Author: Thomas Mitchell

Let the Public See the Work of Public Servants

Next week is Sunshine Week, March 11-17. The annual observation was created by the American Society of News (formerly Newspaper) Editors to spotlight the importance of public access to government information in a democratic republic, allowing citizens to be the watchdogs over their elected and appointed representatives. The sunshine label was derived from a quote by Justice Louis Brandeis, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” The point is that for the public to be able to perform its democratic role in voting into or out o Save & Exit f office the most suitable personages, they must be kept informed as to how well or ill the current office holders and their minions are doing their jobs. Which brings us to the current tension between the right to know and the right to privacy. Earlier this year a district court judge ruled in favor of a request from The Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal to obtain copies of the autopsies of the 58 victims of the Oct. 1 Route 91 country music show shooting. The judge did require that the names of the victims be redacted. A few weeks later another judge, at the behest of the widow of off-duty police officer Charleston Hartfield who was...

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A Immodest Proposal for a 28th Amendment

The horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead and more than a dozen wounded at the hands of a 19-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle has again set off a flurry of rational and emotional debates over gun control, mental health and school security measures. Worthy topics all, but the event has also fostered an ancillary discussion about what we used to call the age of majority. Two law professors are hanging their mortar boards on the emotional demands of frightened students that something be done to suggest that the voting age be reduced from 18 to 16. Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, declared in a column posted online by CNN, “The real adults in the room are the youth from Parkland, Florida, who are speaking out about the need for meaningful gun control laws. They are proving that civic engagement among young people can make a difference. The ironic part? They can’t even vote yet.” Douglas argues that the mostly 16- and 17-year-olds at the Florida school are the ones most forcefully demanding change by planning a national protest and school walkout, calling out President Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for failing to support gun control laws, conducting rallies, engaging the media, keeping national attention on the issue. Therefore, he...

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Second Amendment Is Not a Second-Class Right

Do the courts treat the Second Amendment like a second-class right? Supreme Court Justice Clarence believes they do and makes a compelling argument. This past week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm. Justice Thomas penned a scathing 14-page dissent. “The Second Amendment protects ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,’ and the Fourteenth Amendment requires the States to respect that right …” Thomas writes. “Because the right to keep and bear arms is enumerated in the Constitution, courts cannot subject laws that burden it to mere rational-basis review.” Thomas says the 9th Circuit upheld the 10-day waiting law based solely on its own determination that it was “common sense,” without requiring any supporting evidence and without acknowledging a lower court’s factual findings that caused it to agree with plaintiffs that the law was unconstitutional when it was applied to people who already own guns, because it would not serve as a “cooling off” period for those who might use a firearm to harm themselves or others. Thomas’ dissent notes that the 9th Circuit ignored the testimony previously given despite the legal requirement to weigh its validity. “California’s expert identified only one anecdotal example of a subsequent purchaser who had...

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Neighbors Hope Little Ash Springs Remains Closed

There are two sides to every story. Four years ago the Bureau of Land Management locked the gate to Little Ash Springs north of Alamo for what was described as a couple of weeks due to a crumbling wall on a manmade pool. It remains closed. Recently, the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke told the Las Vegas newspaper, “This is exactly why the federal government needs to clean up our act. I’m not in the business of locking the public out.” He added, “We need to work with local communities and be better neighbors …” Speaking of neighbors, Joe and Andrea Barker own the 13-acre tract adjacent to and downstream from the 1-acre BLM-controlled Little Ash Springs. Their property is known as Big Ash Springs and has 50 springs feeding 94-degree water into meandering shallow rivulets that are home to two endangered species — the White River springfish and the Pahranagat roundtail chub, found only in the Ash Springs system. During a recent interview in their home atop a rocky outcropping overlooking the springs, Joe Barker said, “We thought that we might be able to manage some opening of this Little Ash Springs, but I think as time has gone on we, I guess, we’d prefer that it stay closed. And I think our view is that it is the headwaters of the protected species and the government...

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Give the Gift of Knowledge About Nevada

Christmas is coming and you’re still scratching your head over just what to get for that special Nevada friend or family member. How about a gift that will keep giving for years to come — a book, specifically a book about Nevada and/or the West? A couple of the newest additions to this narrow genre are David Philipps’ “Wild Horse Country” and Range magazine’s “The Good, the Bad and the Bovine.” Philipps explores the history of the wild horse in the West with a number of stops along the way in Nevada. He also addresses the issue of feral horse overpopulation and delves into the various options for solving the problem. It is thought provoking and informative. In November, Range published a collection of articles and photos from its archive of thorough coverage of the people, places and issues touching on ranching and farming on the rangeland of the West. Titles include: “Don’t Fence ’Em In,” “The Ultimate Recycler,” “It’s in the Breeding,” “Cow Pie” and “A Ranger’s Reflection” — dispatches from the empty quarter. Range boasts of the book, “The hardcover coffee-table edition is a not only a photographic tribute featuring works by some of the best ranch and wildlife photographers in the country, but there are some meaty stories penned by prize-winning writers.” The magazine also has available on its website other books from recent years. Two...

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