‘No fluff’ in city budget; General Fund expenses projected to reach $4.6 million for upcoming fiscal year

The City of Raton will enter the new fiscal year that begins July 1 with a budget that is an overall $4 million less than the budget with which the city began the current fiscal year. However, spending in the General Fund, which contains the operational money for most of the city’s main departments, is projected to see a slight increase in the coming fiscal year compared with what has originally budgeted a year ago for the soon-to-be-completed year. 

The city commission last week approved a $12.9 million preliminary budget that includes $4.6 million in spending for the General Fund, which funds departments from police and fire to public works and administration.

The preliminary budget was to be sent to the state Department of Finance and Administration by the state-imposed June 1 deadline. State officials will review the proposed budget and may order changes if deemed appropriate.

In addition, city officials will likely make further adjustments to the budget before a final version must be submitted to the state by July 31. Some of the final adjustments the city will make will be based on ending balances from the current fiscal year once it ends June 30.

While General Fund expenses are budgeted to increase about 6 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year, General Fund revenues are being budgeted to increase about 9 percent, totaling a little more than $4.7 million.

As usual, the police department will make up the largest portion of the city’s General Fund spending, according to the 2013-2014 preliminary budget. The police budget of $1.36 million accounts for 29 percent of the General Fund. In addition, $312,297 is listed separately for dispatching. Combined police and dispatch spending will account for about 36 percent of the new General Fund budget if the figures in the preliminary budget stand.

The fire department’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year of almost $1.1 million places it second in spending at 23 percent of the General Fund.

Next, in line are the executive, or administrative, department at $645,673 and public works — which handles services that include street and parks maintenance, as well as sanitation — at $534,947.

Gross receipts taxes provide the city with the bulk of its General Fund revenue, almost 60 percent in the preliminary budget for the new fiscal year, with that income projected at $2.7 million. That projection is a slight decrease from the $2.78 million in gross receipts tax revenue the city projects it will collect for the soon-to-close current fiscal year.

Since 1992, the city’s gross receipts tax revenue peaked at $3.3 million in 2006-2007 and then declined four straight years before increasing the last two fiscal years prior to the current year.

Property taxes are projected to bring in about 14 percent of the city’s General Fund revenue the next fiscal year. Other taxes, along with various fees and some grants, contribute the rest of the revenue stream. Most grant money, however, is designated for specific projects outside the General Fund. Those grants — which cover a wide variety of projects — are budgeted next year for a total of more than $6 million. The preliminary budget also contains about $1.16 million set aside for loan repayments and bond payments.

The city’s General Fund revenue includes a new $6 monthly assessment that will be collected by placing the charge on monthly electric bills. The assessment was approved last month by the city commission and is expected to generate $273,570 for 2013-2014. The commission has identified the hiring of two additional police officers for the understaffed police department as the first priority for the new money.

At last Tuesday’s commission meeting, several local residents spoke against the implementation of the assessment, criticizing the commission for raising taxes “whenever you feel like it” and “putting the burden of past mismanagement” on the citizens. One resident called on the commission to “leave the citizens alone and find another way” to balance the budget.

Commissioner Sandy Mantz said she wished the new assessment was not needed, but with “no fluff” in the budget, and saying the current commission “inherited a very bad situation,” there are no more areas to cut back. She said she hopes the new assessment “won’t have to continue” after a while.

Mayor Pro Tem Chris Caldelario stressed the importance of coming up with a balanced budget, saying that if the city came up short on money to meet its needs at any time during the fiscal year, state officials could potentially take over the management of the city’s finances and possibly wipe out any city reserves.

The city’s new budget also includes a money-saving employee health insurance switch from the state’s Risk Management Division to a private company. The commission awarded its insurance contract to Century Financial of Trinidad last week. The annual savings are projected to be about $77,000 for the city and a combined total of about $35,000 for the employees themselves since they pay a portion of their insurance premiums.

Interim City Manager Butch McGowen said the city would “not have the money to make this budget” without the new $6 assessment and the insurance-provider change. Without those and other cost-cutting measures implemented in the new budget, McGowen said, he would have to “start releasing people.”

In approving the city’s preliminary budget for 2013-2014, the commission also approved the proposed budgets for Raton’s two franchised utilities. Raton Water Works plans a $2.1 million budget while Raton Public Service Company projects a budget of about $6.2 million.

Gas Prices…Why Nine-Tenths of a Penny?

On our recent trip, we had to purchase a lot of gas, way too much gas! With gas price where they are, that was a painful part of our excursion. Buying all that gas did remind me of a personal pet peeve of mine, which is the 9/10ths of a penny in the pricing stations charge.  

What numskull passed the law allowing gas stations to use this marketing practice? We all look at the price and see 3.29 and think it is 3.29; but no, it is really 3.299, which is always rounded up unless you happen upon exactly 10 gallons of gas.

I can’t knock them for the well-used marketing practice of pricing a penny under an exact increment of 10 to trick your mind into thinking things are cheaper, but one-tenth of a penny is just ridiculous. Unless you have some way of paying me back the 4/10 of a penny I didn’t spend, you shouldn’t be able to price things in any less of an increment of a penny.

Do you think we are that stupid to not realize what you are doing? The problem is we are that stupid. We get so used to it that we all skip over the .009 we are being charged and just read the big numbers.

I’ll repeat myself: We don’t have currency to pay in fractions of a penny, so you shouldn’t be able to charge in that amount. Either eat the 9/10 of a penny and advertise on the “˜9 like you are trying act like you are, or suck it up and tell us it’s on the dime like it really is. I hate being fooled.

Do We Need Any More Conspiracy Ammunition?

As a previously avid NBA watcher, I often fell into the category of wondering if there really was a conspiracy to craft the best possible winner in games. This was especially true in the playoffs. There is no way you can watch the Jazz vs Bulls playoffs and not see the obvious favorable bias given in officiating to ever popular Michael Jordan. Framed for all eternity is the push-off Jordan used on Brian Russel to create the space he needed to make the game-winning shot. Of course, you can’t deny Jordan’s amazing abilities, but this one event gave many of us avid fans of the underdog additional belief that the league and officiating was also working behind the scenes to ensure the preferred storyline was kept. 

Living and rooting for a “lesser” market team has always been an exercise in frustration. The recruiting possibilities are hampered because our team owners are not willing to spend gratuitously above the luxury limits like the big market, and therefore richer teams so easily do. We attempt to take pride in our “working man’s” team image, but deep down we just resent the ability for big markets to buy their way into franchise dominance. The money paid to players, in general, is completely out of control, but that is another rant.

So as our players compete, and often quite well, with their lineup of hardworking and lesser-known names, we root for them and revel in the wins against the league favorites. Sure, we get our moments during the season with “big” wins against such teams, but come later in the season when seeding and playoff considerations take place the tone of the games change with them. Each team puts out additional effort, but the officiating seems also to take a turn. More favor is given for the star players; the literal money men for the league and especially for advertising. It’s no secret; the sportscasters talk about it at length, even expecting and remarking that such talent and veteran status deserves the star treatment.

Hogwash.

A fair game starts with fair play and ends with fair officiating. Every player should be called under the same rules and with the same consideration. I long ago tired of Shaq getting an allowance for his knock-em-out-of-the-way-and-dunk moves along the baseline. I practically fall out of my seat every time I see a hook employed by Kobe or any other player to pin their defender in place while they make a photo-op move to the basket. Traveling? Don’t get me started.

Up to this point, we NBA conspiracy theorists had to rely on quoting situations, recording video proof from games (posted to YouTube these days by many), and simply be considered those crazy fans that just can’t deal with the fact that their team sucks. Guess what, now we have proof.

Now we have NBA refs admitting to betting on games. Sure, they are trying to say they only used inside information for gain, but we all know the reality is when money is riding on a game there has to be an influence on their play calling. There is no doubt in my mind that the outcome of games was altered when it served their needs. And this is only a situation so public simply because someone was caught. How much of this has and is going on behind the scenes where someone has not been nailed for their illicit activity? I guarantee you much more than we know about simply because of this one situation.

I have always loved the game of basketball. I loved playing it before I blew my knee out, sidelining me for life. I love watching it. Yet now I rarely watch a professional game. Sure, I still enjoy the sport; but the collegiate level is far more entertaining to me. For some reason, the college game seems, somehow, less scripted.

Swimming in Money in My Pool Made of Gold

I hate that I am awake in the middle of the night. It’s ridiculous. I was asleep; now I am awake. I used to be a terrific sleeper. It’s really always been a strong point in my repertoire, ranking probably…first, I guess. Now I’m all washed up. A hack. I’ve even bragged about my ability to fall asleep quickly and remain dead to the world until I must wake up. I have said, several times, “I just don’t understand how anyone can be an insomniac! I mean, how do you do that and not go nuts?” Well, the answer is that insomniacs probably do go nuts. I don’t know. I’ve never asked. And, look, I am not an insomniac. I just dabble in it.

Only lately have I been unable to sleep well, and I can only remember one time that I couldn’t sleep as a kid. I had a radio which was also a night light. It had a mouse sitting on a moon, and there were stars, and a yellow light shone from behind them. I wish I could find a picture, but it’s probably nowhere, now. “Dreaming of You” by Selena came on the radio and I was deeply moved, and I stared at the little moon and stars and the mouse for what felt like hours, but was probably more like minutes. (Update: my mother was insulted that I could even imagine that she didn’t still have this nightlight. She has it…somewhere…she thinks.)

And in addition to this sleeping thing, I’ve developed ringing in my ears. It’s not really ringing, I suppose, it’s a faint high-pitched noise that I hear when I am in a silent room. Everyone knows how much I love silent rooms, usually, but lately, silence drives me crazy, because it doesn’t exist! I’m not saying I’d rather be in a room where people are talking about nonsense loudly or making food noises or, god forbid, whistling, but this noise in my head has got to go.

Let’s see. What else would I like to complain about? I guess that’s it. Now I will move on to the good news, which is that I quit my job. I don’t have another one or anything, but two Fridays ago, after months (really…months) of contemplation, I gave my notice. You might say, “Yikes, in this economy, while living in the most expensive city of all time in the history of the world?” To that, I say, “Geez, thanks for the vote of confidence.” I’m not saying I’m not nervous about it. I’m very nervous about it. But, you know, I’m just kind of a nervous person in general, but as of Friday, I will be a nervous person without a job that stresses me out and is not right for me. I’m 23. I should be going wild…setting shit on fire…tearing shit up. Not literally, about the shit. The proverbial shit. The shit the man puts in my way! To bring me down!

I’m not sure what I will do next. Probably finish writing that book and immediately sell it and it’ll come out and everyone will be like, “WHAT? GIVE ME THAT BOOK! I WANT TO BUY IT! TEN COPIES! HARDCOVER!” and people will wait in crazy lines*, and they’ll be dressed up as I don’t know what. I guess one of two of my characters who are just kind of normal guys. Yes, everyone in the line will be wearing just some jeans and a t-shirt, but maybe some of them will be kind of mixed-up types, so they’ll also have some dumb fake scar on their foreheads, or wands or something. People just like to line up and dress up, and I will let them do it because I’ll be swimming in money, in my pool made of gold. New money, though…most money in circulation is lousy with poop and cocaine.

*When I worked at Hastings Music and Books as a teenager, we once stayed open late for the release of one of the Harry Potter books and most of the people there who weren’t children were, pardon my French, fucking weird.

Dental Implant Mexico California

About Dental Implant Mexico – First a little history about dental implants, they appeared in the U.S. and Europe at the end of the ’30s, but there is proof that ancient people like the Mayas and the Aztecs used this technique, in Mexico, they were first used in the ’70s.

Actually, there are all kinds of dentistry available in Mexico, because of all the kinds of odontology school, with different specialties, that are spread up in any region. The implant dentistry is no exception and it is a well-developed specialty.

This technique is safe and it is used in a way that the person that has a denture or a bridge can have a comfortable life without the bad effects that the dentures cause. Usually, as a consequence, it happens that the person fills old and with a low self-esteemed.

In Mexico, there are programs with a specialty in implantology, and we offer a complete line of services in oral treatment to maintain our oral health. We have all the new techniques, tools and devices to make our implant dentists at the level of any dentists in the world.

A dental implant is made of titanium, that makes it easy to be attached to the bone. This kind of metal can be screwed into the bone and without causing any rejection reaction, the ones that are most used are those with a cylinder form trying to resemble as accurately as possible a tooth root.

The dental implant substitutes the lost tooth or teeth in the cases they are more than one, it is going to give the necessary support to the prosthesis and unlike the dentures, this isn’t going to be moving, and most importantly they won’t damage the other teeth.

With this method, the patient can have from one false tooth to the whole denture, after ten weeks the implant dentist is going to attach it to the bone. With good care, you can have a healthy denture for up to ten years.

You must take notice that this is oral surgery, but unlike any surgery you are only going to have local anesthesia, the dental surgeon is going to make an incision in your gum to put the implant, and you are going to be done whit it in minutes.

You can be sure that in Mexico you are going to find an affordable and well performed dental surgery because we have high standards in a dental implant. Mexico is a place where the prices are much more competitive than in other countries.

Fat Loss Reviews: Fat Burning Furnace Review

Our fat loss reviews section now takes an in-depth look at The Fat Burning Furnace System by Rob Poulos. Poulos bases his system on a core principle that if you eat the right foods and do the right exercises then you can literally turn your metabolism into a fat combusting machine. This intrigued us right off the bat since it’s common for many struggling to lose weight to have damaged metabolisms.

This Fat Burning Furnace review gives you our thoughts – both good and bad – so you can decide if this system fits your needs.

Fat Burning Furnace Review: What We Like


You get a fat loss system that’s full of detail and actually makes sense to the average person

It’s nice to see this program is grounded in science, but you don’t have to be a scientist to learn it. And common-sense seems to be standard issue here. Fat Burning Furnace nicely provides workouts that match any level of fitness from absolute beginner to advanced. In other words, you’ll be able to grow into this program and not kill yourself doing it. The program helps you build muscle, and as you may be aware, muscle burns more calories than fat. If you watch the show “The Biggest Loser” then you’re aware that building muscle mass is crucial for losing weight. Why? Because it literally turns your body into a fat-hating machine.

You get effective workouts that don’t take you all day

Some people don’t want to be gym rats. Fat Burning Furnace gives you strength training at a more tolerable dose: just 20 minutes a day at 3 to 4 times a week. Unlike the more common approach of doing three sets of each exercise, this system only requires you do one. You’ll work your muscles at a slow and effective pace and will target the muscles throughout your body, giving you a comprehensive workout.

Click Here to Visit Fat Burning Furnace!
Poulos claims these short workouts are better than an hour working cardio on a treadmill. This fits current research findings that show the right kind of strength training can actually be more beneficial to your body and heart than just cardio alone. I personally like this approach as I get bored easily when having to sit on a bike saddle or run for long periods of time.

Upgrades are available

You can choose from three different grades in the Fat Burnace Furnace System: Deluxe, Ultimate, and Blowtorch. For the best deal of the lot, I feel the Ultimate level is a good choice. However, a nice feature in the Blowtorch level is two hours of exercise videos with Poulos as your personal guide. A word of caution though. Those just starting out should begin with the basic workout and then work up through the intermediate and advanced before jumping into the Blowtorch workout.

Fat Burning Furnace Review: What We Don’t Like


Nutrition information is lacking

Poulos’ program is primarily about very detailed exercise guides. You’ll get some nutrition basics and information on how nutrition affects your body, but you won’t get detailed information on exactly what it is you need to eat. If poor eating practices have caused you to gain weight in the first place, then the level of choice this program gives you in regards to food may not be a good thing. However, you do receive some nutritional guidelines and some sample meals, plus some links to recipes.

There is sales pressure

I found that Poulus spends quite a few pages at the beginning of the bookselling his logic and ideas. That’s not too bad though since it’s important you understand the principles behind the program. What I didn’t like as much as the pressure to buy ProGrade food products. Overall, I don’t see this as enough of a nuisance to stain this excellent program.

Fat Burning Furnace Review: What We Really Think About This System
The fat loss reviews section of this site sees a lot of diet programs. We appreciate those that shine some truth on the many nutritional myths out there, and Fat Burning Furnace does just that. This thankfully isn’t a system that props up fad diets or any ineffective fat loss schemes of that sort – the kind of programs that can wreck your metabolism. You get solid and beneficial information on exercise and how it benefits your body, including outstanding fitness regimens you’ll actually look forward to doing. If your metabolism is damaged due to years of dieting, then this program is top-notch for getting it and your body back into ultimate shape – no matter what fitness level you are in.

Permanent Utilities Paint

If you have ever had the opportunity to do a housing project that involved digging deep in the ground than you have likely (or should have) called blue stakes. You know them, the guys that come out and mark where underground utilities are so you don’t make a major snafu and cut into your power or other utilities.

The service is great, and you’d have to be a moron not to call them because a) they are free, and b) the possible fallout of cutting into their lines is just not worth it.

The only part that really bothers me is the paint they use. I’m not sure if there is some requirement of the grade of paint they use, or if it is a matter of cost or ease of use, but it stays f-o-r-e-v-e-r! There is temporary paint out there, really. It exists. Just like hair dye, there are different grades too, some that last until it gets wet and some that will last through a few items of washing.

Rather than use something that will be gone in a month or so we end up with nice symbols and lines all over our sidewalk, driveway and even landscaped curbing in the yard. That last one was what really got me. Was it necessary to paint on my decorative curbing with the bright yellow and orange paint?

It has been a while since the last time my yard and driveway was painted up, but I thought of it this morning because there is some major utility work still underway in our little town. One of the streets I travel down was painted up last week for about a mile stretch of asphalt. I stopped and took a photo of this city condoned urban street graffiti to display what will likely be there for months to come until the elements finally wear away at it until they are just ghosted reminders of their current bright selves.

I really think this is just a case of using what is easiest for the job at hand. Just like typical sub-contracted companies, they only care about what their immediate needs and tasks are, let someone else wonder about the cleanup and long term ramifications. I assume there is a reason and explanation for why this is the way it is, but I’ll rant about it nonetheless.

Perhaps they could do a little artistic training for the crew manning the paint stick? Teach them to do some pleasing artwork with their markings? How about mixing the colors a bit and giving us something more appealing than just the one? More than anything, though, really can we just use some paint that is a bit more temporary?

Combining the Energy of Electric Automobiles and Gasoline Engines

Hybrid autos function easily by way of combining an electrical energy-run motor, a gas engine, and most-powered batteries. The battery gives off vitality for the electrical motor and recharges whilst it recaptures the vitality that’s usually misplaced whilst the automotive is lessening its acceleration or whilst it’s coasting.

Regenerative braking is the identity coined for this method. If the need to have arisen, the energy coming from the gas engine may possibly be put into diversion to put a couple of charging at the battery on the identical instant. Simply because of this approach of charging, hybrid automobiles do not require to be installed plugs.

It is greatest to put distinguish hybrid automobiles into two categories with the purpose to perceive higher the functions of the batteries, the engine and the electric motor positioned together. There are two sorts of hybrids: the gentle hybrids and the total hybrids. Every single of these sorts have completely different methods whilst combining the 3 components.

1. Mild hybrids

In this kind of hybrid automobile, the electrical motor is just an assistant on the subject of working the main propulsion. It is the fuel engine that presents the foremost power necessary.

On this setup, the motor relies on the gasoline engine for its operation. The electrical motor is capable of consuming up electrical energy from the batteries, or it could possibly supply you with energy for it, however, the electric motor cannot do those capabilities on the identical time. This know-how is used for two of Honda’s hybrid fashions, the Insight, and the Civic hybrid.

2. Full hybrids

The excellence of the full hybrid from the delicate range is that the electrical motor and the gas engine can function on its own. In so a lot of circumstances, the electric motor can operate by itself in low velocity, and once it alternatives up, the fuel engine routinely takes more than. Every the motor and the engine can perform together if the automotive is in onerous acceleration.

This mixed effort gives the automotive the ability that it wants for that situation. Full hybrid vehicles can devour and build up electricity simultaneously. The total hybrid setup will be located in models corresponding to the well-liked Toyota Prius, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, and the Getaway hybrid from Ford.

For example, you could look at the really greatest way the Toyota Prius functions. The Prius runs on expertise recognized as the Hybrid Synergy Pressure, which entails an energy split gadget to mix the energy of the electric motor and the fuel engine. The HSD permits an effortless switching of energy assets that the automobile driving force wouldn’t notice inside the slightest although driving.

As opposed to the opposite mild hybrid varieties, the Prius can be operated by the electrical motor by myself powered by the battery pack. As a result, a motorist can power silently for brief quantities of time. The Honda hybrids on this stage cannot perform just by way of the electric motor.

Whereas rushing up a freeway, the Prius makes use of the gas engine as its main operator and might get assistance from the generator if needed. Then this hybrid automotive shuts off the gas engine automatically all through stops. This contributes tremendously in mileage enhancement and produces considerably less emission.

The Way Kids Choose to Show Independence

This last weekend I went camping with my family and a neighbor family. We both have camp trailers, so we decided to reserve side-by-side spots at a campground and make a weekend out of it. We all had a great time and the weekend was great. Camping trips take a fair amount of effort on the preparation side of things, but they are typically well worth it.

I have always said that if you really want to get to know someone, travel with them. This is particularly true if you go camping with someone – their true personality comes through. When you see someone first thing in the morning prior to their routine that makes them at their normal self, you get to observe who they really are. Plus, when you spend more than passing time with some, now seeing them for most of the day and night, you see people both during their highs and lows during the day.


Fortunately, the friends we were with are pretty even-keeled; but they do have a teenage daughter that has given them troubles in recent years. When I say troubles, a little more than the typical rebelliousness that all teenagers seem to try out at some point. For the most part, the most difficult times seem to be behind them, but who knows. She still has to make it a point to do the opposite of what her parents say or want, just to show she is in control.

The parents let her bring a friend along on this trip, likely hoping it would make the event a bit more fun for everyone if she was in a better mood. For the most part, this worked, so good planning on their part. On the second day, all the kids were having fun playing in the lake that was all of 100 feet from our camping site. This is in southern Utah, so the weather was hot and the sun was beating down on us. We had all the kids lather up with the sunblock lotion, but the two teenage girls decided not to put any on.

This was a conscious and vocal decision on their part. In their minds, they didn’t need it and their parents were treating them like kids by telling them they needed to do it. Both parents kept reminding the two girls throughout the day that they were getting burnt, and they really needed to put on lotion or get out of the sun. The responses always ranged from “whatever” to “leave us alone” in their ongoing act of defiance.

By nightfall, the tune had changed. Now feeling the effects of the heavy duty first-degree burns, the girls were continuously moaning about their pain. Not only did they feel the need to remind us of how much they were hurting, but they were also blaming her parents for being so irresponsible for not having brought aloe vera lotion to treat their burns. No amount of reminding them of the day filled with warnings of the consequences of not wearing lotion could break through these thick teenage skulls. This was clearly the parent’s fault, and they would hear nothing different.

I have two very young little girls, and this weekend scares me at what I future I have to look forward to! I have an 8-year-old boy going through a very defiant stage right now, and I see my 5-year-old girl taking mental notes and at times trying to imitate him. I try everything I can to not feed the defiance and hopefully shape a rapid passing through this phase in hopes it doesn’t stick.

Yet, I still wonder, no matter what I do is there no hope? Am I headed for the senseless teenage acts of defiance regardless of my efforts? Please, tell me it isn’t so!

Randy Barnett and MiAngel Cody

So this is why I was sitting in an antique barn in La Fox, Illinois, with Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett on the hottest day (so far) of 2012:
1) Randy is one of the country’s foremost libertarian scholars of the Constitution, the leading intellectual in a movement called the “Lost Constitution,” which holds that the document and its amendments include powerful restraints on Federal power, which have been routinely and disastrously ignored by politicians and the courts;

2) An important part of this critique is the belief that the Court went astray in the signal 1942 SCOTUS case Wickard v.Filburn, in which the Court ruled that the US Government could use its power to regulate “commerce… among the several states” (Article I, Section 8) to regulate something that didn’t involve either commerce or several states;

3) The “Filburn” in Wickard v. Filburn was a farmer, Roscoe Filburn, who (according to the legend told around Heritage Foundation campfires to scare young conservatives*) simply wanted to grow wheat for his own use at his own farm, but was forced by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and ultimately by the Supreme Court to pay a fine because he exceeded his growing allotment;

4) That case, in effect, gave an excuse to the Federal Government to expand its power exponentially in the post-WWII years, much to the consternation of conservatives and libertarians such as Randy Barnett;

5) Mr. Filburn’s farm was sold years ago to a developer so we substituted one in La Fox for atmosphere.

Everybody clear?

Randy was also the primary scholarly architect of the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare,” and as our interview took place just days after the Supreme Court upheld the law, we expected him to be in a bad mood. We also expected him to take a partisan line – after all, he was a combatant in one of the most bitter partisan fights of a partisan age – but he was affable, expansive and pleasant, talking not like a partisan but as a scholar, in terms of principles, texts, and history, albeit one who is very practiced at explaining his ideas to non-scholars.

Randy Barnett does not like the Federal government. Again, it’s not a partisan issue; he doesn’t like the thing itself, as opposed to the people currently running it. (Though he doesn’t have many kinds to say about any of them.) As a historian, he holds that the Framers, James Madison, in particular, was very concerned that the Bill of Rights might be construed as a finite list of limits on government; ie, if it’s not specifically prohibited, then the government can do whatever it wants. No, Barnett says: what’s finite is the enumerated powers of the US Government, not its limits. To prove his point, he need only recite the 9th Amendment, which of course he can do from memory:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This Amendment, he says, as well as other Constitutional texts designed to protect personal liberty, have been for two centuries firmly and widely ignored, by the Supreme Court, Presidents and Congresses… an ongoing trifecta of Constitutional malpractice. He can cite many examples – The “Slaughterhouse” Cases, Wickard V. Filburn, etc etc. but his point is simple: The Federal government was created with limited powers, and we continue to ignore those limits to our peril.

The Federal government is a particular danger, he says, because if a State oppresses us, it’s relatively easy to leave. If the country as a whole does it: not so much. But his larger point about the need to restrain the Federal government is really no more than this: if we are concerned, as we should be, with preserving individual liberties, it is better, easier, and more effective to prevent the Government from taking them away in the first place – as the Constitution was written to do – then trying to get them back. This, he says, was the true wisdom of the Framers, and what he and his colleagues are trying to restore to our current understanding of the Constitution.

MiAngel Cody also has a lot to say about the wisdom of the Founders, though in comparison to Barnett’s critiques, she comes across as a wide-eyed idealist. But it’s a well-earned idealism, or at least, a well-tested one. MiAngel works as an assistant federal defender in the court system, representing indigent defendants facing Federal charges.

She has a funny way of talking, in that many of the things she says would qualify as complaining. She told us that the majority of her clients have substance abuse problems or mental issues and that many of them can’t read. But she doesn’t sound like she’s complaining. She’s not bragging either, as in “Look at me, look at how virtuous I am.” She’s describing her role in the justice system – defending people who are otherwise defenseless.

MiAngel has a sense of humor, and was more than willing to joke around with me about her courtroom tactics – she told me, with a straight face, that she’ll sneak into the courtroom and switch around the tables, if she has to, so her side has a better-looking one than the prosecution. But when we sat down and talked about the Constitution – particularly the 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments – her voice took on an almost religious tone.

This was true even when she was speaking of the case of her client Reynolds Wintersmith, a first-time drug offender who, in 1994, was sentenced to life in a Federal penitentiary at the age of 20, for a crime committed at the age of 17. The sentence was mandatory, imposed by sentencing laws that were first modified by the Supreme Court, and then overturned by Congress, when they decided that maybe it was a bad idea to require judges to send minors to prison for life for selling crack, no matter what their circumstances. However, neither the Supreme Court ruling nor the legislation was retroactive, so Wintersmith faces dying in jail because of what everybody agrees was a mistake. (MiAngel told me something I knew : there is no parole in the Federal system. A life sentence is a life sentence.)

If you are sympathetic to his case, then you’ll have to concede that Wintersmith has been failed repeatedly by the justice system. First, the judge in his case was forced to sentence him to life, not because he was violent or was a repeat offender, but because in a panic, Congress had decided that crack dealers were as bad as murderers, even 17-year-old crack dealers. Then Congress changed the law, but made no provision for those already sentenced under it; then the various appeals courts refused his entreaties for mercy or a re-sentencing. So now, in his late 30s, all that is possibly left for Wintersmith is the Presidential pardon power granted in Article II, section 2. MiAngel, suffice to say, is particularly grateful to the Framers for that provision.

It was an interesting day of contrasts – and not just because the barn wasn’t air-conditioned, and the courthouse where we interviewed MiAngel was. Randy and MiAngel have something surprising in common, given their differing views: both have worked in the criminal justice system in Cook County, IL, MiAngel as a defender, Randy as a prosecutor. Randy was the hammer in the hands of the state, wielding state power against whomever he and his colleagues saw fit, and now has a deep distrust of that same power, and has spent his subsequent career trying to limit it. MiAngel fights the government every day on behalf of the powerless, the poor, and yes, the guilty, and yet still seems to admire the power she’s fighting.

I would guess that’s because she still sees herself as part of the system, and therefore ascribes to the government the value of the work that she herself was doing. Maybe Randy felt the same way – after all, your view of state power would be affected profoundly by whether you saw its primary role as one of assuring prosecution and punishment, or defense and freedom.

Interesting tidbits about each of them:

Randy says that the two highest pinnacles of his professional life, the two things he’s most glad he’s able to say he’s done, were:
1) Arguing a case (Gonzales V. Raich) in the Supreme Court of the United States, and
2) appearing as a lawyer in the low budget sci-fi film InAlienable, written by Star Trek’s Walter Koenig.

As for MiAngel, she told me the most terrifying moment of her life was
when she hurt herself badly in a flag-football game. (She’s a
cornerback) But was really interesting about her is that when you call
someone “MiAngel” all day because that’s their name, it sounds like
you’re being really affectionate, and after a short, while you become
used to it and then you start feeling affectionate and generally quite
happy. It’s the verbal equivalent of making yourself cheerful by
forcing yourself to smile. Fun.