteurized milk.

The threat of incarceration led the feds to withdraw their complaint against Hochstetler. This was even after US Department of Justice attorney Ross Goldstein emailed the Sheriff that he would be arrested if he protected Hochstetler. When Sheriff Rogers refused to back down, the FDA cried uncle.

Rogers’s communication to the feds seemed to have been quite convincing: “Any further attempts to inspect this farm without a warrant signed by a local judge, based on probable cause, will result in Federal inspectors’ removal or arrest for trespassing by my officers or I.” The feds have gotten used to acting without due process — in this case, that means not bothering to get a search warrant.

Rogers’ campaign website listed his number one objective as “Upholding the Constitution.” He is also concerned about the heart condition of his inmates and is determined to help “Provide Hope to Change a Heart.” Under that header he says, “The Elkhart County jail has 74 church services a month and allows unprecedented access to ministry volunteers. Not only can we impact inmates for the here and now, but for eternity.”

Sheriff Rogers requires his deputies to take three, two-day classes on the Constitution (at a tuition rate of $125 per person).

Rogers is not alone in his love for the Constitution. Ellis County, Texas Sheriff Johnny Brown has stated that he would resist any effort by the federal government to confiscate firearms in his county.

Sheriff Joe Baca in Sierra County, California told his county commission that he will not enforce road closures on Bureau of Land Management and Gila National Forest Lands.

Sheriff Gil Gilbertson of Josephine County, Oregon has told the Forest Service that he will protect those using the forest in his county. He has written a short treatise entitled, “Unraveling Federal Jurisdiction within a State.” It is actually a scholarly piece based on citations from the Constitution, court cases and statutes and concludes that the Forest Service has no authority in any county.

Siskiyou County, California Sheriff Jon Lopey has said: “I have told federal and state officials over and over that, yes, we want to preserve the environment, but you care more about the fish, frogs, trees and birds than you do about the human race. When will you start to balance your decisions to the needs of the people?…We are right now in a fight for our survival.” Lopey spearheaded a coalition of eight sheriffs calling themselves: “Defend Rural America.”

In the days after Hurricane Katrina, power was out for days. Food and medicine were about to be lost. So Sheriff Billy McGee of Forrest County, Mississippi — a Democrat — took action when he realized that a federal shipment of six trucks of ice bound for Hattiesburg turned out to be only four. McGee went in search of the other two and found them being guarded by some Army reservists who possessed bureaucratic mindsets.

McGee took steps to secure the ice, but was told he was not authorized to take the vehicles. When a reservist would not get off one of the trucks, McGee had him handcuffed. The ice was delivered where it was needed in Hattiesburg, explaining why McGee is also known as The Ice Man.

Not surprisingly, the feds have brought suit against the Sheriff in federal court. Perhaps McGee will arrest any marshals seeking to interfere with the duties of a peace officer.

It is encouraging that men of integrity, who understand that the sheriff is the top law enforcement officer in his county, have been elected in counties around the country. We should be looking for more who fit this description.



Important Victory for Religious Liberty in Washington State

I’m pleased to report that a federal district court in Washington state today delivered an important victory for religious liberty. As I outlined in several posts some weeks ago, Washington state regulations violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by compelling pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense the abortifacient drug Plan B, notwithstanding their religiously informed conscientious convictions not to participate in the destruction of the life of an unborn human being.

In its opinion today, the federal district court correctly ruled that the regulations do violate plaintiffs’ Free Exercise rights. Specifically, the court determined that the regulations are not neutral for purposes of deference under Employment Division v. Smith. Rather, they “are riddled with exemptions for secular conduct, but contain no such exemptions for identical religiously-motivated conduct” and thus amount to an “impermissible religious gerrymander.” Likewise, the regulations are not “generally applicable” but rather “have been selectively enforced, in two ways”: First, the rule that pharmacies timely deliver all lawful medications has been enforced only against the plaintiff pharmacy and only for failure to deliver plan B. Second, the rules haven’t been enforced against the state’s numerous Catholic-affiliated pharmacies, which also refuse to stock or dispense Plan B.

For each of these reasons, the regulations are therefore subject to strict scrutiny, which they can’t survive.

The court also found that the state regulations were “aimed at Plan B and conscientious objectors from their inception.” Indeed, “the predominant purpose of the rule was to stamp out the right to refuse.”

Congratulations to the Becket Fund and to the Seattle law firm of Ellis, Li & McKinstry on their important victory.

Just a couple of additional observations:

1. The argument that the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is far simpler to grasp than today’s sound ruling is. In part that’s because, in the case of the HHS mandate (a federal action subject to RFRA), there’s no need to reach the Free Exercise issue, including the threshold question whether the mandate is a neutral and generally applicable law for purposes of deference under Employment Division v. Smith (it’s not). In part that’s because it’s so immediately obvious that the HHS mandate flunks the “least restrictive means” test.

Before today, I already regarded the position that the HHS mandate violates RFRA as a slam-dunk winner, as a 9-0 ruling in the event that the issue ever reaches the Supreme Court. (It probably won’t reach the Court, as it’s highly unlikely that any court of appeals will get this one wrong.)

2. Some might be inclined to discredit today’s ruling on the ground that the judge who issued it, Judge Ronald B. Leighton, was appointed by President George W. Bush and therefore might be thought to have, and to have indulged, social-conservative biases. That’s an extremely improbable hypothesis. Set aside the fact that Leighton had to pass the scrutiny of Washington’s Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, ever to get nominated. More telling is that Leighton, “in a sometimes emotional ruling from the bench,” ruled in September 2010 that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law could not constitutionally be applied to a lesbian who had been discharged from the military and ordered her reinstated.



American Majority Dependent on Government: How Dangerous is it?

In an effort to bolster the political fortunes of President Obama, the media panjandrums have been cheerleading about the improvements in the American economy. Recovery appears to be building, notes the New York Times. The GDP growth is now projected at 3.5 percent, a tonic for the sleepy start of the fiscal year. The unemployment rate has declined, notwithstanding those who no longer seek employment.

The lights are synchronized in green for Obama’s reelection, or that is the growing sentiment. But there is an argument, far more telling than present statistical improvement, which must be made. The policies of Obama’s last four years have moved the nation down the road of serfdom. Give away programs have tied free individuals to the shackles of the state.

As of 2011, almost 45 million Americans are on foodstamps, approximately one in seven people. In New York City 1.8 million citizens collect foodstamps, one in four. Forty-seven percent of Americans do not pay a personal income tax and most of these people receive subventions from the government. Thirty-six percent of Americans who file tax forms do not a pay personal income tax. The number of those in a condition of poverty increased 9.5 percent since 2009, with a total of 43.6 million.Again, almost all of these individuals receive government assistance of one kind or another.

My contention isn’t merely that we spend more than we can afford—an obvious and well treated concern. I would assert that despite positive signs in the economic picture, we are nearing the “tipping point,” a transformative moment when a majority of Americans are dependent on government largess. This is the path Americans have been on for some time, but it has been accelerated by the policies of the Obama administration.

Thomas Jefferson once noted, “a government that can give you everything you want can take everything you have.” Frédéric Bastiat echoed this sentiment when he wrote “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else,” and Voltaire captured this concern with his claim, “In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.” It is not surprising that in taking from Peter to give to Paul, Paul doesn’t complain.

This isn’t merely the essence of class warfare, it is the entrapment of leviathan. Former President Bill Clinton said “the age of big government is over.” By any standard this comment is absurd. Big government is alive, well, and growing. There isn’t the slightest sign it can or will abate until a crisis arises.

Moreover, it is difficult to envision what happens at that point since depending on one’s calculation, the majority is already feeding from the public trough. Will a majority vote to reduce its benefits? Will a president about to be reelected on the basis of public give-aways tell the truth about economic conditions?

This presidential campaign offers a unique opportunity to tell the truth about what ails us. But the Republicans are afraid of “Third Rail” repercussions if they bring up unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And the Democrats want to create the illusion they are the compassionate party, eager to assist the poor and downtrodden, a stereotype that is inconsistent with Big Labor support and the endorsement of the Plaintiffs Bar.

As a consequence, the truth is buried and the Hayakian scenario of the Road to Serfdom is ominously palpable. Perhaps it is time for both parties to accept Edmund Burke’s admonition that “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” My hope is that this campaign is the beginning of a “little,” to reverse the emerging tipping point in the American economy.



Higher tax rate REDUCES revenue in Britain

The amount of income tax paid fell sharply last month in the first formal indication that the new 50p higher rate is not raising the expected amount of revenue.

The Treasury received £10.35 billion in income tax payments from those paying by self-assessment last month, a drop of £509 million compared with January 2011. Most other taxes produced higher revenues over the same period.

Senior sources said that the first official figures indicated that there had been “manoeuvring” by well-off Britons to avoid the new higher rate. The figures will add to pressure on the Coalition to drop the levy amid fears it is forcing entrepreneurs to relocate abroad. [Many businesses have already done so]

The self-assessment returns from January, when most income tax is paid by the better-off, have been eagerly awaited by the Treasury and government ministers as they provide the first evidence of the success, or failure, of the 50p rate. It is the first year following the introduction of the 50p rate which had been expected to boost tax revenues from self-assessment by more than £1billion.

Although the official statistics do not disclose how much money was paid at the 50p rate of tax, the figures indicate that it is falling short of the money the levy was expected to raise.

A Treasury source said the relatively poor revenues from self-assessment returns was partly down to highly-paid individuals arranging their affairs to avoid paying the 50p rate.




Federal court: DOMA unconstitutional: "Another federal judge has found unconstitutional a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law which forbids providing federal government benefits to same-sex spouses. U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White, who sits in San Francisco and was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, issued the ruling Wednesday afternoon in a case involving federal judicial law clerk Karen Golinski's request for benefits for her female spouse."

Wife of Assassinated Iranian Scientist: Annihilation of Israel was his ultimate goal: "The wife of Martyr Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, who was assassinated by Mossad agents in Tehran in January, reiterated on Tuesday that her husband sought the annihilation of the Zionist regime wholeheartedly. "Mostafa's ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel," Fatemeh Bolouri Kashani told FNA on Tuesday. Bolouri Kashani also underlined that her spouse loved any resistance figure in his life who was willing to fight the Zionist regime and supported the rights of the oppressed Palestinian nation. Iran's 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, a chemistry professor and a deputy director of commerce at Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was assassinated during the morning rush-hour in the capital early January. His driver was also killed"

Times Square Billboards: ‘Don’t Believe the Liberal Media!’: "The Media Research Center (MRC), a watchdog group that tracks liberal bias in the news, had two massive billboards erected in New York City’s Times Square on Tuesday. The billboards say “Don’t Believe the Liberal Media!” and they are expected to be viewed by 1.3 million onlookers over the next four weeks, according to the MRC. “There is no better location for this billboard than the liberal media’s own backyard,” said MRC President Brent Bozell in a statement."

DOJ harassment of Gibson guitars: "Last August, in a strange fit of regulatory scrupulousness, the Department of Justice swooped into Gibson Guitar factories in Memphis and Nashville, interrupting productivity with the claim that the musical instrument manufacturer might be using certain "illegal" imported woods. Six months later, however, the DOJ still hasn't filed charges -- surprise, surprise. "They...come in with weapons, they seized a half-million dollars worth of property, they shut our factory down, and they have not charged us with anything," says Gibson Guitars CEO Henry Juszkiewicz"



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